David Cameron is to blame for any cover-up of a failed Trident missile test a senior Conservative MP has claimed, as Downing Street admitted Theresa May knew about the incident before asking MPs to vote to renew the UK’s nuclear deterrent.
May faces growing demands to give honest answers to the Commons today after she yesterday refused to answer four times whether she knew about the missile misfiring in June.
However Julian Lewis, the chairman of the Commons defence committee, said May was not to blame for MPs not being told.
“In fairness to the present prime minister one has to accept that she has been dealt a rotten hand because this matter, the decision to cover it up, if there was such a decision, as appears to be the case, was taken in the dying days of the Cameron administration when spin doctors were the rule in Number 10 Downing Street,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Lewis said whoever decided not to reveal the failed test had happened “should have been sacked”, but added “all that regime have been sacked now”.
A member of Cameron’s former Downing Street media team told The Huffington Post it was “entirely false to suggest David Cameron’s media team covered up or tried to cover up the Trident missile test”.
They added: “We are disappointed that Julian Lewis would make these claims with no evidence.”
Greg Clark, the business secretary, told Sky News this morning it was “not the approach of the government to comment on the various tests of weapons systems.
However the Ministry of Defence has publicised successful tests in the past. In 2013 the government announced the crew of HMS Vigilant had been awarded trophy for being “the Navy’s No.1 ballistic missile submarine – as proven by a successful test firing last autumn”.
Theresa May refuses to answer questions on Trident
The Sunday Times reported the launch of an unarmed Trident II D5 missile from a British submarine off the coast of Florida in June malfunctioned. The failed test occurred weeks before MPs approved the £40bn Trident renewal programme in July.
Asked if knowledge of the failed test could have influenced the MPs’ decision, shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith told BBC Breakfast: “We don’t know because we don’t know exactly what happened, so we can’t speculate on that until we have a full report, and that’s what we’re calling for today.
“The incident itself speaks for itself, if the reports are true, that a missile veering off course is something to be extremely concerned about. But we need to have the full detail of exactly what did happen and why this occurred.”
Labour peer and former senior Royal Navy officer Admiral Lord West said it was “bizarre and stupid” not to tell anyone about the test, suggesting the Government had acted like North Korea in covering up the news.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called the failed test “a pretty catastrophic error”, while the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon has called for “full disclosure” about who knew what and when.