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Fears of Navy cuts and dock job losses in nuclear debate

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 19, 2013

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The £100 billion price tag of a "like-for-like" replacement for Britain's Trident nuclear weapon would mean more cuts to the Royal Navy, a former armed forces minister has warned.

Sir Nick Harvey, Liberal Democrat MP for North Devon, said he believed Britain could not afford, and did not need, a further generation of nuclear weapons on such a scale, and that an "open mind" should be kept on doing something at a lesser cost.

But speaking during a Commons debate on the issue, fellow Westcountry MPs raised fears over the impact on jobs at Devonport dockyard – the biggest private sector employer in Devon and Cornwall – of a scaled-back nuclear deterrent. The Plymouth yard boasts the only UK licence to refit, repair and refuel submarines that carry the Trident missile.

Sir Nick, sacked as a Ministry of Defence minister in last year's reshuffle, said the UK had to decide by the middle of 2016 whether or not to proceed with a replacement of the existing Trident nuclear deterrent. He said: "I do not believe that we need to have a further generation of nuclear weapons based on the scale we thought we needed in 1980 at the height of the Cold War, and I don't think that we can afford to do so either."

Sir Nick said he did not believe that Britain's national security assessment and strategy suggested the country needed it.

When Britain had a known nuclear adversary in the shape of the former Soviet Union, there had been a "logic" to having continuous at-sea deterrents, he said, but the circumstances of today were "very different".

Sir Nick outlined the capital investment of a further generation of submarines, the running costs and decommissioning.

He said: "When you begin to total this out and factor in decommissioning at the end, what we are talking about is an expenditure of over £100 billion and we need to look closely at whether that is justified."

The impact of committing to such sums, he argued, would be felt "above all else by the Royal Navy".

Of the three Armed Forces, the Navy has the strongest presence in the Westcountry, from commandos in Plymouth, Taunton and North Devon to warships based at Devonport Naval Base. There are sharp differences between the Tories and Lib Dems over the future of a replacement for Trident, with most Conservative ministers and backbenchers reluctant to reduce its capability.

Oliver Colvile, Tory MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, said in the Commons: "The nuclear licence is vital to my constituency. It is our stake in the ground and we must ensure that lots of work comes out of it."

Sheryll Murray, Conservative MP for South East Cornwall, added: "I was concerned at our going into coalition with partners who stated in their last election manifesto that they would be saying no to like-for-like replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system.

"I am still concerned that they might scale down our vital nuclear deterrent in increasingly uncertain times."

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  • Gruntintunz  |  January 20 2013, 3:00AM

    Once again the tory tuncs have exposed themselves to be living in what they still believe to be a great Victorian empire. Our now relatively insignificant land of dope and once upon a time tory has changed beyond recognition on several levels even since the new century which these imbiciles just don't comprehend. Just think, we still have presence in Cyprus, the Falklands and Gibraltar, costing lots annually. The only thing i disagree with which GRIZLYEEE has written is that we are "up to our eyes in debt". Actually, no. We have deficit which is merely money borrowed from ourselves, not from any other nation which really would be debt. Last year both the IMF and World bank stated that they could not understand why the 5th richest nation in the world was making all these cuts. In no way do i think there should be such heavy spending on weapons capable of incinerating almost all life on earth. There are many very clever people in Devonport who could be directed to produce containment tanks for clean water, sewage, desalination plant and pipes for the third world. Sea levels are rising, this will become an imperative very soon to control increasing advance of desert conditions. Somehow i doubt that the 'Camellegg' government has the ability, nous or will to deal with this. At the very least they could create job opportunities by converting the Trident missile submarines into deep sea ferries. In the meantime - may the Legg go up the **** of the Camel very, very soon !

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  • GRIZZLYEEE  |  January 19 2013, 10:25PM

    Dear Sir, I feel compelled to respond to both to this article and the Editorial rant from todays WMN. The editor suggests that we must replace Trident with a new like for like system at a cost of £100 billion, also that we should not be considering alternatives as this alone constitutes a risk to national safety. Question is: At risk from who???? we are no longer threatened by Russia and the cold war - but the cold war mentality lives on. Who would we use the deterent against? surely terrorism is our greatest threat and not from nuclear armed countries and a strike against a non-nuclear country would be unthinkable. We already have Trident missiles capable of wiping out most of the civilised world, but in this extremely stupid 'my penis has to be bigger than your penis', macho - arms dealing world,the major players and their puppet MPs are more than happy to sign us up to another eye watering£100 billion debt. Why? so that we can play war games with the big boys! As a country we are up to our eyes in debt and heading for a triple dip recession and yet we can 'magic up' £100billion, or nearly £2000 for every man woman and child in the UK for a weapon we could never use - oh yes its a deterent- but we already have one, we don't need a new one. We don't need it to justify a few jobs in the dockyard, we don't need it to justify the nuclear license at Devonport - in case you have'nt noticed Portsmouth has a thriving dockyard without a nuclear license. Plymouth has the license because we carry out the most dangerous nuclear work such as refuelling the submarines. For me, I don't buy a new car every year because I cannot justify the expense, and the strain it would put on family finances. The same applies to our country - manufacturing is on its knees, a shadow of its former self. People have woken up to the myth of retail therapy and most high streets are dying, we have welfare reform to take more money from the poorest of society and giving more to the rich. £100 billion is a mind boggling sum of money that could do an immense amount of good instead of being spent blindly on this years new missile system that we could never use. Oliver Colville would be better thought of if he was lobbying for the safe conventional navy fleet work that was sent to Portsmouth instead of being a puppet.

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