Hutton tells Brown: “Don’t scrap Trident”

The former Defence Secretary warns the Prime Minister not to reduce the size of the Trident nuclear submarine fleet from four to three.

Former Defence Secretary John Hutton’s assertion this morning of the need to renew Trident makes important points about the unknown dangers the UK faces in decades to come, the high risk of attempting year-round submarine patrols with just three submarines instead of a fourth for contingences and, appropriately for the MP for Barrow-in-Furness, the employment implications of submarine construction cancellations.

Mr Hutton also makes the case that “reducing the number of boats by a quarter would not provide savings of anything like 25 per cent of £25bn, because the remaining three subs would need better propulsion systems and less frequent refuelling”.

However, as Left Foot Forward has previously reported, a nuclear deterrent can be maintained without loss of jobs but with marked savings by expanding the existing Astute class submarine construction order and converting a number of those submarines for deterrent purposes either with intercontinental ballistic missiles or nuclear armed Tomahawk cruise missiles.

Mr Hutton also warned against Britain relegating itself from the “premier league” in defence engineering on the grounds that once skills were lost they would never come back. But as Professor Trevor Taylor of the Royal United Services Institute told Left Foot Forward last month, “minimum reconstitutable capabilities” could be maintained through more limited ship construction.

He said:

“You can maintain and expand – for instance it may make sense to build at least one carrier to keep the knowledge and abilities that you need should you wish to build more later.”

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