Westminster Hall Debate – 4 March 2010

Westminster Hall Debate on Global Security: Non-Proliferation (Thursday 4 March 2010) – Hywel Williams in the chair.

Click here to read the full debate.

Mike Gapes (Ilford, South, Labour/Co-op): “I am delighted to introduce the fourth report of the Foreign Affairs Committee, which will, I guess, be the last report to be debated in this Parliament. The report, entitled “Global Security: Non-Proliferation”, was published on 14 June 2009, and the Government response was published in August 2009. Inevitably, a lot of things have happened since then. Even in the interim between our report’s publication and the Government’s response, the Cabinet Office published “The Road to 2010: Addressing the Nuclear Question in the 21st Century”, a position paper on the approach that the Government have taken in the run-up to the important non-proliferation treaty review conference, which is due to start in May.

“Given the importance of that conference, it is essential that we have a detailed debate now in Parliament on what is happening. The previous review conference, in 2005, was a failure and there are real threats to the non-proliferation regime, including from North Korea and Iran and from the potential development of a nuclear arms race throughout the middle east from Arab neighbours of Iran, responding to that. There is also a change in the political relations between the United States and Russia and the tentative commencement of dialogue between India and Pakistan.”

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Mike Gapes (Ilford, South, Labour/Co-operative): “…there are complications to the US-Russia relationship. First, the Russians have adopted a new posture that defines NATO as the main enemy. Members of the Committee were in Brussels last Monday and Tuesday, and we heard about that in some detail during discussions. Russia says that its main enemy is not terrorism, Islamist fundamentalism or climate change-although one would not expect that from the Russians-but NATO. That sits oddly in the context of the new opening up of dialogue and potential agreement with the Americans.”

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Sir John Stanley (Tonbridge and Malling, Conservative): “I want now to concentrate on one significant group of nuclear weapons. Since our report was published in June last year, sub-strategic nuclear weapons have come back into the area of possible significant negotiation. Of all the nuclear arms control treaties that have been entered into since nuclear weapons were developed, the most significant is the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty of 1987.”

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Dr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East, Labour): “The NPT is, as the Government have described it, a grand bargain. My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) admirably made the point that the agreement of the US to sell nuclear fission material to India was a major undermining of the treaty. India, of course, is a non-NPT country. These are challenging times. As I said, North Korea claims to have manufactured nuclear weapons. Only on Monday, Yukiya Amano, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, stated that his organisation could not confirm that all nuclear material in Iran is being used for peaceful activities because Iran had not provided the agency with the necessary co-operation. In addition, the threat of terrorist efforts to acquire nuclear weapons and materials is a continual concern nowadays.”

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Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North, Labour): “There is no moral case for nuclear weapons. They are incredibly dangerous. People are still dying in Japan from the only time that nuclear weapons were used in anger, more than 60 years ago. Do we want that legacy for our grandchildren as well?”

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Mr. David Lidington (Shadow Minister, Foreign Affairs; Conservative): “The treaty [Non-Proliferation Treaty] rests on three pillars, each of which needs to be strengthened. First, there should be firm controls against proliferation and a bar on more countries becoming nuclear weapons states. Secondly, civil nuclear technology should be shared with countries that need it for their domestic energy programmes. Thirdly, as representatives of a number of non-nuclear states have told me, nuclear weapons states should deliver on their commitment under article 6 to work towards multilateral disarmament.”

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Mr. Ivan Lewis (The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office): “The year 2010 will be crucial. There is significant consensus in the British Parliament, I believe, about what is the morally and politically appropriate position for this country to adopt in the context of the negotiations. It is important that we should be seen to provide strong leadership. It is equally important that, at a time when we have hope that the journey towards a nuclear weapons-free world can gather momentum, we should not allow Iran and North Korea to be developing a nuclear weapons capacity or to be expanding their ambitions further.”