HC Deb 15 April 1986 vol 95 cc716-8
6. Mr. Greg Knight

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will estimate the total number of jobs in the United Kingdom which are dependent on, or otherwise related to, Her Majesty's Government's nuclear defence policy.

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. George Younger)

Excluding service men and headquarters civilian staff, some 11,000 people are employed by the Ministry of Defence in general nuclear weapons-related activities. In addition, over the period of its procurement, the Trident project will account for an average of 8,500 direct and 6,500 indirect jobs in the United Kingdom. Further employment results from extramural work in support of the general defence nuclear programme.

Mr. Knight

I am obliged to my right hon. Friend for that reply. Do the facts not reveal that, should Britain ever decide to pursue one-sided nuclear disarmament, peace in Europe would be put in jeopardy and thousands of people would be thrown out of work? Does my right hon. Friend agree that, whatever criteria are used, the Labour party's defence policy—if it can be called a defence policy—would have disastrous results if implemented?

Mr. Younger

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The purpose of the Trident programme is to secure the United Kingdom's defence posture. We cannot ignore the fact that it provides a great many jobs, which the Opposition have made special efforts to obscure in case their policy of cancelling the project should ever come about.

Mr. James Lamond

Is not the belated anxiety of Conservative Members about employment transparently hypocritical? Is it not a fact that defence jobs are just as vulnerable to redundancy as any others? Indeed, some of us believe that they are more vulnerable.

Mr. Younger

The hon. Gentleman cannot get away from the fact that a lot of jobs are involved in the Trident programme. He might have noticed, as I did, that when the Leader of the Opposition visited Devonport, his publicity mentioned that the Trident programme would be cancelled under Labour, but, when he visited Rosyth, he ostentatiously omitted that sentence to mislead people there.

Mr. Wilkinson

Does my right hon. Friend agree that many people are employed as a result of Britain's nuclear programme and that, even more important, many others are protected by and owe their security to it? Does he also agree that the Würzburg NATO nuclear planning group—our European ministerial NATO allies—expressed support for Britain's nuclear programme and welcomed the enhancement of our overall deterrent credibility which it afforded?

Mr. Younger

I agree with my hon. Friend. There is no doubt that the British contribution to the deterrent force has been a major factor in preserving peace in Europe for the past 40 years. My hon. Friend is also right that, at the Würzburg NPG meeting, our allies received a presentation from us on the British nuclear deterrent and expressed their warm approval of it.

Mr. Dalyell

What were the terms of the apology proffered by Mr. Caspar Weinberger about the visit to British firms—unauthorised, it seems—by Mr. Clarence Robinson?

Mr. Younger

The hon. Gentleman has raised this matter in earlier defence questions and, as promised, I have made inquiries about it. I discovered that Mr. Clarence Robinson's visit here had no significance, other than that it was a visit. It certainly had none of the significance that the hon. Gentleman fears.

Sir Hector Monro

How many of the defence jobs that my right hon. Friend mentioned are in Scotland. How much money goes into the Scottish economy as a result of them?

Mr. Younger

I shall be glad to answer a question on that point if my hon. Friend cares to table one. There is no doubt that the base at Faslane on the Clyde and a large portion of the dockyards at Rosyth would be decimated if the Trident programme were to be abandoned.

Mr. O'Neill

How many jobs have been lost in conventional support as a result of the Government's commitment to a nuclear policy? How many jobs are being sacrificed on the Tyne and the Clyde because of the Government's inability to make up their mind about where the AOR and type 23 orders should go?

Mr. Younger

The answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is none. He ought to know, and I think he does know, that the Government have substantially increased conventional spending as well as coping with the Trident programme.

Mr. Wigley

Will the Minister confirm that in my own county of Gwynedd, at RAF Valley, people are employed on nuclear weapons? In view of the resolution by the county council not to have nuclear weapons in Gwynedd, will the Minister remove them?

Mr. Younger

The hon. Gentleman and the county council will have to face the fact that, whatever their responsibilities, they do not include responsibility for defence.