House of Lords debates Defence, Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development following The Queen’s Speech

On the 5th day of debates following the Queen’s Speech – which outlined of the government’s policies and proposed legislative agenda for the new parliamentary session – several members of the Top Level Group spoke on the inclusions and omissions relevant to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament laid out for the coming  year.


To read their contributions to the debate, please click here.

To read the full debate in the Lords Hansard, please click here.


Letter from Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt MP to Top Level Group

CC Image courtesy of Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Flickr

CC Image courtesy of Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Flickr

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Alistair Burt MP, wrote to the Top Level Group Convenor, Lord Browne of Ladyton, explaining the Government’s position towards the conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons held in Oslo on 4-5 March 2013.

Read the letter from Alistair Burt MP.

Read the Minister’s parliamentary written answer on 4th March 2013.

House of Lords debate calls into question the need for continuous at sea deterrence (CASD)

On 24th January 2013 a House of Lords debate took place on prospects for multilateral nuclear disarmament and Britain’s role. The debate, secured by Lord Ramsbotham and Lord Hannay, discussed the Trident programme and whether like-for-like renewal was the best option.

TLG Convenor Lord Browne of Ladyton argued that the reliance on nuclear weapons as a deterrent was a ‘decreasingly effective and increasingly risky’ defence strategy. Baroness Warsi noted the significant challenges for disarmament, especially in the risk of proliferation from North Korea and Iran. Britain, she argued, has shown ‘considerable leadership’ in reducing the number of nuclear weapons but only by building trust between states would multilateral disarmament be possible.

Lord Ramsbotham opening the debate in the House of Lords

Lord Ramsbotham, HoL

Tom King, former Conservative defence secretary, also questioned whether a like-for-like replacement for Trident was needed, affordable and best suited to deal with 21st century security threats.

Lord Ramsbotham concluded the debate by stating that all issues surrounding nuclear disarmament should be addressed, and was particularly glad the continuous at sea deterrence policy was called into question for its cost and efficacy.

To read the full debate, please click here.

You can also watch the debate here.

You also find information on the media coverage of the debate here.

Secretary of State for Defence set to announce contract for next generation of nuclear-armed submarines

The Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond, is set to announce plans for replacing the Vanguard Fleet, which carries the Trident Nuclear deterrent.

During an interview with the BBC on Sunday 17th of June, current Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond, was quoted:

This is sustaining sovereign capability in the UK and some very high and technical skills in the UK for the next 40 to 50 years. The government’s policy is very clear – we are committed to maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent, and we are placing orders now […] for the long lead items that will be necessary to deliver a successor to the vanguard submarines in the late 2020’s. But the actual decision to go ahead and build them won’t be taken until 2016.

We have already done a review of options and value-for-money of the trident program and that concluded that replacing the vanguard submarines and continuing with trident was the best value solution to maintaining a nuclear deterrent. But the Liberal Democrats wanted to have another look, look at some emerging technologies, and Nick Harvey is leading a review to whether there are any. We are carrying on with the government’s policy [however, in order] to make sure that when we get to 2016, we can make that decision and all the long lead items will have been ordered.

Philip Hammond on the BBC's Sunday Politics

Philip Hammond on the BBC’s Sunday Politics – Watch the full interview here.


Sir Menzies Campbell, former Lib Dem leader and member of the Top Level Group, described the plans as “sensible”. He told the BBC:

The position of the Liberal Democrats before the last general election was that the cost of a like-for-like replacement of Trident was so great that it was necessary to examine alternatives…

That [review] is not affected by this announcement and even if there was no Trident submarine programme we would still have had to upgrade these facilities [at Derby] in order to ensure that the reactor cores for the Astute Class… were being properly constructed and in a safe environment.