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?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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: Customer Service / Data Capture / Telesales

£12000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Front Of House Team Member

£16500 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales & Marketing Manager

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has won the award ...

Recruitment Genius: Store Manager & Store Supervisor

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific