§ Madam Speaker
We now come to a statement—[Interruption.] Will Members please leave the Chamber quickly as we have an important statement to hear now?
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd)
With permission, Madam Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the outcome of the non-proliferation treaty review and extension conference.
For 25 years, the non-proliferation treaty has helped prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. It is one of the essential foundations of our security. On 11 May the parties to the treaty decided unanimously to extend the treaty indefinitely. That decision is excellent news. A permanent treaty, properly applied, will make the world a safer place. It will provide the stability and predictability essential to continuing efforts towards disarmament and to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
The conference also agreed by consensus a number of important texts, copies of which will be placed in the Library. The declaration on principles and objectives for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament calls upon states not party to the treaty, in particular those with unsafeguarded nuclear facilities, to join it as a matter of urgency. It affirms the support of all states parties for the safeguards regime administered by the International Atomic Energy Agency and for efforts to increase the agency's capability to detect undeclared nuclear activities.
The programme of action on disarmament in the declaration stresses the importance of completing negotiations for a universal and verifiable comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty no later than 1996, the early conclusion of negotiations on a convention banning world wide the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and the determined pursuit by the nuclear weapon states of systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goal of eliminating those weapons.
The British delegation played a weighty part in negotiating the declaration. The Government endorse it. The objectives it sets are in line with the policies we have pursued and will continue to pursue. When I spoke to the conference on 18 April, I underlined our commitment to early progress on the comprehensive test ban treaty and a cut-off convention. As the House knows, we have dropped our requirement for so-called safety tests and we have stopped production of fissile material for explosive purposes. I made clear in New York our readiness to join multilateral negotiations for the global reduction of nuclear weapons when progressive reductions by the United States and Russia bring their forces to a level comparable with our own minimum deterrent.
The conference decided that the treaty's review mechanism should be strengthened. It agreed that review conferences should be held every five years, that those conferences should be prepared more intensively and that their proceedings should be better structured to make them more effective. We welcome these decisions. It is essential that adherence to the treaty be properly monitored.
The agreements reached in New York were the result of many months of careful and painstaking negotiation. Our delegation was one of 21 in the core negotiating 152 committee convened by the conference chairman. We worked closely with the United States, our European Union partners and other members of the group of western countries. We also collaborated closely with key non-aligned states. I would mention South Africa, in particular, which did outstanding work in achieving a result acceptable to all. The effort was immense and, for example, involved about 150 of our diplomatic posts around the world as they put our case, but it was abundantly worth while.
§ Mr. Robin Cook (Livingston)
May I welcome the extension of the non-proliferation treaty, which for two decades has provided an international barrier to the spread of nuclear weapons? May I also welcome the Foreign Secretary's praise for South Africa? Its decision to dismantle its nuclear devices and to play a full part in the non-proliferation treaty shows a commitment to nuclear disarmament on which the Government of South Africa are to be congratulated.
Will the Foreign Secretary admit, however, that the debates at the review conference were much more controversial than his statement acknowledges? Will he confirm that the conference failed to agree the review text on progress under the treaty because most non-aligned countries do not believe that enough has been done by the nuclear weapon powers to honour their commitment under article 6 to pursue negotiations on nuclear disarmament? Will he confirm that the European Union was unable to table a unanimous text because even a number of European countries did not accept that enough had been done under article 6 by both France and Britain?
Does the Foreign Secretary recall stating in January that he didnot feel any particular pressure from…non-nuclear weapon statesfor nuclear disarmament by Britain? Can he honestly repeat that claim after three weeks of such pressure at the review conference? Will he now recognise that the extension of the non-proliferation treaty must not be taken as removing the pressure on the nuclear powers to negotiate towards disarmament?
May I press the Foreign Secretary on what steps the Government are going to take to implement the principles and objectives in the final declaration of the review conference? It may come as a surprise to his Back Benchers, but in his statement he took credit for the weighty part played by Britain in negotiating that declaration. What is Britain going to do now to honour it?
The declaration demands assurances by nuclear weapon powers that they will not use such weapons against countries that do not possess them. Will the British Government therefore abandon the right that they have claimed to use nuclear weapons against countries that have none? Can the Foreign Secretary name the circumstances in which he thinks that it would be justifiable to use nuclear weapons against such countries?
§ Mr. Cook
I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that I am quoting from the declaration that the Conservative Government have claimed a weighty part in negotiating. The House wants to know what the Government are going to do to implement the commitments that they made in New York.
153 The declaration calls for respect for nuclear-free zones. Will the Government respect all such zones and, if so, will they drop their refusal to observe the south Pacific nuclear-free zone? The declaration calls for the detection capability of the International Atomic Energy Agency to be increased. Is the Foreign Secretary aware that the safeguards budget of the agency has been frozen for 10 years? What, therefore, does he propose to do to increase its capability?
Finally, the Foreign Secretary stated that he endorsed the declaration and quoted the commitment in it to the elimination of nuclear weapons. His endorsement of that declaration is welcome, particularly since it has been reported that the British delegation privately lobbied to drop the commitment to the elimination of nuclear weapons. In view of that position in the negotiations, and of the expression of disagreement with it from his Back Benchers, the Government will be judged on their commitment to the elimination of nuclear weapons, not by his statement today, but by their record in the remaining two years available to them, and on what steps they take to working towards a world without nuclear weapons.
§ Mr. Hurd
I can answer some of the hon. Gentleman's specific questions. I am glad that he was glad about the outcome of the conference.
On funding, we agree that every effort should be made to ensure that the International Atomic Energy Agency has the necessary financial and human resources, and we are willing to consider a fully justified and controlled real increase in the agency's regular budget in 1997–98 to strengthen the safeguards regime.
On security assurances, the declaration states that wewill not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states parties to the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons except in the case of an invasion or any other attack on the UK, its dependent territories, its armed forces or other troops, its allies, or on a state towards which it has a security commitment, carried out or sustained by such a non-nuclear-weapon state in association or alliance with a nuclear weapon state.The hon. Gentleman will want to study that declaration, but I think that it gives a reasonable answer to his question.
As I reported to the House when the hon. Gentleman questioned me about it a short time ago, I gave a certain number of undertakings in New York about the steps that we would now take. On a comprehensive test ban treaty, we no longer press for tests on safety grounds because we believe that we can maintain our deterrent without such tests. We have agreed to a cut-off in the production of fissile material and have given the security assurance that I mentioned. I also said that, in a world in which US and Russian nuclear forces were counted in hundreds rather than thousands, Britain would respond to the challenge of multilateral talks on the global reduction of nuclear arms. That corresponds closely to the wording of the declaration that was finally agreed.
The hon. Gentleman is in difficulty here. In the past few weeks, he has spent a good deal of energy setting out at considerable length in the broadsheets which he and his hon. Friends read, and in the New Statesman and Society, the reasons why the British Government could not achieve an indefinite extension of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty without making concessions about our deterrent which we were not willing to make. He has been proved entirely wrong. We have managed to join others in notching up this significant achievement for the greater 154 safety of the world without giving undertakings about our minimum national deterrent, which the hon. Gentleman wrongly said would be indispensable. He is clearly wrong, which is why we had those equivocations today.
We believe that our tactics and strategy were well directed and that we gave undertakings that were necessary, but not further undertakings that would weaken this country's security.
§ Mr. David Howell (Guildford)
Does my right hon. Friend accept that the indefinite extension of the treaty is good for the world, and that he and his colleagues in this country have played a significant part in achieving that result? Does he also accept, however, that the problem with all those treaty-based regimes is not so much signing the bits of paper as achieving monitoring, compliance, verification and the underpinning of intelligence, without which none of the treaties will work, because countries will sign them without necessarily complying with them? Will he assure us that resources will be put in place, both nationally and internationally, particularly in the intelligence sphere, to ensure that this treaty-based regime, like those for chemical and biological weapons when those treaties are signed, go forward and are made to work in an increasingly dangerous world?
§ Mr. Hurd
I agree entirely with my right hon. Friend. We need a treaty—we now have one—that is indefinitely extended. But having got the treaty signed, we must ensure that the signatures are worth while. We have anxieties about two countries that have signed the treaty: we have continuing anxieties about North Korea; and we have anxieties about Iran, which have been fairly well documented in recent weeks.
It is important that the IAEA is properly budgeted—the hon. Member for Livingston asked about this—to carry out its duties, and that member states use all their assets and abilities to document the carrying out of the treaty in practice.
§ Mr. Menzies Campbell (Fife, North-East)
May I welcome the extension of the treaty, particularly the additional commitment to a test ban treaty? Does the Foreign Secretary share the disappointment of many that, so soon after the decision to extend the treaty, the Chinese Government carried out a nuclear test?
The Foreign Secretary did not refer to the middle east, but he will be aware that that is an area where the proliferation issue is at its most acute. When Israel refuses to acknowledge its possession of nuclear weapons, Iraq has previously signed the non-proliferation treaty but ignored it and Iran is clearly embarked on a programme designed to achieve nuclear capability, how will the treaty assist the issue of nuclear proliferation in the middle east?
§ Mr. Hurd
We noted the Chinese test yesterday. I was not particularly surprised by it, but it shows how far we still have to go. It is worth noting that the Chinese statement includes a clear commitment to abide by a comprehensive test ban treaty when it is agreed. The middle east has been a difficult area of negotiation because of the attitude taken by Israel, which is understandable, but to some extent out of date. The conference passed a resolution on the middle east. It does not single out Israel, but we believe that all non-party states in the middle east—there are several of them— 155 should adhere to the treaty and it is particularly important that states with unsafeguarded nuclear facilities should accept safeguards.
§ Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington)
While welcoming the Government's willingness to support extra resources and appropriate personnel for the IAEA, if that proves necessary, will my right hon. Friend say more about the part that we may play in future multilateral negotiations on our strategic deterrent? He mentioned that we may be prepared to join those negotiations if and when the two super-powers, as they were once called, reduce their strategic armoury to roughly our level. Can he confirm that our level represents about 5 per cent., for example, of the American strategic capability?
§ Mr. Hurd
We believe that our level, which has substantially reduced in explosive power in recent years, is the minimum that we need. It is a small proportion of the armoury either of the United States and Russia. As I said in New York and repeated to the House a few minutes ago, a world in which American and Russian nuclear forces were counted in hundreds rather than thousands would be one in which we would respond to the challenge of multinational talks on the global reduction of nuclear arms. That is similar to what the Government have said before. It is reasonable, and it is as far as we could be expected to go.
§ Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)
Perhaps the Foreign Secretary would tell us what is so understandable about Israel's nuclear policy. Other countries could mount exactly identical arguments.
§ Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)
Will my right hon. Friend commend the Government of the Ukraine on their positive programme of dismantling its nuclear forces, thus creating a very satisfactory background for the recent visit of President Clinton, which was an outstanding success? What part did the United Kingdom play in advising Ukrainian authorities on their programme of dismantling their nuclear forces and what part might we and our Western European Union partners play in confidence-building measures to restore Ukraine?
§ Mr. Hurd
My hon. Friend is entirely right. If the Ukraine, which inherited some of the considerable power of the Soviet Union's nuclear weapons stockpile, had acted differently, the whole story would have had a much less happy ending. Ukraine had a political problem and wrestled with it and that was not easy. I and other Foreign Ministers from the west visiting Kiev urged the Ukrainians to move ahead, and they have done so. The result was satisfactory and, as my hon. Friend clearly knows, we and the Americans have given practical help to the Ukraine—for example, in transporting weapons to Russia for decommissioning.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
Should not the Foreign Secretary's words condemning China's nuclear 156 test yesterday have been stronger? Why is it that, time and time again, excuses are made for that notorious police state? I know that the President of the Board of Trade is in China, but surely—as with South Africa in the past—appeasement does not pay. It is about time we stopped supporting a notorious tyranny.
§ Mr. Hurd
I am not conscious that I was supporting it. I simply explained what happened and what will be the content of the Chinese statement. I hope that the outcome will be a comprehensive test ban treaty that we are prepared to join and by which the Chinese, as they said yesterday, will abide when it is agreed. That is the way to make sure of no more tests of that kind.
§ Mr. Harold Elletson (Blackpool, North)
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the treaty's extension, but is he confident that all its signatories will be as good as their word? Will be specifically comment on the position of the Russian Government, who also signed the conventional forces in Europe treaty but who have completely ignored its provisions, to deploy extra tanks and troops on Russia's southern flank? Russia is also engaged in trying to sell to Iran nuclear reactors capable of producing plutonium.
§ Mr. Hurd
My hon. Friend is, of course, right. One needs the treaty, but one needs also the performance—and that does not necessarily follow the treaty. I cited earlier North Korea and Iran, because we are concerned about the extent to which the treaty is observed in practice in those countries. However, without the treaty, one does not have a leg to stand on in talking to such countries.
I have no reason to doubt Russian good faith, but we and the Russians have a problem in respect of the CFE treaty. I share my hon. Friend's concern about Russia's transactions with Iran, which have to some extent been whittled down as a result of President Clinton's visit to Moscow. Nevertheless, we all continue to feel anxiety about that aspect.
§ Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)
The treaty requires nuclear weapon states to move towards disarmament. Now that the Government have the indefinite extension that they wanted, how will the disarmament process work? The Defence Select Committee said that Trident was a significant enhancement of the UK's nuclear capacity. If the Foreign Secretary is not to call that Committee a bunch of liars—and I hope not—how will we meet our disarmament obligations?
§ Mr. Hurd
The wording was negotiated with some difficulty and is important. We undertook to take part in working towards a global reduction. It is clear in common sense that the first steps must be taken by countries that have hugely the greatest armouries. That is why I used the phrase in New York and today about the thousands of American and Russian weapons coming down to hundreds. That is a reasonable way of looking at the matter.
In 1998, by comparison with the 1970s, there will be a 59 per cent. reduction in the total explosive power of our deterrent, or 62 per cent. if one leaves maintenance and other stocks out of the calculation. That substantive reduction takes account of the abandonment of nuclear free-fall bombs. No one can seriously argue, unless they 157 are beneath-the-skin devotees of unilateral disarmament, that our deterrent plans can be substantially reduced and yet maintained.
§ Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford)
Now that the treaty has been agreed and signed, does my right hon. Friend acknowledge that the real problem lies with those countries that would proliferate? China, which has just exploded a nuclear device, and North Korea are at the apex, but many scientists are prepared to sell their expertise to countries that have the money, such as Iran. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the real issue is what the west is prepared to do to deter countries that would obtain the technology, develop nuclear weapons and proliferate? Has he established any mechanism for discussing that matter?
§ Mr. Hurd
We consider problems case by case. They certainly exist. China is a nuclear power, so yesterday's test will not be particularly surprising to my hon. Friend or anybody else.
As regards North Korea, there is an agreement with the United States to freeze, and later to dismantle, its nuclear programme. So far, that has been implemented—I emphasise the words "so far".
As for nuclear "professors", of course that is a real problem, particularly out of the Soviet Union, but it is one on which the Russian Government—and all of us—keep a close eye, case by case. So far, the consequences have not been as dangerous as predicted. But my hon. Friend is perfectly right: whether we talk about plutonium or expert knowledge, these are lines of watchfulness that must be carried through.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
In his statement, did we not hear the Foreign Secretary claim that we were working closely with our European Union partners? How come, then, that three members of the EU declined to support any declaration praising Britain and France for our nuclear efforts?
What is being done about French testing in the south Pacific? Should we not give the same support to the Australians, in whose area the testing is being done, as many people in Britain gave the Canadians in the fishing dispute? Why should the Pacific be made filthy by our partners? If we have influence in the Union, why do we not use it?
§ Mr. Hurd
Just as our decision about testing was essentially one for us, so the French decision is one for them. We decided that we no longer need tests in the Nevada desert for the safety of our deterrent—we think there are ways that can be achieved without testing. It was not an easy decision, but we took it on the best advice.
What we aim for—this is true of France and China—is an indefinite ban on testing by which all will abide. The French have the same objective. After the success in New York we need to move forward to get precisely such an agreement.
§ Mr. Oliver Heald (Hertfordshire, North)
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the indefinite extension of the treaty is a tremendous success and a vindication of the Government's policy of negotiating from a position of strength? Does he share my concern at the fact that Opposition Members are talking yet again about making one-sided concessions with nothing in return—the old CND, old Labour party? Does he agree that the world is 158 a safer place because the Government ignored such advice during the 1980s? Will my right hon. Friend continue to ignore it and stand up for Britain's interests?
§ Mr. Hurd
I think that the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) and some of his hon. Friends may want to draw a line of forgetfulness under what they have been saying in the past few weeks. They have been proved wrong: my hon. Friend's analysis has been proved right. The only explanation for the excursion by the hon. Member for Livingston into this field has been a dim but fond recollection of the days when he said that Britain should immediately disengage from the nuclear arms race, and that it was nonsense on stilts for Britain to pretend to be a nuclear power. He has had a little nostalgic dream about the fond days of the past when he had a powerful voice but no responsibility. Now, albeit in a shadow way, he has responsibility—and on this occasion he has forgotten it.
§ Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)
Of course we all welcome the extension of the treaty, but I would caution the Foreign Secretary that many of us are impatient to see its aims fully implemented.
Will the documents agreed by consensus and to be placed in the Library be backed by a clear list of the countries that assented to or dissented from the consensus, together with the arguments used in each case? Was a baseline set and a timetable laid out for the multilateral negotiations that are to take place once Russia and America agree to reduce their warhead numbers to the minimum deterrent level of the United Kingdom?
§ Mr. Gary Streeter (Plymouth, Sutton)
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the news that Britain will be retaining its nuclear deterrent will be widely welcomed by all patriots who recognise, albeit reluctantly, that nuclear weapons cannot be uninvented? Does he share my concern that it is obvious from what Opposition Members have said today that the Labour party's commitment to Trident is paper-thin and, in the unlikely event of Labour forming the next Government, they would scrap Trident, leaving Britain unprotected and throwing 4,000 Plymouthians, whose jobs depend on the Trident submarine, out of work?
§ Mr. Hurd
The honest answer to my hon. Friend's question is that nothing about the Opposition's policy on these matters is clear. I thought that it was clear. I really did think until a few months ago that we had a consensus in favour of the Trident programme from all parties in the House. If there were such a consensus, it would be greatly to Britain's advantage. Since then, there has been a lot of cloudiness and a good deal of rowing back and nostalgia for the good old CND days. We look for a clear declaration to sort these matters out.
§ Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby)
What encouragement does the Secretary of State believe that he gives to non-nuclear states to stay non-nuclear when he refuses to rule out the first use of our nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear power?
§ Mr. Neil Gerrard (Walthamstow)
The Foreign Secretary referred several times to putting our nuclear weapons into multilateral talks when the United States and Russia have reduced their weapon levels to a level similar to ours. Is not the truth of the matter that, on any likely time scale, that will probably happen after Trident has become redundant? So he is saying that Trident will never become part of any multilateral negotiations and that for the next 25 years we will carry on saying to people in the rest of the world who do not have nuclear weapons, "Don't do as we do, do as we say"?
§ Mr. Hurd
The basis of the treaty which has now been indefinitely renewed is the distinction between the five nuclear powers and the non-nuclear powers. That is a matter of history. It is also a matter of fact that, even when START 2 is implemented, British nuclear forces will be considerably less than 10 per cent. of the total nuclear forces available to the United States or Russia. Those are the two countries with the huge armouries.
That is why it is reasonable for us and for the French to say that a world in which American and Russian nuclear forces were no longer counted in thousands but in hundreds would be one where we would be ready to join in multilateral negotiations on the global reduction of nuclear arms. That is a reasonable position. It is not reasonable to ask us, as the Opposition did, to move earlier than that on the subject. They said that only if we moved earlier would we get the indefinite extension of the treaty, and they have been proved wrong.
§ Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)
What criticisms were made during the conference, particularly by the Government of Mexico, to the effect that Britain's building, extending, arming and commissioning of the Trident submarine fleet is a breach of the non-proliferation treaty? It is an enormous extension of the seaborne nuclear fire power. Would not Britain's greatest contribution now be to announce that it will decommission its nuclear weapons as part of a progress towards a nuclear-free world?
§ Mr. Hurd
I think that I have answered that question several times. Whatever the Mexicans may say, most people in the House believe that it is in our national interest to have a minimum national deterrent. It was argued that we could not sustain that and renew the treaty indefinitely. We have managed to do so.
§ Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)
Has the Foreign Secretary drawn a line of forgetfulness under the written answer that he gave me on 5 April 1990 when, in reply to a request from me to beef up the IAEA inspections of the Iraq nuclear weapons programme, he said that Saddam Hussein was a signatory of the non-proliferation treaty and, as such, the Government had full confidence that he would abide by his international obligations and not work on developing nuclear weapons?
Happily, the Gulf war intervened, or Saddam Hussein would have those nuclear weapons from those three programmes that he was developing despite the NPT. Can 160 the Foreign Secretary give us a guarantee today that the 30 unstable nations in the world that have intercontinental ballistic missiles, which in many cases are run by malign dictators, are not hoodwinking us and the IAEA inspectors in the same way as Saddam Hussein did?
§ Mr. Hurd
Saddam Hussein certainly did do that. It has now been corrected—but at great cost, as the hon. Gentleman rightly points out.
A number of states have not signed the treaty. The hon. Gentleman knows which they are. Obviously, it is desirable for them to do so. A number of states have signed, but we are suspicious about their intentions: I have mentioned two in the House today. That is why we accept that the safeguards of the IAEA should be strengthened, and when there is a considered and costed programme we are prepared to support it.
§ Mr. John Hutton (Barrow and Furness)
I welcome the extension of the treaty, but will the Foreign Secretary tell us his view of the legal status of the declaration of principles and objectives that has accompanied its renewal? In particular, what new legal obligations on the United Kingdom Government will result from the extension in relation to a comprehensive test ban treaty and progress towards the global elimination of nuclear weapons?
§ Mr. Hurd
We have given undertakings on both points. I stated those undertakings in New York, and have reported them to the House. They are Government intentions, which we have openly declared.
I do not think that I should chance my arm in regard to the legal status of the declaration. It is not part of the treaty; it is alongside it. I think that it would be sensible if I wrote to the hon. Gentleman with a lawyer's answer. I shall make sure that I get it right, and will place the answer in the Library.
§ Mr. Robin Cook
The Foreign Secretary's reply has clouded the clarity of his opening statement, in which he pointed out that the declaration called for the total elimination of nuclear weapons. He said that he endorsed that declaration; indeed, he even claimed credit for a weighty part in its negotiation.
Unaccountably—although given several opportunities by his own Back Benchers—the Foreign Secretary failed to remind us that his Government are now committed to the total elimination of nuclear weapons. For the avoidance of doubt, will he now tell the House whether he and the Government accept that goal in the declaration and, if so, what specific contribution Britain will make to the elimination of nuclear weapons in the two years that are all that remain to the Government, who will then be out of office?
§ Mr. Hurd
The hon. Gentleman has misquoted me slightly, but only slightly. I reported to the House that the programme of action on disarmament in the declaration stresses the importance of, among other matters, the determined pursuit by the nuclear weapon states of systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goal of eliminating those weapons. That is true, and it has been true ever since the treaty was signed.
During these exchanges, I have repeatedly answered questions from Opposition Members about how we intend to set about that. What I said about the hundreds of 161 weapons in the United Kingdom and the thousands of weapons possessed by the United States and Russia is the answer to the hon. Gentleman's question.