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Nuclear Deterrent

Volume 503: debated on Monday 11 January 2010

12. What recent progress has been made on procurement of the next generation of the nuclear deterrent; and if he will make a statement. (309576)

This is an incredibly important decision and we need to get it right. We have come up with one or two possible new technical options for the design of the successor class submarine, and we will need a few more months to evaluate those fully before we take a decision.

When will the Minister be able to tell the House whether it is possible to have continuous at-sea patrols with three submarines rather than four? When will the National Security Committee report back to the Prime Minister? Is not the whole timetable for replacing our strategic nuclear deterrent now getting extremely tight?

The answer is that we are very focused on achieving the 2024 deadline. We take the issue of the successor class submarine extremely seriously. The 2006 White Paper stated that if it is possible to deliver credible and continuous at-sea deterrence with three boats, we will, of course, want to do that. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister repeated that recently, and he has instructed that a study of that subject should be undertaken. That study will report to him very shortly.

Does the Minister not agree that we would be much better employed by awaiting the outcome of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty review, and making a real contribution towards global disarmament by cancelling the replacement of Trident and spending the money on something more socially useful and less divisive, and not on another weapon of mass destruction?

So long as the world remains as dangerous a place as it is, with some very difficult and dubious people developing, or threatening to develop, their own nuclear capability or weapons of mass destruction, this country will need to continue to have an independent nuclear deterrent. The fact is that we have said—we have committed to this in the NPT—that in the context of general and complete disarmament, we would close down our own nuclear deterrent capability.