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 873.

    What a ludicrous argument. Neither North Korea or Iran have nuclear weapons and are unlikely ever to have them. Even if they did it would be no threat to us

    Get rid of Trident. We don't need it and have better uses for the tens of billions saved.

    Being a nuclear power means nothing. Germany isn't; Japan isn't.

    Trident says more about Cameron's vanity than it does about our country's needs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 872.

    The UK should scrap Trident once the existing subs get too old for service, go for unilateral nuclear disarmament, and withdraw from NATO, becoming an offshore Switzerland.

    Then, because we will no longer have any allies to help defend us, we should adopt the Swiss military system, which includes compulsory 21 weeks military service for all fit males reaching 18, and 10 years in the reserves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 871.

    862. blondie
    A lot of people here don,t seem to know how the world/country works. Let me help. If you are poor, it's because your'e stupid or unlucky. The educated win every time. It really is down to this, get an education or put up with whatever you get.
    The educated have many a complete balls up of things. Next please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 870.

    This is pure, unadulterated British Nationalism of the worst kind by Cameron, an attempt to try and justify the British state's bully boy tactics on the world stage. It's truly sickening.

    Nuclear weapons are horrific things, no matter in whose hands they are. Mankind should get rid of them, period.

  • rate this

    Comment number 869.

    And pacifism really stopped hitler didnt it.

    I sure if Tojo's army had reached india. He would have let Gandhi continue with his pacifist protest by laying on railway lines. Going by Manchuria, The japanese would have eliminated him.

    And as that american embassador in the film who dares wins says to a anti nuclear terrorist - So you want the west to disarm first. Now i see your real motives

  • rate this

    Comment number 868.

    So it's OK for Iran and North Korea to have Nuclear weapons but seriously people want the UK to give up it's Nuclear weapons? Come on people you are idiotically stupid! You do realise that if either of these Nations decides to attack there will be no more UK so spending money on healthcare, education, employment and training will be absolutely useless. Keep Trident!

  • rate this

    Comment number 867.

    . . . do any of you who wish to render Trident obsolete have any plans for the disposal of all the plutonium in the warheads and fuel in the reactors?

  • rate this

    Comment number 866.

    Most people in England would welcome the move of Scottish independence.
    A majority of Scottish people have had an anti British attitude from its earliest existance.
    For one reason or another, Scotland has long been exempt from crippling decisions made by current and former governments regarding healthcare and Finance.
    Please return our money and Trident and start looking after your own affairs!!!!

  • Comment number 865.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 864.

    This is the man who whose crazed austerity programme has stripped the country's defences to the point where it hasn't even got an aircraft carrier. Needed benefits are also slashed but billions for Trident are affordable, apparently. The Scots will realise that in this speech he is, as ever, speaking for the American administration. Puppetry and austerity are deadlier than any unusable deterrent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 863.

    Britain, and France for that matter, thinking that they are still dining at the top table of global powers, still 'flexing' their non-existant military might in the vain hope that they can influence events. Waken up and smell the coffee people, Britain is bankrupt, morally and economically and yet they still want to send your forces to places they are neither wanted nor needed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 862.

    A lot of people here don,t seem to know how the world/country works. Let me help. If you are poor, it's because your'e stupid or unlucky. The educated win every time. It really is down to this, get an education or put up with whatever you get

  • rate this

    Comment number 861.

    What threat from North Korea and Iran? Even if they have nuclear weaponry they don't have anything that can get it even remotely near us. Are we really going to fall for the "90 seconds from WMDs" lies *again?*

  • rate this

    Comment number 860.

    Sorry, don't see the point in keeping Trident anymore. Have they not been telling us the last 15 years that the biggest threats now are from terrorist orgs not countries, and you can't nuke countries based on the fact that some people in said terrorist org originate from said country. Keeping nukes is a) for keeping the associated jobs and cash running b) see a. Leaving only charcoal to defend....

  • rate this

    Comment number 859.

    What potential threat from N.Korea and Iran? N.Korea's threat is based on lies as they don't have a Nuclear arsenal and the same goes for Iran and the logistics of it all simply dont add up. All this recent spin by the UK and USA is designed to try and justify the vast amounts spent on war rather than people. In any case is it necessary to upgrade Trident just to make them more accurate?


  • rate this

    Comment number 858.

    @832, and whose going to enforce that law if the need ever arose?

  • rate this

    Comment number 857.

    If anyone is going to launch Nukes - it would be NK then the US, then China then the United Kingdom.

    Sadly after China launches there is no planet left to retaliate against.

    20bn is a lot of money, just replace it and keep quiet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 856.

    To #780 and far too many others.

    No one can guarantee that other nations are not deterred from attack because of our nuclear capability.

    The precautionary principle rules defence matters not unilateral wishful thinking by those who have been protected by M.A.D. for decades but have failed to appreciate it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 855.

    434. davidbowler

    Wait until the first North Korean rocket lands on Central London (or Central Edinburgh or Glasgow.

    And in reality North Korea will already be a Nuclear waste land before its Rockets leave the ground, no doubt China hitting it with the naughty stick.

  • rate this

    Comment number 854.

    Let America pay for it. Now that would be a special relationship. In fact let them keep it. How about we try not being involved.


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