HC Deb 02 May 1995 vol 259 cc164-5
13. Dr. Spink

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of whether the current ceiling of warheads per Trident submarine meets the United Kingdom's minimum deterrent needs. [20088]

Mr. Rifkind

The Government have said that each Trident boat will carry not more than 96 warheads. What we actually deploy at any particular time, to provide a minimum deterrent and to ensure the same quality of deterrence as we required from Polaris, may be considerably less and will depend on our current assessment of a range of factors.

Dr. Spink

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for that answer. Will he do some lateral thinking and tell us the implications if Britain announced that it would deploy no more warheads on Trident than it deploys on Polaris, as the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) advocated in the New Statesman this month?

Mr. Rifkind

The option to which my hon. Friend refers, which is the official view of the Labour party I understand, suggests a simplistic misunderstanding, based on an inability to compare Polaris with Trident. The hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) and his colleagues appear to he unaware that they have not taken into account the sub-strategic role of Trident. They seem to be unaware of the lower yield of each Trident warhead compared with that of Polaris, and of the need to take into account the military capabilities and defensive systems of a potential nuclear adversary. That is why their policy is unsound and should not be supported.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Does the Secretary of State welcome the statement by British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. that it no longer manufactures or processes any fissile material for use in nuclear weapons on any of its sites in the United Kingdom?

Mr. Rifkind

As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, the United Kingdom Government themselves have announced a cessation of the production of fissile material for explosives purposes. That shows our commitment to a cut-off convention.