HC Deb 03 June 1991 vol 192 cc129-30W
Mr. Atkinson

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many hours of inspection are allowed under existing disarmament treaty arrangements for(a) British and American observers to visit Soviet armament sites and (b) Soviet observers to visit British and American armament sites; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Archie Hamilton

The United Kingdom has incurred rights and duties of inspection of military sites under two main agreements to which it is a signatory: the Vienna document 1990 on confidence and security-building measures in Europe, and the CFE treaty, which has not yet been ratified.

Section VIII of the Vienna document sets out compliance and verification provisions, under which the United Kingdom and Soviet Union are obliged to accept evaluation visits. Each such visit must take place within a single working day and last no more than 12 hours.

When ratified, the inspection protocol of the CFE treaty will allow inspection teams of participating states to spend up to 48 hours at sites notified as containing equipment limited by the treaty. There will also be provision for challenge inspections which may last up to 24 hours.

Although the United Kingdom is not a party to the INF treaty, the Soviet Union has the right to conduct inspections of sites within the United Kingdom to verify the elimination of US missiles. Procedures are set out fully in the associated protocol on inspections. For base-line, close-out and short-notice inspections, inspectors may spend up to 24 hours at a facility they are inspecting; this may be extended by up to a further eight hours if the inspected site agrees. For elimination inspections, because of the number of missiles to be eliminated, there is no specified time limit for each inspection.

The equivalent rights and duties of the United States Government under agreements to which it is a party are a matter for the US Government.