News World UK PM under pressure over failed missile test

UK PM under pressure over failed missile test

HMS Vengeance vanguard trident missiles
HMS Vengeance is one of Britain's four Vanguard class submarines, designed to carry Trident nuclear missiles. Photo: EPA/Andrew Linnett/British Ministry of Defence
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Prime Minister Theresa May faces growing demands to give honest answers to MPs in Parliament about a failed test of the Trident nuclear deterrent.

Mrs May refused to answer questions on Sunday over her knowledge of the test, in which an unarmed Trident missile reportedly malfunctioned off the coast of Florida in June.

The Sunday Times reported it had been set off from the submarine HMS Vengeance, but rather than head towards Africa, had veered towards the US.

Trident missile trigger
The Weapons Engineer Officer’s Tactical Trigger that would be used in the final stage of a nuclear missile launch on board a Vanguard-class submarine. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA

The Prime Minister was criticised after failing to disclose whether or not she knew about it, just weeks before MPs approved the £40 billion ($A66 billion) Trident renewal program in July, and is being urged to come clean.

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.”

Appearing on BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show, May repeatedly refused to disclose whether she knew about the failed test before her speech to MPs, instead saying she had “absolute faith” in the Trident system.

Theresa May
Theresa May dodged questions over a failed Trident missile test. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Griffith said the issue was so important that Mrs May “certainly should” have answered questions on it.

She told the BBC: “It’s such a serious incident she is bound to have known and what she needs to tell us is did she know before she gave a major speech on Trident just days after she became prime minister.

“It’s not the sort of thing you would forget if you had been briefed about it in the preparation for that speech.”

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has also refused to divulge “operational details” of what happened during the test last June.

Sir Michael cautioned people against “believing everything” they read in newspapers said said he wouldn’t be responding to speculation.

The apparent cover-up over the failed test, involving an unarmed Trident II D5 missile launched from a British submarine, has prompted widespread criticism and incredulity.

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.

– with agencies

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