Tag Archives: trident

Nick Harvey writes…Trident: The real gamble with the nation’s security is making a currently purpose-less weapon a financial priority

TridentFor some, there is no greater symbol of the United Kingdom’s enduring role on the world stage and continued military relevance than the Trident nuclear weapons system. For others, Trident is the last unreformed bastion of Cold War thinking. It is a symbol of a bygone era of fear, instability and sky-high defence spending to hedge against an unpredictable Soviet threat.

Despite the Cold War ending; Russia and the UK de-targeting one another; multiple treaties the UK has signed up to committing to a reduction in nuclear weapon stockpiles; and a £100bn price tag which will in time account for 10% of the MoD’s budget while our Armed Forces are in desperate need of updated kit; the Tories and Labour both refuse even to entertain the notion that the status quo might reasonably be questioned.

As evidenced by yesterday’s news, they instead choose to scaremonger and point-score over what might be traded in a future coalition. Top military chiefs have also expressed their disdain at the recent headlines. The two parties are prioritising the impressive feat of kicking around the country’s most expensive political football, rather than participating in a rational conversation about whether the assumptions upon which like-for-like replacement rests are logical or relevant to the threats Britain faces today.

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Opinion: We need meaningful discourse on Trident, not playground politics

I have spent much of the campaign so far wondering when issues of foreign policy would be discussed. This open question soon morphed into a desperate cry for someone, anyone to talk about what goes on beyond the shores of these islands and what Britain can or should do about those events. The 7-way debate that we were graced with by ITV proved to be as devoid of these questions as the rest of the campaign, for even when issues such as immigration floated in, they were stripped of an international context.

So it was that I had essentially resigned myself to a campaign devoid of hard questions about big problems, until today’s news headlines sparked a moment of hope. Trident had risen from the depths to push itself, and surely with it bigger questions about Britain, onto the agenda. At last, I could have almost cried, we can have the debate!

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Sir Nick Harvey writes…Difficult questions for all parties on defence spending

Today in the Commons I sat through impressive speeches from across the benches echoing concerns about the UK’s expenditure on defence – principally, our predicted failure to meet NATO’s 2 per cent of GDP target on defence spending in the approaching financial year.

There was little expectation that defence would become a big election issue, but less than two months ahead of polling day all the parties share the headache that a commitment to maintaining the 2 per cent target looks frankly impossible. With the assumption that further cuts will have to be made across the board, there are serious implications for the kind of role the UK wants to play in the world and how we are going to defend our global interests.

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LibLink: Danny Alexander: A like-for-like Trident replacement isn’t justifiable in terms of security or cost

110301-N-7237C-009Danny Alexander has written for the Guardian in response to yesterday’s Trident Commission report. He continues to make the case that the policy passed at Liberal Democrat Conference last September, which cut the number of submarines was the right one for two reasons.

First of all, we don’t need continuous at sea deterrence because the nature of the world has changed:

During the cold war, there was a credible threat of a surprise massive attack against this country or Nato allies. Our nuclear forces needed to be available within minutes in order to give credibility to our policy of deterrence. This is why we maintained continuous at-sea deterrence; we kept at least one armed submarine on patrol 24/7, 365 days of the year. But the Berlin Wall has been down now for 25 years and the threat of “state on state” attack is much reduced.

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Michael Moore MP writes… Scotland’s place in the world

scotlands futureIt is the duty of the government of any state to safeguard national security and to protect its people, territory, economy and interests from internal and external threats.

If Scotland votes to leave the United Kingdom in September, there is no doubt that there would be major challenges for the national security of both Scotland and the rest of the UK.

The size and scale of our armed forces means the UK is considered a partner of choice by many countries around the world, delivering a geopolitical influence that few states …

Posted in Op-eds and Scotland | Also tagged and | 30 Comments

Opinion: The Scottish independence referendum – a lack of wisdom in the pro-UK camp?

September 14th "Welcome to Scotland"In September 2014, the Scottish public will vote on independence from the rest of the UK. As of mid-April 2014, the opinion polls suggest that the pro-UK camp is ahead, but over the past few weeks the pro-independence camp has been fast catching up. Why?

One reason seems to be the spat between the London-based UK administration and the Scottish National Party (SNP) over the role of Britain’s sterling currency. All three main UK national parties stepped in behind a sudden policy of non-cooperation with an independent Scotland …

photo by: amandabhslater
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Nick Harvey MP writes… Robert Gates poses stark defence question to UK: Do we want to be a real military partner or a nuclear power and nothing else?

Former US Defence Secretary Robert Gates was on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning decrying the UK’s defence cuts. He said the squeeze meant the UK could no longer be a ‘full spectrum’ military partner of the US, acknowledging that our relationship with the US has been fundamentally altered.

A sceptic would quickly dismiss the comments of a man currently promoting his memoirs, but Gates makes a wider point about what exactly we want to be doing with a smaller defence capability.

Both Labour and the Tories continue to cling to the idea that we should maintain a full-scale Cold War …

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Opinion: No dubious deterrent

TridentThe day after the end of Autumn conference in Glasgow, a letter appeared in The Times (£) (Sept 19) accusing the Lib Dems of having adopted a “reckless” defence strategy.

Co-signed by former Labour Secretary of State for Defence and NATO Secretary-General, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, former Tory Party Defence Secretary Liam Fox and 14 other politicians and former chiefs of defence, the letter lambasts the Lib Dems for “hare-brained schemes for a part-time deterrent which in reality is no deterrent at all” and that is driven “by a Lib Dem desire to scupper Trident at any cost”. News about the letter quickly spread and was reported on BBC TV as well.

I spoke in favour of retaining the full four submarine “Continuous-at-Sea” nuclear deterrent at the Lib Dem Party conference debate on defence and would have welcomed Lord Robertson’s letter with such heavy-weight support appearing just prior to the debate to give further credence to my intervention.

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Martin Horwood MP: Trident – A Different Path

Dr StrangeloveFew aspects of British policy have remained so undisturbed for so long as the UK’s attitude to nuclear deterrence. As we bring home our troops from Germany, tying up one of the last loose ends in a Cold War conflict that Britons under the age of 40 can probably barely remember, it would be wise for our nuclear policy to finally catch up.

This is not a new idea for us. In opposition, Liberal Democrats opposed Tony Blair’s plan for early like-for-like replacement of Trident nuclear weapons and we did so on the basis that a system designed to counter the existential threat from the twentieth century Soviet Union is not sensible in the early twenty-first century.

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Danny Alexander MP writes… Trident: The UK’s voice on an international issue

I believe Trident is the UK’s last, unreformed bastion of Cold War thinking. And I believe we can adapt our nuclear deterrent to the threats of the 21st century by ending 24-hour patrols when we don’t need them and procuring fewer submarines.

This is the conclusion I draw from the Trident Alternatives Review that the Coalition Government published in July – a Review that clearly would not have happened without Lib Dems in Government.

But when the Review was published, some of our critics claimed any changes to Trident would seriously damage our relationship with the US. …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 25 Comments

Opinion: Looking forward to a post-Trident future

Amid general agreement on the thrust of Julie Smith’s Committee’s excellent paper, and gratitude that Nick Harvey and Danny Alexander have delivered unprecedented transparency on the UK’s nuclear options, next Tuesday’s debate on defence offers two sharply differing views of the future of Britain’s nuclear future.

On the one hand, there is Nick Harvey’s proposal to retain the Trident missiles, their warheads and associated infrastructure, but reducing our purchase of new Trident submarines from four to two. This means that from the early 2030s, the UK will no longer be able to mount the standing patrols of Continuous At-Sea Deterrence (CASD) …

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Opinion: How can we advance nuclear disarmament?

To many the answer to this question is simple: de-commission Trident and don’t replace it. But this only leads to the next question – how do we get a British government to do this ?  It is a common mistake, and one that I have made too, to believe that passing a motion at our conference changes the world.  Trident

Of course, all we need to do then is win an election on the basis of policies agreed at conference and form a government.  Our brief current experience in government tells us that it may be a little more difficult.

The recent Trident Alternatives Review (TAR) and leaked versions of the party’s Defence Report to conference have become muddled and people are taking positions either before or without reading either document.  Certainly the speeches of Labour and Tory front and backbenchers in the Commons debate on TAR on 17th July revealed a depressing combination of wilful ignorance and prejudice. Both sides fell over each other to praise the need for a full Cold War system of nuclear deterrence and to denounce the Liberal Democrats for challenging it.

A couple of facts may bring some light instead of heat.  Firstly, all options including moving straight to no nukes would save nothing in the next parliament. Even decommissioning is expensive in the short run. As it is we still have old Polaris submarines awaiting safe removal of nuclear material. No option has a significant impact on the country’s current financial problems.

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Scrap Trident nuclear weapons, urge 58% of Lib Dem members

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. More than 600 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

58% say scrap Trident, just 26% back leadership line of reduced deterrent

Currently the Trident system has FOUR nuclear armed submarines. This means that at least one nuclear armed submarine can always be on patrol, even if others are undergoing maintenance or training, and therefore the country has a continuous nuclear deterrent. One way of having a less expensive nuclear

Posted in LDV Members poll | Also tagged , and | 24 Comments

Opinion: Where does the Trident debate go from here?

In the Spring of 2011 I submitted a motion to conference. It was not selected for debate:

Conference notes that:

(i) The Coalition agreement states: “We will maintain Britain’s nuclear deterrent and have agreed that the renewal of Trident should be scrutinised to ensure value for money. The Liberal Democrats will continue to make the case for alternatives.”

(ii) Conference in September last year resolved, among other things, to: “Press for the extension of the SDSR to allow a full review of the alternatives to ‘like-for-like replacement of Trident.”

(iii) The final decision on a replacement for the Vanguard-class submarines has been deferred to

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Nick Clegg’s Letter from the Leader: “Trident: we need to protect ourselves from the threats of the future not the past”

libdem letter from nick clegg

Trident, Britain’s nuclear weapons system, divides opinion. That was apparent this week when the Government published the results of a two-year, detailed study of the alternatives.

Some people say Britain should surrender our nuclear weapons tomorrow, regardless of what threats we face. While others seem to believe it’s unpatriotic to even consider anything other than the full-scale Trident system we built for the Cold War threats of yesterday.

Personally, I think the world has changed. I am not, and never have been, a believer in unilateral disarmament. But I

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Baroness Shirley Williams writes… Trident review is a remarkable accomplishment for the Liberal Democrats

The Trident Alternatives Review is a highly informed and detailed study of the effectiveness, sustainability and cost of this country’s nuclear deterrent. Trident has been based on a rota of four submarines which between them ensure that there is always one nuclear-armed submarine at sea every hour of the day and every day of the year, a deterrent that is undoubtedly expensive but also, as the Review points out, ”as close as each system can get to an assured second strike capacity”.  Trident was developed in close co-operation with the United States and in that sense is not, unlike the …

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Trident: the Grand Old Lib Dems have lost this war already

110301-N-7237C-009Yesterday the Lib Dems published The Trident Alternatives Review. According to Danny Alexander, “it is the most thorough review of nuclear systems and postures the UK has ever made public. It is ground-breaking – thanks to the Liberal Democrats and our insistence that Trident alternatives must be examined.” That may be: but this is a war the party will not win.

Here’s the party’s sound-bite version of the policy:

We oppose the like-for-like replacement of Trident. We believe there is a ‘nuclear ladder’ of capabilities. Alternative systems or postures could bring

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No, Nicola, a vote against independence is not a vote for Trident

Writing blog posts based on the tail end of a radio interview you have caught  is fraught with danger. However, I want to take issue with something Scottish Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said.

She had been asked about today’s Guardian story which suggests that the Trident base at Faslane could be designated UK territory in a way similar to the sovereign military bases in Cyprus for a temporary period post independence.

She said that if the UK Government wanted to keep weapons of mass destruction, it could do so, but Scotland would just have voted against Trident, for independence.

On the ballot …

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The Independent View: Trident – when two into four doesn’t go

It is welcome that Danny Alexander is to publish a paper into the alternatives to a like-for-like replacement for Trident this summer. In doing so, the Liberal Democrats have made a sea-change in the transparency of British nuclear weapons policy, which for more than half-a-century has been veiled in official secrecy and occluded behind impenetrable bromides.

But the leaks surrounding the paper suggesting a “Third Way” style compromise on Trident by reducing the number of submarines to two feels hollow. The current four submarine Trident force is the minimum currently required to ensure that one is always at sea

Posted in The Independent View | Also tagged and | 21 Comments

Opinion: A commitment to Trident diverts resources from the real threats to the UK

The ratcheting up of tensions in the last Cold War conflict in recent days has got David Cameron reminiscing about Britain’s own Cold War relic. Writing in the Daily Telegraph this Wednesday, the Prime Minister argues North Korea’s threats of nuclear war demonstrate that “it would be foolish to leave Britain defenceless against a continuing, and growing, nuclear threat.”

When I first heard this it struck me how out-of-date this view seems. As the world has watched the North Korea issue increasingly apocalyptic threats and the U.S. Government respond almost daily by deploying more military hardware

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Opinion: Funding defence

HMS Astute Arrives at Faslane for the First TimeDefence Secretary Phillip Hammond has made headlines by suggesting the MOD and the armed forces should be spared any more significant cuts in the future spending review, instead suggesting the cuts should come from the social welfare budget instead.

The problem is… I partially agree with him; the defence budget is already the bare minimum required to meet the UK’s international commitments. It has not only received its share of austerity cuts under the Coalition but was underfunded under Blair and Brown leading …

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Danny Alexander tells Guardian: Like for like Trident replacement “not financially realistic”

HMS Ambush, Astute class - Some rights reserved by Royal Navy Media Archive In an interview with the Guardian, Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has said that it’s neither financially possible nor strategically necessary to replace the Trident nuclear missile system with a similar set up. He added that any new deterrent would have to be paid for out of the existing Ministry of Defence budget as there was no “magic pot of money” in the treasury to pay for it.

He questioned whether the current set up met Britain’s needs in a

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Trident: it’s déjà vu all over again

The latest flurry of excitement about the Trident nuclear deterrent — as the Daily Mail puts it with typical tabloid restraint: Tories and LibDems at war over contract to build Trident sub: £350m deal is jumping the gun, warns Clegg — is one of those stories which pops up twice a year. The last time was six months ago, in May, when the Ministry of Defence announced £350m-worth of design contracts for the Trident successor submarines had been signed. As then Lib Dem defence minister Nick Harvey pointed out on LDV at the time:

is being portrayed as the Coalition Government moving a step closer to a

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Nick Clegg on Tories’ Trident announcement: “Some people are jumping the gun”

Trident missile launchNick Clegg has made it clear that the Coalition Agreement on the Trident nuclear programme will not be changed, despite Philip Hammond’s announcement today on a multimillion-pound contract for a new generation of nuclear missile submarines.

Speaking at a press conference this morning, Nick Clegg said:

Some people are jumping the gun on this Trident decision. The Coalition Agreement is crystal clear. It stands. It will not be changed. It will not be undermined. It will not be

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‘Tories snub Lib Dems over Trident future’

From today’s Guardian:

Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, will reignite the argument over Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent on Monday when he announces a further multimillion-pound contract for a new generation of nuclear missile submarines, making it clear he plans to press ahead with a Trident replacement.

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Opinion: A Submarine for all seasons

The former defence minister, Nick Harvey, has reignited the debate about the replacement of Trident or, more specifically, the ballistic missile-carrying nuclear submarines which convey it.

Ironically, the Conservative Chancellor George Osborne has greatly helped the case for not renewing Trident, by placing the £25 Billion cost of the successor submarine in the main Defence budget, to compete with conventional arms for money. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the chiefs of the three services are reported to be going cold on the idea of a like-for-like replacement.

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The Independent View: An opportunity to direct the debate on Trident replacement

In September 2010, Lib Dem Voice ran a revealing poll of its members to gauge opinion on Trident. With results strikingly similar to YouGov polls of Lib Dem members nationally, it found that 57% were opposed to replacing Trident and nuclear weapons altogether, while 90% were opposed to replacing Trident with a ‘like-for-like’ system.

It was commendable that the Liberal Democrats carried this sentiment into their 2010 election manifesto: standing apart from the Conservative and Labour consensus of ploughing £100bn into nuclear weapons amidst the worst economic crisis of recent times.

Opponents of Trident outside the party were also inspired by …

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Tim Farron MP writes… My thoughts on the Cabinet reshuffle

The first proper reshuffle for our party since the 1920s was always going to be a weird situation. I am extremely sad to see Sarah Teather, Nick Harvey, Paul Burstow and Andrew Stunell leave the government. Sarah’s work on the Pupil Premium will leave an outstanding legacy for the next generation, Andrew’s work on releasing empty homes to meet the needs of those in desperate circumstances will make the difference to thousands of people and Nick Harvey’s tenacity in ensuring that a like for like replacement for Trident is kicked off into the long grass has been a quite immense …

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In other news… Trident, MI6, DECC, defections & other stories

Here’s a round-up of stories we haven’t had time to cover on the site this past few days…

Coalition set for new split on cut-price Trident plan (Scotsman)

COALITION splits over Britain’s nuclear deterrent are set to be reopened after an internal Ministry of Defence review suggested a slimmed-down version of the £25 billion Trident replacement could be an option. … The report, led by Lib Dem armed forces minister Nick Harvey, looks set to reopen coalition divisions with many Tory back-benchers concerned that Britain’s replacement for Trident could end up being sacrificed for political reasons. However, with final decisions not

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The Independent View: The Trident review risks being a damp squib

This week the Ministry of Defence (MOD) announced a £1.1 billion contract with Rolls Royce for building nuclear submarine reactors. This has caused quite some controversy and Defence Secretary Philip Hammond was immediately called to answer an Urgent Question in the Commons on the implications of this spending and whether it preempts a future decision on whether or not to replaceBritain’s Trident nuclear weapons system.

The contract itself will see £500m spent on the refurbishment of Rolls Royce’s Raynesway plant in Derby, while £600m will go on building new nuclear reactor cores to powerBritain’s submarines. Most of these will be …

Posted in Op-eds and The Independent View | Also tagged | 4 Comments
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