I believe that we are owed the results of the review instigated by the hon. Member for North Devon. This House needs to be informed about these questions. We need to understand where we are through a cost-benefit analysis of the replacement Vanguard submarine system with Trident missiles, which will mean getting the data on the re-engineering of the Trident missiles and the

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new engines they might need during the course of their next deployment, alongside an understanding of issues around the use of tactical nuclear warheads on cruise missiles. In any scenario planning I did when I was engaged as a special adviser in defence and foreign affairs, the only conceivable situation I could see for using the missiles was for taking out pinpoint targets of rogue states or rogue terrorist groups equipped with missiles that had the capability to launch weapons of mass destruction at us—and for that we would want a small pinpoint weapon, not a strategic weapon that would wreak massive and unacceptable collateral damage in the process.

I am extremely grateful for the debate and for the review, and I think we should keep an open mind until we can reach a proper decision on this matter.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr Speaker: Order. I am looking to each of the two Front-Bench speakers to take no longer than 10 minutes —20 minutes in total—if we are to accommodate Back-Bench Members who wish to speak. I am afraid that for them, the time limit will have to be reduced to four minutes from now on. My apologies to colleagues, but I am keen to get people in and I know the Front Benchers will want to take account of that.


4.13 pm

Mr Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab): I start by paying tribute to members of our armed forces and their families for the work they do. In the context of this debate, I particularly commend members of the Royal Navy who work on our independent nuclear deterrent. I congratulate the Backbench Business Committee on securing this important debate about the cornerstone of our nation’s security.

The security landscape today is both uncertain and unpredictable. New threats such as cyber-warfare and biological terrorism exist alongside the conventional threats. In response, we must have a broad, advanced equipment programme that enables us not only to detect, but to deter and tackle the whole spectrum of threats we face as a nation.

We on the Labour Benches are clear that an independent nuclear deterrent is in our national interest. It has been argued, and it has been repeated today, that our nuclear deterrent was a cold war legacy. It is correct that many of the old divisions of the cold war have gone, but they have been replaced with new uncertainties: the recent unrest in Pakistan, advanced missile testing in North Korea and the intractable problem of Iran. Although it is impossible to predict the future, the one thing that is certain is that it is unpredictable. All that shows how important it is for the United Kingdom to retain an independent nuclear deterrent.

In 2007, Parliament took the view—supported by the Labour Government of the day—that a submarine-based system with ballistic missiles provided for the minimum credible nuclear deterrent, and was the most-effective model to meet our strategic needs. It is also our stated objective to play an active and constructive role in international efforts to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. There is no evidence that a unilateralist posture would advance that goal.

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The United Kingdom is a proud and prominent signatory to the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. That treaty has three pillars, through which we must view our nuclear deterrent: non-proliferation, disarmament, and facilitation of the peaceful use of nuclear technology. That is why I am proud that the last Labour Government reduced the size of the nuclear stockpile. We cut the number of operationally available warheads from 300 at the time of the 1998 strategic defence review to fewer than 160 by the time of the 2010 general election, reduced the number of warheads carried per submarine from 96 to 48, and withdrew the WE177 nuclear capability from service. I believe that it should be a cross-party priority for the UK to continue on that path towards nuclear disarmament, alongside our international allies.

It is essential for our decisions on the future of the deterrent to be based on evidence and on what is in our national interest rather than on any political-party interest. We are therefore committed to examining any new evidence rigorously in order to establish whether there are alternatives to the conclusions of the last review in 2006. That examination must feature two priorities, capability and cost: they must be our guiding principles. We want the UK to have the minimum credible deterrent, in line with our national security needs and our international obligations, and we want to ensure that we achieve maximum value for money. All options must be examined, and we look forward to close examination of the Government’s review of alternatives. I consider that to be a responsible and rational approach.

While we must insist on rigorous policy-making, we fear that the review is an exercise in Liberal Democrat and Conservative party management rather than the management of our national interest. We question the validity of a review that has lasted more than two years, and whose conclusions the Prime Minister rejected before it even began.

The president of the Liberal Democrats says that he wants to make the review an election issue, so why is it being run from the Cabinet Office at the taxpayer’s expense? Can it have any credibility, given that the Liberal Democrats opted out of ministerial responsibility for defence and foreign affairs, and given that the person in charge of the review, the right hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (Danny Alexander), does not even have a pass allowing him to enter the MOD’s main building?

The real test of the review, however, should be not whether it allows the Government parties to indulge in a strategy of differentiation, but whether it explores in sufficient detail and depth what is—as has already been explained—an inherently complex and technical subject. If it appears to promote an alternative as an end point in itself, it will have not just failed all those who seek a genuine debate, but punctured the Government’s claim to have credibility on this vital issue.

There are a number of potential alternatives to the current nuclear deterrent, which I hope the review will explore. Let me briefly comment on each of them.

The first option is an air-based system. It was considered to be the most costly option of all in the 2006 review, requiring the procurement of new aircraft, a new missile and new operating bases. In addition, its visibility would

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increase its vulnerability. The estimated cost of the second option—a land-based silo system—is double that of the current submarine-based system. It has also been questioned on strategic grounds, as it is immobile and unconcealable, and therefore vulnerable to attack. Any review would also need to address where the system would be located. I am not sure there would be many volunteers to have that based in their constituency. Thirdly, any consideration of a surface ship-based system would also need to cast aside doubts about vulnerability and detectability. Fourthly, the review will need to focus on a submarine-based system armed with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles. The costs of this option will need to be examined closely, including the cost of developing a new warhead independently from our US allies. Also, Astutes would have to be adapted or another platform would need to be procured, which could result in a lessening of our current hunter-killer capability. Concern has also been expressed that arming submarines with dual-use cruise missiles could prove escalatory during a crisis, as our enemies would not know whether the submarine was a conventional or nuclear-armed vessel.

International factors must also be considered, such as compliance with the nuclear test-ban treaty, the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and the USA’s 2010 nuclear posture review. If we were to go down the cruise missile route, we would need more warheads in order to penetrate targets and it could be argued that that would break one of those treaties.

I do not have time to cover every detail, but we do need to have a meaningful discussion—a function today’s debate is fulfilling. This is a delicate topic that sparks strong passions, even within parties. That is why an evidence-based approach free from political positioning is so important. We will consider the technical, military, security and financial issues, and look closely at all the details of the Government’s alternatives review. For Opposition Members, the facts that support our national security needs will always be our focus.

4.22 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Philip Dunne): I welcome this opportunity to speak about such an important element of the nation’s defence capability, and I thank my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) for securing this debate and for making so many cogent arguments in his speech. The House has not debated the need for a strategic deterrent for some time, and it is right that we do so.

I echo and welcome my hon. Friend’s strong support for the Government’s unwavering commitment to retain an operationally independent nuclear deterrent, based on Trident and operating on the basis of continuous at-sea posture. I also welcome the support of the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman, the hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones).

As many Members are aware, our continuous at-sea deterrence patrols under Operation Relentless have been operating without pause since 1969. It is the UK’s most enduring military operation. I pay tribute to the crews of our submarines and their families, and all the men and women, both military and civilian, whose support has been essential to this operation, and I thank them for their unwavering dedication.

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Whether we like it or not, we live in a nuclear age, and have done so since the first atomic weapons were tested in July 1945. We cannot put back the clock and un-invent nuclear weapons. Most of us in this House are not, as was alleged by the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn), locked in the permafrost of the cold war, but we do recall the bipolar stand-off between the west and the Soviet Union. They were dangerous and often tense times, but in contrast to the uncertainties of the present, the cold war years now, almost paradoxically, appear to have been more stable, as we knew then who our adversary was. We are now living in a period of increasing threat of nuclear weapons proliferation. Other states, not all well disposed towards us or our allies, located in highly unstable regions are on the verge of owning these weapons. That makes the current era far less predictable. It is a sobering fact that, although our nuclear arsenal, like those of our allies and Russia, has reduced significantly since the early 1990s, the reductions have not encouraged states that are seeking a nuclear weapon capability to cease their attempts to cross the nuclear threshold.

In April 2009, President Obama said that

“the threat of global nuclear war has gone down, but the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up.”

I see no reason to disagree with the President’s remarks. We live in a perilous world. North Korea has tested nuclear devices and ballistic missiles, in defiance of the international community, and it maintains a threatening stance towards its neighbours in north-east Asia. Iran is determined to continue producing highly enriched uranium, in excess of any conceivable non-military need, and it continues to develop a ballistic missile capability and maintains a hostile stance towards both the west and many of its immediate neighbours. The actions of those countries reinforce my view that Britain needs a nuclear deterrent to protect us from nuclear coercion, nuclear blackmail and nuclear attack.

NATO has been the bedrock of our defence and security since 1949. At a time when the United States—its main contributor—is shifting focus from the north Atlantic to the Pacific, a non-nuclear Britain would weaken an international organisation that makes a crucial contribution to global peace and security. Would the world be a better place with a weakened NATO—with a NATO that may become less certain of its role and purpose? I do not think it would.

Given those circumstances, it would be an act of supreme folly to abandon unilaterally the nuclear deterrent that has served us, and our allies, well for more than half a century. To disarm unilaterally would send entirely the wrong signal. It would undermine our credibility as a reliable partner and NATO’s credibility as an alliance. NATO is a nuclear alliance, and its recently agreed new strategic concept makes it clear that our nuclear forces, including those based in Scotland, contribute to its overall deterrence and security.

We share the vision of a world without nuclear weapons, but only if that is achieved through multilateral disarmament. We take the disarmament commitments of article VI of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty very seriously. We therefore fully support multilateral nuclear disarmament, when the conditions are right. That is a long-term process which will take many years, although we have taken a leading role in arranging and participating in P5 conferences since 2010. We have already reduced the size of our deterrent considerably since the end of

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the cold war, and in the strategic defence and security review we committed to reducing it further, as has been identified by the hon. Member for North Durham. It will decrease from a stockpile of about 300 warheads in the mid-1990s to no more than 180 by the mid-2020s. Under SDSR 10 we undertook to reduce the number of operationally available warheads to no more than 120 by the mid-2020s. That means that we already have probably the smallest arsenal of the P5 powers, and are the only P5 power to rely on a single delivery system. Our disarmament credentials are second to none, yet all this progress has not been matched by emerging nuclear states. It is simply wishful thinking that any further UK disarmament would be a catalyst for disarmament elsewhere.

It has sometimes been argued by hon. Members that we face new security threats in the 21st century for which the nuclear deterrent is not relevant, but nobody has ever claimed that nuclear weapons are an all-purpose deterrent. We have a wide range of capabilities to deal with the wide range of potential threats that we face.

The fact remains that we cannot pick and choose which threats we should face. Not every capability is suitable for every threat and the nuclear deterrent is the only secure way to deter nuclear threats. In making it clear to potential adversaries that they cannot infringe our vital interests without risk and in providing reassurance to our allies, our deterrent helps prevent major war and provides a backdrop that enables us to pursue a foreign policy that seeks to enhance international trust and security and to promote conflict resolution.

The abandonment of the nuclear deterrent would deprive us of the means to counter the most extreme threats from adversaries armed with weapons of mass destruction. It would leave us vulnerable to blackmail, coercion and attack from those adversaries. For all those reasons, I wholeheartedly support the decision of the Government to maintain a continuous submarine-based deterrent and to replace the current Vanguard class submarines when they leave service in the late 2020s.

A continuous at-sea deterrent also has considerable diplomatic utility. Let us think of the impact, if we did not have continuous at-sea deterrence, of a decision the Prime Minister might have to make to provide an order to put an intermittent deterrent to sea. That act alone could exacerbate an already tense international situation. Operating the deterrent on an intermittent basis might well require additional conventional military assets to enable the deterrent to put to sea, assets that are not required in the routine of a continuous posture.

By being continuously at sea, the deterrent maximises our political freedom of manoeuvre in crisis. A submarine-launched ballistic missile system offers invulnerability, range and endurance. All promote the credibility of this ultimate safeguard for national security. It is a permanent factor for a potential aggressor.

Hon. Members have also charged that the renewal of the deterrent is an extravagant use of resources at a time of great financial stringency and fiscal uncertainty. The first duty of any Government is to ensure the security of the nation, its people and their vital interests. This Government do not and will not gamble with Britain’s national security. We recognise that people wish to be reassured that the money will be well spent and the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock)—it is a pleasure to see him in his place—rightly highlighted

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some of the reasons Trident is the most cost-effective delivery mechanism available within the necessary time scale. That is why the Government scrutinised the procurement programme for the successor to ensure value for money and will continue to submit it to rigorous scrutiny in the run-up to the main-gate investment decision in 2016. We are talking about maintaining a capability of service until the middle of the century and it is essential that we can protect the UK against future uncertainties that might arise 15 to 50 years from now. I challenge any advocate of unilateral disarmament to predict what threats we might face over that period.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr Speaker: Order. Some time ago, I imposed a limit of four minutes on Back-Bench speeches. I am about to call the right hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne East (Mr Brown), and if all nine hon. Members who wish to speak are to get in, nearer to three minutes is what is required. I am in the hands of the House and I know that the House will try to help itself.

4.32 pm

Mr Nicholas Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne East) (Lab): It is a pleasure to make a very short contribution to the debate. I congratulate the hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) not only on having secured it, which is a triumph in itself, but on how he argued the case for Britain’s independent nuclear submarine-based deterrent. It was the strongest series of arguments that I have heard made in one place for the renewal of the Trident platform. I do not agree with those arguments, but they were strongly made and the hon. Gentleman drew together all the different points that can be made.

Let me make two points back to the hon. Gentleman. First, we are purchasing something we cannot use, and secondly, we are doing it with money we have not got. They seem to me to be two pretty strong arguments to weigh in the balance. The hon. Member for North Devon (Sir Nick Harvey) referred to the cost and the impact on the defence budget. Frankly, we should think about the impact on the public finances more generally. We are in danger of sleepwalking into a commitment of some £80 billion to £100 billion, with a deployment cost of £1 billion a year, without properly discussing it in this place, so I congratulate the hon. Member for New Forest East on having secured this short discussion.

I ask all hon. Members in what conceivable circumstances in the world today they could envisage the United Kingdom taking the decision unilaterally to use nuclear weapons against another nation. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to envisage such circumstances. An independent nuclear deterrent does not address the security demands or the realities of international instability which the United Kingdom faces. This is not to argue that we do not face international threats in the 21st century. Of course we do. What I am arguing is that they are more complex and sophisticated and require a more intelligent response than a big 20th century bomb—a weapon of the cold war whose time, if it ever existed, has most certainly passed.

International terrorism is not combated or deterred by an independent deterrent. Trident does not counter the ever increasing number of cyber attacks on our

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nation’s digital infrastructure. It does not address political, socio-economic or environmental injustices that lead to global instability. These are the pressing issues that the United Kingdom faces and we hamper our ability to deal with them by focusing our defence priorities and spending on a cold war weapons system.

I am in favour of our membership of NATO. We make a strong contribution to the alliance and we should trust it and rely upon its possession collectively of a strategic deterrent, if there is an argument for the strategic deterrent at all.

In summary, this is a weapons system that we cannot use. The cost is disproportionate to the hard-to-identify benefits and it makes no sense in terms of our alliance with other friendly nations, of our international obligations or even as a response to the security threats faced by the United Kingdom.

Mr Speaker: A model of pithiness, which I know the hon. Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart) will want to emulate or better.

4.36 pm

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): Thank you, Mr Speaker. I shall be as quick as I can.

I was a cold war warrior, as was my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr Blunt), and I spent many of my early years in Germany with tactical nuclear weapons. I also studied nuclear deterrence at university and I came to the conclusion that tactical nuclear weapons were too incredible for us ever to use. I was delighted when we got rid of them. That left strategic nuclear weapons.

I believe that the strategic nuclear deterrent does deter, and for that reason we must keep it. It can work only if it is invulnerable. As far as we can tell, the most invulnerable system involves a submarine. That submarine is currently being renewed. I support the renewal of an independent nuclear deterrent because we have no idea what will happen in the future of our world, and when there is great risk I prefer to have an insurance policy that maintains the status quo.

4.37 pm

Mike Gapes (Ilford South) (Lab/Co-op): Reference was made earlier in the debate to the period of the Reagan-Gorbachev Administrations. General Secretary Gorbachev in the 1980s called for a nuclear-free world by 2000. Remember that? Of course, the Soviet Union ended and the world we live in, as many speakers have commented, is much more complicated now than it was at that time. None of us knows where we will be in 30 or 40 years, and the decisions that are to be taken make assumptions about a future that we cannot predict.

We have heard references in the debate also to the continuation of NATO. I am a member of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. I have serious doubts whether in the next 20 or 30 years the United States will give Europe a global commitment of extended deterrence in the way it did at the height of the cold war.

Nobody has so far mentioned China in the debate. China is modernising its military assets significantly. It has nuclear weapons. At some point this century it will

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become a global power with projection all round the world, not just within its own coasts and the seas off its coasts.

If we are looking at the future of the world, I do not think any of us can be very confident about what the outcome will be. What we do know is that the non-proliferation regime is under serious threat, not just from countries such as North Korea, which have left the NPT, but from countries that are still within the NPT, such as Iran, and other countries that will follow any decision to weaponise a nuclear capability by the Iranians at some point. In 15 or 20 years’ time, there could be 10, 15 or 20 more countries with nuclear weapons. The world that we are going into requires international action. My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Sir Gerald Kaufman) mentioned the Labour party’s policy review in 1989. I was the secretary of that review, which changed our policy to deal with the realities that we were confronting at that time rather than the debate that had gone on theologically in the past.

We now need to make renewed efforts, and I wish the Minister and shadow Front Benchers would talk a little more about what role we can play with our nuclear weapons in facilitating new international disarmament negotiations, because they are not happening now. Despite President Obama’s Prague speech in 2009, the vision of a nuclear-free world is blocked because the Russians are not interested so long as missile defence is on the agenda. There is the danger of a proliferation of warheads to overcome missile defence if it is ever deployed. I conclude there to give others a chance.

4.40 pm

Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con): I commend the hon. Member for Ilford South (Mike Gapes), who has just made a powerful contribution to the debate, and my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) for securing it. I congratulate the Minister on delivering a model speech, which in a short time went through all the key arguments that justify the Government’s spending the money.

We need to lay more emphasis not just on how we might imagine the weapons system could be deployed but on the fact that it is in use every single day, shaping the global security environment that we enjoy today. It is no coincidence that the advent of nuclear weapons on the international scene has led to the longest period of peace among the superpowers and major powers of the world that we have ever seen.

War between super-states is now unthinkable because of nuclear weapons. That is rather a good thing and certainly an argument for our maintaining our inherited role of acting as a major democratic, friendly, benign, positive influence in global affairs, with our international role enhanced by nuclear weapons.

The issue is the sort of country that we are and that we want to continue to be. We are a country with global reach, global influence, global interests and the ability to enhance global security—not just for the world as a whole, but for the security of our own people.

Were we, irresponsibly, simply to dispose of our nuclear capability, we would be upsetting a balance that we may not even understand. We are down to fewer than 200 nuclear warheads. China, which has been

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mentioned, is increasing its number of warheads pretty dramatically with two new intercontinental ballistic missile systems and a new submarine-based intercontinental ballistic missile system. Russia, with its thousands and thousands of warheads—far more than it could possibly want—is building new nuclear weapons systems and new nuclear submarines for the delivery of those systems. We are not living in a world that is disarming, despite the incredibly generous gestures that our country has made. The next move downwards is not for us, but for others. If others will not make those moves, we must continue to guarantee our security and that of our allies.

I end on one fundamental point. Much is being made of the cost of Trident. I respect the view of those who over the years have been proved wrong but nevertheless carry on with their campaign to disarm our nuclear weapons. However, nothing is less honest than the idea that there is some cheaper system that will maintain the deterrent effect of our nuclear weapons or that somehow our current weapons system is vastly overspecified because of the Moscow criterion, to which completely obscure and mad reference has been made. That has nothing to do with the capability that we deploy today. It is totally irrelevant and a means of spreading disinformation about the credibility of our system so that the Liberal Democrats can get rid of our nuclear weapons system.

The Liberal Democrats know that there is no cheaper system. Just how cheap is it? It represents 0.1% of GDP over the lifetime of the system. I challenge anybody to produce any defence expenditure that can produce so much global influence.

4.45 pm

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): I have three minutes to put the case for a peaceful, non-nuclear Scotland liberated from the menace of Trident.

When we secure the levers of power and we have the responsibility for defence, we will not have Trident in Scotland. That is not just the view of the Scottish National party but the desired will of the Scottish people. Opinion poll after opinion poll has found that the Scottish people do not want this menace. The Churches do not want it, the Scottish Trades Union Conference does not want it, and the overwhelming majority of Members of the Scottish Parliament do not want it, as they said when tested in a vote in 2007. Scotland is not going to have it—with independence we will shove it out of our country and it will not be in our waters.

Trident is emerging as an iconic issue in the Scottish independence referendum; in fact, it is probably one of the main issues. Is it not therefore sad and depressing that not one Labour Back Bencher has spoken in this debate? It took an hour to find one to come and inhabit those Benches. Is that not an absolute and utter disgrace?

Sheila Gilmore (Edinburgh East) (Lab) rose—

Pete Wishart: I cannot give way; the Whips told me not to.

This is not just about retaining these abhorrent weapons, as the UK is the only country in the world that is indulging in unilateral nuclear rearmament. The hon. Member for North Devon (Sir Nick Harvey) rightly pointed out that Trident will cost, over its lifetime,

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£100 billion—an almost incomprehensible figure. It is a weapon designed for another age. It is designed to take on not the Bin Ladens of this world but the Brezhnevs. Yes, there are new threats in the world, as we are now seeing in Algeria and in Mali, but nothing would delight those insurgents more than our threatening them with nuclear weapons. While Trident is perhaps the least equipped weapon possible to deal with the challenges of the modern world, we are in the middle of a triple-dip recession. We are told that we have to ensure years and years of Tory austerity and that household incomes are going down month by month, yet we have to spend billions and billions of pounds on a weapon that we hope will never be used, and that is a moral abomination.

We will get rid of these weapons. An independent Scotland will make decisions that reflect Scotland’s interests and values. We will use our share of the cost of Trident to create jobs that meet the defence, economic and public service priorities of an independent Scotland. Our percentage share of the cost of running Trident is £163 million per year. Let us imagine what we could do with that money in rebuilding our public services and creating the conventional defence force that Scotland needs. [Interruption.] Here we go—every time we get to our feet we are heckled by Scottish Labour Members, and this is another example. They just cannot keep quiet—it is so typical. [Interruption.] They are still at it. I do not know if the cameras can pick it up, but it is always the same in these debates.

The Scottish people have a great opportunity to rid themselves of this evil weapon: if they want Trident out, they can vote yes for Scottish independence. The case for Scottish independence is compelling, and being able to rid Scotland of these evil weapons of mass destruction just helps that case.

4.48 pm

Penny Mordaunt (Portsmouth North) (Con): I want to speak in support of continuous at-sea deterrence—CASD—and explain why it is still relevant and required. Those who disagree tend to mischaracterise the threat in terms of their assessment of the behaviours and future intentions of specific nation states, or underestimate the threat from hostile non-state organisations, or conclude that CASD is a redundant concept because there may be emerging threats that it cannot effectively deter. Such arguments often hinge on the premise that one or more of the necessary conditions for credible deterrence is missing, those conditions being that the aggressor we are seeking to deter has rational political leadership, that the behaviours to be deterred must be a genuine threat to the vital interests of the UK, and that there is a concept of use—an identifiable capability and a declared policy of intent. Opponents of CASD say that there will be no re-emergence of a major direct threat, otherwise known as Russia. They say that other hostile states, such as Iran, fail the rationality criterion to justify the retention of the deterrent, that CASD is of no use against a non-state terrorist organisation whose identity might be unknown and, even if it is known, that there may be no target against which to retaliate.

I say—this is at the heart of the issue—that it is not possible to predict with absolute certainty the intentions or future actions of countries such as North Korea, or what might happen if China, for example, fell under

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the control of a malign regime. To dismiss Iran’s foreign policy as irrational is also a mistake. It might be unpredictable and it is certainly obnoxious, but that is not the same as irrational. To reject the deterrent—which works in most scenarios—because it does not work in all scenarios is also illogical.

Finally, Russia’s behaviour towards NATO is becoming increasingly aggressive. Last year, Russia’s chief of general staff spoke openly about a first strike against US missile defence installations in Poland and Romania, and Putin shunned both the Chicago summit and the G8. Most commentators are pointing towards growing instability in Russia, a country that, we estimate, today has 12,000 warheads, 4,650 of which are active. We cannot dismiss the possibility of Russia being a real threat over the lifetime of the next generation of the deterrent.

That is the world we live in and it is the world we must prepare for when we renew our capabilities. If we reject CASD, we ought not to kid ourselves that it is not just the UK’s status and influence that we would lose, or that we would successfully achieve our prime duty as parliamentarians and as a Government to protect the United Kingdom, including those who live in Scotland.

4.51 pm

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): I am grateful to be able to speak in this debate, but sad that I have such a short time in which to do so.

I want to start by considering the overall concept of security and deterrents. I believe that we need a mix of tools for deterrence and security, rather than investing blind faith in voodoo defence based on a cold war weapon that cannot deter, but that certainly can obliterate all of us.

The greatest security threats that we face today are related to climate change and international terrorism. Those are things that nuclear weapons cannot help us with; rather, they deter and take resources away from addressing those issues.

When the leaders of our armed forces and security services balked at the Chancellor’s plans to charge the Ministry of Defence the full cost of replacing Trident, they exposed their own lack of faith in the notion that nuclear weapons give us deterrence and security. In a letter to The Times, three of those leaders—Field Marshal Lord Bramall, General Lord Ramsbotham and General Sir Hugh Beach—said:

“Nuclear weapons have shown themselves to be completely useless as a deterrent to the threats and scale of violence we currently, or are likely to, face—particularly international terrorism; and the more you analyse them the more unusable they appear”.

If Trident really fulfilled the deterrence myths and claims that underpin the Government’s case for spending billions on its replacement, those responsible for our security would surely consider it well worth the money, but they do not. They know full well that Trident is political vanity and irrelevant to our real security needs.

It is time we stopped calling Trident “the deterrent,” as if that were its identity. That was a public relations euphemism from the early days of the cold war. It was meant to cut off debate by making nuclear weapons sound as if they were safe and sensible, so it was made impossible to ask the real questions, such as: does the deterrent deter? If we ask that question, we will soon come to the conclusion that it is short-sighted and dangerous in the extreme for Britain to rely on a weapon

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of mass destruction which, if launched, would put our own survival at serious risk, as well as that of many others.

If we are seriously to debate deterrence, let us do so honestly and recognise the complex relationship that requires us to understand the fears, threat perceptions, needs and values of others, and to communicate carefully and effectively. The best deterrence of all is to work with other nations to solve global threats such as fossil fuel-induced climate disruption, transnational trafficking in weapons, and the poverty and desperation that fuel hunger, conflict and violence cause around the world. Calling Trident “the deterrent” does not confer on it the capability to deter any more than calling a cat a dog would give the cat the ability to bark.

Secondly, I will touch briefly on the upcoming inter- governmental efforts to ban nuclear weapons. The Government of Norway, who have worked closely with the MOD and Atomic Weapons Establishment Aldermaston on projects to verify nuclear weapons, are hosting a major international conference in Oslo in early March, where the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons will be addressed by more than 100 Governments. I am pleased that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has told Norway that we will send a delegation to that important conference, but I plead with the Government to play a constructive role. As the focus is mainly on the humanitarian consequences of detonating nuclear weapons, I ask the Government what studies of nuclear weapons and their humanitarian effects they have undertaken that they will be sharing with their colleagues.

The expert studies on the short and longer-term effects of nuclear detonation are shocking. Let us consider the environmental, climate, agricultural and medical effects. If just a fraction of today’s nuclear arsenals were detonated, in what is termed a “limited nuclear war”, the studies point to climate disruption, widespread radioactivity and global famine. In other words, if the Trident weapons that are carried on just one British submarine were launched at Moscow and nearby cities, the effect would be a worldwide humanitarian disaster. That is immoral and obscene, and it should not be done.

4.55 pm

Oliver Colvile (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) on securing this debate.

I support maintaining a nuclear deterrent because it is the reason for our seat on the United Nations Security Council, it is the cement in our relationship with the United States of America, and it helps us to play a key part in NATO. This is an important debate. The nuclear licence is vital to my constituency. It is our stake in the ground and we must ensure that lots of work comes out of it. The Prime Minister has made it clear that he is very supportive of Plymouth remaining a strategic naval port. Some 25,000 people in my constituency and travel-to-work area are dependent on the defence industry for their jobs.

I want two things out of today’s debate. First, I want a commitment that the Labour party will not do a deal of any description with any potential coalition partner—whether the Liberal Democrats or any other party—on giving away the nuclear deterrent. Secondly, I do not want any more money to be spent in Scotland until it

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has worked out whether it wants to be part of the United Kingdom. In that way, we can ensure that we hold on to our nuclear deterrent and send the simple message that Nelson’s sailors used to give as a toast: “Confusion to the enemy!”

4.57 pm

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab): I will have to be very brief.

We must be clear that nuclear weapons are weapons of mass destruction and can only kill indiscriminately millions of civilians. We have enough nuclear capability in our 48-warhead submarines for a nuclear kill 384 times greater than that in Hiroshima in 1945—the only time when nuclear weapons have been used.

To replace the Trident system and procure new warheads would cost us £100 billion over 25 years. I dread to think that any Government in 2016, of whatever party, faced with all the social problems of this country—with the stress on housing, health, education, employment and infrastructure—would commit us to £100 billion-worth of weapons of mass destruction. That would achieve precisely what? It does not protect our position as a member of the Security Council of the United Nations. It does not give us moral authority around the world. It has the opposite effect. I ask the House this question: when issues are raised in the world’s councils, who has greater moral authority—South Africa, which gave up its nuclear weapons specifically to ensure that there was an African nuclear-free zone, or Britain, which seeks to rearm unilaterally in order, apparently, to protect its status around the world? It does not defend us. It does not protect us. It does nothing but cost us a great deal of money.

I aspire to live in a nuclear-free world. It has been achieved in Latin America. It has been achieved in Africa. It has been achieved in central Asia. It has been achieved in Antarctica. There is real hope that, with the assistance of the Finnish Government and the UN, we will eventually achieve a nuclear weapons-free middle east, when Iran and Israel are brought together to the conference table to bring that great aspiration about. We live in a time when we can take a huge step forward. Our country can take a huge step forward by saying, “We do not see weapons of mass destruction as a defence; we see them as a threat and a danger. Accordingly, we will not replace the Trident nuclear weapons system, but will instead support the nuclear non-proliferation treaty to ensure that that happy day comes about.”

The MPs around the world who have signed the Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament network statement to bring about nuclear weapons-free zones are to be commended. World opinion is against nuclear weapons, which is also to be commended.

I finish with a point echoing that made by my Friend—

5 pm

Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 9(3)).

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is there any way we can get a Minister from the Department for Education to the Chamber to explain the extraordinary attack in The Spectator blog this afternoon on the former Minister with responsibility for children, the hon. Member for

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East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), by senior sources at the Department, who have described him, among other things, as

“a lazy incompetent narcissist obsessed only with self-promotion”?

I have informed him that I am raising this matter on a point of order. Should not the Secretary of State come to the House to explain whether that vicious attack is his view of his hon. Friend and erstwhile ministerial colleague?

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): The very short answer is no, I cannot. That is not a point of order—I think the hon. Gentleman knows that. A point of order has to be a matter for this Chamber, but he has his point on the record, and I am afraid he will have to be satisfied with that.

Jeremy Corbyn: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am sorry to intervene on a point of order, but we have just had a good and interesting debate on nuclear weapons, and the time obviously had to be reduced. Some hon. Members did not get in and others withdrew from the debate because they were not going to do so. Could we invite the Backbench Business Committee to look favourably on having another debate on the subject in the foreseeable future, because there is far greater parliamentary interest than was anticipated when the debate was called for by the hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) and the number of hon. Members who supported him?

Madam Deputy Speaker: Mr Corbyn, I think you know that that is not a point of order either, particularly seeing as the Backbench Business Committee’s determination of business in the House is not a matter for the Chair. I am sure that when the Committee reads Hansard, it will take his remarks as an early bid, particularly if he has greater support for such a debate.

Mike Gapes: Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Given that the Government will publish—at least internally—and consider their review on the alternatives to Trident, perhaps the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr Dunne), who is in his place, will give the House a commitment that we will have the chance to debate the review in this House very soon.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Well, Mr Gapes, perhaps the Minister could do that, but I do not think he will. That is not a point of order. I would like to make progress with business, because I am sure there are not any other relevant or pertinent points of order to take this afternoon.

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Street Lighting (Residential Areas)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Mr Syms.)

5.2 pm

Andy Sawford (Corby) (Lab/Co-op): I am grateful for the opportunity to raise in Parliament an issue of great importance to people in my constituency of Corby and in East Northamptonshire. The earliest street lights were used by Greek and Roman civilizations. They were used in Egypt more than a thousand years ago. They were common in the UK by the time wax candles turned to electric candles. Electricity transformed the efficiency and effectiveness of street lighting, which for well over 100 years has illuminated our towns and cities. From the Romans to the Victorians to today, street lights have been a civilising force in our communities. They help us to move about more safely, whether on foot or cycle, or in our cars or on public transport. They help us to be safer from crime, whether that is crime on the person, vehicle crime or burglary. In short, they are essential to our safety and security.

Street lights give us a greater sense of well-being; they give us more confidence as darkness falls; and they help us to go about our business, whether going to or returning from work, including those who work shifts. They help us when we are going to a social club, a pub, a church group, a gym, or when we are visiting family or friends or popping to the shops. Most of us, most of the time, for most of our lives, have taken street lighting for granted, but suddenly, in many communities in the UK, it is not there.

Let us imagine the iconic scene, if you will, Madam Deputy Speaker, of Gene Kelly under a lamp post. He is about to sing in the rain, except that he cannot because he cannot see to dance and we cannot see to watch him—his council has switched the street lights off. So it has been in Corby and East Northamptonshire for the past 18 months. A darkness has fallen across our towns and villages; a dark age, rolling back time, as though we live in a time before civilisation, before electricity, and before councils and local government and all the good that they can do to make our places liveable and our communities strong, safe and vibrant.

In 2011, Northamptonshire county council turned off more than 30,000 street lights. The off switch was pressed on approximately half the lights in the county. The general pattern was every other light. In some places, more were off. There was little consultation, precious little listening, and even less consideration of the implications, both generally for people’s safety and well-being and specifically about those highways, alleyways and pathways where the arbitrary turning off of street lights would have a particular impact.

Two reasons were given. The first was to save money in the face of drastic cuts from central Government. Let me say that I do not support that scale and pace of the introduction of those cuts to our councils. They have been hugely damaging to our communities and our economy, all part of an approach that has plunged the UK into a second recession and stopped the economy growing. Perhaps the Minister and I can leave that debate to another day and accept that councils need to make efficiencies. They need to ensure that their budgets are balanced.

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Local authorities have many important responsibilities and one is street lighting, which at pre-cuts levels in Northamptonshire cost just 0.08% of the council’s budget. I will put that more simply and in language that I, and everybody I represent, can understand: it costs each household £1.14 a year to have decent street lighting. That is a very small price to pay for adequate street lighting, and I think all the residents in Corby and East Northamptonshire would see that as good value for money. The council tells us that its cuts had an environmental rationale—to replace the lights with more energy-efficient, cost-efficient and effective lighting. I think that is right in principle, but let us look at what it did in practice.

The council should have had a plan for switching over to newer, more energy-efficient lighting that did not involve turning off half the lights first for several years. It should have had a plan that did not involve putting people’s safety at risk. A nine-year-old boy was taken to hospital after being hit by a car at a pedestrian crossing on Oakley road in Corby. The street lights had been turned off near a pedestrian crossing. The county council stated that because the road has a 40 mph limit

“this meant it required fewer street lights to be left on”.

The boy was treated and he recovered. The council did not take responsibility, but the lights were turned back on. It should not take an accident before the council acts properly and sensibly in the public interest.

When the streetlights were first turned off people said, “There will be an accident there before long”, and so it proved: prangs and bumps, trips and falls. However, for many more, the fear of accidents prevented them from going out at all, as did the fear of crime. When the county council started turning off lights, more than 1,200 people signed up to the “Corby Street Lights” Facebook page. Across Northamptonshire, people protested. Stefano in Raunds pressed the council to turn street lights back on in Primrose Hill, where elderly residents feel unsafe. Sonia, a mum of three in Corby, told the Northamptonshire Telegraph, which is represented in the Gallery today for this debate:

“The main thing is a complete lack of consultation. I have been a victim of crime myself. I have had wing mirrors kicked off and car windows broken. Come winter it is going to be dark at 4.30 pm and it is like imposing a curfew if you are old or infirm.”

Those people in my constituency are supported in their concerns and first-hand experiences by much evidence that the Minister will no doubt be aware of. A systematic review by the Home Office on the effects of street lighting on crime found that

“improved street lighting led to significant reductions in crime...with an overall reduction in recorded crime of 20 per cent”

in towns across the UK. I think that the Minister will agree that something that results in a 20% reduction in crime is a good thing.

The Institute of Lighting Engineers believes that

“the many benefits street lighting provides the community far outweigh the limited returns that can be achieved by switching off or removing lighting”.

Cambridge criminologist David Farrington said that

“improved street lighting should continue to be used to prevent crime in public areas. It has few negative effects and clear benefits for law-abiding citizens”.

Paul Watters, head of policy at the AA, said that turning off the street lights

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“may save money in terms of energy, but then you have to look at the cost in terms of security, safety and accidents and it may actually be more”.

Michael Ellis (Northampton North) (Con): I am a fellow Northamptonshire MP. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there has been considerable consultation on this matter? The county council has indicated that it consulted via its YouChoose website, comment cards available at libraries, tweeting, e-mails and contacting the local press and other representative organisations. Does he also agree that a lot of the measures that the county council has had to take are because of the profligate spending of the previous Labour Government?

Andy Sawford: I do not agree. If that is the best that the hon. Gentleman has to offer on his constituents’ concerns about street lighting, I am very disappointed in him. The things he describes are an example of what people in my constituency call “nonsultation”—when people consult but do not listen. That is what happened in this case.

Let me tell the hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.] Let me tell him, if he will listen, about the case of Gary Tompkins, a 25-year-old man in Milton Keynes who died after being hit by a car. Let me tell him what the coroner said—the Minister will be interested in this, too. The coroner found that turning off of the road lights contributed to this death, and that

“no formal risk assessment was carried out by the council before the decision was made”.

I am not aware of a proper risk assessment taking place in Northamptonshire, and that is why people such as the nine-year-old child in my constituency were injured.

In Dorset, street lights are being turned back on following a spate of arson attacks on cars. Through these cases, in my constituency and many others, a pattern emerges of councils playing “street light roulette”. They over-eagerly turn them off without sufficient risk assessment and proper consultation, someone gets hurt or property gets damaged and the council looks again at the street lights and starts to turn them back on. That is no way to ensure public safety.

The Highway Electrical Association will publish research next month that, following a comprehensive review of switch-offs across the UK, will recommend the following approach for councils to take. First, it will recommend that the local authority should carry out a detailed risk analysis of lighting provision and particular areas of concern, and secondly that the local authority should then determine what can be done with the existing lighting. Lots of councils around the country have looked at whether they can switch of, or dim, the lights at certain times of the night, and they have looked at areas where the lighting is less important to public safety. I think we can all support that as a sensible approach.

Thirdly, the report will advise that local authorities, before taking any action, should consult properly with residents and other stakeholders. Those three steps, which were not taken in Northamptonshire, seem to make good sense. I hope that the Minister will agree and endorse this approach. That is one positive outcome that could come from this Adjournment debate.

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If Northamptonshire county council had acted properly, I would not have heard from Mr Robson, who contacted me to tell me that

“when he and his co-workers finish after midnight, they face walking along Willowbrook road. Part of the path here goes into the woods, where all the lights have been turned off”.

Neither would I have heard from Ann Leonard, the secretary of the Corby co-operative women’s guild, who tells me that the group leave all together and help each other into their cars, because they are afraid. Darren Melville told me that he has had to stop going on his regular runs. Not only did he find it difficult to see where he was stepping, which led to a couple of falls, but he no longer felt safe.

Many right hon. and hon. Members, particularly on the Opposition Benches, know how Mr Melville feels, because they too have walked the streets of my constituency. During the by-election, our teams used head torches to get around, and on doorstep after doorstep they met residents who raised concerns about street lights. That is why it is one of my top priorities and remains so.

On Saturday, I was out campaigning in Irthlingborough in my constituency. I met residents on Meadow walk, a road of old people’s bungalows, where all the lights are out. People there not only feel afraid to go out, but feel trapped and afraid in their homes. This becomes even more pertinent in the depths of winter, and not just because of the long nights and short days. My constituent Matthew Reay said to me that

“it is particularly worrying that lights are off during a period in which most paths and roads are covered in ice”.

Northamptonshire county council has not properly addressed the concerns. People have been told, “You need a security alarm”, or, “Get yourself a torch”, when they have complained to the council about specific problems. There is a better way. Sheffield city council has shown a better way of investing in white LED lights, which are better and brighter, and Salford city council has done the same. Looking ahead, I want to see the street lights being turned back on in Corby and investment in more energy and cost-efficient lighting, but we need our street lighting now, in the interest of public safety, and we need a programme of replacement that does not compromise that safety as we go forward.

Perhaps even in the dimly lit corners of Eland House, where the Parliamentary Under-Secretary toils, some thought and consideration is being given to the proper way in which councils should conduct their business. I ask him to use the power of the Dispatch Box this evening and the power of his pen tomorrow to prevail on Northamptonshire county council to light properly the towns and villages of Northamptonshire once again.

5.15 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Stephen Hammond): I congratulate the hon. Member for Corby (Andy Sawford) on securing this evening’s debate. I am pleased to be responding to what I believe is his first Adjournment debate since becoming a Member of Parliament last November, on what is clearly a subject of great importance to him. I also congratulate him on his speech. He started with a number of clearly well researched historical facts. He could have easily

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answered the question “What have the Romans ever done for us?”, although I was greatly pleased that he resisted the temptation to sing and dance.

It might be helpful if I begin by saying a few words about the background on street lighting in residential areas more generally before I talk about the specifics of the hon. Gentleman’s case. Street lighting is often taken for granted, but it is an important service for local communities. Most residential street lighting in England is the responsibility of local highway authorities. Local authorities, such as Northamptonshire county council, which covers his constituency, have a duty under section 41 of the Highways Act 1980 to maintain the public highways in their charge. That duty covers street lighting. That said, authorities do not have a duty to light any particular parts of their networks, but where lighting has been provided, the authority has a duty to maintain it. It is therefore for each local highway authority to decide what level of service it wishes its street lighting network to deliver. It is also up to the authority to decide on the appropriate technical solution to ensure suitable lighting of its highways, as well as deciding what level of funding is appropriate to maintain its lighting networks.

I am aware that many councils are now taking a proactive approach, looking at a number of ways to reduce their overall funding programmes. Some councils are thinking innovatively about how to deliver their services, and that thought is indeed being inspired by the Ministers at Eland House. I, of course, toil at Great Minister House as opposed to Eland House, which is where the Department for Communities and Local Government resides. I know that my hon. Friends who reside at Eland House are encouraging local authorities up and down the country to look at new and innovative ways of delivering services to their communities.

As the hon. Gentleman said, many authorities are looking at ways of delivering their street lighting commitments. Many are implementing a policy of dimming street lights between midnight and 6 am or even turning them off during those hours. Some, such as Northamptonshire county council, have taken further steps and decided to turn some lights off completely. Let me be clear: central Government have no powers to override local decisions in these matters, nor should it be the job of bureaucrats or Ministers in Whitehall to dictate to local government how it determines local solutions.

Let me turn to Northamptonshire’s street lighting policy. I am aware that when considering its budgets—in light of the challenge to everybody after the profligate spending of the last Labour Administration—the county council’s cabinet considered a proposal in 2010 to make £1 million of savings by changing the county’s street lighting policy. As part of that exercise, including the consultation, the council made it clear that its intention was not just to make savings, but to respond to a growing recognition in many parts of Northamptonshire that the pre-switch-off policy had been somewhat over-engineered and was not as energy efficient as it could be. The county council also stated that it wanted to reconsider street lighting as part of its overall environmental agenda.

Michael Ellis: Does my hon. Friend agree that this is not only a question of energy efficiency and energy savings, but—as usual—of hearing the Labour Opposition reject any form of savings without offering any ideas on how they would save instead, in times of austerity that are due largely to Labour overspending for many years?

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Stephen Hammond: I certainly agree with my hon. Friend.

I shall touch on a solution that Northamptonshire county council offered to Corby in a moment. The council decided in January 2011 that it should find an additional £1 million saving from its street lighting, bringing the total amount of savings that it wished to achieve to some £2 million per annum. The council undertook a consultation on its proposals, which was promoted in the local press as well as on the council’s website. I know that many of the hon. Gentleman’s constituents had concerns about that process, and felt that it was not sufficiently widespread.

The council commenced switching off lights in April 2011, and the process continued through to August of that year. Out of the council’s asset of 67,000 street lights, almost 30,000 were switched off. In Corby, 3,681 of the 8,275 lights have now been switched off. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that, in response to some of the criticisms of the consultation process, a further consultation was carried out with county councillors.

Andy Sawford: I am slightly confused by the Minister’s approach. He says that it is not his position to direct the local authority, but I have not asked him to do that; I am a localist. I have, however, asked him to advise me on the Government’s position, in the light of all the research that I have highlighted, including that of the Home Office. He seems to be reading from a brief from the county council, which can well speak for itself, rather than setting out the Government’s position on this matter.

Stephen Hammond: The hon. Gentleman has made his speech, and if he will forgive me, I am now setting out the Government’s overall responsibility and the liabilities and duties of county councils. I am setting out the situation, as he did, and if he will wait a few minutes longer, I will make some comments on the Government’s response. It is important to set out the case, so that we can understand it and so that we can all agree on what is actually happening. That is what I am attempting to do.

I have just made the point that, in response to criticism, the county council carried out a further consultation. The chief executives of all of the county’s borough and district councils were sent letters and invited to meetings on street policy. Written responses were received from three borough councils in Northamptonshire, including Corby, which asked that the lights be put back on in crime or accident hot spots. I think that the hon. Gentleman would acknowledge that the county council has addressed some of those concerns, and that changes were made to the policy as a result, specifically in regard to the reduction of repair times, as well as to switching the lights back on.

During the switch-off period across Northamptonshire, the public were invited to submit appeals if they felt that the proposed policy was not being correctly applied. In theory, that appeal period was due to end in September 2011, but in practice it was extended until December 2012. During that period, the council considered some 4,000 appeals and, as a result, nearly 1,000 street lights were turned back on.

I understand that the leader of Northamptonshire county council met the leader of Corby borough council—I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman was present at

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that meeting—to try to come to some arrangement on the street lights in Corby, and offered to switch back on any lights that the borough council wanted to be kept on, so long as the borough provided a 50% funding contribution. I also understand that, although the borough council has made a certain amount of noise, it has not yet taken up that offer.

Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry) (Con): My constituents were affected in the same way as Corby residents, but a number of parishes across my constituency pay for their own street lighting. I have thus received almost as many letters complaining that people were having to pay twice for street lighting across the county as I did from those complaining about switching off the lights in inappropriate places.

Stephen Hammond: My hon. Friend makes an interesting point.

Before I leave Northamptonshire, it is worth saying—and it is important to point out—that the reduced energy usage that the change in policy will have yielded by the end of March 2013 is expected to be approximately 10,500 tonnes of carbon saving, and there will be annual savings in excess of 5,000 tonnes in the future.

Andy Sawford: Given that the Minister has chosen to focus many of his remarks on local research about how Corby council responded, let me remind him that my constituency covers two local authorities. I have mentioned examples in Raunds and Irthlingborough in another local authority. In the interests of balance, those people might be interested to know the Minister’s views on how their local authority responded, the number of lights turned off in their areas, and so forth. That would be very interesting.

Stephen Hammond: I am happy to come back to the hon. Gentleman with the numbers, but my point is that Corby did respond and it was made an offer. [Interruption.] I am saying that Corby did respond to the leader of the county council, who then made an offer to respond to Corby council’s demands. So far, Corby council has not responded.

Let me say a few words about the Government’s policy on street lighting. It is, of course, right that local authorities, not central Government, consider—in the interests of cost-saving and the environment—whether lighting can be sensibly dimmed or switched off, consistent with proper safety assessments. We are aware that a number of local authorities around the country have commenced similar lighting projects to deliver energy savings and carbon usage reductions. Guidance produced by the Institution of Lighting Professionals is available for any local authority that wants to adopt such a scheme. We are aware that a number of local authorities are taking the decision, following traffic incidents, to switch some lights back to an all-night operation at certain locations, as the hon. Gentleman said. It is, as I have said, the duty of the local authority to ensure that street lighting is maintained if it has chosen to provide it.

The hon. Gentleman raises perfectly reasonable concerns about possible increases in crime. That is understandable, and the reduction of street lighting might cause some people to question their safety and security. However,

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evidence to date from authorities up and down the country that have adopted switching-off policies between midnight and 6 am, or have switched off lights permanently, shows no relationship at the moment between reduced street lighting and increases in crime levels. That has been backed up by a number of police authorities, which have made statements to confirm that crime levels have not increased since councils adopted the policy of switching off lights between midnight and 6 am.

The Department is aware of work undertaken last year by Warwickshire county council, which contacted 30 local authorities to see whether there was any measurable impact on crime or road safety. The evidence is not conclusive, but from the monitoring undertaken by the county council and by these authorities so far, no significant increases in either crime levels or road accidents have been reported. There will be individual cases, and I offer my sympathy to the young gentleman who was knocked down, but nationally recognised research papers, including Home Office research, are similarly inconclusive on this point.

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The Government would, of course, advise that any authority should work closely with the emergency services, community safety and other key partners when considering the street-lighting needs of local people. We also advise local authorities to monitor the impacts following implementation of any street-lighting changes and to ensure they have provision for reversing any of the changes, should the need arise.

So, in conclusion, remote monitoring, dimming, trimming and switching off of street lights can play an important part in reducing energy costs, light pollution and carbon emissions. That is clearly a matter for local authorities.

I listened carefully to what the hon. Gentleman said. He made a powerful case on behalf of his constituents, and I note the concerns that were expressed. I suggest that he should continue to raise them directly with the county council.

Question put and agreed to.

5.30 pm

House adjourned.