Available on the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy website, Proliferation in Parliament provides a review of news, debates and developments in the UK Parliament on issues relating to nuclear weapons, disarmament and proliferation. The latest issue covers the period from mid-September to mid-January.
This period is dominated by the controversy over the renewal of the Trident nuclear system. Core capital costs, and a final commitment to go ahead, won’t be committed until after the 2016 main gate decision, but Phillip Hammond announced a further £343m as part of the £3bn design phase during a visit to Faslane in October. The announcement caused concern among Liberal Democrats, including Nick Harvey, who had been moved away from the MoD in September’s reshuffle. The Trident Alternatives Review that he was responsible for, is to be finished by Danny Alexander and published in the first half of 2013.
The announcement caused most controversy in Scotland, where Alex Salmon’s SNP have planned to draft a constitution that explicitly banned nuclear weapons in an independent Scotland. The SNP also voted for a resolution for an independent Scotland to become a member of NATO that did not host nuclear weapons. If Scotland became independent, it is estimated that Trident could be removed within 2 years, well before an alternative could be set up in another part of the UK. Government policy appears to be reliant upon a no vote in the referendum on Scottish independence scheduled for 2014.
Parliament also discussed a test of a nuclear capable ballistic missile in October 2012, which was legal according to international law. The cost of the test could not be disaggregated from the overall cost of the project.
On the international agenda, the UK is expected to participate in the Oslo conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons on 4-5 March 2013. Parliament also discussed the UK’s policy on Iran, where the government has maintained that “all options for addressing the issue remain on the table”. Over Iran, the UK has acted on legal advice to reject a US request to use UK bases as part of a contingency plan over Iranian nuclear weapons. The UK has also been in discussion with Israel about Iran. Asked about Israel’s nuclear policy, Senior Minister at the FCO Baroness Warsi (Conservative) responded that Israel had not declared a nuclear weapons programme, but that the government was encouraging Israel to sign up to the NPT and had voted in favour of a UN Resolution calling on Israel to place its unsafeguarded nuclear facilities under full-scope IAEA safeguards.