Admiral Lord John West told a Defence Committee meeting in the Commons today that the nuclear detterent was arguably the 'ultimate guarantor of security’ in an emergency hearing following revelations a missile was mis-fired.
The retired senior officer of the Royal Navy said it was “very routine” to publicise the outcome of Trident missile launches – of which five have taken place since 2000.
And he praised the “unsung work” of military officers who helped to ensure the deterrent was being properly tested to ensure the safety of the UK.
But he added anyone who thought a Trident missile test going wrong could be kept secret was either stupid or foolhardy.
Admiral Lord John West faced a defence committee today
The hearing was called after it was revealed Prime Minister Theresa May knew a Trident missile had mis-fired a month before a Commons vote on renewing the British nuclear deterrent.
It is believed the missile, fired from a nuclear submarine off Florida, malfunctioned and veered towards mainland US during a routine test.
After Mrs May denied any knowledge of the incident, Downing Street eventually confirmed the PM was briefed on the outcome just before the key Westminster vote.
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Speaking yesterday, Lord West blasted the revolution as "quite extraordinary".
He demanded the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon explain to parliament why the cover up happened – and if the Government has any concerns about the nuclear deterrent.
The Admiral added: ”Now they have to reassure us because they were so stupid not to let us see what was going on in June.”
But Mr Fallon declined to attend the meeting in the House of Commons today – saying he could not add anything further regarding the incident.
Lord West, a former minister for security who served under Gordon Brown, was been hauled in front of the Defence Committee to discuss the missile failure.
Speaking to the committee, he said a missile launch is normally a very important event and “it is a great celebration".
But speaking about the failure, he said: “On this occasion it would appear that there was some issue with the actual missile.
“The missile is an america missile, its the same one the Americans use.
“What it would mean is something went wrong with that missile – that is primarily an America issue.
“I’m sure that is a minor thing and it was resolved.”
Lord West said anyone who thought the mistake would not come out was stupid
If anyone thought this wasn't going to come out, they're living in cloud cuckoo land
Former Navy head Admiral Lord John West
However he added that in his opinion, anyone who thought a Trident missile test going wrong could be kept secret was either stupid or foolhardy.
He said: “I think one should be as transparent as one is able to.
“When you know is is being monitored by people like the Russians, when you know all that is done, it is a silly thing to do to try and hide it.
“That is silly, it’s just a stupid thing to do.
Lord West appeared in front of the a Defence Committee meeting in the Commons today
“This is a big bonanza occasion, we do this once every four years, it was inevitably going to come out.
“If anyone thought this wasn't going to come out, they're living in cloud cuckoo land."
And he claimed it was no excuse for politicians to claim they were too focused on the Brexit issue to release such information to the public.
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Defence Secretary Michael Fallon visits HMS Vigilant, one of the UK's four nuclear warhead-carrying submarines at Royal Navy’s Faslane nuclear base on the Clyde.
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Defence Secretary Michael Fallon visits HMS Vigilant at HM Naval Base Clyde, also known as Faslane in Scotland
He said: "I can just imagine, having been there for certain things happening, someone saying ‘there’s a Brexit vote happening, everyones eyes are everywhere else, if it comes out now we don’t want to say anything to affect things'.
"I don’t think it affects things at all to be quite honest. I don’t think it affects things on whether we renew or replace the submarines, I don’t think it matters."
Lord West also added he saw no reason why Mrs May could not say when the test took place, adding he could ring Vladimir Putin now "and he would probably tell me".
The meeting comes a day after an emergency debate on Monday, which saw the SNP and some Labour figures launch an offensive over the apparent cover-up.
While Mr Fallon refused to disclose details of the misfire, US officials openly briefed American media about the incident.
According to a source, the US administration “may have been worried that there could be similar problems on other missiles.”
“The British submarine successfully carried and launched the missile; the bit that went wrong was the US proprietary technology.”