Shropshire Star

UK’s nuclear deterrent ‘bedrock’ of Labour’s plan to keep Britain safe – Starmer

If elected, Labour said it will use defence procurement to strengthen UK security and economic growth.

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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said the UK’s nuclear deterrent is the “bedrock” of his plan to keep Britain safe.

If elected, Labour said it will use defence procurement to strengthen UK security and economic growth.

The party hopes to direct British defence investment to British business first, with a higher bar set for any decisions to buy abroad.

In an interview with the i newspaper, Sir Keir confirmed his ambition was to boost the defence budget to 2.5% of GDP, if it fits with Labour’s fiscal rules.

During a visit to Barrow, where nuclear submarines are being built, Sir Keir is expected to focus on increasing jobs and skills in defence.

Alongside shadow defence minister John Healey and Australian high commissioner to the UK Stephen Smith, Sir Keir will speak to workers, union members and apprentices at the Barrow shipyard.

He is also expected use the visit on Friday to affirm Labour’s commitment to the Aukus security pact.

Sir Keir said: “The changed Labour Party I lead knows that our nation’s defence must always come first. Labour’s commitment to our nuclear deterrent is total.

“In the face of rising global threats and growing Russian aggression, the UK’s nuclear deterrent is the bedrock of Labour’s plan to keep Britain safe. It will ensure vital protection for the UK and our Nato allies in the years ahead, as well as supporting thousands of high paying jobs across the UK.

“Countless families in Barrow and across Britain have built a secure future over decades of hard work building our defences. I want that to continue for the decades to come.

“That’s why we are fully backing Aukus submarines to be built in Barrow, too. And it’s why Labour will ensure that new UK leadership within Aukus helps make this national endeavour a success for Britain.”

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps branded the visit an “attempted distraction from the Angela Rayner scandal”.

Meanwhile, the SNP has branded the proposals “grotesque” and accused Labour of throwing billions of pounds down the drain.

Labour said it is set to campaign on its commitment to the nuclear deterrent in key communities in the nuclear supply chain, such as: Plymouth Moor View, home to the Devonport shipyard; Filton and Bradley Stoke, home of Abbey Wood; Derby North and South, home to Rolls-Royce’s Raynesway site; and Argyll, Bute and South Lochaber, home to HMNB Clyde.

Mr Healey said: “Pride is the overwhelming feeling of defence industry workers, especially those in Barrow building our vital nuclear submarines. They are essential in securing Britain’s defences for the future.

“A strong defence industrial strategy will be hardwired into Labour’s Mission 1 in Government to drive economic growth across the UK. We will make it fundamental to direct defence investment first to British jobs and British industry.”

In March, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visited BAE Systems Submarines in Barrow-in-Furness with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, after declaring a “critical national endeavour” to secure the nuclear industry’s future.

Mr Shapps said: “Sir Keir Starmer and John Healey tried twice to put Jeremy Corbyn in charge of the nation’s armed forces.

“The same man who wanted to scrap our nuclear deterrent, dismantle Nato and questioned the integrity of British Intelligence community.

“Labour’s shadow foreign secretary even voted repeatedly to scrap Trident. They are not the party to be trusted with our nation’s defences.

“Only Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives can be trusted to protect our nuclear deterrent and stick to the plan to work with our Aukus allies to build the world’s most advanced nuclear submarines which will create thousands of jobs for people across the country and build a more secure world.

“This is just another attempted distraction from the Angela Rayner scandal. If Sir Keir Starmer cannot show leadership on this issue, how can he be trusted to make decision on national security.”

SNP defence spokesperson Martin Docherty-Hughes MP said: “Westminster has already wasted billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on nuclear weapons and expensive nuclear energy.

“It is therefore grotesque that Sir Keir Starmer is prepared to throw billions more down the drain when his party claim there is no money to improve our NHS, help families with the cost of living or to properly invest in our green energy future.

“This money would be better spent on a raft of other things – not least investing in the green energy gold rush, which would ensure Scotland, with all its renewable energy potential, could be a green energy powerhouse of the 21st century.

“And while the UK Government wastes millions misfiring Trident missiles at the Defence Secretary, the urgent priority is more money for conventional defence and for our armed forces, who are underpaid and under-resourced.

“With both Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer focused on the wrong priorities, it is only the SNP standing up for Scotland’s interests and Scotland’s values.”

Kate Hudson, general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said voters are “desperately looking for hope from the Labour Party.

“However, it’s increasingly clear that Starmer’s offer is just more of the same: billions of pounds wasted on nuclear weapons and nuclear power, and a belligerent foreign policy that includes support for the Aukus pact, Nato, and continuing arms sales to Israel, used to kill Palestinians.

“Putting billions of pounds into the pockets of arms companies and their investors will not reinvigorate the economy in any meaningful way.”

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