Replacing Trident makes no sense, Centreforum argues

One of the UK's Vanguard submarines The renewal of Trident has major financial and political implications

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The government is being urged to cancel the "nonsensical" replacement of the Trident nuclear submarines and use the money to "revitalise" the armed forces.

Liberal policy think tank Centreforum says Britain is "sleepwalking" into replacing Trident at a cost of £25bn, while cutting the navy, Army and RAF.

It argues there is no current or medium-term threat to justify the cost.

The MoD said the government was committed to maintaining a continuous submarine-based nuclear deterrent.

In May 2011, the then Defence Secretary Liam Fox approved the £3bn first design stage for the new submarines.

However, the coalition government has delayed a final decision until after the next election amid concerns from the Liberal Democrats about the cost.

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy supports the renewal of Trident, although many backbench Labour MPs are opposed to the idea.


  • 2007: MPs approve plans for renewal in Commons vote. "Concept phase" launched to assess future submarine designs and consider value for money of project
  • 2010: Defence review decides to delay final decision on renewal to 2016
  • May 2011: "Initial Gate" procurement phase begins. Some building materials and components of nuclear propulsion system to be purchased over five years
  • 2016: "Main Gate" decision due to be taken. Submarine design and missile component contracts to be finalised
  • 2028: First replacement submarine to be delivered

Centreforum proposes that Britain should retain the capability to design and build nuclear weapons in case they are needed in the future.

But, it says, the UK's ballistic missile submarines should now be converted to an attack fleet and equipped with conventionally armed cruise missiles.

It says the government should invest the billions saved by cancelling Trident in Britain's conventional forces, which would otherwise face further cuts by 2020.

Report author Toby Fenwick said: "Replacing Trident is nonsensical. There is no current or medium-term threat to the UK which justifies the huge costs involved.

"A critical assessment of the UK's strategic position and military requirements leads to a clear conclusion: Trident makes no effective contribution to our security. Cancelling it will provide a unique opportunity to rebalance and revitalise Britain's forces for the 21st century."

The issue of a like-for-like replacement of Trident is one that has divided the coalition.

The Ministry of Defence said that as part of the coalition agreement, the Liberal Democrats would continue to explore the possibility of an alternative approach to delivering a credible nuclear deterrent, with a report to the prime minister and deputy prime minister due to be published later this year.

Liberal Democrat MP Sir Menzies Campbell, who is chairing the cross-party commission looking into the nuclear issue, said the report was ill-timed.

MPs were still considering a variety of evidence from experts and confidential sources and it seemed "premature to jump to a conclusion", he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

The chief executive of Centreforum, Chris Nicholson, said: "We are pleased that the government is carrying out a study of alternatives to Trident.

"It is important that the option of removing Trident from service immediately is considered as part of this review."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    25 billion over the time of sevice is peanuts compared to the anual bill for the state. It meens we get to sit on the security council and punch way above our weight in the world . Small price to pay for security and a voice in the world . The US have no control over our deterant but in the end who will ever use it . Realisticaly it isnt there to be used its there to make sure others dont use it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    If we want to persuade other nations away from developing nuclear weapons we should get rid of our own. The facts that there's nobody to use them on and that we're hard pressed to afford them just makes that decision easier.

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    We have a potential nuclear arms race about to develop in the middle east and people are saying we should lay down ours? How utterly ridiculous IMO.
    Once Iran develops a bomb, Pakistan has said it will supply the Saudi's with one. If Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have a bomb, it will not be long before Egypt and Jordan aquire. Then add the Israeli context before thinking about removing ours

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    This is not an either or decision that some would like to portray.

    One of the most important responsibilities of govt is to ensure the security of the population both at home and abroad. Who knows what the future will bring in this uncertain world ? That means we need both meaningful conventional forces and a nuclear deterrent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    No British politician that's electable would ever push the button. Therefore, it's a pointless waste of money. Designed for a MAD world during the Cold War that no longer exists.


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