NEW concerns have been raised about the safety of Britain’s nuclear fleet – with two submarines still in action previously predicted to have been out of commission by this year.

Former top government adviser Dominic Cummings (below) sparked interest in the state of Britain’s nuclear fleet at the beginning of this month when he revealed he had attempted to secure assurances the Government would address the “horror show” of the arsenal in return for his help in Rishi Sunak’s election campaign.

The National: Dominic Cummings

He was refused and the deal failed to materialise but the claim has brought Trident back onto the political agenda, with the Government facing questions on the issue.

The Sunday National understands that the SNP last week made repeated but unsuccessful attempts to secure an urgent question on Trident.

Concerns have now been raised that the retirement dates of nuclear submarines are repeatedly being pushed back, with questions being asked about the safety of the vessels.

Two submarines currently in service were predicted to have been retired by the end of this year, according to a report from the Defence Select Committee in 2007, even with “life extension”.

The HMS Vanguard, which recently finished an extensive and overdue refit at the Devonport naval base in Plymouth, was predicted in the report to have been retired in 2022, accounting for life extension.

HMS Victorious entered the dock last summer for a similar refit, and in the same report was expected to retire this year with life extension.

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They are both part of the Vanguard class of nuclear submarines, of which there are four, which maintain continuous at-sea patrols.

The Royal Navy boasts that these patrols – intended to act as a “deterrent” – have been going non-stop since 1969.

The National: neale hanvey.

Alba’s Westminster leader Neale Hanvey (above) said: “There are real questions about the seaworthiness of the Vanguard class submarines and whether the Ministry of Defence is extending their lives beyond what is actually safe.

“Why are the dates for putting the submarines out of service being pushed back? Dominic Cummings says the fleet is a ‘horror show’ and yet the Royal Navy keeps patching them up and adding a few years to the lifespan.”

He added that these concerns also led to questions about the UK Government’s ability to maintain its continuous nuclear patrols.

“At what point does this mean the UK Government’s claims of ‘continuous at-sea’ so-called deterrence is nothing more than an empty boast and a fig leaf for the UK’s delusions of world grandeur,” Hanvey added.

The Kirkcaldy MP has tabled a number of written questions for the Ministry of Defence to answer.

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Of these, four are due to be answered on Monday and one is overdue an answer, which was scheduled to be delivered on January 10.

He added: “I am asking the MoD to confirm how many Vanguard-class submarines are deployed to provide ‘continuous at-sea’ capability, what the timescale is for their replacement, the estimated total costs of replacement, when each of the submarines has been out of service and how many are currently out of service.”

But Hanvey said the boast the patrols provided a deterrent was “not and never has been credible”.

“There is no financial, military or strategic justification for nuclear weapons or the renewal of Trident,” he added. 

“They offer no security in an insecure world and are a massive drain on taxpayer resources.

“This is yet another unacceptable price of the Union which Scotland is expected to pay in order to maintain the illusion of ‘Global Britain’ and the UK’s desire to cling onto its membership of the UN Security Council.”

The more than £31 billion Dreadnought programme is set to replace the Vanguard submarines by the early 2030s and the Ministry of Defence has insisted plans remain on schedule despite delays caused by the Covid pandemic.

A Royal Navy spokesperson said: “The Royal Navy has four Vanguard-class submarines, ensuring that at least one is on patrol at all times to maintain a continuous at-sea deterrence posture.

“Since April 1969, a Royal Navy nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine has patrolled every day without interruption, providing the nation’s continuous deterrent and helping to ensure the UK and our allies remain safe.”