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Trident Renewal

Part of Opposition Day — [13th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 2:37 pm on 20th January 2015.

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Photo of Nick Harvey Nick Harvey Liberal Democrat, North Devon 2:37 pm, 20th January 2015

The decision to procure the existing Trident nuclear system was taken in 1980. My starting point is that the world has changed a very great deal since then. Back then, we were at the height of the cold war. We had a known nuclear adversary that had the capability to strike us and had stated its willingness, if provoked, to do so. We, in turn, felt that it was absolutely essential that we had the ability to respond at a moment’s notice. Thus it was that we concluded that we needed an inter-continental ballistic missile capable of being launched at a moment’s notice, and that because we did not know when our adversary would attack, we would sustain a patrol 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. There was logic in that position.

But, as I say, the world has changed. The cold war is over. The iron curtain has come down. The Soviet Union, which was our known adversary, no longer exists. In 1994, Britain and Russia de-targeted each other and changed their policy to say that we were not nuclear adversaries of each other. Yet nothing changed: since that time, we have continued with 24/7 patrolling. I join the Secretary of State in saluting those who have been involved in sustaining that for all that time. The Royal Navy and all those at the Faslane base and in the supply and support chains have mounted a gargantuan effort to keep continuous at-sea deterrence going, and they deserve great praise for that. It has been at considerable human cost and very substantial financial cost, but it is very much harder to discern quite what practical utility it is fulfilling in 2015 when we do not have a known nuclear adversary.