§ 8. Mr. Ioan Evans
asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is the proposed total annual expenditure on defence and particularly on nuclear weapons.
§ Mr. Evans
Does the Secretary of State realise that, at a time when the Government are cutting back on social benefits and social services it is wrong to have a massive increase in defence expenditure on nuclear arms? Does he not realise that we are contributing a higher proportion of our gross national product to arms expenditure than our European industrial competitors and Japan, and that that may be one of the reasons for the present collapse of British industry?
§ Mr. Pym
Currently, we are not increasing our expenditure on nuclear weapons. When we build the boats for Trident the capital cost, in the late 1980s and early 1990s will be a substantial expense, in the way that Tornado is now. Currently the nuclear part of our defences costs our budget 1½ per cent., which is a modest price in view of the strength that it gives us. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that defence industries provide a subtantial number of jobs and exports, while at the same time strengthening the defences of the West. Therefore, there is something to be said for keeping our expenditure as high as it is.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton
Does my right hon. Friend agree that while there may be room for debate about whether we are allocating too much money to nuclear rather than conventional weapons, there is no argument at all, in the light of what could be another example of blatant Soviet aggression against Poland, about the need to increase defence expenditure? Will he accept that on this side of the House some of us view with concern the reduction in expenditure that he was recently forced to accept?
§ Mr. Pym
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. However, the reduction to which he referred is a reduction in the rate of increase. There will still be a considerable increase in expenditure next year. We must bear that in mind. There is virtually unanimous support for that on this side of the House, and I am bound to say that I think that there is more support on the Opposition side of the House than sometimes appears.
§ Mr. Robert C. Brown
While the essential services in Britain are grinding to a halt and being cut to ribbons, how can the Secretary of State seriously contend that we can afford the Trident programme?