Topical Questions


Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North, Labour)
Next month, the Government will be hosting a meeting of the five declared nuclear weapons states ahead of the non-proliferation treaty review in May. Will the Minister tell the House what he intends to achieve from that meeting, whether there will be an agreed position put and whether the P5 will adhere to the basic principles of the non-proliferation treaty and take steps towards nuclear disarmament?

Mark Francois (The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence; Rayleigh and Wickford, Conservative)
As the hon. Gentleman knows, we take the nuclear non-proliferation treaty extremely seriously. We uphold that treaty and it is vital that we persuade other nations around the world that may be in breach of that treaty to abide by its conventions as well. The hon. Gentleman and I take a different view on these matters. I spent many years at university debating against the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and I still seem to be doing it now.

Steven Baker (Wycombe, Conservative)
Will the Government reassure me that they, apparently unlike some parties opposite, will not allow even the distant prospect of coalition negotiations to soften their commitment to continuous-at-sea nuclear deterrence?

Michael Fallon (The Secretary of State for Defence; Sevenoaks, Conservative)
Absolutely. Successive Governments have maintained that commitment to a continuous-at-sea deterrent and this Government are also determined to do so.

John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness, Labour)
I am puzzled by the attempts of the Minister for the Armed Forces to goad the Opposition on the issue of the nuclear deterrent. Let us be clear: we are committed to a minimum strategic nuclear deterrent delivered by submarines that are continuously at sea. We continue to support the programme that we started in Government, which his Government have delayed. In what way is that different from his policy?

Michael Fallon (The Secretary of State for Defence; Sevenoaks, Conservative)
What is different is that the Leader of the Opposition, who was challenged on this just a week ago, spoke only about the need for the least-cost deterrent, without repeating—[Interruption.]

John Bercow (Speaker)
Order. I know that the Secretary of State can generally look after himself, but Members must not seek to shout him down. I always facilitate full exchanges on all these important matters, but the Secretary of State must be heard.

Michael Fallon (The Secretary of State for Defence; Sevenoaks, Conservative)
Thank you, Mr Speaker. This is a very important matter. The Leader of the Opposition did not repeat Labour’s previous commitment to what matters, which is a continuous-at-sea deterrent. What we cannot have is any kind of part-time deterrent, which would rely on our enemies being part-time as well.