Tonight (18 July 2016) the House of Commons has voted by a margin of 472-117 (a majority of 355) to renew Britain's independent nuclear deterent. 138 Labour MPs supported the Government.
I believe it is absolutely vital that we maintain a continuous independent nuclear deterrent as the ultimate guarantee of our national security. Since 1968 Britain has kept a ballistic missile submarine at sea, providing the ultimate safeguard against nuclear attack or nuclear blackmail, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We use these weapons every day – not to fight wars but to prevent them.
The UK’s ability to maintain this continuous deterrence is dependent on a seamless transition from the current fleet of Vanguard class submarines. The Government was elected on a manifesto pledge to maintain our Continuous at Sea Deterrence (CASD), as well as to build four ‘Successor’ submarines, which will replace the current Vanguard fleet. The debate on 18 July 2016 also fulfils the Government’s 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review commitment to hold a parliamentary debate.
The Government has consistently set out the case for maintaining our nuclear deterrent: although no state currently has both the intent and the capability to threaten the independence and integrity of the UK, we cannot know how the international environment will change in the future. I firmly believe that we cannot dismiss the possibility that a major direct nuclear threat to the UK might re-emerge.
Despite successes over recent decades in limiting the number of states with nuclear capabilities, we cannot rule out a major shift in the international security situation which would put us under grave threat. That is why I do not believe it would be right to give up this capability unilaterally.
Replacement of the current Vanguard class submarines will ensure our ability to deter extreme threats to the UK in the 2030s, 2040s, and 2050s. The Government’s policy to retain the CASD and provide the ultimate guarantee of our safety by building a new fleet of four Ballistic Missile Submarines will also protect thousands of highly-skilled engineering jobs in the UK.
CASD requires four submarines to ensure at least one is on patrol at all times, taking account of the cycle of deployment, training, and routine and unplanned maintenance. While one is on patrol, the second will be ready to deploy if required, with the third undergoing routine maintenance, and the fourth in full refit. Three submarines could not provide resilience against unplanned refits or breaks in serviceability.
On the issue of moving Trident from Faslane, the Government has no plans to move the strategic nuclear deterrent from Her Majesty's Naval Base Clyde, and has not considered options for moving the deterrent. Any alternative solution would come at huge cost to the taxpayer.
The CASD protects all of the United Kingdom, and scrapping it would dangerously weaken our collective defence. The new submarines will cost around £31bn, spread over 35 years. That’s around 20 pence in every £100 that the government spends – an insurance premium for the whole nation that is well worth paying.
The first duty of any Government must be the defence of the country and the protection of its people, and our independent nuclear deterrent plays a vital and unique role. That is why I have voted to renew it for the future.
Alan Mak MP
You can find the Prime Minister’s statement during the 18 July debate at the following webpage: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2016-07-18/debates/16071818000001/UKSNuclearDeterrent#contribution-16071821000042
More detail from the Ministry of Defence (MOD) can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-nuclear-deterrence-factsheet/uk-nuclear-deterrence-what-you-need-to-know
An MOD ‘Trident Renewal’ Factsheet can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/510878/Fact_sheet-nuclear_deterrent_FINAL_v15.pdf
Full text of a recent speech by the Secretary of State for Defence, The Rt Hon Michael Fallon MP, can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/the-case-for-the-retention-of-the-uks-independent-nuclear-deterrent