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Nuclear Weapons

Volume 455: debated on Wednesday 10 January 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether simulations and experiments at the strategic Sandia laboratories in New Mexico were carried out in support of the UK’s Trident missile system; and if he will make a statement. (109877)

Under the terms of the 1958 UK/US Mutual Defence Agreement (Cm 537, as amended), the Ministry of Defence and the Atomic Weapons Establishment maintain collaborative contact with Sandia National Laboratories, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, and the Los Alamos National Laboratories.

This contact, which may include the placement of specific work packages with the US facilities by or on behalf of HMG, principally relates to the stockpile stewardship programmes that ensure the continued safety and reliability of the UK’s nuclear weapons stockpile. I am withholding further details of such activities as their release would, or would be likely to, prejudice national security.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether there will be an increase in his Department's budget to finance the new nuclear deterrent proposed in the White Paper “The future of the United Kingdom's nuclear deterrent”; and if he will make a statement. (109890)

I have nothing further to add to paragraph 5-15 of the White Paper “The Future of the United Kingdom's Nuclear Deterrent” (Cm 6994), published on 4 December 2006.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to paragraph B-14 of “The Future of the United Kingdom's Nuclear Deterrent”, (1) what level of investment in research and development there will be on effective counter-measures to monitor submarine movements; (109892)

(2) whether the cost of investment in research and development on effective counter-measures to monitor submarine movements is included in the estimated operating cost of 5 to 6 per cent. of his Department's budget.

Our overall strategy for investment in research and development is set out in the Defence Technology Strategy, a copy of which is available in the Library of the House. The technologies relevant to ensuring effective counter-measures to attempted monitoring of submarine movement have been identified as priorities in both the Cross-Cutting Technologies section (B2) and the Maritime section (Bl1). The MOD invests in these technologies for anti-submarine warfare and, under current plans, will continue an appropriate level of investment.

No specific allowance has been made for the costs of such continuing investment in the estimate of the expected in-service costs of the UK's nuclear deterrent once a new fleet of SSBNs comes into service, set out at paragraph 5-14 of the White Paper: “The Future of the United Kingdom's Nuclear Deterrent” (Cm 6994), although the estimate makes allowance for the cost of mid-life update of the submarines and also for financial risks and uncertainties.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what estimate he has made of the costs of (a) D5 nuclear missiles and (b) other ballistic missiles; (109957)

(2) what assessments were made of alternative (a) ballistic and (b) cruise missiles other than those referred to in the White Paper “The Future of the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Deterrent”.

I have nothing further to add to paragraphs 5-10 and B-4 and Box 5-1 of the White Paper “The Future of the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Deterrent” (Cm 6994), published on 4 December 2006.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he has had with the US Administration on providing submarines for the Trident project. (113257)

As stated at paragraph 6-3 of the White Paper ‘The Future of the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Deterrent’ (Cm 6994), published on 4 December 2006,

“It would be our intention to build the new SSBNs [ballistic missile submarines] in the UK, for reasons of national sovereignty, nuclear regulation, operational effectiveness and safety, and maintenance of key skills.”

The outcome of discussions with the US on future co-operation in this area is set out in the exchange of letters between the Prime Minister and President of the United States, published on 19 December 2006. Copies of the letters are available in the Library of the House.