HC Deb 11 March 1982 vol 19 cc975-86 3.45 pm
The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. John Nott)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement about the Government's decision to modernise the existing Polaris force by replacing it, in the mid-1990s, with a four-boat force based on the Trident II D5 missile system.

On 15 July 1980, my predecessor announced the Government's decision in favour of Trident as the replacement force for Polaris, but, as I told the Defence Committee of the House in March last year, final decisions were still needed on the type of submarine and the choice of missile.

We have now decided that our four Trident submarines, to be built at Vickers, Barrow, will have a larger hull section than previously planned and will incorporate an advanced propulsion system and the latest sonars. After detailed consideration here, and with the United States, we have now decided also to purchase the Trident II D5, instead of the Trident I C4 missile system, from the United States.

The number of warheads that the Trident II D5 missile will carry, and therefore Trident's striking power, remains wholly a matter of choice for the British Government. Our intention is that the move to D5 will not involve any significant change in the planned total number of warheads than we originally envisaged for our Trident I C4 force.

The reasons for our choice of Trident II are briefly as follows. Just as the Polaris system will, by the mid-1990s, have been in service for approaching 30 years and will have reached the end of its operational life, so the Trident system must remain a credible deterrent for a similar period and thus remain operational until 2020—that is, 40 years from now.

Our experience with Polaris and the decision—endorsed by the last Labour Government—to modernise the Polaris missile with Chevaline at great cost has shown us the financial and operational penalties of running and developing a United Kingdom unique system.

Followint President Reagan's decision to accelerate the Trident II D5 programme, if we were to choose the C4 missile, it would enter service with the Royal Navy only shortly before it left service with the United States. This would mean that the United Kingdom alone would be responsible for keeping open special Trident I C4 support facilities in the United States, and the United Kingdom alone would be forced to fund, as with Chevaline, any research and development needed to counter improved Soviet anti-ballistic missile defences. For these reasons, our judgment is that the through life costs for Trident I would almost certainly be higher than for Trident II.

Accordingly, we have entered into an agreement with the United States to purchase Trident H. An exchange of letters between the President of the United States and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is set out in Cmnd. 8517 published today, together with an exchange of letters between the United States Defence Secretary and myself on the terms of the arrangements.

The United States Government are selling Trident II to us on more advantageous terms than Trident I. The missile will be purchased by us at the same price as the United States Navy's own requirements in accordance with the Polaris sales agreement. The additional overheads and levies will be lower than would have been the case under our 1980 agreement to purchase Trident I C4. In particular, the so-called R and D levy will in fact be a fixed sum in real terms, and there will be a complete waiver of the facilities charge which was part of the C4 deal. I emphasise to the House that the terms protect us completely from development cost escalation. Finally, the United States will waive certain of the Buy American Act provisions and set up a liaison office in London to advise British industry on how they can compete—on equal terms with United States industry—for sub-contracts-for weapon systems components for the D5 programme as a whole, including the American programme.

When I appeared before the House of Commons Defence Committee, I made it clear that the range of options which we still had to study for the Trident system, over and above the total cost of £5,000 million then given, could be confined within an additional £1,000 million at 1980 prices and exchange rates—and so it will.

On this basis, the initial capital costs of the Trident II D5 missile system will be an extra £390 million above the Trident I C4 missile system which represents an addition of about 7 per cent. to the total cost. We have now decided also to fit the latest propulsion system, the British pressurised water reactor 2, already under development, and improved sonar systems, which together with the larger hull will add about a further £500 million to the cost, which will mean additional work for British industry but within the £1,000 million total increase. These changes will greatly improve the efficiency and the quietness of the submarines. As a result, we are planning to run our submarines for around seven years between refits so that the availability of the submarines for patrol can he greatly increased. This will allow us to maintain three boats in the operating cycle for a high proportion of the time. The Trident II D5 missile should also have an in-tube life within the submarine of at least seven years, a much longer period than for Polaris, thus greatly reducing maintenance which will be largely carried out on board the submarine.

At September 1980 prices, therefore, we will spend on Trident about £6,000 million. Updating the price basis to September 1981 prices, which reflects a much lower exchange rate than in September 1980, adds a total of about £1,500 million. So the total cost over the procurement period will, at 1981 prices, be £7,500 million against an estimated total defence budget over the same period of approaching £250,000 million. That is just over 3 per cent. of the total defence budget.

This means that we shall spend on Trident at current prices an average of somewhat under £500 million a year against total defence spending of £14,000 million a year.

I am making available now in the Vote Office a document explaining the Government's decision which also shows on page 8 how the cost of Trident compares with the anticipated capital expenditure on our conventional forces. This information has not been published before.

From this, it can be seen that Trident expenditure over the next 15 years is a far smaller amount than our planned expenditure on equipment for our major conventional capabilities such as anti-submarine warfare or offensive air operations. With the 3 per cent. growth in the defence budget until 1985–86, several billions of pounds extra in real terms will still be available to spend on our conventional defences in future years.

For about 3 per cent. of the defence budget, we shall be modernising the British independent nuclear force that successive Governments have considered to be essential for our national security over the past 30 years. Nothing has happened to change that need—rather the reverse.

The Government remain convinced that no other choice by Trident will provide a credible nuclear deterrent into the year 2000 and beyond. No other use of our resources could possibly contribute as much to our security and the deterrent strength of NATO as a whole. To choose a system lacking in credibility to an aggressor, or, still more, to abandon unilaterally a capability that we have now maintained for three decades, would be a futile gesture that would serve to increase rather than to diminish the risk of war.

Mr. John Silkin (Deptford)

Labour will cancel the Trident project. We shall do so for three basic reasons.

First, this programme escalates the arms race, particularly in the light of the Geneva talks and the United Nations special session on disarmament. Incidentally, I hope that the Prime Minister will be going to that special session.

Secondly, the project breaks the spirit if not the letter of the non-proliferation treaty.

Thirdly, despite all that the Secretary of State says, the expense will have an effect upon our conventional forces which will destroy the security of these islands. Moreover, while I am on the subject, the Secretary of State may bamboozle his colleagues in the Cabinet, but he will not bamboozle the House. He says that the cost is 3 per cent. of defence expenditure, but he does not tell us that it is almost one-quarter of the expenditure on new equipment in the major maximum years.

I wish to ask the Secretary of State the following questions. First, what pressure is he maintaining on the United States Government for the United Kingdom to take part in the Geneva talks? If he says we are to have this new and devastating nuclear weapon system, we should be at the top table of which he talks so often.

Secondly, to what extent will the 50,000 jobs lost as a result of the devastation of our conventional forces by this be offset by the programme itself?

Thirdly, how can the Secretary of State be so sure about the cost? He made an interesting point in this respect. He talked about 1981 prices. There has been 12 per cent. inflation since then. Quite apart from that, however, how can he be so certain of the cost when, first, there is no experience whatever in building submarines of this kind, as they are far larger than any that we have previously had, and, secondly, we do not have experience even with the warheads? Finally, on what basis is the right hon. Gentleman taking the exchange rate in talking about 1985 and onwards?

Mr. Nott

There are many questions to answer. I shall do my best to answer them.

It will be no surprise to the House that the Labour Party now says that if it ever comes to power it will cancel Trident. We realise the pressures upon the right hon. Gentleman from his party. We must be realistic about his difficulties.

When Trident II is introduced it will represent only about 3 per cent. to 4 per cent. of the planned number of Soviet strategic missiles. That is approximately the same proportion of the Russian strategic missile force that Polaris represented when it was introduced. It is not true to say that this escalates the arms race. If there is an escalation of the arms race, it comes from the Soviet Union, which is introducing one new SS20 every week.

This is no more than a modernisation of our existing force, which we have retained for 30 years. It does not break the letter of the non-profileration treaty. That is an inaccurate statement. [HON. MEMBERS: "It breaks the spirit".] Nor does it break the spirit. The non-proliferation treaty never sought to refer to existing nuclear powers.

The right hon. Gentleman is in no position to lecture us about conventional forces. There are nearly 30,000 more Regulars and reservists in the Services than there were when we came to office. Every unit is up to strength. We now have one-third more tanks manned and operational in Germany, and the amount spent on defence equipment with British industry in the coming year will have doubled since the last general election. If there is a difference at all, it is only on nuclear policy. The Labour Government modernised Polaris secretly by developing Chevaline while we are doing so openly with Trident.

Is the Labour Party proposing now to increase defence expenditure by 3 per cent. a year? Is it proposing to switch what we would spend on the nuclear deterrent to conventional forces? If so, why did the Labour Party vote to decrease total defence spending to the NATO European average, which would mean spending £3.5 billion a year less than we are spending on defence today?

In regard to the escalation of cost, Vickers, Barrow—whose Member for Parliament is present today—has an excellent record. It has built 17 nuclear submarines with no real cost increases.

The technology is very much the same and we shall benefit from the experience of the United States in building the "Ohio". The Trident II D5 missile will have the same warhead as the Trident I missile. It has already been tested and development is far advanced. I see no reason for escalation in that cost.

The Americans have a very good record of developing missiles to cost. Anyhow, we are wholly protected by a fixed sum against any R and D escalation, as I have already said. The pressurised water reactor, too, has also been nearly developed. We have an enormous contingency allowance in any event in our figures.

I keep on telling the right hon. Gentleman that the Geneva talks are nothing to do with strategic arms. He may believe that they are, but the Soviet Union knows that they are nothing to do with strategic arms. They are to do with European theatre weapons.

On the possible loss of jobs, if the Labour party cancels this programme about £4,000 million worth of business will be lost to British industry. I do not think that any of us has ever believed Labour Party assurances when it has been in Opposition before. Its assurances have always proved wrong in the past, and I see no reason why they will not prove wrong again.

Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)

Is the Secretary of State aware that the fact that this Government are continuing openly what the previous Government did secretly is not an argument about the merits of the independent nuclear deterrent? Will he accept that, as no other political party in the House accepts this programme, its likelihood of cancellation is very high? What discussion has he had with our allies on that, particularly since it is not required under our obligations to NATO?

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that if we leave aside the future commitment in the defence budget on pay, pensions, buildings and so on, the real percentage cost of this system is over 20 per cent. of the capital procurement programme? That is the real effect on the conventional defence system.

Finally, will the right hon. Gentleman be more explicit about the compensation that he believes he has obtained for the jobs lost in our dockyards and electronic industries through the cutbacks in our conventional forces?

Mr. Nott

Our conventional forces are greatly strengthened beyond what they were two and a half years ago. In a whole range of areas the capability of our conventional forces has been transformed since May 1979.

Our allies welcomed the Government's decision to introduce the Trident programme. My predecessor raised this matter in NATO at the time and the introduction of Trident as a modernisation of Polaris was welcomed by our NATO allies.

I invite the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends to study some of the facts. There are obviously some facts which can be available only to a Government. I have looked at every possible option for the modernisation of Polaris with, I hope and I believe, a totally open mind. If he were trying to select an independent nuclear capability that would take us into the year 2000 and beyond, the right hon. Gentleman would find, as I have found, that there is only one option—the Trident system.

Trident will take up on average about 6 per cent. over the years of our total equipment budget. At the very peak of equipment spending it will take up about 11.5 per cent. of that spending. This country, which has been in this business through successive Labour and Conservative Governments for the security of these islands, can afford over the next 18 years, while we are building this, to spend 3 per cent. of the defence budget on this capability. It is essential for the maintenance of peace and the defence of these islands.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I propose to allow 20 minutes for questions on this subject. We cannot debate it today.

Mr. Antony Buck (Colchester)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that those on both sides of the House who try to give even-handed consideration to these matters will welcome what he has just announced, as will people throughout the country? Will he confirm that the main considerations which have caused him to arrive at this conclusion are the same considerations which caused the Labour Party to come to the conclusion that it was right to go for Chevaline relative to Polaris? Will he also confirm that it will mean many jobs for British industry?

Mr. Mott

I can confirm that we are talking about large numbers of jobs for British industry and a huge programme which will stretch over the period of 18 years while this modernisation is being brought forward. I understand that the decision on Chevaline was taken by a rather small number of members of the Labour Government. We have debated the matter openly throughout our period in office, and we have arrived at a decision unanimously after a long debate within the Government.

Chevaline seemed necessary to the Labour Government to keep Polaris credible as a deterrent to the Soviet Union over the next 10 years. There is no point in retaining a strategic independent deterrent if it is not credible in the eyes of the Soviets. That is the judgment we have to make. It was the judgment that the Labour Government made and the judgment which we have to make about a system which we anticipate will need to be operational 40 years from now.

Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)

Does the Secretary of State accept that the latest public opinion polls show a massive 63 per cent. against both versions of the Trident, with only 23 per cent. in favour of them? That is a ratio of nearly three to one. Does he further accept that it is only a year since a similar poll showed that there was opposition, but it was then only 55 per cent. to 33 per cent.? Does this not show that the British people have rejected the Secretary of State's argument on moral, financial and survival grounds?

Mr. Nott

Since I have only just made the statement, it is hard to believe that the British people could have rejected Trident. We can all swap the results of polls with each other, but the polls I take into account are the recent polls in The Observer and The Guardian which showed that 67 per cent. of the British people are in favour of Britain retaining her nuclear deterrent and that within that a majority of Labour Party supporters who were questioned were also in favour of this country retaining an independent deterrent. [Interruption.] We have to show the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) that, if the British people believe in an independent nuclear deterrent, this is the only credible system which will provide us with that capability. That I intend to do from now onwards.

Sir Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)

While congratulating my right hon. Friend on the deal that he seems to have effected with the American Government, I should like to express areas of dissent on the Conservative Benches quite separate from those expressed by right hon. and hon. Members on the Opposition Benches. Were now involved in weaponry which is essentially i he weaponry of a super Power. That means that there must be an effect on our conventional defence budget and other parts of our general military budget, the essential balance of which must be a powerful conventional force which is effective and useful. I am sure that several of my hon. Friends find it difficult to accept that we should now embark on a system which, because of its financial and military considerations, is bound to affect this country's general defensive stance, which must essentially be based on common sense.

Mr. Nott

We found in our history that the crossbow was needed to modernise the longbow, and that the pitchfork was not sufficient match for the crossbow. The threat that faces this country comes from a super Power. If my right hon. Friend thinks that we can defend this country against a super Power, bearing in mind the weapons that that super Power possesses, with weapons that are inadequate, he is wrong. If we are to defend these islands against a threat from a super Power, I am afraid that it is necessary to have some weapons that can act as a deterrent against that super Power. That is what we are talking about.

Mr. Robert C. Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, West)

Is the Secretary of State aware that many thousands of British people of all political persuasions see as a No. 1 priority the defence of the United Kingdom within NATO? Many thousands of them will be dismayed at his statement, which will expose the sharp end of the United Kingdom's defence—the British Army of the Rhine and the Atlantic fleet—and put it in jeopardy.

Mr. Nott

The hon. Gentleman, who has some experience of these matters, must recognise that NATO's deterrent strategy is to a great extent built on nuclear deterrence. There is no point in the Labour Party's trying to pretend that that is not so. When the hon. Gentleman was, I believe, in the Ministry of Defence—anyway, it was three years ago, when the Labour Party was in Government—we could not even man our tanks in the British Army of the Rhine because all the units were so much under strength. We now have a third more tanks manned and operational in Germany than we did then. Throughout our conventional capability the Services are up to strength. We are introducing new weapons systems the whole time.

If we say "We shall not spend that 3 per cent. of the total defence budget on the nuclear capability", we shall be abandoning something that successive Governments, some of which the hon. Gentleman served in, have believed for the past 30 years in retaining. I am saying that for 3 per cent. of the defence budget we can afford to keep in that business. We must afford to keep in that business, because it is necessary for our defence.

Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Devonport)

The Secretary of State should correct the misleading impression that he gave that the Chevaline decision was made by the last Labour Government. He must be aware that the decision was made by the Administration of the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), and indeed was even planned and thought about when the previous Labour Government were in power.

On the central question, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many people—Service men and others, who have had available to them the same information as he has, have come to a different conclusion, and regret the decision to spend in current prices over £8 billion on the Trident missile system? While being fully committed to Britain continuing as long as possible to make a contribution to NATO's nuclear deterrence, they nevertheless believe that it would have been wise for him to spend the money that he has already allocated—£300 million—on Polaris motors, to extend the life of Polaris as long as possible, and to consider in 1990 a decision whether to put cruise missiles on hunter-killer submarines. The right hon. Gentleman is under the most serious criticism for having cut the surface Navy and for having cut the hunter-killer submarine build-up rate. They will not now be able to be built in Barrow, because of the Trident decision.

Mr. Nott

I have not cut the hunter-killer submarine build-up rate. I inherited a programme to have 17 hunter-killer submarines in operation by the end of this decade, and that is what we shall have. If I said that Chevaline was decided on by the last Labour Government, I should have said it was endorsed by the last Labour Government, and carried on by the last Labour Government secretly.

I am not sure who are the Service men who have the same information as I do and who are against Trident. I know that I am in trouble with some retired admirals, but who are the Service men who have the information that I have at my disposal and who are against the Trident decision? Those Service men who have the same information as I have—and there are very few of them—are unanimously in favour of the decision.

For someone who has served in the Ministry of Defence to suggest that our Polaris submarines can go on into the year 2000 and beyond completely ignores all the advice that anyone is putting forward. They would be too noisy and would be detected. They will then be more than 30 years old. It is an impossible policy. It would not take more than a few minutes to show the right hon. Gentleman why it is nonsense.

If the right hon. Gentleman wants to put cruise missiles on Polaris submarines, the answer is that not only would the submarines be discovered but by the year 2000 the missiles would not penetrate to their target. It would be the biggest waste of money that the SDP had ever contemplated. The right hon. Gentleman's suggestions do not add up. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to come and get some of the facts. If he is humble enough to consider them, perhaps we can convince him that he is wrong.

Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)

In welcoming my right hon. Friend's very important and sensible statement, I should like to tell him that the Select Committee on Defence would much appreciate it if he agreed to give evidence to us at an early convenient date, so that all the facts can be gone through and all the relevant reason for his decision can be established, so far as that is possible in public. That would be for the benefit not merely of Opposition right hon. Members, who seem to have wilfully misinformed themselves, but of the public at large, so that they can understand the full reasons why my right hon. Friend has come to these vital decisions.

Mr. Nott

I shall be happy to come to the Committee at the earliest convenient opportunity. I thank my hon. Friend for the invitation.

Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)

Does the Secretary of State realise that the decision that he has just taken will affect Scotland particularly, since these hellish weapons of destruction will be situated close to Scotland's centre of population? Public opinion in Scotland, including views within the Conservative Party, is utterly hostile to the Trident missile system. Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that if he goes ahead with the project, if a subsequent Government do not cancel it, a Scottish Parliament or Assembly most certainly will?

Mr. Nott

I do not know that the House regards that as a big threat, but we take note of the hon. Gentleman's views. If the project did not go forward, about 4,000 jobs would be lost at Coulport. Has the hon. Gentleman obtained the views of the 4,000 Scottish people who work in that depot? I do not think that they would agree with him.

Mr. Alan Clark (Plymouth, Sutton)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on having negotiated a most successful agreement, at a price much less than many of us had feared, for what is unquestionably the finest strategic deterrent system and one best suited to the needs of the United Kingdom. But what guarantees are there that during the currency of the procurement of the system it will not be cancelled, either at the whim of the United States Congress or as a result of changes of President or changes of presidential mood or attitude over the next 20 years?

Mr. Nott

On the whole, our allies tend to keep to their agreements. I do not think that such a hypothetical situation has ever arisen, nor do I think that it is probable.

The answer to my hon. Friend's question is that most of the system will be built here, by British industry. It is only the missile and the missile control system that we are buying from the United States. The majority of the expenditure will be made here in the United Kingdom. There is nothing in this technology which we in this country are not inherently capable of producing. Indeed, the French Socialist Government—and in the French Socialist Government the Communists actually declare their colours—are spending 25 per cent. of their present defence budget on their nuclear deterrent. We can do this ourselves, as we have proved with Chevaline, but it would be enormously expensive to do so and it is cheaper to buy the technology from the United States.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline)

Does the Secretary of State recall a speech he made in which he indicated that the cost of Chevaline had gone bananas? What chance is there that the cost involved here in relation to Trident will not go the same way? Additionally, whilst he is talking about jobs, has he noted that in the financial statement one of the worries of this country is import penetration? The cost of going for Trident in this way, and at this time, may be a diminution by British industry generally to compete across the board and thus, whilst strengthening our defence, may be weakening our total economic position.

Mr. Nott

I do not underestimate the technical difficulties which face the United Kingdom industry in competing successfully for the United States Trident programme. On Sub-Harpoon, Chinook, the advanced Harrier, Rapier, and a whole range, we have just recently done about £1,000 million worth of business in defence equipment with the United States.

If the Hawk, the Searchwater and other programmes go forward, we hope to do another £1,000 million worth of business with the United States. If this two-way street did not exist, if we were not buying and selling each other's defence equipment, those extra jobs would not be created for British industry.

I do not accept that this is a programme which is any more subject to escalation of costs than any other highly advanced technology, because most of the content of this programme is already well developed. To say that we have not tested our warheads is not true. We have. It is the same warhead as the Trident I. There is a misunderstanding on this. There is a great deal of business for British industry in this. I hope it succeeds in doing as well on this programme as it has done on the other American programmes.

Mr. Keith Speed (Ashford)

If the choice is between modernising Polaris or between C4 and D5, we are undoubtedly right to stay with D5. There is no alternative. Will the Minister answer two questions? First, we have not heard what will be the percentage of expenditure of the naval equipment programme at the apogee of the Trident expenditure. Secondly, I am concerned about the submarine building capacity, because we need a regular building programme for the SSN. Some of the SSNs are getting old and the first one is already to be scrapped. We must be ready to build the new 2400 SSKs.

Mr. Nott

We have a defence equipment programme, and what I am concerned about is defence capability. I look at our overall defences. We are finding money for the Trident programme as a separate item. Trident will be manned by the Royal Navy. It is easier to manage this programme under the Royal Navy and put it in its programme. But it is not right to say that if we had not had Trident the naval programme would have been different. That does not follow logically. It is financed by the defence programme. The SSN programme is going forward as planned when the hon. Member was in the Department. We shall build as many SSNs as we can at Vickers, Barrow, until the moment comes for Trident to take up. We have not yet placed the orders for the SSK programme, but as soon as we are in a position to do so we shall consider which yard shall take them.

Mr. Stanley Newens (Harlow)

Will the Minister tell us how he proposes to meet the costs of this weapon after 1985 when they escalate to the peak? Does he propose to meet them out of the normal defence budget, which will mean cutting down on conventional expenditure, or does he propose to have a special budget which will add even more to the gigantic escalation of defence expenditure which his Government are proposing? If so, how on earth will this country afford it?

Mr. Nott

We have to look ahead over 10 years to see when the peaks of different items of equipment will come. At no point, even in the peak year of spending on Trident, will it be as expensive as Tornado will be next year in my programme. The peak year will probably be in the last year or two of the 1980s. At the peak of our programme D5 will take up about 11½ per cent. We shall pay for it, as we are now paying this year and next year, for a much more expensive programme, namely, the Tornado aircraft. It will be financed in exactly the same way as our conventional programme is being financed now.

Sir Timothy Kitson (Richmond, Yorks)

Will my right hon. Friend clarify one point in his statement? If the cycle between refits for the new Trident submarine is to be seven years, can he assure the House that there will be no need to order a fifth vessel?

Mr. Nott

Because of the extended length of the refits—seven years—four Trident submarines are equivalent to at least five Polaris submarines. We do not now need to contemplate five submarines. Four Trident D5s, with a much longer refit interval and the in-tube life of seven years, plus the missile, are equivalent to more than five Polaris submarines. We shall have three in the operational cycle for a large proportion of the time.

Mr. Bruce George (Walsall, South)

Does the Minister agree that it is not simply a replacement programme but that in terms of quality and quantity of warheads D5 represents almost a quantum leap forward? Will the Minister tell the House why we require a hard kill capability? Will he inform his hon. Friends what cherished projects are likely to be cancelled as a result of this £8,000 million expenditure?

Mr. Nott

I am not sure what the hon. Gentleman means by referring to the quality of the warhead. The D5 will have exactly the same warhead as the C4. The yield depends on what we decide the yield will be.

As for quantity, we do not intend to have more warheads than in the case of Trident I. We intend to have approximately the same number as Trident I. So, in terms of quantity, it is not, in our present planning, an escalation. The number of warheads on the missile need not necessarily be more than we now have on Polaris. That is a matter of choice for the British Government of the time.

As for the hard kill capability, it is certainly true that D5 is a more accurate missile than C4 and much more accurate than Polaris. It can knock out a specific discreet target in a way that Polaris could not. But that is not why we want it. We have chosen it because of commonality with the United States. We want to be on the same system as the United States for all the benefits that I gave in my statement.

Mr. Anthony Nelson (Chichester)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his decision and on striking what appears to be an exceptionally favourable financial deal. The capital cost of such a programme is undeniably high, but will my right hon. Friend explain about the year-on-year running costs? Is it not a fact that the current cost of the existing Polaris deterrent is about the equivalent of building about 13 miles of motorway a year? Does that not prove that over a period the running cost of the deterrent is a low price to pay for the ultimate guarantee of our national security and independence?

Mr. Nott

My hon. Friend is right. The running costs of our existing strategic deterrent and of Trident are low. To give my hon. Friend an idea, our strategic deterrent requires only about 4,000 to 5,000 people to keep it operational whereas 650,000 people are required for defence overall. Therefore, in terms of revenue, the cost is 1½ per cent. of the defence budget and only 4,000 people of the 650,000 are required, which is a small proportion.

Mr. Denzil Davies (Llanelli)

Why does not the Secretary of State come clean with the House and admit that the figure of £7.5 billion is merely one of the heavily massaged Ministry of Defence figures that are put to the Cabinet so that the Secretary of State can try to get past the Treasury and his colleagues? The Secretary of State never answered the question on this matter. The figure will be higher because the submarines are different—witness the American problem with the Ohio submarine—from what we built before. The warhead is different even from the Chevaline warhead. The Secretary of State should have learnt some lessons from that. He has no idea what the exchange rate is likely to be when the payments will have to be made. Is it not clear that the decision has not been based on any rational analysis of Britain's defence and security interests? It is not based on a rational analysis of our economic capacity to bear those burdens. It is an emotional spasm that pays no attention to the test ban treaty or to the arms reduction talks that are taking place. It will merely bring much closer the danger of a nuclear holocaust.

Mr. Nott

If it is an emotional spasm it has been a disease of eight successive Governments. I think that the right hon. Gentleman has served in some of them. We shall keep on with the strategic deterrent adopted by his Government until the end of its operational life. The Trident will replace it.

The comprehensive test ban treaty is not relevant. We are in favour of it and we want it. We are trying to get it. I do not know why that should be relevant. We have a large contingency figure in the programme of about £1,000 million. The Ohio programme was the first of its kind. We will benefit from the Americans' experience resulting from the problems that they had. They were welding problems, which I believe we shall not have at Vickers, Barrow. I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman does not know what the Chevaline warhead is. Few people know. I cannot say more than that. Like members of previous Labour Governments, the right hon. Gentleman would be better advised to think about the security of the the country before he thinks about the problems within his party.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask you to extend questions on the statement, which have taken about 25 minutes so far? There is a one-line Whip on tonight's debate. There have already been two days' debate on the Budget.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am not open to such representations at this time.

Mr. Cryer

Why not?

Mr. Speaker

Because I have already given the House a decision on the matter. The statement began at a quarter to four. I am not continuing with it.

Mr. Barry Henderson (Fife, East)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Is it on the same matter, because I am not taking points of order on whether I should permit further questions?

Mr. Henderson

I should like to ask you, Mr. Speaker, to put on the record that anyone listening to the questions on the statement might have got the impression that all Scottish Members were called from the Opposition—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I. am sorry for the hon. Gentleman and for all hon. Members who did not catch my eye. However, the questions cannot continue.

Mr. Cryer

Mr. Speaker—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman always makes a noise when he is not called. If the rest of the House behaved like that, this place would be bedlam.

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