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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  • Comment number 1073.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1072.

    Calum Mckay really should have been the poster child for the "Why its a bad idea to let kids vote" campaign. No wonder the SNP wanted it so badly.

    1042 joshua

    The that if things had turned out differently Spitfires and radar would have never been used. Better to be safe than sorry, we should know that as well as anyone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1071.

    I think Ronald Reagan was committed to the ideal of making the world free of nuclear weapons, so why is it that people on the right nowadays are so gung ho about developing nuclear weapons

  • rate this

    Comment number 1070.

    Cameron's decision is like sending men to slowly march into machine guns & think you can win.Warfare has moved on as it always does Trident is a relic & should be sold, not like states like NK give a hoot if you shoot back.If he thinks the threat is greater than ever then why did he not speak out against 'friendly' countries that acquired nukes & look the other way when states sponsor terrorists.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1069.

    @1019 Clueless.
    Alternative locations raised for hosting the nuclear-weapon facilities include Barrow, Devonport, Falmouth, Milford Haven and Portland. However, all of those options were ruled out in a classified 1963 analysis by the British Defense Ministry.
    Trident needs even larger site..

  • rate this

    Comment number 1068.

    Like them or hate them, we can't un-invent nukes. We could do the canny thing and keep a few 'sub-strategic' weapons, able to be carried in hunter killer submarines to 'discourage' any nutters wanting to take a pop at us, 'do we have them or don't we- feeling lucky, punk?' But Trident, come on! This should have been buried at the end of the cold war, particularly with our purse strings snapping...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1067.

    If Scotland and the Scots are genuinely opposed to nuclear weapons, on principle, they will not join NATO - a military alliance founded upon nuclear deterrance. Since they do intend to join, the moaning just comes across as hyprocritical NIMBYism from those who are content to complain whilst huddling under a shield provided and paid for by their allies and neighbours.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1066.

    Updating is required due to natural decay, caused by the sun's energy passing through the earth 24/7/365/billions of years. Plus the need to refresh electronic systems to stay ahead of rivals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1065.

    1041. darren

    Most pertinent comment yet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1064.

    If you want to deliver a nuclear blow to a city, you don't deliver it in a big, obvious missile, you take it in a briefcase - or ship it in a container. Honestly, you'd think that these people would watch a bit more TV. It's all a crock, an excuse to keep the megarich arms mftrs in yachts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1063.


    We don't need a nuke, our ties with the US are the deterrent. If we get nuked, having a bomb ourselves won't stop millions dying. Having one would enable us to retaliate or strike first, nothing more. The US would nuke NK in response if we didn't have nukes and if it escalated any further we would all be dead from the fallout anyway. So your argument is invalid really.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1062.

    1042.Joshua Slocum
    4 Minutes ago
    I wonder how many of the Trident scrappers would have been radar and Spitfire scrappers in the 1930s....
    You'll never know, so what's your point?
    Their point is that its easy to say "get rid of it we dont need" now when you have no idea what tomorrow will be like.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1061.

    I'm sure Germany & Japan would love nuclear weapons (especially Japan with the proximity of NK), but they don't have them because the countries were demilitarised after WW2

    -Both Japan and Germany have the capacity to build Nuclear weapons and put them on modern delivery systems. They choose not to.

    Japan's policy is if threatened directly by Nuclear Weapons they will do precisely this

  • rate this

    Comment number 1060.

    We have to replace Trident. It is our insurance policy &, like all insurance, it seems like a terrible waste of money until you need it, which I hope we never shall.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1059.

    We have to consider the unfortunate reality that if we need nuclear weapons, the regimes we dislike also have a need for the same as Britain and the USA have a nasty habit of attacking countries with inadequate defences.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1058.

    1033. tonep

    "I wonder how many of the Trident scrappers would have been radar and Spitfire scrappers in the 1930s..."

    Neither radar nor the Spitfire existed in the 1930s.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1057.

    We have an excellent knowledge of the physics of the atom but remain strangely shy of the metaphysics of this small scale world which creates our material existence. I've a web site ( which looks down the stairwell of our Universe and sees that the particle world is more social and sentient than we have dared to consider. In other words, the way out is to go in deeper !

  • rate this

    Comment number 1056.

    As a great president once said. "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!" Hands up all those who are afraid of Mr Cameron!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1055.

    On second thought, it's kind of weird that Dave failed to mention the still extant threat of Russia's nuclear arsenal, maybe he just felt that international politics didn't need the UK implying it wants to be able to nuke Russia? (or he wants to buy cheap nukes off them, one of those two)

    Of course uninvolved countries saber rattling towards NK right now is always helpful.

  • Comment number 1054.

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


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