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UK Politics

Lib Dem conference: Members back nuclear deterrent alternative to Trident

Aendment which proposed radical disarmament rejected

Calls by Liberal Democrat activists for Britain's nuclear submarine fleet to be scrapped were fought off today by the party's leadership.

The party conference instead backed its proposal for the ageing fleet of four Trident submarines to be replaced in a slimmed-down form.

Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the Treasury, led calls for Trident's partial replacement, describing it as a “credible and deliverable” first step towards nuclear disarmament. He told delegates: “Let's choose a policy which we can actually deliver in government.”

Mr Alexander has proposed having two or three submarines making unarmed patrols except at times of heightened international tensions.

Sir Nick Harvey, the former defence minister, said: “What we have the opportunity to do today is define the politics of the nuclear ladder.”

He said the policy could be used in future coalition talks to “lever the other political parties to climb down that ladder with us”.

Leading calls for radical disarmament, the activist George Potter said: “If you believe nuclear weapons are necessary, we should have a full deterrent.

”If we do not believe it is necessary, we should have the courage of our convictions to say so, full stop.“

The leadership's stance was backed by 322 to 228 votes.