By Lydia Jackson
Theresa May has faced criticism over recent days, after it has been revealed that she refrained from revealing the failure of a Trident nuclear deterrent systems test which took place in June of last year under the office of David Cameron.
The ballistic missile test, which involved Royal Navy nuclear submarine HMS Vengeance, was the first of its kind in four years, and took place off the coast of Florida.
The £17 million missile was fired from the submerged submarine, which is the only remaining Vanguard-class submarine possessed by the Navy. It had undergone a refit at Devonport just prior to the event.
Explicit details of the test are yet to be revealed, but US and Royal Navy officials have suggested that a misfire due to a technical fault led to the triggering of an auto self-destruct mechanism. The missile was diverted into the sea off the Floridian coast.
Much of the criticism the Prime Minister has faced has been related to the £40 billion renewal of Trident in July of last year, after the post-Brexit resignation of Mr Cameron led to the start of her time in office.
This renewal will see the building of a new fleet of Dreadnought-class submarines to be operational by 2028, and in service until the 2060s.
This has caused some controversy due to the concealment of the failed test, which took place prior to the House of Commons voting in favour of renewal 472 votes to 117. MPs were unaware of the incident, whereas May reportedly was before taking office. There have been concerns that this was undemocratic.
Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon, during his address to the house of Commons this week after Labour’s request of an urgent question, claimed that details could not be revealed due to the interests of national security.
However, whilst making this claim a US defence official was leaking information to CNN which was reporting on the incident. It has also been noted that the other tests of the 21st century in 2005, 2009 and 2012 have been publicised and videos have been posted on YouTube.
Theresa May, in an interview with Andrew Marr, also refused to answer questions regarding her knowledge of the event four times. She did, however, coin the test a “success”, and revealed that it led to the certification of the submarine and its crew.
Many of the members of parliament which voted against Trident’s renewal are members of Labour and the Scottish National Party (SNP), who argue that the money invested in what is perceived as the backbone of strategic deterrence, would in fact be better spent in other areas, and have also expressed concerns over the potential damage which Trident could cause.
This story emerges amidst a tense time for the British Prime Minister and the Conservative party, as on Tuesday the Supreme Court ruled that Parliament were entitled to vote on whether or not to trigger Article 50, and begin the process of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.