HC Deb 01 March 1983 vol 38 cc116-7
2. Mr. Farr

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is his latest estimate of the proportion of the cost of the provision of Trident which will be met by British manufacturers.

Mr. Ian Stewart

We estimate that around 55 per cent. of the total cost of the programme will be spent in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Farr

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, but he will, of course, recall that it is a considerable reduction in the original percentage content envisaged. Will he ensure within his Department that all our electronic and engineering companies that could be interested are acquainted fully with the type of mechanical equipment to be provided to build this project?

Mr. Stewart

The higher percentage to which my hon. Friend refers relates, I believe, to the original provisions for Trident 1. The explanation of the changes will be found in defence open Government document 82/1 published last year regarding Trident 2. They relate to a number of factors, including improvement of the missile and warhead systems, submarines and various financial factors. With regard to opportunities for United Kingdom suppliers, a new unit has been set up within the Ministry of Defence to provide information to British firms that wish to participate in the Trident programme. I understand that satisfactory progress is being made.

Mr. Cryer

Whatever proportion of resources is being used, is not Trident a gigantic waste of United Kingdom resources, and is it not true that Trident is between four and 10 times more powerful a weapon than the existing Polaris? Is that not fuelling the nuclear arms race, and is that why the Government voted against the Mexican and Swedish proposals at the United Nations for a freeze of nuclear weapons expenditure? Instead of promoting warmongering, why do not the Government give their mind to some peaceful activity for a change?

Mr. Stewart

The Trident programme is not a gigantic waste of money, but is an important part of our national security, as a deterrent. I would point out that when the Trident system is introduced in this country it is expected to constitute a lower proportion of resources compared with the current Soviet and Warsaw pact resources of that kind than the Polaris force did in 1970.

Mr. Alton

Given that the estimated cost of Trident in 1981 was £5 billion and that the figure that the Minister gave in the House in December was £7.5 billion, what figure will the Minister give today as the final cost of Trident?

Mr. Stewart

I have no change to make in the figures already given.

Mr. Robert Atkins

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is some concern ion the House about the problems that British industry is having in achieving success in relation to offset on Trident in the United States? Is my hon. Friend able to comment on the effects of the so-called Berry amendment on specialty metals and other matters relating to procurement in the United States in so far as they might affect British companies tendering for business in Trident?

Mr. Stewart

I appreciate my hon. Friend's point on the concern expressed over the participation of United Kingdom suppliers in the Trident programme. Some of the comment in the press on the subject has been wide of the mark. My hon. Friend the Minister of State is in the United States at the moment and he will be raising a number of matters, including those of the type mentioned by my hon. Friend, during his discussions this week.

Dr. McDonald

Why are the hon. Gentleman and his Government squandering billions of pounds in America when the money could be far better spent in building up our conventional forces and our industrial base?

Mr. Stewart

I thought that the hon. Lady wanted to run down our conventional forces.

Dr. McDonald

No. Wrong again.

Mr. Stewart

The choice of the Trident weapon system as a strategic deterrent is important to our national security and will provide us with that capability more satisfactorily than would any other method.