Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Nuclear Weapons – Monday 1 November 2010
Paul Flynn (Newport West, Labour): To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the Prime Minister’s oral statement of 19 October 2010, Official Report, columns 805-06, on the Strategic Defence and Security Review, in what forums he expects discussions of the UK’s responsibilities for multilateral nuclear disarmament to take place.

Alistair Burt (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Afghanistan/South Asia, counter terrorism/proliferation, North America, Middle East and North Africa), Foreign and Commonwealth Office; North East Bedfordshire, Conservative)

The Government are committed to the long-term vision of a world without nuclear weapons and will press for multilateral progress as the primary means of achieving sustainable global nuclear disarmament.

The UK continues to take part in regular discussions on multilateral nuclear disarmament in the following international fora: the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty preparatory committees and five-yearly review conferences; the UN’s Disarmament Commission and First Committee; the preparatory commission for the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty Organisation; and the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. The Nuclear Weapon States will also discuss nuclear disarmament at a meeting of the P5 in Paris in 2011-following a similar conference hosted by the UK in 2009.

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion, Green): To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what position the Government plan to take in the forthcoming meeting of the United Nations First (Disarmament) Committee on the draft resolution on (a) the Nuclear Weapons Convention (draft resolution L.50) and (b) d-alerting (draft resolution L42).

Alistair Burt (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Afghanistan/South Asia, counter terrorism/proliferation, North America, Middle East and North Africa), Foreign and Commonwealth Office; North East Bedfordshire, Conservative): Resolution votes at the UN’s First Committee started in New York on 26 October 2010. The UK voted against the draft resolution on a Nuclear Weapons Convention (draft resolution L.26), together with 47 other countries including the US and all EU partners.

On 27 October 2010, the UK voted against the draft resolution on ‘de-alerting’ (L.42), along with the US and France. We gave a statement at the time of voting at First Committee, which explained that we do not accept that further de-alerting of nuclear weapons by the UK is necessary to prevent accidental use: our nuclear weapons are subject to the most rigorous command and control systems, and the UK has already significantly reduced the operational status of our nuclear deterrent.


Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion, Green): To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the oral answer by the Prime Minister to the hon. Member for Cambridge of 23 June 2010, Official Report, column 291 by the Prime Minister, whether the options considered under his Department’s policy on multilateral disarmament include relinquishing the UK nuclear deterrent; and if he will make a statement.

Alistair Burt (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office; North East Bedfordshire, Conservative): Our nuclear deterrent continues to play an important role in ensuring our national security. Large arsenals of nuclear weapons remain, and the risk of nuclear proliferation continues. Our judgment is that only a credible nuclear capability can provide the necessary guarantee to our security. The Government therefore share a commitment to the maintenance of the UK’s national nuclear deterrent, based on the ballistic missile submarine system.

The Government are committed to the long-term vision of a world without nuclear weapons and to fulfilling our disarmament obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The Government have pledged to press for multilateral disarmament and we will continue to work to create a safer and more stable world where the UK and others are able to relinquish their nuclear weapons.

Nuclear Weapons: Proliferation – Monday 8 March 2010

Harry Cohen (Leyton & Wanstead, Labour): To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what negotiating position his Department has adopted for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in May 2010; and what objectives he has set for the outcomes of that conference.

Mr. Ivan Lewis (Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office): The United Kingdom is committed to working intensively with a wide range of international partners to establish consensus for strengthening the non-proliferation and disarmament regime.

We want the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference to produce a mandate or action plan, which is balanced across the three mutually-reinforcing NPT pillars of non-proliferation, disarmament and the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Nuclear Weapons: Proliferation – Thursday 4 March 2010

Mr. Dai Davies (Blaenau Gwent, Independent): To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last met the (a) Parliamentary Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) Group and (b) Top Level Group of Parliamentarians for Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament and Non-proliferation to discuss nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament.

Mr. Ivan Lewis (Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office): My right. hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary last met and discussed nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament with the Top Level Group of Parliamentarians for Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament and Non-proliferation on 10 February 2010. He has not met recently with the Parliamentary Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament Group.

Iran – Tuesday 2 March 2010

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North, Labour): I thank the Minister for what he said about human rights in Iran and I agree with him on that. Will he look forward to the non-proliferation treaty review in May and extend efforts to create a nuclear-free middle east? That would help to defuse the situation and bring Israel into discussions about nuclear disarmament, which in turn would remove any arguments that could be used in favour of developing nuclear weapons in the region.

Mr. Ivan Lewis (Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office): My hon. Friend makes an important point. Every UN resolution on the question of Iran’s nuclear weapons capacity that has been proposed and passed talks about a middle east that is free of nuclear weapons. As a result, it is simply untrue for the Iranians to say, as they sometimes attempt to do, that we are not playing on a level playing field when it comes to our response to their nuclear weapons capacity. We should remember that this is not just about the threat to the stability of the middle east that would be posed by Iran developing nuclear weapons. The arms race that would be triggered in the region would be like nothing we have ever seen before, and that is why it is so crucial that we stop Iran developing nuclear weapons.

Nuclear Weapons – Wednesday 23 February 2010

Mr. Dai Davies (Blaenau Gwent, Independent): To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has made an assessment of the merits of entering the Trident system into multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations prior to the start of the nuclear non proliferation treaty review conference in May 2010.

Mr. Ivan Lewis (Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office): The UK firmly believes that sustainable global nuclear disarmament can only be achieved through a multilateral process, and stands ready to engage in a future broader multilateral process when the conditions are right. The UK is actively working to create these conditions and is playing a leading role globally in the nuclear disarmament debate. These conditions include watertight measures to prevent further proliferation, further cuts to the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals, and solutions to the technical, political and institutional challenges posed by nuclear disarmament.

We look forward to an agreement between the US and Russia to achieve significant cuts in their nuclear arsenals by agreeing a successor to the strategic arms reduction treaty. This will be a major contribution to our shared endeavour towards a world without nuclear weapons, and will help to build trust and pave the way in due course for greater reductions. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in May 2010 will be an important opportunity to agree actions for the future on non-proliferation, peaceful uses of nuclear energy as well as on nuclear disarmament, but setting target dates for a multilateral disarmament process at this stage would not make headway given current political realities.