Labour to join Tories in backing a £25bn deal to renew Trident fleet

 

Labour will fight the next general election on a pledge to retain Britain's independent nuclear deterrent, senior party sources have said.

Although some advisers to Ed Miliband want him to opt for a scaled-down, cheaper alternative to the current Trident system, there are growing signs that Labour will join the Conservatives in backing a £25billion "like-for-like" replacement.

Writing in The Independent, Lord West, the former Chief of the Naval Staff and Security Minister in the previous Labour Government, warns Labour not to abandon Trident in the hope of forging a coalition in 2015 with the Liberal Democrats, who oppose its renewal. Lord West argues the alternatives to the Trident fleet are unproven and would be more expensive, adding: "The British people will never forgive us if we get this wrong. What seems a seductive plan for Labour with a post-2015 coalition in mind is in fact highly dangerous." Mr Miliband wants Britain to retain an independent nuclear deterrent and backs multilateral rather than unilateral disarmament. But on becoming Labour leader in 2010, he made clear he has an open mind about what form the deterrent should take and stopped short of reaffirming the Labour Government's 2006 decision to renew the Trident system.

A Labour debate on the crunch issue is hotting up because Danny Alexander, the Chief Treasury Secretary, will publish the Liberal Democrats' review of the alternatives this spring. Although the Conservatives want to keep Trident, Mr Alexander believes there are credible alternatives to its continuous-at-sea deterrence in an age of austerity and a post-cold war world with an unknown enemy. They could include installing nuclear warheads on the current fleet of Astute submarines and cutting the number of boats from the current four to three or two.

Lord West, who was directly responsible for Trident as head of the Navy, believes such options are deeply flawed. But he is worried that Labour might be tempted into taking a decision based on short-term political calculations – building bridges with the Lib Dems – and making savings that would not materialise.

The Labour peer's intervention is aimed at ensuring that his party is not attracted by the menu of "soft options" he expects to be put forward in the Lib Dems' review. He is urging the Lib Dems to settle on a clear policy and wants Labour to ensure the alternatives to Trident are rigorously examined.

Officially, Labour is keeping its options open until Mr Alexander's review is published. A senior Labour source said: "Our final decision will be based on ensuring we have a credible deterrent, achieved in the most cost effective way and moving towards multilateral disarmament to reduce warheads and stockpiles. We are genuinely open-minded about how we achieve that."

Lord West's move will be welcomed by Labour MPs instinctively sympathetic to a like-for-like replacement for Trident, who include Jim Murphy, the shadow Defence Secretary. One Labour backbencher said: "The Lib Dems options may look superficially attractive to some influential people around the leadership. But they are a fallacy, an election tactic by a party that cannot win power on its own. The more people look at the 2006 decision [to renew Trident], the more it is seen as the right decision for the country."

The Lib Dems were allowed to pursue alternatives to replacing the Trident fleet when the Coalition put off the crucial decision on whether to renew it until 2016, the year after the next general election. Nick Clegg's party is determined to make Trident a key election issue. But the Tories' support for full Trident renewal would allow them to portray Labour as "soft" on safeguarding the nation's security if the Labour manifesto opts for an approach similar to that of the Lib Dems.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?