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Although I have discussions on many issues with the Leader of the Opposition, the nuclear deterrent has not recently been one of them.
That is partly because the Government’s policy is absolutely clear: we are committed to retaining an independent nuclear deterrent based on Trident. My right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary will make a statement to Parliament today announcing our decision to proceed with initial gate.
I am grateful to the Prime Minister for repeating our commitment to the future of Trident, its renewal and a continuous at-sea deterrent. Would he give his blessing to hon. Members in the Conservative party and on the Labour Benches who, like him, think that the nuclear deterrent should be above party politics, if they formed an alliance on this important issue, just as we did so successfully on the alternative vote?
I agree with my hon. Friend that it would be better if we could elevate this issue above party politics. Indeed, when we voted to go ahead with Trident it was on the basis of a Labour motion that was supported by most Labour MPs and almost all Conservative MPs. However, I have a feeling that my hon. Friend would never be satisfied, even if I placed a Trident submarine in the Solent, opposite his constituency, and handed him the codes—something, I am afraid, that I am simply not prepared to do.
Why continue to waste billions on a national virility symbol that has played no part in any of the military operations that we have taken part in over the last seven years, and is unlikely to play any part in the future? Does it not give justification and encouragement to other countries in acquiring their own nuclear weapons?
I do not accept either part of the hon. Gentleman’s argument. First, we are signatories to the non-proliferation agreement and are strong supporters of it. Secondly, the point of our nuclear deterrent is just that—deterrence. It is the ultimate insurance policy against blackmail or attack by other countries. That is why I believe it is right to maintain and replace it.