Former navy head wants sub decision

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Aircraft carrier project leaves defence budgets ‘exposed’, MPs warn

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THE government should get on with ordering replacements for the Trident submarines, a former head of the Royal Navy says.

Lord Alan West, the First Sea Lord from 2002 to 2006, said at least two new Vanguard submarines would be needed and ministers should make a decision now to remove the uncertainty faced by more than 1,000 workers.

Lib Dem Cabinet minister Danny Alexander has produced a government review of Trident, examining alternatives to the Tory-favoured £20bn replacement of the UK’s four nuclear submarines on a like-for-like basis when they are decommissioned.

His review, which is being considered by Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, is expected to include cheaper options for the UK to maintain its deterrent, which could include scaling back the number of subs and potentially losing a continuous sea deterrent.

Lord West, a Labour peer and former security minister, said at question time in the House of Lords: ‘Unsurprisingly the alternatives review seems to show that there aren’t really any alternatives to replacing the Vanguard submarines if we wish to maintain our best value and capable deterrent.

‘The only thing that is going to be looked at further is continuous sea deterrent and even in that the worst probability is they have to order two Vanguard replacements.

‘We should order those two now to remove the uncertainty hanging over 1,000 very skilled workers and their families 
about their future and also save £300m.’

Answering for the government, Lord Wallace of Saltaire replied: ‘I’m not sure that major defence decisions should be driven either by the need to employ a large number of people building aircraft carriers in Scotland or by the need to maintain employment in Barrow-in-Furness.

‘There are larger issues at stake.’