HC Deb 06 March 1996 vol 273 cc326-7
2. Mr. Cousins

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to prevent the proliferation of strategic weapons and their delivery systems in west and south Asia. [17258]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. David Davis)

We are concerned about the possible proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems throughout the world. We urge all states to accede to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, the chemical weapons convention and the biological weapons convention. We play an active part in efforts to control the spread of missiles and the supply of equipment related to the development of weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. Cousins

Does the Minister recognise that, in the 1980s, Britain passed to Iraq nuclear weapons-making technology and Vickers tanks that could have been converted into launch vehicles for missiles, and that British expertise contributed to the development of Scud missiles into long-range weapons? Now that, in the same region, there are five or six countries with nuclear weapons-making capacity and six or seven with the ability to deliver those weapons in long-range missiles, what specific guidelines do the Government have to prevent the further proliferation of that evil technology in that unhappy region?

Mr. Davis

The hon. Gentleman's retailing of a tired old story demonstrates his lack of judgment and why he was sacked from the Labour Front-Bench team some time ago. We have been active in the United Nations special commission on Iraq, which has raised continuing concerns about Iraq's ballistic missile, chemical and biological weapons programmes, and in the International Atomic Energy Agency in trying to put in place on-going monitoring and verification. Similarly, elsewhere in the area, we are encouraging countries to join the non-proliferation treaty. The hon. Gentleman would perhaps do better to join that encouragement rather than just attack this country.

Mr. Forman

Since the development of strategic weapons in west and south Asia—or any other part of the world—can sometimes be a consequence as well as a cause of very grave regional problems, is my hon. Friend aware of the urgent need for Britain to do even more to try to help reach a solution to the vexed problem of Kashmir, which is in that geographical zone? Can he bring the House up to date on how the Government are trying to bring together India and Pakistan, two prominent members of the Commonwealth, and reach a satisfactory peace for Kashmir?

Mr. Davis

There is no new initiative with respect to that part of the world. My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the potential of weapons of mass destruction destabilising that part of the world. We have put a great deal of pressure on Governments there to ensure that they join the non-proliferation treaty as non-nuclear weapon states.

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