On the 19th July last year, MPs voted to renew the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons system, after a speech by the new Prime Minister Theresa May and a discussion in the House of Commons. However, it has recently come to light that a missile test carried out by the Royal Navy in June suffered a serious malfunction. The missile, unarmed, was supposed to follow a course from submarine HMS Vengeance on the coast of Florida towards west Africa, but at some stage the missile radically changed direction, turning back on itself and heading towards the American east coast. It has emerged that the Prime Minister may have been informed about the test failure – it seems likely that she was, given her position as PM – and moreover, that she failed to inform the House of Commons of it prior to the vote on Trident’s renewal.
There are two clear issues to deal with here, and the first is the claim that Theresa May knew about the failed missile test before her speech in Parliament in July and before the subsequent vote, but failed to inform MPs. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that “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.” MPs can only do their job properly, can only vote in what they believe are the best interests of the country, if they are provided with all of the facts about the matter on which they are discussing. To not tell MPs of the test failure robs them of their ability to make a sound decision, and this instance, given its seriousness, is just further evidence that Theresa May is happy to govern not in Parliament but in secret meetings, using the House, and the Conservative majority, only as a means of instigating what she and her closest advisors have decided ought to be done.
The second issue is about the suitability of Trident itself. As Angus Robertson, deputy leader of the SNP and their official spokesperson in Westminster, argued, “if we now have to add (to the financial and moral issues) that there is a real possibility it is unreliable and unsafe – then there must be massive question marks about its viability.” Indeed, given the nature of the incident – the missile literally travelled 180 degrees in the wrong direction – and the devastating capabilities of such a weapon, for it to fail a basic missile flight test is damning. It may well be an argument for the very renewal that Theresa May was asking for, as the current system is evidently not up to scratch.
[Tim Abrams -@timabrams123]