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 80.

    Major rethink needed - 'defensive weapon' is a contradiction in terms - we seem to have forgotten this, and as previous posts have said, this is more an issue of economics than defence...

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    Alexander is totally missing the point of the deterrent here. It needs to be survivable and credible, his so called alternatives are not anything like survivable or credible and probably just as expensive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    ...And who do we think we are going to launch them against?...

    As soon as you are are weak, threats emerge.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    #50 Actually, you raise a very interesting point; if even a portion of the proposed £20Bn was spent on UK led development / trade(no NOT arms) in other (developing etc) countries, then that would be a bigger deterrent than Trident would ever likely to be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    The world is not asafe place and never will be, don't do any cuts with the's better than war!

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    Of course there are alternatives to Trident but this isn't about defence it is about business contracts and the interests of business.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    An interesting chioce for a comments section? Why does it seem likely that there will be an in-depth public discussion about the qualities and costs of advanced missile systems?

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    History has always shown that the greatest threat to any country is overpopulation followed by war.
    Man's only real predator is man.
    Such gloom on such a beautiful day time to get out and enjoy it while we can.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    I'm all for keeping some form of nuclear capability - particularly as giving it up would mean we lose our permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

    We are already at the economic mercy of China and Russia. We don't need the world to be shaped according to their views, as that will definitely lead to conflict.

    Can't we offset the cost of replacing Trident with fewer immigrants?

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Build a doomsday device for less than 1% of the trident bill. If it comes to a shooting war with nukes we're all dead anyway. spend the money on something useful, like making sure a generation of young Britons isn't cast aside to live in poverty like where the current government is leading us. £100 billion for more WMD we will neither need nor use is about as abhorrent as it gets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    This article doesn't provide the full facts, our nuclear deterant needs updating because vanguard doesn't have stealth capability and can be detected by satellite. However detecting and eliminating it is a different matter, few nations have both capabilities and certainly no rogue nations like NK/Iran. This is purely about prestige and is a waste of much needed money. Keep what we have.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Wouldn't it be prudent to hold off renewal for as long as possible? We could use the money to create a situation where we are prepared to develop and produce for whatever threats exist in the future. Making a choice about renewing trident now for a future far ahead could mean we make a big mistake, and aren't properly prepared for whatever happens in the world. eg 3 yrs ahead, China overtakes US.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    Just wondered if there was anything in Danny Alexander's policy review to act as a deterrent to this Tory led government which seems to be operating a policy of Mutually Assured Destruction on itself and the electorate of the UK.At a technical level, there's a greater need to protect from disruption of communications, energy and food supply.And £20Bn (minimum) would build how much social housing?

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    20 billion replacement cost, is no big deal. In the latest spending review they added 10 billion alone as cost 'increase' for the HS2 white elephant! On top of the 30 or so already earmarked! HS2 devastates our own land at least Trident points at others!

    Just imagine the jobs for the mates in consultancy in looking for alternatives, all lacking in some way.Choosing something else will cost more!

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.


    Iran doesn't possess the rocket technology needed - unless you've read a dossier suggesting they could strike London in 45 minutes....

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    If anyone of these top comments i'm reading cared listening to what Mr.Alexander said this morning,he somewhat subtly stated the review hadn't found any clear findings and as a result we have absolutely no alternatives or negatives on the tridents.They are expensive, yet if something did happen, wouldn't the nation want that safety in the knowledge we have these incredible weapons at our disposal?

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    Nuclear weapons will never be used between major powers, just as in the Cold War, because the people who control these things also control the markets and banks. A nuclear war destroys markets and the workforce and monetary value.
    BTW the UK cannot use nukes on their own due to the Heidelberg Agreement. Look it up.
    Uk Nukes are a useless pose by useless politicians. Don't swallow propaganda.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    #38 ..England has faced a major invasion threat every century bar one..

    LOL. That's what Nigel Farage and UKIP are for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    More Weapons of Mass (mass, mass, mass) Destruction to just have, enabling practise of the anti-logic of having but never using WMDs to enforce some places are never "allowed" to attain even miniature WMDs.

    Having nuclear WMDs here isn't about world safety. It occupies a different meaning, a different kind of world, a different kind of mindset, vision and story.

    The world bully & his status.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Apart from a few fanatics, most of the world has woken up to the idea that traditional forms of battle/conquest/domination are too costly, both in lives and money. The real battleground now is trade: Germany now dominates Europe, and China dominates Asia, in ways that their former dictators completely failed to see. Nuclear missiles are not a deterrent because they'll never be used.


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