Lords Debate – 21 January 2010

House of Lords debate, 21 January 2010, 12:05 pm

Moved by Lord Hannay of Chiswick – To call attention to the prospects for multilateral  nuclear disarmament and for strengthening nuclear non-proliferation; and to move for papers. Click here for the full debate.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick (Crossbench): …Some 23,000 nuclear warheads remain worldwide-enough to blow the world to pieces many times over, and far more than are needed to assure even the most extensive doctrines of deterrence.

To the risk of a nuclear exchange between states has now been added the nightmare scenario of a nuclear weapon, or nuclear material from which a dirty bomb could be manufactured, falling into the hands of terrorists for whom the whole concept of deterrence is alien and thus inoperable. That is the justification for our debate today…

Britain has a great deal to contribute: as a nuclear-weapon state, as a founding member and depository of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, as one of the two nuclear-weapon states in the EU, and as a member of the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Lord Robertson of Port Ellen (Crossbench): The START negotiations that are taking place at the moment look likely to produce even further reductions in American and Russian nuclear arms. So it is important for the non-nuclear states in the run-up to the NPT review conference to bear in mind the fact that the nuclear nations have made improvements and that they have obligations as well in terms of creating the conditions necessary for implementation, for preventing further nuclear proliferation and for securing nuclear weapons and material as well as encouraging the peaceful use of nuclear energy. These are important matters that should be borne in mind before the NPT conference.

Lord Howe of Aberavon (Conservative): …We have rightly identified the value of the agreement between the two leaders of the superpowers and counted our blessings on the agenda that has to be tackled in the next two or three years. I hope and believe that we shall now be able, in this country with our limited influence, to play our part in a much larger concert of leadership on the road to sanity in achieving defence against the horrors of a world overwhelmed and cluttered by nuclear weapons, although tucked away. We may well be on the track that will take us possibly to the elimination of all nuclear weapons and certainly to the large-scale reduction of them.

Lord King of Bridgwater (Conservative): As I look at the world now, I am under no illusions that this is a much more dangerous time. We have already had the very real risk of a nuclear confrontation between India and Pakistan and there is concern about the security of weapons in Pakistan. I saw a comment in the newspapers-I have no idea if it is true-that the Americans are already preparing plans for Special Forces that might need to go in to secure the safety of those weapons if the situation deteriorates in Pakistan. It is a pretty obvious point about the danger and instability of that country at this time.