Westminster Hall Debate – 11 November 2009

Westminster Hall Debate on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (Wednesday 11 November 2009)

Mr. Ivan Lewis (The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office): Today’s debate has been measured, mature and an important contribution to raising awareness of the non-proliferation issue as we face a year of unique opportunity and challenge. The issue needs a lot more of the oxygen of debate in Parliament and in the country, in terms of the leadership role that Britain seeks to play and will be playing.

…As hon. Members have said, improving the organisation’s ability to detect safeguard violations will not be enough. Potential violators must know that if they are caught there will be a high price. We should adopt automatic penalties for violation of safeguard agreements, such as suspending international nuclear co-operation or technical co-operation projects until compliance has been restored. Referral to the UN Security Council would be another option.

Tony Lloyd (Manchester Central, Labour): The Minister is making roughly the speech that I had expected. That is a compliment, not an insult. Negative security assurances can be treaty-based. Nuclear-free areas of the world already exist. On the middle east, there is sense in saying to Israel and the Islamic Republic of Iran that the world recognises their particular security needs. That should be done not just by Britain, but collectively to reassure them that if they were to forgo nuclear weapons, it would not be at the cost of their survival, nor would it increase the threat from their neighbours.

………

Mr. David Lidington (Aylesbury, Conservative) …. As the hon. Gentleman said, there are now not only sovereign states that have developed or are seeking to develop nuclear weapons capability in defiance of the non-proliferation treaty, but terrorist groups that make no secret of their wish to obtain weapons of mass destruction and use them to create as many victims as possible. Today the ambition and example of North Korea and Iran are testing to the limit whether the controls embodied in the NPT actually work and will provide a safeguard against further proliferation.

………

Willie Rennie (Dunfermline & Fife West, Liberal Democrat) China is looking beyond its borders. In the past, it was quite isolationist. It is now looking abroad—to a certain degree controversially so with Africa—but if it is operating in a more global sense there may be opportunities. With a man like Obama at the helm, and with the great support of the establishment in America, we might well make significant progress.

………

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North, Labour) …However, there are problems with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Its membership is restricted to the five declared nuclear weapons states, and to the majority of the rest of the world’s states who do not possess nuclear weapons and are not attempting to acquire them. Those who have nuclear weapons outside the nuclear non-proliferation treaty are denied membership, and that category clearly includes India, Pakistan and Israel.