Trident: Renewal Cost

Defence – in the House of Commons at on 20 May 2024.

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Photo of Owen Thompson Owen Thompson SNP Chief Whip

What recent estimate he has made of the cost to the public purse of Trident renewal.

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Defence

The right hon. Gentleman asks about the Trident programme, but I am unclear about whether he means the Dreadnought submarine part of that. Of course, different parts of a programme often combine together, but the Dreadnoughts themselves will enter service in the early 2030s.

Photo of Owen Thompson Owen Thompson SNP Chief Whip

That was an interesting answer from the Secretary of State. The Government and the loyal Opposition have both pledged to commit to Trident renewal, investing obscene amounts of money that would be better used to improve our NHS, to help households with the cost of living and to support personnel or, indeed, veterans. According to the House of Commons Library briefing, Trident renewal is expected to cost £21 billion in 2022-23 prices, while one in three children is currently living in poverty. When will the Secretary of State agree that Trident renewal is an obscene waste of money, which could be put to much better uses?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Defence

I was recently at Faslane in Scotland, and I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that that is not what the people employed in the defence sector think about Trident. I can tell him something else: having stood at the Dispatch Box and been Defence Secretary, I know that the defence of this country is vastly supported by having our nuclear deterrent. In my view, every other issue that we face comes after the defence of this realm.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Chair, Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament

Although Owen Thompson is a valued member of the Intelligence and Security Committee, I think the Secretary of State would agree that the SNP is very much on its own on the idea of scrapping the nuclear deterrent. I am put in mind of a quotation from the late Denis Healey, who said that

“once we cut defence expenditure to the extent where our security is imperilled, we have no houses, we have no hospitals, we have no schools. We have a heap of cinders.”—[Official Report, 5 March 1969;
Vol. 779, c. 551.]

Is that endorsement of deterrence not as true today as it was when he gave it 55 years ago?