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Trident Alternatives Study

Volume 570: debated on Monday 4 November 2013

I can tell my hon. Friend that the review demonstrated that no alternative system is as capable as a Trident-based deterrent, or as cost-effective. As to the utility, carrying out the review fulfilled a Government commitment but did not produce any unexpected conclusions.

Yes, well, it is good to know that the review came to such a predictable and predicted conclusion, but what does my right hon. Friend think of the fact that our coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, have not adopted any of the options from the review but have decided instead to come off continuous at-sea deterrence and have only two Trident submarines? This was rejected as unworthy of consideration by the review, but now that even the Liberal Democrats want two submarines, should we take up the suggestion of the shadow armed forces Minister, the hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones), and try to sign a contract for them?

As my hon. Friend suggests, the reason a two-boat solution was not considered in the review is that it did not meet the hurdle test of providing a credible deterrent. I am actually rather more interested in the views of official Opposition Front Benchers on this matter than the views of our coalition partners. I welcome the fact—[Interruption.] Hang on a minute. I welcome the fact that the first visit in office by the hon. Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) was to Barrow-in-Furness, the home of Britain’s submarine fleet.

On the alternatives review, at Defence questions on 2 September the Secretary of State told my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson), who had asked about costs:

“If he submits a written question to me, I will ask the Department to produce the best estimate”.—[Official Report, 2 September 2013; Vol. 567, c. 5.]

I have now tabled a number of parliamentary questions, but the Government seem to be refusing to produce a figure. May I gently ask the Secretary of State when he will produce the answer to my questions?

I am rather glad that the hon. Gentleman asked me that question. Let me tell him that the Cabinet Office has the lead on this matter because it was a Cabinet Office review. Any question that is phrased in general terms will be answered by the Cabinet Office; were a question to be phrased in very specific terms as to Ministry of Defence resources, then it would fall to me to answer it.