HL Deb 27 July 1999 vol 604 cc1392-4

3.5 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty agreed in 1995–96, with its verification and monitoring regime, has not come into force and whether they will exercise their right under the treaty to call a special conference to accelerate ratification.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean)

My Lords, the treaty has not yet come into force because a number of key states have yet to ratify it. I can confirm to my noble friend that the Government will indeed exercise their right, as one of the countries which have ratified the treaty, to call a special conference this autumn to consider ways to accelerate its entry into force. The United Kingdom has been leading international preparations for this event for nearly a year.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, I am pleased to receive so affirmative a response from my noble friend the Minister. However, may I suggest that if the Government want to accelerate the process still further towards their aim of the elimination of nuclear weapons, they should consult the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Carver, who will show them a better way?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, perhaps I may take the opportunity to wish my noble friend a very happy birthday.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I am sure that he deserves the congratulations of the whole House on reaching the splendid age of 91. My noble friend, even in his 92nd year, is as assiduous as ever in pursuing these issues. I am delighted to talk to whoever in your Lordships' House is able to offer help, guidance and advice on how to get the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty into force as quickly as possible. We cannot formally call the conference until September, but we are organising for it. It will take place in Vienna on 6th to 8th October. Its importance lies in the political message which we hope it will send to those who have not yet signed the treaty and to those who have signed the treaty but not yet ratified it.

Lord Moynihan

My Lords, what indication does the Minister have that India and Pakistan will sign the treaty before the third anniversary of the treaty's opening for signature, particularly in the light of the statement of India's foreign minister that India will not sign the treaty before the general election there? Furthermore, will the Minister kindly inform the House what initiatives the Government have taken to urge the Indian Government to fulfil their commitment made last year? Can she confirm that it remains the Government's policy that India must sign the treaty without conditionality?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, it remains our policy that everyone must sign the treaty without conditionality. Of course, we have received welcome assurances from both India and Pakistan that they intend to sign the treaty. India has said that it will not test again before such signing takes place. It is very important that that is done on an unconditional basis. We have welcomed opportunities to reaffirm with the Indian and Pakistani Governments that these are their intentions.

Lord Monkswell

My Lords, bearing in mind that the conference to which my noble friend refers will take place during the Recess and the spillover period, and bearing in mind also the reputations in this field of my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, will the Minister consider taking them along as advisers to the UK delegation?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, the list of those attending the conference has still to be fixed. I consulted the advisers in the department today about the level of representation that will be available. It will be very senior representation. I thank my noble friend for his wise suggestion about other sources of wisdom which may be available to the Government on this occasion.