Michael Dugher (Barnsley East, Labour): To ask the Prime Minister
(1) whether the National Security Council has made a recent (a) estimate of the cumulative private finance initiative liabilities of the Ministry of Defence to 2020 and (b) impact assessment on the effects of those liabilities of that Department’s capacity to fund the Trident successor programme;
(2) whether the National Security Council has made a recent estimate of the level of unfunded liabilities in the long-term costings of the Ministry of Defence attributable to the Government’s commitment to the Trident successor programme; and if he will make a statement.
David Cameron (Prime Minister; Witney, Conservative): It is longstanding Government practice not to disclose information relating to ministerial meetings, including the proceedings of Cabinet and Cabinet committees, as to do so would put at risk the public interest in the full and frank discussion of policy by Ministers.
Mr. Nick Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam, Liberal Democrat): I would like to add my own expressions of sympathy and condolence to the families and friends of Corporal Liam Riley and Lance Corporal Graham Shaw from 3rd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment, who tragically lost their lives serving so bravely in Afghanistan this week.
I would like to return to the issue of defence spending. The Government are about to make a statement on the future defence needs of this country, yet the Prime Minister has already excluded the Trident nuclear missile system from the strategic defence review. How can that review be taken seriously if the most expensive weapons system that we have is to be excluded from it?
The Prime Minister: One can either take a unilateralist or a multilateralist attitude to defence. We take a multilateralist attitude that we are prepared to work with other countries for nuclear disarmament. We do so on the basis of being prepared to discuss the future of Trident as part of multilateral talks. We are prepared to look at and discuss the scientific evidence for reducing the number of submarines from four to three. The defence review paper will state all these things. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that in a very unsafe and insecure world where countries are acquiring nuclear weapons, breaching the non-proliferation treaty, it is better for us to be part of multilateral discussions to reduce nuclear weapons around the world.