Never really been that engaged with the debate about the UK's independent nuclear deterrent. Always tended to be 'in favour' of it because I don't think it wise to disarm unilaterally. A big majority on MPs share this opinion. But over the last year or so I've been lobbied umpteen times by people who believe we shouldn't replace our current nuclear defence system which is based on Trident ballistic missiles launched from Vanguard submarines, one of which is always 'at the ready' - and never been lobbied by anyone in favour.
Yesterday, I sat in on a 5 hour debate on defence policy, inspired by the new back bench committee. The debate became dominated by 'Trident' replacement policy. I was there on behalf of the Wales Office to hear any contributions from Welsh MPs or that referred to matters affecting Wales. Reason for all this Trident turbulence was that the BBC had reported earlier in the day that the replacement programme could be delayed by 5 years as a cost-cutting measure. As I listened to the Minister for the Armed Forces, Nick Harvey speaking, it became clear that the report was total tosh (which is not to say that it hadn't been leaked of course!).
The actual position is that the last Government decided to commission a Trident replacement programme, which is going ahead as planned. There has been no change. No proposals to reverse this decision. The date on which the 'point of no return' will be reached, when the final, final, final green light is given is late 2014/early 2015. It seems that the Coalition Government has decided to review the expenditure profile of the programme, which is sensible, but which may delay things by a few months (or may not). Nick Harvey could not have been more explicit. Still, I should be grateful to the BBC for running big with such a total b****** story because the ensuing outrage from some of my colleagues enabled me to acquire a reasonable knowledge about a subject that I should have known a lot more about.
Whether the Coalition Government should be going ahead with this programme is, of course, a seperate debate altogether, and one which may well draw some comment. My aim in this post has been to spread a bit of fact about where we are.