The Future of the UK's Strategic Nuclear Deterrent: the Manufacturing and Skills Base

Session 2006-07, 19 December 2006

Publication of Report


Maintaining the manufacturing and skills base will be essential if the UK decides to retain its submarine-based nuclear deterrent, says a report published today by the House of Commons Defence Committee (Fourth Report of Session 2006-07, The future of the UK’s strategic nuclear deterrent: the manufacturing and skills base, HC 59).

The MPs, who will examine the Government’s White Paper in their next report, highlight the manufacturing and skills base issues which will need to be addressed if a decision is made to renew the submarine-based deterrent. But they say decisions on the future of the deterrent must be taken on the strategic defence needs of the country, not on industrial and employment factors. The MPs say:

  • The UK’s submarine programme requires a uniquely skilled and specialist workforce. But the skills base is now at a critical level and any further erosion would have significant implications for the UK’s ability to design and build nuclear-powered submarines. Sustaining the skills base will require regular and continuous submarine work.

  • Developing a successor to the Vanguard submarine would be a huge undertaking and it is essential that the Ministry of Defence has the capacity to manage such a programme effectively.  Its shortage of systems engineers and project managers is a cause of serious concern.

  • Affordability must be a fundamental consideration: industry must collaborate more effectively to drive down and control costs and the Ministry of Defence must be clear and consistent about operational requirements and specifications.

Commenting on the report, Committee Chairman Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP said “If we are to build a new generation of Trident submarines here in the UK, as the Government’s White Paper suggests, we will have to work to sustain our manufacturing and skills base. The skilled workforce we have at Barrow, Devonport, Derby and Aldermaston are truly world-class. If we lose them, we will lose our capability to design and build nuclear submarines. But industrial factors must not be decisive in this debate. The future of our nuclear deterrent must be made, first and foremost, on the defence needs of the country. These broader issues, as outlined in the White Paper, will be the focus of our next inquiry which begins in January.”


1. Committee Membership is as follows: Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP (Chairman), Mr David S Borrow MP, Mr David Crausby MP, Linda Gilroy MP, Mr David Hamilton MP, Mr Mike Hancock MP, Mr Dai Havard MP, Mr Adam Holloway MP, Mr Bernard Jenkin MP, Mr Brian Jenkins MP, Mr Kevan Jones MP, Robert Key MP, Willie Rennie MP, John Smith MP

2. News Release: No. 12


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