CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

DEFENCE – TRIDENT RENEWAL – 26 January 2012

Nicholas Brown: ... I want us to look again at the case for Britain's independent nuclear deterrent. I know that that will probably not be popular on either side of the House;
others can make their points as the debate progresses. Given the current circumstances, it is time to consider the question again. The Government projects a total cost of £15 billion to £20 billion for the Trident successor programme. Independent research has suggested that the total cost would come in at three or four times that figure and our past experience with such big defence programmes suggests something similar.

Dr Julian Lewis rose–

Mr Brown: I remember giving way to the hon. Gentleman the last time I spoke in a debate of this character, back in 2007. I bet his intervention is about the same point.

Dr Lewis: Conservative Members are nothing but consistent on this issue. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Polaris fleet and the Trident submarines came into service on time and within budget.

Mr Brown: The hon. Gentleman presumably hopes that that will be the case in the future. However, I challenge him to point to any other defence programme from which he could extrapolate that conclusion. I know that he follows these matters with care, but I cannot think of another programme. He is right to point out the special cases of those procurements in the past, but I am not reassured that they will be repeated in the future. In any event, that point is not at the heart of my case. No matter how one looks at it, this is a very large sum of money to spend. My point is that we should look carefully at whether we should spend it. ...

* * *

Dr Julian Lewis: I thank the shadow Secretary of State [Jim Murphy] for giving way so courteously. In his list of commitments, the one thing he has not mentioned is the strategic nuclear deterrent. In the light of the first contribution that was made from the Opposition Back Benches, would he care to reiterate his party's commitment to the renewal of the strategic nuclear deterrent?

[Mr Jim Murphy: My hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock) is over my right shoulder, and I would not wish to steal his speech, because without anticipating its detail I expect it will be a detailed rebuttal of my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne East (Mr Brown). Briefly, our view remains that we believe in the minimum credible independent nuclear deterrent. The timing of the Government's process does surprise many, because it seems to be designed for internal political dynamics rather than the defence of our nation, but generally we do support the retention of the minimum independent nuclear deterrent, and we look forward to an informed debate about its renewal.]

[NOTE: For Julian's speech in this Debate, click here.]