On 5th November 2013, the UK Project on Nuclear Issues, together with the Top Level Group, hosted its autumn seminar on the theme of ‘The People behind the Policies.’
TLG member Margaret Beckett MP, Lord Owen and Lord Browne discussed their experiences of shaping nuclear weapons policy, and the future of Britain’s nuclear deterrent. Lord Hennessy then chaired a question and answer session.
The conversation covered issues including the relationship between politicians, military officers, civil servants and contractors involved in nuclear decision making, the implications of Britain’s nuclear posture for relations with the US, the influence of financial considerations on Trident replacement, and the advantages and drawbacks of alternatives to Trident such as nuclear cruise missiles.
On Tuesday 9 July 2013, TLG members James Arbuthnot and Des Browne discussed with experts at Chatham House whether the concept of nuclear deterrence can be relied upon in the contemporary security climate.
James Arbuthnot and Des Browne also offered their thoughts on whether alternative weapons systems could be more cost-effective and internationally acceptable.
The Prime Minister announced the publication of the Trident Alternatives Review on 16 July 2013.
In the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, the UK government confirmed its commitment to maintaining a continuous submarine-based deterrent and to beginning the work of replacing its existing submarines. As part of the Coalition programme for government, it was agreed that the Liberal Democrats would continue to make the case for alternatives. As a result, in 2011 the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister jointly commissioned Cabinet Office officials to conduct a focused review into alternative systems and postures.
The review was to examine whether there are:
- credible alternatives to a submarine-based deterrent
- credible submarine-based alternatives to the current proposal, e.g. modified Astute using cruise missiles
- alternative nuclear postures, i.e. non-continuous at sea deterrence, which could maintain credibility
The Cabinet Office has today published an unclassified version of the review.
Final decisions on the successor submarines will be taken in 2016 at the Main Gate point of the acquisition programme.
Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Minister in charge of the Trident Alternatives Review, Danny Alexander, launched the report at the Royal United Service Institute.
A debate on the Review will follow in the House of Commons on Wednesday, 17 July 2013.
The Cabinet Office will publish the Trident Alternatives Review next Tuesday morning. A Commons debate ‘Trident Alternatives Review’ has now been confirmed to take place next Wednesday afternoon, and will be led by Danny Alexander.
It has been suggested that the report is substantial and includes costings beyond the figures in the 2006 White Paper.
Further detail on the upcoming release of the report has been published in the Guardian and is available here.