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Successor Ballistic Missile Submarines

Volume 608: debated on Monday 18 April 2016

8. What assessment he has made of the effects on the UK’s (a) economy and (b) security of building four Successor ballistic missile submarines. (904484)

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State indicated earlier, the nuclear deterrent is at the apex of the UK’s full spectrum of defence capability. The UK’s defence nuclear enterprise is gearing up to deliver the successor to the Vanguard class submarines. Last month we announced a further £642 million of preparatory work ahead of the investment decision for this £31 billion programme. That investment in Successor submarines will not only help keep Britain safe but support over 30,000 jobs across the UK.

With Russia openly menacing our allies, and with us on the cusp of the centenary of the greatest sacrifices ever made by our armed forces in defending this country, would it not be foolish and totally inappropriate for us no longer to be prepared to make a relatively small financial sacrifice to maintain the only asset that can guarantee the freedom of this country?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. As the Secretary of State indicated in his speech on nuclear deterrence before Easter, we have both a political and a moral responsibility to protect our people and allies. The nuclear deterrent is assigned to NATO, and as a leading member of NATO we cannot and should not outsource our commitments to others. There has been broad political consensus for decades in this House on the need to maintain the UK’s independent strategic deterrent. Government Members are clear where we stand. This remains the official policy of Her Majesty’s official Opposition, and it is in our view irresponsible that the hon. Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry) and her leader appear determined to put the ultimate security of our nation at risk.

The Minister and, indeed, the Secretary of State have referred to the long-held and well-known views of the Leader of the Opposition on this issue, but it is the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister who will put the resolution to the House. Given that there is overwhelming support for the renewal from the Ministry of Defence, the forces, industry, the workforce and the majority of this House, will the Minister get the message through to dithering Dave in No. 10 to stop playing party politics with this issue of national security and to put the vote to this House?

The right hon. Gentleman, who speaks with some knowledge on these matters, has given a strong indication to the House that there will be a broad measure of support, which we thoroughly welcome. I will offer the Prime Minister his advice.

Two weeks ago I had the great privilege of visiting Rolls-Royce up the road in Bristol, where I met apprentices and workers at the defence aerospace operations and turbine manufacturing facility. I witnessed the important work that Rolls-Royce is doing around the country on manufacturing nuclear engines for servicing naval vessels. Does the Minister agree that Trident stands to benefit the economy by virtue of the many jobs it will create?

I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting the fact that that programme will benefit not just those folks working for Rolls-Royce in various plants, particularly around Derby, or those employees of BAE Systems, the prime contractor, but companies in constituencies right across the breadth of this country, including his own.