MPs have voted to renew the UK’s nuclear deterrent, with Theresa May saying she would be prepared to order a nuclear strike killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people.
The Prime Minister said the Trident weapons system was an “essential part of our national security” and did not hesitate when asked if she would use it in a nuclear conflict.
MPs voted by 472 to 117 in favour of a motion supporting replacement of the four Vanguard-class missile submarines that carry the UK’s nuclear arsenal.
The vote followed a six-hour debate yesterday that confirmed the depth of the rifts in Labour, with several of the party’s MPs lining up to condemn Jeremy Corbyn.
Mr Corbyn, who faces a leadership challenge and open revolt among his MPs, was among 48 Labour members who broke with official party policy to vote against renewing Trident.
Opening the debate, Mrs May accused opponents of Trident renewal of being “the first to defend the country’s enemies”, drawing an angry response from Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, who mouthed the words: “How dare you.”
“Some people suggest that we should actually be removing our nuclear deterrent,” Mrs May said. “This has been an essential part of our national security and defence for nearly half a century now, and it would quite wrong for us to go down that particular path.”
Mrs May was asked by SNP MP George Kerevan whether she was “personally prepared to authorise a nuclear strike that can kill a hundred thousand innocent men, women and children.”
With barely a moment’s hesitation, the Prime Minister replied: “Yes.” Referring to Mr Corbyn’s comments last year that he would order the UK’s nuclear weapons never to be used if was elected Prime Minister, she added: “I have to say to the honourable gentleman the whole point of a deterrent is that our enemies need to know that we would be prepared to use it, unlike some suggestions that we could have a deterrent but not actually be willing to use it, which seem to come from the Labour Party front bench.”
Mrs May warned that Russia was upgrading its nuclear arsenal and conducting more missile exercises, while North Korea has enough fissile material to build more than a dozen nuclear warheads and the technology. “The nuclear threat has not gone away. If anything, it has increased,” the Prime Minister said.