HC Deb 11 March 1980 vol 980 cc1136-7
10. Mr. Farr

asked the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects Chevaline to be fully operational.

Mr. Pym

As I told the House on 24 January, development is close to completion and deployment will begin soon afterwards. It would not, however, be in the public interest to give the precise date.

Mr. Farr

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. Will he give the House some indication of the lifespan of this system?

Mr. Pym

We expect that Chevaline will maintain the effectiveness of Polaris into the 1990s.

Mr. Douglas

Will the Secretary of State comment on the lifespan of the boats? How will the reorganisation of the re-equipment affect the life of the submarines? Will he give some indication of the timing of a statement on future prospects?

Mr. Pym

I am advised that the boats can be expected to remain effective and efficient into the 1990s. That is as precise as I can be on that question. On the other matter, the Government have not yet come to a decision. When a decision is reached, I shall make a statement.

Mr. Cook

Would the right hon. Gentleman care to comment on a press report last week that the Defence and Overseas Sub-Committee has felt obliged to cut the Polaris replacement programme from five submarines to four? If, at this early stage of the replacement programme, it has been necessary to cut the programme, would it not be more honest to admit that the replacement of Polaris is far too grandiose a project for a medium-sized Power in serious economic difficulties?

Mr. Pym

I do not think that it is right to comment on what was obviously speculation. I have made it clear that there are a number of options that the Government have been reviewing. The Government have not reached a conclusion. When they reach a conclusion, I shall announce it to the House.