PM under pressure over Trident test malfunction

Prime Minister Theresa May is facing calls to come clean over a failed test of the Trident nuclear deterrent, amid claims the government acted like North Korea in covering up the news.

Monday, 23rd January 2017, 8:28 am
Updated Monday, 23rd January 2017, 8:30 am
An unarmed nuclear test missile fired by a British submarine off the coast of Florida in 2016, misfired and the failure was allegedly covered up ahead of a debate in Parliament. Picture; AP

Mrs May failed to answer four direct questions on her knowledge of the test, which reportedly took place weeks before MPs approved the £40 billion Trident renewal programme in July.

Reports claim the launch of an unarmed Trident II D5 missile from a British submarine off the coast of Florida in June malfunctioned.

Mrs May did not mention this test in a speech to MPs before the Commons vote, in which she urged them to back renewal, leading to allegations the malfunction has been 
covered up.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called the failed test “a pretty catastrophic error”, while the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon has called for “full disclosure”.

Labour peer and former senior Royal Navy officer Admiral Lord West added it was “bizarre and stupid” to not tell anyone about the test.

Appearing on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, Mrs May said she had “absolute faith” in Trident missiles. However, she did not address whether she knew about the failed test before her speech.

She said: “When I made that speech in the House of Commons, what we were talking about was whether or not we should renew our Trident, whether or not we should have Trident missiles, an independent nuclear deterrent in the future. I think we should defend our country, I think we should play our role in Nato with an independent nuclear deterrent.”

Jeremy Corbyn said: “I think this failure is something that ought to pause everyone for a moment and just think what happened. We understand the Prime Minister chose not to inform parliament about this and it’s come out through the media some months later.”

SNP leader Ms Sturgeon, meanwhile, tweeted: “This is a hugely serious issue. There should be full disclosure of what happened, who knew what/when, and why the House of Commons wasn’t told.”

Admiral Lord West said the government had “made a bit of a pageant” of missile tests.

He said: “From what the government says there was a minor glitch with the missile and they’re quite happy with the missile. In which case go ahead and let people know, otherwise we’re a bit rather like the Soviet Union used to be, or like North Korea or China, where they won’t admit to things going wrong when you’re actually testing them to see if they do or don’t go wrong.”

He added: “I think it is bizarre and stupid that they didn’t say that there’d been a firing and that there had been a missile malfunction.”