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 813.

    Why don't we get the banks to put up the money to build them, and then we loan them back from the banks. Just like PFI and most of the rail network.

    Doesn't defence spending work that way?
    Why ever not?

  • rate this

    Comment number 812.

    1 Hour ago
    6,000 + Jobs - lets have a bit of that south of the border - about time we English thought of holding a referendum for independence!

    ..... I wonder how many jobs could be created with £20bn and would actually benefit the people of this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 811.

    766- joint EU deterrent? You mean we and the French give the Germans control and send any savings we can make to Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Portugal, italy, Ireland......

  • rate this

    Comment number 810.

    Not been following the cuts then...

  • rate this

    Comment number 809.

    @772 - and the shares are an asset that should turn a profit when sold.

  • rate this

    Comment number 808.

    Waste of money. Doesn't work. Spend it elsewhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 807.

    I wonder what the world would be like if humanity put as much time,effort and money into finding ways to enhance life rather than destroy it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 806.

    Yes, Mr Cameron, and it is also complete folly to cut our armed forces. And to all those who like to keep their heads buried in the sand - remember the time when Mr Chamberlain came back from Germany with a promise of peace from Hitler! Wars can spread and escalate. We have to be able to defend ourselves, because it's no good our relying on others in this day and age.

  • rate this

    Comment number 805.

    I think that it's a good thing to have a nuclear deterrant: I'm sure that it will come in useful one day when America wants us to nuke somebody like Iran or North Korea...

  • rate this

    Comment number 804.

    Replacing Trident is against Britains comittment to ridding the world of nuclear weapons via the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. How can we expect places like Iran to take advice from us on not adopting a nuclear weapons profile while we are updating our nuclear WMDs?
    Do as I say, rather than do as I do, obviously.

  • rate this

    Comment number 803.

    Well , they've got to keep Trident as they're getting rid of the Armed Forces .

  • rate this

    Comment number 802.

    I worked at coulport many years ago. If you close the sites, it will put a lot of people on the dole. It will affect the shops in the area and local business who work at the sites . Those poeple who want a nuclear free world are deluded .

  • rate this

    Comment number 801.

    The nukes get fired, a country fries, millions dead. The land is radioactive nothing will grow for 5 -10 years then it's still poisonous.The locals suffer. Aid pours in to prop up the new order, the poorest people in the victorious country pay.

    But there's money to be made rebuilding the country so lets grab the best deals we can, who pays for it the poor? Yes so what, It's all about profit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 800.

    Tory policy - Replace Trident get rid of welfare.

    Lib Dem policy - Replace Trident get rid of welfare.

    Labour policy - Replace Trident get rid of welfare.

    Notice the difference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 799.

    There's no proof Iran is building a nuclear weapon but I would laugh if they did, it would be the end of Zionist-US-British bullying thieving and warmongering. Pity it won't happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 798.

    There's no just reason for us to have nukes. The only people who want us dead these days are the ones we've attacked first or in the name of regime change. And they're so deluded they'd attack us nukes or not.

    This money could be better spent simply improving our regular armed forces or building much needed homes to get the economy growing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 797.

    Perhaps we should build Trident that does not have a rubbish shelf life, Eg it last for 100 years not 20 or so. See problem solved..... ....What's really wrong with the ones we have, quick clean down and a lick of paint. Hell they have never even been out the wrappers.

    Clearly the words of someone who has no idea what they're talking about!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 796.

    Trident should be updated or maintained so that Great Britain retains its role as an international peacekeeper, and so that we may, if needed, unleash a storm of Hell-fire on any country mad enough to do something very bad to us. That's not what apologists and bleeding-heart liberals want to hear but its the facts, unpleasant as they may be. The ultimate leveller keeps the peace on a global stage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 795.

    Let's remember all the allies, soldiers and civilians who died during WW2 to rid the world of tyranny and give us a legacy of freedom. I believe nuclear weapons as a deterrent have helped this legacy.

    So let's keep trident and help preserve our ancestors legacy for all, not just for the elite and rich.

    We do seem to be heading back to Victorian times, thanks DC. Is that freedom and progress?

  • rate this

    Comment number 794.

    I can't believe the comments on here. Or maybe I can? Weak lefty apologists - all probably bullied at school. We are safe because we are strong!! I'm so happy our freedom and influence in the world is being defended by our PM. Go for it Dave!

    Salmond is truly ridiculous - get rid of the subs but stay protected by NATO!? He wants to have his cake and eat it. I think you've had enough Alex.


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