One thing is absolutely certain. If the Liberal Democrats were not in Government now, the decision to replace Trident would have already been made. Because of us, no decision is to be made until 2016.
Another certainty is that if we are not in power after the 2015 election, the country will definitely get a like for like replacement for Trident costing £25bn for the nuclear subs and at least £2bn a year running costs. A total bill of £100bn over the lifetime of the new system.
My position on the renewal of Trident is clear. I don’t support a like-for-like replacement.
The world had changed and so has the defence assumptions that underpinned the position since the cold war. The Lib Dems support nuclear disarmament on a multilateral basis and we also agree that it is absurd to spend billions and billions of pounds to replace Trident especially at a time of austerity. That is why the Government is reviewing alternatives to Trident and looking at both security and cost issues regarding replacement.
Under the last Labour Government, both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown signed off a replacement to Trident with the support of the Tories. All without a whimper of disagreement from Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and Harriet Harman. Just yesterday, union bosses urged Ed Miliband to support the Tories on a replacement, too.
The Prime Minister’s argument that we need a nuclear deterrent because of North Korea’s sabre rattling was weak, bordering on pathetic. Hasn’t he noticed that North Korea are ramping up the rhetoric against the USA, who have many more nuclear weapons that us? Has he not noticed that our nuclear deterrent is dependent on the USA? Has he not noticed that North Korea don’t have the capacity to hit us?
The £25billion cost of building new Nuclear subs would pay for 120,000 newly qualified nurses every year for the next 10 years, or 60,000 newly-qualified teachers every year for the next 20 years.
I believe that MPs from all parties and senior officers in the military should accept that there are credible and compelling alternatives to continuous at-sea deterrence, and we all know that no-one has a magic pot of money to pay for a new generation of submarines