Trident Renewal November 2016
Thank you for contacting me recently concerning the United Kingdom's independent nuclear deterrent and the Successor submarine programme.
As you will know, the House of Commons passed a Government motion on 18 July on the maintenance of the UK's independent nuclear deterrent and the Government's plans to replace the existing Vanguard nuclear submarines. However, I have voted against this motion as I do not believe we should be renewing Trident.
I support international efforts toward multilateral nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and I would like to see greater progress toward a world without nuclear weapons. Indeed, I am very proud of the huge progress made under the previous Labour Government in nuclear disarmament through international frameworks. This saw the number of operationally available warheads almost halved, and the number of deployed warheads on each submarine reduced.
These efforts also resulted in the UK becoming the only recognised nuclear-armed Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) country to possess just one nuclear system, when the WE-177 freefall tactical nuclear weapons were withdrawn in 1998. This was important action towards multilateral nuclear disarmament and I hope the current Government will ensure that Britain continues to play a leading role in moves toward this ultimate goal.
Indeed, the UK now possess approximately 1 per cent of the total global stockpile of nuclear weapons amongst recognised nuclear weapons states, and by the mid-2020's the UK is scheduled to have achieved a 65 per cent reduction in the size of its overall nuclear stockpile from Cold War levels. This would make the UK the smallest of all the NPT nuclear weapon states.
I appreciate and respect that there are strongly held views on both sides of this debate. However, the truth is that this is a political weapon, effectively aimed against the Labour Party. It is of less relevant to the defence of the United Kingdom today and certainly surplus to the needs of NATO. If we were applying any rational application of available resources to meet threats to the UK we wouldn’t be going down this route.
We were told last November that the capital costs for the replacement of the four Vanguard submarines would now be £31bn, with a contingency fund of £10bn. We were also told that the running costs of the Successor programme would be 6% of the defence budget or about £180 billion. But during the July debate in the House of Commons the Government was unable to provide reassurances about the lifetime cost of the project, despite estimates that it could be well over £200bn. Any government has to have a built proof argument for spending this kind of public money and I do not believe the Tory government has one.
In times when the major threats to the UK are international terrorism, climate change and cybercrime it is obvious that nuclear weapons will not be able to prevent any of those threats. What more Trident might be in risk of cybercrime itself. Furthermore, there is a growing body of evidence that emerging technologies will render the seas increasingly transparent in the foreseeable future. What is the point of spending £180 billion if our enemies will be able to find our nuclear submarines and destroy them first before any attack on the UK?
I believe that it is important to consider the modern and current threats to the UK and assess the defence and security capabilities of the UK in the twenty-first century. I believe that by replacing Trident the threats we face as a country, identified in the National Security Strategy, climate change, terrorism, and countering cyber warfare, are not adequately addressed. I hope that the Government and many of my colleagues in the Labour Party will reconsider their position in regards of Trident renewal.
Thank you once again for contacting me and for sharing your views.