By Ian Dunt
The Liberal Democrats secured a major political victory today, after it was confirmed that the Trident nuclear system will be significantly downgraded.
The maximum number of nuclear warheads aboard each Vanguard class submarine will be reduced from 48 to 40.
In the longer term, the next generation of ballistic missile submarines will be designed with only eight operational missile tubes, as opposed to previous plans for 12.
By the mid-2020's the UK's nuclear stockpile will be reduced from 225 to no more than 180 warheads.
The reduction in Britain's nuclear capacity will be treated as a major victory for the Liberal Democrats, who are implacably opposed to the renewal of Trident.
It also means Britain will comply with the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, which demands that countries downgrade their nuclear capacity when they renew their systems.
"The UK is now leading the nuclear powers towards disarmament, essential to a more secure and less dangerous world," said Liberal Democrat peer Shirley Williams.
The decision to explore cheaper ways of renewing Trident featured in the coalition agreement as a concession to the Liberal Democrats.
The party will want to publicise the victory as widely as possible to reassure party members alienated by its newfound support for tuition fees and fiscal conservatism.
"Liberal Democrats would be well satisfied with this outcome," former leader Menzies Campbell said.
The decision as to whether Trident will eventually be renewed was left until after the general election, leading Labour leader Ed Miliband to accuse the prime minister of dropping an "unfunded spending commitment" into the next parliament.