Prime Minister’s Questions

Written answers and statements – Prime Minister: Strategic Defence and Security Review (First Annual Report), 7 December 2011

David Cameron (Prime Minister; Witney, Conservative)
[…] Decisions taken during the SDSR and the 2010 comprehensive spending review ensured that we will continue to meet the NATO target of spending at least 2% of GDP on defence over the spending review period: in 2014-15, the UK defence budget will be £33.5 billion. Further work was undertaken this year to address the longer-term financial position so that on 18 July the Government were able to set out plans to increase in real terms the investment in defence equipment by 1% per annum between 2015-16 and 2020-21. On the same day, the Government announced detailed plans to return the Army from Germany and £1.5 billion of additional investment in our reserve forces, expanding their size after years of decline, enhancing their role and adjusting the long-term balance between the regulars and reserves. Taken together with a range of further measures this has brought the defence programme broadly into balance with the resources available for the first time in many years and ensured that the Government can deliver the long-term vision for our armed forces: Future Force 2020.

These measures ensure that Britain retains the fourth largest military budget in the world and that we will invest around £150 billion in equipment for our armed forces over the next 10 years. By tackling the imbalance in the defence programme, the Government have been able to commit to a range of new equipment programmes for which funding had previously not been identified, including 14 new Chinook helicopters and refurbishment of the Army’s fleet of Warrior vehicles. In May this year, formal approval was granted to begin the assessment phase for the programme to replace the Vanguard-class submarines. In addition, to assist the Liberal Democrats make the case for alternatives to the Trident system, the Government initiated a study into the costs, feasibility and credibility of alternative nuclear deterrent systems and postures. Progress has also been made on implementing the new nuclear assurances policy and the reduction in our nuclear weapon stockpile to no more than 180 warheads, both commitments set out in the SDSR. […]

Written answers and statements – Prime Minister: Middle East and North Africa, 9 November 2011

William Hague (Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs; Richmond (Yorks), Conservative)
[…] Turning to Iran, today the International Atomic Energy Agency will deliver its report on military aspects of Iran’s nuclear programme. The report lays out clearly and objectively the evidence that the agency has uncovered of Iran’s development of nuclear weapons technology. The board of governors of the IAEA will convene later this month to consider these grave findings. The assertions of recent years by Iran that its nuclear programme is wholly for peaceful purposes are completely discredited by the report. Iran is ramping up its production of uranium enrichment to levels for which it has no plausible civilian use, but which could easily and quickly be converted into weapons-grade material. The uncovering of the recent plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in the United States also shows Iran’s apparent willingness to sponsor terrorism outside its borders.

Iran needs to change direction. We want a negotiated solution and have extended the hand of reconciliation to Iran time and time again. We are prepared to have further talks, but only if Iran is prepared to engage in serious negotiations about its nuclear programme without pre-conditions. If not, we must continue to increase the pressure, and we are considering with our partners a range of additional measures to that effect. Iran’s actions not only run counter to the positive change that we are seeing elsewhere in the region; they may threaten to undermine it, bringing about a nuclear arms race in the middle east or the risk of conflict. […]

Douglas Alexander (Paisley and Renfrewshire South, Labour)
[…] Let me turn to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s report, which we are given to understand indicates that Iran has carried out tests

“relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device”.

The Foreign Secretary should be assured that he therefore has our full support in making clear to the Iranians their obligations under international law, our shared opposition to Iran developing a nuclear weapon—a step that would not only threaten Israel and Iran’s immediate neighbours but the security of the whole region—and the need for Iran, as he put it, to change direction.

In the last statement to the House, the Foreign Secretary said,

“We are working on further sanctions”—[Hansard, 13 October 2011; Vol. 533, c. 502.]

on Iran. Given that the case for further diplomatic measures will be strengthened by this latest IAEA report, can he now tell the House what progress has been made in developing those further sanctions? Can he also give his assessment of the implications of this news for proliferation across the region, given that none of us wants to see a nuclear arms race in such a volatile part of the world? Finally, can he give his assessment of what prospects there are for further action at the United Nations level, given the stated positions of both China and Russia? […]

William Hague (Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs; Richmond (Yorks), Conservative)
[…] On Iran, I very much welcome the right hon. Gentleman’s support for much of what I said about Iran. He asked what the report meant for proliferation in the region. It is bad news about proliferation in the region. The principal problem with Iran’s nuclear programme is that it threatens to drive a coach and horses through the non-proliferation treaty. Iran is a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty. It makes it much more likely that other states in the region will develop their own nuclear weapons programmes. Then the world’s most unstable region will be in possession of the world’s most destructive weapons. We have to take this situation with the greatest seriousness. Further action at the United Nations is difficult, given the positions of Russia and China, but I think it will be important for all the Security Council members to study the IAEA report and the forthcoming outcome of the board of governors meeting, and there will be a strong case for further discussions at the United Nations.

The right hon. Gentleman asked what further pressure we are considering. We have already introduced unprecedented UN and European Union sanctions on Iran. We are working to ensure their robust implementation to close loopholes and to discourage trade with Iran. We are in discussions about increasing this pressure, and we are also considering further unilateral measures, should Iran fail to comply with its responsibilities. Although I cannot go into precise detail now on the sanctions that we are considering, we are looking at additional measures against the Iranian financial sector and the oil and gas sector, and the designation of further entities and individuals involved with its nuclear programme. […]

James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis, Conservative)
Does the Foreign Secretary agree that we are rapidly approaching a tipping point with Iran and that a peaceful solution is looking more unlikely in relation to its nuclear programme?

William Hague (Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs; Richmond (Yorks), Conservative)
We are entering a more dangerous phase—let me put it that way. When the IAEA report is officially published, everybody will be able to see what it says. Of course, the longer Iran pursues a nuclear weapons programme without responding adequately to calls for negotiation from the rest of us, the greater the risk of a conflict will be.

Written answers and statements – Prime Minister: Trident, 7 March 2011

Julian Lewis (New Forest East, Conservative)
To ask the Prime Minister pursuant to his oral answer of 9 February 2011, Official Report, columns 296-97, to the hon. Member for New Forest East on the nuclear deterrent, if he will rule out cancellation of the Trident replacement programme from negotiations with the Liberal Democrats in any future hung Parliament.

David Cameron (Prime Minister; Witney, Conservative)
My answer of 9 February 2011, Hansard, columns 295-96, sets out the position.

Oral Answers to Questions – Prime Minister: Nuclear Deterrent, 9 February 2011

Julian Lewis (New Forest East, Conservative)
What assessment he has made of the effect of coalition politics on the future of the UK’s nuclear deterrent.

Reply: David Cameron (Prime Minister; Witney, Conservative)
We have made it clear that we are committed to maintaining a nuclear deterrent based on Trident. That is why it was excluded from the strategic defence and security review, and why we commissioned a separate value-for-money study. The replacement of Trident is going ahead, and initial gate will be passed soon. As set out in the coalition agreement, the Liberal Democrats will continue to make the case for alternatives.

Julian Lewis (New Forest East, Conservative)
When the coalition was being formed, my right hon. Friend promised a meeting of all Conservative MPs that the Liberal Democrats would support the replacement of Trident. As we know, the key decision has been postponed until after the next election, and the Liberal Democrats, from their president downwards, have been boasting that this was their achievement. Will the Prime Minister give a pledge to this House and to the country that in the event of another hung Parliament, if the Liberal Democrats demand as the price for another coalition the scrapping of Trident, he will refuse to pay that price

Reply: David Cameron (Prime Minister; Witney, Conservative)
First of all, let me make this point. The replacement of Trident is going ahead. The investment is going in; the initial gate will soon be passed. The reason for the delay is that we had a value-for-money study because we desperately need to save some money in the Ministry of Defence, so that we can invest in front-line capability. That is the argument there. In terms of the future, all I can say to the hon. Gentleman is that I am in favour of a full replacement for Trident, a continuous at-sea deterrent and making sure that we keep our guard up. That is Conservative policy; it will remain Conservative policy as long as I am the leader of this party.