HC Deb 24 February 1987 vol 111 c130
12. Mr. Roy Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what are the future financial arrangements for the payment for work on the Trident project.

Mr. Younger

The future financial arrangements for payment for work on the Trident programme will continue to be in accordance with normal Ministry of Defence procurement and accounting procedures.

Mr. Hughes

Will the Minister assure the House that conventional defence support, including the frigate ordering programme, will not suffer as a result of the increased expenditure on the Trident programme?

Mr. Younger

Yes, particularly as the Trident programme is not expected to take more than 3 per cent. of the total defence budget or, in the peak year, 6 per cent.

Mr. Franks

Will my right hon. Friend say how imminent is the placing of the order for Trident 2?

Mr. Younger

I cannot give a date to my hon. Friend at present, but I recognise his great concern about this matter. We hope to be able to do so before too long.

Mr. O'Neill

Can the Secretary of State not he more specific about the future of our frigates and our surface fleet, not least because of the disclosure in the Sunday Telegraph last Sunday of the likelihood of our frigate fleet dropping to about 44 or 45 within two years? Will he confirm that that will not be the case and that the frigates will not suffer as a result of Trident?

Mr. Younger

I can confirm to the hon. Gentleman what I and my hon. Friends have said for a long time, that we expect the frigate fleet in the Royal Navy to remain at about 50, which is what it is at present. The hon. Gentleman will also be as aware as I am that in the current financial year we have already placed orders for three type 23 frigates.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my right hon. Friend agree that in all defence projects and spending programmes there are always more people looking for money to be spent and that during the period of the Tornado programme, which is a much larger expenditure programme, the service has continued, despite all the dismal Jimmies who said that it would not be possible?

Mr. Younger

My hon. Friend is perfectly correct. The Tornado programme is in fact a more expensive programme than Trident, but it is also the case that the Trident programme produces the most effective contribution to our defence and could not be replaced at the same cost in any other way.