POLITICS

Pro-Trident Labour MP John Woodcock Calls The SNP 'Robots' During Heated Debate On Renewing Nuclear Weapons System

24/11/2015 15:51 GMT | Updated 25/11/2015 11:59 GMT

A Labour MP has labelled SNP MPs "robots" during a chaotic House of Commons debate on renewing the Trident nuclear weapons system.

John Woodcock, opposed to ditching the nuclear deterrent, was hitting out at the avowedly anti-Trident SNP for its record on education and health north of the border when MPs attempted to intervene.

The Labour MP accused the SNP in Holyrood of a "mismanagement of the core activities of Government", prompting SNP MPs to rise to their feet and complain in an attempt to get Mr Woodcock to give them the chance to speak.

"I would be happy to take every one of you robots, getting your instructions," said Mr Woodcock, whose Barrow-in-Furness constituency builds Trident-carrying submarines. "But the proposer of the motion refused point blank to take me."

Mr Woodcock was one of 20 Labour backbenchers to defy leader Jeremy Corbyn by voting on the Trident motion proposed by the SNP, which was comfortably defeated in a vote. The Labour leader had urged his MPs to abstain.

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John Woodcock spent the morning hanging submarine-shaped leaflets on colleagues’ doors, making the case for Trident

SNP MP John Nicolson called a point of order, a device to raise a formal objection in the parliamentary chamber, over whether the use of the "charming" word "robot" broke parliamentary rules. It was ruled out. Emboldened, Mr Woodcock added: "I'll be happy to refer to them as honourable robots."

The Barrow-in-Furness MP had spent the morning hanging submarine-shaped leaflets on colleagues’ doors, outlining his case, specifically that retaining Trident is “the manifesto position on which every Labour MP stood at the last election” and is “vital to maintain security in future decades”.

But some SNP MPs responded with interest.

Back in the Commons, Mr Woodcock later described SNP Westminster defence spokesman Brendan O'Hara, who led the debate, as the "honourable chief robot".

The SNP called the Opposition day debate in an effort to embarrass Labour amid a huge split within the party over nuclear disarmament.

Labour has launched a review into whether to return to a policy of unilateral disarmament not favoured since the 1980s after Jeremy Corbyn swept to power.

Mr Corbyn, a former vice-chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, has said he would not push the nuclear button if he was PM - which caused a party backlash even from members of his Shadow Cabinet.

The SNP motion was defeated by 64 votes to 330, but 20 Labour MPs took part: 14 backing Trident renewal, and six to scrap it. The vote was not binding on the Government in any event.