§ Mr. Cohen
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of whether further underground nuclear tests are required to ensure the(a) credibility, (b) reliability or (c) safety of (i) the Trident system and (ii) the WE177 free-fall nuclear bomb; and what criteria are employed by his Department for assessing each of these factors in each case.
§ Mr. Aitken
We are confident in the safety and reliability of the WE177 free-fall bomb and that subject to completion of the necessary assessments—which do not require further underground testing—Trident will enter service as a safe and reliable system. We are similarly confident in the credibility of our nuclear deterrent, current and planned. We need, however, to ensure that we are able to maintain the highest levels of safety assurance over time. Testing has played a central role in this in the past; the development of alternative techniques is now a high priority.