HC Deb 29 October 2001 vol 373 cc615-6
3. Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

If he will make a statement on progress in nuclear non-proliferation. [8351]

The Minister of State for Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram)

The Government have always regarded the prevention of nuclear proliferation as having the highest importance. The way ahead for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament was set out at the successful nuclear non-proliferation treaty review conference last year.

The United Kingdom played a key role in achieving a positive outcome to that conference, and we have been following through the actions agreed there. Agreed international priorities are to ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and to stop nuclear testing, both by observing the existing moratorium and through the comprehensive test ban treaty.

Lynne Jones

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. What assessment have the Government made of the US Government's refusal to ratify the comprehensive test ban treaty, their stated wish to abandon the anti-ballistic missile treaty and their continuing efforts to develop national missile defence? What are the effects of those on nuclear proliferation?

Mr. Ingram

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State dealt with those points in previous answers. We are involved in a comprehensive review of all matters, following 11 September. Clearly, we can take considerable comfort from the active role played by the US in engaging with its allies and countries with which it would not previously have engaged. We are now in a new international environment and progress can be made on the back of that.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex)

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, given the development of an increasingly pragmatic and more sustainable and sensible relationship with Russia, the forthcoming meeting between Presidents Bush and Putin represents a solid opportunity to come to a proper agreement on a balanced and verifiable reduction to a much lower level of nuclear warheads on both sides?

Mr. Ingram

The answer is a broad yes. We can all take encouragement from those discussions, not only with Russia but with other countries across the board. We are in a new environment, as I commented earlier, and much strength can be taken from that.

Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North)

Looking ahead 30 years, the MOD sees the threat of a missile attack with weapons of mass destruction as a low risk. Surely after 11 September we should see that, practically and tactically, the real and immediate danger is the surreptitiously smuggled weapon. We should be concentrating on the risk that, for example, a van in Parliament square containing a nuclear weapon could obliterate Westminster and Whitehall.

Mr. Ingram

I can assure the House that we ignore no threats—from wherever they may come.