HC Deb 17 June 1980 vol 986 cc1321-3
6. Mr. Alan Clark

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what consultations he has had with British Aerospace or any other United Kingdom manufacturer concerning the provision of the next generation of strategic nuclear deterrent.

Mr. Pym

My Department has had a number of discussions with British Aerospace and other United Kingdom manufacturers on several aspects of this question.

Mr. Clark

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer, which was, perhaps, not quite as comprehensive as one might have liked. Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the integration of our defence and industrial policies is absolutely essential, not only if export and development opportunities are to be exploited, but also if public acceptance of our increased level of defence spending is to be readily forthcoming? Will he accept that, in view of the tremendously important issues that are at stake, and some of the disappointments that have occurred in the last 12 months, there is some anxiety in this place that these responsibilities are entrusted to two of his noble Friends who sit in another place?

Mr. Pym

I agree wholeheartedly about the importance of integrating Britain's defence and industrial interests. I also agree with my hon. Friend about the degree of acceptance and support that we have in the country for our defence policies. My noble Friend, other Ministers and I do everything we can to foster integration, and it is part of our policy that, wherever we can, we should place orders with British industry rather than with anyone else. The overwhelming majority of our equipment programme is provided by British industry. I think that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry would agree that we are very positive in this matter and that we are doing everything we can to help. This is a very important point and I certainly intend to continue that policy.

Mr. Haynes

When will the Secretary of State realise that we cannot go on in this way, finding money to provide weapons to destroy life? Has he not seriously considered the necessity of finding the finance for machinery to preserve life?

Mr. Pym

In answer to an earlier question I pointed out that, unless we protect our freedom and way of life adequately with our Allies, it will not be possible to fulfil the desirable social aims that we share.

Mr. Robert Atkins

What consultations has my right hon. Friend had with British Aerospace about the provision of the next generation of fighter aircraft? When does he expect to make a decision favourable to British Aerospace in relation to AST 403 and 409?

Mr. Pym

There is close co-operation on the matter with British Aerospace. Many discussions have taken place, and I have participated in some of them. I do not expect to be ready to announce a decision in the near future, but when we are ready we shall do so.

Mr. Rodgers

Does the Secretary of State accept that the complexity of the supplementary question asked by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark) and the strong view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) about the whole philosophy of the next generation of strategic nuclear weapons highlight the need to consider a Green Paper? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there were strong views on both sides of the House in favour of the Green Paper? Why can we not have one before a decision is made?

Mr. Pym

The right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do the practice of Parliament. The Government take decisions, which stand before Parliament to be challenged if necessary. That practice is especially relevant to a highly sen- sitive and crucial matter of national importance. As I made clear in the debate on the White Paper, when a decision is taken I shall give my justifications and publish a document explaining the background. As I also explained in the debate, I do not believe that it is appropriate in such a case to publish a Green Paper.