HL Deb 05 February 1985 vol 459 cc1055-6WA
Lord Tordoff

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they can reconcile paragraph 123 of the Defence Estimates 1982, which stated, "The Trident D5 Programme will cost on average about £500 million a year over 15 years" and the Written Answer given by Mr. Butler to Mr. Alton (H.C. Deb 18th January 1985, col. 255), which stated, "The procurement period for the Trident system is currently assessed at about 20 years", with the answer given to Lord Bruce-Gardyne on 24th January (H.L. Deb. 24th January 1985, col. 383), which stated, "The procurement period of acquisition remains as it has always been".

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces (Lord Trefgarne)

The procurement period for Trident II has remained unaltered at about 18 years since the Government's decision to purchase Trident II was made in March 1982. In announcing the decision, Sir John Nott indicated that the programme would stretch "over the next 18 years" [H.C. Deb, 11th March 1982, col. 979]. The period of 18 years has been restated since, notably in March 1982 in evidence to the House of Commons Defence Committee [H.C. 266, page 12, Q.74], and by my right honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces in the Recent Navy Debate [H.C. Deb, 29th November 1984, col. 1128.]

The Statement on the Defence Estimates for 1982 gave a comparison of the cost profiles of the Tornado and Trident programmes over representative 15-year periods, and their impact on the defence budget. The graphs used made it quite clear that fifteen years was not the total length of the procurement in either case. Averaging the total estimated cost of Trident II of £7,500 million at September 1981 prices and at £1=$1.78 over the same illustrative period showed the relatively small proportion of the defence budget expected to be absorbed in the purchase of the system.

The reference by Ministers to a procurement period of about 20 years, notably by my right honourable friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement, also reflects the work undertaken on the Trident I system before the announcement to proceed with Trident II was made.