New Defence Secretary Philip Hammond insisted yesterday he supported plans for the renewal of Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent.
Within days of his appointment to the role following the resignation of Liam Fox last Friday, industry experts raised fears Mr Hammond would rethink the programme as he had failed to back it in Parliament.
The new generation of missile-carrying submarines is expected to cost up to £25 billion in cash terms and the first of the four replacement submarines is planned to enter service in 2028.
Asked if he wanted Trident to be renewed, Mr Hammond told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Yes, that is clear.”
“I am absolutely committed to the Trident programme and always have been.
“I heard this story earlier in the week and I think the issue was that I was actually out on a visit on the route of the high-speed railway proposal when the vote was taken in Parliament.
“Had I been there I would have voted in favour.”
Dr Fox had indicated he would resign if Trident was ditched, as Lib Dems wanted, while he was still in post but the “main gate” decision was pushed back to 2016.
Mr Hammond also insisted that defence cuts would not prevent Britain having “viable” armed forces.
He said: “We have had to make some serious budget cuts. My predecessor has successfully negotiated with the Treasury a settlement that will allow the UK to continue to project force abroad, to continue to have viable and sustainable armed forces in the future.
“Over the next 10 years we will be spending £165 billion on military equipment and equipment support and this is a major investment.”
He added: “We have demonstrated during the course of the Libya campaign our ability to mount a significant operation while simultaneously fighting a major engagement in Afghanistan.”