Select Committee on Defence Written Evidence

Supplementary memorandum from the Ministry of Defence

  Thank you for your letter of 7 February. Responses to the four questions posed by Committee members are set out in the attachment to this letter.

  We would also like to take this opportunity to provide additional information in order to expand on and clarify four issues raised during the evidence session.

  First, in relation to Question 351, about the life-extension programme for the Trident D5 missile, we have a clear understanding with the United States that the programme will not involve any enhancement to the payload, range or accuracy of the missile. Paragraph 1.8 of the White Paper reflects that understanding.

  Second, in relation to Question 358, on the White Paper not referring to a sub-strategic role for Trident, we maintain—and plan to retain in future—the ability to vary the numbers of missiles and warheads which might be employed. This, coupled with the continued availability of a lower yield from our warhead, can make our nuclear forces a more credible deterrent against smaller nuclear threats. This was set out in paragraph 4-9 of the recent White Paper and Lord Drayson made this position clear in his speech in the House of Lords debate on the White Paper on the Future of the UK's Nuclear Deterrent on 24 January (Official Record, column 1107). The text of the White Paper did not represent any change in what has been a long-standing position that we would only ever contemplate the use of our nuclear capabilities in extreme circumstances of self defence.

  Third, in relation to Question 401 on possible collaboration on submarine programmes, we believe that there are potential opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation and collaboration with the US in relation to our respective future submarine programmes, including future ballistic missile carrying submarines. As the Committee indicated, this was referred to in the exchanges of letters between the President of the United States and the Prime Minister. The details of what this might involve in practice will need to be the subject of further work between the UK and the US.

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