HC Deb 05 May 1987 vol 115 cc565-7
5. Mr. Maclean

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is the value of contracts already placed in the Trident programme with British firms.

Mr. Archie Hamilton

The estimated value of current Trident commitment in the United Kingdom is some £2,250 million out of the total amount committed of about £3 billion.

Mr. Maclean

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. As 62 per cent. of jobs on the Trident programme will be in firms in the United Kingdom, can he estimate how many tens of thousands of jobs would be destroyed and how devastating would be the effect in Cumbria if the Liberal and Labour party policies of one-sided disarmament took effect and Trident were cancelled?

Mr. Hamilton

I confirm that the amount of labour directly employed on the Trident programme will be 7,500 on average and 15,000 at the peak. The amount of indirect labour will be some 6,000 on average and 12,000 at the peak, so a significant number of jobs are involved in this programme.

Mr. Flannery

Do I understand that the Government's policy is to go on producing useless weapons in order to keep people in work? Is that what the Government are saying? Has it ever struck the Government that the British people need all kinds of things besides weapons? If the Government's philosophy is to go on producing these useless weapons and boasting that it keeps people in work, but it has nothing in common with any kind of thoughtful process, why do they not switch to producing those things that are of some use?

Mr. Hamilton

The primary objectives of the Government are to ensure that this country is properly defended and to stop the next war. If we were to have a Europe with no nuclear weapons, it would make it free for conventional war. We have had two world wars so far in Europe and there would be nothing to stop a third. That would be devastating, and it is something that this Government are not prepared to encounter.

Mr. Fallon

The Minister has accepted an invitation from me to visit the Cleveland Bridge Company at Darlington, which has recently completed the fabrication of 150 cradles under subcontract to Vickers for the Trident programme and is looking forward to more work in Faslane and Coulport. Will he explain to the work force what will happen to the work load if Labour comes to power and announces the cancellation of Trident?

Mr. Hamilton

I am happy to come to my hon. Friend's constituency and to explain the devastating effect of many of Labour's policies on jobs, about which Labour Members claim to be so concerned.

Mr. Tony Banks

Is it not a fact that this country spends a greater percentage of its national wealth on arms than most countries in Western Europe? Is that not why our economic performance in this country has been so poor one of the worst in Western Europe? Will the Minister reflect on the fact that, after eight years, all that the Government's defence and economic policies have produced are the best defended dole queues in Western Europe?

Mr. Hamilton

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman agrees that the country has been well defended, and, on top of that, the economy is booming.

Mr. Hirst

Does my hon. Friend agree that a substantial part of the Trident programme is represented by a major civil engineering contract at Coulport in the west of Scotland? Will he take this opportunity to remind the House that every Opposition party is pledged to scrap that programme, with the result that thousands upon thousands of jobs in the west of Scotland would be sacrificed on the altar of their political ideology?

Mr. Hamilton

I agree with my hon. Friend. Some 2,500 jobs are dependent on that programme, and most of them are locally recruited, so its scrapping would have a devastating effect on local employment.

Mr. Denzil Davies

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the House will be grateful to him for confirming what the Minister of State for the Armed Forces and the Secretary of State have said that at the moment £3 billion has either been spent or committed — I take committed to mean committed in legally binding contracts—on Trident? As three from nine equals six—[Interruption.] I am trying to be helpful to Defence Ministers—that leaves, and I am glad that it is confirmed, £6 billion to be spent on conventional defence if and when the Trident contract is cancelled.

Mr. Hamilton

There is no question of the Trident contract being cancelled, because there is no question of Labour winning the next election. That expenditure is spread over the years until the end of the century, which is a long time.