UK has alternatives to Trident - Danny Alexander


Lib Dem cabinet minister Danny Alexander: "We can move on from the Cold War postures of the past"

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There are alternatives to a like-for-like replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system, says Danny Alexander.

The Lib Dem cabinet minister told the BBC that he had handed his report on Trident to the prime minister and deputy prime minister a fortnight ago.

The Lib Dems oppose a straight renewal of Trident, but the Conservatives say it would be "foolish" to abandon it.

Mr Alexander says when the report is published "people will see there are choices available to this country".

He said the review, which was agreed as part of the coalition agreement between the two parties, had lasted two years and was seeking to say whether "complete renewal of Trident in the way previously planned is the only way to protect our country in the future".

'Dangerous world'

Trident is a sea-based nuclear weapons system, acquired by the Thatcher government in the early 1980s, made up of four submarines carrying missiles and warheads. Each component has years of use left, but they cannot last indefinitely.

The review into its replacement had not, Mr Alexander told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, come to any conclusions.

But it would be published in a few weeks and would show "there are alternatives where we can, as President Obama said in Berlin last week, move on from the Cold War postures of the past and try and set out a new future for this country with a deterrent which is credible but where this country can play a role in supporting disarmament in the future".

The £20bn like-for-like replacement of Trident was agreed by the previous Labour government, but has since been delayed as part of the price of the Lib Dems going into coalition with the Conservatives.


  • 2007: MPs approve plans for renewal in Commons vote. "Concept phase" launched to assess future submarine designs and consider value for money of project
  • 2010: Defence review decides to delay final decision on renewal to 2016
  • 2011: "Initial Gate" procurement phase to begin. Some building materials and components of nuclear propulsion system to be purchased over five years
  • 2016: "Main Gate" decision due to be taken. Submarine design and missile component contracts to be finalised
  • 2028: First replacement submarine to be delivered

Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron remains 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 insisted the coalition carry out a review of cheaper submarine or land-based options, including abandoning round-the-clock patrols.

Mr Cameron stressed his commitment to Trident, which is based on the Clyde, during a visit to the west of Scotland in April.

"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."

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.

Labour has said it will examine the outcome of the Lib Dem prompted review.

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.

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.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    no need for a nuclear deterrent we will have frozen to death before we need it sort out our energy needs first. get fracking and building nuclear power plants

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    When Trident was first constructed our main threat was from the USSR, the Cold War was in full flow and there was a serious risk of nuclear strike at any time.

    Now the threat is more from rogue states, like NK and Iran, developing nuclear material and passing it to terrorists. The argument for a 24hr deterrent is less clear cut, I'd argue for more intelligence and special forces funding.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    "UK has total control over its Nuclear weapons."
    So if DC says go and the US says no we'll ignore them. Yeah right. In nuclear defence we are tied to the US. They control the keys.
    We could always align ourselves with the French (if the Tories and UKIP will allow).

  • Comment number 57.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    If we can achieve the same outcomes for less money and retain the right quality I am for it.

    The same people who say rely on a European solution are probably those tat are against a European union if it costs us.

    Isn't Iran trying to achieve nuclear status and of course they are our best friends!

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    If the Westminster warmongers are so keen on nuclear weapons, would they please take steps to rid Scotland of these weapons of mass destruction and place them somewhere along the Thames!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Strategic nuclear weapons cause checks and balances between states who have them and those that don't. Removing them from the system could de-stabilise it in ways we cannot predict as would creating balistic defence systems. The way out of this security dilemma is universal multilateral disarmament negotiation. Until a real political framework is in place for that, keep the capability

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    If it's just a deterrent that we never plan on using, why not just repaint the old rockets and pretend we've got new ones? Save the £100bn to cover the ever-increasing cost of HS2!

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.


    Mutually Assured Destruction is the only thing that prevents a potential aggressor from using their nuclear devices against you.


    Unless they are religious fanatics not associated with any territory

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Yes we should keep a nuclear deterrent force but the submarine launched ballistic missile is too costly & reliant for its targetting, guidance & servicing on the US. In short, it is not truly independent

    The most likely nuclear threat to the UK is a rogue state & for this task Trident is not well suited. We would be much better armed with forces that tick both the conventional & nuclear boxes

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    All agree we must have a nuclear deterrent. So it is a matter of what sort. Any type that can be stopped or taken out in a first surprise attack or not deliverable anywhere in the world is as good as pointless. I remain to be convinced any method bar Trident type will cover that.

    Cost is not any issue a couple of years worth of the money we Give away for nothing in foreign aid would cover it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    43, utter nonsense, UK has total control over its Nuclear weapons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    I can see a need for a nuclear deterrent but I have a suspicion that submarine based systems might not be as secure as made out. I would not be at all surprised to find out that the Russians, Americans, Chinese have secret technologies to detect submerged submarines thus rendering the deterrent useless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Mr Alexander get you points across now because like the rest of your duplicitous members you are going to be out of a job come 2015. In case the BBC moderator takes exception to term duplicitous how about Uni fees, the NHS, immigration and ever other page of the Lib pre election manifesto. Perhaps we should bring back the long bow. He would appose this as it means chopping down green trees.

  • Comment number 46.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Mutually Assured Destruction is the only thing that prevents a potential aggressor from using their nuclear devices against you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    If we ever do need to scrap them, we should do it confidentially in order to minimise risk from increased nuclear proliferation and so-called 'rogue' states. However i do feel that Trident offers us a unique advantage by being able to position our nuclear weapons anywhere in the world in complete secrecy, and is therefore a very strong part of our national security.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    True but firstly DC suggests this makes us safe from nukes - it doesn't.
    Secondly our independent deterrent is anything but. We won't strike first and wouldn't be allowed to by the US anyway. They hold the control, not DC.

    "In short, there are simpler, cheaper & more flexible deterrents, nuclear tipped cruise missiles from Astute or aircraft from the new carriers"


  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Why does everything have to have the U.S involved in everything? For once have something independent of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    The Cold War is over, and the nuclear deterrent no longer deters the most significant threat. It is therefore completely pointless.

    Vampire is right - a fraction of that money put into cyber-security could prevent a keyboard induced economic meltdown caused by terrorists OR governments that is a far more real (and almost as catastrophic) threat in the 21st century than nuclear missiles.


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