HC Deb 13 February 2004 vol 418 cc94-5W
Mr. Rosindell

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the scope of international monitoring of weapons of mass destruction proliferation, with particular reference to biological and chemical weapons. [154858]

Mr. MacShane

The threat of proliferation of WMD has, in recent years been successfully limited by international arms control and effective multilateral treaties including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC).

The NPT is the cornerstone of the non-proliferation regime, with 188 States Parties. It forbids acquisition or possession of nuclear weapons, except by the five acknowledged nuclear weapons States, who are required to pursue negotiations on nuclear disarmament. The NPT requires non-nuclear weapons Parties to enter into safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in order to verify compliance. The IAEA's safeguards system is being strengthened by the introduction of an Additional Protocol expanding the IAEA's access. The UK is working with EU partners to see this Additional Protocol accepted as an international norm.

The CTBT provides for a global system of monitoring stations, using four complementary technologies, to record data necessary to verify compliance. Its aim is to achieve a total ban of explosive testing of nuclear weapons.

The CWC bans the production, acquisition and retention of chemical weapons and requires CW possessors to destroy, under supervision, CW stockpiles and production facilities. CWC implementation is verified by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) through on-site monitoring of CW destruction activity, and regular inspection of relevant industrial facilities. The CWC also provides for any Party with a concern about another's compliance to seek a challenge inspection. The CWC has 159 Parties, most recently including Libya's welcome accession.

The BWC has 151 Parties. The Fifth Review Conference of the BWC agreed in November 2002 on a three-year programme of work leading up to the Sixth Review Conference in 2006. This process is designed to strengthen the Convention, which currently has no ability to verify compliance. Assistance with the establishment of national legislation and regulation was provided to two States Parties following the annual Meeting of States Parties in 2003. The UK actively encourages universality of the Convention and urges all States that have not yet done so to sign and ratify the Convention.