Trident “not fit for purpose”, MPs warn
The UK’s nuclear deterrent is “not fit for purpose” due to a defence funding shortfall and maintenance delays, MPs have warned.
According to the Public Accounts Committee, the Trident system is also at risk from Brexit uncertainty, with the UK facing potential shortages of vital imports from the continent and European engineers when it leaves the EU next year.
The committee warned that the Ministry of Defence faced "significant pressures" over the next decade to provide the network of programmes, equipment and people - often called the ‘Nuclear Enterprise’ - necessary to provide a continuous at sea nuclear deterrent.
Parliament’s spending watchdog has urged the UK Government to fill a £2.9bn funding shortfall and address the looming skills gap if it is to maintain the Trident system at its current operational levels.
Committee chair Meg Hillier said: “The MoD must now bridge an affordability gap running to nearly £3 billion, fill critical skill gaps and ensure its supply chain is maintained effectively – all at a time of significant uncertainty in international politics and trade.
"I am particularly concerned that the infrastructure available to support the Enterprise is not fit for purpose. The UK has 20 submarines awaiting disposal, nine of which contain fuel. The MoD admits that while it has previously put off dismantling submarines on grounds of cost, this is no longer acceptable on grounds of safety and reputation.
"The MoD needs to get on top of this quickly and, in general terms, be more open about progress being made with management and delivery of the submarine-based deterrent."
Hillier also highlighted wider concerns over the UK’s defence budget, saying the committee had previously noted “the pressures bearing down” on the department.
She added “In May we highlighted concerns that the MoD could find itself more than £20 billion short of the funding required to buy all the equipment it says it needs."
A spokeswoman for the MoD said: “We are committed to delivering these nuclear programmes on time and within budget and will carefully consider the recommendations in this report to ensure this remains the case.
“We continue to press ahead with our dismantling projects. Work is underway to enhance our infrastructure so our programmes continue to run at the highest standards.”