BBC: Government set to delay Trident decision for five years

The BBC is reporting that the Government is set to put off a decision on replacing Trident until after the next general election. This move would both assist government finances over this Parliament and would sidestep the division on the Trident in the coalition which pits Liberal Democrats and some Conservatives against Defence Secretary Liam Fox and other Conservatives.

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  • Great! If we put it off 5 years every 5 years it wont cost anything.

  • TheContinentalOp 15th Sep '10 - 11:54pm

    Delighted with this!

  • Good point Geoffrey

  • Disgraceful. The party of appeasement has cowed the Blue Tories into submission and proved that the coalition cannot be trusted with the defence of this country.

  • Andrew Wimble 16th Sep '10 - 10:18am

    We don’t need a new Trident and we certainly can’t afford it. I think the Tories have realised that the can’t afford it part is true at least, but rather than doing an embarassing U-turn have decided to put off the decision.

  • @ Andrew Tennant

    Certainly not. I once experienced the horror of being led by Michael Foot. I wouldn’t even wish that on the Blue or Orange Tories. Any suggestion of abolishing the nuclear deterrent loses millions of votes! You have been warned.

  • @MacK

    The difference being that when Michael Foot was leader of the Labour party the Cold War was actually happening. In 2010, a couple of decades of history separate us from it – and from the need for a Cold War-era (and hugely expensive) weapons system.

  • I can see the advantages to postponing a decision on this, for all sorts of reasons; it would avoid coalition division, it would reduce the strain on the public purse, and it would allow more time for technology to mature, meaning we purchase a more capable and long lasting system. But I’m certainly wary of continuing to extend the service life of a weapon system with so much capacity for a truly devastating accident. If we’re going to have nuclear weapons, and I break from the general Lib Dem position here because I must say I think we should, then they should be the best maintained and most technologically mature weapons in our arsenal.

  • John Stevens 16th Sep '10 - 3:14pm

    I think a major opportunity may be in the process of being missed to work with the French in this area, which would save money (we would need only two submarines each not four) be truly independent (removing the US control inherent to Trident and replacement), secure and probably increase high-tec employment (joint development and manufacture of a new submarine-launched missile system), put us back at the heart of the European integration story (from which the decision to rule out even preparing for euro entry has excluded us) and prove we are responsible in matters of fundamental security (if you think an effectively unilateralist position is going to look good in 2015 with, inter alia, what is happening in Iran, the arms build up by China and increasing tensions over food, water and other resources dream on). Mainstream Eurosceptic Conservatives would accept a bi-lateral deal with the French because it is nation to nation, not EU/Brussels. The Conservative Atlanticist Right, on the other hand, are ready to swallow the delay because they can see the strong temptation of a Franco-British deal now (which is anathema to all they believe), cannot stand Obama and hope than in five years time they will be dealing with the Tea Party (so don’t thank them too soon). If the Party misses this chance to speak out for Britain’s European destiny it will have nothing left to justify the already ragged claim to be the pro European wing of British politics. If you think that, in the midst of all the other pressures the Party is now under, it can afford to jettison this constituency, then, again, dream on.

  • @Stuart

    “The difference being that when Michael Foot was leader of the Labour party the Cold War was actually happening. In 2010, a couple of decades of history separate us from it – and from the need for a Cold War-era (and hugely expensive) weapons system.”

    And you think that the world has become safer since then? Really? After 9/11? What happens if “Complete nutjobs” in Iran threaten us with Nuclear blackmail? Or North Korea? What do we do then? Call a special meeting?

    Is the avoidance of coalition division really a good enough justification for postponing a decision which will affect thousands of jobs and send the world a message that we are back in the appeasement business? How is it strong Tory leadership to postpone this vital decision just to avoid conflict in the coalition? Not that the postponement is actually going to happen. Blue Tory backbenchers such as ex defence minister Julian Lewis are already talking of a “Breathtaking betrayal” and hinting that Liam Fox might resign. The Blue Tory backbenchers and realists on the opposition side will never allow it to happen. So don’t reach for the champagne just yet.

  • I think John Stevens makes a good point regarding integration with the French and with the wider question of European collective security. The French shouldn’t have to bear Europe’s nuclear burden alone.

  • @ George Kendall

    You’ve lost me too. I don’t recognize that as my argument. Have you conflated my quote of Stuart’s with the rest of my post?

    @ Andrew Tennant
    “Does a suicide bomber avoid detonating his vest because there might be some consequences for him?”

    No.Usually not. But the threat of nuclear retaliation might prevent a dirty bomb attack by a hostile country. That was the rationale for nuclear proliferation during the Cold War, and you must admit it worked. Both sides were too scared to press the nuclear trigger and the balance of power maintained peace. Wars have been started by the rational and irrational. I just feel safer knowing that there is a submarine on constant patrol threatening our potential enemies. This is not the time to send out the message to irrational extremists that we are weakening in our resolve. I suspect that similar arguments took place in the 1930s. Then, a cost cutting rationale reduced our defensive capability, and we know what the consequences of that were. I don’t have a trusting nature, and neither do the masses that gorge newsprint from Rupert Murdoch et al. It’s a vote loser. That’s why I think that the Tories will insist on Trident (or some very similar capability) being renewed

  • I wonder why you removed my reply to Geoffrey Payne’s comment ‘Also it will be a major election issue in 2015, with a clear difference between the Tories and the Lib’. I said nothing offensive. My comment was that the Times article this morning shows there is no difference. Could it be because I quoted the Times article before you had a chance to write about it here. What happened to free speech?

  • @Andrew Tennant: I don’t think that was ever argued to have been the case. Nuclear weapons were not proposed to be a solution in combating terrorism when it was widespread in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, so it’s unfair to judge them by that standard. On a nation state level we generally aren’t dealing with the utterly irrational. Even Hitler shied away from the use of chemical weapons, which while obviously without the destructive potential of the nuclear arsenal must be considered at the time to have been an option of equivalently horrific effect, reserved for the last resort. The whole idea of a MAD nuclear policy is to consign their use to the utterly irrational, because when a logical cost/benefit analysis indicates that they should be used, they have been used.

  • Nick Harvery was very clear in the Commons today that Trident will be replaced, nothing has changed. The shape and form is still up for debate, but it has certainly not been kicked into the long grass.

  • Andrew Suffield 16th Sep '10 - 11:28pm

    That was the rationale for nuclear proliferation during the Cold War, and you must admit it worked. Both sides were too scared to press the nuclear trigger

    Anybody who takes this seriously must go and watch Dr Strangelove again.

  • Paul McKeown 17th Sep '10 - 10:42am

    If true, then I think this good news. The UK has, surely, more pressing defence needs than a like for like replacement of Trident. However. Is it not better to count chickens after they have been hatched? Just saying, like.

  • @Andrew Suffield

    Dr Strangelove was a film in which nuclear devastation was activated accidentally. That is always a risk. The Cuban Missile Crisis wasn’t a film and is a case which surely proves my point. Both sides were too terrified to take the nuclear option.

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