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Today’s debate is about the primary responsibility of any Government: the security of our nation, our freedoms and our way of life. It is not about short-term politics. Whatever the current threats to this country, we cannot gamble with tomorrow’s security. That is why this Government, and all previous Governments for the last six decades, have retained an operationally independent nuclear deterrent, and today this Government are committed to maintain that credible, continuous and effective minimum nuclear deterrent based on Trident and operating in a continuously at-sea posture for as long as we need it.
We also committed in the 2010 strategic defence and security review to renew our deterrent by proceeding with the programme that Parliament approved in March 2007 by a majority of 409 to 161 to build a fleet of new ballistic missile submarines. For 45 years, Britain has kept a ballistic missile submarine at sea, providing the ultimate guarantee of security against nuclear attack or nuclear blackmail 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In December I saw that deterrent for myself at Faslane, and let me pay tribute to the crews of Vanguard, Vengeance, Victorious and Vigilant, their families and all those whose support has been essential to Operation Relentless, our continuous at-sea deterrent patrols. It is Faslane that is truly Britain’s peace camp. Whether we like it or not, there remain approximately 17,000 nuclear weapons globally. We cannot uninvent those weapons.