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I shall also try to be more concise in the remainder of my speech, Mr Deputy Speaker.
All I can say to the hon. Member for North Devon, whom I greatly respect and admire, is that he ought to have a word with the then president of the Liberal Democrats, who proudly proclaimed on the Liberal Democrats’ official website that it was entirely as a result of the Liberal Democrats that we had not taken the decisive step of signing the maingate contract in this Parliament. I can only leave them to decide the issue between themselves.
Let me return to some of the purely military arguments in favour of the continuation of the strategic deterrent, mercifully leaving the politics to one side. The most important argument, as I have stated in previous debates in this House, is the recognition that future military threats and conflicts will be no more predictable than those that engulfed us throughout the 20th century. That is the overriding justification for preserving armed forces in peace time as a national insurance policy. No one knows which enemies might confront us during the next 50 years, for that is the period we are discussing by the time everything is designed, constructed and deployed, and has served out its operational lifetime. It is highly probable that at least some of those potential enemies will be armed with weapons of mass destruction.
Secondly, it is not the weapons themselves that we have to fear but the nature of the regimes that possess them. While democracies are usually reluctant to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear dictatorships, although they did so against Japan in 1945 as has been pointed out, the reverse is not true.