The motion before MPs on July 18th (tonight) is as follows:
“That this House supports the Government’s assessment in the 2015 National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review that the UK’s independent minimum credible nuclear deterrent, based on a Continuous at Sea Deterrence posture, will remain essential to the UK’s security today as it has for over 60 years, and for as long as the global security situation demands, to deter the most extreme threats to the UK’s national security and way of life and that of the UK’s allies; supports the decision to take the necessary steps required to maintain the current posture by replacing the current Vanguard Class submarines with four Successor submarines; recognises the importance of this programme to the UK’s defence industrial base and in supporting thousands of highly skilled engineering jobs; notes that the Government will continue to provide annual reports to Parliament on the programme; recognises that the UK remains committed to reducing its overall nuclear weapon stockpile by the mid-2020s; and supports the Government’s commitment to continue work towards a safer and more stable world, pressing for key steps towards multilateral disarmament.”
It is important to recognise that the UK has made considerable progress towards disarmament. It is also important to recognise that the vote today is about replacing the current Vanguard Class submarines with four Successor submarines.
I am completely in agreement that multilateral disarmament is something that we should pursue as an urgent priority and I will be pressing the Government to take all necessary steps in its power to secure multilateral disarmament. I have looked closely at the work of ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) and am in support of their aims. Already the UK has reduced its nuclear capabilities and by 2020 the Government will have just 120 warheads operationally available compared to Russia’s 4,000+, China’s 3,000+ and North Korea’s 1,000 missiles in Inventory.
However, it would be irresponsible not to replace these submarines and to compromise our deterrent. The motion tonight includes the following line: ‘and for as long as the global security situation demands, to deter the most extreme threats to the UK’s national security and way of life and that of the UK’s allies’. I believe our nuclear deterrent is a tool for peace. We cannot predict how the international environment will be shaped in the future. We must be alert to the possibility that a major direct nuclear threat to the UK or to another country could emerge. By maintaining this deterrent we send a strong message to any potential enemy that we have the capability to defend ourselves and come to the aid of others.
The cost of replacing our submarines is included in the Ministry of Defence’s budget, which is currently 2% of GDP. The acquisition cost of the deterrent is £31 billion.
I have met a number of people who have discussed their views on this issue with me, and I have used my train journeys to read a huge amount of information on this subject. I have decided that it is right to replace the submarines at this time, but I also believe that we need to step up our efforts for multilateral disarmament.