Proliferation in Parliament
December 2007 - March 2008
Previous editions of Proliferation in Parliament are available at www.acronym.org.uk/parliament
President Sarkozy speech to the UK Parliament
In his speech to the UK Parliament calling for an "entente amicale" on 26 March 2008, President Sarkozy highlighted Britain and France's "common status as permanent members of the Security Council and as nuclear powers". The speech followed a keynote speech by Sarkozy setting out France's nuclear doctrine on 21 March 2008, in which he announced, "Together with the United Kingdom, we have taken a major decision: It is our assessment that there can be no situation in which the vital interests of either of our two nations could be threatened without the vital interests of the other also being threatened." Full text of the speech is available on the Acronym website.
Des Browne Speech to the CD
The Secretary of State for Defence Des Browne took the unusual step of making a speech to the Conference on Disarmament on 5 February 2008. Browne proposed that the UK "host a technical conference of P5 nuclear laboratories on the verification of nuclear disarmament before the next NPT Review Conference in 2010" to enable the nuclear weapon states to work together on technical issues. He said that the UK had set an example by reducing its operationally available warheads by a further 20% when it decided last year to "maintain our own minimum nuclear deterrent beyond the life of the current Vanguard-class submarines".
In the last few months the Government has come under increasing pressure over its handling of last summer's decision to allow the US to use Menwith Hill as part of its missile defence system. In the House of Commons Liberal Democrat spokesperson Nick Harvey MP used Defence Oral questions to call for a debate on missile defence.
In the House of Lords, Liberal Democrat peer Lord Wallace of Saltaire obtained an opposition debate on missile defence, stating that "this House, and this Parliament, deserves a much fuller justification from the Government of the commitments on the use of British soil for US missile defence than they have given over the years". Similarly Baroness Williams of Crosby, who is also an adviser to Prime Minister Gordon Brown on nuclear non-proliferation, said that, "If Parliament is to be treated as a significant part of the decision-making processes of a democracy, the Government have to be more open, more frank and more informative about this crucial aspect of our defence policy."
The Lords debate followed a scathing report by the Foreign Affairs Committee, which stated: "We regret the manner and timing of the Government's announcement that RAF Menwith Hill is to participate in the US ballistic missile defence (BMD) system, and the resulting lack of Parliamentary debate on the issue... We recommend that there should be a full Parliamentary debate on these proposals."
NPT and Arms Control
Foreign Secretary David Milliband has set out the UK's objectives for the forthcoming NPT review cycle in a written answer. Milliband highlighted working for consensus "around key measures encompassing the treaty's three pillars—zero tolerance of proliferation; safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technology; and a reinvigorated commitment to a world free from nuclear weapons" and "measures to raise the cost of withdrawal from the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) at the 2010 review conference".
Labour MP Dr Ian Gibson asked the Government to "maintain staff numbers at the multilateral arms control and disarmament office of the UK permanent mission to the conference on disarmament in Geneva during the period of the UK presidency of the conference on disarmament, and in the lead up to the 2010 review conference of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty". Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells replied that numbers would be "kept under review".
Trident and the UK Nuclear Programme
Defence Secretary Des Browne has estimated that once the new fleet of submarines comes into service "the annual in-service costs of the UK's nuclear deterrent, including the costs of the Atomic Weapons Establishment, will be similar to today (around 5 to 6 per cent. of the defence budget)". The House of Commons Defence Committee also note that "the costs of replacing the current nuclear deterrent will amount to some £1 billion over the three years of the Comprehensive Spending Review 2007 period".
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