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Nuclear Weapons

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what capabilities have been developed to verify the reduction in nuclear weapons since July 1998; and if he will make a statement. [51489]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 25 April 2002]: Following commitments made in the Strategic Defence Review the Ministry of Defence has developed its capability to consider technologies, skills and techniques which may be utilised in the verification of the reduction and elimination of nuclear weapons. The MOD published a paper entitled 'Nuclear Verification' in April 2000 which summarised the work of an initial study by the Atomic Weapons Establishment Aldermaston which examined the United Kingdom's capabilities to verify the reduction and elimination of nuclear weapons. A verification research programme has also been established to cover further technical and systems studies and this is continuing. MOD will continue to maintain its awareness of technologies which may be relevant to the verification of nuclear disarmament.

Defence Diplomacy Mission

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the enhanced arms control programme set up under the Defence Diplomacy Mission of the strategic defence review; how many staff were dedicated to this programme in (a) July 1998 and (b) April 2002. [51259]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 25 April 2002]: Principal achievements of the enhanced arms control programme under the Defence Diplomacy Mission of the strategic defence review have included:

Nuclear arms control

After withdrawal of the RAF's freefall nuclear bomb, Trident is now our only nuclear system. All WE-177 warheads have been dismantled, as have all Chevaline warheads. The operationally available stockpile has been reduced 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 cold war. The readiness of our nuclear forces has been reduced. Only a single Trident submarine is now on deterrent patrol, carrying 48 warheads. The submarine patrol is normally on several days' "notice to fire" and its missiles are de-targeted.

Fissile material no longer required for defence purposes has been placed under international safeguards and all enrichment and reprocessing facilities in the UK are now subject to Euratom safeguards and liable to international inspection by the IAEA. The MOD has become more transparent about its nuclear and fissile material stockpiles. The Ministry of Defence published a report on Historical Accounting and Plutonium in April 2000.

The MOD has taken a lead in promoting the issue of the international verification of nuclear arms reductions and commissioned the Atomic Weapons Establishment

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(AWE) Aldermaston to conduct studies. An initial report entitled Nuclear Verification was published in April 2000 and a programme has begun to develop UK expertise in verifying the reduction and elimination of nuclear weapons internationally.

The MOD worked with the FCO to enable the UK to play a key role in the successful agreement of a final document at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in 2000 which set out a programme of action for the next five years.

The MOD has supported FCO efforts leading to the UK signature and ratification of the protocols to the treaty of Pelindaba (African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone) in 2001. It has played an active role in establishing the verification mechanisms for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban treaty (CTBT) through scientific support to the Provisional Technical Secretariat of the CTBT organisation in Vienna and, together with the FCO, has continued to promote its early entry into force.

Biological and toxin weapons convention

The MOD has provided expert technical and policy advice as part of the delegation to the ad hoc group in Geneva negotiating a protocol to strengthen the biological and toxin weapons convention (BTWC), as well as the delegation to the BTWC Review Conference, including drafting a number of important technical papers. In particular, DSTL Porton Down made a leading contribution to the technical aspects of the draft protocol and drafted a thorough and well received review of scientific and technological developments to inform the Review Conference. This input has been a key factor enabling the UK to play a leading role in these negotiations. The MOD has also contributed substantially to the Green Paper on Biological Arms Control to be published by the Foreign Secretary on 29 April.

Chemical weapons convention

The MOD has also provided expert technical and policy advice as part of the delegation to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague, including drafting a number of important technical papers. This input has played a key part in enabling the UK to play a leading role in the OPCW. We have provided a programme of training to enhance the capabilities of OPCW inspectors. This year we have contributed £50,000 to the OPCW voluntary fund to provide assistance to states in the event that they are attacked with chemical weapons. We have continued to conduct annual practice challenge inspection exercises to test our own responses and to help provide training to the OPCW inspectors. DSTL Porton Down is one of some 12 laboratories world wide that has achieved and retains the status of designation by the Director-General of the OPCW for the analysis of chemical samples. With the FCO, we have worked bilaterally with a number of states to clarify issues arising from their declaration of relevant facilities and activities under the chemical weapons convention.


We have initiated a programme of assistance to Russia with destruction of its chemical weapons and for biological non-proliferation projects, contributing up to £12 million over three years. We have successfully negotiated a treaty with Russia covering this assistance, which the Defence Secretary signed on 20 December 2001. We have also attracted to the UK programme

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contributions worth some euro 2 million and £1.4 million from the EU and Norway respectively, which MOD will manage on their behalf.

Conventional arms control

Since July 1998 the Joint Arms Control Implementation Group (JACIG) has conducted or hosted some 400 inspections or visits related to existing arms control treaties, such as the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, or confidence and security building agreements, such as Vienna Document 1999. This includes 45 missions related to the Open Skies treaty. These have involved regular contact with all 54 other nations in the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), although inspections are not conducted on or by other NATO nations. In addition, JACIG has conducted a variety of bilateral activities, outside formal treaty requirements, designed to foster good working relationships with a number of OSCE nations, particularly with Russia and countries in the Balkans. These have included running language training and arms control inspectors' courses, lecturing at overseas institutions, and providing technical expert advice in a variety of forums.

We played a positive role in the convention on certain conventional weapons (CCW) in gaining a mandate to take forward discussions to address explosive remnants of war.

We have supported implementation of the Ottawa convention in a number of ways, including through the provision of a member of staff, jointly with the Department for International Development, to the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining.

Export control regimes

Together with the FCO we have achieved a well established outreach programme to 12 countries on export control and non-proliferation. We have increased the effectiveness of the Wassenaar Arrangement, which covers the transfers of conventional weapons and dual-use material, particularly with respect to information sharing a transparency. We have agreed guidelines on the export of man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS) and criteria for judging destabilising transfers of conventional weapons. We have also been instrumental in the restructuring of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.


An MOD representative played an active role in the UN Secretary-General's panel which proposed the new UNMOVIC (United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission), on which MOD provides the UK commissioner. We have also assisted in the training of UNMOVIC inspectors.

Working with other Departments

The MOD works closely with the FCO as well as the DTI, DfID and other Government Departments to formulate arms control policy, negotiate in international forums and implement non-proliferation measures.

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Staff numbers

The staff numbers involved in MOD work on arms control as part of the Defence Diplomacy Mission are as follows:

Staff numbers
(a) July 1998134
(b) April 2002140


Numbers are full-time equivalents rounded to nearest whole number. They include both civilian and military staff. They exclude those in a support role and work conducted for other Departments.

Naval Vessels

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to put further Royal Navy vessels at states of low readiness. [52895]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 26 April 2002]: The plan to hold HMS Sheffield at extended readiness from November 2002 until September 2004 was declared on 4 March 2002, Official Report, column 34W.

On current plans, and commensurate with force levels endorsed within the SDR, HMS Invincible will be held at extended readiness from 2006 until she is withdrawn from service towards the end of this decade.

It has been decided that the Type 42 Destroyer HMS Glasgow will be placed at extended readiness from May 2002 to early July 2002. This will not affect the Royal Navy's ability to meet its current level of commitments during that priod.

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