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 2173.

    I see #2161's comment is being negatived for asking a fairly common sense question: where IS the money for Trident coming from - given the Coalition party constantly remind us the country is suffering from massive amounts of debt which must be reduced?

    If they can fund a fat new Trident programme while cutting the tax rates for millionaires then one must question where this Gov's priorities are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2172.

    @2158 Myself.

    Respectfully to you all that chose, which is you right I may say to negatively rate a person, I ask only one thing, which is I think is a reasonable request?

    Please provide feedback.

    Thank you all


  • rate this

    Comment number 2171.

    @ 2164. A Disgruntled Native

    “How exactly will nuclear submarines defend us against a warhead falling from space?”

    The North Korean leader may have the emotional maturity of an 8 year old but his generals are a little more hard headed and would like to live to enjoy the privileges of their rank. They will not allow a missile to be launched as long as the deterrent continues to exist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2170.

    Quote//2161. SEDAKRO XIV
    If you ask me, it's about time the English government took a page or two out of the SNP's book and make England a nuclear free nation in the same way that Scotland will be if the referendum ends in a yes vote//

    And you wont mind that we take all OUR Armed Forces back home and base them around the rest of the UK, where they can contribute to our economy not Scotland

  • rate this

    Comment number 2169.

    Whether or not we should replace Trident is a moot point - but using the threat of nuclear weapons in North Korea and Iran as an argument is pathetic. There are some strong arguments for & against. This one is so weak it almost counts as an argument against.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2168.

    Could anyone tell me who made the UK, USA etc the world police? What mandate have we got to stop other countries having nuclear weapons when we have them ourselves? When did the world decide that our political system is the only one allowed?

  • Comment number 2167.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 2166.

    God forbid, we really would be "all in it together". Except that there are NO provisions for any civilians in the UK to have access to nuclear bunkers. They are strictly for Royal family, armed services, politicians and would you believe it high ranking church officials, such as Bishops.........So now you know whats happened many deepest dry redundant coal mines in the UK....

  • rate this

    Comment number 2165.

    2152. Mike Davies

    How would they get in range, if they took independent action ? It's not just U.S. & N. Korea keeping a close eye on everything in the Pacific. Travel by or under an innocuous looking fishing boat, Chinese Government may call to ask " what's your sub doing here ".

  • rate this

    Comment number 2164.

    The moment when North Korea launches a nuke at the U.S. will disprove once and for all the concept of nuclear weapons 'as a deterrent'. Deterrence only works when both parties in a nuclear stand-off recognise the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction and wish to avoid this.

    Iran & NoKo probably don't care.

    And how exactly will nuclear submarines defend us against a warhead falling from space?

  • rate this

    Comment number 2163.

    @ 2159. Sillyboy

    " Perhaps we could send Rory Mcilroy out to play a winner takes all game of golf with the Boy Dictator, I hear he's rather good, or was that his dad?"

    But if either of them are seen heading for the bunker I'd take cover if I were you.

  • Comment number 2162.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 2161.

    What I would like to know is, where the money is coming from to replace Trident since the Government keep saying the country's skint and we have to cut public spending on this and that?

    If you ask me, it's about time the English government took a page or two out of the SNP's book and make England a nuclear free nation in the same way that Scotland will be if the referendum ends in a yes vote!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 2160.

    our nuclear deterrent could devastate any country on earth and whilst we possess that capability, no one is going to even consider invading us. Trident speaks volumes to countries who have ideas of taking us out; we live in uncertain times and I for one am glad we have the ultimate bargaining chip & don't be fooled, we do not require the US's approval to launch a nuclear strike.

  • Comment number 2159.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 2158.

    @2146 Myself

    Look seriously people I can totally understand as to why you have negatively rated me, I honestly do.

    I am actually anti-nuclear, but I am also a realist, I understand that for the moment they are need, aka; a surprise NEO that could kill us all.

    However when Russia (ex-USSR) had over 10,000, yet now only 1500, and the US had 8,500 now 5,568 it dose make you think right???

  • rate this

    Comment number 2157.

    2151. toorie

    Two old bombs dropped 70 years ago cost the lives of 150,000 people PLUS an estimated 300,000 people from radiation related cancers.

    Every 25 years or so, we get a nuclear disaster from a power plant - Chernoble estimates 60,000 radiation related deaths.

    Nuclear technology is at this point, deadly.

  • Comment number 2156.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 2155.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 2154.

    How can we seriously expect other countries not to aquire nuclear weapons if we have them?
    Talk about hypocracy.

    Lead by example I say - start treating ALL nations with genuine respect, whether we agree with them or not, and negotiate peaceful relations with calm reason & unending patience. After all; those who are considerate to their neighbours have little to fear.


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