HC Deb 27 January 1987 vol 109 cc171-3
5. Mr. Hayes

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will estimate the number of United Kingdom jobs in defence-related industries, giving a separate figure for jobs related to the Polaris and Trident programmes.

8. Mr. Thurnham

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the latest estimate of jobs created by the Trident programme.

Mr. Younger

Nearly 400,000 United Kingdom jobs were sustained by the Ministry of Defence's equipment expenditure in 1984–85, the latest year for which figures are available. Exports of defence equipment accounted for a further 120,000 jobs. As regards the Polaris programme, an estimated 11,000 Ministry of Defence civilians are employed in maintaining the nuclear deterrent. Finally, I refer my hon. Friends to the answer that I gave a few moments ago on estimated jobs created as a result of the Trident programme.

Mr. Hayes

I am sure my right hon. Friend is delighted that 1986 was a record year for defence exports, with sales totalling over £5 billion. Therefore, is he not dismayed at the Labour party policy, which was ratified at the 1986 conference, which would abolish the defence export sales organisation and put thousands of British jobs at risk?

Mr. Younger

My hon. Friend makes an extremely valid point. I have noted that the Labour party proposes to disband the defence export sales organisation, and it admits that its policies will lead inevitably to a major reduction in Britain's current arms sales". That will come as shocking news to those who depend on defence exports for a job, and I hope that the Labour party has noted that.

Mr. Thurnham

In the unlikely event of a Labour Government being elected, Trident being scrapped and American bases being removed from this country, can my right hon. Friend say how many United Kingdom jobs would be lost?

Mr. Younger

I estimate that United States forces in the United Kingdom at present provide, directly and indirectly, about 30,000 jobs for British citizens. If Labour party policy is to remove all United States nuclear bases from the United Kingdom, those jobs would clearly be put at risk, quite apart from the damage that that policy would do to NATO's defences.

Mr. Nellist

Why should the House of Commons or working people in the country as a whole believe a word that the Secretary of State for Defence and other Tory Members say with their synthetic sympathy about the number of jobs at risk in the defence industries when 4.5 million unemployed people in Britain now get no sympathy from Tory Members? If the Secretary of State thinks that Trident is such a popular programme, why does he not transfer the £9.25 billion into the health and housing expenditure of the Government and hold a flag day for Trident?

Mr. Younger

I am dubious about the hon. Gentleman's claim to speak for the working people of this country. I cannot understand how even he imagines that the unemployment problem would be assisted by deliberately destroying 30,000 British jobs by the removal of United States bases. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will make representations to his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition to abandon that policy forthwith.

Mr. James Lamond

Is the Secretary of State aware that there is nothing to be proud of in the export of arms to the rest of the world, especially the Third world, which is very much more in need of socially useful goods? If the money that is spent on arms, exported or otherwise, was spent on socially useful goods we would live in a much better and more moral country.

Mr. Younger

A great deal of money is spent, and successful exports are carried out, by this country in many matters that have nothing to do with arms sales. The hon. Gentleman has to face the fact that there are many thousands of jobs in this country directly dependent upon the defence industry and if he proposes to destroy it he will answer for it.

Mr. Franks

Is my right hon. Friend aware of a random survey conducted by the North-Western Evening Mail in Barrow, published last Friday, in which people were asked, Do you believe that the country needs an independent nuclear deterrent? Is he further aware that 91 per cent. said yes?

Mr. Younger

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to draw attention to that fact. On every occasion that the British people have been asked to pronounce on that matter they have made their views very clear. As my hon. Friend knows only too well, the Trident programme will provide employment over the next few years for 4,000 in Barrow, where the submarines are built, and about 2,500 construction jobs on the Clyde while the facilities there are being made.

Mr. Denzil Davies

The less the Secretary of State says about jobs, the better. There are far fewer people employed in the defence industry now than in 1979 when the Government took office. Jobs have been lost in the ordnance factories, in the dockyards at Chatham, Devonport, Rosyth and in many other establishments. Is he aware that of the 400,000 jobs he mentioned, at least 95 per cent. of them are concerned with non-nuclear defence equipment? If, as we believe, there will be cuts in non-nuclear defence equipment to pay for Trident, a substantial proportion of those jobs will be put at risk by the Government's policies.

Mr. Younger

I admire the right hon. Gentleman's courage in raising the question of defence expenditure when it is over 20 per cent. higher in real terms than it was when the Labour party was last in government. I can understand that he wishes to keep off the subject of the effect on jobs of the Labour party's policy to cancel Trident. It is no exaggeration to say that it would not only devastate the economy of a place such as Barrow but would have devastating effects on the west and east of Scotland at Rosyth and Faslane. The Labour party will have to answer to many people for those destructive policies.

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