Government has ‘complete confidence’ in nuclear deterrent despite failed missile test

A cabinet minister has stressed that the government has “complete confidence” in Britain’s nuclear deterrent following reports of a second failed test in eight years. 

Victoria Atkins, the health and social care secretary, was questioned this morning after a Trident missile, tested as part of the UK’s nuclear deterrent programme, failed. The dummy reportedly “plopped” into the sea just beyond the Royal Navy submarine it was fired from.

Speaking to Sky News, Atkins insisted that she cannot go into the details of the matter as it is a national security issue, adding: “the very nature of it means the people that about these things, I’m afraid, is a very, very, small group of people in very, very secure circumstances”.

She said the failure was “an anomaly that was event specific”.

“It has been corrected, and we have complete confidence in the system”, she said.

“This is a really important part of our defence system and we as Conservatives fully, fully support and understand the importance of a nuclear deterrent”

According to a report in The Sun, a dummy Trident 2 missile was propelled into the air by compressed gas in its launch tube, but its first stage boosters did not ignite during an exercise last month. 

The error reportedly happened while defence secretary Grant Shapps was on board HMS Vanguard to witness the test.

HMS Vanguard is one of the four submarines used by the UK to patrol the world’s oceans and maintain the country’s nuclear deterrent.

It is the second failed test since 2016, when a Trident fired from HMS Vengeance veered off course and self-destructed.

Labour has now called for assurances over the effectiveness of Britain’s nuclear deterrent after “concerning” reports about the latest failure.

“Reports of a Trident test failure are concerning. The defence secretary will want to reassure Parliament that this test has no impact on the effectiveness of the UK’s deterrent operations,” John Healey, the shadow defence secretary, said on Wednesday morning.

He added: “Labour’s support for the UK’s nuclear deterrent is total. We recognise the special service of those who’ve maintained our continuous at sea deterrence for over 50 years.”

In a statement issued to The Sun, the Ministry of Defence confirmed an “anomaly occurred” during the January 30 exercise off Florida.

The statement read: “HMS Vanguard and her crew have been proven fully capable of operating the UK’s Continuous At-Sea Deterrent, passing all tests during a recent demonstration and shakedown operation (DASO) – a routine test to confirm that the submarine can return to service following deep maintenance work.

“The test has reaffirmed the effectiveness of the UK’s nuclear deterrent, in which we have absolute confidence. During the test an anomaly occurred.

“As a matter of national security, we cannot provide further information on this, however we are confident that the anomaly was event specific, and therefore there are no implications for the reliability of the wider Trident missile systems and stockpile.

“The UK’s nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure and effective.”

Ministers are expected to make a statement about what happened to the House of Commons on Wednesday. is the UK’s leading digital-only political website, providing comprehensive coverage of UK politics. Subscribe to our daily newsletter here.