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Liberal Democrat policy on Trident

The Liberal Democrats are in support of replacing Trident with new ballistic-missile submarines, but with fewer than four.

Liberal Democrat Manifesto 2015:

"Step down the nuclear ladder by procuring fewer Vanguard successor submarines and moving from continuous at sea deterrence to a contingency posture of regular patrols, enabling a surge to armed patrols when the international security context makes this appropriate. This would help us to fulfil our Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty commitments and reduce the UK nuclear warhead stockpile" (Lib Dem manifesto)


In the 2010 election the Liberal Democrats adopted a position on Trident which was clearly distinct from Labour and the Conservatives. They said they did not support a like-for-like replacement for Trident and left an opening for non-replacement as an option.

Since being part of the Coalition government their position has move significantly back toward the pro-nuclear Labour-Conservative consensus. They initiated a review into Trident Alternatives. However the study was conducted by the Cabinet Office who inevitably concluded that alternative nuclear weapon systems were less attractive. The review did not consider non-replacement. It argued that other nuclear weapons options would be more expensive than a ballistic-missile submarine system (like Trident). This has resulted in the Liberal Democrats joining Labour and the Conservatives in calling for the construction of new Trident-type submarines. The option of non-replacement is no longer mentioned by the Lib Dem leadership.

The Liberal Democrats, unlike Labour and the Conservatives, argue that the new submarines do not need to maintain a continuous at-sea patrol. Consequently they suggest that 3 rather than 4 submarines might be built.

Danny Alexander said that these changes would reduce the through-life cost of the new system by £4 billion.  As these whole-life costs are £100 billion, this means that Danny's cheap alternative would still cost £96 billion.