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Monday, 12 February, 2001, 21:52 GMT
Fourth Trident ready for service
HMS Vengeance at Faslane
HMS Vengeance has entered operational service
The UK Government has reaffirmed its commitment to the Trident nuclear deterrent - on the same day hundreds of protesters demonstrated their opposition in Scotland.

The Ministry of Defence announced on Monday that the latest addition to the fleet of submarines operating from the Faslane Naval Base on the Clyde has entered operational service.

And Armed Forces Minister John Spellar took the opportunity to underline the government's commitment to Trident.

The Trident programme overall has consistently met or bettered all its major milestones

Armed Forces Minister John Spellar
He said: "The maintenance of nuclear deterrent patrols continuously for more than 30 years (by the Royal Navy) is a huge achievement.

"HMS Vengeance and the officers and men who serve in her will now begin to play their part in the maintenance of deterrent patrols in future decades.

"The Trident programme overall has consistently met or bettered all its major milestones and come in under budget.

"HMS Vengeance has continued this trend and has entered service exactly on time."

Sheridan and Galloway
Tommy Sheridan and George Galloway link arms
The 16,000-tonne vessel HMS Vengeance will be armed with a payload of 48 warheads.

She will now take her place in the cycle of non-stop nuclear submarine patrols after completing intensive trials, which included the successful test launch of an unarmed missile.

HMS Vengeance, which is commanded by Commander Stephen Upright and has a 130-strong crew, was ordered in 1992.

Two years ago protestors managed to daub the slogan "Death Machine" on her side.

The news was announced after 373 people - including politicians and church ministers - were arrested during a protest at Faslane.

Anti-nuclear group

Labour MP George Galloway, Socialist MSP Tommy Sheridan and Green Party MEP Caroline Lucas were among those detained by police.

The demonstration, which was designed to close the base for the day, was organised by anti-nuclear weapons group Trident Ploughshares and Scottish CND.

They claimed that about 1000 people took part, but police estimates put the figure at half that amount.

A number of protesters formed a human chain at the north gate entrance to the base at Helensburgh and were cheered on by crowds on either side of the main gate who waved banners of support.

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See also:

12 Feb 01 | Scotland
Trident protest in pictures
22 Dec 00 | Scotland
Jailed MSP unrepentant
14 Feb 00 | Scotland
150 held in Trident protest
09 Oct 00 | Scotland
Trident 'legal' says Crown
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