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 833.

    Trident isn't ours to keep.

    We lease it from the monsters at Halliburton.

    Time to throw the U.S. off British soil.

  • rate this

    Comment number 832.

    @760. mrxavia
    Nothing to do with restraint, it's illegal under international law for a nuclear armed state to use the weapons against a non-nuclear state.

  • rate this

    Comment number 831.

    Nuclear arsenals do not deter war, that is patently obvious. Neither is it a deterrent (the USA and others including UK invaded Iraq on the very pretence that it possessed nuclear weapons!). It would and will not deter fanatics either. Indeed, some ideologies might consider it a service to their cause if we were to blow the planet to smithereens.

  • rate this

    Comment number 830.

    In Reality, a nuclear bomb would flatten the UK entirely so the only thing trident achieves is to use up a little more of our nuclear waste as fuel. Twenty Billion Pounds, add to that the sixty-seven billion pounds we have currently spent on the windscale/sellafield nuclear cleanup and it is clear where the taxpayer's money is going. Nukes are sucking us dry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 829.

    We need nukes not only as a deterrent, but we may need to pre-emptively use them. However we wouldn't need them if we had closed borders, and didn't act like the infidel, i.e. worshipping TOWIE etc. I'm not saying we should change because others want us to, but it would be nice if we were normal and had some common sense in the first place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 828.

    During the cold-war, the concept of “mutually assured destruction” (m.a.d.) was probably a key reason both sides stopped short of pushing the button. But nowadays with a growing number of nuclear-capable countries run by unpredictable dictators and/or by primitive religious zealots who claim to welcome death, I'm not sure our nuclear arsenal can be the deterrent it once was.

  • rate this

    Comment number 827.

    Once you possess these weapons it's difficult to let go. Linking them to the current threats posed by Iran or North Korea is irrational though because neither country would launch a direct attack on the UK. It's more about status and our place on the security council. Fear is a potent message for politicians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 826.

    Why so the separatists want nuclear weapons out of Scotland, yet they voted to stay under the NATO nuclear umbrella?
    Not in my back yard, would seem to be the reason.

  • rate this

    Comment number 825.

    Surely the best answer to a nuclear threat isn't possession of a nuclear threat; but possession of an effective countermeasure/interceptor system?

  • rate this

    Comment number 824.

    It's not often I agree with Michael Portillo:

  • rate this

    Comment number 823.

    Pahahah foolish?
    So we can defend ourselves?!?? No.
    If we launch trident. There will be no one to protect. Because everyone here and where ever we fire it, will be dead.
    The indefinite combination, of human fallibility and nuclear weapons wont destroy nations... It will destroy worlds.

  • rate this

    Comment number 822.

    Who are we trying to kid? This is a total waste of tax payers' money on a weapons system that is unusable and outdated. Who could we to use it against? If we had to use nuclear weapons against anyone there are far cheaper and possibly more accurate systems. The money for this and HS2 would be far better spent on clearing our debits not racking up more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 821.

    Our Trident missiles are what keep us safe, getting rid of them would be a mistake! The people that are saying that Trident should be scrapped are mad, bet they won't be saying that when N Korea or Iran targets their homes with their nuclear weapons. 100% support the Trident program!

  • rate this

    Comment number 820.

    There are a shocking number of people who think that Nuclear weapons are necessary. The issue being that you CANT USE THEM! So why bother, incase we need to fire back? If we get nuked then nuking back will be the last of our problems. So many short sighted people, this is why nuclear weapons still exist despite the lessons learnt from the cold war.

  • rate this

    Comment number 819.

    I'm English and I don't want to live in this god-forsaken country anymore! Roll on Scottish independence - it's the only way I can feasibly become an ex-patriot!

  • rate this

    Comment number 818.

    No countries should be allowed have nuclear bombs.

    No reasonable* country would use ever use them (again); they only exist as a deterrent.

    Unreasonable countries only want/have them because the reasonable* countries have them.

    Britain should lead the way and get rid of its nuclear arms and save a packet in the process.

    * I use this term loosely.

  • rate this

    Comment number 817.

    2 Hours ago


    It is because others are voting against nucelar simultaneously and they are less informed than you are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 816.

    Never doubted we would keep it. After all the big money is in oil, weapons and politics plus we have a government of Tory's with no morals and Liberals with no spine who are just happy to be in power. Good example is them trying to make some political gain on the 6 children who died they just disgust me and their supporters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 815.

    Isn't trident a little outdated? N Korea and Iran wont have suitable nukes, or a launch platform for years (perhaps never, if their budgets escalate). Would a missile defence platform do same job effectively? Our air forces are so far advanced of these countries that they are in themselves a big deterrent. Cant we use something cheaper like bomber launched icbm ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 814.

    Just curious - what have they ever defended us against, really? The Soviets? I don't think so! Spain, Italy, Canada, Australia, the list goes on. Most of the developed world has no nukes at all and they don't get attacked.

    Can anyone name a single conflict we've avoided thanks to our nuclear "deterrent"? No, thought not...


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