Henry Smith: What assessment he has made of the recommendations of the concluding report of the Trident Commission set up by the British American Security Information Council.
The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Philip Hammond): I welcome the Commission’s conclusion that while there remains the possibility of a direct nuclear threat to the UK, we should retain our nuclear deterrent. We are clear that for this to be effective we need to retain a continuous at-sea deterrent posture, as we have for the past 46 years.
Henry Smith: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that answer, with which I wholeheartedly agree. Will he confirm that the British American Security Information Council Trident Commission report did not consider a two-boat solution?
Mr Hammond: My hon. Friend makes a very good point. There have been suggestions that, to save a relatively small sum of money, Britain should abandon continuous at-sea deterrence and opt for a part-time deterrent, with boats tied up alongside or even sent to sea without nuclear weapons on board. I can assure my hon. Friend that the Government firmly reject such advice and I can further assure him that a Conservative Government will never take risks with Britain’s strategic security.
Mr Speaker: Time for the good doctor. I call Dr Julian Lewis.
Dr Julian Lewis: In welcoming what the Secretary of State for Defence has said, may I remind him that those on the Labour Front Bench have similarly committed to the retention of Trident and continuous at-sea nuclear deterrence? Does he therefore agree with me that whatever the complexion of the next Government, there can be no possible excuse for failing to renew Trident—whether in coalition, in government or in opposition? Wherever we are, we all ought to be committing to renewal in the next Parliament.
Mr Hammond: I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend that there is no possible excuse for not doing something that is absolutely necessary to Britain’s long-term strategic protection. However, I note that there are two parties represented in the Chamber this afternoon that do not support that agenda.
… Priti Patel: What his policy is on the future of the UK’s nuclear deterrent.
The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Philip Hammond): Government policy remains as set out in the 2010 strategic defence and security review: we will maintain a continuous submarine-based deterrent and are proceeding with the programme to replace our existing submarines.
Priti Patel: Given the potential threats from hostile regimes around the world, I have heard what the Secretary of State has already had to say. Does he agree, however, that any surrender of our deterrent would not only leave us vulnerable but weaken our position as a permanent member of the UN Security Council?
Mr Hammond: My hon. Friend is exactly right, although of course we maintain our strategic deterrent as the ultimate guarantee of our sovereignty and independence of action. It is worth remembering that there are still 17,000 nuclear weapons in the world, and so long as that is the case, we must be able to protect the British people against them.