UK's Nuclear Deterrent

Part of Terrorist Attack: Nice – in the House of Commons at 5:23 pm on 18th July 2016.

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Photo of Angus Robertson Angus Robertson Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader 5:23 pm, 18th July 2016

My hon. Friend makes her point very well.

Still remaining on the consensual side of this important debate, I want to stress that SNP Members do not confuse those who are in favour of renewing Trident with the thought that they would actually want to kill millions of people. However, as the Prime Minister has confirmed from the Dispatch Box today, the theory of nuclear deterrence is based on the credible potential use of weapons of mass destruction. Those who vote for its renewal need to square the theory with the practice of what that actually means.

Having said all of that, given the boldness of the Prime Minister’s recent personnel decisions, she has clearly been thinking about new ways of taking things forward. In that respect, it is hugely disappointing that she clearly has not taken any time to consider—perhaps to reconsider—the wisdom of spending an absolute fortune on something that can never be used and is not deterring the threats that we face today. I say again that we have not yet had any confirmation of what the Government plan to spend on this; they expect Members on both the Labour Benches and the Government Benches to sign a blank cheque for it.

I am sorry that the Prime Minister has clearly not given any new or detailed consideration to embracing the non-replacement of Trident, which would offer serious strategic and economic benefits, as outlined in the June 2013 report, “The Real Alternative”. Those who have not read the report should do so.

In the previous debate that took place in this House on 20 January 2015—a debate called by the SNP on Trident replacement, with support from Plaid Cymru and the Green party, and I think I am right in saying that it was co-sponsored by Jeremy Corbyn—we outlined the advantages, including

“improved national security—through budgetary flexibility in the Ministry of Defence and a more effective response to emerging security challenges in the 21st century” as well as

“improved global security—through a strengthening of the non-proliferation regime, deterring of nuclear proliferation and de-escalation of international tensions”.

There are also potential

“vast economic savings—of more than £100 billion over the lifetime of a successor nuclear weapons system, releasing resources for effective security spending, as well as a range of public spending priorities”.—[Official Report, 20 January 2015;
Vol. 591, c. 92.]

This seems to be pretty important, given that, when the Ministry of Defence was asked about it in a written question in February 2015, the then Defence Minister, Mr Dunne, who is not in his place but was here earlier—I gave him notice that I would be raising this matter—replied that the estimated annual spending on the Trident replacement programme beyond maingate in 2016 was

“being withheld as it relates to the formulation of Government policy and release would prejudice commercial interests.”

Here today we are part and parcel of formulating Government policy, and we are expected to sign a blank cheque. We have absolutely no idea what the final cost will be. Crispin Blunt, the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, has made a calculation—perhaps he will speak about it, if he catches your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker. He worked out that the in-service costs of a missile extension—the total cost of the Trident replacement programme—would be £167 billion.