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Cabinet reshuffle may be good news for subs

By Plymouth Herald  |  Posted: September 05, 2012

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A revamp of the Government's top team removes a potential obstacle to plans for the next generation of nuclear-armed submarines which promise to safeguard thousands of jobs in Plymouth.

The Coalition reshuffle saw the sacking of the only Liberal Democrat Minister at the Ministry of Defence.

Nick Harvey had been leading a review looking at whether there are cheaper alternatives to building the new missile-carrying vessels, which carry a price tag of £20 billion.

Replacing Britain's nuclear deterrent has proved a flashpoint for the coalition with Liberal Democrats opposed to "like-for-like" replacement and Conservatives committed to a full renewal of the UK's fleet of four Vanguard-class submarines by 2028.

The removal of Mr Harvey – in an apparent trade for another post at the Department for Environment – has been viewed by some as signalling the party abandoning its opposition to Trident.

But the Lib Dems insist the work on the Trident review will continue under David Laws, who returns to government as education minister more than two years after he resigned over an expenses scandal.

Alison Seabeck, Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View and Shadow Defence Minister, also said the move could be designed to distance the party from the MoD in the run up to the next election, leaving it free to oppose plans for the renewal of Trident unhindered.

Speaking after losing his ministerial position, Mr Harvey said: "Nick Clegg made it clear that the decision was not a reflection on my performance in the job, which he said was widely regarded as having been excellent, but rather a strategic political decision to 'trade' this post for one in another government department."

Mr Harvey was replaced by Andrew Robathan who was promoted within the MoD from junior ministerial level to Minister of State for the Armed Forces.

In return the Lib Dems gain a post at the Department for Environment, which it is understood will be taken by David Heath.

Moves to replace the four ageing Vanguard-class vessels which currently carry the Trident missiles have major implications for the city.

Devonport is the UK's only base with the specialist facilities and skilled workforce needed to maintain the current and future submarine fleet.

The final "main gate" decision on Trident renewal will still not be made until 2016, but long lead times mean some contracts need to be signed now, including for the reactors to power the vessels.

In other changes Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman lost her job to be replaced by Owen Paterson – a strong supporter of fox-hunting – who previously held the Northern Ireland brief.

Employment Minister Chris Grayling was promoted to Justice Secretary, replacing veteran Ken Clarke, who will become minister without portfolio.

Justine Greening, who opposes a third runway at Heathrow, was moved from transport to international development.

Jeremy Hunt was also rewarded after a successful Olympics, being shifted from culture to become Health Secretary, despite controversy over his handling of the BSkyB takeover bid.

Maria Miller had one of the biggest promotions, becoming Culture Secretary after previously serving as minister for the disabled.

Theresa Villiers, formerly transport minister, was appointed Northern Ireland Secretary.

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  • Mark2Plym  |  September 06 2012, 11:57PM

    The picture shows two nuclear submarines still refuelled waiting for disposal in devonport, the only real work for Devonport is scrapping of submarines which does not employ thousands of people, Babcock loves the work as they get max profits for very little labour, but large profits for facilities, why do you think Falmouth at the moment has more Navy surface work than Devonport, because Babcock wants the cream of the nuclear work high profit little costs for them!

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  • Winstonsmith0  |  September 06 2012, 5:21PM

    I'm sure David Laws will be an excellent education minister having, as he does, such a vivid mathematical imagination - something well documented just two years ago. If anyone can make this Vanguard issue add up; he is the man. I now feel confident Plymouth is on the starting blocks for a strong period of growth and success. yeah, right!

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  • Ant__  |  September 06 2012, 12:55PM

    Reshuffle 'Good news for Subs' ?? Looks like a pretty limited amount of good news then. Jeremy Hunt ?? the rabbit in the headlights. What the ... ?

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  • timplymouth  |  September 05 2012, 10:20AM

    We should create caravan launched nuclear missiles. They would be driven around the country in a seemingly random manor, indistinguishable from the other caravans. No-one would know where they are or which are real and which are dummies. Mr Putin wouldn't know where to target his missiles. It's genius, I tell you.

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  • afty912  |  September 05 2012, 9:54AM

    It's probably going to be at least 2040 before the replacement submarines (if built) will ever have to come to Plymouth, a bit premature to be getting excited i think.

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  • arthur_p  |  September 05 2012, 9:34AM

    Good. There is no real alternative so the sooner this silly debate is ended the better.

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