HC Deb 30 October 1990 vol 178 c857
5. Mr. Cryer

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the current development position and cost of the Trident nuclear missile programme.

The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Mr. Alan Clark)

The Trident programme continues to time and to budget towards its in-service date of the mid-1990s.

Mr. Cryer

Will the Minister confirm that there has been a delay in purchasing the missiles? Since that appears to be the case, would it be better to cancel Trident and save £9.5 billion, to ensure that the strategic arms reduction talks are successful, by concluding those negotiations, and to strengthen the United Nations nuclear nonproliferation treaty, which, as the Minister knows, has been signed by 139 non-nuclear nations, which have agreed not to deploy or manufacture nuclear weapons? If the Minister repeats the arid nonsense that nuclear weapons keep the peace, will he distribute them to the middle eastern countries so that he can apply the theory there?

Mr. Clark

The hon. Gentleman has been in the House for 16 years—[HON. MEMBERS: "Off and on."]—except for a brief gap when he was looking for a more amenable electorate. During that period he has asked almost the same question throughout, and he should not be surprised if he gets almost the same answer. The delay in purchasing the missiles will not affect the in-service date.

Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith

Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be extremely foolish for us to give up our nuclear capability, in view of the fact that many countries have a chemical capability and a potential nuclear capability?

Mr. Clark

Of course, it would be entirely wrong to give up the capability, to which the present decrease of confrontational tension is largely attributable, at the very moment when proliferation among more widely diffused and less responsible regimes looks imminent.

Mr. Hood

Following on from the question put by the hon. Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith), are the Government considering putting forward the argument that nuclear weapons deter chemical weapons? If that is the case, are they saying that they are prepared to use nuclear weapons if the Iraqis use chemical weapons?

Mr. Clark

We are saying that the nuclear weapon is an essential part of deterrent capability, and its use is a matter of judgment for the Government, on the advice of the operational commanders on the spot.

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