THIRTEEN Liberal Democrat MPs have publicly backed a call from Tyneside MP Nick Brown for ministers to dump any plans to replace Britain’s nuclear weapons.
Newcastle East MP Nick Brown has tabled a Parliamentary motion, suggesting the total bill for such a scheme could top £100bn and that such money on replacing the Trident weapon system would be better spent elsewhere.
Sixty other MPs have signed the motion, including 13 Lib Dems – which will worry the Government given existing tensions between the party and its Tory coalition partners over replacing Trident could move up a notch.
The Lib Dems are opposed to “like for like” replacement but the Conservatives are committed to a full renewal of the UK’s fleet of four Vanguard-class submarines by 2028.
Lib Dem Defence Minister Nick Harvey has been conducting a review of possible cheaper alternatives.
But despite that, a £1.1bn contract for reactors to power the next generation of Britain’s nuclear submarines was confirmed yesterday as part of Government plans to replace the Vanguard fleet that carries the Trident deterrent.
The money will be used to build two reactor cores, one of which will be used for the seventh Astute Class attack submarine and one for the first of the next generation nuclear deterrent submarines.
It will also fund a refit of a Rolls-Royce plant in Derby, which will carry out the specialised work, securing 300 jobs.
The first of the four Vanguards had been due to leave service in 2022, but the Government extended the vessels’ lives as part of the 2010 Defence and Security Review.
Final decisions about ordering replacements do not have to be taken until 2016, after the next general election. But the long lead times needed mean the reactor contracts needed to be signed now.
Last month Secretary of State for Defence Phillip Hammond awarded contracts worth £350m to UK companies to design the next generation submarines.
Former Cabinet member Nick Brown said: “This is a step too far spending more money preparing for a successor Trident submarine programme.
“The original intention was that there would be a vote in the House of Commons in this Parliament. There should be such a vote. The renewal programme is unaffordable.”
He welcomed support from Lib Dem MPs, saying: “I am pleased about that. At least we can make common cause on this.”
Mr Brown added that money would be better spent on reducing fees for students.
This is a step too far spending more money preparing for a successor Trident submarine programme