HC Deb 07 May 1996 vol 277 cc9-10
9. Mrs. Fyfe

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Trident missiles are to be ordered in each year from 1997 under present orders; and what will be the total number bought when all orders are acquired. [26927]

Mr. Arbuthnot

So far, the UK has purchased 44 Trident missiles from the United States. No UK missiles are on order, but remaining orders are likely to be placed within the next three years in line with the UK's programme and the US's overall procurement strategy. Some initial financial commitment to that end has been made.

Mrs. Fyfe

Has the Minister noted that, according to the United States strategic command report to Congress, the number of missiles on order from the United Kingdom will be seven in 1997, seven in the following year and seven in the year after that—a total of 21, in addition to the existing 44? Can the Minister tell us the reason for that huge escalation?

Mr. Arbuthnot

The figures that have emerged in the United States amount to no more than the assessment of our current financial plans. We have not made a final decision on the figures, but they reflect our current plans, and they do not represent an escalation in relation to our Polaris firepower.

Mr. Brazier

Will my hon. Friend confirm that nuclear threats in the world, potential and actual, are expanding, despite the fall of the Berlin wall? Two, or possibly three, ex-Soviet countries still have nuclear weapons, and nuclear technology is proliferating in the middle east. Is it not essential that we in the Conservative party are seen to uphold Britain's strategic nuclear deterrent?

Mr. Arbuthnot

Yes. As is so often the case, my hon. Friend has made a valid point. The Labour party aspires to power, but many Labour Members would like Trident to be abolished. We are faced with questions on Trident with which we would not be faced if Labour had won the last general election, or the one before that, or the one before that—because we would not have a nuclear missile at all.

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