MPs query need for pounds 10bn Trident missile system

THE NEED for Trident, Britain's pounds 10bn nuclear missile system, was questioned yesterday by the Commons Select Committee on Defence, writes Colin Brown.

The committee, chaired by the Tory MP Sir Nicholas Bonsor, said that if the Polaris system, which it replaces, is more than adequate until the end of the decade, questions could be raised about the need for Trident.

'It can be asked what developments in either anti-ballistic missile defences or submarine technology are anticipated which require the new Vanguard class boats armed with Trident D5 missiles. The fact is, however, that we are committed to both the boats and the weapon systems.'

Following the disclosure in the defence White Paper that four new conventional submarines are no longer needed because of the collapse of the threat from the former Warsaw Pact, that question could have far-reaching consequences for the Government which fought two general elections on the need to deploy Trident.

The committee was told the Trident system would cost about pounds 185m a year over 30 years to operate, about pounds 5m a year more than Polaris. It also heard that failures with the Polaris boats showed that Trident would have to operate with four boats.

The Government was criticised for refusing to give more information about the Trident system.