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 913.

    This is probably the only thing I agree with Ronald Reagan about. There are too many warheads around, everybody is on a "hair trigger" and ( by the law of big numbers) it is only a matter of time before somebody lets on off by accident. Then what?

    He was right to approach Brezhnev and start limitation talks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 912.

    These weapons are a huge waste of money however until we get to live in a world were all the nations agree to ban nuclear weapons we are stuck with them for defence, As for SNP supporters in Scotland these subs do provide money for your economy no moving will just make those areas more depressed like the closer of the shipyards will.

  • rate this

    Comment number 911.

    Whether or not we continue to support or change our military strategy and armory is not something that should be published at the moment. Our best best is to keep our heads down and not get involved. We are closer to this issue than the US and provoking NK now would be putting the UK at risk also. It isn't our fight and we should quietly protect ourselves just in case, but not advertise it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 910.

    @ eggymooo "I too have just clicked to vote up a pro nuclear comment, and seen the figure actually go down!! What are you up to BBC???"

    That just means other people voted down while you were voting up, and it totaled when you updated. Do you think you're the only person with an internet connection?

  • rate this

    Comment number 909.

    All those on the anti nuclear deterrent side of the fence should probably look up the word 'deterrent' first and then marry that to some serious thought before spouting it as a waste of money....

  • rate this

    Comment number 908.

    @387. John Doe surely it's more like bringing a gun to a knife fight - very effective!

  • Comment number 907.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 906.

    I am laughing at the "what would we do if we didn't have it and were attacked argument?" I am pretty sure we will still all die while Cameron is eating caviare in a bunker, as for its kept the peace for over 60 years, it didn't stop the Vietnam war, Falkland islands, Serbia etc? or Al-Qaeda flying planes into buildings or blowing up the tube now did it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 905.

    900.Aduphanel - "...............Its absurd that green energy will supply 66 million people in uk and The greens want even more people to come to UK"

    You really should check your facts before gobbing off, it'll save you looking a right plonker when you say stuff that is totally FALSE.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 904.

    I worry about threats from mad regimes.

    But in reality, we are a small nation with no money. We would be better spending more money on conventional forces and saving some to invest in our infrastructure, particularly energy.

    We should work to improve our situation in food production so we don't have to import essentials.

    These things are going to be more important in the next few years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 903.

    Our 'leaders', many unelected, are wholly useless. They place their trust in Trident, because they blindly follow American foreign policy and lack the statesmanship required to pursue global peace with other world leaders. If the West spent the amount of money they waste on defence budgets and militarism generally, on peace - we would have peace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 902.

    882. George
    As an ISLAND dependant on other countries for much of our food and raw materials, we need a strong, robust Royal Navy

    Totally agree, but it seems to me that Nuclear weapons of this type is akin to having a Private Member the size of Gulliver's on a island full of tiny people, no use. More use would be the two Aircraft Carriers fully stocked and ready for action.

  • rate this

    Comment number 901.

    It isnt just about keeping the weapons systems (which I'd have thought the "government should spend more to boost the economy" lot would have been in favour of anyway) its also about keeping the ability/skills to make them in the first place. It would be unfortunate if we got rid of Trident and in 20 years it turned out a deterrent was needed and we didn't have the industry/knowledge to make one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 900.

    I support Nuclear power and i support UK maintaining nuclear weapons.

    We should have the same number of nuclear powerstations as France. They have 52. Or does the green and the anti nuclear lobby think they have a magical force field over britain.

    Its absurd that green energy will supply 66 million people in uk and The greens want even more people to come to UK

  • rate this

    Comment number 899.

    this is not about us trying to be a big player on the world stage, the trident acts as a defense deterrent, we some sort of deterrent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 898.

    Total world-wide nuclear disarmament. That's what we should spend the £20bn on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 897.

    Anyone who thinks it is OK to spend £25Bn on nuclear weapons at any time ('official' figure; true value with all costs factored in probably much higher?),let alone against an austerity backdrop/economy in desperate need of stimulation, is surely unhinged? I also find this talk of "preserving Scots jobs" morally obscene

    How do (more affluent) Sweden, Norway etc. manage?
    This is about 'prestige'!

  • rate this

    Comment number 896.

    What beautiful, fairy-inhabited, make believe, idealistic, world are some of you living in, where we can get rid of Trident and replace it with nothing?

    OF COURSE that would be preferable in a world where there is no threat from other nations, unfortunately we don't live in one of those.

    Common sense people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 895.

    We do not want them up hear in Scotland so you lot in London can keep them on the Thames instead EH!

  • Comment number 894.

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


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