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Event | 18 November 2015

Top Level Group Briefing on Trident and the Main Gate

The Top Level Group (TLG) and European Leadership Network organised a parliamentary briefing on Trident and the Main Gate* with speakers, Professor Michael Clarke, Director of RUSI; Sir Malcolm Rifkind, former Foreign and Defence Secretary; and Baroness Shirley Williams, former Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords. The event was chaired by Dame Margaret Beckett MP, chair of the Top Level Group.

The briefing will focus on the Trident programme in the context of the forthcoming Main Gate decision and changing strategic threats and defence budget constraints. Drawing on their knowledge and experience, the speakers will discuss:
• The renewal programme, setting out the key decision points over the last 10 years leading to Main Gate;
• The role of the Trident nuclear system with respect to the UK’s responsibilities to NATO;
• The UK’s global disarmament obligations to the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime; and finally
• What MPs should consider ahead of a possible Main Gate parliamentary vote.

*Main Gate is the decision point at which contracts for building the successor submarines will be placed. This may be subject to parliamentary vote.



Professor Michael Clarke was Director General of the Royal United Services Institute. Until July 2007 he was Deputy Vice-Principal and Director of Research Development at King’s College London, where he is now also Visiting Professor of Defence Studies. He has been a Specialist Adviser to the House of Commons Defence Committee since 1997, having served previously with the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee 1995-6, and the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Bribery in 2009. In 2004 he was appointed the UK member of the United Nations Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters. In 2009 he was appointed to the Prime Minister’s National Security Forum and in 2010 to the Chief of Defence Staff’s new Strategic Advisory Group. He also serves on the Strategic Advisory Panel on Defence for UK Trade and Industry.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind entered Parliament in 1974, representing Edinburgh Pentlands for many years, and latterly Kensington and Chelsea. He was became a member of the Cabinet in 1986 as Secretary of State for Scotland. He then served as Transport Secretary between 1990 and 1992 and as Defence Secretary between 1992 and 1995. He was Foreign Secretary between 1995 and 1997. He was appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 1985, and in 1997 he was knighted in recognition of his public service. He served as the Chairman of Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee between 2010 and 2015.

Baroness Williams of Crosby (Shirley Williams) was co-Founder of the Social Democratic Party and its first President from 1982 until 1988 and served as Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords from 2001 until retiring from that position in 2004. She is Professor Emeritus of Elective Politics at the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and advised former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown on issues of nuclear proliferation. She is a Board Member at the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, a Governor of the Ditchley Foundation, a Board Member of the Nuclear Threat Initiative in Washington DC. She was a member of the Advisory Council to the UN Secretary-General on the Fourth World Women’s Conference, and a member of the European Commission’s Comite de Sages on social and civil rights. She was also a President of Chatham House (Royal Institute of International affairs) from 2002 – 2006.