PRIME MINISTER – TRIDENT REPLACEMENT – 9 February 2011

Dr Julian Lewis: What assessment has the Prime Minister made of the effect of coalition politics on the future of the UK's nuclear deterrent?

The Prime Minister: We have made it clear that we are committed to maintaining a nuclear deterrent based on Trident. That is why it was excluded from the strategic defence and security review, and why we commissioned a separate value-for-money study. The replacement of Trident is going ahead, and initial gate will be passed soon. As set out in the coalition agreement, the Liberal Democrats will continue to make the case for alternatives.

Dr Lewis: When the coalition was being formed, my right hon. Friend promised a meeting of all Conservative MPs that the Liberal Democrats would support the replacement of Trident. As we know, the key decision has been postponed until after the next election, and the Liberal Democrats, from their president downwards, have been boasting that this was their achievement. Will the Prime Minister give a pledge to this House and to the country that in the event of another hung Parliament, if the Liberal Democrats demand as the price for another coalition the scrapping of Trident, he will refuse to pay that price?

The Prime Minister: First of all, let me make this point. The replacement of Trident is going ahead. The investment is going in; the initial gate will soon be passed. The reason for the delay is that we had a value-for-money study because we desperately need to save some money in the Ministry of Defence, so that we can invest in front-line capability. That is the argument there. In terms of the future, all I can say to the hon. Gentleman is that I am in favour of a full replacement for Trident, a continuous at-sea deterrent and making sure that we keep our guard up. That is Conservative policy; it will remain Conservative policy as long as I am the leader of this party.

John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness): But with due respect, the Prime Minister chose to break his word on the education maintenance allowance and matters such as reorganising the NHS, so why will this pledge prove any different?

The Prime Minister: I have visited the hon. Gentleman's constituency and I know how important this issue is for him. I profoundly believe that we should maintain our independent nuclear deterrent. I have looked at all the alternatives over the years, and I am completely convinced that we need a submarine-based alternative – a full replacement for Trident – in order to guarantee the ultimate insurance policy for this country. That is my view, the view of my party and the view of most of the people sitting opposite me. I believe that there is all-party support for the move.

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