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 440.

    Yeah like stopping the open gate immigration systems whereby our enemies come with smiles through the airport gates. Government dumb schmucks

  • rate this

    Comment number 439.

    Ok, if history has taught us anything is whenever MAN develops a weapon he invariably uses it! Problem is if we ever use it, the game is truly up!
    Erm. They've been used. And have caused the longest period of peace between the major powers of the world in centuries. Even the proxy wars since have a fraction of the death and destruction of the past. And its why trident is needed

  • rate this

    Comment number 438.

    People don't kill people.
    Weapons - nuclear or otherwise - don't kill people.
    Politicians kill people.
    Let us get rid of THEM.

  • rate this

    Comment number 437.

    Look at America. Lots of guns to act as a deterrent. Result more deaths by gun shots of unarmed people. Lots more accidental deaths. Correlation is not always causation, but there is a link here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 436.

    Can't see why we need it.

    The enemy is within these days. The money should be spent finding them, and US spy bugs....

  • rate this

    Comment number 435.

    Far cheaper just to let Danny Alexander face any incoming threat.
    He is so repellent, any invasion would about turn the second they caught sight of him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 434.

    214.Alan T
    30th June 2013 - 16:38
    @210. GBcerberus
    >>>We are a small, third-rate country........
    You proceed from a false assumption. Most measures place us as having the 6th or 7th largest economy of any country in the world. Surely that makes us a SECOND rate country?

    On the contrary. You assume that the money pouring in - and straight out - of GB is something to do with OUR economy?

  • rate this

    Comment number 433.

    Ok, if history has taught us anything is whenever MAN develops a weapon he invariably uses it! Problem is if we ever use it, the game is truly up! We no longer have big bad reds under the bed, no the danger is lurking from a smaller set-up! Expensive TOYS these have become!

  • rate this

    Comment number 432.

    I agree with 138 dibbler88 he knows that the UK develops more of this technology than most of the world and we are still buying cold war stuff for inflated prices.

  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    There is a lot of short sightedness on these boards. People oftern say politicians dont think about the future but for once they actually are. Do we need trident now? No. Will we need it in the future? No one knows and thats a point. No one gets insurance knowing they're going to be using it. We have no idea what the future holds, history has show rogue governments can arise in very little time

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.

    I would rather have a cracking good health service, a properly funded welfare state and some jobs for yours and my children than preserve a capability to blast people into very small pieces.
    But then what would I know?

  • Comment number 429.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 428.

    2 Hours ago

    Yeh, the other alternative, On the command, get all the MP's to open their mouths at the enemy. That will have just as good an impact.
    Yes, and they want to upgrade their hitting power by 32%.

  • rate this

    Comment number 427.

    Would it not just be best for the west to share the cost of a common defence shield. Make agreements for shared production jobs. More common power and less expense.. wow. Thats if the friendly spying stops, i guess.

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    Yeh, the other alternative, On the command, get all the MP's to open their mouths at the enemy. That will have just as good an impact.

  • rate this

    Comment number 425.

    A weapons system like Trident only has deterent or retaliatory value against a foe who is similarly equiped. So if your aim is to fight a resurrected USSR then the outlay for Trident probably makes sense but Russia is not the USSR and China is too interested in business. North Korea is annoying but not suicidal and Iran has too much reality sense despite Israeli hysterics. Somalia anyone?

  • rate this

    Comment number 424.

    @423.Brentford Activist

    Though "On the Beach" was a bit of an exaggeration to be fair.
    Even after a full nuclear exchange its likely that those who hid in bunkers initially would be able to come out after a few months or a couple of years at most.
    The main issue would then be to conduct agriculture in a way that didn't cause crops to accumulate fallout. Probably use aquaponics or some such.

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    And what use will trident be after a nuclear attack on Europe?
    Who will give the command to launch these weapons and know where to aim them?
    There won't be anyone left alive except those aboard the submarine.

    Try reading "On the beach" by Neville Shute, you may get some idea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 422.

    Some number of yesrs back, l suggested earnestly, as our armed fotces deployed to Afghanistan, that the poppy fields be burnt. I fear that thr advice was misunderstood. The debilitating environmental effect would have been a game changer. Burn the croos and keep on doing it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 421.

    Recent and current research, is leading to a cost effective deterrent to global aggression.

    Top Secret research is developing theM87 H(AP1ne55) bomb deliverable via integrated networks to every girl in your soup.

    Environtal research indicates that by 2035 when world population has again doubled, warfare will cease. Isn't she lovely!


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