A senior Plaid Cymru peer has apologised for “any offence caused” after comparing the effects of a Trident submarine base to those of a Nazi death camp.
Lord Wigley had been commenting on reports – denied by the Government – that the nuclear weapons system could be relocated from Scotland to Wales.
Speaking the day after the world marked 70 years since the end of the Holocaust, the peer made clear that Plaid would be “tremendously opposed” to shifting the base from Faslane to Pembrokeshire.
Asked whether the move would have some positive benefits, such as bringing jobs to the area, Lord Wigley – a former leader of the party – replied: “Look, this week we have been remembering what happened in Germany before the war. No doubt there were many jobs provided in Auschwitz and places like that but that didn’t justify their existence and neither does nuclear weapons justify having them in Pembrokeshire.”
Challenged as to why he was comparing a Trident base to the notorious death camp, he replied: “The number of people that will be killed by Trident will be infinitely more.”
In a statement released later, Lord Wigley said: “I am certainly sorry if my remarks were open to any misinterpretation and I apologise for any offence that has been caused. The point I was trying to make was that you can’t have jobs at any cost and I reiterate that.”
Former Welsh Secretary David Jones branded Lord Wigley’s comments “crass”, and said he was right to offer an apology.
“His remarks were crass and defensive, and while the apology is a bit mealy-mouthed, at least it is good that he has acknowledged they are offensive,” the Tory MP for Clwyd West said.
Mr Jones said it was “not appropriate at any time” to use Auschwitz to make political points. “Nothing that ever happens in this country could ever be as appalling as what the Nazis did,” he added. “But to say it at Holocaust memorial time is even worse.”
Lord Wigley initially drew the comparison between Trident and a Nazi death camp in an untaped conversation, before repeating them in an interview for the BBC and the Press Association.
He said: “We believe that Trident shouldn’t be renewed and we most certainly don’t want that renewal to happen in Pembrokeshire or anywhere in Wales or, to be fair, anywhere in Britain.”