Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May said she would be willing to authorise a nuclear strike causing mass loss of life, ahead of a House of Commons vote on replacing Britain’s Trident submarines on Monday.
May answered with a decisive “yes” when questioned by opposition Scottish National Party’s (SNP) George Kerevan about whether she would personally approve a nuclear hit. “Is she personally prepared to authorise a nuclear strike that can kill a hundred thousand innocent men, women and children?” Kerevan asked May.
May responded: “I have to say to the honourable gentleman the whole point of a deterrent is that our enemies need to know that we would be prepared to use it, unlike some suggestions that we could have a deterrent but not actually be willing to use it, which seem to come from the Labour party frontbench.”
The statement was met by gasps from some MPs on the opposition benches, as the chamber debated whether to agree the replacement of Trident.
In her first address to the House of Commons since taking office last week following the EU referendum, May said it would be an “act of gross irresponsibility” to abandon the nuclear deterrent, pitching for the construction of four new submarines to carry the Trident missile system and their nuclear warheads. The project is estimated to cost 41 billion pounds (Rs 3.65 lakh crore).
MPs were to vote on Monday evening on whether to approve the construction.
The motion is almost certain to pass, as many Labour lawmakers are expected to back the Conservative government despite the opposition of their leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and members of the SNP.
May cited Russian aggression and the nuclear ambitions of North Korea as proof that “the nuclear threat has not gone away, if anything it has increased”.
“It is impossible to say for certain that no extreme threats will emerge in the next 30 or 40 years to threaten our security and way of life,” she said. ”And it would be an act of gross irresponsibility to lose the ability to meet such threats by discarding the ultimate insurance against those risks in the future.”
Britain is one of only three nuclear-armed NATO nations, along with the United States and France.
It has had a continuous at-sea deterrent since 1969, meaning that a submarine — equipped with up to 40 nuclear warheads — is always deployed somewhere in the oceans.