HC Deb 28 October 1980 vol 991 cc183-5
6. Mr. Archie Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will report progress on the adoption of the Trident missile.

Mr. Pym

Exchanges of letters between the Governments of the United Kingdom and the United States of America, were signed on 30 September, extending the provisions of the Polaris sales agreement of 1963 to cover the supply of the Trident I weapon system. Copies of these letters are in the Vote Office. Detailed planning of the programme is in hand and the procurement of certain materials has started.

Mr. Hamilton

Does my right hon. Friend accept that that news will be welcome to Conservative Members, particularly in the light of the remarks of the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot)—who I see on the Opposition Front Bench—that we should unilaterally disarm? In those circumstances, does not that mean that Labour Members should cease to be called "Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition"?

Mr. Pym

As I have already said this afternoon, I am concerned about the extent to which the Labour Party appears to be going in the direction of unilateralism. I think that the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) has always been of that school of thought, and I understand those who take that view, but it remains the view of the Government, and it was the view of all previous Governments of all parties, that this is a necessary part of our deterrent. Indeed, the NATO strategy, which is the essence of our defensive system, contains a nuclear element which all the allies support and which all the allies believe would be extremely damaging if it were not there. Therefore, I cannot say too strongly how much I believe talk and the thought of unilateralism at this stage in our history to be unwise and unsound.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Did the Secretary of State read the recent MORI public opinion poll in The Sunday Times, which showed that a clear majority of the British people are in favour of spending less on arms and more on housing? Is he aware of the widespread and growing feeling that it is indecent to spend £5,000 million on Trident, while at the same time cutting expenditure on the homeless. the sick, the unemployed and children?

Mr. Pym

I feel exactly the same about that as the hon. Gentleman does. I want to spend more on housing and social issues, and so does everyone, but unless they are protected, and unless we have a defence that will deter an aggressor from starting a war, we will find not only that we have a war, but that we have lost our freedoms.

Mr. Beith

How much will the cost of an independent nuclear deterrent be at the expense of essential naval and other Service commitments?

Mr. Pym

Just as Polaris was fitted into the ordinary routine budget, so will Trident I be. Although massively expensive, it is not as expensive as the Tornado programme, but it will fit into the programme and therefore will not be at the expense of other things. Whatever weapons system one buys one can only spend that money once, and the object of the expenditure and the defence budget is to have at the end of it, along with our allies, a capability that is comprehensive, complete and effective in order to preserve the peace. In our view, and in the view of our allies, Trident I will be a great addition to our deterrent, and therefore a major contribution to peace.

Mr. Farr

While supporting my right hon. Friend's decision on Trident, may I ask him to make certain that as much as possible of the sophisticated back-up equipment necessary to make the system effective is British made and produced by British firms?

Mr. Pym

Yes. I had many discussions with British industry before this decision was taken. Now that the decision has been taken, I can tell my hon. Friend that more than 70 per cent. of the capital cost will be money spent in the United Kingdom.