HC Deb 22 March 1977 vol 928 cc1059-60
4. Mr. Blaker

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is his estimate at the latest available date of the loss of jobs and job opportunities which has occurred since 1st March 1974 as a result of the Government's defence cuts.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Dr. John Gilbert)

I refer the hon. Member to the reply that I gave to the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Trotter) on 17th March.

Mr. Blaker

Is not it clear from answers that the hon. Gentleman has given in the House recently that the number of jobs and job opportunities lost and expected to be lost as a result of the Government's first four rounds of cuts will be 218,000 by 1979? Will he now give an estimate of the number of jobs and job opportunities expected to be lost as a result of the cuts announced last December? Is not it clear that these defence cuts are a significant cause of unemployment?

Dr. Gilbert

The hon. Gentleman has arrived at his figure of 218,000 by adding together Service personnel, directly affected civilians and those in the defence industries. I accept his figure entirely. I cannot yet give our estimate of the consequence of the last round of cuts because we have not decided where the second year's cuts will fall.

Mr. Ioan Evans

In calculating the loss of jobs and job opportunities, have the Government taken into account the fact that we spend a higher proportion of our gross national product on defence than do our competitors, such as Japan and West Germany?

Dr. Gilbert

My hon. Friend is right. We spend a higher proportion of our GNP on defence than does any member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, other than the United States and Greece, and certain economic penalties are attached to that fact.

Mr. Goodhart

As the Department is trying to reduce the real earnings of industrial civil servants employed by the Army by 25 per cent. in the coming year, is it not plain that the number of jobs lost will exceed 250,000 very soon?

Dr. Gilbert

The hon. Gentleman defeats me. I have not the faintest idea from where he gets his figure.

Mr. James Lamond

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Ministry of Defence awarded a contract for the building of a destroyer—HMS "Cardiff"—to Vickers, in Barrow-in-Furness because that firm said that it wanted to maintain employment in the area, but later had to remove the ship from that yard and place it elsewhere because the firm could not maintain its labour force at the level necessary to complete the contract?

Dr. Gilbert

There were difficulties with the contract and, unfortunately, it had to be moved to another yard. There was a complex of reasons for that decision. It related to employment in certain trades as much as anything else, as I recall.

Mr. Churchill

Bearing in mind that the Minister has confirmed already that 120,000 jobs and job opportunities have been lost in the Services and the defence industries, and that a further 100,000 jobs are to be destroyed deliberately by this Government between now and 1979, what consultations about this latest job destruction programme have the Government had with the trade unions?

Dr. Gilbert

The hon. Gentleman must be under some misapprehension. The purpose of the defence programme is not to create jobs; it is to defend the country.

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