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Defence

Volume 26: debated on Tuesday 29 June 1982

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White Paper

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects to publish the defence White Paper.

The statement on the Defence Estimates for 1982 was published last Tuesday.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that we support and applaud his decision to publish the White Paper, particularly his commitment to publish the addendum on the Falkland Islands when the results of that operation are known?

Is he further aware that many of us support and applaud his decision to retain "Intrepid" and "Fearless"—a decision which was made well before the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands—as evidence of our commitment to the amphibious operation that is so important to our defence of the northern flank?

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's support of my decision to publish the White Paper. I was glad to be able to look at the matter of "Intrepid" and "Fearless" again towards the end of last year. They form a substantial and important part of our amphibious capability.

Does the Secretary of State recall the statement on page 12 of the White Paper that the Royal Navy is in the middle of a major programme of new warship construction? Will he confirm that that is a major programme only because of orders placed by the Labour Government, and that planned numbers of carriers, destroyers, frigates, attack submarines, Sea Harriers, Royal Fleet Auxiliaries and Royal Marine Commandos are all distinctly down compared with the situation inherited from the previous Administration, despite recent events?

About 28 modern warships are under construction in the yards at the moment. Because Britain suffered under the misfortune of Labour Governments over several years, a large proportion of the orders were placed by Labour Governments.

In the current financial year the Government are to spend £½ billion more in real terms on the Royal Navy's conventional programme than the Labour Government spent. The hon. Gentleman has nothing to criticise in our programme for the Royal Navy.

In view of the remarks by a senior NATO commander that there is a clear case for an increase in defence expenditure by NATO countries, that the cost of weapons systems is increasing faster than the rate of inflation, and that certain weaknesses in our missile systems have been brought out in the recent conflict in the South Atlantic, does my right hon. Friend agree that there is a clear case for increasing defence expenditure in Britain?

There is no evidence so far that our missile systems were unsuccessful. The evidence is that all our missile systems performed extremely well. Clearly, we must look into that further in the next few months.

No one would be more happy than I if there were an increase above the 3 per cent. in defence expenditure. The threat grows, and it is substantial. However, as my hon. Friend knows, the Government's present policy is to devote a yearly 3 per cent. real increase in defence expenditure in accordance with the aims of NATO.

Will the Secretary of State give a clear and unequivocal answer to the question posed by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy)? Is not the Government's policy, as embodied in the Defence Estimates, to reduce the size of major warships down to frigates in the Royal Navy for the next decade?

As the decade moves on, there will be fewer destroyers than frigates in the Fleet than was planned when the Labour Party was in Government. Nevertheless, it is true that the conventional naval programme is taking a larger share of this year's defence budget than it took when the Labour Party was in office. There has been some reduction in our forward plans, because we took a policy decision to spend more on weapons systems, such as torpedoes and Sea Wolf, than on platforms. That was a conscious policy decision and it was right. There is no point in having a frigate that is not properly equipped and armed.

Is it not a fact that, leaving aside Polaris and so on, 28 per cent. of the defence budget is spent on the conventional Navy and that, according to the Secretary of State's plans, the percentage will drop as the decade progresses?

About 28 per cent. of the total defence budget this year will be spent on the conventional Navy. The figure was about 27·9 per cent. when the Labour Government were in power. When Trident is introduced the percentage spent on the Navy will increase. Trident is a crucial part of the Royal Navy, and I see no reason to exclude it from any discussion of our defence policy.

Falkland Islands

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what are his plans for the future defence of the Falkland Islands.

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what proposals he has for future United Kingdom defence commitments covering the Falkland Islands and South Atlantic.

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement about plans for the defence of the interests of the United Kingdom and its dependencies in the South Atlantic.

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what measures for the future defence of the Falkland Islands he now proposes.

18.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what proposals he has for the future defence of British territory in the South Atlantic; and if he will make a statement.

We are actively considering what forces will be needed in the South Atlantic in the future. Meanwhile, as the House will readily acknowledge, there is in the Falklands area a substantial task force of proven capability.

Order. I propose to call first those five hon. Members whose questions are being answered.

As it is essential to provide for the adequate defence of islands that have been won back by our Services with such magnificent heroism, how will the right hon. Gentleman find the money to maintain that important commitment, to replace lost vessels, to maintain the 3 per cent. increase and the Trident programme and to carry out the necessary strengthening of our conventional defences?

I hope that I shall receive some small additional contribution from Her Majesty's Exchequer.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are 13 United Kingdom overseas dependencies, including the Falkland Islands, involving 5·5 million people? Does not the experience of the Falkland Islands show that Parliament should determine their future either in the wider international context involving their security, or—if they are to remain the sole responsibility of Britain—by adequately defending them and deterring any potential aggressor?

The constitution and future of our dependencies are matters for my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. Clearly, Hong Kong has the largest population of the dependencies, and, as my hon. Friend knows, we defend it in a substantial manner. The same goes for Gibraltar. Of course we will do our utmost to defend our dependencies, but not at the expense of the defence of the United Kingdom.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the task force's success and the expeditious retaking of the Falkland Islands were underlined by the interdependence of each part of the Armed Services? Will he reassure the House that that will be the cornerstone of his defence strategy and that it will be reflected in the logistics, organisation and administration of the different parts of his Department?

The manner in which all three Services worked together in the Falklands campaign was absolutely magnificent. Under the ultimate command of Admiral Fieldhouse, the co-ordination, goodwill and the way in which all three Services worked together was an example of how such things should be done.

Now that sovereignty over the Falkland Islands has been restored, will it be the Government's defence policy to regard any future attack on Port Stanley as if it were an attack on Portsmouth?

I am sure that if there were an attack on Port Stanley we would respond in exactly the same way as we did recently.

In furtherance of mutual defence interests in the South Atlantic, will my right hon. Friend open negotiations with friendly countries in the southern hemisphere, such as Australia, New Zealand, Chile and South Africa?

I am sorry, but I am somewhat puzzled by my hon. Friend's question. If there is a formal end to hostilities with Argentina, we shall want to discuss the future of that part of the world with all the adjoining countries. Indeed, we wish to retain the excellent relations that we have with other South American countries, such as Chile, Uruguay and Brazil. Even during the conflict we retained reasonably good relations with all those countries.

What has been the effect of the Falklands conflict on our NATO commitments, and what will be the likely effect if we continue to defend the Falkland Islands to the necessary extent?

Clearly, sending the task force to the South Atlantic meant that a large part of our contribution to the maritime presence in the East Atlantic was temporarily absent. That goes without saying. Virtually nothing was withdrawn from Germany and the British Army of the Rhine, although I believe that a few soldiers were used. However, the Royal Navy was deployed in the South Atlantic.

Will the Secretary of State take measures to ensure that the defence of the Falkland Islands is not threatened by the supply of British arms to the Argentine? The Government continued to supply arms until 24 March.

I realise that the hon. Gentleman feels strongly about arms sales. However, he knows that the majority of arms sold to Argentina were sold under contracts that were entered into by the Labour Government. We shall continue to review all arms sales. In certain circumstances we shall not sell arms to some countries. That policy will continue.

Would Argentine acceptance of resolution 502 constitute a cessation of hostilities and thus reduce the need for the present level of defensive effort in the Falkland Islands?

We need a specific declaration from the Argentine that hostilities have ceased. Given that we have repossessed the Falkland Islands, mere acceptance of resolution 502 would not be a sufficient indication that the Argentines intend formally to cease hostilities. However, the new Government have not yet taken office. We shall probably have to await that event before getting a clear sign from Buenos Aires.

Britain will no doubt have to keep some military presence in the Falkland Islands for the foreseeable future, including perhaps three or four frigates and other Armed Forces, but what effect will that have on our NATO commitment? Will there be a gap in our NATO commitment, or will the right hon. Gentleman build more ships to fill the gap?

In the short term, if we need to keep frigates in the South Atlantic, they will naturally not be available in the East Atlantic. Part of our NATO arrangement has been that, in a national emergency, we would be free to use our NATO contribution elsewhere. That remains the position.

Harriers (Development)

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether the Government are now considering developments in the capability of the Harriers and Sea Harriers, including the possibility of developing the aircraft as a supersonic fighter interceptor.

Harrier and Sea Harrier aircraft performed magnificently in the South Atlantic. We shall, of course, be studying very carefully all the implications of those operations. As already announced in Cmnd. 8288, presented in June last year, we are jointly engaged with the United States in the AV8B development of the Harrier, to be known here as the Harrier GR5, which will provide significantly improved performance over its predecessor, especially in range and payload.

The Royal Navy is planning a programme of mid-life improvements to the Sea Harrier which will allow that aircraft to fulfil its role until the late 1990s. Studies on the next generation of combat aircraft are still at an early stage, as I told my hon. Friend during his Adjournment debate on 1 March, but the possibility of a supersonic short take-off and vertical landing aircraft will certainly be covered.

I am filled with admiration for the stupendous heroism shown by the Harrier pilots. Is my hon. Friend aware that the technology used to develop the P110 would also be of assistance in developing the aircraft to meet air staff target 410, which is broadly described as the supersonic Harrier?

Are the factories producing the planes safe? Do any of the aircraft come from the Brough factory in Yorkshire? Are there any plans for the areas where planes from the Brough factory are tested which could put that factory in great danger?

I do not know what the hon. Gentleman is driving at as regards the safety of the Brough factory. Perhaps he will write to me and I shall reply.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the present Harrier was derived from the 1127 and that a supersonic version was the 1154, which was scrapped together with the TSR2? Will my hon. Friend examine the 1154 programme when looking for a supersonic version?

I am aware of the background described by my hon. Friend. In an advanced V/STOL programme we are looking for an answer to our needs to the end of the 1990s or to the mid-1990s. Obviously, technology must move a good deal further than that which applied in the examples cited.

As a matter of urgency, will the Minister say whether the Government are favourably disposed towards underwriting or giving an affirmative answer to the British Aerospace P110, which is its latest development?

On several occasions from the Dispatch Box I have told the House that the position has not changed. We are continuing to work with British Aerospace and are considering its proposals. We shall obviously give whatever assistance is possible within the constraints of the defence budget.

Cruise Missiles

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on progress on the installation of cruise missiles.

Preparations are on schedule to receive the first cruise missiles before the end of 1983.

Will the Minister confirm that cruise missiles are not verifiable, that there is no right of veto over their use by the United Kingdom Government and that millions of people in Holland, Belgium, West Germany and Britain are deeply opposed to the deployment of cruise missiles? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in Britain such opposition is symbolised by the determination of the women camped outside Greenham Common to demonstrate that the nation rejects the potential escalation in nuclear weaponry?

As has been explained from the Dispatch Box in the past, the arrangements for the use of the bases are the same as have applied for 30 years—namely, that they cannot be used without the joint agreement of the American and British Governments.

Many people may be opposed to the presence of cruise missiles in Britain on the basis of false assumptions spread by people who do not understand the true facts. I am convinced that millions of people believe that we should preserve our defences and are in favour of the installation of cruise missiles, which are intended by the United States, at the request of Europe, to demonstrate its commitment to the defence of Europe.

Since the deployment of the missiles is to some context contingent upon the success or otherwise of the Geneva talks on limiting intermediate range nuclear missiles, will my hon. Friend say when an outcome of the talks can be expected?

My hon. Friend is right. If the proposal by the American Government for the zero option is successful, it will not be necessary to install the missiles. My hon. Friend asked about progress. My experience is that when negotiating with the Soviet Union about disarmament, one must be extremely patient. That is the right approach now.

Is not the zero option a false option, because it does not take into consideration other weapons systems in Europe and only puts the American systems on land against the Russian systems on land? If we must be patient, why cannot we be patient about the establishment of cruise missiles? Why not wait for the outcome of the Geneva talks before we decide?

If one compares like with like, taking the SS20, the SS4 and SS5 missiles on one side and the Pershing and cruise missiles on our side, the ratio in favour of the Soviet Union is 4:1. If one includes aircraft, the ratio becomes about 6:1.

I was asked about the time scale for the installation of cruise missiles. My opinion is that continuing to show our determination in a united manner to install the missiles in default of agreement provides the best chance of persuading the Soviet Union to agree to the zero option.

In view of the divergence in defence policy between ourselves and the United States, particularly in the Middle East, is it not essential that we should have a physical bar on the use of cruise missiles? Otherwise, Soviet perception of United States policy in Europe might visit a dreadful retribution on the United Kingdom?

My hon. Friend is 180 degrees off target. Our determination to show our resolve with the United States to defend the United Kingdom and Western Europe is the best safeguard for peace.

Suez Canal Campaign Medal

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will reconsider the decision not to award a campaign medal for service in the Suez Canal Zone in 1951–52.

I thank my hon. Friend for that abrupt and very disappointing reply. The Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, asked that that service should be recognised. Is my hon. Friend aware that the number killed in the four months of the campaign was as great as the number killed in one year during the height of the Malayan emergency? Is my hon. Friend further aware that the Egyptian Government awarded their troops a medal? Is it really true that political considerations, which are now totally outdated, prevailed at the time to avoid giving offence to the Egyptian Government? Surely it is high time that the injustice was remedied.

I am sure that I speak for the whole House when I say how welcome the change in my hon. Friend's title is.

The matter was considered 30 years ago by the Army Board. I see no ground for reviewing it now.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. If there was a personal reason for asking the question, I should have declared an interest in the campaign.

On a further point of order. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Special Clothing

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence to what extent clothing used by Service personnel in the Falklands conflict has proved adequate in the climatic conditions encountered.

Knowing the Falklands winter to be exceptionally inclement—a combination of high winds, much rain and temperatures around freezing-point—substantial extra issues of modern high-quality clothing were made to troops taking part in the operation. It is, however, too early for us to be able to assess detailed reports to see what lessons about clothing may be drawn from the operation.

Does my hon. Friend agree that one has only to look at television pictures of the troops in the Falklands to see that the warm lightweight clothing worn by the British troops compared impressively with the bulky and heavyweight clothing worn by the Argentine troops? Is he aware that letters home confirm that the troops were impressed with their clothing? Will my hon. Friend confirm that boots did not leak and that waterproof and windproof clothing was in fact waterproof and windproof?

It is extremely difficult to get boots that do not leak. The new combat boot, of which 2,500 pairs were delivered to the Forces at the beginning of June, is an interesting piece of equipment and we believe that it will probably fit the bill.

Is the Under-Secretary of State aware that four and half years ago, in the depth of winter, I had the great pleasure and honour to visit our Royal Marine Commandos at their winter training in Arctic conditions in Norway? Is the hon. Gentleman further aware that I was kitted out with exactly the same items of clothing as those worn by the Marines and found them extremely adequate, and that was the view of a colonel of the United States Marine Corps, who was also highly delighted? For those reasons, I was fully confident that our Royal Marines and other Service men would acquit themselves as well as they did in the South Atlantic, in contrast to their opponents from the Argentine.

I recall the hon. Gentleman's visit to the Arctic Circle. I am glad, as I am sure the Armed Forces will be, to have his seal of approval for the equipment. I am glad that he has obviously never suffered from trench foot.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the clothing used by the crew of HMS "Endurance" was just one factor in enabling them to carry out their duties so magnificently in repossessing Southern Thule and defending South Georgia and the Falklands? Will he therefore urge his right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench to make a statement as soon as possible about the future of the ship, so that it can continue its traditional role in the South-West Atlantic?

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State may have something to say about that matter in the debate later this week.

Was 63 Squadron of the RAF Regiment adequately kilted out when it was in the Falklands? Is it intended that the regiment should remain in the Falklands or return to Germany? I am sure that the Minister will appreciate that any information that he can give about the squadron will be appreciated by the relatives of the men, who can obtain no information from his Department?

I am extremely disturbed to hear what the hon. Gentleman has said. I shall look into the matter immediately and write to him.

Raf Kemble

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what future use is envisaged for RAF Kemble.

Is the Minister aware that many of my constituents who work at RAF Kemble believe that there is a continuing need, in the light of the Falklands dispute, to keep the station open—[Interruption.]—With 3 or 4 million unemployed they need all the employment that they can get, even at RAF Kemble, so let us have none of that. Is the hon. Gentleman further aware that there are disturbing rumours that in future RAF Kemble is to be used as a maintenance depot for cruise weapons and/or the storage of chemical weapons? Will he categorically deny these rumours?

In answer to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, I have been kept fully posted by my hon. Friends the Members for Chippenham (Mr. Needham) and Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), on the situation at Kemble. In answer to the second part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, as he knows, the United States Air Force is examining the available facilities and, unfortunately, has not yet been able to divulge anything to me about its intentions. However, I have given the United States Air Force every possible facility and hope that we shall be able to do something.

Is my hon. Friend aware that many of my constituents work at RAF Kemble and that they are all convinced of the excellence of the institution and the good work that they do? Is my hon. Friend further aware that in an area where alternative employment would be difficult to find, a great deal of difficulty will be caused to my constituents when the station closes down?

I am conscious of that. I am seeking to co-operate in every possible way with the Americans or anyone else who seeks to use the facility.

Recruitment Procedures

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he is satisfied that recruitment procedures are working smoothly and efficiently.

Is the Minister aware that many of the sons and daughters of my constituents who have applied to join the three Services have been kept waiting for as long as six, 12, and 18 months after being given an affirmative answer in earlier interviews before they are told whether they have a firm place in the Armed Services? In some cases this has gone on for 18 months and it is a great drain on the resources of young people looking for employment.

I am aware of the problem, which, unfortunately, extends beyond the hon. Gentleman's constituency. The candidates who are recommended for places in the Services are told clearly that this does not guarantee entry. I have reaffirmed with those responsible that they should emphasise that point in order to avoid disappointment. It is an inevitable problem when there are more people seeking to enter the Services than there are places for them.

Is my hon. Friend aware that, contrary to what the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Sheerman) seems to think, recruitment procedures in Her Majesty's forces are absolutely first class and in many respects are superior to those in use in British industry and commerce?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for those kind comments, but if it is possible I shall seek to remove the difficulty that the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Sheerman) raised in the original question.

Arms Sales (Latin America)

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he now has any plans to review the United Kingdom's arms sales to Latin American military Governments in the light of recent events.

The sale of defence equipment is kept under continual review. All applications are considered individually on their merits in the light of all relevant factors.

As the Government suddenly discovered during the Falklands struggle that the Government of Argentina are Fascist, is it not reasonable to assume that they will look at all the other Governments in Latin America—most of which are similar? Are the Government aware that when the Falklands business broke equipment was on the high seas going to the Fascist Argentine Government from the British Tory Government? Is it not reasonable to ask that all those arms sales should be carefully examined in the light of the political stance of those Latin American Governments and the likelihood that they are still suppressing their people with the aid of this Government?

I cannot recall the hon. Gentleman addressing a question on similar lines to the Labour Government when they were supplying military equipment to the same Fascist Government and many others.

While I appreciate that my hon. Friend does not have access to all the papers of the previous Administration, will he try to discover how many draft letters of resignation from the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) exist in the archives on the subject of arms sales?

Since in the Falklands war some British troops were killed with British-made weapons, is it not time for all of us seriously to consider whether Britain should not seek gradually to disengage from the international traffic in arms? Is it not a fact that very often arms are produced in Britain with an eye to the balance of payments as much as on British defence requirements?

As the right hon. Gentleman will know, the questions that he has raised are interrelated. The ability of British industry to supply the equipment that is needed by the British Armed Forces does turn, to some degree at least, on its ability to export items of defence equipment.

Will my hon. Friend list the other weapons, in addition to the Canberras and the type 42 ships, that were sold by the Labour Government to the Argentine, particularly when the right hon. Member for Lanark (Dame Judith Hart) was at the Foreign Office? If my hon. Friend can list those weapons, will he place the list in the Library?

I gave a considerable list—almost an exhaustive one—on the last occasion when defence matters were dealt with at Question Time. It is in the Official Report for that day.

Falkland Islands

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is his latest estimate of the cost to public funds of the Falkland Islands campaign, including the cost of ships, aircraft and equipment lost and destroyed.

It is not yet possible to be precise about the costs of the campaign and of replacing equipment lost or consumed. But a preliminary assessment of the broad order of costs incurred by 4 June—which was, of course, before the end of hostilities—is about £500 million in 1982–83, £250 million in each of the two following years and lesser amounts thereafter. But these figures will need to be revised in the light of more recent information and of decisions about how and when equipment is to be replaced.

Do not the figures show that the failure to interpret intelligence and the failure to take preventive action have led to one of the costliest blunders by the Ministry of Defence this century? Do not honour and integrity demand that the Secretary of State should now resign?

I seem to have heard that somewhere before. I have no doubt that all these matters—especially a study of intelligence—will be considered by any inquiry that takes place on the Falklands covering many years.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the figures show that the cost of the Falklands war to 4 June is well within line for many forms of public expenditure on individual items that we take for granted—for example, the costs of British Rail, which are nearly £1,000 million a year?

I take my hon. Friend's point, but I do not know whether I should like to compare the costs of British Rail with the cost of the Falkland Islands campaign. We must not reduce our defence effort, our NATO effort, our defence of the United Kingdom and everything that the West stands for by the diversion of funds from that main defence effort to the Falklands campaign. I have already made a general statement on the Government's policy in that respect.

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us—we have, of course, been reading press reports—whether the cost that he has mentioned will come out of the Contingency Fund, with the Treasury's agreement, or, ultimately, out of the defence budget?

The costs will be met as an addition to the defence budget, which is already planned to increase by 3 per cent. per annum.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that if the policy decisions that are contained in his White Papers had been implemented some years earlier it is reasonable to suppose that some of the ships lost during the Falklands expedition would not have been lost, because the new equipment for defence measures would have been available?

I do not know whether I can go quite as far as that. However, the large programme that we now have in progress for upgrading the weapons systems on Royal Navy ships—especially the decisions that we have taken in the past year on the new satellite, on Sea Wolf and on the new heavyweight torpedo—will greatly increase our capability. These upgradings will come into effect in future.

Training (Foreign Forces)

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will review the policy on which invitations to foreign Governments to send members of their armed forces for training in the United Kingdom is based.

It has long been our practice to provide military training for other countries. Each case is examined taking into account defence, foreign policy and economic considerations, together with the availability of places and the qualification of the individual student. I see no need to review that practice.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that over the years members of the armed forces of countries with appalling human rights records have been trained in the United Kingdom? Does he recognise that many believe that it was disgraceful that Argentine soldiers were trained in this country practically until the conflict broke out, especially in view of Argentina's shameful human rights record? Does not this demonstrate the need to change the basis of the Government policy, which is totally unsatisfactory and discridited?

This is a difficult policy to apply. We apply the criteria that I have described. Argentine military personnel received military training in the United Kingdom in every year from 1975 to 1978.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that while we train some foreigners we exclude from our Armed Forces a good number of British subjects because of their ethnic origins, especially the Poles, of whom many live in my constituency? Their parents left Poland 40 years ago. Surely it is about time that my right hon. Friend reviewed this policy.

With respect to my hon. Friend, I think that his supplementary question falls slightly outside the original question. However, I shall gladly consider the effect of it.

Trident

19.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is his latest estimate of the total cost of the Trident programme.

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the statement of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence on 11 March, and to defence open government document 82/1.

Will the Minister tell the House how much the figure varies from the original sum that he and his right hon. Friend gave to the House when they announced the cost of Trident, and whether he expects the cost to hold true in future?

I have no reason to expect the figure to vary. I have explained on previous occasions that there are good reasons to believe that the programme can be held more or less to target. That was done with the Polaris programme.

Does the Minister agree that the effect of the decision to take the D5 instead of the C4 will increase the effect of Trident spending on other defence spending by 25 per cent.? Does he accept that this will make it far more difficult to maintain adequate conventional forces, especially naval forces, over the next couple of years?

I do not follow the first part of the hon. Lady's supplementary question, in which she referred to 25 per cent. If she will explain this issue to me in correspondence, I shall gladly examine it. It is not a figure that I have previously come across. As we are planning to increase our defence spending by 3 per cent. a year there will be more funds available for conventional forces, even some years from now, in spite of the Trident programme.