HL Deb 12 November 1997 vol 583 cc145-7

2.50 p.m.

Lord Chalfontasked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their policy with regard to the protocol on the application of nuclear safeguards approved by the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in May 1997.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Clinton-Davis)

My Lords, Her Majesty's Government strongly support the measures contained in the model protocol which was approved by the International Atomic Energy Agency board of governors on 15th May this year. The protocols based on this model will be additional to existing agreements between states and the IAEA for the application of safeguards. These protocols, once adopted, will support the twin objectives of increasing the agency's ability to detect clandestine nuclear activities in non-nuclear weapon states and increasing the effectiveness of the application of existing safeguards measures.

A copy of the text of the statement made by the UK governor to the IAEA to the board of governors on 15th May, together with a detailed list of measures which the UK intends to implement and a copy of the model protocol itself, will be placed in the Library of the House.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that full Answer. Does he agree that the illicit traffic in nuclear materials is one of the greatest existing threats to international security, and that the additional protocol could do much to prevent the threat if it were brought fully into effect? Will Her Majesty's Government do all that they can and use every endeavour to ensure that other countries, especially those which have nuclear weapons, sign the protocol so that it becomes universal and effective?

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Lord's propositions. Of course, illicit traffic is a threat to the entire globe. We will use our best endeavours to ensure that as many countries as possible adopt the procedures because that would be enormously helpful.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, is it the case that the best example that nuclear states can give to non-nuclear states is to become non-nuclear themselves?

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, as ever, my noble friend extends the Question. I do not agree with the proposition he has advanced. We are seeking to ensure that non-proliferation succeeds and that the powers which are available to the IAEA inspectors are enhanced. That advance is important and, as was said by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, we must ensure that it can be extended as widely as possible.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, will the Minister assure us that co-operation and intelligence between nuclear states are full and proper?

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, the significance of this protocol is to enhance the powers of the inspectors in important ways. That is the best way to gain the assurances, rather than to rely necessarily on information which is passed from one country to another.

Lord Carver

My Lords, will the Minister accept that his comments will receive strong support from everyone who believes that the proliferation of nuclear weapons is a danger? Will the Government continue to support any strengthening of the investigative and enforcement powers of the IAEA?

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and gallant Lord. His question reflects what this is all about, which is strengthening the enforcement powers. We are ensuring that there are greater powers to investigate situations in order to avoid the problem which he identified.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, does the extension of the powers of the IAEA allow it to deal with the enormous problems of redundant nuclear reactors and material such as the Russians have stored following the dismantling of their North Sea fleet? In view of the IAEA's adoption of greater transparency, will representations be made to the Russians that they should drop the charges against Dr. Alexander Nikitin who performed a great service to the world in revealing the dangers of the redundant reactors and the North Sea fleet?

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, with respect, I believe that the noble Lord should table a specific Question on that matter. I would then be able to give him an informed Answer.