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Lord Ashdown dismisses Hammond's Trident criticism

Lord Ashdown has dismissed Defence Secretary Philip Hammond's criticism of downgrading Trident in light of a new review unveiling alternatives to the nuclear deterrent.

The former Liberal Democrat leader wrote on Twitter:

He added that reducing the size of the fleet would not mean a "part-time" deterrent:

  1. National

Defence Secretary: Trident downgrade a 'huge gamble'

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond with Chief of the General Staff Sir Peter Wall in a recent visit to Essex. Credit: Chris Radburn/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Downgrading the UK's nuclear deterrent would be a "huge gamble with Britain's security", Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has declared as he rejected proposals for a "part-time" Trident force ahead of the publication of a Liberal Democrat review of the weapons system.

Mr Hammond insisted that a like-for-like replacement of all four nuclear-armed submarines when they leave service is the only way to maintain a continuous state of readiness to launch a strike.

Liberal Democrat Cabinet minister Danny Alexander's Trident Alternatives Review, which will be published today, is expected to include an array of options short of full replacement.

But Mr Hammond insisted in an interview with BBC Radio 4's Today programme that any financial savings from reducing the fleet would be "trivial".

"We have had for 45 years now a continuous-at-sea deterrent posture which has served this country very well and we do not believe that with nuclear threats.

"If anything, proliferating, with more countries seeking to get nuclear weapons, this is the time to downgrade, certainly not to go to a part-time deterrent."

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Barrow house blown apart by suspected gas explosion

The house was badly damaged in the explosion Credit: Cumbria Council

An elderly woman has escaped with minor injuries, after a suspected gas explosion at her home in Barrow.

The blast happened at 7.56am. Firefighters rushed to the scene to find the rear of the building badly damaged.

Engineers are assessing the structure. Police have sealed off Ainslie Street.

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Campaign to protect Barrow maternity services

Furness General Hospital Credit: ITV Granada Reports

Campaigners hoping to protect maternity services in Barrow will hold talks with hospital bosses today.

Hundreds are expected at a meeting to discuss a review of services at Furness General.

It's feared the special care baby unit and consultant-led maternity service are under threat, which if closed would force expectant mums to travel to Lancaster for treatment.

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