COALITION splits over Britain’s nuclear deterrent are set to be reopened after an internal Ministry of Defence review suggested a slimmed-down version of the £25 billion Trident replacement could be an option.
The review, carried out at the behest of the Lib Dems as part of the coalition agreement, suggests nuclear warheads could be put on standby, while the new Vanguard submarines need not be built.
According to reports, the review says one possibility is for the warheads to be used on cruise missiles fired from Astute-class submarines, which are based at Faslane on the Clyde.
The report, led by Lib Dem armed forces minister Nick Harvey, looks set to reopen coalition divisions with many Tory back-benchers concerned that Britain’s replacement for Trident could end up being sacrificed for political reasons.
However, with final decisions not due until 2016, the report could form the basis of one of the major issues in the next general election in 2015.
A Lib Dem source said: “We have to ask whether we can afford a Cold War weapons system in the age of austerity. Being a threshold nuclear power would save billions.”