THE Secretary of State for Defence was accused of insulting the intelligence of the general public in his response to allegations made by Trident whistleblower William McNeilly.

In a debate in the House of Commons, organised by the SNP, Alex Salmond dismissed a brief written statement into McNeilly’s dossier published by Michael Fallon yesterday morning.

In that statement, Fallon had questioned the accuracy of McNeilly’s allegations: “Most of McNeilly’s concerns proved to be either factually incorrect or the result of mis- or partial understanding; some drew on historic, previously known events, none of which had compromised our deterrent capability and, where appropriate, from which lessons had been learned to develop our procedures as part of a continuous improvement programme.”

Salmond said that the accusations in McNeilly’s 18-page dossier deserved a fuller response: “We have no way of knowing whether any or all of these have substance,” the MP for Gordon said, “but I would submit to this House that in terms of the crucial matter of safety which is clearly at stake here that the House, the public, deserve a better, more comprehensive explanation than the 500-word written statement issued by the Secretary of Defence today.

“That is an insult not just to this House, it is an insult to the intelligence of the general public.”

Responding to the SNP politician, Minister for the Armed Forces Penny Mordaunt claimed that all but one of the allegations made by McNeilly had now been investigated: “Only one of the allegations is yet to be fully examined and that is the allegation that e-cigarettes were being used on the submarine. I must stress no corroboration of this has been found.

“Nevertheless the chain of command is considering what further steps should be taken to ensure this is not happening.”

At the debate, which was attended by nearly all SNP MPs, MP for Argyll and Bute Brendan O’Hara paid tribute to the whistleblower.

Speaking to The National after the debate, O’Hara, who is McNeilly’s MP, said: “I think that the country owes Mr McNeilly a debt of gratitude; I think that his courage is to be commended. He had absolutely nothing to gain by doing what he did and everything to lose. He could potentially lose his job, potentially lose his career and potentially lose his liberty. To do what he did took enormous courage.”

McNeilly, 25, who is originally from Newtownabbey, County Antrim, said he raised concerns with senior officers but decided to publish his claims because they were ignored.

He wrote: “Our nuclear weapons are a target that’s wide open to attack.

“It is just a matter of time before we’re infiltrated by a psychopath or terrorist.’’

Earlier in the day the Scottish CND had accused Fallon of ignoring McNeilly’s allegations. John Ainslie, from the anti-nuclear weapon organisation, said:

“Michael Fallon has casually brushed aside the serious allegations about Trident safety made by William McNeilly.

“He has slithered out of giving a detailed reply to each of the problems identified in the whistleblower’s report. The only specific item that he mentions is the question of e-cigarettes.

“He does not even attempt to answer concerns about a fire in the missile compartment of a

Trident submarine. He says nothing about McNeilly’s claim that there is a shortage of suitable people to work on Trident missiles, even though this is confirmed in reports from the MOD and their nuclear regulator.”

The Scottish CND yesterday published a report examining McNeilly’s claims against the background of “decades of problems with British nuclear submarines”.

Ainslie added: “McNeilly’s report should not be dismissed as the ill-informed views of a junior sailor. One of his main concerns was the ‘scary’ shortage of personnel to work on the Trident missile system.

“Official reports show that there is a 25 per cent shortfall in this area and that the lack of suitable people is the greatest risk to the safety of the defence nuclear programme.”

He said there was an “unacceptable risk of a terrorist attack on a Trident submarine” at Faslane and there had been instances of sabotage on submarines in service with other naval forces.

The Navy were forced to admit that McNeilly is in Portsmouth Naval base after a picture of him circulated online.

His exact situation is not known, but it is believed that he has not been charged, and that he has been in contact with his family.