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Trident Renewal

Part of Opposition Day — [13th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 3:08 pm on 20th January 2015.

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Photo of John Woodcock John Woodcock Labour, Barrow and Furness 3:08 pm, 20th January 2015

I will come on to figures later; I will make some progress first.

We will not insult people by saying that Trident is effectively fine as long as it is not coloured tartan. We are a party whose ambition is big. We have acted by reducing stockpiles and reducing to a single nuclear platform the minimum credible independent deterrent that it is responsible to maintain while others hold a threat that one day could be used to blackmail the United Kingdom. We led the world on “global zero” and we will lead again in government. Britain is an outward-looking country that shoulders its responsibilities. It will make genuine progress through multilateral negotiation, not futile unilateral gestures.

Labour is not a unilateralist party. I was at a CND “ban the bomb” demonstration at RAF Molesworth. I think it was in 1984 and I was aged five. If my mum will forgive me, I appreciate the fruit gums she gave me on that day but we are not going back to those days—we have moved on as a party. I listened carefully to my right hon. Friend Dame Joan Ruddock, who has had to leave for a constituency engagement, but I was left questioning her opening statement. She called herself a multilateralist, but scrapping the programme to replace the ageing Vanguard-class deterrent submarines is tantamount to unilateral disarmament—not today, but a decade or so hence, once the Vanguard-class submarines are no longer seaworthy. As a result of the delays in bringing their successor into service, they are now projected to be the longest-serving submarines in the history of the Royal Navy, but they cannot go on for ever. At that point, we would lose our nuclear capability for ever, yet we cannot possibly know what threats we will face in decades hence. Not only would it put our security at risk, but for any genuine multilateralist, it would be a missed opportunity to encourage other countries and bind them into a deal that makes genuine progress across the world.

The construction taking place in my constituency, and in all parts of the UK, is among the most highly skilled, cutting-edge engineering in the world. We cannot just put these submarines on hold and then pick them up when they might come in handy some years down the track. While a “global zero” remains beyond the horizon, we will finish the programme of renewal that we started in government but which this Administration have delayed to the point that there is precious little contingency left.

The investment announced is significant, but the £100 billion is highly flimsy at best. We do not accept the figure, but—imagining that we did—let me put it into the context of overall UK Government spending, on current levels, over those 50-plus years, a time period that never makes it on to CND posters. According to my office’s estimate, all things being equal, Government spending over those 50 years will be £35,700 billion, which I am told is £3.7 quadrillion—not a number I have used before. Within that, pensions would account for £7,160 billion, and health for £6,475 billion—I used to work for my right hon. Friend Mr Brown, but not even he would use such figures. Education would account for £4,510 billion, and conventional defence for £2,115 billion. Over that period, the £100 billion figure does not seem quite the show-stopper unilateralists would have us believe.