TORY PM Theresa May yesterday refused four times to say if she knew about a Trident nuclear missile misfire just weeks ahead of a crucial vote on the renewal of Trident.
May told the BBC’s Andrew Marr she has ‘absolute faith’ in the UK’s nuclear weapons system despite reports that an unarmed missile went off course during a test last June. Last July, MPs backed the renewal of Trident by 472 votes to 117, approving the manufacture of four replacement submarines at a current estimated cost of £31bn.
The Sunday Times said the missile, fired in June from HMS Vengeance nuclear submarine off Florida, veered off course towards the US. When asked by Marr if she knew the misfire had happened, May said: ‘I have absolute faith in our Trident missiles. When I made that speech in the House of Commons, what we were talking about was whether or not we should renew our Trident.’
She was asked a further three times but she did not answer the question. Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn said the misfire called for ‘a serious discussion’. He told Sky News: ‘It’s a pretty catastrophic error when a missile goes in the wrong direction, and while it wasn’t armed, goodness knows what the consequences of that could have been.’
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell told the BBC’s Andrew Marr: ‘People on both sides of the argument on Trident would have expected that to be reported to parliament and the fact that Theresa May didn’t is extremely worrying. And I think questions have to be asked about that.’
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said that a misfire was a ‘hugely serious issue’. She tweeted: ‘There should be full disclosure of what happened, who knew what/when, and why the House of Commons wasn’t told.’
The Sunday Times said the cause of the test firing failure from HMS Vengeance remains top secret but quotes a senior naval source as saying the missile suffered an in-flight malfunction after launching out of the water.
The paper added that it is expected that Defence Secretary Michael Fallon will be called to the House of Commons to answer questions from MPs. Kate Hudson, CND general secretary, said: ‘This is a very serious failure of the Trident system and there’s absolutely no doubt that this would have impacted on the debate in Parliament on Trident replacement. So the government’s motivation for holding back this vital information is clear.
‘Instead this crucial information has been revealed by a senior naval figure rather than by government at the appropriate time to inform the parliamentary debate. This is shocking behaviour on the part of our government and it is profoundly to be hoped that parliamentary opposition forces will hold government to account for withholding information that is crucial to our national security.’