HL Deb 14 July 1980 vol 411 cc1604-5WA

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are the arguments for replacing the Polaris missile submarine fleet; what would be the cost of the Trident system, if it were selected for this purpose; whether they are delaying the announcement until just before the Summer Recess with a view to evading any discussion in Parliament until contracts have been placed and the decision is a fait accompli; and whether they will say how many of the current generation of anti-tank missiles for use by infantry in the defence of Western Europe against continental attack could be purchased for £5,000 million in 1980 pounds.


The arguments for maintaining an independent British strategic deterrent were set out fully in theStatement on Defence Estimates 1980 (Cmnd. 7826) and in the speech by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence in another place on 24th January when he also indicated that it was reasonable to discuss the replacement of Polaris on the basis that the total capital costs would be in the range of £4,000–£5,000 million. A successor to the Polaris force would not enter service until the 1990s and there will be plenty of time for discussion in Parliament of the Government's choice of system.

Some 9,000 operational MILAN systems with over 300,000 missiles could be purchased for the infantry for £5,000 million at 1978 prices. To operate this number of systems would require at least 30,000 additional soldiers and 8,000 extra vehicles.