DEFENCE – TRIDENT – 4 November 2013

Dr Julian Lewis: What assessment has the Secretary of State made of the conclusions and utility of the Trident alternatives study?

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Philip Hammond): I can tell my hon. Friend that the review demonstrated that no alternative system is as capable as a Trident-based deterrent, or as cost-effective. As to the utility, carrying out the review fulfilled a Government commitment but did not produce any unexpected conclusions.

Dr Lewis: Yes, well, it is good to know that the review came to such a predictable and predicted conclusion, but what does my right hon. Friend think of the fact that our coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, have not adopted any of the options from the review but have decided instead to come off continuous at-sea deterrence and have only two Trident submarines? This was rejected as unworthy of consideration by the review, but now that even the Liberal Democrats want two submarines, should we take up the suggestion of the shadow armed forces Minister, the hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones), and try to sign a contract for them?

Mr Hammond: As my hon. Friend suggests, the reason a two-boat solution was not considered in the review is that it did not meet the hurdle test of providing a credible deterrent. I am actually rather more interested in the views of official Opposition Front Benchers on this matter than the views of our coalition partners. I welcome the fact – [Interruption.] Hang on a minute. I welcome the fact that the first visit in office by the hon. Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) was to Barrow-in-Furness, the home of Britain’s submarine fleet.