UK must keep Trident nuclear deterrent - David Cameron


David Cameron: "Obviously the noises it (North Korea) has been making in recent weeks and months are worrying and threatening"

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The UK would be "foolish" to abandon Trident in the face of the potential threat of nuclear attack from North Korea and Iran, David Cameron has said.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he said the country still needed the "ultimate weapon of defence".

The prime minister said the nuclear danger had "increased" since the end of the Cold War.

The Lib Dems want the UK to explore a cheaper alternative to the Tories' £20bn plan to replace Trident.

Mr Cameron is committed to maintaining a round-the-clock submarine-based nuclear missile system of the kind Britain has had since the late 1960s.

But the Lib Dems have insisted the coalition carry out a review of cheaper submarine or land-based options, including abandoning round-the-clock patrols.

'Nuclear blackmail'

Labour, which was committed to a like-for-like replacement for Trident when it was in power, has now said it will examine the outcome of that review.

The prime minister also stressed his commitment to Trident, which is based on the Clyde, during a visit to the west of Scotland.

"The world we live in is very uncertain, very dangerous: there are nuclear states and one cannot be sure of how they will develop," he told workers at a defence contractor in Glasgow.

"We cannot be sure on issues of nuclear proliferation, and to me having that nuclear deterrent is quite simply the best insurance policy that you can have, that you will never be subject to nuclear blackmail."

Start Quote

The (Scottish) parliament and 80% of the people of Scotland want to get rid of Trident”

End Quote Angus Robertson SNP defence spokesman

Mr Cameron had earlier visited HMS Victorious, one of the Royal Navy's four Vanguard-class submarines which keep Trident nuclear missiles continuously at sea, which is returning from its 100th patrol.

"I wanted to come on board and congratulate everyone who's been involved in those hundred tours and to say a big thank you to all those people so work so hard to keep us safe," he said.

The Scottish National Party has said it would not allow nuclear weapons to be based in Scotland, should next year's referendum support independence, a move that would potentially add billions to the cost of replacing Trident.

In the Daily Telegraph article, which was published ahead of his trip, Mr Cameron said the "highly unpredictable and aggressive" regime in North Korea was developing ballistic missiles that could become a threat to Britain.

He said: "We need our nuclear deterrent as much today as we did when a previous British government embarked on it over six decades ago.

"Of course, the world has changed dramatically. The Soviet Union no longer exists. But the nuclear threat has not gone away.

"In terms of uncertainty and potential risk it has, if anything, increased."

Mr Cameron said: "North Korea recently conducted its third nuclear test and could already have enough fissile material to produce more than a dozen nuclear weapons.

"Last year North Korea unveiled a long-range ballistic missile which it claims can reach the whole of the United States. If this became a reality it would also affect the whole of Europe, including the UK."

The prime minister questioned whether anyone would "seriously argue that it would be wise for Britain, faced with this evolving threat today, to surrender our deterrent".

"My judgement is that it would be foolish to leave Britain defenceless against a continuing, and growing, nuclear threat," he said.

Defence work

Shadow defence minister Kevan Jones said it was "absolutely right and necessary" for the UK to retain an independent nuclear deterrent but the cost needed to be taken into account.

"World events demonstrate that in an unpredictable era our country needs the ultimate security guarantee," he said.

"The precise nature of the deterrent must be judged on meeting military capability requirements and cost."

Mr Cameron has also spoken about the role of Scottish companies in supplying the UK's armed forces.

He described the work as more "secure" when it was as part of the United Kingdom, he said "defence jobs matter".

The SNP has claimed it would be a mistake for the UK government to place the Trident nuclear programme at the heart of its case for the union.

Defence spokesman Angus Robertson said: "The (Scottish) parliament and 80% of the people of Scotland want to get rid of Trident, and the obscene waste of up to £100bn it represents at a time of austerity and savage welfare cuts from Westminster."

Trident's Faslane base currently employs 6,700 military and civilian workers with that figure due to rise to 8,200 by 2022.

UK nuclear capability

Graphic showing how the Trident defence system works
  • The four Vanguard submarines which host Trident missiles can attack targets within a range of just over 4,600 miles (7,400km). The example above shows this range if the sub were located in the mid-Atlantic.

Meanwhile, the US has announced it is moving an advanced missile defence system to the Pacific island of Guam - where it has a significant military presence - amid heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula.

It came as North Korea said the use of nuclear weapons by its military had been ratified.

North Korea has threatened attacks on the US and South Korea in recent weeks.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 733.

    Cameron has done enough to leave us wide open in this world of terrorism and war. We are worse off now than in 1939, the Spitfire/Hurricain saved us, he's already taken the Harrier and the Aircraft carriers away, if attacked we wouldn't stand a chance. I can't see him picking up a gun and leading what we have left over into battle ! Or even driving an ambulance like the Queen did !

  • rate this

    Comment number 732.

    If we were to get rid of all our nukes would anybody actually attack us? I suspect the answer is no, for both the present and the foreseeable future. Perhaps Britain should lead the way and vow to never build another nuke. It's time to stop wasting money and to ban nukes in the same way as Chemical weapons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 731.

    Rather than wasting money updating our nuclear arsenal, we should be spending more on personnel and their equipment that we know will be used some time.

    And while we're at it, some decent reward for their huge sacrifice on our behalf.

  • rate this

    Comment number 730.

    722- the most sane policy on benefits is to take them back to the Beveridge ideal , you CONTRIBUTE and you have a safety net (not a hammock) ( Philpotts- QED). Then we could afford defence!

  • rate this

    Comment number 729.

    Who cares what nuclear deterrent we have? We can't us it without Daddys say so.

    ''Mr Obama, can we defend ourselves pwease :'(''

    I'd be embarrassed to be so weak, feeble and pathetic, yet the people on this island seem to wear that tag as a badge of honour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 728.

    Si vis pacem, para bellum. For those of you that don't speak Latin; if you wish for peace, prepare for war. and as 703 says having nuclear weapons puts us on a similar footing to the US and China within NATO and the UN. More influence in these bodies for a one off payment compared to little influence in the EU for an endless steam of eye watering amounts of money for policies we don't want.

  • rate this

    Comment number 727.

    706.Calum McKay
    The problem with that argument is everyone else can make the same demands. All the oil money should be spent in Aberdeen/Shetlands? All the money generated by finance should be spent in London/Edinburgh. Only London/Edinburgh should have bailed out the banks. I personally don't want a replacement but my decision isn't taking into account either!

  • rate this

    Comment number 726.

    Whilst I'm supportive of keeping the Nuclear Deterent until everyone else agrees to give it up... The reasons DC gave here are a bit thin.

    The UK is not in range from missles from NK or Iran

    The UK is unlikely to be the first target either state would place for any of their few nuclear weapons (in the case of NK), or non-existent weapons (in the case of Iran). They have bigger targets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 725.

    This has nothing to do with defense at all. Its all about contracts. Who builds this, Bae etc etc etc. Same as the work programme's its about getting as much social money into private hands so once out of government we can have good jobs. IDS is a legend, only he could spend billions on private firms running work programmes while not using the job centre's already in his department. I wonder why??

  • rate this

    Comment number 724.

    Nuclear deterrents (and jobs that go with it) are the secret to national success, prosperity and global political influence. Just ask Germany or North Korea.

    ...Oh wait.

  • rate this

    Comment number 723.

    Agree with Dragonwight, we need some form of deterrent but this smacks of using the NK affairs as a means to further an existing agenda rather than any actual new developments in the argument for or against Trident.

  • rate this

    Comment number 722.

    So we have money to waste on train sets for Osbourne, nuclear toys for Cameron and let's not forget a quick backhander for their mates, but come to any sane policies for sorting out the benefits system.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 721.

    Rather than waffle on about Trident, Cameron could gain brownie points by actually upping the diplomacy with China re North Korea, even to the extent of turning a blind eye to its annexation, as the last thing China wants is its US investments going up in smoke.Mind you, Haig may already doing this in the background as he's a sharper cookie than Cameron will ever be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 720.

    Let's consign Trident to the dustbin of history and invest instead in new generations of submarines and submarine-launched force projection systems. Just possessing nuclear weapons makes us a target for malcontents. I'd also like to see our submarines built and submariners trained with space launch services in mind.

  • rate this

    Comment number 719.

    Hang on a sec. Am I supposed to be hating NK and Iran and all the other "bad guys"? Or nurses, teachers, disabled people and those pesky unemployed?

    Could we have some guidance on this please? I only have so much hate to go around...

  • rate this

    Comment number 718.

    Without the Soviet Union, Trident is obsolete.

  • rate this

    Comment number 717.

    Expensive waste of money. Sir Humphrey was right, "It's the nuclear missile Harrods would sell"

  • rate this

    Comment number 716.

    Why on earth do we need to kept Trident. It will not stop another other country or persons from attacking us. Plus the fact that we simply cannot afford to replace this. Surely the money would be far better spend on paying the debt we now owe rather than going further into debt to paid for somethg that will not prevent an attack on us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 715.

    704. BillHaverchuck

    The American constitution is secular, meaning that its influence on the world is not based on religious ideologies, and encourages freedom for all. Whether or not US leaders are themsevles secular minded, is a different matter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 714.

    It's like the businessman coming to the meeting in his fancy Mercedes, while the other comes in a good reliable but prestige-less Skoda. The Mercedes guy will win all the contracts. Irrational, but true: Trident gives prestige, even if your country struggles. This reasoning is held to extreme by N Korea. Don't shoot me - the messenger, I just state a fact.


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