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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

I was taking the lifetime of the submarines as being more like 25 to 30 years. If we operate them for 25 years at almost £3 billion, that would take us into the realms of £75 billion plus the building and decommissioning costs, which would certainly take us over £100 billion very quickly indeed. I would have thought that, in reality, it will cost a great deal more than that.

We know that the national deficit remains a serious problem and we do not hear from any of the political parties—mine or anybody else’s—that defence will be insulated or protected from a tough comprehensive spending review later this year. If defence were to face another cut comparable to that which it took in 2010, which seems entirely possible, the proportion of our gross domestic product that we spend on defence, which is already destined to go below 2% next year, will make rapid headway down towards 1.5%.

We know, however, that on the table for discussion in this summer’s SDSR is a whole series of big procurement projects. The two new aircraft carriers are due to have joint strike fighter craft flying off them—we do not know how much their unit cost will be or how many of them we will be able to afford. The Type 26 frigate is due to be built in the next few years, but it is very difficult to know how much that will cost. We need more helicopters and more intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance assets. We need another generation of remotely piloted aircraft. The existing amphibious shipping is due to become redundant in the latter part of this decade and will need replacing if we are going to sustain that capability. The Army’s vehicle crisis remains unresolved after the collapse of most of the future rapid effect system programme.

All of those things will be on the table and wrestled over in agony this summer. In addition, paper exercises are already being done looking at what an Army of just 60,000 would look like, because of the financial crunch that the Department will face. Yet, for some reason, keeping a nuclear deterrent going at the level we thought necessary at the height of the cold war in 1980 gets an automatic bye and is assumed to be beyond debate. Nobody even wants to put it on the table and debate it alongside those other things that are there to mitigate the dangers that our own security assessment said in 2010 are first-league threats that we face here and now.