Britain will need to spend on nuclear weapons, PM insists

His remarks yesterday were the most public indication yet that the Prime Minister has made up his mind to commit Britain to spending billions of pounds on a new generation of nuclear weapons to replace the ageing Trident fleet.

Mr Blair also said that the decision would be made "in the current parliament" and dropped a strong hint that he means to do it without a Commons vote, implying that the issue will be settled before he leaves Downing Street.

Rebel Labour MPs retaliated with plans to test the strength of opposition by forcing a vote at a private weekly meeting of Labour MPs on 31 October.

The rebels claim that the only way the Government can avoid defeat will be for the whips to pull in the so-called "payroll vote" - the ministers, parliamentary secretaries and others who would face the sack if they voted against government policy.

Mr Blair was challenged during Prime Minister's Questions by the Labour backbencher Paul Flynn, over revelations in The Independent that the decision to update Trident had in effect been made and that preparatory work at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston had begun.

The Government said Aldermaston's budget had been doubled and scientists had been recruited to ensure that the Trident fleet was kept in working order, but a political decision to replace it had not yet been made.

Mr Flynn asked Mr Blair whether he agreed with sentiments expressed by the former foreign secretary Robin Cook, who died in August, that nuclear weapons were "hopelessly irrelevant" for the task of combating terrorism and acting as an international peacekeeper. He also called for a Commons vote before an official decision was made.

Downing Street had been given advance warning of Mr Flynn's question, so Mr Blair had a written statement prepared. But before he began, he made an unscripted comment.

He said: "I'm sure there will be a debate and I have no doubt at all that there will be a great deal of discussion as the months and years unfold. Although I do not think anyone pretends that the independent nuclear deterrent is a defence against terrorism, nonetheless I do believe it is an important part of our defence."

Mr Blair then read out the prepared line: "No decisions on replacing Trident have yet been taken but these are likely to be necessary in the current parliament. It is too early to rule in or rule out any particular option.

"As we set out in our manifesto, we are committed to retaining the UK's independent nuclear deterrent. We will take our decision, ultimately, in the best interests of the country."

Mr Flynn said afterwards: "I thought I asked a very reasonable question. It doesn't seem unreasonable that if you're going to spend between £10bn and £15bn, you should have a vote on it. Since he is not going to allow that, we will have to go about it in some other way to show the extent of opposition.

"I cannot think of any conceivable use that nuclear weapons could have, apart from the prestige they give us. They also undermine our position in international talks. How dare we tell Iran not to develop nuclear weapons, when we are going ahead with updating ours?"

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Baroness Lane-Fox warned that large companies such as have become so powerful that governments and regulators are left behind
techTech giants have left governments and regulators behind
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
Life and Style
'Prison Architect' players decide the fate of inmates
Life and Style
A picture taken on February 11, 2014 at people walking at sunrise on the Trocadero Esplanade, also known as the Parvis des droits de l'homme (Parvis of Human Rights), in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: PPC Executive - Manchester City Centre

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This forward-thinking agency wo...

Recruitment Genius: Artwork Design Apprenticeship

£7200 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Artwork Design Apprenticeship is avail...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Web Developer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This web design and digital age...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor