Theresa May has refused four times to say whether she knew one of the United Kingdom’s Trident missiles designed to carry nuclear weapons had misfired before she asked MPs to vote on renewing the deterrent.
The prime minister this morning repeatedly dodged attempts by the BBC’s Andrew Marr to get a clear answer amid accusations of a cover-up.
May is under pressure to open an inquiry after 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.
Previous tests have been publicised by the government. But June’s was not. The failed test occurred weeks before MPs approved the £40bn Trident renewal programme in July.
Theresa May dodges Andrew Marr’s Trident questions:
Andrew Marr: When you made that first speech in July in the House of Commons about Trident nuclear defence did you know that misfire had happened?
Theresa May: Well, I have absolute faith in our Trident missiles. 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.
Marr: Did you know that it had happened?
May: I think that we should defend our country. I think that we should play our role within Nato with an independent nuclear deterrent. Jeremy Corbyn thinks differently. Jeremy Corbyn thinks we shouldn’t defend our country.
Marr: This is a very serious incident. Did you know about it when you were talking in the House of Commons?
May: And the issue that we were talking about in the House of Commons was a very serious issue it was bout whether or not we should renew Trident.
Marr: Prime minister, did you know?
May: There are tests that take place all the time regularly for our nuclear deterrence. What we were talking about in that debate that took place was about the future.
Marr: Ok we’re not going to get an answer to this.
Speaking to Sky News after May’s appearance on the BBC, Jeremy Corbyn said the failed test was a “pretty catastrophic error”. The Labour leader, who has long been opposed to renewing Trident, said there needed to be a “serious discussion” about nuclear weapons.
A government spokesman said: “The capability and effectiveness of the Trident missile, should we ever need to employ it, is unquestionable.
“In June the Royal Navy conducted a routine unarmed Trident missile test launch from HMS Vengeance, as part of an operation which is designed to certify the submarine and its crew.
“Vengeance and her crew were successfully tested and certified, allowing Vengeance to return into service. We have absolute confidence in our independent nuclear deterrent.”
Angus Robertson, the SNP’s Westminster Leader, has demanded May appear in the Commons to explain what she knew and when. “The Prime Minister must come to parliament this week and outline exactly what she knew - and when - about this reported malfunction and alleged UK government cover up,” he said.
“It would be utterly unacceptable, and deeply serious, if it turns out that this information was deliberately kept from MPs at the time of the renewal vote for the Trident weapons of mass destruction programme.”