Trident alternatives to be assessed

The Cabinet Office is to conduct a new assessment of alternatives to Britain's Trident nuclear deterrent in a fresh concession to the Liberal Democrats, it was announced today.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox said the design of a new generation of missile-carrying submarines, together with £3 billion of initial contracts, had been agreed ahead of the final decision on replacing the existing fleet due in 2016.



However he told the House of Commons that while he still believed that a submarine-based ballistic missile system remained the most effective deterrent, he had agreed that officials should look at the alternatives.



"The coalition agreement reflected both parties' commitments to a minimum credible nuclear deterrent, but also the desire for the Liberal Democrats to make the case for alternatives," he said.



"To assist the Liberal Democrats in making their case for alternatives I am also announcing today the initiation of study to review the costs, feasibility and credibility of alternative systems and postures."



He said that the study would be carried out by officials in the Cabinet Office under the supervision of the Lib Dem armed forces minister Nick Harvey.



The move marks a further concession to the Lib Dems who have already succeeded in putting back the "main gate" decision on placing the final order for the submarines to 2016, after the next general election.









Dr Fox said he remained convinced that only a like-for-like replacement for Trident could provide a credible deterrent.



"If we want to see a minimum credible nuclear deterrent for the United Kingdom, the system that will be provided by the replacement Trident system is the best and in fact the only credible one," he said.



Dr Fox said the decision to order "long lead" items would ensure that the first of the four replacement submarines would enter service in 2028 as planned.



He said the real-terms cost of the programme remained at the £11 to £14 billion set out in the 2006 White Paper under the former Labour government, although inflation meant it had risen in cash terms to £20 to £25 billion.









Greenpeace said that Dr Fox's approval of contracts worth £3 billion gave the lie to Liberal Democrat boasts that they had delayed a final decision on Trident until after the next general election.



Official documents obtained by the environmentalist group through a Freedom of Information request reveal that the Ministry of Defence is due to buy a series of components for Trident replacement submarines ahead of the final decision, because of the long lead-time needed for their production.



The items included steel for the submarine hull and structural fittings; primary and secondary propulsion systems; electrical generation, conversion, and distribution systems; and components of the combat systems.



Louise Edge, head of Greenpeace's disarmament campaign, said: "Nick Clegg said there would be no replacement of the Trident nuclear submarines in this Parliament but today his Government committed billions of pounds to doing just that.



"If he's not to break his promise, Nick Clegg needs to step in and stop taxpayer money being spent on Trident replacement by the back door."









Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said: "Britain's independent deterrent has been the cornerstone of our peace and security over half a century and our view is that in today's world, as long as there are other countries with such capability, it is right that the UK retains an independent nuclear deterrent.



"In 2007, Parliament supported an independent continuous-at-sea nuclear deterrent. It is crucial that a review of that decision is evidence-based and in the interests of national security, not driven by the dynamic within the coalition parties.



"We welcome the announcement to proceed to Initial Gate, but there are big questions for the Government to answer. It is still unclear why there has been a delay and how much this will add to costs. We need to know from which budgets the total cost of the replacement will be met.



"Maintaining the UK independent deterrent must be part our continuing to lead global multilateral disarmament efforts."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Full Stack Software Developer - Javascript

£18000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Strategic Partnerships Coordinator

£16000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Their research appears at the f...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This exciting startup disruptin...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen