HC Deb 28 June 1988 vol 136 cc181-2
6. Mr. Cartwright

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will make a further statement on the progress of the Trident programme.

Mr. Younger

I am pleased to be able to reaffirm that the Trident programme remains on schedule and to budget.

Mr. Cartwright

Will the Secretary of State confirm that all work on Trident submarine building at Barrow has been halted for the past three weeks as a direct result of the management's attempt to compel the entire work force to take its summer holiday during the same two weeks in August? In view of the past successes at Barrow, is it not ridiculous that that Victorian attitude to industrial relations should be allowed to imperil something as vital as Trident? As there is no sign of a settlement in the future, what steps will the Secretary of State take to safeguard the future of the Trident programme?

Mr. Younger

I would not wish to intervene in what is essentially an industrial dispute between employers and employees, but I hope that that dispute will be resolved as soon as possible.

Mr. Fallon

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the subcontract for the Trident shiplift at Faslane will shortly be awarded either to Harland and Wolff or to Cleveland Bridge in my constituency? Will he confirm that, this time, the competition between Northern Ireland and the north-east will be fair?

Mr. Younger

Yes. I confirm that every possible effort will be made to ensure that the competition is absolutely fair. The work on the shiplift facilities and so on at Faslane is presently proceeding on schedule.

Dr. Godman

With reference to the Clyde end of the Trident programme, will the Secretary of State now confirm that the contract for the floating jetty for the Royal Naval armaments division at Coulport is to be awarded to McAlpine and that it will be constructed of concrete at Ardyne Point?

Mr. Younger

I cannot confirm any decisions of that sort. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to put down a question about it, I shall try to answer it.

Mr. Burt

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, as an investment for peace, Trident is still tremendously effective? At its peak it will be absorbing only 11 per cent. of the defence equipment budget, which is less than the Tornado aircraft will absorb at its peak.

Mr. Younger

Yes, it is certainly true that the Trident programme is not as expensive as the Tornado programme, but it is extremely valuable. There is no way in which, by equivalent expenditure, an equivalent benefit could be given to the defence of the West and Britain.

Mr. O'Neill

Will the Secretary of State give the House the assurance that the Select Committee was unable to receive from his officials, that the delays in the Trident programme, in particular the delays at Aldermaston and Burghfield, are now being avoided and that the programme is truly up to schedule and not delayed, as has been suggested?

Mr. Younger

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will understand that it would be right for me to give a proper and measured response to the Select Committee report. I hope to do so as soon as possible.