New Forest East

DEFENCE – TRIDENT – 17 June 2013

Mr Kevan Jones: In January, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury told the Guardian newspaper that the coalition review of Trident would compile a “compelling” list of alternatives. It was suggested in the Financial Times recently that the review will come down on the side of a submarine-based ballistic missile system. In the light of that, will the Secretary of State tell the House when the review will be published, and if it comes down on the side of a submarine-based system, will the Government consider bringing forward the main gate decision into this Parliament?

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Philip Hammond): I cannot comment on the findings of the review, which is not yet concluded and has not yet reported to the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman that there is no need to bring forward the 2016 main gate decision point. That decision will be made in 2016, in order to deliver the new submarines into service from 2028, when they are required.

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Dr Julian Lewis: My right hon. Friend is clearly very robust on this issue, but may I urge him to consider deeply the suggestion of the shadow Armed Forces Minister, the hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones)? If those on both Front Benches agree on the need to renew Trident and to keep continuous-at-sea deterrence, why should they not agree before the general election to make this irreversible, so that Trident cannot again become a political football, as it unfortunately did between my party and the Liberal Democrats in 2010?

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Philip Hammond): I have to say to my hon. Friend – who is a great expert on this subject and has been one for longer than I can remember – that the essence of our strategy for defence procurement, which is at the heart of our determination to maintain a balanced budget, is that we do not make contractual commitments until we need to for the delivery of equipment in a timely fashion, when we need it. Locking in decisions before they need to be made merely reduces flexibility and, as the previous Government found out, drives cost into the programme if changes have to be made.

Mr Speaker: The hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) has spoken eloquently at me on the matter for 30 years.