Tuesday, 24 January 2017

UK nuclear weapons require proper Parliamentary scrutiny

Letter to The Times:

Your first leading article (“Atomic angst”, January 24, www.thetimes.co.uk/article/atomic-angst-7zdh3rgj8)
rightly argues  that it  has been seriously politically deleterious to Mrs May and her Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, to  be less than candid  to the public, via the television interview with Andrew Marr, and Parliament, over the Trident test failure revealed by your sister Sunday  paper.(http://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/no-10-covered-up-trident-missile-fiasco-hch3shsrn)

Sir Michael told MPs on 23 January that “We do not comment on the detail of submarine operations;” and added that “Let me just be very, very clear: neither I nor the Prime Minister are going to give operational details of our submarine operations or of the systems and sub-systems that are tested through a demonstration and shakedown (DESO) operation.”( https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2017-01-23/debates/F1A6B273-AC23-4408-9B0C-81FE88B081F2/TridentTestFiring)
This assertion is demonstrably untrue, as your news report establishes (“Fallon attacked over Trident secrecy," January 24; www.thetimes.co.uk/article/mps-find-their-questions-thwarted-by-the-ultimate-deterrent-9cxllxq52). In November  2012, the then defence minister, Philip Dunne,  provided details in a written reply  to Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas (19 November  2012, Hansard, Column 239W) of a DESO in the Atlantic ocean on 23 October 2012.
Mr Dunne also revealed  in second  reply to Mrs Lucas  that as “the UK is a signatory to The Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation” it is “ is obliged to inform the 133 other signatories of ballistic missile and space-launch vehicle launches and test flights.”
Surely it is unacceptable to Parliament  that 133 other states were informed of the Trident test conducted in June 2016  but information was withheld from MPs and peers?
Parliament  has just been awarded  re-inforced sovereignty over the Brexit process by the Supreme Court decision. It now needs to re-establish a similar power of scrutiny over the UK’s nuclear weapons programme.

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