HC Deb 20 March 1987 vol 112 cc638-9W
Mr. Gregory

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to the convention for the protection and development of the natural resources and environment of the south Pacific region, and to the protocols to the south Pacific nuclear free zone treaty.

Mr. Renton

The United Kingdom welcomes the extension of the regional seas programme of the United Nations environment programme to the south Pacific, with the convention for the protection and development of the natural resources and environment of the south Pacific region. Such a convention in which all states in the region can participate will be of considerable value. Arrangements are in hand to enable the United Kingdom to sign this convention in respect of Pitcairn, our sole remaining dependent territory in the region. This is a further indication of our continued strong interest in the affairs of a region with whose members we have close ties.

We have also given careful consideration to the protocols to the south Pacific nuclear-free zone treaty (the treaty of Rarotonga). We have taken full account of our security interests in the region and more widely, the views of our allies and the regional states themselves, the texts of the treaty and protocols and the announced policy of the Soviet Union.

Against this background we have concluded that it would not serve our national interest to become party to the protocols to the treaty.

At the same time, we remain ready as a matter of policy to respect the intentions of the regional states as set out in protocol I. In other words, we have no intention of testing, manufacturing or basing nuclear weapons on Pitcairn, the only territory under our jurisdiction within the area covered by the treaty. Further, with respect to protocol II, we reaffirm the British undertaking given in 1978 to nonnuclear weapon states which are parties to the NPT or equivalent commitments, not to use nuclear weapons against such states except in the case of an attack upon the United Kingdom, its dependent territories, its armed forces or its allies by such a state in association or alliance with a nuclear weapon state. Third, in respect of protocol III, we note that we have no intention of conducting nuclear tests in the south Pacific.

We intend to keep our attitude to the treaty and the protocols under review. Any decision on a new approach would need to take account inter alia, of the following factors:

  1. (i) Signature and ratification of the treaty by all states elegible to become parties to it;
  2. (ii) Certain issues arising from the text of the treaty and the protocols, which have already been the subject of confidential discussion with the regional states;
  3. (iii) The status and implications of the Soviet declaration on signing the protocols, that it regards transit of nuclear weapons and visits by nuclear ships and aircraft as inconsistent with the nuclear-free status of the zone established by the treaty;
  4. (iv) The outcome of discussion of nuclear weapon-free zones at the third UN special session on disarmament; and the implications of this discussion and of any future extension of such zones to other regions for the security interests of the United Kingdom and our allies.