Voters would prefer a cheaper alternative to Trident – but believe that Britain should retain a nuclear deterrent either way
The issue of replacing the ageing Trident nuclear weapons system is dividing the coalition, with the Liberal Democrats favouring reducing the number of nuclear submarines from four to three and Defence Secretary Philip Hammond claiming that anything other than like-for-like replacement would be “naïve or reckless.” A YouGov poll for the Sunday Times finds the public would slightly prefer a cheaper system, however further YouGov research for the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee reveals that compared to no nuclear defence Trident is supported by a majority.
A third (35%) of British adults say that a nuclear missile system should be retained, but it should be less powerful and expensive than replacing Trident, while a quarter (26%) favour replacing Trident with an equally expensive and powerful system. Another quarter, however, believe that Britain should give up nuclear weapons altogether.
However when prompted that a cheaper system of only renewing two of the nuclear submarines would mean "there could be times when there was not a nuclear submarine on patrol” only 25% prefer that option, compared to 34% who want “a more expensive system, where there is always a submarine on patrol.”
This is in keeping with YouGov’s research for the House of Commons Select Committee, which found that when given the option between replacing all four submarines “if the government decided there is no cheaper alternative” and giving up nuclear weapons altogether a majority of 56% choose replacing Trident and only 29% say nuclear weapons should be scrapped altogether.
The Liberal Democrats have published an anticipated paper today on nuclear-defence alternatives. Although it notes that there are viable alternatives to Trident, it concludes that because of existing infrastructure renewing three or four submarines would be less expensive.