Trident: what’s the Lib Dem alternative?

Scrapping the Government’s plans for a “like for like” replacement for Trident is one of the most frequently mentioned examples of savings Vince Cable and the Liberal Democrats would make. But what would the party do instead?

Nick Clegg addressed that in his Radio 4 interview yesterday:

What we’re saying is there are a number of options that you could explore in the future… you could equip the Astute submarine. What we’ve done is, I asked Menzies Campbell to look at the range of options and he’s published a number of options simply to make the point which the other parties won’t even accept that there are alternatives to a like-for-like replacement for Trident.

“We haven’t yet settled on which of those options. What we’re doing is something the government are refusing to do, and the Conservatives refuse to do – they wont even include it in a future defence review. Whether we have a nuclear deterrent or not depends heavily on whether multi-lateral nuclear disarmament in the non-proliferation talks succeed or not I am a multilateralist.

Hat-tip: Left Foot Forward

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  • Andrew Suffield 8th Apr '10 - 11:58am

    We don’t build the infrastructure. We buy a lot of that stuff from the US.

  • There is a lot of public support for not replacing Trident so it could be a vote winner. £97 Billion is a lot to be spending on new nukes at a time of big public cuts. A lot of senior military figures have come out against replacing Trident such as Field Marshal Lord Bramall (former chief of the defence staff), two former Generals (Lords Ramsbotham and Sir Hugh Beach) and more recently the ex-head of the army General Dannatt. I’m sure they would rather the money was spent on basic equipment rather than a “defence” system that has no relevance to the modern world. The current head of the army General Richards has warned the government against spending large amounts on new weapons that are not relevant to modern conflicts. This is on top of a big hole in the defence budget; the simple truth is we can’t afford to replace Trident.

    Obama is leading the way with nuclear disarmament (he’s even won a noble prize for it) and considering both Lab and Con want to replace Trident, not replacing it at all could be issue that makes the Lib Dems stand out. This is a real opertunity for Britian, only 9 countries have nukes, the rest of the world seems to get on just fine without them

  • The only acceptable nuke would be a suitcase bomb personally delivered by the Prime Minister.

  • @meandering mammal

    We don’t produce our own warheads. They are produced in this country (big deal) by Halliburton and other companies since we quietly sold these industries off in 2008. All the tech is rented or bought from American businesses. The subs have to return to the Atlantic coast in America every few months for the nukes to be refurbished. And the US could cut us off any time by repealing the Mutual Defence Act in Congress. It’s debatable whether we could fire a missile without US say so, if unlikely circumstances demand it, because we use US firing software. There is no consensus about whether or not GB has autonomy over the firing system coming from people who have worked on Trident.

    It’s a stupid policy, totally useless for today’s wars, which does nothing but subsidise US industry – but Labour and the Conservatives are convinced for some reason that it’s a vote winner.

  • The cost of the new subs is huge, 104 Bill. They cost about 2 Bill to operate per year (about 20% of the rest of the of the Defence Budget, or 10% of the NHS budget).

    The new subs will however last 30 years, so spreading the cost of build makes it 3.5 Bill per year (so, 35% of the rest of the defence budget p/a, or 17.5% of the NHS budget p/a).

    Big money, no doubt about it, but (assuming we keep a deterrent) I see no alternative. Land based missiles have limited range, so we would need to base them in ‘dodgy’ areas of the world. Planes cost a fortune to keep airborne and can be shot down.

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