The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 27th January 2017

Clamour for inquiry over Trident missile that went the wrong way

LABOUR leader Jeremy Corbyn has joined anti-nuclear campaigners in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and Stop the War to demand an inquiry in to the failure of a Trident missile test in June last year and the subsequent cover-up. He said: “It’s a pretty catastrophic error when a missile goes in the wrong direction.”

The missile, which was not carrying a nuclear war head, malfunctioned seriously whilst being tested by being fired from a British submarine near Florida. It was aimed to head towards Africa but turned and started heading towards the United States before its self-destruct mechanism was activated.

This happened just weeks before a crucial House of Commons vote on renewing the Trident missile system at a cost of over £200 billion. Had MPs known of the failure this could have influenced their vote; as it was, they voted by a majority of 355 to renew the missile system, which is supplied and subject to control by the United States.

A source told the Sunday Times that there was “major panic” at the highest level of Government after the first test for four years ended in “disastrous failure”.

Kate Hudson, speaking on behalf of CND, said: “This is a very serious failure of the Trident system and there’s absolutely no doubt this would have impacted on the debate in Parliament on Trident replacement.

“The Government’s motivation for holding back this vital information is therefore clear. Instead of crucial information being given by the Government at the appropriate time to inform the Parliamentary debate, it’s been revealed by a senior naval figure months after it took place.”

Prime Minister Theresa May interviewed on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme on Sunday was asked four times if she had known about the missile failure before the debate but refused to answer. She merely restated her faith in the Trident system and said she believed that Britain should be defended.

The Stop the War Coalition described the cover-up as “déja Boom”. In a statement the peace group said: “The cover up over Trident misfire is clear and proof that Trident is far from an ‘independent nuclear deterrent’. It’s déja vu in the House of Commons. Just like the debate on Trident last year, and that on Chilcot; a line of politicians stand up to agree with the Defence Secretary, that Trident is wonderful, a key deterrent which keeps Britain safe, and that any questioning of its role and safety is both out of order and close to pro-Russian treachery.

“It beggars belief that [Defence Secretary] Fallon is allowed to stonewall for an hour by hiding behind secrecy and national security. All previous tests — held successfully — have been marked by promotional videos issued by the Ministry of Defence.

“Coincidentally, this one — which failed — not only didn’t have its own video, it was subject to a news blackout.

“Coincidence two is that it took place only weeks before the Trident renewal debate in Parliament, which was a carnival of reaction and mindless defence of nuclear weapons.

“Coincidence three is that at the very point that Fallon was refusing to admit that a missile launched off Florida and bound for West Africa (why?) veered off course and headed for the US, Donald Trump’s spokesman was admitting that said missile had actually self-destructed off the coast of Florida.

“The cover up is clear, and goes back to the last days of David Cameron. It is a cover up at the top of government. It is shameful that even given the very limited forms of democracy in the House of Commons, Fallon was allowed to get away with this.

“But perhaps my greatest despondency is reserved for the sheer level of ignorance and stupidity which permeates Parliament on these occasions. As one MP — I think Labour’s Paul Flynn — pointed out, the most likely case where nuclear weapons are used will be by accident.”

Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffiths said that a full explanation is due and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said it is “extremely worrying” that Parliament had not been informed of the incident.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, a long-standing opponent of Trident — the submarines for which are based at Faslane, on the River Clyde — called the apparent misfire a “hugely serious issue”.

Admiral Lord West of Spithead, who is Britain’s Admiral of the Fleet, commented: “The decision to withhold news last summer that a Trident missile test experienced some kind of problem — ironically, almost certainly minor — is both bizarre and spectacularly stupid.” He urged Fallon to step up and explain.

Tory MP Julian Lewis, chair of the Commons Defence Committee, said that May had been “handed a no-win situation” by her predecessor as Prime Minister, David Cameron, whose “spin doctors” had been responsible for a “cover-up”.