Saturday, February 05, 2005

UK plays down "information lapse"

HMS Sceptre

Britain was yesterday seeking to clarify its position on the repairs being carried out to the nuclear powered submarine HMS Sceptre with the press being told that the Spanish Foreign Ministry (Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores MAE) as only told on Thursday afternoon about the work to the diesel engine coolant system. The work involves a repair to the diesel engines salt water coolant thermometer.

On Thursday evening the Gibraltar Government took the issue up with the British Government after it heard about this specific internal repair from Spanish sources.
Whilst London officials were insisting that there is no question of any nuclear related works and that the works are minor. They are understood to have accepted that it was a slip not to inform Gibraltar simultaneously as Madrid when the issue was raised on Thursday. It appears they had instead focused on informing the parties about the visit and those repairs that might draw public attention because of the scaffolding. There was no confirmation that the vessel had left Faslane since there is a policy not to comment on submarine movements. However it is understood that, en route, the fault was detected but not considered important enough to alter their operational duties.
Meanwhile, a London source categorically denied that there is any policy to keep Gibraltar less informed and insisted that if there had been any works of a sensitive nature the Gibraltar Government would have been told.

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