John Woodcock MP: In an uncertain world we must renew our commitment to the national endeavour of continuous at-sea deterrence
Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock marks the 50th anniversary of the first UK nuclear patrol by HMS Resolution. He is hosting an event in parliament to mark this anniversary, which will be attended by Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith.
Just over 50 years since the first nuclear patrol was begun by the Barrow-built HMS Resolution, MPs will gather in parliament today to mark the extraordinary commitment of Royal Navy submariners to protecting the nation from nuclear blackmail.
The work that has gone into keeping us safe round the clock since the patrols began to operate 365 days a year, 24 hours a day from April 1969 has been truly remarkable.
So with continuous at-sea deterrence (CASD) in its 50th year, it is a great honour to bring people together to show our gratitude. It is also a moment to take stock of what we must do to ensure the UK can remain deter hostile nuclear attack in the turbulent, unpredictable decades ahead.
In July 2016, parliament passed an historic vote to replace the ageing Vanguard submarines that carry the Trident missile system. As we will hear today, a supply chain of over 1000 companies in every corner of the UK is already at work or gearing up for the Dreadnought-class taking shape in Barrow shipyard.
But we cannot waste a moment. Further delay to the build programme could fatally undermine CASD. The current class of submarines, the Vanguard boats, have had their operational life extended into the 2030s after the 2010 coalition government delayed the renewal vote.
It is proving more complex and costly to keep the Vanguard-class submarines seaworthy well beyond the age for which they were designed, so we are in a race against time to get the new boats ready.
Even more pressing than the corrosive power of the sea on ageing submarine hulls, however, is the need to maintain the political consensus around the need to continue UK nuclear deterrence for as long as other states have the capability to launch a strike against us.
The misleadingly named ‘peace doctrine’ being pursued by some in my former party would instantly render the deterrent powerless to deter our adversaries, creating huge instability, and put a massive question mark over thousands of the most highly skilled manufacturing and engineering jobs on the planet.
That is why I am so delighted that shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith has agreed to speak at today’s reception. She has been a strong supporter of renewal throughout her time in the post.
We must never give up on the cause of non-proliferation that could ultimately put the horror of nuclear weapons out of reach. But with the world so uncertain, let us salute and renew our commitment to the national endeavour that keeps men and women under the waves protecting us every single minute of every day.
John Woodcock is the Independent MP for Barrow and Furness