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Nuclear Warhead Programme

Volume 701: debated on Monday 20 September 2021

5. What assessment he has made of the potential effect of the new nuclear warhead programme on the UK's defence capability. (903498)

The replacement warhead programme will allow the UK to maintain our independent minimum credible nuclear deterrent for the foreseeable future. The UK’s sovereign nuclear deterrent exists to deter the most extreme threats to our national security and will remain essential for as long as the global security situation demands.

I have the privilege of representing the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston, which has been tasked with developing the new nuclear warhead. Of course, I welcome the announcement last week of the AUKUS security pact, but can my right hon. Friend confirm that it will not undermine the strategic importance of the new warhead and that the AWE will remain at the forefront of our critical defence of this country?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me the opportunity to make something very clear about the agreement with Australia and the United States. This is not a programme about nuclear weapons; it is a programme about nuclear propulsion, to give the Australians the strategic capability that they have decided is the right capability to meet the threat. That aside, Aldermaston is an incredibly important part of the defence establishment, and the amazing workforce contribute and have contributed over the decades to ensuring that Britain has a nuclear deterrent that is credible. I am delighted to say that we continue to invest in those people, their livelihoods and the science base that is so important to ensure that we have that capability.

The Secretary of State talks about the workforce. The reality is that the Government have just outsourced the fire service to Capita at both Faslane and Coulport. Capita is now, shamefully, cutting jobs—it has cut eight posts. The fire service has unanimously voted for industrial action and currently has an overtime ban on. When will he get a grip on the situation, end the outsourcing experiment and give the fire service the support it needs to keep the bases safe?

The hon. Member has obviously missed the point that we have nationalised Aldermaston recently in completely the opposite direction.