Tories set to trim Trident nuclear subs

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The Trident nuclear deterrent would be renewed by a Tory government but the submarine fleet could be cut from four to three, shadow defence secretary Liam Fox said yesterday. All major defence projects need to be reviewed to ensure value for money for the taxpayer, Dr Fox said. But it was "prudent and sensible" to give Britain the "guarantee against nuclear blackmail"

He told BBC One's Politics Show: "We are in favour of the replacement of the nuclear deterrent, we voted for it in Parliament.

"But like all other projects that we have, we have to review them for value for money for the taxpayer."

Pressed on the number of submarines in the nuclear fleet, he said: "Whether we have three or four, it's something that would be dependent on the technology. We're talking quite a few years ahead.

"If you look at the elements within that, the current estimates of £2-3 billion for the infrastructure required, we have to look at all of those projects to see if we get value for money for the taxpayer."

Dr Fox said Tory leader David Cameron had made it "very clear" that the Conservatives would replace Trident.

At a news conference last week, Mr Cameron appeared to warn that his party could not guarantee to carry out the Trident update.

He said: "Whether it is better strategic lift capacity which the armed services need, being better able to project power through having a proper Navy and carriers, having the best replacement there is for an independent nuclear deterrent - there are reasons for all of these things.

"But clearly, when you are reviewing spending, you have to review all spending."

But Dr Fox said today: "Clearly in a world, when you've got countries like North Korea and Iran potentially developing nuclear weapons, it is prudent and sensible to give Britain the guarantee against nuclear blackmail for what would be to 2040/50 and beyond."

He said the Tories would immediately carry out a strategic defence review on gaining office next year to establish what was required of the armed forces.

Service personnel were currently being funded for a "tempo of a world that existed in 1998", he said.

He said it would not be possible to predict whether the defence budget would increase until the review was completed.

"We will have to take account of the economic train wreck that we would inherit if we come to Government next year and that would of course be very difficult," he said.