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Trident Nuclear deterrent, majority of MPs voted renewal , UK Parliament ,July18 2016

MPs voted strongly on Monday to renew Britain's ageing nuclear weapons system, a multibillion-pound project regarded as key to maintaining the country's status as a world power following its vote to leave the European Union.

Despite opposition from the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) and some in the opposition Labour Party, parliament approved the renewal of the Scottish-based nuclear-armed Trident submarines by 472 to 117 votes.

John Bercow, speaker of the House of Commons announced the result of the vote

Some opponents said the vote was being used by new Prime Minister Theresa May to unify her party, which has a parliamentary majority of 16, after a bruising Brexit campaign, and embarrass Labour by highlighting its own deep divisions.

In her first statement in parliament as prime minister, May urged lawmakers to back Trident, not only to protect Britain from growing threats from Russia and North Korea, but also to protect thousands of jobs in Scotland and elsewhere.

Trident Missle launch at sea, from a submerged nuclear powered submarine 

"What this country needs to do is to recognise that it faces a variety of threats and to ensure we have the capabilities that are necessary and appropriate to deal with each of those threats," she said ahead of the vote.

Britain needed to retain a nuclear deterrent which had been an insurance policy for nearly 50 years, May said.

"We cannot outsource the grave responsibility we shoulder for keeping our people safe ... That would be a reckless gamble: a gamble that would enfeeble our allies and embolden our enemies; a gamble with the safety and security of families in Britain that we must never be prepared to take."
HMS Vangaurd nuclear sub, launched in 1993 , is already 23 years old  

Parliament agreed in principle in 2007 to replace the deterrent system and Monday's vote was to rubber stamp the decision to approve the building of four submarines to ensure Britain can have nuclear weapons continuously on patrol at sea.


British PM May says nuclear disarmament would be 'quite wrong'
U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter said in February Britain must renew the submarines, based at Faslane, if it wanted to maintain its "outsized" role in world affairs.

During more than five hours of debate in parliament, many argued that failing to renew the system would mark Britain retreating from the world.
UK parliament MPS deabte before vote was taken later in the day to renew the Nuclear Deterrent weapons system Trident 

However, Scottish nationalists and some in Labour believe the weapons are no longer needed as they are little use against terrorists and the money could be better spent elsewhere.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has been challenged by two candidates seeking to take the helm of the centre-left party, questioned the need for Britain to possess "weapons of mass destruction" and said it should press for a nuclear-free world.

"I would not take a decision that kills millions of people, I do not believe the threat of mass murder is a legitimate way to go about dealing with international relations," said Corbyn, who had indicated his lawmakers could vote freely on Trident.

Many Labour lawmakers criticised their leader's view, which is in contrast with the party's official position on Trident.

SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson said the renewal was opposed by Scotland, where May's Conservatives hold just one of the 59 seats in the British parliament.

"It is obscene that the priority of this government ... is to spend billions of pounds on outdated nuclear weapons that we do not want, do not need and could never use," he said during the debate.

"This government has a democratic deficit in Scotland and with today's vote on Trident it is going to get worse not better."


Some military officials also oppose the outlay on Trident, saying the money would be better spent on maintaining the army and on more conventional technology, both of which have recently suffered cutbacks.

The Ministry of Defence has said replacing the four submarines would cost 31 billion pounds ($41 billion), plus a contingency fund of 10 billion pounds, with another 4 billion already allocated to the design process.

Defence firms BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Babcock can expect to benefit from a renewal, with the new submarines expected to enter service from 2028.

However, in response to a freedom of information request from Reuters in March, the ministry said it could not provide details of the costs for the nuclear warheads, support services infrastructure and running costs over the system's expected life.

 Crispin Blunt Conservative Member of Parliament and  chairmanship of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee suggests it could reach 167 billion pounds ($220 billion) over 32 years.

Blunt said on Monday the costs had increased and may eventually reach 180 billion pounds.

"I oppose the renewal of Trident because I care about the security of my country," he said in a statement. "I'm not prepared to be party to the most egregious act of self-harm to our conventional defence."

Nuclears submarines update requirement 

The most pressing concern are the reactors on board the Vanguard submarines. British submarines (both the Vanguards and the attack submarines we use to sink enemy ships and stalk enemy nuclear subs) are powered by nuclear reactors that let a submarine sail for decades without the need to refuel. The problem is that once the reactors do run out of power, the systems are so integrated with the rest of the submarine that the whole vessel must be replaced - you can’t just swap them out like batteries. Once the reactor goes, the submarine goes as well, and designing and building a replacement takes years.

The second reason is that the technology a potential aggressor might use to detect a submarine is advancing all the time – and if an enemy knows where a Vanguard is when it’s at sea, the submarine can be sunk as part of a first strike. Britain is, says Collins, very, very good at making silent submarines, but as he puts it, they “won’t remain so perfectly silent forever.”

Sceptical Politicians

“I think lots of [politicians] are sceptical that Britain will ever use its nuclear weapons in the future. A scenario where Britain is isolated, there’s no NATO, someone is threatening us with nuclear weapons, and only our nuclear capability is saving us… That’s a very narrowly defined set of circumstances that may never happen.

“However, if you’re a politician, and your job is ultimately the security of your people into the future, and no-one can tell you what the future looks like… If you’re suddenly in charge of that decision, and if in 30 or 40 years Britain needed this capability and you were the guy who voted to get rid of it… That’s a very difficult calculation to make.

“I think a lot of critics should consider what it’s like to sit in that seat,” he says. “What if this thing is necessary, and what if we got rid of it?”

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