HC Deb 12 July 1983 vol 45 cc749-50
5. Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what recent representations he has received about the proposal to locate the Trident nuclear weapon in Scotland.

Mr. Stanley

The representations that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has received on Trident cover a wide range of matters. No separate record is maintained of letters dealing specifically with the question of the location of the base for the future Trident submarine force.

Mr. Canavan

How can the Government argue that they have a mandate for foisting this deadly weapon on the people of Scotland when this militant Tory Government were rejected by over 70 per cent. of the Scottish people at the general election? Bearing in mind that about half of the Scottish element of the recent proposed cuts in public expenditure are to be borne by the National Health Service, why are the Government so hell-bent on spending over £10,000 million of public money on a weapon of death instead of spending more to protect life in areas such as the National Health Service?

Mr. Stanley

I must remind the hon. Gentleman that he speaks in the Chamber not as a member of a Scottish assembly but as a member of a United Kingdom Parliament. I note that a gallup poll carried out for the BBC in May showed that the proportion of those in Britain against unilaterally getting rid of nuclear weapons was nearly 80 per cent.

Mr. Strang

Since the Trident 2D5 weapon system is designed to destroy Soviet missiles in their silos, is it not likely that the Soviet Union will regard it as a first-strike weapon even though it may not be the Government's intention to use it in that way?

Mr. Stanley

It is essential to maintain the British capability and to have an independent strategic deterrent. It is thus necessary to modernise the Polaris force, which will have become obsolescent by the early 1990s.

Mr. McNamara

Is not modernisation a polite way of talking about escalation? Trident represents a marked escalation of the arms race. Does the Minister accept that the majority of people in Britain do not want Trident? The Government have already cut their defence expenditure by £250 million and are likely to do so again in the autumn. We shall end up with a very expensive totem pole which we shall never be able to use, while at the same time our conventional forces are run down and are unable to defend the country properly.

Mr. Stanley

It is strange that the hon. Gentleman should consider that the Trident procurement programme involves escalation. That was certainly not the view taken by any of the previous Labour Governments, who were happy to support the procurement of Polaris. At that time they clearly did not regard it as escalation.

Sir Antony Buck

Does my hon. Friend agree that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) has just made a Freudian slip? The whole point is that we should never have to use such weapons. Our increased capability should form the foundation to enable us to get negotiations going on both sides of the Iron Curtain, thus ensuring that nuclear weapons are never used. That is the whole purpose of it all.

Mr. Stanley

I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend, and he is entirely right. We are fortunate that Europe has had one of its longest periods of peace. The policy of deterrence is an integral part of that and it is the Government's firm intention to maintain it.