HC Deb 19 May 1981 vol 5 cc148-9
17. Mr. Cryer

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the current estimate of the cost of Trident.

Mr. Nott

As I stated in the Defence White Paper, the total capital cost of a four-boat force is broadly estimated at £5,000 million at mid-1980 prices. I cannot be more precise until various design and other studies have been completed.

Mr. Cryer

Has not the cost increased to £6 billion, as is the widely reported and authoritative view? In the Armed Services, is not such expenditure drawing money away from existing services and the maintenance of the Navy and, domestically, from such things as education?

Mr. Nott

The figure of £6,000 million is not authoritative, nor is it true. I have given the figure. The current estimate is £5,000 million Clearly, £5,000 million spent on Trident is £5,000 million less to spend on something else. That is a statement of the obvious. We have to consider the most effective way to spend that sum in the preservation of peace. That, as I hope to state in the debate, is the argument for Trident.

Mr. Latham

What proportion of the work on Trident will be done by British workers, and what will be the cost in the next two years?

Mr. Nott

Approximately three-quarters of the work will be done here. The submarines will be built in Barrow and the warheads will be made here. I cannot give an estimate of likely expenditure on Trident over the next two years. We are never prepared to break down expenditure year by year in that way.

Mr. Ioan Evans

If the £5 billion is not to be extra expenditure but to come from existing expenditure, will it come entirely from the Navy's expenditure?

Mr. Nott

These questions have simply not been decided. Where the expenditure for Trident will fall is a matter for future decision when substantial sums become in issue. At present, we have spent virtually no money on Trident. The large items of expenditure will begin only a few years hence.

Mr. Jessel

Is my right hon. Friend aware that £5,000 million over 15 years with a population of more than 50 million works out at less than 2p per head per day? Is not that a very modest price to keep our people safe and free?

Mr. Nott

I congratulate my hon. Friend on making the key point. We are attempting, as the Labour Government did, to maintain peace. As my hon. Friend says, we believe that the expenditure of this sum of money is one of the most cost-effective ways to achieve that.