UK's Nuclear Deterrent

Part of Terrorist Attack: Nice – in the House of Commons at 7:43 pm on 18th July 2016.

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Photo of Douglas Chapman Douglas Chapman Scottish National Party, Dunfermline and West Fife 7:43 pm, 18th July 2016

That could certainly be the case. I am sure that my hon. Friend is better informed on that point than some members of the Ministry of Defence.

Recently, the Committee visited NATO and discussed the needs of Scotland and the UK. What we heard a lot about from NATO was how we improve and increase our conventional forces, particularly those who could respond to hybrid threats. Indeed, the most prominent commitment that emerged from the Warsaw summit just last week was for a multinational brigade to be placed in the Baltic States and in Poland, which we wholeheartedly supported. What also emerged was this principle of a modern deterrence, which Trident resolutely is not.

The UK focus should be on what we can deliver for our NATO allies, instead of desperately clutching to this vestige of a long-gone superpower status—please, wake up and smell the polonium. We need to do that very quickly. Our NATO allies would rather be focused on the most basic of tasks, protecting our UK territory and that of our neighbourhood. When that Russian carrier was carrying out its activities in the Moray Firth, there were no major surface ships based in Scotland—indeed there was none north of the channel. Trident endangered us by fooling us into thinking that nuclear deterrence is the only sort of deterrence that we need.

The Royal Navy is now reduced to only 17 usable frigates and destroyers. To put that into context, the force that retook the Falklands in 1982 had more than 40 ships. The Falklands is currently without major warship protection for the first time since that conflict and UK anti-piracy and people smuggling operations in the Mediterranean and Caribbean are frequently undertaken by vessels that are simply not fit for task. To put it simply, Trident is eating into our conventional budget, which leads me to the very nub of the argument—every penny spent on Trident means a penny less spent on conventional defence. It is hardly any surprise that Admiral Lord West recently told the Defence Committee that the Navy had effectively run out of money in support of the new Type 26 programme. Therefore, while the entire Successor programme has funds ring-fenced with added generous contingencies, projects such as the Type 26s, due to be built on the Clyde, face delay after delay with a knock-on effect on construction, affecting jobs, skills and the workforce and our capability to defend ourselves.

Finally, this vote tonight puts hundreds of years of shipbuilding on the Clyde at risk because the MOD has skewed every military budget it has to spend, and it is spending that on Trident. More morally repugnant weapons of mass destruction can no longer be tolerated—indeed we must look at using other methods of modern deterrence—and to quote the Prime Minister, they are a “reckless” gamble that the country can ill afford.