Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Eighth Report



122. The UK has been commended for the role it has played during arms control negotiations and also for setting a good example to the other nuclear weapon states in terms of making unilateral reductions to the size of its nuclear force and increasing the transparency of its nuclear holdings. We heard positive comments from other Ambassadors to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva about the UK delegation. Professor Walker told us that the British have played "a very constructive and important role" in arms control negotiations. He said that the UK:

    "did very, very important technical work on the [Comprehensive] Test Ban Treaty and it has done very important work recently on international safeguards and it has done a lot of work on the [Fissile Material] Cut-off Treaty. Next to South Africa, in fact, the British have probably done more work than any other state on the Biological Weapons Convention."[238]

Mr Jayantha Dhanapala, Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs at the United Nations, stated that "Britain's leadership in the fields of disarmament and non-proliferation has been impressive indeed" and commended the fact that the UK, leading by its example, "has encouraged other nuclear weapon states to increase the transparency of their nuclear arsenals, both in terms weapons and fissile materials."[239]

123. As we have detailed in this Report, there has been some encouraging progress on arms control in recent years. At the same time, there are some highly disturbing features of the Weapons of Mass Destruction situation world-wide. Despite all the effort on non-proliferation, the number of known nuclear weapon states is slowly enlarging. Whilst the overwhelming majority of responsible countries have renounced possession of both chemical and biological weapons, a small minority of regimes have acquired these weapons or are believed to be in the process of acquiring them covertly. The possibility that a terrorist organisation might obtain possession of a nuclear, chemical or biological weapon is a matter of the utmost concern. This has horrific potential. As we stated earlier in the Report,[240] one hundred kilograms of anthrax released from the top of a tall building in a densely populated area could kill up to three million people.

124. Britain as a nuclear weapon state, a permanent member of the Security Council, a leading member of NATO, and a member of the G8 and the EU has a key role and a key responsibility in trying to put all Weapons of Mass Destruction under international arms control regimes and in making progress towards their complete elimination. This must surely be one of the highest foreign policy priorities for the Government.

238   Q71. Back

239   Eliminating Nuclear Arsenals: The NPT Pledge and What It Means, Jayantha Dhanapala, Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, speech given to the All-Party Group on Global Security and Non-Proliferation, House of Commons, 3 July 2000-available at Back

240   See para. 2. Back

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