Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has been dubbed “stupid” by the House of Commons Speaker as the row raged over the Trident missile misfire and a possible Government cover-up.
John Bercow was caught ‘on mic’ ridiculing Fallon’s apparent refusal to discuss privately with MPs the failed weapons test off the coast of Florida last year.
Tory MP and Defence Select Committee chairman Julian Lewis had invited the Cabinet minister to give evidence on unarmed missile failure, which was revealed by the Sunday Times and confirmed by US defence sources on Monday.
But when Fallon ignored Lewis’s invitation to attend his committee’s next session on Tuesday, Bercow muttered under his breath: “Picking a fight with the chair of the select committee is a rather stupid thing to do.”
The Speaker’s withering remarks came as the Defence Secretary suffered the embarrassment of being told by Labour MPs that Pentagon sources had told CNN that the Trident missile had been forced to self-destruct in the test.
Labour MP Mary Creagh asked: “Should we believe the US official who, while we have been sitting here, has confirmed to CNN that the missile auto-self-destructed off the coast of Florida?
“If that is the case, why is the British parliament and the British public the last people to know?”
Fallon ducked the question and repeatedly refused to give any details or admit to any malfunction.
The minister had been hauled before the Commons by to answer an urgent Parliamentary question on the apparent test failure - which took place just a month before MPs voted to renew the £40bn nuclear weapons system.
Fallon said instead that he had “absolute faith” in the nuclear deterrent and that the crew and Vanguard submarine involved had performed well.
No.10 revealed on Monday that Theresa May had known of the missile test when she led the Government debate on Trident renewal last year.
Tory MP Lewis said that May “should probably have spoken up” about any malfunction during last July’s debate and called for the person responsible for keeping it secret to be sacked.