Theresa May has said she is personally prepared to give the green light to a nuclear strike that would kill 100,000 men, women and children. The British prime minister made the resounding declaration during a Commons debate on the renewal of the UK's nuclear deterrent ahead of a vote expected to take place later this evening (18 July).

During the session, Scottish National Party (SNP) MP George Kerevan asked the former home secretary: "Can we cut to the chase? Is she personally prepared to authorise a nuclear strike that can kill a hundred thousand innocent men, women and children?"

To cries of disbelief, May responded: "Yes". She added: "And I have to say to the honourable gentleman, the whole point of a deterrent is that our enemies need to know that we would be prepared to use it.

"Unlike some suggestions that we could have a nuclear deterrent but not actually be willing to use it, which come from the Labour Party frontbench," the prime minister said, taking a swipe at the opposition, which is divided on the issue.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is a staunch opponent of the nuclear deterrent and he is expected to vote against replacing the four Vanguard submarines that carry Britain's nuclear weapons system. It would cost around £40bn ($53bn) to renew Trident.

Corbyn has made it clear that he would not be prepared to push the nuclear button if he was prime minister and questioned wielding "the threat of mass murder" as an effective method of conducting international relations.

"I make it clear today that I would not take a decision that kills millions of innocent people. I do not believe the threat of mass murder is a legitimate way to go about dealing with international relations," the opposition leader said.

He added that "we are not debating a nuclear deterrent but our continued possession of weapons of mass destruction, which are capable of killing one million people per warhead". Corbyn also questioned May's assertion that the nuclear threat had "increased", asking: "What is the threat that we are facing that over a million people's deaths actually deters?"

The SNP, Green Party, Plaid Cymru and some Labour MPs oppose Trident, but a majority of Tory and Labour MPs are expected to vote in favour of renewing Britain's nuclear submarines based at Faslane, Scotland.