UK News

MPs vote to renew £40bn Trident nuclear programme

Demonstrators at an anti-Trident CND rally in Parliament Square, London. Picture by Dominic Lipinski, Press Association
David Hughes and Gavin Cordon, Press Association

MPs voted to renew the Trident nuclear programme late on Monday night as Prime Minister Theresa May claimed it would be "grossly irresponsible" not to back the £40 billion project.

The politicians voted in favour of renewing the UK's Trident nuclear weapons system by 472 votes to 117, majority 355. 

During a fractious debate in the Commons, Mrs May, told MPs she would be prepared to authorise a nuclear strike as she warned that Jeremy Corbyn's opposition to maintaining Trident is "quite wrong".

Making her first Commons speech since entering Number 10, she said the "very real" threat posed by Russia and North Korea meant the UK could not afford to "relax our guard".

But Mr Corbyn repeated his position that he would not be prepared to press the nuclear button if he was in Number 10, arguing that threatening "mass murder" was not the way to handle international relations.

SDLP MPs were among those who said they would vote against renewing the nuclear programme.

South Down MP Margaret Ritchie said Trident was "about status, not security".

"The elephant in the room...is that Trident only exists to further the image of the UK as a first-tier world power, not to make citizens safer," she said, ahead of yesterday's debate.

"Leaving aside the party political timing of the vote today, the government’s commitment to nuclear weapons betrays a deep insecurity over the UK’s role in the 21st century."

However, Ulster Unionist and DUP MPs backed the nuclear scheme.

UUP South Antrim MP Danny Kinahan said Trident was "essential".

"I strongly believe that our nuclear deterrent has and will continue to prevent many conflicts that would place our service personnel in mortal danger," he said.

"Those who oppose our nuclear capabilities often argue against their cost as if they were a luxury that we could do without. They are not a luxury, they safeguard our nation and ensure that we play our part as a leading global peacekeeper."

DUP MP Ian Paisley said his party "will proudly stand behind the government on this issue tonight".

He added: "Could I encourage her (Mrs May) to encourage the Scottish Nationalists, that if they don’t want Trident jobs in Scotland, they will be happily taken in Northern Ireland".

Labour remained deeply split on the issue and the party's MPs had a free vote. Mr Corbyn was set to go against the Government's motion on maintaining the UK's round the clock nuclear capability by replacing the four ageing Vanguard submarines that carry the Trident missiles. However, other members of his frontbench were expected to either abstain or vote with the Government.

Earlier, the head of the GMB trade union Tim Roache insisted 45,000 jobs around the country - many of them highly skilled - were dependent on the Trident programme going ahead.

Mr Roache, who supported Mr Corbyn as leader, told BBC Radio 4's The World at One: "The Labour Party have a clear policy. The clear policy is that Labour will uphold an at-sea deterrent".

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