HC Deb 07 February 1989 vol 146 cc794-5
11. Mr. Cryer

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the latest annual cost of maintenance of the Polaris fleet.

Mr. Archie Hamilton

In the current financial year it is estimated that some £271 million will be spent on the maintenance of the Polaris fleet.

Mr. Cryer

Is not that sum staggering when we bear in mind the recent expenditure of £500 million on replacement rocket motors? Will the Minister comment on the Government's morality—a morality which cuts back expenditure on, for example, new school building in my constituency, yet can lavish nearly £1 billion on new motors and annual maintenance?

Will the Minister also comment on the morality of deploying Polaris missiles which, if used, would bring about more exterminations than Pol Pot and Hitler put together? Why does the rest of the world reject that disgusting morality?

Mr. Hamilton

Any defence expenditure must be seen in terms of its deterrent effect, and there is no doubt that our independent nuclear deterrent has proved to be very good value for money. That view was accepted by the last Labour Government, who agreed that the Polaris system should be subject to the Chevaline update and were so ashamed of their decision that they kept it secret. They were worried about the reaction of unilateralists on their own Back Benches such as the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer).

Mr. Leigh

Does my hon. Friend think it likely that the subject of the cost of maintaining the Polaris fleet was raised at the meeting between Labour party leaders and the Soviet leadership in Moscow recently? Could the deafening silence from the Opposition Benches today on that visit he explained by a large dose of pique at being snubbed by a Soviet Government who would much rather deal with a party not imbued with what Brezhnev called "the naivety of unilateralism"?

Mr. Hamilton

One problem we have is that the delegation that has come back from Moscow has been quiet about what was discussed. It would be helpful if the members of that delegation could reveal rather more of their discussion.