HC Deb 27 October 2003 vol 412 cc8-9WS
Mr. Keetch

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if it is Her Majesty's Government's policy to reserve the right to be the first to use weapons of mass destruction in war. [133719]

Mr. Hoon

The phrase 'weapons of mass destruction', is generally held to refer to nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

The United Kingdom is a State Party to the Chemical Weapons Convention and Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention which outlaw the use and possession of chemical and biological and toxin weapons respectively. The UK gave up such capabilities in the 1950s.

We maintain only a minimum nuclear deterrent, the purpose of which is to prevent war rather than fight it.

As the Government has made clear on many occasions, we would be prepared to use nuclear weapons only in extreme circumstances of self-defence. As our overall strategy is to ensure uncertainty in the mind of any aggressor about the exact nature of our response, and thus to maintain effective deterrence, we do not define the exact circumstances under which we would be prepared to use nuclear weapons.

We would not use our weapons, whether conventional or nuclear, contrary to international law.