Skip to main content

Trident Replacement

Volume 567: debated on Monday 2 September 2013

8. Whether his Department has undertaken a cost-benefit analysis of a Trident replacement; and if he will make a statement. (900047)

A cost-benefit analysis of possible nuclear deterrent systems was carried out for the 2006 White Paper, “The Future of the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Deterrent”. This demonstrated that a submarine-launched ballistic missile system based on Trident was the most cost-effective solution to the UK’s requirement. The recently published “Trident Alternatives Review” supports the judgments made in 2006 and demonstrates that the renewal of the current Trident-based system is the most cost-effective and capable nuclear deterrent for the UK.

Just because Trident is obviously the best new nuclear deterrent, surely we should still worry about, and be aware of, costs. Given that submarine programmes have a history of vast cost overruns—50% in the case of the Astute class programme—will the Secretary of State assure the House that he is keeping a close eye on costs and that he is broadly confident that he can deliver Trident on time and on budget?

We have not yet contracted but, as I said in response to the question asked by the hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn), we believe that the costs of replacing the Trident deterrent will fall within the estimates set out in the 2006 White Paper. I should say to my hon. Friend that we have made significant strides to reform the way in which the submarine enterprise is conducted, and we believe that the MOD has a much firmer control of the enterprise’s cost base than has previously been the case.

Is the right hon. Gentleman keeping an open mind about the timetable? If experts and the industry tell him that there could be a more cost-effective solution for the taxpayer if the main-gate decision were to come earlier than the scheduled date of 2016, will he be alive to that, rather than sticking to the current agreement within the coalition?

Tempting though it is to go down the route that the hon. Gentleman sets out, the reality is that the processes that must be undertaken to reach a mature main-gate decision that is properly informed by the evidence simply could not be shortened to the available time scale. We are aiming for 2016, by when we will have a robust basis on which to contract and to conduct the value-for-money assessment.