Peter Hoskin

The coalition needs to think harder about renewing Trident

The coalition needs to think harder about renewing Trident
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What do we have here, then? Another public disagreement between Downing Street and Liam Fox? Certainly looks that way, as George Osborne assures an interviewer in India that the entire cost of Trident should be borne by the Ministry of Defence's budget. As the Telegraph reminds us, Fox suggests that the running costs of Trident should be part of the MoD's responsibilities (as they are currently), but the approximate £20 billion capital cost of renewing the nuclear deterrent should be paid for by central government. In his words, on Marr a couple of weeks ago: "To take the capital cost would make it very difficult to maintain what we are currently doing in terms of capability."

To my mind, this just underlines why the government needs to have a long, hard think about the renewal of Trident. Can it be afforded by central government, let alone by a department facing cuts that will most likely total 11 percent – but which could push 25 percent? Some argue that it has to be afforded as a strategic imperative, while the coalition agreement says that the renewal will go ahead while being "scrutinised to ensure value for money". But I'm not so sure. At the very least, the government should consider doing what Des Browne suggested on Monday, and put Trident up for debate in the Strategic Defence Review.