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 140.

    We are heavily reliant on EU and US (NATO) for our own "defence".

    Reduction in the Forces overall ensures that UK has only one card to play if a major attack were to become a reality.
    The UK Armed Forces have no Aircraft Carrier or planes for them.
    Therefore there is no true "Defense Strategy".

    I wonder what the word "deterrent" means.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    Why the hell do we need a deterrent weapon? Who is crazy enough to want to invade this place that is laughingly still called 'Great Britain' by a dwindling few? Not surprised the last comment was knocked off it was a tad off topic, or was it that it mentioned a top news story for this morning reported just about everywhere except on the BBC?

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    It might sound alarmist but the future weaponry will make Trident obselete anyway, we are heading for miniaturized hard to detect weapons, plasma engines and smaller warheads, in other words the speed of delivery will make defense systems a slow response option.
    Electronic Nose technology needs to be researched to detect nuclear and chemical agents wherever they might be used..

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    I'm an optimist; I believe sooner or later common sense will prevail and we will realize our current enemies are essentially a cancer on this earth and we will nuke them out of existence. Our enemies live in mud huts and can only harm us because we allow them into western countries for some reason. Our nukes could be pushed out the back of a cargo plane, we don't need missiles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    Don't replace it, just tell the world we have. If it's just a deterrent it makes no difference whether you have it or not, as long as people think you have

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    what a waste of money for something we don't need and can never use.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    Personally I would prefer it if they spent the money on an ABM system or develop one. The decision as the military put it to keep Trident is purely political as its useless to them as they cant use it. Deterrents only work if the person your deterring is sane & reasonable. I certainly think some mid way solution is just a waste of money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    I'm with the conservatives on this issue

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    There is absolutely no need for Trident & the idea that it's still a deterrent for attacks against the UK is laughable.

    In a nuclear war everyone loses & our meagre arsenal would be pointless.

    Our days of being a major player on the world military stage are over, we simply can't afford it.

    Our future military strategy should be as part of NATO & the UN, not still pretending we can go it alone!

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    If we cannot afford to feed and house our own people, we certainly cannot afford Trident. During the cold war fine, it was something if a necessity, but in the current world our own government is our worst enemy. Spending vast sums on trying to pretend we have influence around the world in untenable.

  • Comment number 130.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    We don't need Nuclear Weapons.

    The so-called "terrorists" who are a constant, unrelenting and quite fantastical threat are, well not in fact such a constant threat.

    The only thing worse than an insane terrorist with a knife and a crazy belief structure - Is a government with an atomic weapon and an equally crazy belief structure. Such as us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    War, what is it good for?
    Absolutely nothing

    "Edwin Starr"

    So true

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    The uk is only still a big player in the UN from the nuclear deterrent. The shrunken British army and navy is redundant on the world stage. Trident is a cost spread over the longterm term. With Diminishing influence is it in the nation's interest to throw away its remaining bargaining chip?

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    How much of this stuff is made in Britain?

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    The challenges of the 21st century

    Competition for world resources & fuel

    The need to protect our interests & friends around the world from China

    The need to protect ourselves against asymmetric threats, terrorists & rogue states.

    These threats don't need a highly specialised, expensive & US dependent SLBM system

    Instead it needs a strong & flexible conventional forces with nuclear capability

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    Never listen to a left winger.They will get rid of all of our weapons and leave us defenceless if they had their way.
    They would pursue policies of appeasement with all our enemies and hope for the best.
    We NEED nuclear weapons.They are our insurance policy against all of the worlds rogue states.
    The world is as dangerous as it ever was.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    I think you're wrong there. Workers from BAE in Barrow where the subs are built go to the US to assist and advise. You seem to think that because the US do it, it must be better. Not the case.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    The world is ever changing; leaders are ousted and new countries acquire nuclear weapons. To say that a maniac leader would not unleash nuclear weapons if he felt threatened or was dying is crazy. And China will soon want to own the world.
    Unfortunately that means we need nuclear weapons. But I have no idea what we do about terrorists acquiring a bomb. Maybe nuke the country that assisted them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    Devonport would welcome the subs and the nukes are shipped from Aldermaston anyway. The whole relocation thing is a red herring.

    Keep the nukes , dump Scotland.


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