18 February 2011
Parts for the replacement nuclear deterrent submarines have already been ordered and the government plans to order steel for the first boat's hull before the decision to continue with the programme is put to MPs, defence ministers have confirmed.
Several items will be ordered before the 2016 Main Gate decision is made and the US government has already ordered some parts from American suppliers on behalf of the UK, it was revealed.
In a series of questions in the Commons, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) vice-chair Jeremy Corbyn MP asked whether the government would be purchasing any components of the replacement submarine before the Main Gate decision.
Defence Secretary Liam Fox said: "The specialist high strength steel needed for the hull structure for the first boat is included as a long-lead item in the Initial Gate Business Case for the programme.
"This is due to the length of time needed for the mill run, that means that the order must be placed prior to Main Gate in order not to put at risk the in-service date."
In a separate answer it was revealed that one $3m order for "materials related to propulsion" was placed by the US government on behalf of the UK after the Trident Value for Money review in November 2010.
Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey said: "Contracts will be placed at the appropriate times throughout the assessment phase for those long-lead items that are included in initial gate to ensure we meet the in-service date of the Trident replacement."
Afterwards Labour MP Corbyn said that the items could be worth over £1bn and that ordering them was a "flagrant abuse of Parliament".
"This is not some small project that needs a couple of parts ahead of time, but the biggest of all defence items where every decision has global implications. When MPs last voted on this, Tony Blair made it clear he was seeking 'parliamentary approval for the concept and design phase'- not the construction of new submarines. The orders Liam Fox plans to take are therefore illegitimate, without parliamentary authority and must be halted."
Former Lib-Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell, who had hailed the delaying of the Main Gate decision as a victory for the Lib Dems in the coalition, said: "Although there is a cost involved in ordering the steel, this is by no means a green flag for Trident."
Kate Hudson, General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said "Ordering the steel to build the submarine is what any ordinary person would think of as deciding to build the submarine. This decision is a real slap in the face for the Lib Dems and a betrayal of the commitments made to them by the Prime Minister. Nick Clegg was told the decision was delayed until 2016 - after the end of the coalition agreement, but it seems either he was sold a con, or Liam Fox is jumping the gun without the agreement of one half of the government."