HC Deb 21 January 2003 vol 398 cc228-9W
Llew Smith

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the initiatives taken by the United Kingdom since May 1997 in respect of furtherance of the aims of Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. [91963]

Mr. Mike O'Brien

The UK has a very good record in fulfilling its NPT obligations. In furtherance of the aims of Article VI of The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the UK has, since May 1997withdrawn and dismantled the RAF's freefall WE 177 nuclear bomb, so that Trident is now our only nuclear weapons system; reduced our operationally available stockpile to fewer than 200 warheads, which is a reduction of more than 70 per cent. in the potential explosive power of our nuclear forces since the end of the Cold War; dismantled the UK's last Chevaline warhead in April 2002; reduced the readiness of our nuclear forces. Only a single Trident submarine at a time is now on deterrent patrol, carrying 48 warheads. The submarine on patrol is normally on several days 'notice to fire' and its missiles are de-targeted; placed fissile material no longer required for defence purposes under international safeguards, and all enrichment and reprocessing facilities in the UK are now liable to international inspection; been more transparent about our nuclear and fissile material stockpiles and begun a national historical accounting study for fissile material produced; published an initial summary report on the verification of the reduction and elimination of nuclear weapons. The Atomic Weapons Establishment Aldermaston is undertaking work on this issue; ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and promoted its early entry into force; ratified the relevant protocols to the Treaty of Raratonga (South Pacific Nuclear Weapon Free Zone) and signed and ratified the relevant protocols to the Treaty of Pelindaba (African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone); supported Nuclear Weapon Free Zones in central Asia, south east Asia, and the middle east, and is in negotiations with the relevant states for the first two of these; and continued to press for negotiations to begin at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty.

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