The issue of Trident was revived later in yesterday’s Defence questions by a couple of Liberal Democrat MPs:
Dr Julian Huppert: Whether any components for the construction of Trident replacement submarines are to be purchased prior to main gate decision in 2016?
Dr Fox: We are currently considering the initial gate business case for the successor submarine and, as part of the next phase of work, we would expect to purchase some long-lead items so that the first boat can be delivered in 2028. This is normal good practive for major build programmes.
Dr Huppert: How much is the Minister planning to spend on Trident replacement before he gets parliamentary approval in the main gate? Will he seek parliamentary approval of such spending?
Dr Fox: By definition, until the initial gate business case has been approved, I am not able or prepared to give a figure. We will make that information available in due course, when decisions have been made.
Tessa Munt: It would appear from the answers to freedom of information requests that the steel, the computer systems and the combat systems, among other things, for the first submarine have been ordered and will have been paid for. It also appears that the three reactors for the first three submarines will have been ordered and paid for before MPs can scrutinise the main gate business case. What will remain unspent for the first submarines? Will we be so financially committed that the whole main gate decision is made irrelevant?
Dr Fox: Whatever amount of money is spent on the lead items, technically it is up to any Parliament at any time to determine whether any programme can or cannot go ahead. It is clear from the coalition agreement that we are committed to maintaining a continuous at-sea minimum credible nuclear deterrent that will protect this country from nuclear blackmail and ensure that we make our role apparent in reductions in total nuclear armaments.
See more in The Guardian 15 January, Richard Norton-Tayler’s revealing article.