Skip to main content


Volume 210: debated on Tuesday 30 June 1992

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much Government money has been spent on Trident since 1987; and how much more is expected to be spent before completion.


To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is the most recent estimated total cost of the Trident programme; and if he will make a statement.

The estimated total cost of the Trident procurement programme is £10.5 billion, of which 60 per cent. has been spent so far.

Order. I am sure that on reflection the hon. Gentleman will begin his question again.

Does the Secretary of State agree that he is being economic with the truth and that it is nonsense to talk about £10.5 billion? Given that there are four submarines, each submarine taking 128 missiles, making 512 missiles in all, given that the strategic arms reduction talks between America and Russia are expanding and given that the Secretary of State has agreed to dismantle Nimrod and Sea Harrier, could not the global cost be in the region of £33 billion?

I think that the hon. Gentleman is referring to a rather extravagant estimate made by Greenpeace which has already been substantially discredited. I prefer to rest on the conclusion of the Select Committee on Defence, which looked into the cost of Trident and commented on what it described as

"the gratifying and unusual spectacle of a major defence procurement programme coming in far below estimate."

Will the Secretary of State tell us at exactly what he intends targeting the up to 512 new Trident warheads—French trawlers? Which would be the more effective at Sarajevo airport—one of the Scots regiments which he is disbanding to save a pittance or the Trident missile system, costing up to £32 billion, which is unnecessary, badly over budget and of no real purpose? Saving Scots regiments would represent value for money; Trident missiles do not.

The hon. Gentleman appears to be unaware of the fact that even at the end of the 10-year programme of reducing strategic nuclear weapons as a result of the agreement between President Bush and President Yeltsin, Russia and the United States will still have more than 3,000 strategic nuclear warheads. He appears to be unaware that President Yeltsin said that the British and French deterrents were so relatively small in number that it was foolish to try to draw a comparison between the British and French deterrents and the agreement that he had reached with President Bush. The reluctance of the Scottish National party to dedicate its interest to the proper defence of its country is well known north of the border.

Is it not a fact that the Labour party is yet again up to—[HON. MEMBERS: "Reading."] When it comes to discussing the estimated cost of Trident, the fact is—[Interruption.]

Order. If hon. Members would remain silent, I could hear what the hon. Lady is saying. I should then know whether she needs correcting.

I shall try again, Madam Speaker. Is it not a fact that when we are talking about the cost of Trident, the Labour party——

Order. Please let me give some guidance to the hon. Lady. The Secretary of State has no responsibility for Labour party policy. The hon. Lady should, therefore, frame her question in a way that gives the Secretary of State responsibility for answering.

I shall rephrase the question, Madam Speaker. Is it not correct that the real estimated costs of Trident are well below those forecast by the Opposition? I understand that they are well below 2 per cent. of the defence budget. Trident is, therefore, a deterrent well worth having for Britain.

Neither I nor the Leader of the Opposition has responsibility for Labour party policy, so no one in the Chamber could respond to that point. My hon. Friend is correct. The cost of Trident over the period of procurement is less than 2.5 per cent. of the defence budget. That puts the matter into proportion. Trident is of enormously important value in Britain's defence requirements.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the independent nuclear deterrent is the only absolute guarantee that this country will never be invaded and, as such, is the ultimate in cost effectiveness?

Yes, my hon. Friend is entirely correct. The defence strategy that has been pursued since the end of the second world war has more than vindicated the nuclear policy of both this country and the United States. But for that policy, we should not have seen the collapse of the Warsaw pact, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the re-emergence of a potentially free and democratic Russia.

If the Secretary of State is so keen to demonstrate to the House that his figures are accurate and that Greenpeace's figures are wrong, will he tell us, in his figures, how much he has put in for the eventual decommissioning of Trident and for making safe the nuclear material involved?

Decommissioning of all vessels, especially nuclear vessels, is ultimately required. For Trident, the decommissioning will not take place for a good 30 years. The hon. Gentleman is well aware that all the costs directly attributable to the Trident programme are included in the cost of £10.5 billion to which I referred.