HL Deb 06 July 1993 vol 547 cc1204-5

3.2 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, and if so why, they believe that the United Kingdom/United States transfers of nuclear weapons and material which have taken place and are taking place are not prohibited by the spirit of the non-proliferation treaty and by the letter of Article 1 of that treaty.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey)

My Lords, no nuclear weapons have been transferred between the United Kingdom and the United States. Transfers of nuclear materials between nuclear weapon states party to the non-proliferation treaty are not prohibited under the treaty.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that that statement is arguable? Perhaps she will forgive me for reading the opening words of Article I of the treaty, which states, Each nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices … directly, or indirectly"; That seems to exclude the transfer of such weapons. In assuring me that what she said is right—as I am sure the noble Baroness shortly will—can she answer the other question as to whether President Clinton's decision of yesterday will have the effect of reducing or eventually eliminating the traffic altogether?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, it is not sufficient to read the first section of Article 1 of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty; the noble Lord must also read the second part, which continues, and not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any non-nuclear-weapon State to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, or control over such weapons or explosive devices". If the noble Lord takes the paragraph as a whole, he will understand the Answer that I gave in response to his substantive Question. The announcement by the United States President, as my noble friend showed at col. 1118 yesterday, makes no difference to the capability of our Trident system. I do not believe that the noble Lord needs to have any of the anxieties that he frequently expresses.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I want to ask the Minister a slightly simpler question than that of my noble friend. In view of the UK's long standing collaboration with the USA on nuclear matters, can the Minister tell the House whether or not the Government will be supporting President Clinton's decision not only to take further steps towards creating a comprehensive test ban treaty, but also to extend the US moratorium on nuclear testing?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, we share the US non-proliferation objectives. Certainly we have no plans to test while the US moratorium continues, which is what I believe the noble Baroness was seeking to ascertain. We are prepared to participate fully and constructively in any negotiations for a comprehensive test ban. But the objective will be a ban which makes an effective contribution to non-proliferation goals. That is the way in which we have proceeded for a considerable time and will continue to proceed.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, in view of the fact that we must agree to differ about the interpretation of Article 1, can the Minister say whether, if they were to abandon Trident, the Government would be able to save sufficient money to avoid all the disruptions to the services which have been brought about by the candle-end reductions they have had to make as an alternative? Is it not the case that to abandon Trident would give the Government sufficient money to avoid all those reductions and at the same time reduce the PSBR?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I can only refer the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, to the answer given to him by my noble friend Lord Cranborne in the Statement on Defence Estimates at col. 1118.