HC Deb 28 March 1995 vol 257 cc811-2
4. Mr. Llew Smith

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to respond to the speech made by the Russian ambassador, Grigory Berdennikov, to the 23 February meeting of the conference on disarmament. [14627]

Mr. Rifkind

We noted the Russian ambassador's speech with great interest, and particularly welcomed the reaffirmation of Russian determination to secure the unconditional and indefinite extension of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Mr. Smith

Does the Minister agree with the Russian ambassador, who argued that all nuclear weapon states should be working towards the elimination of nuclear weapons and, in the meantime, should make a commitment not to increase their existing nuclear armaments or to put into service new sorts of strategic weaponry?

Mr. Rifkind

We recognise the desirability of working towards nuclear disarmament, but we must also be realistic and realise that nuclear technology cannot be disinvented. It is necessary to ensure that any progress in the direction recommended by the hon. Gentleman is based on a verification procedure that ensures that all countries observe the new requirements, otherwise the world would be much more dangerous.

Mr. Harry Greenway

Is my right hon. and learned Friend concerned about the dispersal of the nuclear arms of the former Soviet Union? Is he taking action with Russia to contain that?

Mr. Rifkind

After the break-up of the Soviet Union, there were nuclear weapons in Byelorussia, Kazakhstan and the Ukraine, as well as in the Russian Federation itself. Thanks to the measures that have been taken in the past few years, that situation seems to have been resolved—particularly as a result of the Ukraine agreeing to carry out its obligations as a non-nuclear power.