Theresa May: I am prepared to push the nuclear button

Posted On: 
18th July 2016

Theresa May today declared she was ready to push the nuclear button - even if it meant the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

Theresa May says she would authorise the use of nuclear weapons
PA Images

The Prime Minister spoke out as Jeremy Corbyn once again insisted he would not authorise the launch of the UK's nuclear weapons if he makes it to Downing Street.

The clash came as MPs prepare to vote at 10pm on whether to authorise a new generation of nuclear submarines.

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Mrs May told the Commons that the threat facing Britain from the likes of Russia and North Korea - who each have the bomb - has "increased" in recent years.

She added: "Once nuclear weapons have been given up, it is almost impossible to get them back. And the process of creating a new deterrent takes many decades. You could not redevelop a deterrent fast enough to respond to a new and unforeseen nuclear threat.

"It is impossible to say for certain that no such extreme threats will emerge in the next 30 or 40 years to threaten our security and way of life. 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."

SNP MP George Kerevan asked Mrs May: "Can we cut to the chase? Is she personally prepared to authorise a nuclear strike that could kill 100,000 innocent men, women and children?

The Prime Minister replied: "Yes. And 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 nuclear deterrent but not actually be willing to use it, which seem to come from the Labour party front bench."

Responding for Labour, Mr Corbyn angered many of his own MPs by saying he would vote against renewal, despite his party's policy being in favour.

On whether he would use nuclear weapons, he said: "I would not take a decision that would kill millions of innocent people. I don't believe the threat of mass murder is a legitimate way of going about international relations."

Shadow Health Secretary Diane Abbott highlighted the tensions within Labour by taking to Twitter to criticise one of her own colleagues.