CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

DEFENCE – TRIDENT REPLACEMENT – 7 December 2011

[Jeremy Corbyn: ... I want to turn to the issue of transparency –]

Dr Julian Lewis: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Jeremy Corbyn: There is no finer person to be transparent than the hon. Gentleman.

Dr  Lewis: I know that I am going to get one shot at this, and I thank the hon. Gentleman for his great courtesy. I would like to remind him that there was a parliamentary debate and a vote in, I think, the spring of 2007. It is not as if Parliament has not had one vote on the matter, and it will have another one. Does he agree that the cost overrun for the Astute class submarine was so great because of the gap that had been allowed to develop between the completion of the nuclear deterrent submarines of the Vanguard class and the initiation of the Astute class? By ensuring that the next generation of boats follow closely on from the Astute class, any such increase should be avoidable. There is precedent for that, because both Polaris and Trident came in on time and on budget.

* * *

Dr Lewis: Before my hon. Friend the Minister [The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Peter Luff)] moves on to the question of costs, I want to make a point about the alternative study. In response to the hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn), who has secured this debate, it is presumably reasonable to assume that, at the very least, a list of those alternatives to Trident that were considered and dismissed, as well as a rough idea of the reasons why they were dismissed, will be published even if technical details cannot be released. Does the Minister accept that, when the hon. Gentleman talks about nuclear weapons killing millions of people if ever used, surely the response is that they are being used every day, because their use lies in the prevention of the use of similar weapons against this country and our interests?

[The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Peter Luff): I note my hon. Friend's powerful argument. I am sure that it will be borne in mind closer to the time, but at present I can make no commitment about what will happen at the end of 2012 or in early 2013, when the report is due to conclude. ...]