David Cameron's Conservative government has pledged to renew the Trident nuclear deterrent system at a cost of £31 billion, but that all expense may be for nothing according to former Defence Secretary Lord Browne. He has warned that unless "weak spots" in Trident's security systems are fixed, it could be easy prey for hackers.
The former Labour minister was speaking to the BBC ahead of a Commons debate on the future of Trident, which will question whether leaving developing a Trident replacement until "the early 2030s" (as was suggested by yesterday's Strategic Defence and Security Review) is wise.
Though Browne describes the UK as a "world leader" in cyber security, he still states that the government has an "obligation" to prove to MPs that Trident could withstand a hacking attack.
"If they are unable to do that then there is no guarantee that we will have a reliable deterrent or the prime minister will be able to use this system when he needs to reach for it," said Browne.
However, ex-Conservative Defence Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind believes Browne is missing the point of Trident to begin with: "The whole point of our nuclear weapons is not whether they would work - 100% guarantee - if they were ever required. You think they will do.
"The question is whether an enemy contemplating aggression would be prepared to take the risk."
Browne's comments come hot on the heels of the government's £178 billion defence spending review, which includes the formation of two 5,000-strong strike brigades, and significant equipment and vehicle purchases for the Navy and RAF. [BBC]