Trident replacement decision 'after 2015 elections'

Armed forces minister Nick Harvey today gave a strong hint that the final decision on the like-for-like replacement of Trident would take place after the 2015 general election.

The "main gate" decision on the nuclear deterrent - the "point of no return" - is currently scheduled for the end of 2014 or the start of 2015, he said.

Mr Harvey told the Liberal Democrat conference: "If it were to be delayed until just after the May 2015 election, it is of no great financial significance, it is of no great military significance, it is of no great industrial significance.

"But believe me, it is of profound political significance.

"Conservatives know that they are not going to be able to look to the Liberal Democrats to get that through Parliament, so the issue will be a hot potato for Labour."

Lib Dem members in Liverpool voted unanimously for a policy motion calling on ministers to allow a full review of alternatives to the like-for-like replacement of Trident to be included in the Government's Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR).

Mr Harvey supported the motion, describing it as a "very useful restatement of our policy on this issue".

Lib Dems believe the UK should not commit itself to "another Cold War-scale nuclear deterrent and take up that stance for another 40 years", he said.

"We are of course in a coalition, and in a coalition we get some of what we want and they get some of what they want.

"And Trident is one of the few issues which is written into the coalition agreement as one which is acknowledged that the two parties have different views.

"And the coalition agreement provides that the Liberal Democrats will continue to argue the case for alternatives - and believe me, that is exactly what I'm going to do."

Mr Harvey said that if the main gate decision was delayed until May 2015, Labour would have the "headache of deciding whether they are going to ride to the rescue of the Conservative Party on Trident".

He added: "The Liberal Democrats are not going to change our mind.

"As for Labour, watch this space. This story ain't over yet, it's going to run and run."

Party grandee Baroness Williams of Crosby said Trident was a "Cold War weapon".

"We've moved on from the Cold War and we should think a bit more about what we want to do in the world," she said.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox had spoken of the "special relationship" with the US, she said.

"Mr Fox, have you noticed that the American people did elect a new president and that Mr Bush is no longer the president of the United States?" she said to applause.

"President Obama is doing everything in his power to move multilateral disarmament forward.

"Right now the US Senate is considering whether or not to ratify the first major disarmament agreement in the last 10 years.

"And that ratification hangs by a thread. Would it not be ludicrous if the UK moved in the direction of like-for-like replacement to last for the next 40 years, locking our children and grandchildren into the position?"

Lib Dem senior peer Lord Roberts of Llandudno spoke of the "moral lead" the UK should take on the issue of nuclear weapons.

He told the conference Britain could not justify a like-for-like replacement "when we're telling other nations in the world not to do this".

"Where is our moral lead? Where is our moral argument? Who are we?"

The motion was chosen for an emergency debate following a ballot of delegates earlier this week.

Moved by MP Julian Huppert, the motion calls on Lib Dem ministers to "press for the extension of the SDSR to allow a full review of the alternatives to like-for-like replacement of Trident".

It also urges them to "ensure the SDSR considers cost-saving options such as ending continuous at-sea patrols and extending the life of Vanguard submarines".

And it says the review should "make explicit the opportunity cost of Trident replacement".

Chancellor George Osborne has said the cost of the like-for-like replacement of Trident - likely to be £20-30 billion - would have to come from the Ministry of Defence's budget, rather than directly from the Treasury.

Liberal Democrats are worried this will result in "severe restrictions" in Britain's military operations.

Opening the debate, Mr Huppert argued that Trident should be part of the SDSR: "I say to the Tories: there's nothing to worry about.

"If it turns out that Trident is essential, it'll pass the review with flying colours. And if it isn't essential, then it really must be reviewed."

Kate Hudson, general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), welcomed the debate and vote.

"The Liberal Democrats have strongly reasserted their policy on Trident and it is now clear that they will pursue those goals," she said.

"The coalition agreement enshrined the fact that there are differences between the two Government parties on Trident, but this conference has made clear that Liberal Democrat principles will not be swept aside and they will make full use of their right to pose alternatives to Trident replacement, up to and including disarmament.

"We now hope that Lib Dem ministers will vigorously pursue the outcome of this motion to ensure Trident is indeed included in the Strategic Defence and Security Review.

"As many speakers observed, not only is Trident a Cold War weapon that needs to be strategically reconsidered, it also carries a massive opportunity cost in defence and other areas of public spending."

Labour MP John Woodcock, in whose constituency of Barrow and Furness the replacement Trident submarines would be built, said: "New Lib Dem defence minister Nick Harvey is brazenly admitting to playing politics with Britain's national security - that is the height of irresponsibility from the new Government.

"Last week Mr Harvey reassured his new friends in the House of Commons that he 'wasn't aware of any suggestion to delay decisions on Trident' and said the timetable had been decided.

"But he has immediately reverted to type in front of his supporters and said the Government may delay decisions on Trident purely for political reasons.

"That shows the lack of principle at the heart of the new Government and highlights the risk to the British people that this mix of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats represents."

Shadow defence secretary Bob Ainsworth said: "This is a completely immature way to decide our future defence and security policy.

"The Government must make those decisions in the best interests of our country, not delay them just to score political points.

"Putting off difficult decisions shows just how weak this coalition is.

"The Liberal Democrats need to grow up and start acting like a responsible governing party."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Electrical Engineer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Long term contract role - Electrical Pro...

Product Support Engineer - Mechanical

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: You will be working with the support pro...

SENIOR SAP FICO CONSULTANT

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: SENIOR SAP FICO...

2nd Line Application Support Analyst

£35000 - £45000 per annum + benefits: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: This is a...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice