On Monday 18 July, Parliament voted, by 472 votes to 117, for the UK to renew its Trident nuclear weapons. I voted in favour of Trident renewal. My vote was consistent with the views I gave during the election hustings and the commitment of the Conservative Party manifesto upon which I was elected in 2015.
The UK has carried nuclear weapons via its submarine fleet since 1969. The fact that we have a submarine capable of firing a nuclear weapon, even if our own conventional defence capabilities had been destroyed, acts as a disincentive for any rogue state to launch an attack on our defence capabilities in the first place. Trident has been our missile system since it replaced the Polaris weapon system in the early 1980s. The UK has Trident weapons fitted to four of our Vanguard submarines but these will come to the end of their working lives during the 2020s. It is essential for a new form of missile system to be in place by such time, hence the vote in Parliament to give a mandate to the next generation of Trident weaponry.
The motion to be moved by Prime Minister Theresa May supports:
The government's assessment that the UK's "independent minimum credible nuclear deterrent" based on continuous at-sea deployment will remain essential to the UK's security;
The decision to take the necessary steps required to maintain the current posture by replacing the Vanguard Class submarines;
The importance of the replacement programme to the UK's defence industrial base and in supporting thousands of highly skilled engineering jobs;
Government commitment to reduce its overall nuclear weapon stockpile by the mid-2020s and press for "key steps towards multilateral disarmament”
As recent events around the world have demonstrated, the UK faces an uncertain security future. From Russia, to North Korea, to the Middle East, Africa and South East Asia, there are threats from countries who could cause grave harm. In addition, there are countries which could, in these times of instability, fall in to the hands of fundamentalists who would be hostile to our way of living. The world, in my view, is an even more uncertain place than at any time since before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
In 2007, MPs backed plans to renew the Trident fleet by 409 votes to 61. Since that time, work has been undertaken to scope designs for replacement submarines, propulsion systems and other key components. In October 2010, the government decided to delay the ultimate decision on whether to proceed and how many submarines to order until 2016. According to that timetable, Parliament is being asked to vote for the replacement.
Theresa May said shortly before she became prime minister that there should be a vote in the House of Commons on replacing the Trident fleet before the summer recess and it would be "sheer madness" to give up the UK's nuclear weapons because of the threat posed by other countries including Russia. Renewing Trident would show Britain was committed to working with Nato allies after voting for Brexit, she added. Replacing Trident was a Tory manifesto pledge in the general election. I am pleased that the majority of Labour MPs have also recognised this argument, notwithstanding the views of their own leader. I greatly respect those Labour MPs who have made their own mind up in this process.
I recognise that not all constituents will agree with my vote but I strongly believe that a renewal of Trident will lead to a strengthening of our security and will continue our deterent effect policy which has served the UK well during the cold-war and thereafter.