'WARNING ON LIB-DEM TRIDENT ROLE'

Press Association – 8 November 2010

A future hung Parliament would allow the Liberal Democrats to "blackmail" the two main parties into cancelling Britain's nuclear deterrent, a Tory MP claimed today.  Julian Lewis said the "appalling decision" to delay the decision-making process for Trident would hand the power to the "unilateralist" party.

He was speaking during defence questions after one of his coalition colleagues, Lib-Dem MP Julian Huppert (Cambridge), expressed hope that a future Parliament would not replace the missile system. Dr Huppert asked Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox:

"Can you assure me that no binding contracts will be entered into – as we have seen with aircraft carriers and the disgraceful contract there – so the next Parliament, if as I hope, there is a Parliament that realises that we don't want and we don't need to replace Trident, it will be able to do so at no huge expense?"

But to Tory cheers Defence Secretary Dr Fox said:

"The Government's position is quite clear: we will replace the nuclear deterrent. We will replace it with an updated Trident programme and it is unavoidable that, when we get to initial gate (decision), contracts at least on the initial design will be placed."

Dr Lewis (New Forest East) then said:

"I realise that nothing would please you more than to go into the next election, fighting in defence of the rationale for the nuclear deterrent. But do you not recognise that the appalling decision to postpone signing the main gate contract leads us to a situation where, if – Heaven forbid – there is another hung Parliament, the Liberal Democrats, who are really unilateralist, would be able to blackmail both parties to cancel the deterrent entirely?"

Dr Fox replied:

"There are two things I am sure of: the first is my own belief in the need for an independent minimum credible nuclear deterrent for the UK is and will remain undimmed; secondly, that I shall be fighting the election to see a majority Conservative Government returned."