Barrow MP fights for Trident as MPs clash
Published at 09:02, Friday, 18 January 2013
BARROW'S MP insisted there must by a like for like replacement for Trident submarines as MPs were told a key report into possible alternatives will be published in May.
Nick Harvey, the Liberal Democrat former defence minister, said the long-awaited study - examining cheaper alternatives - was expected to be completed in March and made public two months later.
The report, ordered by Nick Clegg, is expected to come out against replacing Trident with a like-for-like 24-hour nuclear-armed submarine presence at sea, after the current system is taken out of service in about 2028.
Alternatives could include stepping down patrols, designing missiles to be launched from aircraft, ships or land, or a ‘delayed-launch’ warhead for a cruise missile that could be launched from existing Astute submarines.
The Lib Dems say the study means the final decision on Trident will not be taken until 2016 - although contracts worth £700m have been awarded towards work on new submarines to carry nuclear missiles, to be built in Barrow.
Two weeks ago, the Coalition - for the first time - gave a commitment to publish the Whitehall review into alternatives, being carried out in the Cabinet Office.
The May date was revealed as MPs took part in a two-hour debate that heard fierce arguments on both sides, putting the case for and against Trident.
Julian Lewis, a former Conservative defence spokesman, who led the debate, said it was dangerous to assume that the era of state-on-state war was over.
He said: “Every sane individual hopes that such warfare will never return, but to rely on this - in the face of past experience - would be extremely foolhardy.
But Mr Harvey said the total cost of Trident would be a staggering £100bn-plus, requiring cuts in other areas of defence spending “in an increasingly dangerous and uncertain world”
John Woodcock, Labour MP for Barrow and Furness, insisted a ‘like-for-like’ replacement of Trident was not only the most effective nuclear deterrent, but the most cost-effective.
You can read the full text of Mr Woodcock's speech here
Abandoning the project now would not only involve writing off £3bn already spent on it, but would cost 6,000 jobs in Barrow and a further 4,000 in the submarine supply chain.
Philip Dunne, the Conservative defence minister, said nothing about the review into alternatives - and ducked a call to give a commitment to debate it on the Commons floor.
Instead, he insisted the Tory side of the Coalition was committed to a a replacement “based on Trident” and one that guaranteed an “at sea posture”.
He added: “The first duty of any government is to ensure the security of the nation, its people and their vital interests. This government does not and will not gamble with Britain’s national security.”
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Have your say
Good point David Lowry. Despite the one-sided view given by Mr Woodcock and the North West Evening Mail, most people in this country don't want to waste money on new nuclear weapons.
Here are some alternative views on nuclear WMDs like Trident from another Labour MP, Paul Flynn, in yesterday's debate:Paul Flynn MP BlogJanuary 17, 2013http://paulflynnmp.typepad.com/my_weblog/2013/01/locked-in-perma-frost-of-cold-war-error.html'Locked in perma-frost of cold war fear'Total of Britsih deaths in Afghanistan = 440Today there was a debate on Trident in the Commons. First below is my speech as delivered squashed into six minutes. Then there are Tmy extensive notes for the speech.Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab):There are two mindsets in this debate: there are those on the other side who are locked in the permafrost of the fear of cold war thinking and there are those who have hope for a better and safer world.The hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) mentioned the 1980s. I vividly recall what the historian E. P. Thompson said at that dangerous time, when the world had enough nuclear weapons to kill humanity 57 times over and we were in deadly peril because the geriatric fingers on the nuclear buttons belonged to Andropov, who was on a life support machine and virtually dead from the neck down, and to President Reagan, who was dead from the neck up.The likelihood of a nuclear war does not come from design, plans or escalation but from accidents. What the hon. Member for New Forest East, who introduced the debate, is arguingâthere is no denying itâis for every country in the world to have its own nuclear insurance and nuclear weapons of mass destruction.Things are changing. George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, William Perry and Sam Nunn, the four titans of American foreign policy, have all called for a world free of nuclear weapons and so has their splendid President. That gives a new momentum to the idea and hope that have become the centre of the policy debateââThey are the past and we are the future on this.âLike my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Dame Joan Ruddock), I have repeatedly asked for anyone to give a plausible future scenario in which nuclear weapons could be used independently by the United Kingdom. There is no such scenario. We are carrying on being comfortable with the policies of the past. We should go back to the vision of previous Governments. In 1968, a UK Foreign Affairs Minister urged the United Nations to sign up to the newly negotiated non-proliferation treaty. He promised United Kingdom support and added:âIt will, therefore, be essential to follow the treaty up quickly with further disarmament measuresâ.That was 45 years ago. There was a clear vision and hope of declining stocks of nuclear weapons throughout the world.The continued possession of nuclear weapons of mass destruction has a pernicious effect on our economy, with resources that could have been invested in research for the NHS, in education or improving our environment being squandered on high-tech killing machines.Coming into the House today, I met a former Memberâa distinguished Committee Chairman who stood down at the last electionâand told him what we were doing today. He said, âThat was the most difficult decision. I needed a Whip behind me with an arm lock to get me into the Lobby to vote for Tridentâ, and the Whip had told him beforehand, âI donât believe in it either.â Ministers give the party line and the deterrence fiction when they are at the Dispatch Box, but we see a remarkable turnaround when they stand down and have an epiphany. Last Friday, Michael Portillo said that Trident wasâcompletely past its sell-by dateâ,and added:âIt is neither independent, nor is it any kind of deterrent because we face enemies like the Taliban and al-Qaeda, who cannot be deterred by nuclear weapons...I reached the view after I was defence secretary.âSo we have nonsense when they are in power, when they can do something, and the truth comes out with their realisation afterwards. Why is good sense invisible to politicians in office but monumentally obvious outside office?However, there is a glimmer of hope. Even our own Prime Minister is perhaps approaching a moment when he will change. Last October, he said thatâif we are to have a nuclear deterrent, it makes sense to ensure we have something that is credible and believableâ.â[Official Report, 17 October 2012; Vol. 551, c. 319.]Trident is neither credible nor believable. It undermines our credentials on non-proliferation, which is the best hope for a safe future. Its replacement should be cancelled, and then we could use the existing stocks of weapons of mass destructionâAdam Afriyie (Windsor) (Con):We should be proud of our role in the non-proliferation treaty and the fact that the nuclear deterrent has helped us to avoid wars in the past and is an insurance policy for the future. The hon. Gentleman seems to be arguing for unilateral disarmament. In that scenario, which other country would disarm because we had disarmed?Paul Flynn:I am not arguing for unilateral disarmament because it is not a practical...