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Continuous At-Sea Deterrent

Part of Parental Rights (Rapists) and Family Courts – in the House of Commons at 6:43 pm on 10th April 2019.

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Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence 6:43 pm, 10th April 2019

We have had a useful and important debate in which we have heard passionate arguments both in support of our continuous at-sea deterrent and against it. I support the strong arguments made by right hon. and hon. Members for our deterrent and while I completely disagree with those who oppose it, I do respect the fact that they have stuck to their principled views.

Before addressing some of the points raised today, I think it would be useful to remind ourselves of the continuing rationale of our independent nuclear deterrent. Following its July summit in Brussels, NATO made it clear that:

“As long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance.”

The UK’s independent strategic nuclear force, together with that of France, plays a vital deterrent role and contributes significantly to the overall security of the alliance. NATO also said:

“These Allies’
separate centres of decision-making contribute to deterrence by complicating the calculations of potential adversaries.”

We recognise the common threats and our common purpose in facing them down. It is ultimately by standing together that we strengthen our deterrence and shore up the rules-based international order. That is what underpins NATO’s nuclear umbrella.

I now turn to the points raised during the debate today. The Opposition Front-Bench spokesman, hon. Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith), asked me to answer a few questions, particularly on financing. As she will know and as has just been mentioned, we have the £10 billion contingency. Through that, we have been bringing forward parts of the project early so that we can try to have as much time as possible, and bring in cost savings where necessary. Of course, we are working closely with all of the industry to make sure that this is delivered on time. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State meets the Treasury regularly, and the Treasury fully understands the importance of our nuclear deterrent.

On Brexit, again, the Ministry of Defence continues to meet our suppliers regularly to ensure that they have robust plans, whatever the outcome of the negotiations, and that work is extensive. On the warhead, work continues to transition. We continue to refine the options and the technical solutions that will inform the final Government decision, bearing in mind that the replacement is not really required until the late 2030s or possibly even later.

I have heard my right hon. Friend Dr Lewis, the Chair of the Defence Committee, advocate the importance of our nuclear deterrent for many years, and he always puts those points extremely effectively. He rightly pointed out the support that exists for it in this House, with the votes that have taken place on numerous occasions, and he rightly reflected the nation’s support for our deterrent, with some two thirds of the population supporting it.

If I remember rightly, Stewart Malcolm McDonald started with a quote about big willies and little willies, but I am not going to go there personally. He also said that this was a backslapping exercise, and I have to say that I think many Members on both sides of the House found that a bit out of order. This is certainly not about backslapping, because the first job of any Government is the defence of our nation. This debate is about marking the gratitude to those who have made sure that our country has remained safe.

As others have already said and pointed out, particularly my right hon. Friend Sir Michael Fallon and Mrs Moon, NATO is a nuclear alliance, and there are therefore conflicts in the position that the SNP has taken.