'TRIDENT DECISION DELAY – A BREATHTAKING BETRAYAL OR WELCOME NEWS?'
Guardian – 24 September 2010
The Liberal Democrats have a long history of barely concealed hostility to nuclear deterrence. Successive Labour and Conservative Governments, by contrast, have rightly regarded our strategic deterrent as the ultimate insurance policy against nuclear threats.
When Conservative MPs met to consider forming the coalition, just after the General Election, the renewal of Trident was therefore specifically listed as a Conservative commitment which the Liberals accepted. This guarantee, spelt out by my party leader, reassured me as the Defence Team's then spokesman on the nuclear deterrent.
At the moment it was stated, my colleague George Osborne caught my eye and nodded in confirmation.
Now we find that the Liberal Democrats have no intention of keeping their word and it is suggested that, to humour them, the Prime Minister may postpone the ‘main gate’ decision on Trident until after the next election (Trident to be an election issue, 23 September).
In parliament last week, I described any such move to renege on replacement as a "breathtaking betrayal" of pledges given to the country, to the parliamentary party and to individual MPs, including me. I find it hard to believe that the David Cameron I have known for 20 years would ever contemplate such a breach of faith.
(Dr) JULIAN LEWIS MP
Shadow Armed Forces Minister, 2002-10
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While not wishing to compare our achievements with those of the Chancellor, your editorial comment (Defence policy: All at sea, 16 September) that "arguably George Osborne has done more than CND to reduce the billions squandered on nuclear weapons by demanding, for the first time, that they are counted as part of the defence budget" underlines an important point.
Putting Trident firmly within the MoD's budget has clearly focused minds on the relative merits of nuclear and conventional forces, with a growing number of ministers and senior military figures coming to the conclusion that Trident is a militarily useless trophy.
A ruinously expensive diversion from defence priorities would be one thing, but Trident's retention or replacement continues with a policy that leads other states, friendly or otherwise, to claim the need for a "minimum nuclear deterrent" of their own.
Any delay in Trident replacement is very welcome news. We hope this will give time for the government to catch up with the views of the public and the growing number of military figures who realise that Britain's security interests lie in ridding ourselves of these weapons of mass destruction.
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament