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Continuous At-Sea Deterrent

Part of Parental Rights (Rapists) and Family Courts – in the House of Commons at 5:02 pm on 10th April 2019.

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Photo of John Woodcock John Woodcock Independent, Barrow and Furness 5:02 pm, 10th April 2019

Okay—well, let’s move on.

I want to ensure that this House gives proper thanks to all the workers involved, including shipwrights and engineers. Sometimes manufacturers and engineers in all parts of the United Kingdom—including many hundreds in jobs in Scotland—have no idea that they are contributing to the submarine programme. These are the most cutting-edge, advanced engineering and manufacturing jobs in the world, producing not only the Dreadnought-class submarines that are being developed now, but all the nuclear patrol submarines. These vessels have been built principally at Barrow, but the project has been made possible by what the Secretary of State rightly described as a national endeavour.

Although I recognise that it is difficult, I hope that the Government and the bodies responsible for awarding new medals listen to the campaign that we have launched today for a new service medal for submariners who have been on bomber patrols. We have heard about the service of this group of people, but because of the necessarily secret nature of their work—and because of their achievement in the fact that this operation has been continuous, relentless and ongoing—they have not had the opportunity to be awarded a service medal as many of their colleagues in different parts of the armed forces have for serving in particular conflicts. It would surely be fitting to advance that case as part of these 50th anniversary commemorations—celebrations, if you will. I am grateful to many in this Chamber who have already added their support to the early-day motion that I am tabling today.

Deterrence is not a perfect science. It is impossible to prove categorically what works and what does not when acting in the negative to prevent something else from happening. But I hope that even those who say that it is too expensive for the UK to maintain its submarine fleet would accept that it is no accident that the only time that the horror of nuclear war has been inflicted on the world—in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—was in a world with only one nuclear power, meaning that that nuclear power could unleash that devastation without fear of retribution.

We have to make the case time and again that the reason why the UK continues to invest in its deterrent capability is to make the horror of a nuclear war less likely, not more likely—not simply for ourselves, but for all our NATO allies. Apparently, an independent Scotland would want to remain part of NATO, under the protective umbrella of what would become an English, Welsh and Northern Irish deterrent, while casting aspersions from over the border about how morally repugnant it is that we are maintaining this service and keeping Scotland safe. I think that is the SNP’s policy, but it is still quite hard to ascertain. It is possible, perhaps, that it believes that no one should have nuclear weapons—that America should take them away as well, and that we should leave ourselves at the mercy of nuclear blackmail from Russia.