1 Introduction |
1. In July 2005, we announced that we would conduct
a series of inquiries into the future of the UK's strategic nuclear
deterrent over the course of the current Parliament. Our intention
was to encourage and inform the public debate on the future of
the nuclear deterrent and to highlight the key issues and questions
to be addressed in that debate.
2. Our first report, published in June 2006, focused
on the strategic context and timetable for decision-making.
It considered the threats which the UK's deterrent was intended
to combat, which countries could develop nuclear weapons capabilities
in the 2025 to 2050 timeframe, and how this might affect the strategic
context in which decisions on the UK's deterrent would be made.
And it sought to clarify the timetable within which these decisions
would be taken and implemented.
3. In this second-stage inquiry, we have focused
on the UK manufacturing and skills base. We have considered the
level of investment needed to sustain essential infrastructure
and core skills in the UK submarine construction industry; the
potential consequences of a gap in the submarine building programme
for the long-term viability of the domestic manufacturing and
skills base; the implications of the rationalisation of the UK
ship-building industry for the construction, maintenance and affordability
of a Vanguard-class successor; and the linkage between the Government's
Defence Industrial Strategy and the decision on retention, replacement
or abolition of the UK's Trident system. We have also examined
the Government's investment programme at the Atomic Weapons Establishment
and we have considered the possible impact of a new civil nuclear
build programme for the retention of nuclear skills and expertise
in the military sector.
4. As part of our inquiry, we visited the Atomic
Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston, Berkshire; BAE Systems at
Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria; Devonport Management Limited at Devonport
Royal Dockyard, Plymouth; Rolls-Royce at Raynesway, Derbyshire;
and HM Naval Base Clyde at Faslane and Coulport. We took evidence
at Westminster from BAE Systems, Devonport Management Limited,
Rolls-Royce, MacTaggart Scott, Alsthom, Weir Strachan and Henshaw,
the Keep Our Future Afloat Campaign, GMB, Amicus, Greenpeace,
CND, and Lord Drayson and Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials.
We are grateful to all those who contributed to our inquiry. And
we appreciate the assistance provided by our specialist advisers,
particularly Rear Admiral Richard Cheadle and Professor Michael
5. The Government's White Paper on the future of
the United Kingdom's nuclear deterrent was published on 4 December
2006. It concluded that
the UK should retain an independent, submarine-based nuclear deterrent
6. This report
does not seek to assess the findings and conclusions of the Government's
White Paper. That will be the focus of our next inquiry. We
intend to take oral evidence on the White Paper in the New Year,
and to publish our conclusions before the House of Commons debates
the future of the deterrent in March 2007.
7. The fact that this inquiry has focused on the
submarine manufacturing and skills base should not be taken as
an endorsement of the existing submarine-based nuclear deterrent,
or as an indication of our collective support for, or opposition
to, the renewal of that deterrent, submarine-based or otherwise.
Nor should it be taken to mean that we think industrial and employment
factors should be decisive in the debate on the future of the
deterrent. Any decisions
on the future of the UK's deterrent should be taken on the strategic
defence needs of the country. Our intention in making this report
is to ensure that the House of Commons, and the public, are aware
of the manufacturing and skills base issues which will need to
be addressed if a decision is made to renew the submarine-based
deterrent. We recommend that the Government respond to this report
in good time for publication before the debate in the House of
Commons on the White Paper in March 2007.
1 Defence Committee, Eighth Report of Session 2005-06,
The Future of the UK's Strategic Nuclear Deterrent, HC
Ministry of Defence and Foreign and Commonwealth Office, The
Future of the United Kingdom's Nuclear Deterrent, Cm 6994,
December 2006 Back