Prime Minister’s Statement – The Road to 2010

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): I am today laying before the House the Government’s “Road to 2010” plan (Cm 7675). This is a strategy that will lead us into the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference and beyond. The “Road to 2010” covers every dimension of the nuclear issues that are facing us today and sets out how the UK will play a leading role in tackling them. Next year’s conference provides an opportunity to renew and re-invigorate the bargain at the heart of the NPT which grants states access to civil nuclear power in return for a commitment not to proliferate nuclear weapons, and places a responsibility on nuclear weapons states to show leadership on the question of disarmament.

The UK remains committed to the reduction and eventual elimination of nuclear weapons, and to ensuring that nations have access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. All states, including Iran and North Korea, have a right to such access—and we are ready to help, so long as these states reject the development of nuclear weapons. To promote the development of cost-effective civil nuclear technology which cannot be diverted for use in weapons programmes, we are launching a nuclear science centre of excellence. This centre will enhance collaborations between academia, industry and Government, both domestically and internationally, to focus on this important and difficult task. The Government are committing £20 million over the first five years to this centre.

All nuclear material must be held securely, to prevent it falling into the hands of terrorist groups or hostile states. The UK believes that nuclear security must become the fourth pillar of the global nuclear framework, alongside civil power, non-proliferation and disarmament. Momentum for greater nuclear security is growing, with President Obama announcing a nuclear security summit in the spring of next year, which the UK will take a full part in. In order to help reduce the risk that material will be lost or stolen, the UK is making an offer to assist any nation with security improvements should they request our help. This assistance could be in the form of using our expertise to strengthen security, for example through improving facilities or through training personnel. To improve our defensive measures, the Government are also providing an additional £3 million to maintain our world-leading forensics and detection capability at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE).

The Government recognise that urgent action is required to address proliferation of nuclear weapons. The “Road to 2010” plan sets out a phased approach which will enable progress on non-proliferation and multilateral disarmament. In the first instance, steps must be taken to improve transparency of current weapons capabilities, as we seek greater control to prevent expansion of those capabilities. The second stage is verifiable multilateral reductions in arsenals. Finally, we must work globally both to establish the security conditions that will enable a world free from nuclear weapons and to overcome the technical and policy challenges associated with the complete abolition of nuclear weapons. For our part, as soon as it becomes useful for our arsenal to be included in a broader negotiation, Britain stands ready to participate and to act.

There is growing momentum across the globe to tackle these strategic challenges. The UK has been a civil and military nuclear power for many decades and so we have a great deal of expertise to offer. As we head towards next year’s NPT review conference, I am committed to making the UK a leading nation in the drive to develop credible answers to the nuclear questions that face us today. It is vital that we make progress—I believe this strategy sets out what the UK can do alone and in partnership with other countries in the period up to the conference and beyond to bring us the security and prosperity we seek in the decades to come.

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