Proliferation in Parliament
Welcome to Proliferation in Parliament, a new service from the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy.
Following on the UK's first parliamentary debate on the future of its nuclear weapons programme in March 2007, we will be continuing our work with Parliament by providing a selection of questions and debates on nuclear and missile defence issues each month.
An archive of parliamentary coverage will also be available on our website at: www.acronym.org.uk/parliament. We welcome your comments and feedback. Please send your comments to martin at acronym.org.uk.
In this month's issue:
Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will estimate how many (a) direct and (b) indirect civilian jobs in (i) Scotland and (ii) the rest of the UK rely upon the Trident programme.
Des Browne: The number of civilian jobs that rely directly on the current Trident programme is estimated to be 859 in Scotland with an additional 7,455 in the rest of the UK. The number of indirect civilian jobs is estimated to be 250 in Scotland and 6,700 in the rest of the UK.
Additionally, a significant number of military jobs in the UK directly
support the Trident programme. In Scotland this amounts to some 1,776
jobs. It is not possible accurately to estimate the number of civilian
jobs indirectly employed as a result of these military posts.
Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the likely effect of the introduction of the Mk4A Arming, Fusing and Firing system on the (a) ability to accurately adjust the height of burst of the Trident
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warhead and (b) probability that the Trident warhead will be effective against hardened targets.
Des Browne: The MK4A Arming, Fusing and Firing system is a non-nuclear
component being introduced into the UK Trident warhead to replace a similar
component which is becoming obsolete. This is necessary to ensure that
we can keep the existing warhead in service in the 2020s. I am not prepared
to discuss the detailed performance characteristics of our nuclear weapons.
Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to the
29 Mar 2007 : Column 1776W
answer of 6 March 2007, Official Report, column 1843W, on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, whether any informal representations have been made (a) directly and (b) indirectly to the UK Government on Trident and the UK's compliance with its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Mr. McCartney: No informal representations with respect to non-compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) have been made directly to the UK by another state party to the treaty. We are also unaware of any indirect statements to this effect. As stated in the 2006 White Paper ‘The future of the United Kingdom's nuclear deterrence’ and accompanying fact sheets: renewing the current Trident system is fully consistent with the NPT and with all our international obligations.
Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to the answer of 6 March 2007, Official Report, column 1843W, on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, whether any states have made informal representations on UK compliance.
Mr. Hoon: We have no record of any recent informal representations
by any states on UK compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The Treaty entered into force in 1970. A thorough search of all historical
records since then would incur disproportionate cost.
Future of the United Kingdoms Nuclear Deterrent White Paper, House of Commons, Written Answers, 16 Apr 2007, Column 153W
Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) if he will list the public meetings on the White Paper The Future of the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Deterrent (Cm 6994) which (a) he and (b) other Ministers in his Department have attended since 4 December 2006; and who organised each meeting;
(2) if he will list the invitations to debate the Defence White Paper on the Future of the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Deterrent (Cm 6994) which his Department has turned down since 4 December 2006; from which organisations each invitation was received; and what the reason for declining the invitation was in each case.
Des Browne: The following table sets out which public events MOD Ministers have attended on the future of the United Kingdom’s nuclear deterrent since the 4 December 2006:
16 Apr 2007 : Column 153W
The two parliamentary debates were organised by the Government. The remaining events were organised co-operatively between the Ministry of Defence and the respective hosts.
Ministers from other departments have also discussed the future of the nuclear deterrent at both domestic and international public events. Ministers also took part in debates organised by the Labour Party but these are not listed as they were party political events.
Since 4 December 2006, the only invitation I am aware of which was declined
by MOD Ministers was received from the Oxford Research Group. The invitation
was declined because it clashed with prior diary commitments.
Lord Dykes asked Her Majesty's Government: Whether they have responded to the suggestion of Mikhail Gorbachev on 8 March that a final decision on maritime nuclear weapons replacements should not be made until after the next review conference of the non-proliferation treaty in 2010.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Drayson): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, replied to the letter on 10 March.
On 14 March, the House of Commons voted to endorse the Government's plans for the future deterrent as set out in the White Paper The Future of the United Kingdom's Nuclear Deterrent (Cm 6994), published December 2006.
The timing of these decisions is driven by the expected lives of the
Vanguard-class submarines and the estimated time it will take to design
and build new boats.
Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make an assessment of the evidence submitted to the Defence Select Committee in its inquiry into the future of the UK’s Strategic Nuclear Deterrent by Professor Richard Garwin, on the timetable for replacement of Trident submarines.
Des Browne: The rationale for the timetable for the replacement
of the Vanguard-class submarines was set out in the White Paper: The Future
of the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Deterrent (Cm 6994) published on 4 December
2006. The Ministry of Defence provided further detail on the expected
life of the Vanguard-class in a letter to the Defence Select Committee
dated 1 February 2007, which the Committee published in Volume II of its
Ninth Report of Session 2006-07(Ev 122) on 27 February 2007. I also covered
this issue in detail during my evidence session with the Committee on
6 February, a transcript of which was published in the same Report (Ev
Dr. Vis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what account was taken of the protection of the UK's defence industrial capacity and the associated skills base as a factor in the Government's decision to replace the existing Trident nuclear submarine fleet.
Des Browne: The Government's decisions on the future of the United
Kingdom's nuclear deterrent, announced in December 2006 and endorsed by
the House of Commons on 14 March 2007, were taken on the basis of the
strategic defence needs of the country. We have made it clear that, for
reasons of national sovereignty, nuclear regulation, operational effectiveness
and safety, it is our intention to build the new submarines in the UK
provided that industry come forward with proposals that provide the right
capability at the right time and offer value for money.
Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what definition he uses of vital interests in the context of protection by possession of a nuclear defence capability.
Des Browne: The White Paper “The Future of the UK's Nuclear Deterrent” (Cm 6994) published in December 2006, makes it clear that we would only ever contemplate the use of our nuclear deterrent in extreme circumstances of self defence. It also explains that we deliberately maintain ambiguity about precisely when, how and at what scale we might contemplate using our nuclear deterrent as we will not simplify the calculations of any potential future aggressor.
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Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what criteria he uses to judge the size of the minimum required capacity for a nuclear defence programme for the United Kingdom.
Des Browne: The White Paper “The Future of the UK's Nuclear Deterrent” (Cm 6994), published in December 2006, made clear that we are committed to retaining only the minimum capability necessary to deter potential aggressors.
The process by which we make an assessment of our minimum deterrent requirements is described in paragraph 4-9 of that White Paper. We make an assessment of the minimum destructive capability that we need to be able to deliver in order to outweigh the potential benefits a potential aggressor might believe they would derive from an attack on our vital interests. This includes an assessment of the decision-making processes of future potential aggressors and of defensive measures that a potential adversary might employ in an effort to reduce the impact of the UK's nuclear capability.
I am withholding precise details of this assessment process because its
disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the capacity, effectiveness
and security of our armed forces.
Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects the Mk 4A arming, fusing and firing system for Trident to enter service; what estimate he has made of the cost of the (a) development and (b) production of this system; and what impact he expects this procurement to have on the decision whether to refurbish or replace the Trident warhead.
Des Browne: The Mk 4A arming, fusing and firing system is a non-nuclear component being introduced into the UK warhead to overcome obsolescence and ensure the existing warhead can remain in service until the 2020s. It will enter service over the course of the next decade. The overall cost to the UK of procuring the component is included in the estimated future costs of the Atomic Weapons Establishment set out in Chapter 5 of the White Paper “The Future of the United Kingdom's Nuclear Deterrent” (Cmd 6994), published in December 2006.
This procurement will not impact directly on any future decision whether to refurbish or replace the existing warhead.
8 May 2007 : Column 69W
Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the United States Administration has sought any (a) technical and (b) diplomatic reassurance that Trident D5 nuclear missiles provided under a leasing contract by the US Navy to the UK could never be targeted at United States assets.
Des Browne: As long standing allies with mutual defence obligations under the terms of the North Atlantic treaty, the United States Administration has not sought any technical or diplomatic reassurances that UK Trident D5 missiles would never be targeted against United States assets.
Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence for what reasons the Government agreed to participation in the life extension work on the Trident D5 missile in the Prime Minister's exchange of letters with the President of the United States in December 2005.
Des Browne: I have nothing to add to the comments I made in my
letter to the Chairman of the Defence Select Committee of 9 March 2007,
which were reproduced in my written ministerial statement on 12 March
2007, Official Report, column 1WS.
Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what criteria the Government use when formulating policy of opposing or supporting development of nuclear capability by other states.
Dr. Howells: The Government are bound by their commitment under article IV of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty to be supportive of the development of peaceful nuclear technology by all states party to the treaty. The state party concerned must, of course, be in compliance with its treaty obligations, particularly those under articles I and II, but also under article III, to be the beneficiary of such support.
Policy towards those not in compliance with their treaty, or International
Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, obligations is formulated case by case.
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: Opinion Polls, House of Commons, Written Answers, 28 Mar 2007, Column 1524W
Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what public opinion polls his Department has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on the United Kingdom's obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Des Browne: The Department has neither commissioned nor evaluated
any opinion polls concerning the UK’s obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty. We are aware of our obligations under this treaty and continue
to meet them in full.
Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what plans she has for proposals to take forward the UK’s multilateral disarmament commitments in the run up to the May 2007 Preparatory Committee meeting for the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference; and whether she has had any discussions with her United States counterparts on such proposals;
(2) what initiatives she is planning to take forward the UK’s multilateral disarmament commitments in the run up to the Preparatory Committee meeting for the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference in Vienna in May; and whether she has had any discussions with her United States counterpart on such proposals.
Dr. Howells: The Government are strongly committed to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which is the cornerstone of the nuclear non-proliferation regime and the framework for nuclear disarmament. The UK is determined to make every effort to ensure that this review cycle results in a positive and substantive final document at the 2010 Review Conference that moves forward all aspects of Treaty implementation, including disarmament. We are working with allies, including the US, to lay the groundwork for this at the April-May 2007 NPT Preparatory Committee. We believe we have already made a contribution by announcing, in the White Paper on the Future of the UK’s Nuclear Deterrent, a further 20 per cent. cut in our warhead stockpile.
Mr. Blizzard: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what matters she plans to raise at the meeting of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee starting on 30 April; and if she will make a statement.
Dr. Howells: The United Kingdom will work with the EU, with its
allies in the Western European and Others’ Group and with the other nuclear
weapon states towards strengthening the nuclear non-proliferation treaty
(NPT) and the wider nuclear non-proliferation regime. There are a number
of issues on which useful work could be undertaken, many of which were
set out in the EU Common Position agreed for the 2005 review conference
and remain outstanding. It will be important to build consensus on these
areas, and any new workstreams, in this and future Preparatory Committees.
We hope that this process will culminate in a substantive final document
being agreed at the 2010 NPT review conference.
Mark Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress her Department has made on negotiations towards a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty; and what the key obstacles are to such negotiations.
Mr. McCartney: The UK continues to push for the early start of negotiations, without preconditions, on a Fissile Material Cut off Treaty (FMCT) in the Conference on Disarmament (CD). The UK’s, and the wider EU’s, support for such a Treaty is well known. In the Common Position negotiated in advance of the 2005 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review
23 Apr 2007 : Column 920W
Conference (7768/05), the EU appealed to the CD for the immediate commencement and early conclusion of a non-discriminatory, universally applicable Treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. The UK welcomes the US initiative made in Geneva in May 2006 to table a draft treaty text and draft mandate for negotiations. We hope that all CD member states are able to accept the very broad mandate proposed and agree to open negotiations towards a treaty without delay.
Progress has been blocked by some nations linking the start of FMCT negotiations
to progress on other unrelated CD agenda items.
Mark Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps her Department has taken to bring the comprehensive test ban treaty into force.
Dr. Howells: We continue to take every appropriate opportunity
at ministerial and official level to encourage states who have not ratified
the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty to do so, particularly the 10
remaining annex two countries (those that formally participated in the
treaty's negotiation and have nuclear power or research reactors), which
must ratify before the treaty can enter into force. We have carried out
demarchés, both as part of the EU and bilaterally, and will continue to
assist where we can. We have used our overseas missions to assist both
the provisional technical secretariat and the executive secretary of the
comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty organisation in regional outreach
work. We have also supported the special representative of the ratifiers
of the treaty, ambassador Ramaker, with his programme of visits and will
continue to do so.
Mark Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps her Department has taken to promote the UN Disarmament Commission discussion framework.
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Dr. Howells: The Government are fully committed to the UN Disarmament
Commission (UNDC) discussion framework. We worked hard to ensure that
in April 2006 the UNDC completed its first substantive session since 2003
and that consensus agreement was achieved on the Final Report. This included
“recommendations for achieving the objectives of nuclear disarmament and
non-proliferation of nuclear weapons”. Discussions at this year’s session
of the UNDC are currently under way in New York. The UK delegation hopes
to build on last year’s achievements this year and in 2008, when the UNDC’s
current three-year cycle will conclude.
Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence by what proportion the (a) numbers and (b) explosive capacity of the UK's nuclear weapons have been reduced as a result of multilateral disarmament negotiations since the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty entered into force.
Des Browne: The 1998 Strategic Defence Review White Paper (Cm
3999), set out the reduction in the total stockpile, the number of operationally
available weapons and the reduction in the explosive power of the UK's
nuclear weapons since the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty entered into
force in 1970. In December 2006, the Government announced in the White
Paper, "The Future of the United Kingdom's Nuclear Deterrent" (Cm 6994),
that the UK will be reducing further the number of operationally available
warheads to fewer than 160. This means that, since the end of the Cold
War, we will have reduced the explosive power of our nuclear weapon stockpile
by over 75 per cent. and we now have less than one per cent. of the total
global stockpile. These reductions contribute to meeting our commitment
to achieving the general and complete disarmament objectives of Article
VI of the Nuclear Non Proliferation treaty.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the UK’s priorities are for the Preparatory Committee for the 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in Vienna, 30 April to 11 May.
Margaret Beckett: The United Kingdom’s priority for the Preparatory
Committee is establishing the basis for strengthening the nuclear non-proliferation
treaty (NPT) and the wider nuclear non-proliferation regime over the course
of this review cycle. There are a number of specific issues on which useful
work could be undertaken, many of which were set out in the EU Common
Position agreed for the 2005 Review Conference and remain outstanding.
It will be important to build consensus on these areas, and any new workstreams,
in this and future Preparatory Committees. We hope that this process will
culminate in a substantive final document being agreed at the 2010 NPT
Lord Hannay of Chiswick asked Her Majesty's Government: What assessment they have made of the value of the United Kingdom's membership of the seven-nation initiative on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament; and what are their intentions with regard to the future work of the group, particularly in the run-up to the next review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2010.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): My Lords, we believe that the seven-country initiative has served to broaden understanding of positions on disarmament and non-proliferation and to extend consensus on these important issues. The seven-nation initiative will rightly look to encourage progress in all areas of the NPT during this review cycle and I am pleased to say that the Foreign Secretary recently confirmed to the Norwegian Foreign Minister that the United Kingdom remains a committed member.
Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that helpful reply. Does he agree that this grouping, which reaches across the divide between developed and developing countries and between nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states, offers a possible way of working towards a greater degree of compromise than was reached when these matters were discussed in 2005? Can he update the House on progress towards negotiations at the International Atomic Energy Agency on a uranium enrichment bank or drawing facility, which is one of the proposals favoured by this group of countries?
Lord Triesman: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his comments. It is a good group, which is broadly defined. All members of the group have among their key foreign policy objectives the intention to work on the issue of non-proliferation specifically. There is in general a strong willingness to see the work on the bank improve, but we are also trying to ensure that our initiative on the question of the bond is also part of the formula. There is a strong belief that this may be one of the best ways of unlocking the impasse that has existed for some years.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, is the Minister aware that earlier this year a remarkable letter was written to the Wall Street Journal byDr Kissinger, Mr Schultz, the former Republican Secretary of State, the former Minister of Defence for President Clinton and Senator Nunn, which said that the goal must now be the abolition of all nuclear weapons? I think that the Minister would agree that that is a rather surprising group and that in light of that it is important that the United Kingdom is seen to be taking the lead on issues such as the fuel energy bank and the cut-off for fissile materials if we are to stop the possibility of a dangerous rush towards proliferation on the part of non-nuclear powers.
Lord Triesman: My Lords, the Government have been clear that the whole issue of the nuclear materials bank would be an extremely important move. The difficulties have been practical ones over many years of defining what should be in the bank, given the wide variety of fissionable materials. That was one of the reasons why we worked on it and came up with the enrichment bond. I emphasise that point because the IAEA also feels that this might be a route through to full compliance with the non-proliferation
14 May 2007 : Column 3
treaty and one which should engage the energies of all of those thinking of nuclear fuel rather than nuclear weapons.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, it is very good news that the Minister is confirming that we are continuing to work on the nuclear fuel bank idea with the IAEA, as it feels that that is the way forward. Does he agree that the IAEA is firm in its view that there is a vast expansion of civil nuclear power ahead, making it all the more important to enable countries to enjoy civil nuclear power without having to develop their own domestic nuclear fuel cycle? That is the important message to develop now, given thatthe NPT review treaty in 2005 was rather a failure and the next one in 2010 will fail as well unless we come up with a lot of new ideas.
Lord Triesman: My Lords, that is broadly right. The 2005 review treaty was very disappointing, given the desire of so many more countries to develop nuclear fuel strategies. I am glad to say that the most recent nuclear non-proliferation treaty preparatory conference-PrepCom, as I understand it is known by those who are involved-which finished last Friday was a lot more successful. For the first time, we have an agenda that the Iranians, as well as everyone else, have committed themselves to engaging in. That is a breakthrough for diplomacy on this front. I would not want to go so far as to say it is a final success, but it has opened the way for negotiation rather than just the bartering of insults.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, this is a seven-nation initiative on non-proliferation and disarmament. At the next non-proliferation treaty conference, how far does the Minister expect the disarmament element to apply to the existing nuclear powers as well as to potential nuclear powers?
Lord Triesman: My Lords, that is an extremely difficult question, as I have no doubt the noble Lord appreciates. Not everybody has made a commitment to cutting their nuclear arsenals. I am very proud of the fact that since the beginning of this process the United Kingdom has cut its nuclear arsenal by approximately 80 per cent. We have moved from having three platforms for delivery to one platform for delivery. If others were to take that as being an example of good will and good progress, we should get much more progress out of everybody else in that direction.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, will a further effort be made to persuade all those nuclear powers that are not part of the non-proliferation treaty to join it?
Lord Triesman: My Lords, there is a consistent effort to do that. Some aspects of it have come up in your Lordships' House from time to time, in particular in relation to trying to keep the Middle East a nuclear-free area. We know that not everybody
14 May 2007 : Column 4
has committed themselves to the non-proliferation treaty. This Government, indeed Governments on all sides, have regarded this as an imperative. It is important that everybody comes under treaty obligations so that there can be proper policing of all the developments of the most dangerous weapons conceivable.
Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, does my noble friend consider that the plans to renew Trident are a step toward nuclear disarmament?
Lord Triesman: My Lords, I recall that when we held the Trident
debate, my noble and learned friend made some very persuasive points.
I made the point that we are a recognised nuclear power, we regard ourselves
as having legitimate interests and we are not, at the moment, in a position
to believe that the world will become so secure and peaceful that we can
readily give up our ability to protect ourselves. In those circumstances,
there has to be a credible means of delivering nuclear weapons. I make
this point because that is our platform. We have one, and it should be
an effective one if we are serious about that component of our defence.
Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what support has been given to Libya in relation to its decommissioning
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of weapons of mass destruction as agreed between Libya, the UK and third parties.
Dr. Howells: Libya’s renunciation of its weapons of mass destruction programmes in December 2003 was a historic decision. The UK has been working closely with Libya and the United States, in particular through the Trilateral Steering and Co-operation Committee, to support Libya through the de-commissioning process.
This has included helping Libya to dismantle its nuclear weapons programme, allowing other international partners to convert its heavy-water nuclear reactor at Tajura into a light-water reactor. This in turn has helped Libya to meet the international standards required for its nuclear reactor to be placed under an Additional Protocol Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
A comprehensive programme of redirection and engagement with Libya’s scientific community into more conventional areas is under way. This includes helping Libya to establish a regional nuclear medical centre, which would enable the production of nuclear isotopes for radiological medicine, and assistanceand engagement with Libya’s life-sciences community, particularly in the fields of human and animal infectious diseases, such as AIDS and Avian Influenza. Libya has also acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention and will, under the verification regime of that convention, destroy its chemical weapons stockpile by the end of 2010.
The UK is also pursuing wider scientific co-operation with Libya, and
signed with Libya a Memorandum of Understanding on Science Co-operation
on 27 March.
Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 23 April 2007, Official Report, column 919W to the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith, on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which states have blocked progress on the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty.
Dr. Howells: No member state at the Conference on Disarmament
(CD) objects in principle to a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT).
However, some nations have been unwilling to begin negotiations on such
a treaty without further progress on their own priorities, even where
these are issues that do not command consensus at the CD. In particular,
China has previously stated that they are not willing to begin negotiations
on an FMCT until their concerns overthe prevention of an arms race in
space are sufficiently addressed. In March this year the current six presidencies
of the CD tabled a proposal designed to address the concerns of all member
states and allow negotiations on an FMCT to commence without further delay.
The UK continues to support the proposal and will work hard to secure
consensus for its adoption when this year’s second session of the conference
begins on 14 May.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues on the International Atomic Energy Agency proposal for an international nuclear fuel bank; and if he will make a statement.
Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 8 May 2007]: The International Atomic
Energy Agency has not proposed the creation of an international nuclear
fuel bank. It has, however, asked Governments and interested organisations
to share ideas about how the risks of the proliferation of sensitive nuclear
technologies through the international development of nuclear energy could
be prevented. The UK “Enrichment Bond”, which has been placed in the Library
of the House, is currently being considered by the IAEA, with a number
of other proposals. The IAEA is due to bring out a paper in June, taking
into account the various suggestions already made, which Ministers will
have an opportunity to see.
Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what response she (a) has made and (b) plans to make to the European Commission’s conclusion on Iran’s future acquisition of sufficient weapons-grade uranium to make a nuclear weapon; and if she will make a statement.
Dr. Howells: The European Council Secretariat prepared a “food for thought” paper, intended to stimulate discussion at the February meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council. The paper did not reflect a considered or shared EU analysis.
Concerns about Iranian development of enrichment technology are pressing, but it is also clear that Iran is having difficulty in mastering enrichment technology. We still have time to make diplomacy work, and a renewed suspension of enrichment-related activity is still relevant and important.
The UK and the rest of the EU remain fully committed to finding a negotiated
solution and to prevent Iran from acquiring the means to produce nuclear
weapons, through stepping up pressure on Iran to comply with United Nation
Security Council and International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors
requirements while keeping generous proposals on the table. We have seen
that Security Council Resolution 1737 has stimulated a debate inside Iran
about the cost of the course on which the regime has set the country.
A further resolution imposing additional incremental measures is under
discussion in the Security Council.
Terrorism (Iran), House of Commons, Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs, Oral Questions, 20 Mar 2007, Column 663
Mr. Burrowes: Does the Secretary of State believe that the United Nations Security Council's proposed sanctions against Iran will put adequate pressure on Iran not to acquire nuclear weapons and not to support terrorist organisations such as Hezbollah and Hamas with funding and weapons? Is there any real prospect for peace in the middle east if Iran's nuclear ambitions and support for terrorism are not thwarted?
Margaret Beckett: As I have said to the House before, it is a deliberate decision by the international community to seek sanctions against the Government of Iran, but to do so in a way that is incremental, reversible and deliberately designed to encourage Iran into negotiation rather than continued defiance. The hon. Gentleman asked me whether I thought that the sanctions would be adequate. If he is asking whether I think that this is all that is required to be done, the answer is no. That is deliberately not the way in which the international community is approaching this matter. If, as we hope, a resolution on the issue carries
20 Mar 2007 : Column 664
later this week, that will represent a further indication to the Government
of Iran that, yes, there is a choice open to them, but that to choose
to remain as they are will not be cost free.
Mr. William Hague (Richmond, Yorks) (Con): Finally, the international effort to convince the Iranian Government to suspend their nuclear programme and return to negotiations passed an important milestone on Saturday, with the agreement of a Security Council resolution widening UN sanctions against Iran. Will the Foreign Secretary assure the House that that separate matter will in no way weaken our resolve, or that of other nations, to enforce those UN sanctions, so that nuclear proliferation in the middle east can be resisted?
Margaret Beckett: The right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr.
Hague) asked about the Iran nuclear file. The incident took place close
to the vote in the Security Council but, I repeat, the Iranians have told
us that they are not making a link between that and any other issue. I
assure him and the House that that will make no difference to our determination.
Indeed, it is a constant source of astonishment to me that it seems not
to dawn on some of the authorities in Iran that behaving in that manner
increases rather than diminishes people's concern about how they would
behave if they had a nuclear weapon.
Missile Defence / Space
Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what assessment his Department has made of the potential cost of UK armed forces taking part in the Blue Force Tracker programme;
(2) what funding he plans to allocate to the Blue Force Tracker programme being developed by the United States military.
Mr. Ingram: Free standing blue force tracking systems are available
largely off the shelf using US based technology and are deployed on operationsin
Iraq and Afghanistan to supplement the initial capability provided by
Bowman ComBAT (Common Battlefield Application Toolset), Infrastructure
and Platform Battlefield Information System Application (CIP). In the
longer term we are looking mainly to more advanced versions of Bowman
CIP and to Tactical Data Links to provide positional information. The
joint US-UK Coalition Blue Force Situational Awareness demonstrator is
helping to develop ways of exchanging data between Bowman CIP and US blue
force tracking systems. It is too early to say what the resource implications
Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether a decision on the deployment in the UK of US missiles for the US Missile Defense system will require the approval of Parliament.
Des Browne: There has been no request from the United States Government to base interceptor missiles anywhere in the United Kingdom. It has not been the practice of successive administrations to seek parliamentary approval for decisions of this type. The Government would in any case seek to ensure that Parliament had adequate opportunity for debate on issues relating to missile defence.
Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he has held with (a) ministerial colleagues and (b) the United States on the UK hosting US interceptor missiles for the US missile defense system; and what the date was of the (i) first such discussion and (ii) most recent such discussion.
Des Browne: The UK regularly discusses with the US our contribution
to their missile defense system. Discussions on possible additional support
are at a early stage. There has been no request from the US Government
to base missile interceptors anywhere in the UK. It is not the practice
of the Government to make public details of all discussions with foreign
Governments as this would, or would be likely to, prejudice international
Bill Wiggin (Leominster) (Con): What preliminary proposals for ballistic missile defence installations in the United Kingdom have been discussed with the United States.
26 Mar 2007 : Column 1141
The Secretary of State for Defence (Des Browne): The UK makes a valuable contribution to the US ballistic missile defence system through RAF Fylingdales and our well established technical co-operation programmes. We regularly discuss with the United States our ongoing support and, as I and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister have said on many occasions, we will inform the House of any change to the current position.
Bill Wiggin: Will the Secretary of State update the House on the position of NATO’s missile defence programmes?
Des Browne: The position in relation to NATO is that there was a process of assessment as to whether the ballistic missile defence would make a contribution to NATO defence. That process reported, indicating that such a contribution could be made, following the completion of the feasibility study. NATO continuesto examine the options for and the implications of territorial missile defence, but it has no plans, nor has it set a timetable for any specific decision.
Mr. David Crausby (Bolton, North-East) (Lab): What part will RAF Fylingdales and the US base at Menwith Hill play in any negotiations with the USon missile defence? Will there be a full and public discussion of any developments at those sites?
Des Browne: When the decision was made to incorporate RAF Fylingdales into the US missile defence system, there was a full debate in the House in relation to the role that it would play. That role— [ Interruption. ] I am not going to go into the detailof that. There was a full debate. An important contribution is made, in radar terms, to the system. No decisions have been taken in relation to any other facility or site. The discussions are ongoing and, as I told the House when I answered questions on the matter last month, it would be irresponsible of the Government not to explore, both through the United States and our NATO allies, the implications that any system of this nature might offer for the security of the UK. That is the stage that we are at. That is what we are currently doing. When there is anything further to report, we will of course report to the House.
Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD): I know that the Secretary of State is aware that the Polish newspaper, Trybuna, on 7 October last year published an article that stated:
The Secretary of State was good enough to tell me in a telephone conversation last October that that was not the case. Will he confirm that denial today and will he also confirm that neither Orkney, nor for that matter Shetland, is being considered by the United Kingdom Government in relation to an installation of this nature?
Des Browne: I know of no change in the information that I gave the hon. Gentleman when he last spoke to me in relation to this matter. As I have told the House,
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no sites are being considered in our very preliminary discussions in relation to the siting of any missile defence.
Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex) (Con): But the Government have taken a decision in principle to support missile defence as something that the Americans may wish to deploy. We know that fromthe memoirs of Sir Christopher Meyer, who wrote of the toothpaste summit when the Prime Minister first met President Bush in Washington, back in President Bush’s first year of office. We have had a tremendous debate about nuclear weapons in this country. When are we going to have a proper debate in the House about the principle of missile defence? That issue is dividing NATO and destabilising relations with Russia.
Des Browne: The hon. Gentleman knows that the United Kingdom already makes a contribution to the US missile defence system through RAF Fylingdales and that there is other co-operation through technical programmes. All that is entirely consistent with the issue of principle. The House also knows that the Government’s position—I think that most hon. Members share this view—is that it would be irresponsible not to explore with the US and its NATO allies the possible implications of the system for the security of the UK —[ Interruption. ] I can tell the hon. Gentleman that when there is something to reportto the House, a report will be made. However, no decisions have been taken at this stage, and there are no developments that require the matter to be reported to, and debated in, the House.
Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): Given the ever-increasing prospect of rogue states, including perhaps Iran, acquiring a ballistic missile capability, does not the Secretary of State understand that it is his duty to engage in public debate, not to hide behind spurious claims that he needs to protect international relations? As far as the Fylingdales upgrade is concerned, may I remind him that there was so little debate that the Defence Committee issued a report in January 2003 that said:
Why cannot the Secretary of State share with us the assessment that he has made of the risk, and of the benefits or drawbacks, that might result from the UK’s participation in positioning ground-based interceptors on our soil? Alternatively, as was the case with the Fylingdales experience, are we once again to be bounced into a decision without the House or the public being engaged?
Des Browne: I know of the support of the hon. Gentleman and his party for engagement in ballistic missile defence. As he says, there are developments throughout the world that suggest that ballistic missile defence will make a significant contribution to the defence of the United Kingdom. This is a US system, and, currently, the US has not asked to examine any UK sites—for example, regarding any element of its missile defence system. I am reporting to the House the current state of our relations with the United States on
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this issue. I have given hon. Members an undertaking that when the situation
moves beyond that, I will report to the House.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) when he was informed that the US planned to use its Space Based Infra Red System at Menwith Hill to provide critical data for national missile defence systems; and if he will make a statement;
(2) when he was first informed that data from Menwith Hill for the US Space Based Infra Red System was being used in relation to active defence systems.
Des Browne: The UK has received no request from the US to use
RAF Menwith Hill for missile defence-related activities. Any such use
would first require UK approval.
Mr. Greg Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent assessment he has made of the potential role of ballistic missile defence in UK security policy.
Des Browne: We welcome the recent announcement by the US to augment
their ballistic missile defence system with interceptors based in Poland
and a radar in the Czech Republic, thereby also providing coverage for
most of Europe, including the UK. We continue to examine the potential
options for the role of ballistic missile defence in UK security policy,
both with the US and other NATO allies.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government: What is the current status of the European Union Galileo project; and whether it will have any military purpose.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: At the March 2007 Transport Council, the presidency and Commission reported on the current difficulties with the current contract negotiations with the private sector concessionaire bidding to run the Galileo public/private partnership (PPP). The immediate cause of the breakdown in negotiations is disagreement about industrial work-share between the partners in the bidding consortium.
As a result of the delays, the council gave the bidding consortium a deadline of 10 May 2007 to take the necessary measures to allow the resumption of effective negotiations. At the same time, the Commission was requested to prepare an analysis of the consortium's response and to develop alternative options for taking forward the Galileo project. A more detailed discussion on these issues will follow at the June Transport Council, where it is expected that EU member states will be asked to decide whether to continue with the current negotiations or bring them to an end and request the Commission to explore in detail alternative options for proceeding with the project.
Galileo has been defined and agreed as a civil system since the project's
inception. While Galileo's open service, like that of GPS, can be accessed
by all and therefore could be used by military forces, Galileo remains
a civil programme under civil control. This has repeatedly been confirmed
by the EU Transport Council; most recently in its October 2006 council
Post Mortem Procedures (Nuclear Industry)
The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Alistair Darling): With your permission, Mr Speaker, I shall make a short statement on the examination of tissue taken from some individuals who had worked in the nuclear industry and who died between November 1962 and August 1991. Having regard to the feelings of the families of those concerned and because it is in the public interest, I want to provide the House with the information available from British Nuclear Fuels Ltd, which operates the Sellafield site where the examinations were carried out. I shall then set out how I intend to proceed with the matter.
Most of the employees concerned worked at Sellafield, but one individual worked at the Capenhurst nuclear site in Cheshire, and had transferred from Sellafield. There are data, but not medical records, at Sellafield relating to an employee at the Springfields nuclear site in Lancashire and to a further six who worked at Aldermaston. BNFL, which holds the relevant medical records, tells me that to date it has been able to identify 65 cases in which tissue was taken from individuals and analysed for the radionuclide content of organs.
It is important to tell the House about the limited nature of the records that are held by BNFL. They are medical records, which show what analysis was done on organs removed following post mortem examination. Because they are medical records that dealt with the analysis carried out at Sellafield, they do not provide an audit trail that would show in every case who asked for such an examination, under what authority and for what purpose; nor do they disclose whether the appropriate consent from the next of kin was received. Some records contain more information than others, but at this stage it is simply not clear what procedures were followed in every case.
From the information that I have, I can tell the House that 23 such requests for further examination and analysis were made following a coroner's inquest. A further 33 requests appear to follow a coroner's post mortem. Three requests were made associated with legal proceedings, and one request was made by an individual prior to death. Therefore, it is assumed that in the majority of these cases requests were made to help establish the cause of death in the normal way. In many cases, that would be part of the coroner's inquiry, but we cannot be sure of that because there is not an audit trail to establish that as a fact. A further single request was made following a biopsy of a living individual. In respect of a further four cases, I understand that the records do not record by what mechanism the request for the analysis was made. Clearly, it is important to establish why these requests were made and for what purpose. It is also clear that the data obtained from these examinations have been used in other studies that were subsequently published. One of the questions that therefore arise is whether it was appropriate to use the data gathered for that purpose.
It follows from what I have said that the records held by BNFL do not disclose whether the next of kin knew
18 Apr 2007 : Column 302
of the examinations and analysis. That needs to be established. Most cases appear to have followed a coroner's request. It is therefore possible that in some cases there was such knowledge, but it is not at all clear that even if the next of kin had known about the analysis they would have been aware that the data gathered were then to be used as part of a wider research study. However, it will be necessary to examine the coroner's records to find out what exactly the position was.
BNFL tells me that it believes that the tissue would have been destroyed as part of the analytical process. It also believes that although there was storage of the tissue prior to the examination, any tissue that remained would have been destroyed. Certainly BNFL tells me that no such tissue exists today. However, it is not certain at this stage what procedures were followed.
The House will appreciate that some of these cases go back 45 years. It is simply not possible, therefore, to be sure whether procedures were carried out properly. As I have said, the information held by BNFL is necessarily limited and a fuller investigation is therefore necessary. I believe that it is necessary to establish why these examinations were carried out and whether the next of kin were informed and consented to the analysis. It is also necessary to establish whether any of the examinations were carried out following the correct and proper procedures, and whether the data obtained were used appropriately and with the necessary consents.
The families and the public will want to know the answers to all those questions. I have therefore asked Michael Redfern, QC, who conducted the Royal Liverpool Children's NHS Trust—Alder Hey—inquiry to investigate this matter. I have asked him to establish the facts, and to report to me. I will publish the full terms of reference shortly.
This is clearly a difficult situation, covering events that took place up to 45 years ago. None the less, we owe it to the families, as well as to the public, to find out what happened and why.
Charles Hendry (Wealden) (Con): ... The Secretary of State has told us that those involved worked at Sellafield, Capenhurst, Springfields and Aldermaston. Will the inquiry establish whether other nuclear sites might have been involved, and is it his understanding that the issue related purely to civil nuclear personnel, or might military personnel working with our military nuclear programme have been involved?
Susan Kramer (Richmond Park) (LD): ... The hon. Member for Wealden (Charles Hendry), who spoke for the Conservatives, mentioned the other nuclear facilities that may have been involved and the possibility that the practice extended to military as well as civilian personnel, which we believe ought to fall within the remit of the investigation. Will the Secretary of State emphasise that point?
There are particular concerns that there may have been far more extensive practice at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston and Burghfield than has been revealed by the cases that have surfaced so far, so the question in everybody's mind is whether the 65 cases are the tip of an iceberg or are they—
Mr. Darling: ... In relation to the hon. Lady's call for a wider inquiry, I want Mr. Redfern to find out what happened in this set of cases. If we go wider, we shall not get the answers that the families want in anything like a reasonable time scale...
Dr. Ian Gibson (Norwich, North) (Lab): Although I welcome the alacrity with which my right hon. Friend has moved, will he consider extending the remit of the inquiry to the nuclear submarine industry, where there
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is a long history of people being affected? Given the relevance of our nuclear developments at present, we ought to cover our tracks there, too, before we proceed.
Mr. Darling: No, I do not agree. I want to get to the bottom of what happened in this case—that is what the families want and there is a public interest in finding out. My hon. Friend refers to something far wider and there have been a lot of studies on such general matters, but this inquiry needs to look at what happened in these cases.
Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire) (Con): Does the Secretary of State agree that the difficult issue with which he has dealt so appropriately and sensitively today could be seen as just the latest manifestation of the nuclear industry's past reputation for a dangerous combination of unbridled optimism, alarming scientific naivety and obsessive cold war secrecy? Bearing in mind the new consultation that the right hon. Gentleman is conducting into the future of nuclear power and, indeed, tomorrow's debate on the subject in Westminster Hall, does he agree that the nuclear industry has everything to gain from the maximum possible openness on this and every other issue?
Mr. Darling: Yes, I do. I have said on numerous occasions that the industry could help itself enormously by being open. If there are problems, let us discuss them. If things went on the past, let us hear about them—subject, of course, to observing sensitivities and the confidentiality to which families are entitled. It is far better to be open about these things. As far as we understand, the practice stopped in the early 1990s and it was not until the company was approached to see whether it would allow the data gathered to be used for further general research that people focused on what had happened. People's attitudes now are quite different from the 1960s, when—the hon. Gentleman is right—the whole history of the nuclear industry was that given the choice between being open or secretive it was secretive. That has to change, and I hope the inquiry will help the process along...
John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD): It will come as no surprise to the Secretary of State to hear that I have already received representations from constituents regarding Dounreay. Is he able to give any reassurance about Dounreay, or any other UKAEA site, and if not—as may be the case—does he agree that the matter should be looked at as part of the inquiry?
Mr. Darling: I have given as much detail as I possess about where the individuals worked. I have no information to suggest that any of them worked at Dounreay. If someone had died in Caithness and there had been further investigation, I am not sure that further analysis would necessarily have been carried out at Sellafield, but I have no information about that. As I said earlier, it is important that we have a fair idea about this problem and I want Mr. Redfern to concentrate on that. I do not want the inquiry to become so wide that we cannot reach conclusions from which we can learn. If it comes to light that anyone working at Dounreay or any other establishment was affected, that information will certainly be part of Mr. Redfern’s considerations.
Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): On that note, will my right hon. Friend accept that those of us with nuclear stations, or former nuclear stations, in our constituencies would like reassurance that the practice did not apply at those facilities? Will he, at the very least, press BNFL—now the British Nuclear Group—to make a quick investigation to put our minds and the minds of our constituents at rest, so that we know what we are dealing with?
Mr. Darling: The investigation needs to centre on the post mortem investigations and further analysis carried out at Sellafield. That is what we are talking about. In respect of the deaths of people working in other parts of the industry, it is not possible to say whether the coroner, the families or anyone else asked for further analysis to be carried out elsewhere. That would be a different body of work. I am keen to resolve the questions that have arisen about examinations carried out at Sellafield; we need to know why and on what authority and whether the families were told. We then need to learn from whatever conclusions Mr. Redfern draws.
Mr. Mike Weir (Angus) (SNP): I welcome the Secretary of State’s swift action in setting up the inquiry under Michael Redfern. However, to follow up the question from the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (John Thurso), it is important that we do not get into a situation in which a drip, drip of cases come out from other nuclear installations—if there are such cases. The Secretary of State will be aware that there is no coroners’ system in Scotland. There is a different system for unexplained or sudden deaths—such deaths are presumably why the coroners were looking into these matters. Will he assure us that, should there be any indication that any Scottish installation or anyone resident in Scotland has
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been involved in this matter, there will be a full investigation with the relevant Departments in Scotland to ascertain what information is held in the Scottish system?
Dr. Alasdair McDonnell (Belfast, South) (SDLP): ... I would like to persuade the Secretary of State, if at all possible, not just to include in the inquiry the whys and wherefores of the unauthorised retention of tissue, but to spend a small amount of time on what medical information was gleaned from the biopsies and what other research was established. People’s minds are uneasy about this matter. It has serious implications for those of us across the Irish sea, where there appear to be significant pockets of cancer created by nuclear spills at Sellafield. [ Interruption. ] People may say that that is not true, but it is true. They should talk to some of the people with whom I live. The coastal areas of Antrim and Down are contaminated at times. People in Northern Ireland have concerns, and they will approach me with those concerns.
Mr. Darling: The hon. Gentleman is one of a small number of hon. Members who have spoken today who are asking for something that seems more akin to a general inquiry into the nuclear industry, and I will not agree to that because it is not right in the context of this inquiry. I have asked Michael Redfern to look at the matter, primarily because I am greatly aware of the
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sensitivities in relation to the individual families and because it is
in the public interest to find out what happened. What was published is
freely available, but I will arrange to put in the House Library those
publications that I understand derived from the research. I will endeavour
to do that in the next day or so.
Post Mortem Procedures (Nuclear Industry), House of Commons, Written Statement, 26 Apr 2007, Column 28WS
The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Alistair Darling): Further to my statement to the House on Wednesday 18 April 2007, Official Report, columns 301-02, I am now able to announce the terms of reference for the inquiry that I have asked Mr. Michael Redfern QC to carry out. They are as follows.
(a) Having regard to the provisions of the Human Tissue Act 1961, the Coroners’ Rules 1984, the Coroners’ Act 1988 and predecessor legislation, to inquire into the circumstances in which, between1961 and 1992, organs/tissue were removed from 65 individuals, and were sent to and analysed at Sellafield.
(b) In particular, to establish so far as practicable:
(c) To consider such other issues in connection with the above matters as the Secretary of State may direct.
(d) To report to the Secretary of State as soon as possible.
(e) To make recommendations.
Since my statement to the House, the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA)
and the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) have begun to examine their
records to identify if tests on autopsy tissues were carried out at any
of the sites for which they are, or have been responsible, other than
Sellafield. The UKAEA tell me that they believe such work was carried
out at Harwell, at least until the early 1980s, and possibly at other
UKAEA sites, potentially involving work related to individuals who had
not been employed at nuclear sites. The AWE believes that there could
have been additional testing on their employees. In light of this information,
and in line with what I told the House last week, I have therefore asked
Michael Redfern QC to make this additional information part of his considerations.
Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) pursuant to his written statement of 26 April 2007, whether the employees of any private companies working in the nuclear energy field have had tests on autopsy tissues carried out at nuclear sites;
(2) pursuant to his written statement of 26 April 2007, Official Report, column 28WS, on post mortem procedures (nuclear industry), on how many individuals who were not employed at nuclear sites tests on autopsy tissues were carried out at nuclear sites; what the reasons were for these tests; and how many of those individuals were employed by (a) the UK Atomic Energy Agency, (b) the Atomic Weapons Establishment, (c) other Government bodies and (d) non-government bodies;
(3) pursuant to the written statement of 26 April 2007, Official Report, column 28WS, on post mortem procedures (nuclear industry), between what dates tests were carried out on autopsy tissues at (a) Harwell, (b) the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) site at Aldermaston and (c) other UK Atomic Energy Authority or AWE sites;
(4) when he expects the UK Atomic Energy Authority and Atomic Weapons Establishments to have comprehensive figures about which sites retained the organs of workers who had died.
Malcolm Wicks: This question will form part of Michael Redfern's inquiry. Out of respect for the families of those who may have been affected, it would not be appropriate to speculate on the outcome of the inquiry.
Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has to liaise with the families of workers at Harwell and Sellafield who were
8 May 2007 : Column 109W
affected by the discovery that body parts were retained by authorities; and whether the inquiry will take evidence from them.
Malcolm Wicks: Liaison with families of employees at Harwell and
Sellafield is a matter for the site licence companies at those establishments.
Whether the inquiry takes evidence from the affected families is for Michael
Redfern QC, who is leading the inquiry, to consider.
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he intends to place the order for a fourth Astute class submarine.
Mr. Ingram: Three Astute class submarines are on order with BAE
Systems (Submarine Solutions), and further boat orders are currently being
considered, subject to affordability. We are working with industry as
part of the Defence Industrial Strategy to achieve an affordable and sustainable
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the reasons are for time taken to agree a contract price for the second and third Astute class SSNs; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Ingram: The development of robust and mature prices for Astute
Boats 2 and 3 has required the design for the first 3 boats and the Boat
1 build programme to reach a higher level of maturity. The contract prices
remain subject to approval.
Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the safety implications associated with the re-opening of the Thorp reprocessing plant; and if he will make a statement.
30 Apr 2007 : Column 1450W
Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 16 April 2007]: The Health and Safety
Executive’s Nuclear Installations Inspectorate issued a Consent on 9 January
2007 to allow the THORP plant to reopen—satisfied that the site licensee
had done all work necessary to ensure THORP could be restarted safely.
The precise date to restart reprocessing fuel at THORP is a matter for
the licensee—Sellafield Ltd. in discussion with the site owner the Nuclear
© 2007 The Acronym Institute.