HC Deb 26 March 1985 vol 76 cc200-1
5. Mr. Kirkwood

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he has made an estimate of the effect on employment in the United Kingdom that will result from the introduction of the Trident missile system.

Mr. Butler

The British Trident programme is expected to create an extra 17,000 direct jobs and 13,000 indirect ones during the peak years of the project, with a total of 170,000 man years of direct employment in the United Kingdom and 130,000 indirect man years over the programme as a whole.

Mr. Kirkwood

Will the Minister confirm that in the five peak years of Trident expenditure commencing in 1988, £1 in £4 of the major procurement defence budget will go to Trident in America, and that that will prejudice essential expenditure in our conventional defence industry? If he is not prepared to cancel Trident on defence grounds, will he consider cancelling it on the ground of the impact that it will have on jobs in Britain?

Mr. Butler

I would have thought that the hon. Gentleman would at least have welcomed the good news about job creation. I have no idea where he gets his figures from. The proportion of the equipment budget that will be taken at peak is estimated at 11 per cent. Therefore, in no way can £1 in £4 go to America.

Dr. Hampson

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the only decision that we must take on Trident is whether Europe needs an independent nuclear deterrent, since there can be no ultimate guarantee that a future American Administraton would come to the defence of Europe? Will he confirm that the Trident system is cheaper in real terms than Polaris?

Mr. Butler

The main reason for having Trident is to make our contribution to the policy of deterrence which has been so effective during the 40 years since the second world war. In the remote, hypothetical event of Western Europe being isolated, clearly Trident and the French nuclear deterrent would have a special part to play.

Mr. James Lamond

If going ahead with the Trident missile would destroy jobs rather than creating them, would the Minister still go ahead with the programme?

Mr. Butler

The hon. Gentleman will have to find another opportunity to explain what is behind his question. I have given a clear answer as to the number of jobs that the programme will create.

Mr. Bill Walker

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that of the jobs that will be created in Scotland many of them will be at Coulport, the base where Trident submarines will be, even though that has been declared a nuclear-free zone?

Mr. Butler

Yes, and I hope that the declaration by the local authority will be ignored.

Mr. O'Neill

Will the Minister take into account the reports in last night's "News at Ten" of allegations that are emerging from America concerning the gross profiteering of General Dynamics in respect of the Trident programme in the United States? Will the Minister take the necessary steps to assure the House that the cost of the gross inflation tactic being used will not be borne by the British taxpayer in the foreseeable future?

Mr. Butler

The largest part of the expenditure on the submarine element of the Trident programme will fall in this country.