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Proliferation in Parliament

Back to Proliferation in Parliament, Summer 2009

Westminster Parliament

Non-Proliferation and Disarmament

Written Ministerial Statement


Written Questions

Select Committee Report

Non-Proliferation and Disarmament

Written Ministerial Statement

The Road to 2010: Addressing the Nuclear Question in the 21st Century, Prime Minister, Written Ministerial Statement, 16 July 2009 : Column 78WS

See also: The Road to 2010: Addressing the nuclear question in the twenty first century, Cabinet Office, Cm 7675, July 2009

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): I am today laying before the House the Government’s “Road to 2010” plan (Cm 7675). This is a strategy that will lead us into the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference and beyond. The “Road to 2010” covers every dimension of the nuclear issues that are facing us today and sets out how the UK will play a leading role in tackling them. Next year’s conference provides an opportunity to renew and re-invigorate the bargain at the heart of the NPT which grants states access to civil nuclear power in return for a commitment not to proliferate nuclear weapons, and places a responsibility on nuclear weapons states to show leadership on the question of disarmament.

The UK remains committed to the reduction and eventual elimination of nuclear weapons, and to ensuring that nations have access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. All states, including Iran and North Korea, have a right to such access—and we are ready to help, so long as these states reject the development of nuclear weapons. To promote the development of cost-effective civil nuclear technology which cannot be diverted for use in weapons programmes, we are launching a nuclear science centre of excellence. This centre will enhance collaborations between academia, industry and Government, both domestically and internationally, to focus on this important and difficult task. The Government are committing £20 million over the first five years to this centre.

All nuclear material must be held securely, to prevent it falling into the hands of terrorist groups or hostile states. The UK believes that nuclear security must become the fourth pillar of the global nuclear framework, alongside civil power, non-proliferation and disarmament. Momentum for greater nuclear security is growing, with President Obama announcing a nuclear security summit in the spring of next year, which the UK will take a full part in. In order to help reduce the risk that material will be lost or stolen, the UK is making an offer to assist any nation with security improvements should they request our help. This assistance could be in the form of using our expertise to strengthen security, for example through improving facilities or through training personnel. To improve our defensive measures, the Government are also providing an additional £3 million to maintain our world-leading forensics and detection capability at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE).

The Government recognise that urgent action is required to address proliferation of nuclear weapons. The “Road to 2010” plan sets out a phased approach which will

16 July 2009 : Column 79WS

enable progress on non-proliferation and multilateral disarmament. In the first instance, steps must be taken to improve transparency of current weapons capabilities, as we seek greater control to prevent expansion of those capabilities. The second stage is verifiable multilateral reductions in arsenals. Finally, we must work globally both to establish the security conditions that will enable a world free from nuclear weapons and to overcome the technical and policy challenges associated with the complete abolition of nuclear weapons. For our part, as soon as it becomes useful for our arsenal to be included in a broader negotiation, Britain stands ready to participate and to act.

There is growing momentum across the globe to tackle these strategic challenges. The UK has been a civil and military nuclear power for many decades and so we have a great deal of expertise to offer. As we head towards next year’s NPT review conference, I am committed to making the UK a leading nation in the drive to develop credible answers to the nuclear questions that face us today. It is vital that we make progress—I believe this strategy sets out what the UK can do alone and in partnership with other countries in the period up to the conference and beyond to bring us the security and prosperity we seek in the decades to come.


Nuclear Weapons Proliferation, Adjournment Debate, 9 July 2009 : Column 1223

Dr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East) (Lab): I am very pleased to have the opportunity to bring the important and urgent matter of nuclear weapons proliferation before the House. The nuclear non-proliferation treaty, or NPT, is the cornerstone of the international non-proliferation regime. The treaty came into force in 1970 and is recognised as having been a real success. It was negotiated at a time when there was a very real danger that the number of states with nuclear weapons could reach 20 or more within a decade or so. The fact that that did not happen is recognised as being in large part due to the treaty. The NPT is also given credit for the decision of a number of states that had set out on nuclear weapons programmes, or that had inherited nuclear weapons from their Soviet predecessors, to abandon that path.

The NPT is essentially a deal between those of us with nuclear weapons and those without. The non-nuclear weapons states agree not to pursue nuclear weapons. In return, they have access to civil nuclear energy and a promise of disarmament from the five recognised nuclear weapons states—China, the US, Russia, the UK and France. While the so called “grand bargain” at the heart of the NPT is easily described, supporting and enforcing it is a constantly changing task as technology advances and politics shift. The fundamental issue is whether the NPT is the way forward for the next 20 years.

The developments in nuclear proliferation have been something of a roller coaster ride in the past two decades. Following the end of the cold war, steps were taken to strengthen the non-proliferation regime, and the NPT review conferences of 1995 and 2000 gave us real grounds for optimism.

Review conferences are held every five years as part of the ongoing operation to ensure that the mechanisms in place to protect the world from nuclear proliferation are up to the job. The conferences of 1995 and 2000 were significant successes, with the conference in 2000 adopting a 13-step programme of action for the total elimination of the nuclear arsenals of the nuclear weapons states.

From 2000 onwards, however, we have been going backwards. The last review conference, in 2005, ended in failure. Nothing was achieved. Later in 2005, further efforts to strengthen the regime were made at the UN millennium summit, based on Kofi Annan’s high-level panel report, “In Larger Freedom”. Again, these efforts got nowhere. In the meantime, the United States and India reached a deal that significantly undermined the NPT central bargain. India is a non-NPT country, yet the US agreed to supply India with civil nuclear fuel and technology.

I am sure that other parties were content to see the lack of progress and content to let the US take the blame, but it is clear that the previous US Administration were not working to strengthen the global non-proliferation regime, to say the least. The former UK ambassador to the UN, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, has said:

“From the year 2000 onwards...the George W Bush administration applied itself quite deliberately to the de-construction of rules-based systems in the fields of arms control and disarmament.”

9 July 2009 : Column 1224

All the while, resentment continued to grow towards the nuclear weapons states that their disarmament obligation was not being met.

The link between non-proliferation work and disarmament is strong, and is brought out in the recent report of the Foreign Affairs Committee. It is far more difficult to deal effectively with a less co-operative state, or to build support for measures to strengthen anti-proliferation work, if dissenting parties can point to the failure of the nuclear weapons states to make progress towards disarmament. At this point, I will restate my own view that the UK’s decision to replace Trident is a setback.

Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): My right hon. Friend might be coming on to this point, but the decision to go through the initial gate—possibly in September when the House is not sitting—is more than a little bizarre. Does he agree that the Government ought to be brought kicking and screaming back to this place—certainly as the Americans and Russians have moved the debate on—so that we can properly debate whether that is the right way forward?

Dr. Strang: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. I agree. There is real concern—certainly among Labour Members—about the September decision. I do not quite see why it has to be made in September and I would like to think that there could be some movement on this point. We know that the Trident replacement bid is a big issue that will not go away—far from it, as it seems to be getting more and more prominent for a range of reasons. My view, like that of my hon. Friend, I think, is that Trident should have been cancelled many years ago. However, I agree with his point.

Having endured those bleak years, are we now on the way up? There are, in my view, real grounds for optimism. The first is the new Administration in the United States. My hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Bill Rammell), then Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, told the Foreign Affairs Committee:

“The prospects for disarmament under President Obama are much greater and stronger than they were under President Bush.”

That, I think, is incontrovertible.

The new President has declared that he wants to work towards a world without nuclear weapons, to pursue the US ratification of the vital comprehensive test ban treaty and to support a verified fissile material cut-off treaty. As the House will be aware, the US and Russia made progress earlier this week on a joint understanding for a new strategic arms reduction treaty. The START follow-on treaty would reduce the number of deployed strategic warheads and delivery vehicles. Surely that encouraging development points up the difference in President Obama’s approach from that of his predecessor. I would go so far as to say that President Obama provides us with the best hope we have had for years in the area of non-proliferation.

Our own Government have shown that they are seized of the importance of progress at next year’s NPT review conference. In March, the Prime Minister announced that the UK is to work with other countries to set out a “Road to 2010” plan. I understand that publication is likely to come before the House rises, and I hope that is right.

9 July 2009 : Column 1225

There are signs of movement at an international level, too. In May the preparatory committee agreed by consensus an agenda for the 2010 NPT review conference. That might not sound like much, but it is a lot better than what has been achieved in the past. Indeed, it was the first time that that has been achieved in the preparatory committee for 15 years. Later in May, the UN conference on disarmament, which had been deadlocked for 12 years, agreed a programme of work, including the negotiation of a fissile material cut-off treaty.

It seems there is indeed scope for progress, and it is vital that we seize this opportunity, because the challenges that we face are urgent. Iran and North Korea are NPT signatories and they have breached their NPT obligations—North Korea has tested nuclear devices. India, Israel and Pakistan have all acquired nuclear weapons since the treaty came into force, with major implications for security in their regions. All three refuse to join the NPT. The NPT nuclear weapons states still hold massive nuclear arsenals, and would continue to do so even after the planned START follow-on treaty is fully implemented.

The security of nuclear material is a great concern, especially as the use of civil nuclear power worldwide is expected to expand. The A.Q. Khan proliferation network shows the ongoing threat of the illicit transfer of technology and materials, and the threat of terrorist efforts to acquire nuclear weapons and materials is surely a continual concern.

So how do we proceed? Looking to the 2010 review conference and beyond, a consensus has been emerging over some of the steps that need to be taken. First, we must see the early entry into force of the comprehensive test ban treaty. It can come into force only when all five nuclear weapons states and all states with civil nuclear reactors have signed. Nine such states, including the United States and China, have still to make this commitment. As I have mentioned, President Obama has pledged to pursue this, and the fact that the Senate is Democrat-led gives further ground for hope.

Secondly, to strengthen measures that prevent the illegal diversion of material to nuclear weapons programmes, we must have universal adoption of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s additional protocol, which allows inspectors more intrusive access. The Government recognise that progress here is a priority.

Thirdly, a fissile material cut-off treaty would halt the further production of plutonium and weapons-grade uranium. The Government have identified that as an essential step towards a world without nuclear weapons and, as I have mentioned, President Obama has reversed the position of the previous Administration and reinstated US support for the treaty.

Fourthly, moves to guarantee supplies of fuel for peaceful nuclear energy uses, enabling countries to forgo the development of fuel-cycle facilities, would limit the risk of diversion and of terrorist intervention. If progress is to be made here, participating states must have absolute confidence that supplies would be guaranteed.

Fifthly, we need proper enforcement measures for states that breach or withdraw from the NPT system—a point made by President Obama in his speech earlier this year in Prague. I am pleased to say that this is also a priority of the UK Government.

9 July 2009 : Column 1226

Sixthly, we nuclear weapons states must take steps to de-alert our existing arsenals, reduce our dependence on those arsenals in our defence policies, and improve our levels of transparency. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has pointed out, the fact that we do not even have an authoritative estimate of the total number of nuclear weapons attests to the need for greater transparency.

Finally, we nuclear weapons states have an obligation to disarm. As I have said, disarmament is one of the three pillars of the NPT, and the world is watching closely. The progress towards a successor to START made by the US and Russia this week is an encouraging step in the right direction. Non-nuclear weapons states will need to see that we nuclear weapons states have an ongoing commitment to further, deeper cuts in our arsenals.

This week, Robert McNamara, US Defence Secretary during the Cuban missile crisis, died. Unlike most hon. Members, I can remember the Cuban missile crisis. I was a student and can remember the genuine fear that we all—students and university lecturers—felt at the time. Forty years after that crisis, McNamara famously revealed how close the world came to nuclear war. He said:

“It was luck that prevented nuclear war...Rational individuals came that close to total destruction of their societies. And that danger exists today.”

The case for a world without nuclear weapons was made by Robert McNamara in one sentence, and I will close with it today. He said:

“The major lesson of the Cuban missile crisis is this: the indefinite combination of human fallibility and nuclear weapons will destroy nations.”

Surely the greatest security challenge facing us today is to do all that we can to ensure that that does not happen—not in our lifetimes, not in our children’s lifetimes, not in our children’s children’s lifetimes: not as long as mankind inhabits this planet.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Chris Bryant): I wholeheartedly congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang) on securing this debate. As he rightly pointed out, this issue is one of the most important issues facing our generation, and generations yet to come. What the present generation faces is different from what a slightly older generation faced, but this is a matter of timely concern.

First and foremost, the debate is timely because in Moscow this week President Obama and President Medvedev signed a successor to the strategic arms reduction treaty. Over seven years, it will lead to a fairly dramatic reduction in the number of warheads held by the two countries, limiting each to an arsenal of between 1,500 and 1,675 weapons. That is something we heartily welcome, and which we might not have thought possible two or three years ago.

The debate is also timely because the UK has an extremely strong record in this area. Since the cold war we have reduced our nuclear firepower by 75 per cent. Since 1997, we have reduced the number of warheads by 50 per cent., and I think all Labour Members, and for that matter all members of the Labour party, take

9 July 2009 : Column 1227

particular pride in that. The UK’s firepower now represents less than 1 per cent. of the global total. Worldwide figures for nuclear weaponry are now the lowest since the 1950s. Indeed, as my right hon. Friend said, the next five-yearly review conference of the non-proliferation treaty will be in 2010—next year—so it is timely for us to be looking at such issues.

As my right hon. Friend pointed out, there are some strong reasons for a degree of optimism. Not only did we see the agreement between the United States of America and Russia this week, but we also have President Obama’s clear and unambiguous pledge to seek ratification of the comprehensive test ban treaty. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister pointed out earlier this year, there is probably greater optimism about wider ratification of the treaty than there has been for some considerable time.

Other countries have played a notable role. I single out two. Since Brazil joined the non-proliferation treaty in the 1990s, it has provided energetic leadership around the world, in particular in Latin America. The UK has had a strong, high-level bilateral commitment with Brazil since 2007. Similarly, when South Africa decided to change its position on nuclear weapons, it too took up energetic leadership on such issues around the world, and we want to work closely with South Africa on them. We also have strong bilateral relations with Russia in that regard and are keen to continue that work.

My right hon. Friend was right to point out that early on, before the non-proliferation treaty came into force in 1970, many academics in the UK and around the world believed that by the early 1970s the number of countries with nuclear weapons would rise to between 25 and 30. However, there are now 189 members of the treaty and only three countries stand outside it, so there are reasons for optimism, but as has been pointed out, there are significant reasons for concern too.

Everybody in this country and the rest of the world who has seen the news about North Korea this year is concerned about the situation there. With a second nuclear explosion in May, North Korea has shown open defiance of its obligations. I am glad that the United Nations moved swiftly, and the Security Council provided an unambiguous response. Similarly, Iran continues to enrich uranium in open defiance of numerous Security Council resolutions. Let me make it absolutely plain that we as a country and a Government want further cuts in stockpiles in all countries that retain nuclear weapons.

The world community is presented with a significant new problem, or challenge, by the expansion of nuclear energy. We need to make sure that there is security in the production of fissile material, and that countries moving towards nuclear energy options—often in response to rightful climate change concerns—are doing so for peaceful ends.

There are key issues that we need to address. First, we want a strengthening of the mechanisms and institutions that surrounded the issue of non-proliferation. We want to make sure that there is early and absolutely certain detection of clandestine activity in countries around the world. If we had been able to detect that more certainly in the case of Iran, we might have been able to provide a far clearer and far earlier response from the international community, but we also point out that Iran has no

9 July 2009 : Column 1228

opportunity to move beyond its obligations, and the international community stands firm in response to what Iran has been doing.

We need to strengthen enforcement, because where there is early cognisance of clandestine activity that could be used to move towards producing nuclear weaponry, there should be robust sanctions, as there have been in the cases of North Korea and Iran. There should be tough consequences for those who seek to withdraw from the non-proliferation treaty, and we want to clarify article X of that treaty. We are interested in the proposals that have come from the European Union, and we want to make sure that the clarification goes ahead; we will work with our allies to make sure that it does. It is clearly important that we secure fissile material. One of the greatest dangers to security around the world is the possibility of rogue states or rogue organisations gaining access to fissile material. For that reason, we have doubled our contribution to the funding of the International Atomic Energy Agency nuclear security fund.

The Government believe that the prospects for the comprehensive test ban treaty—an issue raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East—and, for that matter, a fissile material cut-off treaty, are brighter than they have been for a good many years. We will continue to make a powerful case for all states to sign up to, and ratify, the comprehensive test ban treaty. We also want talks on a treaty to cap the production of fissile material for explosive military purposes to be under way by early next year. Nationally, we will continue our groundbreaking work with Norway and the non-governmental organisation VERTIC—the Verification Research, Training and Information Centre—on the science of verifying warhead reduction. We will host a conference for the nuclear weapon states on confidence-building measures, including the verification of disarmament, later this year, in September.

My right hon. Friend referred to Trident, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew), who is not now in the Chamber. Let me make it clear that the decision made was to begin the concept and design work required to make possible a replacement for our current ballistic missile submarine fleet, and to maintain the option of using the Trident D5 missile beyond its current life expectancy. That does not mean that we have taken an irreversible decision that commits us irrevocably to possessing nuclear weapons for the next 40 to 50 years. Nor does it mean that we have decided to “replace Trident”, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East put it. It is true that, as I have said, we have decided to begin concept and design work to make possible a replacement for the platform, but that is not a replacement for Trident itself. That is not a decision to which we are committed for ever and a day.

Of course, we would be happy, if it seemed appropriate, to place our small proportion of the worldwide nuclear arsenal on the table as part of a multinational process of disarmament. Indeed, we very much hope that there will be further moves towards multinational disarmament, and we would very much want to be part of those negotiations. I point out to my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud that bearing in mind that our nuclear arsenal amounts to a mere 1 per cent. of the global total, we do not believe that a unilateral decision to make it impossible

9 July 2009 : Column 1229

for us to maintain Trident beyond its current life expectancy would make the dramatic difference that some suggest it would.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East for the opportunity to clarify these matters. I end by quoting from a speech made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister earlier this year, when he said:

“Now in 2005 the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference failed. We cannot afford to fail next year”—

when the next review conference comes around. He continued:

“So as we approach the 2010 Review Conference I want us to renew and refresh for our times the grand global bargain, the covenant of hope between nations at the heart of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It is a bargain under which we reaffirm the rights and

9 July 2009 : Column 1230

responsibilities for those countries which forgo nuclear weapons. But it is also a bargain under which there are tough responsibilities to be discharged by nuclear weapon states, for as successor states we cannot expect to successfully exercise moral and political leadership in preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons if we ourselves do not demonstrate leadership on the question of disarmament of our weapons.”

That was what the Prime Minister said earlier this year. We will be publishing soon a document entitled “The Road to 2010”, in which we will lay out a credible road map to further disarmament because we, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East and my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud, want to live in a world that is free of the fear of nuclear weaponry.

Written Questions

Nuclear Weapons, Written Questions, 15 July 2009 : Column 455W

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the implications for his Department’s policies on nuclear non-proliferation of the recent agreement between Russian President Medvedev and US President Obama on nuclear arms reduction.

Mr. Ivan Lewis: We welcome the ‘joint understanding’ by Presidents Obama and Medvedev on 6 July 2009 to reduce the US and Russian nuclear arsenals to below 1,700 warheads each and their commitment to co-operate more closely on non-proliferation.

A reduction in the size of US and Russian arsenals is one of the conditions necessary for moving towards a world free from nuclear weapons. The UK will continue to work towards this long-term goal and the strengthening of all three pillars of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, while tackling the issue of nuclear security.

Nuclear Weapons: Arms Control, Written Questions, 1 July 2009 : Column 288W

Joan Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs who will produce the Government's Road to 2010 Plan for the 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review conference; what items will be included in the plan; and if he will make a statement.

1 July 2009 : Column 289W

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The Road to 2010 plan is a cross-departmental effort that is co-ordinated by the Cabinet Office. As outlined in my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's speech at Lancaster House on 17 March 2009, the plan will set out proposals in the following areas:

The safe expansion of Civil Nuclear in the UK and globally;

Fissile Material Security and Nuclear Counter-Terrorism;

Disarmament and non-proliferation; and,

The role and development of the International Atomic Energy Agency and other international institutions.


Nuclear Weapons: Arms Control, Written Questions, 1 July 2009 : Column 248W

Joan Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what reports he has received on the implications for UK defence policy of the recent statement by Russian Prime

1 July 2009 : Column 249W

Minister, Vladimir Putin, on the disarmament of nuclear weapons; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: We believe in the vision of a world free from nuclear weapons. We are committed to working towards multilateral nuclear disarmament, and are encouraged that Russia also shares this commitment. We also welcome the fact that Russia and the US are currently engaged in negotiations over a successor to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. As the Prime Minister announced on 17 March, we will soon be publishing further UK proposals in a “Roadmap to 2010”.

International Atomic Energy Agency, Written Questions, 30 Jun 2009 : Column 186W

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the merits of increasing the UK donations to the nuclear security fund under the budget of the International Atomic Energy Agency for the purposes of increasing that agency’s verification capacity.

Mr. Kidney: I have been asked to reply.

The UK reviews annually its ability to make voluntary contributions to the IAEA’s extra-budgetary nuclear security fund. We made the most recent such payment of £3.5 million in March this year, making a total of £5.5 million over the last three years. The Nuclear Security Fund covers assistance to states to address nuclear security issues rather than verification. The latter is handled by the IAEA regular budget, the UK contribution to which is set by the IAEA in accordance with UN allocation procedures.

Nuclear Weapons, Written Questions, 30 Jun 2009 : Column 187W

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make it his policy to support a nuclear weapons convention as a means to the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Mr. Ivan Lewis [holding answer 29 June 2009]: The UK is committed to the long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons and is actively working towards creating the conditions to make that goal a reality. We believe that the principal means to achieve this is through the non-proliferation treaty (NPT), resulting in a reinforced sense of shared responsibility for both nuclear and non-nuclear weapons states.

At the moment we believe it would be premature to press for a Nuclear Weapons Convention, which be unlikely to make any headway and would distract attention from efforts to bolster the NPT. We do nonetheless believe there may be a role for a Nuclear Weapons Convention in the future when the time comes to establish a final ban.

Arms Reduction, House of Lords, Written Questions, 29 Jun 2009 : Column WA1

Asked by Lord Dykes

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will discuss proposals for multilateral arms reductions among near-east countries, including Israel, at the next meeting of European Union Foreign Ministers.

Lord Brett: There was no discussion of multilateral arms reductions in the Middle East during the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) on 15 June 2009, although Ministers did discuss the Middle East peace process. The Written Ministerial Statement on the 15 June 2009 GAERC was published on 22 June 2009 (Official Report, col. WS 97).

The UK supports a Middle East zone free from weapons of mass destruction and we have consistently supported resolutions calling for such a zone.

Nuclear Weapons, Written Questions, 25 Jun 2009 : Column 1073W

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs under what international security conditions the Government would participate in the multilateral nuclear disarmament process.

Mr. Ivan Lewis: My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have set out the UK's vision for a World Free From Nuclear Weapons, and the Government are at the forefront of efforts to create the conditions to bring this about. The Foreign Secretary set out these conditions in detail in the paper “Lifting the Nuclear Shadow” published in February 2009. As soon as it becomes useful for our arsenal to be included in a broader negotiation, we stand ready to participate and act.

Nuclear Weapons: Arms Control, Written Questions, 25 Jun 2009 : Column 1073W

Joan Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to his Department's evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee's inquiry into Global Security: Non Proliferation, HC 222, EV 118, under what circumstances the UK will include Trident warheads in a negotiation to reduce warhead numbers; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The Government are at the forefront of international efforts to create the conditions for a world free from nuclear weapons. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on 17 March 2009 that as soon as it becomes useful for our minimum deterrent, currently represented by the Trident system, to be included in a broader disarmament negotiation, we stand ready to participate and act. However, to reach that point would require a much more secure and predictable global political and security environment. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary set out in detail the conditions needed for the abolition of nuclear weapons and the steps that could be taken towards achieving them in the paper “Lifting the Nuclear Shadow” published in February 2009.

Nuclear Weapons, Written Questions, 8 Jun 2009 : Column 693W

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made at the UN Conference on Disarmament on the negotiation of a treaty prohibiting the production of fissionable materials for nuclear weapons.

8 Jun 2009 : Column 694W

Bill Rammell: The UN Conference on Disarmament formally adopted a Programme of Work (CD/1863) on 29 May 2009 which includes negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty (FMCT) based on the 1995 Shannon mandate.

We welcome this decision. Opening negotiations on an FMCT has long been a UK objective.

Arms Control: Nuclear Weapons, Written Questions, 2 Jun 2009 : Column 375W

Joan Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his policy is on the proposals of the US delegation to the preparatory committee for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference in New York on 5 May 2009 in respect of a fissile material cut-off treaty.

Bill Rammell: We welcome the proposals made by the US delegation at this year’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee in support of a fissile material cut-off treaty (FMCT).

The UK believes that an FMCT is essential for multilateral nuclear disarmament, and is one of the six steps that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary identified as necessary in order to achieve the conditions needed to help achieve a world free of nuclear weapons at the launch of the ‘Lifting the nuclear shadow’ policy information paper on 4 February 2009.

It is our hope that the Conference on Disarmament will soon adopt a Programme of Work which will include the start of negotiations on an FMCT.

USA: Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, Written Questions, 20 May 2009 : Column 1425W

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will publish the written material (a) produced for and (b) obtained by his Department at the Preparatory Committee

20 May 2009 : Column 1426W

meeting for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York; and which Ministers and officials attended that Conference.

Caroline Flint: This year’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) achieved a great deal, including agreeing an agenda for the 2010 Review Conference by consensus for the first time in 15 years. It was attended by a broad UK delegation headed by John Duncan, Ambassador for Arms Control and Disarmament. The delegation included officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Ministry of Defence, Department of Energy and Climate Change and our mission to the Conference on Disarmament, as well as an academic adviser.

Written documents agreed at the PrepCom are already in the public domain see:


and the FCO does not intend to publish any internal documents which were written or obtained by our delegation. However, as promised in the Prime Minister’s 17 March 2009 speech, we will publish a “Road to 2010” plan this year.

Treaties: Parliamentary Scrutiny, House of Lords Written Questions, 12 May 2009 : Column WA198

Question Asked by Lord Lester of Herne Hill

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the comments by Lord McKenzie of Luton on 28 April (Official Report, House of Lords, GC 41), whether they will support the introduction of procedures for enhanced parliamentary scrutiny of treaties without the need for legislation; and, if not, what are their reasons.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): As the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie of Luton, stated on 28 April 2009, the Constitutional Renewal Bill is scheduled for introduction before the Summer Recess. The Bill will include provisions to place the present arrangements for parliamentary scrutiny of treaties on a statutory footing.

The development and operation of mechanisms outside the proposed legislation to enhance Parliament's ability to scrutinise treaties is ultimately a matter for Parliament itself. The Government will endeavour to respond positively to whichever additional methods Parliament wishes to pursue.

Select Committee Report

Global Security: Non-Proliferation, House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, HC 222 of 2008-09, 14 June 2009

Conclusion and Recommendations

National Security Strategy

1.  We note that it is proposed that the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee will be an ex officio member of the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy and that we will therefore have an input into its deliberations and activities. We wish to put on record our firm view that the existence of the Joint Committee, if the House approves the Government's proposals, will not in any way restrict or curtail the Foreign Affairs Committee's responsibility to examine aspects of national security insofar as they relate to the work of the FCO. We take our responsibilities in this regard very seriously and will continue to exercise them as an integral part of our work. We recommend that in its response to this Report the Government should confirm that it accepts our view of the Foreign Affairs Committee's continuing responsibilities as regards national security matters relating to the work of the FCO. (Paragraph 7)

Restricting the resources required for proliferation

2.  We conclude that the UK's failure so far to ratify the 2005 Protocol to the 1988 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation is regrettable, given the way in which the Protocol will strengthen the UK's ability to impede the trafficking by sea of WMD-related materials. We further conclude that the provisions of the planned Transport Security Bill which will facilitate UK ratification are to be welcomed, and look forward to their early passage. We recommend that the Government should work actively to secure ratifications of the Protocol by other states so that it may rapidly enter into force. (Paragraph 33)

3.  We conclude that the Government is to be commended for introducing the Academic Technology Approval Scheme regarding security clearance for foreign students in sensitive fields, which is a significant improvement on the previous Voluntary Vetting Scheme. We recommend that the Government should take swift action to address any shortcomings in this relatively new scheme which are identified in its imminent review of the scheme's operation, of which we expect to receive a copy. We further recommend that the Government should set out in its response to this Report the progress made on oversight of science and codes of conduct for scientists as part of the current Inter-sessional Work Programme of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. (Paragraph 37)

4.  We conclude that restricting the finance available to those intending to proliferate nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their delivery systems is a potentially effective mechanism to achieve non-proliferation aims. We recommend that the Government should consider how this can be done as quickly as possible when proliferation risks are identified. We further recommend that in its response to this Report, or earlier if possible, the Government should send us a copy of the imminent report of the international Financial Action Task Force, with an accompanying memorandum indicating whether, when and how it will implement its recommendations. (Paragraph 39)

Scope for rationalisation of the non-proliferation architecture

5.  We conclude that the sheer number of organisations and initiatives in the field of non-proliferation and disarmament may lead to a lack of focussed progress. We recommend that the Government should press for the rationalisation of international efforts in this area and set out in its response to this Report where it believes such rationalisation could occur. (Paragraph 44)

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

6.  We conclude that the Government is correct to identify the international nuclear non-proliferation regime as being under severe strain. We further conclude that the Government is correct to identify the 2010 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as critical for the future of that regime. We further conclude that the Government's proposal for a "Road to 2010 Plan" is to be welcomed. We recommend that the Government should keep Parliament fully informed and engaged as it develops the Plan by summer 2009 and pursues it in the run-up to the Review Conference. We further recommend that the Government should make a full report to Parliament on the results of the Conference. (Paragraph 57)

7.  We conclude that the Government is correct to identify the universalisation of the International Atomic Energy Agency's Additional Protocol, to all States Parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to be an important means of strengthening verification of the NPT, and thus also to be a vital nuclear non-proliferation objective. We recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government should set out the institutional mechanisms by which it envisages that universalisation may be achieved. We further recommend that the Government should update us on its efforts in this direction, in particular with respect to its work through the Nuclear Suppliers Group and as part of the preparations for the 2010 NPT Review Conference. (Paragraph 69)

8.  We conclude that the United States' failure to pass to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)—if necessary in confidence—the information it had about Syria's al-Kibar facility, before the facility was destroyed in September 2007, undermined the Agency's credibility as the verification agency for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. We recommend that the Government should press both Israel and Syria to provide the IAEA with the information it requires about the al-Kibar site, and update us on its progress in this respect in its response to this Report. (Paragraph 72)

9.  We conclude that the UK provides significant financial and other resources to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). We welcome in particular the Prime Minister's announcement of a doubling in the Government's voluntary contribution to the Agency's Nuclear Security Fund. However, we further conclude that it is incongruous for the Government to wish to see an expansion of IAEA verification work while ruling out an increase in UK funding for the Agency's regular budget. We recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government should update us on the IAEA Budget Committee discussions which were due to commence in February 2009. We further recommend that the Government should set out how it expects the IAEA to meet the increased demand for its verification work given the anticipated scale of its resources. (Paragraph 81)

10.  We conclude that the UK is making a valuable contribution in kind to the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency through the provision of inspectors and of training for them. We welcome this, and recommend that the Government should seek every opportunity to contribute further in this way. (Paragraph 82)

11.  We conclude that the Government is correct to identify a need to strengthen generic enforcement mechanisms for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), in the face of states which violate and/or withdraw from it. However, we note that the Minister told us that this objective was unachievable at present. We recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government should set out the specific legal and institutional mechanisms for strengthened NPT enforcement which it will be advocating at the 2010 NPT Review Conference. In particular, we recommend that the Government should outline how it envisages that pre-announced penalties for NPT withdrawal might be strengthened. (Paragraph 89)

12.  We conclude that the issue of Israel's nuclear weapons could become an obstacle to the achievement of Government goals at the 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. We recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government should consider whether encouraging greater transparency and nuclear disarmament measures by Israel, in public or in private, might improve the regional security situation, and begin to move Israel towards the Government's stated goals of Israeli accession to the NPT and the establishment of a WMD-free Middle East. We further recommend that the Government should update us on steps taken within the EU's Union for the Mediterranean towards a WMD-free Middle East and set out the ways in which it sees this new vehicle contributing towards that objective. (Paragraph 94)

13.  We welcome India's granting of greater international access to its civilian nuclear facilities. However, we reiterate our 2006 conclusion that the US-India civil nuclear cooperation agreement undermines one of the central bargains of the international non-proliferation regime, namely that access to nuclear power for civil purposes is due only to states which do not develop nuclear weapons and place all their declared nuclear facilities under international safeguards. We conclude that, given its stated commitment to the international non-proliferation regime, the Government's support for the US-India deal is thus regrettable. We recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government should set out how it foresees the US-India agreement being used to secure further disarmament and non-proliferation steps by India, such as ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. (Paragraph 99)

Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation

14.  We conclude that the five recognised nuclear weapons states have widely varying records as regards nuclear disarmament and arms control over the last decade. We welcome the fact that of the five the record of the UK has been the best. However, we also conclude that, owing to the way in which the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) enshrines a distinction between nuclear and non-nuclear weapons States Parties, the five recognised nuclear powers are often perceived as a group by the non-nuclear weapons states, and that, as such, the group is seen collectively to have failed to live up to the nuclear disarmament commitments made at the 1995 and 2000 NPT Review Conferences. As a result, we further conclude that without decisive movement by the five recognised nuclear weapons states as a whole on nuclear disarmament measures, there is a risk that the 2010 Review Conference will fail, like its 2005 predecessor—during a critical period for dealing with North Korea and attempting to constrain Iran's nuclear programme. We therefore commend the Government on its public recognition of the link between nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. We conclude that the Government is correct to identify a vital need to reinvigorate multilateral nuclear disarmament, ideally before and certainly at the 2010 NPT Review Conference. (Paragraph 114)

15.  We conclude that there is a relatively well-defined agenda of nuclear disarmament steps around which there is a considerable degree of international consensus, such as entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the start of negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, and measures to scale down, de-alert and make more transparent existing nuclear arsenals. We recommend that the Government should aim to come away from the 2010 NPT Review Conference with agreement on a concrete plan to take the multilateral nuclear disarmament process forward, with target dates for specific steps, and with the political commitment from all nuclear and non-nuclear weapons States Parties to ensure implementation. (Paragraph 115)

16.  We conclude that the strengthened commitment of the US and Russia, under Presidents Obama and Medvedev, to negotiate a legally-binding nuclear arms reduction treaty to succeed START I, by the end of 2009, as part of a deeper process of nuclear arms cuts, will contribute significantly to the fulfilment of their disarmament obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and is thus greatly to be welcomed. We recommend that the Government should offer every assistance to facilitate a speedy and productive conclusion to the negotiations. (Paragraph 121)

17.  We conclude that reductions in the operational readiness of the world's nuclear arsenals could make a significant contribution to enhancing international security. We recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government should set out the steps which it is taking to encourage international action in this area, and explain its stance regarding the UN General Assembly resolution on this issue. (Paragraph 124)

18.  We conclude that the decision to renew the UK's Trident system is perceived by some foreign states and some among the British public as appearing to contradict the Government's declared commitment to strengthening the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. We recommend that the Government should intensify its public diplomacy work better to explain the reasons for the Trident renewal decision and to give greater prominence to its work for multilateral nuclear disarmament and arms control. We further recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government should update us on the progress of the timetable for renewal of the Trident submarines. We recommend that the Government should not take any decision at the Initial Gate stage until Parliament has had the chance to scrutinise the matter in a debate. (Paragraph 133)

19.  We conclude that the steps which the Government has taken to scale down and de-escalate the UK's nuclear arsenal are to be commended. We welcome in particular the Prime Minister's announcement that the new Trident submarines are to carry fewer missiles than the current boats. We recommend that the Government should do more to highlight these steps, internationally and at home. However, we note that it is difficult to assess the Government's claim that it retains only a minimum nuclear deterrent in the absence of further information about the process by which it judges this minimum. We therefore recommend that the Government should accede to the Defence Committee's call for it to explain in greater detail the process by which it determines that the current scale and operational arrangements of the Trident force constitute the UK's minimum nuclear deterrent. (Paragraph 136)

20.  We conclude that the Government's confirmation of its willingness to include the UK's nuclear force in multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations is to be welcomed, as likely to strengthen its non-proliferation efforts. We recommend that the Government should give greater prominence to this commitment in its public diplomacy. We further recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government should specify—in the light of international disarmament developments by that time—the state of a multilateral nuclear disarmament process that would trigger UK participation. We further recommend that the Government should specify whether there are circumstances under which the UK would be prepared to suspend the Trident renewal programme. (Paragraph 138)

21.  We conclude that the goal of a nuclear weapons-free world is gathering more serious international political support than at any time since the end of the Cold War. We conclude that the Government's leadership on this issue is to be commended. In particular, we conclude that the Government is correct to recognise the scale of the technical and confidence-building work that will be required for the goal to be realisable, and in particular the importance of verification. We recommend that the Government should continue and expand its work in this area. (Paragraph 145)

22.  We recommend that in its response to this Report, the FCO should set out its attitude to a possible Nuclear Weapons Convention banning such weapons, including the relationship which it sees between such a Convention, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its stated goal of the elimination of all nuclear weapons. (Paragraph 147)

23.  We conclude that the Government is correct to identify the speedy entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty as a key early step towards reviving multilateral nuclear disarmament. We recommend that the Government should do everything possible to facilitate US ratification, and to maximise prospects that this will be followed by other especially politically important ratifications, such as those of China, India, Israel and Pakistan, even if these are still too few to bring the Treaty into force. (Paragraph 152)

24.  We conclude that the Government is correct to identify the start of negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) as a step which would significantly strengthen the international nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation process. In that context, we strongly welcome the agreement reached at the UN Conference on Disarmament in May 2009 on a Programme of Work which includes the negotiation of a FMCT. We recommend that the Government should do all it can to ensure that the negotiations get underway in a speedy and productive fashion and to maximise the prospects that they will result in the coming into force of a verified FMCT. We further recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government should set out its view of the most serious difficulties that are likely to arise in the negotiations, the most likely timetable for the conclusion of the talks, the most likely coverage of the proposed FMCT in terms of signatories and non-signatories, and any implications of the proposed FMCT for the UK. (Paragraph 157)

25.  We conclude that the agreement reached in May 2009 on a Programme of Work for the UN Conference on Disarmament, after over twelve years of deadlock, is an important signal of the renewed prospects for multilateral arms control which appear to have followed the election of President Obama and, as such, is greatly to be welcomed. (Paragraph 158)

Internationalising the nuclear fuel cycle

26.  We conclude that the Government is correct to identify a need to ensure access for non-nuclear weapons states to civil nuclear power under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, notwithstanding the existence of a heightened proliferation risk arising from the spread of civil nuclear power. We further conclude that, unless pursued with political sensitivity, the effort to limit non-nuclear weapons states' access to the full nuclear fuel cycle risks reproducing the discrimination which it is claimed exists in relation to the possession of nuclear weapons. As such, this aim risks undermining other elements of the nuclear non-proliferation effort. We recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government should provide further details as to the steps it is taking to mitigate this risk. (Paragraph 165)

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)

27.  We conclude that the fact that the UK has no chemical weapons, and that the process of destroying its past stocks of such weapons was completed in 2007, is to be welcomed. (Paragraph 181)

28.  We conclude that the Government has correctly identified further progress towards universality of the Chemical Weapons Convention as a priority, given that a number of key states of concern remain outside the Convention, some of which are thought to possess chemical weapons. We recommend that the Government should set out in its response to this Report what it believes to be the obstacles to the accession of each of these states and how it assesses the likelihood of overcoming these obstacles. (Paragraph 182)

29.  We conclude that the relatively small number of States Parties which have comprehensively implemented the Chemical Weapons Convention is a matter of concern. We recommend that the Government should continue to put pressure on those states which have not implemented the Convention in full to do so. We further recommend that the Government should take positive steps to promote the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform's National Authority Advisory Committee as an example of good practice that might usefully be adopted by other countries, and that it should maintain its current programmes of bilateral assistance. (Paragraph 186)

30.  We conclude that the likely failure to meet the global 2012 deadline for destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles could erode the credibility of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and undermine progress towards elimination of chemical weapons. We further conclude that the Government is to be commended for the measures it has taken to assist other states, such as Russia and Libya, with their destruction of chemical weapons. We recommend that the Government should step up its assistance activities in this area, and that it should encourage the US and Russia in particular to devote greater resources to the task of destroying their chemical weapons stockpiles. We further recommend that the Government should set out in its response to this Report what its position will be at the next Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) Conference in relation to the failure of any state to destroy its stocks of chemical weapons and in relation to the future priorities for the CWC once stockpiles have been eradicated. (Paragraph 190)

31.  We conclude that the enforcement mechanisms of the Chemical Weapons Convention are yet to be fully tested. We recommend that the Government should continue to make representations to the new US Administration to rescind the Presidential veto over challenge inspections. We further recommend that the Government should commit to press for a new convention criminalising chemical and biological weapons at the individual level. (Paragraph 194)

The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC)

32.  We recommend that the Government should set out in its response to this Report what efforts it is making to persuade other states to join the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention and outline what it believes to be the obstacles to universality. We further recommend that the Government should seek to persuade those members of the Commonwealth who are yet to sign or ratify the Convention to do so. (Paragraph 199)

33.  We conclude that securing a verification protocol for the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention should remain a key objective for the Government. We recommend that the Government should work to persuade the new US Administration that such a protocol for the Convention is essential. We further recommend that the Government should, in conjunction with other States Parties, explore ways in which the Convention can be strengthened by other means until such time as a verification protocol can be achieved. (Paragraph 205)

34.  We conclude that strengthening the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention should be a priority for the Government in the absence of a verification protocol. We recommend that in its response to this Report the Government should comment on the specific suggestions aimed at achieving this end, set out in previous paragraphs, and outline what measures it intends to pursue further at the Seventh Review Conference in 2011. The suggested measures include an Accountability Framework, Action Plan for Comprehensive Implementation, better collective scrutiny of developments in technology, an expansion of the role and staff of the Implementation Support Unit, formal annual meetings, work to refine and improve the Confidence-Building Measures, a consolidation agenda of politically-binding commitments agreed at earlier Review Conferences and criminalisation of biological weapons activities at the individual level. (Paragraph 211)

The BTWC and CWC and new technologies

35.  We conclude that whilst general purpose criteria provide the means by which the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention and Chemical Weapons Convention can keep pace with advances in technology, this is still an area which requires close attention. We recommend that the Government should set out its proposals for ensuring that the Conventions are able to keep pace adequately with future technologies, particularly in areas of overlap. (Paragraph 217)

36.  We recommend that in its response to this Report the Government should set out its view on non-lethal agents such as herbicides, defoliants and incapacitating biochemical weapons and the status of such agents under the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention and Chemical Weapons Convention. We conclude that there is a case for certain biological and chemical agents which are non-lethal or which target plants, including crops and vegetation, to be prohibited from use as weapons for the purposes of these Conventions. We further recommend that the Government should press for negotiations on an unambiguous prohibition of their use as weapons to commence at the next Review Conferences. (Paragraph 218)

Action against ballistic missile proliferation

37.  We conclude that the proliferation of ballistic missile technology is a significant security concern. We further conclude that the Government is correct to acknowledge that stronger action is required to curb the international transfer of ballistic missile technology. We recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government should set out specific steps which it plans to take to this end. (Paragraph 228)

Ballistic missile defence (BMD)

38.  We are not convinced that, as they are currently envisaged and under current circumstances, the United States' planned ballistic missile defence (BMD) deployments in the Czech Republic and Poland represent a net gain for European security. We conclude that if the deployments are carried out in the face of opposition from Russia, this could be highly detrimental to NATO's overall security interests. We reaffirm our 2007 recommendation that BMD in Europe should be developed, if at all, as a joint system between the US, NATO and Russia. Given the Government's stated commitment to a rules-based international system, we further conclude that its early agreement to the inclusion of RAF Fylingdales and Menwith Hill in the US BMD system was regrettable, given that the United States' development of its system involved its abrogation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. We recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government should update us on the NATO element of European BMD developments, in the light of the April 2009 NATO summit. We further recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government should state whether any changes made to the planned US BMD deployments in the Czech Republic and Poland would affect RAF Fylingdales or Menwith Hill. We further conclude that the uncertainty surrounding prospects for the US European BMD system has made a Parliamentary debate on this issue all the more necessary, and we recommend that the Government should schedule one before the end of this Parliament. (Paragraph 241)

The threat posed by terrorists and weapons of mass destruction (WMD)

39.  We conclude that, although it would appear to be difficult for terrorists acting independently of state agencies to build a nuclear bomb, there is a genuine risk that terrorists could acquire nuclear or radiological material, which might be used as an instrument of terror in various ways. We further conclude that, in addition to inadequate levels of physical security which might allow terrorists to seize nuclear or radiological material directly, 'rogue' individuals or groups in states possessing nuclear weapons or material represent an important but particularly hard-to-address means by which terrorists might acquire such material. We recommend that the Government should press its counterparts in countries that are potential sources of nuclear and radiological materials to treat this issue with the highest priority. We further recommend that the Government in its response to this Report should set out what action it is taking overseas to minimise the 'dirty bomb' threat to the UK. (Paragraph 252)

40.  We conclude that the Government is correct in its claim that the UK faces a significant threat arising from terrorist use of chemical or biological weapons, and to argue that at present this threat is greater than the threat that such weapons might be used against the UK by hostile states. We recommend that in its response to this Report the Government should set out what action it is taking to mitigate this threat. (Paragraph 261)

Initiatives against terrorist acquisition of WMD

41.  We conclude that the G8 Global Partnership, and the UK's contribution to it through the Global Threat Reduction Programme, are continuing to deliver important results in reducing the risks of a security breach occurring in relation to WMD. We recommend that, despite the current strains on its budgetary position, the Government should maintain its strong political and financial support for the Global Partnership, including the programme's geographical expansion and continuation beyond 2012. We further recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government should provide an update on plans for the Global Partnership beyond 2012, following the July 2009 G8 summit in Italy. (Paragraph 269)

42.  We conclude that UN Security Council Resolution 1540 is a vital part of the international non-proliferation regime. We commend the work that the British Government has done in support of UNSCR 1540. We recommend that the Government should work actively to ensure that the Resolution is implemented successfully by all UN Member States, providing practical assistance and resources where required. (Paragraph 273)

43.  We recommend that the UK should ratify the International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism as soon as possible. We look forward to the Government taking the steps necessary to allow this to happen in line with its anticipated September 2009 timeframe, and we recommend that in its response to this Report the Government should update us on this process. (Paragraph 278)

Physical security

44.  We conclude that the physical security of nuclear and radiological materials around the world is far from assured, and should remain a prime Government concern. We recommend that the Government should continue to give a high priority to ensuring the security of nuclear and radiological materials, at academic, industrial and military locations in the UK, and to encourage its international partners to do likewise. (Paragraph 286)

45.  We conclude that the legally-binding Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material is an important and helpful measure, even though it covers only civil nuclear material. We look forward to the Government taking the steps necessary for UK ratification of the 2005 amendment strengthening the Convention. We recommend that the Government should actively promote the negotiation of legally-binding international instruments covering the physical security of nuclear and radiological materials not currently covered by the Convention. (Paragraph 290)

46.  We conclude that the funding provided for international work on the physical security of nuclear material through mechanisms such as the International Atomic Energy Agency's Nuclear Security Fund (NSF) is vital. We welcome the Prime Minister's announcement of a doubling of the UK's contribution to the NSF, and we recommend that the UK should continue to provide strong financial and practical support for this work. (Paragraph 293)

47.  We conclude that, given the real risk that terrorists may acquire and use chemical or biological weapons, the security of biological and chemical materials is of paramount concern. We therefore recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government should set out the action that it is taking in this area, including its efforts to secure international co-operation, particularly to reduce biological and chemical security risks. (Paragraph 297)

Impact on global security

48.  We conclude that, while it may not be straightforward to define what a conventional weapon is, more effective efforts to counter their proliferation would have a significant positive impact on global security. Accordingly, we conclude that the Government is to be commended for taking the view that countering the proliferation of conventional weapons is one of its top foreign policy goals, and for seeking to pursue this goal through the promotion of bans on certain kinds of weapon and, as a longer-term aspiration, through the establishment of global rules and standards for the regulation of the conventional arms trade. (Paragraph 300)

Success outside the UN framework: cluster munitions and landmines

49.  We conclude that the Government is to be commended for the role it played in helping to bring the negotiations on a Convention on Cluster Munitions to a successful conclusion. We recommend that the Government should continue to do everything it can to persuade other states, especially all EU Member States, to sign and ratify the Convention without delay. We recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government should set out what steps it is taking to achieve this. (Paragraph 304)

50.  We conclude that the negotiation of a Protocol on cluster munitions under the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons might not be an appropriate foreign policy objective for the UK. We recommend that, if it decides to continue arguing for such a Protocol, the Government should ensure that any such Protocol is as strong in its provisions as the Convention on Cluster Munitions. It should withdraw its support for such a Protocol if it appears that this will not be the case. (Paragraph 306)

51.  We conclude that the Government has been correct to identify as a priority the clearance of mines worldwide which threaten human life. We conclude that there are understandable reasons for the failure to clear landmines on the Falkland Islands over the last decade. However, the failure to de-mine the Falklands risks damaging the UK's reputation and credibility in this area. We therefore conclude that the Government's intention to move ahead with de-mining in three areas to fulfil its international obligations is a positive step forward, and recommend that this should proceed provided this can be achieved without risk to human life. (Paragraph 310)

The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)

52.  We conclude that the Government is to be commended for the energy and commitment which it has displayed in seeking to achieve a comprehensive and effective international Arms Trade Treaty. We recommend that in its response to this Report the Government should provide an update on the status of the negotiations on the Treaty. (Paragraph 315)

53.  We conclude that whilst there are inherent dangers in adopting a lowest common denominator approach to an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), a treaty that is both inclusive and credible can be achieved. We further conclude, however, that if in the future, the Government is forced to choose between giving priority to the strength of the treaty or achieving the widest possible ratification, it should give priority to securing the strongest possible treaty. (Paragraph 319)

54.  We conclude that effective enforcement will be crucial to the credibility and effectiveness of an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), and we recommend that the Government does all it can to make this issue a high priority in future negotiations. We further recommend that, in its response to this Report, the Government should set out its current position with regard to the ways in which an ATT would ideally be enforceable. (Paragraph 321)

55.  We recommend basing an Arms Trade Treaty on a detailed list of the weapons to be covered rather than on a set of simple generic descriptions of the categories of arms covered. We conclude that the Government should take this position in future negotiations. We further recommend that a broad range of activities and/or transactions should be brought within the scope of the treaty, including dual-use items, brokering and trans-shipment. (Paragraph 326)

56.  We recommend that an Arms Trade Treaty should fully incorporate the protections provided by international human rights law and international humanitarian law. We conclude that the inclusion within its ambit of human rights protections should be viewed as a key test of the likely credibility and effectiveness of such a treaty. (Paragraph 329)

57.  We conclude that it is to be welcomed that negotiations on an Arms Trade Treaty are proceeding on an 'overwhelming majority' basis rather than by consensus, and we recommend that this continues. We further recommend, however, that in order to secure a treaty that is as widely supported as possible, all the parties to the negotiations should seek to keep them within the UN framework. We conclude that much depends on how effectively the Open Ended Working Group advances negotiations during 2009. (Paragraph 332)

58.  We conclude that securing the support of the new US Administration for an Arms Trade Treaty should be a priority for the Government. We recommend that the Government should intensify its efforts to persuade those states that are as yet not persuaded of the merits of a treaty to change their mind. (Paragraph 337)

59.  We conclude that the co-operation between the Government and key NGOs involved in the campaign for a credible and effective Arms Trade Treaty, which has included providing official funding for NGO activities on transfer control issues, has been productive. We recommend that the Government should continue to foster these productive relationships. (Paragraph 339)

60.  We conclude that the wholehearted support of the defence industry for an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) will help significantly in pursuit of an effective treaty and in its successful implementation. We recommend that the Government should swiftly draw up plans for greater co-operation with the UK Export Group for Aerospace and Defence on lobbying and outreach over the coming period, particularly with the aim of persuading the US defence industry of the merits of an ATT. (Paragraph 343)

61.  We conclude that it is desirable that the new US Administration takes a more positive attitude to the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons. We recommend that the Government should encourage such a shift. We further recommend that due care be taken by all stakeholders to ensure that the Arms Trade Treaty process and the UN Programme of Action remain complementary and mutually reinforcing. (Paragraph 348)

62.  We conclude that, while the Wassenaar Arrangement may in due course be superseded wholly or in part by an Arms Trade Treaty, the positive gains made under the Arrangement should, as far as is possible, be incorporated into the Arms Trade Treaty and built upon. (Paragraph 350)

The rules-based approach

63.  We conclude that the rules-based approach to counter-proliferation taken by the Government has been moderately successful thus far and has greater prospects of being so than any alternative approach. However, we further conclude that more priority must be given to the enforcement of rules-based regimes. We recommend that the Government should continue to press for national implementation of treaty obligations, and strongly support verification mechanisms. We further recommend that the Government should advocate the inclusion in future international agreements of a defined set of 'disagreeable consequences' that would act as a deterrent to states flouting their commitments or withdrawing. (Paragraph 358)

The treatment of different weapons types

64.  We conclude that the term 'weapons of mass destruction' will continue to be used, as it is written into multilateral treaties and is an accepted international term. However, we further conclude that whilst nuclear, biological and chemical weapons cannot be considered entirely in isolation, particularly in regions such as the Middle East where the linkages are clear, the three weapons types pose very different threats which require specific solutions. They can and should not be tackled in the same way. We therefore recommend that whilst the Government may use the term 'weapons of mass destruction' as a useful shorthand in documents such as the National Security Strategy, it should devote greater attention to outlining the different approaches which it takes to the three weapons types. (Paragraph 363)

A holistic approach to disarmament and non-proliferation

65.  We conclude that there is a balance to be struck between addressing the specific threats posed by individual categories of weapons, and considering general disarmament in a more holistic fashion. We recommend that the Government should consider whether it can better build such considerations into its policies. (Paragraph 365)


Global Security: Non-Proliferation, Submission from Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy

The Acronym Institute, established in 1995 in Geneva and London, publishes the quarterly journal Disarmament Diplomacy and has internationally-recognized expertise on a range of multilateral, bilateral and global security treaties and agreements, including the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC), UN Security Council Resolutions 1540 and 1325, the Outer Space Treaty, and many of the still-relevant cold war treaties relating to nuclear weapons, outer space and Conventional Forces in Europe. In 1999-2000 the Acronym Institute initiated the establishment of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Global Security and Non-Proliferation and provided support staff, funding and eminent speakers for the APPG's first few years before transferring this responsibility to another NGO in order to devote more resources to the Institute's international security work. A long-time consultant for the United Nations and European Parliament, Rebecca Johnson holds a PhD in international relations and multilateral arms control from the London School of Economics and was senior advisor to the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission chaired by Hans Blix from 2004-2006.   

This submission will focus on contradictions between the security analysis and UK policy and practice with regard to nuclear weapons, the NPT, rules-based multilateralism and the distortion of collective security approaches as a consequence of continued reliance on nuclear weapons and doctrines, including the use of nuclear weapons.


1.  In our assessment, the National Security Strategy of the United Kingdom "Security in an interdependent world", published in March 2008, correctly recognises that UK and international security requires addressing a range of diverse but interconnected threats. It reflects a better understanding that security is not only about military resources and approaches and makes commendable efforts to identify policies that would address these challenges. Nevertheless, the discussions on non-proliferation are hampered by the retention of out-dated defence assumptions about the role of the UK in international relations.

2.  The UK has much experience in policing, emergency response, forensics and verification and is undoubtedly able to contribute usefully towards collective and global security. Though much of the Strategy emphasises partnerships and cooperation, at times there are still echoes of an out-dated colonialist mentality that treats Britain as having a special or dominant role beyond our actual geostrategic position and resources. Examples include force-projection policies that show Britain attempting to "punch above our weight" by means of the inadequately thought-through UK role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the procurement of new generations of Trident submarines and aircraft carriers.

3.  The persistence of such out-dated ideologies in some areas has resulted in perpetuation of some inappropriate policies—most notably with regard to nuclear weapons—that are counterproductive or irrelevant for dealing with today's complex threats and challenges, and which in some cases feed the very threats that the Government says it wants to reduce and manage.

4.  While the rules-based non-proliferation regime has its flaws, the network of treaties and agreements centred on the NPT, CWC, BWC and reinforced by the International Atomic Energy Agency and UN Security Council resolutions, provide most of the principles and tools needed to constrain and prevent the acquisition and use of nuclear weapons. Britain's own nuclear policies, particularly the renewal of Trident, undermine the NPT and our strategic and non-proliferation objectives.

5.  The NPT rested on the understanding that if the majority of states renounced the option of nuclear weapons and joined the treaty as non-nuclear weapon states, the five defined nuclear weapon states would pursue disarmament. Anything else would perpetuate the privilege of the nuclear "haves" to the perceived detriment of the rest. The UK recognises that non-proliferation is unsustainable without integrated disarmament, but appears to think that public diplomacy can substitute for genuine steps to renounce nuclear weapons and remove them from British security policies.

6.  While the positive mood music from the UK since Margaret Beckett's presentation to the Carnegie Conference in June 2007 has been widely welcomed, civil society and NPT states are sceptical that the UK's actions do not match the words. The continuation of AWE's verification work, stated aspirations to make Britain into a disarmament laboratory and initiative on holding a P-5 technical conference are warmly welcomed, but they are no substitute for concrete actions to devalue and dismantle UK nuclear weapons.

7.  Britain would have far more influence in the world if the government took positive and irreversible steps to demonstrate that nuclear weapons are not essential for security. An announcement that Britain does not envisage replacing Trident would boost the NPT in the run-up to the 2010 Review Conference and make a qualitative difference to global security. Though it would not immediately sweep away the ambitions of Iran or North Korea (which have different motivations for pursuing nuclear capabilities), UK renunciation would cut through the perceived incentives and provide greater muscle and integrity to international efforts to contain Iran and others within the NPT. With regard to current Trident deployment, the government should reduce nuclear dangers and boost international confidence by de-alerting and taking Trident of its continuous at-sea patrols.

8.  As NATO develops a new Security Concept for the 21st century, consideration should be given to removing the anachronistic role of nuclear weapons in the Alliance and reassuring Russia that NATO's expansion poses no security threat.

9.  Instead of risking stability through ballistic missile defences (BMD) and programmes to use weapons in and from outer space, a more sensible approach—and one consistent with the Security Strategy and the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)—would combine arms control efforts with the technical hardening and shielding of as many satellites as possible, plus space situation awareness, redundancy and other "passive" defence means. Progress in nuclear disarmament, strengthening the NPT, negotiating a nuclear weapons convention, further efforts to restrict missile proliferation, building on the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCoC) would also contribute to security and reduce the chances of space becoming a battleground—which would be in nobody's interests.

10.  The chief purpose of defence should be to enhance security. In seeking to eliminate nuclear threats, we must make sure that deterrence theory is not proved right. In other words, we neither want to see nuclear weapons provoke wars, nor does anyone want more bloody, conventional wars to take the place of nuclear weapons. Therefore, in advocating that nuclear weapons must be progressively abolished, it is important to recognise the need to reduce the arsenals of other weapons too. As implied in the Security Strategy, that means we have to move defence strategies away from old patterns of aggressive, military-dependent national security reactivity towards multifaceted, preventive human security approaches.

11.  It will be important to work for a successful review conference in 2010, but it would be counterproductive if "success" were conceived to be an agreed lowest common denominator document. While most of the elements of the 1995 and 2000 programmes of action are still relevant, some will be more critical to a constructive 2010 review conference than others. The continued credibility of the NPT is likely to rest on: the viability of CTBT entry into force under a new American president; whether the nuclear weapon states continue to insist on rights to use, renew and modernise their nuclear weapons; and how well (or badly) the regime deals with the nuclear aspirations of potential proliferators such as Iran.

12.  While welcoming the government's verification initiatives the Committee should question where it is all intended to lead. At present much energy is being expended on demonstrating how complex and difficult verification of disarmament would be. While true, there is a difference between projects designed to convince the public that verification would be too difficult for disarmament to be practicable, and projects intended to work out practical solutions to provide confidence that disarmament is feasible. As the 2006 Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, chaired by Dr Hans Blix stated:

    "Weapons of mass destruction cannot be uninvented. But they can be outlawed, as biological and chemical weapons have been, and their use made unthinkable. Compliance, verification and enforcement rules can, with the requisite will, be effectively applied. And with that will, even the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons is not beyond the world's reach."[174]

It is more practical to design and implement a regime that would successfully ban and contain sophisticated nuclear technologies than to try to prevent terrorist acquisition or "break-out" under the confused mixed messages of the current nonproliferation regime.

13.  Efforts to achieve a global nuclear weapon convention would be more successful at constraining states outside the NPT (India, Israel and Pakistan) and potential proliferators than the current regime, based on differential obligations. A nuclear weapon convention, misleadingly portrayed by some government officials as competing with or detracting from the NPT, is the logical rules-based objective for states seeking the full implementation of the NPT. Efforts to achieve a nuclear weapon convention will reinforce rather than undermine the existing NPT-based regime, and are consistent with the goals enshrined in the Treaty's preamble and articles.

14.  The practical steps of verified disablement, dismantlement and irreversible denuclearization will take time, and those countries still possessing nuclear weapons will need to keep them safe pending total elimination. Pending negotiations on a prohibition convention and to undercut the present attractiveness of nuclear weapons as an instrument of policy or threat, a first step that the UK could initiate or support is to declare that the use of nuclear weapons by anyone for any purpose would be deemed a crime against humanity. Such a move would support both our non-proliferation and counter-terrorism objectives and strategies and be very popular with the majority of NPT states parties, armed forces and civil society.


15.  The Security Strategy rightly recognises that transnational threats and climate change are relevant security challenges and that traditional military and state threats have declined. It perceptively analyses the links and interactions between individual, collective and global security and responsibility. We applaud that this significant step to provide joined-up policy analysis on security has gone further than previous government documents in recognizing that the challenges and opportunities of the human security paradigm are more relevant than the national security paradigm that has dominated thinking since Westphalia.

16.  We welcome that the government identifies as guiding principles and core values "human rights, the rule of law, legitimate and accountable government, justice, freedom, tolerance and opportunity for all" [para 2.1]. It is likewise significant that in paragraph 1.9 the objective of protecting UK security and interests and enabling people to live freely and with confidence is placed in the context of "a more secure, stable, just and prosperous world". In perception at least, the government clearly recognises the interdependence between security for people in the UK and conditions in the rest of the world, and that we have a responsibility to tackle the causes as well as the symptoms of insecurity.

17.  Emphasis is placed on intelligence, policing and the responsibility to protect, recognising links between transnational crime and trafficking in weapons, drugs and women. The UK should expand its tools for investigation, prevention of conflict and human rights abuses and implementation of treaties and agreements beyond the traditionally male-dominated military and police approaches, tools and ways of working. A passing reference is made to UN Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, but this needs to be mainstreamed into all levels of security policy and practice. The UK should devote far more resources and training to enable women in this country and abroad to contribute their skills so that efforts to address and diminish security threats can benefit fully from gender diversity and women's different experiences and ways of perceiving and resolving potential threats and conflicts.

18.  Though the Security Strategy discusses the causes of insecurity and preventing incipient threats from becoming big, serious or uncontainable, it does not go far enough in considering how the UK's own policies, practices and projections can feed into the development of future threats. For example, the possible re-emergence of a major state-led threat is canvassed and may even be considered to justify the maintaining of nuclear weapons and large conventional forces. Russia's military intervention in Georgia on the side of South Ossetia and statements by Putin and Medvedev about strengthening Russia's armed forces including nuclear weapons and space defences are perceived by some as the first signs of a newly confident Russia as a re-emerging security threat. They are indeed worrying, but did not come from nowhere. More attention needs to be given to how perceptions and experiences of UK, US and NATO actions may fuel other states' senses of insecurity and impel them to take steps that could become drivers for new arms build-ups and aggressive posturing. Until we have developed a more cooperative security architecture regionally and internationally, it is a sad fact that one state's precautionary military actions (ballistic missile defence, retention or renewal of nuclear weapons etc) feed another's threat assessments and may create or amplify the security challenges they purported to deter.

Trident renewal undermines the UK's strategic and non-proliferation objectives in the run-up to the 2010 NPT Review Conference

19.  The Security Strategy emphasises rule-based multilateralism, but the UK decision to renew Trident conflicts directly with UK obligations under the NPT and will contribute to the further weakening of the non-proliferation regime and the credibility of international efforts to reduce nuclear dangers and prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. Criticism of Trident renewal has already been voiced at the NPT Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meetings and if the UK does not reverse this policy it could contribute to another Review Conference failure in 2010.

20.  The decision to replace Trident gave a strong and unpopular signal to the rest of the world that Britain—a small country on the Western edge of a relatively safe and stable European Union—continues to place great value on having nuclear weapons. Despite Des Browne's rhetoric to the Conference on Disarmament about the "vision of a world free of nuclear weapons"[ 175] the financial and political commitment to replacing Trident underscores the government's expectation that nuclear weapons will remain a valuable asset for at least the next 50 years. Such contradictory messages undermine the ability of the UK and international community to deal consistently and effectively with potential proliferators. "Do as I say and not as I do" smacks of hypocrisy and alienates those we need to convince, as well as giving ammunition to potential proliferators.

21.  Despite assurances given at the time of the 14 March 2007 vote on the Nuclear Policy White Paper,[ 176] the renewal of Trident clearly entails upgrading the warheads as well as the submarines. This is confirmed by media reports and demonstrated by new funding and developments (notably the Orion laser) at AWE Aldermaston and Burghfield. At the NPT PrepComs in 2007 and 2008, a large number of non-nuclear weapon state parties to the NPT raised concerns about nuclear weapon states (including the UK) going ahead with modernisations, refinements and new procurements. Summarising the second Preparatory Committee for the 2010 NPT Review Conference, held in Geneva this year, paragraph 14 of the Chair stated "Concern and disappointment were voiced about plans of some nuclear weapon States to replace or modernize nuclear weapons and their means of delivery or platforms, and about the development of new types of nuclear weapons."[177]

22.  By acknowledging that Britain is not militarily threatened by other states, the Security Strategy reinforces the widely-held understanding that there is no security or defence rationale for deploying or replacing Trident. Having recognised the need to target military and civilian resources carefully to support the Security Strategy's objectives, the decision to replace Trident is indefensible. Likely to be many billions greater than the government's advertised £20 billion price tag,[ 178] the high cost of Trident renewal will either deprive other, more necessary areas of security and defence of vital resources or else require the Treasury to fund it directly, in keeping with its role as a national status project rather than anything to do with defence. At the same time, Britain's willingness to spend so much on Trident when budgets are stretched thin for other security and military endeavours reinforces the proliferation-promoting message that the UK regards its nuclear forces and status as indispensable.

23.  When nuclear-armed states continue to prioritise their nuclear weapons (and especially if they claim that their security and deterrence require such weapons of mass destruction, a claim reproduced in the Security Strategy, though with much less conviction than in the 2006 White Paper and other nuclear policy documents), they advertise and provide justifications that weak leaders in other states—especially in volatile regions—can seize on. If these weapons are so potent in security terms, how could the leaders of any self-respecting country explain to their citizens why such magnificent protectors should not be acquired and deployed by everyone. The government's justifications for clinging to Trident undermine the NPT and the goals of its own Security Strategy and make it harder for other leaders and states to resist the lure of nuclear status and power projection.

24.  The government's determination to renew Trident has also led to potentially dangerous misinterpretations (through intent or ignorance) of the NPT. Tony Blair, for example, told the House of Commons that the NPT "makes it absolutely clear that Britain has the right to possess nuclear weapons".[ 179] On the contrary, the NPT defines a "nuclear weapon state" (the five that had conducted a nuclear test before 1 January 1967) in order to impose specific obligations, including nuclear disarmament (Article VI) and non transference of weapons and related technologies (Article I). These obligations are necessarily different from the obligations the NPT imposes on the other 184 states parties, which joined as non-nuclear weapon states. But they are obligations nonetheless, and equally binding. They reflected the status quo in 1968 but were not supposed to perpetuate it. Like the counterproductive effects of the Bush neocons' policies based on assertions of US exceptionalism, claiming UK exceptionalism undermines collective rules-based security by implying that there are different rules for some or that we can pick and choose among the tenets of international law that we wish to adhere to.

25.  On three occasions during 2004-6, eminent British and international lawyers[ 180] gave authoritative Advice that the consensus decisions and agreements adopted by NPT states parties in 1995 and 2000 have become part of the legal meaning and interpretation of the Treaty. They argued that Article VI contained legal obligations, consistent with Articles I, II and III, and that strict observance with the letter and the spirit of the NPT is required of all its parties including the nuclear weapon states. This, they said, applies to the disarmament obligation no less than the non-transference and non-acquisition obligations. Moreover, the post-1995 NPT, which is now in operation, is not the same as the original NPT that entered into force in 1970. As a result of the decisions taken and cross-referenced with the extension decision on May 11, 1995, the principles, objectives and obligations were made stronger and more specific, especially with regard to disarmament.

26.  The 2000 NPT Review Conference, the first after the 1995 extension, was considered a great success in part because it adopted by consensus a very substantial final document that contained, among other things, a 13-paragraph plan of action to accomplish nuclear disarmament. As part of this, the NPT states parties endorsed an "unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear weapon states to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals". Other steps included: entry into force of the CTBT; conclusion of a fissile materials production treaty (fissban); moratoria both on testing and on production of plutonium and highly-enriched uranium (HEU), pending entry into force of those treaties; deeper unilateral and bilateral US-Russian reductions in nuclear forces; transparency (ie the provision of more open information on nuclear capabilities and the implementation of disarmament agreements); reductions in non-strategic (tactical) nuclear weapons; concrete measures to reduce the operational status of nuclear weapons (diplomatic circumlocution for taking the weapons off alert); diminishing the role of nuclear weapons in security policies (understood to mean abandoning the potential first use of nuclear weapons that underpins NATO and Russian doctrines of deterrence); the principles of irreversibility, transparency and verification; five power disarmament approaches; further initiatives to put fissile materials (declared "excess") permanently under safeguards, and further progress on conventional disarmament.[ 181]

27.  Since the 2005 Review Conference was a political disaster, the 2010 Conference is likely to measure progress against the agreements adopted in 2000 and 1995, though it is recognised that some commitments may have been overtaken by events. It will be important to work for a successful review conference in 2010, but "success" needs to be conceived as more relevant to the real world than just getting agreement on a lowest common denominator document. While most of the elements of the 1995 and 2000 programmes of action are still relevant, some will be more critical to a constructive 2010 review conference than others.

28.  The continued credibility of the NPT as an effective mechanism to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons is likely to rest on four major planks: the viability of CTBT entry into force under a new American president; whether the nuclear weapon states continue to insist on rights to use, renew and modernise their nuclear weapons; how the regime is strengthened institutionally and politically to deal with nuclear aspirants such as Iran; and finding proliferation resistant solutions for meeting the world's energy demands.

29.  In light of the 1995 extension of the NPT and the commitments undertaken in 2000, a further legal Advice in 2005 concluded that: (i) the use of the Trident system would breach customary international law, in particular because it would infringe the "intransgressible" requirement that a distinction must be drawn between combatants and non-combatants; (ii) Article VI is a provision "essential to the accomplishment of the object or purpose of the treaty"; the replacement of Trident is likely to constitute a breach of Article VI; and (iv) that such a breach would be a "material" breach of the NPT.[ 182]

30.  Insisting on the renewal of Trident flies in the face of the laudable principles and analyses promoted by the Security Strategy. Clinging to nuclear weapons misdirects resources and undermines UK credibility at a time when Britain should be doing its utmost to uphold the NPT and demonstrate that we take the multilateral treaty-based regimes and international law seriously. The fact that the other nuclear-armed states have a worse record than us is no excuse.

31.  Nuclear weapons undermine our security. As recognized by the government, they cannot possibly deter extreme ideologues or terrorists, whether state or non-state. As Professor Malcolm Chalmers noted, "Far from being deterred by nuclear weapons, terrorists would be delighted to provoke a Trident retaliation, fully aware of the global opprobrium that this would bring on Britain."[ 183] In other words, a terrorist aggressor would not be deterred by nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction held by their target countries or anyone else. On the contrary, having nuclear weapons could make a country a more attractive target for a mass-destructive terrorist attack, as the extremists' game plan could include provoking a nuclear or similarly disproportionate retaliation.

Devalue nuclear weapons by having their use declared a crime against humanity

32.  The Security Strategy emphasises the need to act early, work with partners and put UK efforts and assets behind a multilateral rule-based approach (eg para 4.96). With regard to nuclear weapons threats, acting early means not only keeping the materials and weapons out of the hands of those who might use them, but also removing incentives and justifications. While verified reductions in numbers of weapons are undoubtedly important, implementing the NPT and strengthening the regime will require that weapon states like Britain accept and demonstrate that there is no security role for nuclear weapons in their doctrines and policies.

33.  The practical steps of verified disablement, dismantlement and irreversible denuclearization will take time, and those countries still possessing nuclear weapons will need to keep them safe pending total elimination. However, an essential confidence-building security step is to stigmatise and devalue nuclear weapons in the eyes of everyone. One way, which is attracting growing interest in part due to the support of some of the eminent nuclear policy architects behind the Wall Street Journal op-eds by Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, William Perry and Sam Nunn, is for the use of nuclear weapons to be declared a crime against humanity. This would address terrorist and resurgent state threats and be popular with the armed forces as well as the non-nuclear weapon states and civil society around the world. It would reinforce non-proliferation, remove incentives from the nuclear aspirants and accelerate disarmament.

34.  The NPT does not address use, but the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in its landmark advisory opinion of July 1996 found that in almost all situations the use of nuclear weapons would violate international humanitarian law.[ 184] In the legal and political landscape in 1996, a minority of ICJ justices left open a possible loophole if a state's very survival was at risk. Though the Security Strategy regards terrorist acquisition of weapons of mass destruction as a significant threat, only two kinds of nuclear threat could put Britain's survival at risk: all out nuclear war; or an exchange of nuclear weapons in another region that caused environmental and climate effects that threatened our ability to grow sufficient food. A single use by a terrorist or despotic leader of a failed state would be locally devastating and cause widespread horror and shock, but recovery would be possible, especially with international support. Hanging on to nuclear weapons ourselves does nothing to deter or mitigate such threats and could exacerbate them. Renouncing our reliance on nuclear weapons would, by contrast, strengthen other tools to prevent such threats and give impetus to global efforts to eliminate these WMD.

35.  In its post cold war doctrines, the United States reintroduced the possibility of nuclear weapons being used for pre-emption as well as retaliation. While the UK has tried to distance itself from some aspects of US nuclear policy that is difficult in view of the UK's dependence on US missiles and guidance systems and the role of US nuclear weapons in NATO. Though the details of UK deterrent policies and operations are opaque, they appear still to entail the option (and threatened) first use of nuclear weapons and a permanently deployed capability to fire, epitomised by the retention of continuous patrols with at least one nuclear-armed submarine always at sea. Those clinging to nuclear deterrence need to wake up to the 21st century. Post cold war deterrence does not require deployed, operational readiness to fire nuclear weapons. If you want to deter terrorists or states from acquiring or using nuclear weapons (or blackmailing with threats to use them), as advocates of nuclear deterrence claim, one of the most effective ways, reflecting post-Nuremburg accountability and the remit of the international criminal court, would be to make the use of nuclear weapons a crime against humanity.

36.  Unlike a fissile materials ban or nuclear weapon convention, which have to be negotiated multilaterally and would be complex and time-consuming, with many political, technical, verification and implementation challenges to be worked out, the process of stigmatising and outlawing the use of nuclear weapons offers opportunities for courageous leaders to take unilateral steps that build towards creating a multilateral norm. Declaring the use of nuclear weapons a crime against humanity would not eliminate nuclear dangers overnight, but would have major impact in taking nuclear weapons off the lustrous list of objects of political status and desire. Nuclear weapons may be used against us, whether or not we have some of our own. But which is worse: a single use that prompts united international assistance to the victim and a concerted worldwide effort to bring the perpetrators to justice; or multiple use, which would almost certainly be triggered by pre-emptive or retaliatory nuclear strikes? Recovery would be possible from the first scenario, but much more difficult from the second. For our national as well as international security, it is now time for the option of using nuclear weapons to be outlawed. We need to reinforce the taboo and, like the WMD Commission, treat all nuclear threats as weapons of terror that no sane or civilized person would want or be able to use. A potent aspect of making non-use a component of our deterrence is that even despots and terrorists fear being held personally accountable and subjected to public trial and punishment.

Protecting against nuclear weapon threats at home

37.  In addition to the international threats posed by the deployment of nuclear weapons and promotional doctrines, Trident poses a current threat to UK health, safety and the environment, especially in the areas near AWE Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire, the Faslane and Coulport nuclear bases in Scotland and along the warhead convoy routes. The Security Strategy talks of working with partners to protect and plan against external threats but fails to address how the manufacture and deployment of Trident nuclear warheads, the transporting of live warheads by road between England and Scotland and the storage of over a hundred warheads at Coulport pose unnecessary and very significant potential threats. According to recent reports, all these sites have suffered accidents and severe safety lapses. The warhead convoys have got lost and are regularly monitored, followed and sometimes stopped by protesters. Local councils, fire and emergency services are kept out of the loop when the warhead convoys pass through their jurisdiction, but they would be expected to respond to any emergency with alacrity. We recommend that as part of steps to fulfil the NPT, the MoD should mothball the warheads and reduce nuclear transports to the minimum necessary to return the warheads and related materials to Berkshire for safe dismantlement.

Time to denuclearize NATO's security concept and increase resources for its peace-supporting roles.

38.  In several places (inc. para 3.31), when discussing the importance of international institutions, the Security Strategy refers to NATO and the European Union without distinguishing the different roles that these organisations play in conception, intention and the perceptions of others. The UK needs to recognize how NATO's expansion and actions such as the push to deploy US missiles in Poland and sophisticated radar and tracking facilities in the Czech Republic are perceived as aggressive by others, most notably Russia.

39.  NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has put the development of a new Strategic Concept for the 21st century onto NATO's agenda. It is anticipated that debates on this will be formally kick-started at the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit in April 2009 and continue for at least a year, with adoption of a new strategic concept likely to be in 2010. Rather than expanding the NATO nuclear alliance to Russia's borders, consideration should be given to removing the anachronistic role of nuclear weapons in the Alliance and increasing ways to build cooperative security approaches with Russia and other neighbours.

40.  NATO's 1999 Strategic Concept states that war prevention requires "widespread participation by European Allies involved in collective defence planning in nuclear roles, in peacetime basing of nuclear forces on their territory and in command, control and consultation arrangements." As a consequence, several participating countries host US nuclear bases and tactical weapons on their soil, some of their aircraft are equipped to carry nuclear weapons and their pilots are trained to fly nuclear missions. Since Britain deploys its own nuclear weapon system, which is assigned to NATO, it does not participate in nuclear sharing per se. The UK has long hosted over 100 US nuclear free-fall bombs at the Lakenheath airbase in East Anglia, but analysts with the Federation of American Scientists recently revealed information that pointed to the withdrawal of these.[ 185] If US nuclear weapons have now been withdrawn from Britain, this should be explained and confirmed by the US or UK governments. If not, it is time that they were.

41.  As part of any review of its Strategic Concept, NATO ought to withdraw all US nuclear weapons from Europe. The need to eliminate tactical nuclear weapons has been repeatedly raised at NPT Conferences because they are portable, vulnerable and readily usable. They are potentially destabilizing and create additional risks and insecurities. NATO should use its decision in a leverage strategy to persuade Russia to eliminate its tactical nuclear forces from Europe as well.

42.  NATO members hold that their nuclear sharing is in compliance with Articles I and II of the NPT, arguing that the arrangements predated the NPT and that "general war" would end the validity of the NPT. Both interpretations have been challenged by other NPT Parties. Looking forward to the 2010 Review Conference, NPT states should strengthen the Treaty by declaring that it is binding on all State Parties "under any circumstances".

43.  To enhance stability and security in Europe, it will be important to withdraw the ballistic missile defence (BMD) bases from Russia's borders and rethink the threat assessments, purpose and parameters of programmes to protect against possible missile threats and developments in the Middle East. The Security Strategy talks of strongly supporting efforts to include Russia through a joint regional missile defence architecture (para 4.68). In view of US reluctance, is this realistic or is it just a PR gesture towards Russia? The objective is constructive, but the Committee should find out what in practice is the government doing to pursue this objective and persuade the United States not to increase insecurity in Europe by putting unnecessary and inflammatory pressures onto Russia. The UK should promote a greater role for NATO in arms control and reduce its capacity for harm as a military expansionist alliance, as that will have unintended consequences that could undermine British and international security.

The weaponization of space would pose unacceptable dangers to security on Earth

44.  In para 4.99 the Security Strategy made a passing reference to space assets. It is a major weakness of the Strategy that the government fails to address how the uses and abuses of space for civilian and military applications could have fundamental ramifications for our security. The commercial, economic, strategic and security importance of outer space has come to the fore worldwide. Interest in space exploration, observation, communications and other uses of space is growing. Space assets can provide unparalleled resources for supporting our security in relation to humanitarian and environmental crises and diverse natural, criminal and military threats.[ 186] At the same time, it is important to recognise that potential misuses of space assets could turn outer space into a battlefield.

45.  US programmes for BMD have promoted the argument that whoever controls space will obtain an unassailable military and commercial dominance on Earth.[ 187] Any country that seeks to establish space superiority and dominance will jeopardise the peaceful uses of space, with a serious risk that the weaponisation of space could harm terrestrial security and might even—as occurred in US wargame scenarios based on an exchange of anti-satellite attacks—lead to nuclear war. If allowed to continue, the further militarisation of space could threaten global security as well as compromising a range of civilian and security applications on which our daily lives now rely.

46.  Instead of turning to the sledgehammer of space weaponisation to deal with the potential vulnerabilities of space assets, a more sensible approach—and one consistent with the Security Strategy and the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)—would combine arms control efforts with the technical hardening and shielding of as many satellites as possible, plus space situation awareness, redundancy and other "passive" defence means. Progress in nuclear disarmament, strengthening the NPT, negotiating a nuclear weapons convention, further efforts to restrict missile proliferation, building on the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCoC) would also contribute to security and reduce the chances of space becoming a battleground—which would be in nobody's interests.

29 September 2008

174   Weapons of Terror: Freeing the world of nuclear, biological and chemical arms, Report of the WMD Commission, Stockholm, June 2006, p 17. Back

175   Des Browne, Secretary of State for Defence, Speech to the Conference on Disarmament, Geneva, February 5, 2008. Back

176   White Paper on The Future of the United Kingdom's Nuclear Deterrent, December 4, 2006. See the Acronym Institute's Critique on the White Paper, submitted to the Defence Select Committee and subsequently revised and published as Rebecca Johnson, "The UK White Paper on Renewing Trident: the wrong decision at the wrong time", Disarmament Diplomacy 83, pp 3-14. Back

177   The factual summary of the Second Preparatory Committee for the 2010 NPT Review Conference, prepared by the Chair, Volodymyr Yelchenko of Ukraine, was opposed by Iran and Syria and was therefore issued as a Chair's working paper on May 9, 2008. NPT/CONF.2010/PC.II/WP.43 Back

178   The MoD's record of cost over-runs on many procurement projects suggests that the overall cost to taxpayers is likely to be even larger than the £76 billion figure calculated by the Liberal Democrat Party analysts. Back

179   Tony Blair, Prime Minister's Questions, February 21, 2007. See also and "Blair wins Trident vote after telling UK Parliament that the NPT gives Britain the right to have nuclear weapons", Disarmament Diplomacy 84, pp 60-70. Back

180   Rabinder Singh QC and Professor Christine Chinkin (Matrix Chambers and London School of Economics) and Philippe Sands QC were consulted by different clients and gave different but consistent Advice regarding the NPT and the British government's proposed renewal of its nuclear cooperation pact with the United States (the Mutual Defence Agreement, originally signed in 1958 and renewed several times thereafter) and procurement of a further nuclear weapon system as a follow-on to Trident. See www.acronym.org.uk Back

181   2000 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Final Document, adopted May 20, 2000, New York, NPT/CONF.2000/28 (Part I). For a detailed examination of the political context and choices before the Sixth Review Conference, see Rebecca Johnson, Non-Proliferation Treaty: Challenging Times, ACRONYM 13, The Acronym Institute, London, February 2000. Back

182   Rabinder Singh QC and Professor Christine Chinkin, The Maintenance and Possible Replacement of the Trident Nuclear Missile System, Joint Opinion, Matrix Chambers, published by Peacerights, December 19, 2005. Back

183   Malcolm Chalmers, "Long Live Trident?" Physics World, August 2005. Back

184   International Court of Justice Reports 1996, p 225. [Reported for July 8, 1996, General List No. 95]. The full decision, documentation and dissenting decisions also formed the Annex to "Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons", Note by the Secretary-General, United Nations General Assembly A/51/218, October 15, 1996 pp 36-37. Back

185   Hans M. Kristensen, US Nuclear Weapons Withdrawn from the UK, at http://www.fas.org/blog/ssp/ Back

186   Rebecca Johnson, "Europe's Space Policies and their Relevance to ESDP", published by the European Parliament (External Policies), October 2006. Back

187    The drive towards developing weapons for use in or from space is related to missile defence and its proponents use two principal justifications: firstly, that space weapons are essential to protect space assets from a pre-emptive attack, dramatically called a "Space Pearl Harbor" by the Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and Organization (known as the 2001 Space Commission); and secondly, that who controls space will obtain an unassailable military and commercial dominance on Earth (and that this space superiority and dominance is the destiny of the United States). In addition to the assumptions of vulnerability, control and space power projection, some argue from historical analogy that space weaponization is inevitable, and that whoever gets there first will enjoy an overwhelming advantage. From the mid-1990s on, all three types of argument could be found in US policy documents. See the 1996 National Space Policy; the 1999 Department of Defense Space Policy; US Space Command's Vision for 2020 (1997) and Long Range Plan (1998); The US Air Force Strategic Master Plan for FY02 and Beyond; the Defense Department's 2001 Transformation Study Report; and the 2001 and 2006 Quadrennial Defense Reviews. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/

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