By a Newsnet reporter

The SNP have written to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg calling for clarity on the status of the UK government’s review on alternatives to the Trident nuclear weapons system after Lib Dem Nick Harvey was stripped of his defence minister post in the recent reshuffle.

Mr Harvey’s post at the MoD was traded by the Deputy Prime Minister to bring disgraced MP David Laws back into government as Minister of State for Education.  

A close political ally of Nick Clegg, Mr Laws had previously held the post of Business Secretary, but was forced to resign after just 17 days in office after it came to light that he had misled the House of Commons about his expenses, claiming for housing costs when he was in fact staying with his partner.

As part of the 2010 coalition agreement Mr Harvey, as armed forces minister, was leading a review expected to report this autumn.  With no Lib Dem presence now in the MoD, SNP Westminster leader and Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP has called for clarification.

The MoD has already agreed to spend £5bn on a new Trident system, most of it on a new submarine design, while some of the money has gone on research at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston into the capability of a new warhead.

The 2010 Coalition Agreement stated that the LibDems would advocate alternatives to like-for-like replacement and the ongoing Trident Alternatives review had been expected to report later this year.  

Following the cabinet reshuffle earlier this month, Mr Harvey returned to the backbenches.  Speaking immediately after the reshuffle, Mr Harvey confirmed that his post at the MoD had been traded by Mr Clegg, and said:

He 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.

“Rather, it’s a strategic political decision to ‘trade’ this post for one in another government department.

“My replacement at Defence will therefore be a Conservative.”

It was later announced that Mr Harvey was to be awarded a knighthood by the Coalition Government.

While in opposition, Mr Harvey voted against the renewal of Trident and his oversight of the Trident review was unpopular with the Lib Dem’s Conservative allies.  With no LibDems at ministerial level in the MoD, Mr Laws will now oversee the defence review, although he is a minister in the Department of Education.  

Speaking on Sky News last week, Mr Harvey voiced his concerns that his replacement would be unable to give the Trident review his undivided attention, saying Mr Laws had “an awful lot else he’s got to be doing”.

He added:

“He’s already got a foot in two government departments, the Cabinet Office and the Department of Education.  He is a very able man, he has got a very empirical mind but I hope that that isn’t going to suffer from having somebody not actually on the case and there are other issues coming up on the international agenda which Lib Dems are going to have to work very hard now without a minister either in defence or the Foreign Office to keep abreast of.”

Mr Harvey said he also regretted that Liberal Democrats no longer had influence on the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan or the possibility of joining the US or Israel in any military action against Iran.

Asked if he was disappointed at losing his ministerial role,  Mr Harvey said he had been “knocked for six” when he was told the news.

Mr Robertson said:

“With the Tories now unrestricted by Lib Dems at the MoD there are urgent questions over the status of the Trident Alternatives review.  We need clarification from Nick Clegg – have the Lib Dems abandoned the promise they made in the coalition agreement on Trident.

“If they have, it makes the decision to trade the defence post to install David Laws back in government very costly indeed.

“Trident is not wanted in Scotland, and never has been – yet the UK Government are proposing to waste £100 billion dumping another generation of Trident nuclear weapons on the River Clyde.

“The vast majority of MSPs, as well as the churches, trade unions, and civic society across the nation totally oppose Trident nuclear weapons being based in Scotland. A key advantage of independence is that it is the only constitutional option which gives Scotland the powers to have Trident removed from Scottish waters.

“While Lib Dem partners in the UK Coalition seem to have abandoned their opposition to Trident renewal, it is quite clear that the people of Scotland remain overwhelmingly opposed to a new nuclear weapons system on the Clyde.”


2012-09-16 11:05

Where on earth did he get the 100 billion figure from?

Nuclear Weapons are cheap and effective. I don’t understand the hate.

If you have a problem with defence spending, get rid of the more expensive and less effective things first.
2012-09-16 11:36


I take it you were being facetious?
2012-09-16 12:04

I would hope that was a facetious remark robbo!
2012-09-16 13:09

Quoting Diabloandco:


I take it you were being facetious?

Number of world wars since the inception of nuclear weapons: 0
Number of countries that invaded the UK since it gained nuclear weapons: 0
1 single trident submarine = 8 times the entire fire-power of WWII

All for a maximum of around 4% of annual defense spending.

That’s right for 4% of the annual defense spending you get dozens of times the entire firepower of WWII, and god knows how many times the fire power of the other 96% of spending.

The reality is if you want to cut defense spending, you need to look at that 96% and not the 4% which contains inexplicable levels of destruction and makes attacking the UK completely insane.

Jim Johnston
2012-09-16 14:47

I liked your first idea to “get rid of the more expensive and less effective things first”….. yes robbo, like Westminster.

All WMD’s are retaliation weapons, they have nothing to do with the defence of anything. Military minds have condemned them as useless, for once I have to agree with them. I think you’re deluding yourself if you believe they have prevented WW3 robbo.
2012-09-16 15:32

I don’t think i’m deluding myself at all.

Let’s look at the facts shall we.

Between 1914 and the date of the first Nuclear weapon being dropped in anger there had been 2 world wars. With approximately 100 million casualties over both.

After the date of the first nuclear weapon being dropped there have been no world wars and they also ended once and for all the war they featured in.

This is because with the advent of nuclear weapons it makes absolutely no sense to embark on a large scale war. It made no sense for the USA to attack the USSR, because the USSR would have wiped out the USA. And it made no sense for the USSR to attack the USA, because the USA would have just wiped out the USSR.

It is abundantly clear that a large scale war of aggression no longer makes any sense.

And this is why they are a defensive weapon. This is highlighted very well by the fact that during the cold war building anti-ballistic missiles (ABM) to take out nuclear missiles didn’t happen in any numbers. It was 5 times more expensive to build an ABM than to build a nuclear missile. You could never defend against you opponentent’s capacity to build 5 times more missiles than you could build ABMs.

Of course it’s not the single solution to a comprehensive defense system. But in a world with more and more rouge states possessing nuclear weapons you have to be pretty daft to retire a weapon that only cost 4% of your defense budget, and automatically puts you head and shoulders above non-nuclear states in terms of fire power.

2012-09-16 14:44

There have been very few years when the world has been at peace since the inception of nuclear weapons. their deployment never prevented 9/11 and in a British context they’re completely useless. Why on earth a country the size of Scotland has the greatest concentration of these things in Europe, is a matter for the greatest concern. We are the number one target if the balloon goes up or terrorists attempt a dirty-bomb strike.
2012-09-16 19:41

Robbo, to be fair that’s a decent argument,
However, are you saying that an independent Scotland ( and I presume you are keen on this due to your involvement on this website) should have WMD’s to keep ourselves safe?
Or can I suggest that Thermo nuclear winter will kill us all pretty fast if it does kick off anyway…….
Maybe it would be better to be at the epicentre of a blast than to suffer acute radiation provisioning.
Regardless I think it’s a very dated argument sir.
J Wil
2012-09-16 20:42

There is an interesting article in the Sunday Times business section about the contract which the MOD would like to award for the Trident work. The two companies seeking the contract, BAE Systems and the German/French owned company EADS intend to merge and the joint ownership of the company would be 40% BAE and 60% EADS. A worry for the UK government and BAE workforce.

Before the contract is awarded the MOD are asking for cast iron assurances from the new company that they would not give away UK State secrets to France or Germany.

Even if the assurances are given, it’s difficult to imagine that the arrangement would hold water.

In any case, by some accounts, independence might put a stop to the Trident project.
2012-09-17 01:22

That can’t be right – unionist politicians repeatedly advise us that MOD would never award such a strategic defence contract to a company that wasn’t British owned…

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