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Volume 82: debated on Tuesday 2 July 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Defence what recent representations he has received from Scotland about future commitment to the Trident programme.

Since the beginning of 1985 the Government have received from Scotland on the general subject of Trident 23 letters, including one petition, and a number of postcards.

Will the Minister add to those the strong objections from my constituents at Glenboig, who do not want asbestos from Faslane dumped in their village? Will he consider also the important views recently expressed by Lord Carver, when he described the project as representing illusions of nuclear grandeur? Will the right hon. Gentleman therefore justify the Government's obsession with such a project?

We do not agree with Lord Carver on this subject. With regard to the hon. Gentleman's constituency point, I am sure that he has now received the letter which the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young), sent him a few days ago, in which he said that, as a result of further scientific evaluation of the asbestos problem at Faslane, it looks as if we shall now be able to avoid using the Glenboig tip in the hon. Gentleman's constituency.

Has my right hon. Friend investigated the likely effects of a Labour party non-nuclear defence policy? Does he accept that about 50,000 jobs could be lost in Scotland if it were implemented?

My hon. Friend is entirely correct. Apart from the significant employment implication of the Labour party's defence policy, not least in relation to the Trident programme, there are the significant and wider defence implications. We feel that it would be wrong on both national and NATO grounds for this country to go down the path of one-sided disarmament, which is the Labour party's policy.

Is not the Trident programme unacceptable in this country by all normal standards, bearing in mind that it represents overkill, overprice and, shortly, it will be over here?

I do not understand why the hon. Gentleman thinks that it is an unacceptable policy. It is the continuation of a policy that was followed by successive Labour Governments whom he presumably supported.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Henderson) and I recently had a meeting with the shop stewards from Rosyth as well as from Babcock Power, all of whom stated clearly that their interest in the Trident programme is that it secures their jobs for a long period?

My hon. Friend is entirely correct. I know that it is very much welcomed in Scotland, not least in the Rosyth area, that we have made an undertaking for the refitting of SSBNs to be continued in that dockyard. The ending of that cycle of major refitting work would have some profound implications in that locality.

Is the Minister aware of the position in Rosyth dockyard, where the union has withdrawn cooperation because of its disgust at the way in which the privatisation scheme is being handled? Is he aware that the future of the dockyard is being jeopardised by the Government's hamfisted approach to consultation? Is he aware that the union wants the procedure extended?

There is absolutely no basis for saying that the future of that dockyard is being jeopardised by our proposal on dockyards. What would jeopardise it in no uncertain way would be the ending of the refitting work on the deterrent, which is likely to extend over 20 years and more.