My right hon. Friend is technically right, but it would be a triumph of hope over expectation that we are going to see more than 2% spent on defence any time soon. When that happens, and if this is taken in isolation, to be spent outside the defence budget, then I will accept that my arguments need to be re-evaluated, but as things are set now, the budget for this weapons system comes at the cost of the rest of our defence budget.
Britain’s independent possession of nuclear weapons has turned into a political touchstone for commitment to national defence, but this is an illusion. The truth is that this is a political weapon aimed, rather effectively, at the Labour party. Its justification rests on the defence economics, the politics, and the strategic situation of over three decades ago, but it is of less relevance to the United Kingdom today, and certainly surplus to the needs of NATO. It does not pass any rational cost-effectiveness test. Surely the failures in conventional terms, with the ignominious retreats from Basra and Helmand in the past decade, tell us that something is badly out of balance in our strategic posture.
Let us not forget the risks that this weapons system presents to the United Kingdom. Basing it in Scotland reinforces the nationalist narrative, and ironically, for a system justified on the basis that it protects the United Kingdom, it could prove instrumental in the Union’s undoing.
We were told last November that the capital cost for the replacement of the four Vanguard submarines would be £31 billion, with a contingency fund of £10 billion. We have been told that the running costs of the Successor programme will be 6% of the defence budget. Following the comments of the right hon. Member for Moray, my latest calculation is £179 billion for the whole programme.