Topical Questions

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Wendy Morton Conservative, Aldridge-Brownhills
Does the Secretary of State agree that any moves to weaken our commitment to an independent nuclear deterrent or to our leading role in NATO will make us less safe?

Michael Fallon The Secretary of State for Defence
Absolutely, our independent nuclear deterrent is the ultimate guarantee of our, and indeed of NATO’s, security, and a necessary insurance in an increasingly dangerous and uncertain world. Our conventional and nuclear capabilities, underwritten by our commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence, support our leading role in NATO, which remains at the heart of our defence. This Government will not put our security at risk.

Jeff Smith Opposition Whip (Commons)
The armed forces are facing serious personnel shortages in some of the most crucial specialist trades, including nuclear engineers and flight technicians. Given that a great deal of the expertise is in the Ministry of Defence’s civilian workforce, which the Government plan to cut by 30%, will the Minister explain how the Government plan to ensure that operational capabilities are protected when those cuts go ahead?

Penny Mordaunt Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Minister for the Armed Forces)
For particular pinch points in particular trades, there are ongoing programmes to ensure not only that we retain people, but that we recruit. We train up people, offer apprenticeships and allow people to move in from the private sector. Those principles are well established. We will also introduce into our armed forces more flexible working patterns to allow more of that to happen and to allow people to move from regular forces to reserve forces and into civilian contracts and then back into the armed forces. That is very much our direction of travel. For each trade, there is a particular plan, and that is going very well. In fact, this month, we have started recruiting apprentices into nuclear engineering, with 35 starting this month.

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Angela Smith Labour, Penistone and Stocksbridge
I am convinced that Trident has a crucial role to play in the defence of our country, but the economic aspects are important as well and there is a huge group of workers throughout the country waiting with some anxiety to see whether or not Parliament is prepared to give final approval for the Successor programme, so will the Secretary of State give an assurance that he will not allow any unnecessary delay to get in the way of the need to bring the maingate proposals to the Floor of the House for debate and decision?

Michael Fallon The Secretary of State for Defence
I can give the hon. Lady the assurance that she seeks. It takes more than 10 years to build one of those nuclear ballistic submarines and we need to get on and replace the existing Vanguard boats, which will become obsolescent towards the end of the 2020s. In the strategic defence review at the end of November we set out our commitment to replace all four boats, and I hope it will not be too long before Parliament is asked to endorse that commitment.

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