HC Deb 04 July 1995 vol 263 cc133-4
11. Mr. Kirkwood

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he now forecasts an overspend on the budget for the construction of the facilities at Faslane; and if he will make a statement. [30565]

Mr. Freeman

The Trident works programme is expected to exceed the 1984 baseline estimate of £1.1 billion at current prices by some £800 million. The Trident programme overall is expected to cost £11.7 billion, representing a saving of £3.7 billion over the original estimate.

Mr. Kirkwood

Is not a 72 per cent. overspend an absolute disgrace? Will the Minister confirm that there have been examples of some of the construction on some of the projects involved at Faslane starting before the design work had been completed? Will he confirm that £360 million has been paid to more than 1,000 consultants who variously have been employed on the project? Will he further confirm that 50 per cent. of that £800 million overspend has been siphoned off from budgets for other projects?

Will the Minister assure the House that, after the Public Accounts Committee has properly investigated the overspend, any senior officials and Ministers responsible for that strategic gross failure will be asked to reconsider their positions?

Mr. Freeman

The hon. Gentleman is not right about the consequences for the defence budget because the Trident programme overall has come in substantially under budget. Some £3.7 billion was not required for the completion of submarines, missile systems and the works programmes, so there has been no adverse effect on the rest of the defence programme. I seek to make no apologies for the significant overrun, and I am pleased that the Trident programme was completed within 10 years. When the Public Accounts Committee has reported, we will consider its recommendations seriously and we will respond properly.

Sir Michael Shersby

What were the principal reasons for the cost overrun on the Trident project? To what extent was the overrun caused by the earthquake in Scotland, which resulted in the need to redesign certain facilities at Faslane?

Mr. Freeman

My hon. Friend will understand two of the principal reasons. The first is that the organisation of the contract resulted in PSA being in the lead for the construction of the Trident works programme, which was not completed either on budget or as expeditiously as we would have liked. We have learnt from that. Secondly, the nuclear standards that had to be met for the completion of the shiplift and the weapons facility at Coulport and other buildings were very onerous, and they changed during the 10 years of planning and construction. I undertake that when we have read the Public Accounts Committee report we will seek to give as much information that is not already contained in the report as possible.

Dr. Godman

Is the budget overspend provoking management at Coulport and Faslane into introducing tough employment practices and procedures? A number of young men who are completing their apprenticeships are being told that they will be dismissed from employment when their apprenticeships are completed. Why at the very least cannot they be given short-term contracts of employment as journeymen?

Mr. Freeman

I do not believe that current employment levels have anything to do with the Trident works overrun. The hon. Gentleman makes an important point, and I agree that the number of apprentices trained by the Army, Navy and Air Force makes a valuable contribution to society. I shall look into the point and write to him.

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