DEFENCE – TRIDENT MISSILE TEST – 23 January 2017

Dr Julian Lewis: Is the Secretary of State telling us that nothing went wrong on this particular launch? While accepting that the nuclear deterrent needs to be shrouded in secrecy, it also needs to deter. Once stories get out there that a missile may have failed, is it not better to be quite frank about it, especially if it has no strategic significance, as, in this case, it probably has none? Sir Craig Oliver vehemently denies that he or any other member of David Cameron’s media team ever knew about the aborted Trident test, so will the Secretary of State tell us when Mr Cameron was told about it and when he himself was told about it? Will he accept an invitation to attend the Defence Committee tomorrow morning – in closed session for some questions, if need be – to resolve any outstanding issues?

The Secretary of State for Defence (Sir Michael Fallon): As I have said, I am not going to discuss publicly on the Floor of the House the details of the demonstration and shakedown operation. All I can do is repeat that HMS Vengeance has successfully been certified again to rejoin the operational cycle. I think I have already answered on the responsibility of the Prime Minister and made it very clear that the previous Prime Minister and this Prime Minister were, of course, informed about the maintenance of the nuclear deterrent, the outcome of the test and the successful return of HMS Vengeance to the operational cycle.

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Mr Kevan Jones: On a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr Speaker: I shall take this point of order from the originator of the Urgent Question if it relates exclusively to the matters that have just been under discussion, and if it is an attempt not to continue the exchanges, but to provide some new information with which the hon. Gentleman thinks the House should be favoured.

Mr Jones: Thank you, Mr Speaker. It has become apparent during these proceedings that US officials are now briefing more detail than has been provided by the Secretary of State today. He has hidden behind secrecy for the demonstration and shakedown, even though his own Department authorised a book by Peter Hennessy last year that gave a full description of what happens. The Chair of the Select Committee very generously suggested that the Secretary of State could come before his Committee. How can Parliament hold ​the Department to account on this issue if it will not even take up the generous offer that the right hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) has already made?

Mr Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. I say simply that the Secretary of State will have heard the right hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis), the Chair of the Select Committee, who is extremely diligent, extraordinarily intelligent and persistent – and I have known him a damn sight longer than the Secretary of State has known him. How the Secretary of State wants to deal with the right hon. Member for New Forest East is entirely a matter for him and his judgment, exercising it to the best of his ability. We will leave it there for now.

​[For further developments, click here.]