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Trident Replacement

Volume 559: debated on Monday 25 February 2013

2. What his most recent estimate is of costs up to 2016 of the replacement of the Trident nuclear missile system. (144302)

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, the Trident D5 missile is expected to remain in service until the 2040s. No decision on a replacement system is expected to be made during this Parliament. The estimated cost remains at £2 billion to £3 billion at 2006 prices for the missile itself, as was set out in the White Paper published by the previous Government, whom he occasionally supported.

Will the Minister undertake to report to Parliament regularly on expenditure on the missile replacement ahead of the 2016 main gate decision? Does the estimate that he has given today include the upgrading of AWE Aldermaston? Does he think that in a time of austerity it is really such a good idea to prepare to spend £100 billion on a nuclear missile system that will be our very own weapon of mass destruction, which will not help to bring about world peace?

As the hon. Gentleman knows and as I have just said, we published an update to Parliament at the end of last year and we intend to publish such updates periodically. The upgrade at Aldermaston is part of the regular routine maintenance of that site which is needed for the existing programme, irrespective of the successor programme.

17. Notwithstanding my hon. Friend’s answer, will he join me in paying tribute to the brave submariners who have ensured that the UK has had a continuous at-sea deterrent and who have been the guarantor of our country’s security for 50 years? (144320)

I am very pleased to pay tribute to the bravery of the men and women who support our submarine fleets, both the conventional fleet and the deterrent fleet. As my hon. Friend rightly says, they have done so for many decades. The deterrent is an important component of the defence of the realm and long may it stay so under this Government.

I have tabled parliamentary questions on the Trident alternatives review. The Government are refusing to tell me how much it is costing and what it is looking at. The review is blatantly the Liberal Democrats researching their manifesto at taxpayers’ expense and in secret. Will the Government release the details of the Trident alternatives review?

The right hon. Gentleman should be aware that the coalition agreement made it clear that the Liberal Democrats were allowed to produce their own alternative review. It is up to the Liberal Democrats to decide as and when they wish to publish the review’s findings.

Talking of alternatives, does my hon. Friend agree that the few percentage points of the defence budget that will be spent on replacing Trident give far better value for money than the alternative of putting nuclear cruise missiles on Astute class submarines, as has been recommended by the Liberal Democrats, almost all of whom are unaccountably absent from the Chamber today?

My hon. Friend is a stalwart defender of this country’s nuclear deterrent. I applaud him for that and for the debate that he called on this subject at the end of last year. It remains to be seen what costings are attached to the alternative plans that our coalition partners may or may not publish in due course.

The majority of Scottish MPs at Westminster have voted against Trident renewal, just as the majority of Members of the Scottish Parliament have voted against Trident renewal, and just as the Scottish trade unions, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, every single faith group and the majority of public opinion are against Trident renewal. Why are the Government ignoring the democratic majority in Scotland and wasting billions of pounds on something that could never be used, rather than investing in conventional defence?

The hon. Gentleman should address his remarks to the workers of the Rosyth area and see how they feel about whether we should retain a nuclear deterrent in this country. Decisions about this country’s nuclear deterrent are made in this Parliament, as they were in 2007, and they will continue to be made here.