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Trident Renewal

Part of Opposition Day — [13th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 1:17 pm on 20th January 2015.

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Photo of Michael Fallon Michael Fallon The Secretary of State for Defence 1:17 pm, 20th January 2015

I want to make some progress. Given the £38 billion hole in the defence budget that we inherited from the shower opposite, this Government have scrutinised the procurement programme to ensure value for money. We have identified savings and we will continue to submit the programme to rigorous scrutiny. Let me assure the House that no part of that programme will be exempt. As I have just said to my hon. Friend Mr Jenkin, we are talking about maintaining a capability in service until 2060—for the next 45 years.

We told the House in the 2011 parliamentary report that the cost of the four submarines was estimated to be around £25 billion at out-turn prices. Those costs, of course, will be spread over 25 years. Indeed, if the costs were spread evenly, it would represent an annual insurance premium of around 0.13% of total Government spending. Let me put it another way. Crossrail is costing us around £14.8 billion. Replacing four 16,000-tonne submarines will cost around £25 billion; Crossrail 2 will cost around £27 billion. I hope that provides some context.

Let me now turn to the position of the various parties. The SNP has set out very clearly its opposition to the renewal of Trident. I believe and suggest to the House that that is a highly irresponsible position. It would sacrifice the security of the United Kingdom on the wrong-headed notion that opposes nuclear in all its forms and on the basis of cost savings that would be minuscule compared with the impact on our national security and the damage to our economy, to jobs and to the submarine building industry.

HM Naval Base Clyde is, by the way, the largest single employment site in Scotland, and it is set to increase to 8,200 jobs by 2020 when all of the Royal Navy’s submarines will be based at Faslane. It is the SNP that would put all those jobs at risk. Indeed, the SNP spokesman, the hon. Member for Moray, who has regularly raised the issue of maritime patrol aircraft and foreign submarines, does not seem to see anything odd about wanting the capability to spot other countries’ submarines without making the case for retaining our deterrent in the first place. It is pretty hard to deter our enemies when we do not have the means to do so.

We should also note the nonsense of somehow promising a nuclear-free Scotland. In 2013, the percentage of electricity generated in Scotland from nuclear power increased to nearly 35%—nearly double that of England. Indeed, an independent Scotland would rank seventh in the nuclear league table of EU member states. I do not think, of course, that we should expect consistency from an SNP that wants to dispense with nuclear weapons, but wants also, as John Woodcock pointed out, to join NATO—a nuclear alliance. Indeed, according to the document of November 2013, “Scotland’s Future”, the SNP would allow nuclear-armed vessels to use Scottish ports. Perhaps the hon. Member for Moray could explain some of those inconsistencies.