HC Deb 23 February 1988 vol 128 cc133-4
3. Mrs. Mahon

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what are the implications for the safety of the Trident missile programme of the recent test firing of a Trident 2 missile at Cape Canaveral.

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

The latest test flight of a Trident D5 missile on 21 January revealed a deficiency in the design of one of the missile sub-systems. One of the objectives of project development programmes is to expose any design deficiencies. There have already been eight successful Trident II firings and, overall, the development test programme has been highly successful.

Mrs. Mahon

Is not the truth that the testing was a miserable failure, with the missile exploding after two minutes 43 seconds? Does that not prove that the people who target the missiles are in more danger than those targeted, and would not the money be better spent on the National Health Service and on housing?

Mr. Younger

The objective of such tests is to discover whether the missile systems are working properly, and, as the test clearly demonstrated that this particular missile was not working properly, the test can be said to have been a 100 per cent. success. The hon. Lady might agree on reflection that it is no use having the most perfect health service in the world if one cannot defend the country in which that health service exists.

Sir Antony Buck

Does my right hon. Friend agree that he and the Government are going for the D5 for precisely the same reasons as the Opposition went for updating our deterrent by going for Chevaline without telling anybody?

Mr. Younger

Yes, my hon. and learned Friend is correct. The Opposition updated the Polaris system because they, too, wished it to be effective when they were in office. The sad thing is that they have abandoned responsibility now that they are out of office.

Mr. O'Neill

Does the Minister agree that this is now the second or third hold-up in the project and that the expenditure of £500 million on the latest enhancement programme for Polaris suggests that we are miles behind schedule, contrary to all the undertakings given during the general election?

Mr. Younger

The hon. Gentleman is utterly wrong. There is no hold-up in the Trident system, which is absolutely up to time. [Interruption.] Yes, it is absolutely up to time, including the warheads, which are being made in Britain. In fact, the manufacture of the warheads was started last month.

Mr. Morgan

In Cardiff, not in Aldermaston.

Mr. Younger

No, in Aldermaston. The tests are designed to make sure that the system is working properly, and the test series has been the most successful of any missile system yet.