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I declare an interest in that I am a trustee of VERTIC—the Verification Research, Training and Information Centre, a charity that carries out the verification of nuclear disarmament. I am also the vice-chairman of the all-party parliamentary group for the armed forces, with special responsibility for the Royal Marines and the Royal Navy. This is an issue about which I feel very strongly.
As you might know, Madam Deputy Speaker, on my election in 2010 I submitted a paper for the 2010 strategic defence and security review. I am preparing my contribution for the next SDSR in 2015, in which I argue that we should spend at least 2% of GDP on the defence of this country. I would also urge those in the Treasury, if they are listening, to take the cost of the nuclear deterrent out of the defence budget. I confirm my commitment to our retaining our nuclear deterrent because, in my opinion, it is the cornerstone of our membership of NATO and of our seat on the UN Security Council.
I represent Devonport, the only UK dockyard with a nuclear licence, so I can speak with some relevance about how my constituency is on the front line of defending our maritime interests. Nobody knows what the outcome of May’s general election will be, but the Scottish National party, the Greens and Plaid Cymru have all made it quite clear that they will not enter coalition with the Conservatives. According to The Independent on
The Liberal Democrats appear still to be opposed to renewing Trident. Earlier today, I checked their website. That is an interesting thing to do and I encourage Members to do it. It clearly states:
“Britain’s nuclear deterrent, which consists of four Trident submarines, is out-dated and expensive. It is a relic of the Cold War and not up-to-date in 21st century Britain. Nowadays, most of our threats come from individual terrorist groups, not communist countries with nuclear weapons.
The Liberal Democrats are the only main party willing to face up to those facts.
The UK has four Trident submarines on constant patrol, which are nearing the end of their life. A decision needs to be made about what we do to replace them.
It would be extremely expensive and unnecessary to replace all four submarines, so we propose to replace some of the submarines instead. They would not be on constant patrol but could be deployed if the threat from a nuclear-armed country increased.
This would keep Britain safe while allowing us to move down the nuclear ladder in a realistic and credible way. While we cannot predict the future, making this first move on the road to international nuclear disarmament is the right thing to do.”