House of Commons Debate: Nuclear Deterrent & Trident Replacement Programme – 14 March 2011

House of Commons Debate: Nuclear Deterrent – 14 March 2011

Julie Hilling (Bolton West, Labour)
How much of the sum allocated by his Department to the Trident replacement concept phase has been transferred from its budget for the assessment phase.

Peter Luff (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Defence Equipment, Support and Technology), Defence; Mid Worcestershire, Conservative)
The concept phase for the programme to replace the Vanguard submarine was extended to allow potential designs to be developed more fully, and to allow the value for money of the programme to be reviewed. The previous Government approved a sum of about £255 million for that extension, and this January the coalition Government authorised an additional sum of about £25 million.

Julie Hilling (Bolton West, Labour)
On 19 October last year, the Prime Minister said that

“a proper full replacement of Trident is the right option for the future.”—[Hansard, 19 October 2010; Vol. 516, c. 805.]

However, on 10 March, the Liberal Democrat chairman, Tim Farron, said:

“I’m pretty confident there will not be a full replacement.”

Will the Minister please tell us what the formal, agreed coalition Government policy is on Trident replacement.

Peter Luff (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Defence Equipment, Support and Technology), Defence; Mid Worcestershire, Conservative)
The coalition Government are committed to the replacement of the Trident submarine, but our Liberal Democrat colleagues have the right to argue another position.

Matthew Offord (Hendon, Conservative)
Can my hon. Friend assure the House that the decision set out in the strategic defence and security review will not alter the nature or credibility of our nuclear deterrent, and that it will ensure that we maintain Britain’s ultimate insurance policy?

Peter Luff (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Defence Equipment, Support and Technology), Defence; Mid Worcestershire, Conservative)
I am delighted to give my hon. Friend that categorical reassurance.

House of Commons Debate: Trident Replacement Programme – 14 March 2011

Julian Lewis (New Forest East, Conservative)
What progress he has made on the implementation of the Trident replacement programme.

Liam Fox (Secretary of State, Defence; North Somerset, Conservative)
The programme to replace the Vanguard submarine completed the initial concept studies, and we expect an announcement on initial gate approval in the coming weeks. There remain ongoing discussions, which have simply taken longer than it was anticipated a few months ago. It is important, given the size of the project, that we get the decision right.

Julian Lewis (New Forest East, Conservative)
At a press conference organised by the anti-nuclear deterrent front organisation, the British American Security Information Council, a Liberal Democrat Defence Minister stated that a very thin paper trail had led to the last Government’s decision to renew Trident. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the

White Paper produced by his Department and the last Government was actually a first-class piece of work, was recognised as such by my right hon. Friend who is now Prime Minister and gave every good argument for why we went into the Division Lobby with the Labour Government to support that renewal?

Liam Fox (Secretary of State, Defence; North Somerset, Conservative)
The White Paper was a thorough piece of work. It was the basis on which the House made a considered decision on the issue, and I still believe that for the long-term well-being and security of the United Kingdom, a continuous at-sea, submarine-based, minimum-credible nuclear deterrent in the form of the replacement for the Trident programme is the best way forward.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North, Labour)
There seems to be a non-sequitur on the funding of the construction of this new weapon of mass destruction. In answers to me, the Secretary of State has pointed out that £300 million has been spent on advance orders for new steel and other things. In answer to my hon. Friend Julie Hilling a few moments ago, however, the Government talked of a figure of £25 million. Where exactly has the authority come from, other than the honeyed words “custom and practice”, for the expenditure of apparently up to £1 billion on preparation for the development of this new weapons system?

Liam Fox (Secretary of State, Defence; North Somerset, Conservative)
On the broad picture, if we choose to go ahead on the dates set out since the White Paper—we have changed them slightly since coming into government —long-lead items need to be ordered. The Government have set out clearly that we believe that that is the best course for the UK. The main gate decision will be taken some time after 2015.

Angus Robertson (Moray, Scottish National Party)
Will the Secretary of State confirm whether UK nuclear submarines rely on back-up power supplies to run their coolant pumps, just like Japanese nuclear power stations? Is that why Commodore MacFarlane, the defence nuclear safety regulator, recently said that UK submarine reactor safety falls “significantly short of benchmarked…good practice”?

Liam Fox (Secretary of State, Defence; North Somerset, Conservative)
One decision in the Trident replacement will be whether we move to pressurised water reactor 3 for improved nuclear safety. The Government’s view is that that is the preferred option, because those reactors give us a better safety outlook. That is a debate on both sides of the Atlantic, but we believe that in terms of safety, the case is very clear-cut.

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