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'Vital' Submariners Praised As Commons Debates UK's Nuclear Deterrent

One MP described submariners as the UK's "silent guardians", while others said the UK had become an "irresponsible" nuclear power.

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The Defence Secretary has praised Royal Navy submariners for their "vital" work in protecting the country as MPs in the Commons marked 50 years of the UK's continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent.

Gavin Williamson thanked them for their service over the last 50 years on Operation Relentless, which he described as the UK's "longest sustained military operation".

Opening a debate in the Commons on the nuclear deterrent, Mr Williamson said that "half a century ago HMS Resolution glided into the Clyde and sailed into the history books" as the first submarine to take part in the mission.

He said since then "thousands of submariners have followed in the wake of Resolution's crew, conducting vital work, unseen and undetected, every minute of every day".

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson will make the announcement in Barrow-in-Furness.
Mr Williamson praised submariners for their "vital work...every minute of every day".

Mr Williamson also announced submariners who have served 10 patrols as part of Operation Relentless will be given a new "silver bomber pin".

The pin will be made from metal taken from the now-decommissioned HMS Resolution.

Conservative MP Julian Lewis, Chairman of the Defence Select Committee, also paid tribute to submarine crews, calling them the "silent guardians" of the country.

He said the nuclear deterrent is necessary to prevent other nuclear powers targeting the UK, believing there would be no repercussions.

However, other MPs disagreed during the debate. 

SNP defence spokesman Stewart McDonald said the UK had become an "irresponsible" nuclear power and said the nuclear deterrent is a "big-willy gesture of a small-willy nation".

He added there is no military or economic case for a continuous at-sea deterrent.

Her Majesty's Naval Base Clyde is home to the UK's nuclear deterrent.

Labour MP Madeleine Moon, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, disagreed and said the alliance "greatly values the UK deterrence" and that they would be "horrified by Mr McDonald's comments".

The Shadow Defence Secretary, Nia Griffith, also objected Mr McDonald's claims, stating the UK is facing "real and undiminished threats" and "there is a need to deter against the use of nuclear weapons in all circumstances".

Mr Williamson said "nuclear dangers have not gone away", adding the "geopolitical situation is more unstable than ever before".

The debate was put to a vote after the SNP objected to the motion, which read: "That this House has considered the 50th anniversary of the continuous at sea deterrent."

The result was 241 votes in favour of the deterrent, with just 33 against - a majority of 207.

However, the result was only symbolic and has no effect on Government policy.