Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-79)|
16 JANUARY 2007
Q60 Mr Crausby: Do you really think
that it would have any impact on Iran and North Korea whether
we abandoned or not. Quite a small proportion of the world has
nuclear weapons, and I should imagine that Iran and North Korea
very much see that America is the major threat from their point
of view, and they may well be justified in that. Do you really
believe that our decision to abandon nuclear weapons would have
any impact at all on their decisions?
Mr Kent: I repeat, our decision,
I think, should be in the context of calling for global nuclear
abolition negotiations. If someone like Henry Kissinger, not exactly
a dove, starts saying now is the time to begin this, I think we
should start listening and sitting up and taking notice. It is
not just us, we should be promoting this globally while we are
saying that in 20 years' time we will not have them.
Q61 Mr Crausby: Do other witnesses
want to comment on that? It is quite an important issue, this
beginning of non-proliferation.
Mr Ainslie: The way to deal with
this proliferation problem is internationally via the global community.
It is not Britain alone trying to say how we deal with this; we
want to be doing what we can to strengthen the international moves.
At the end of the day, the fundamental question is: why do people
not use nuclear weapons? You make this argument about it being
a deterrent, but I think the main reason people do not use nuclear
weapons in any sort of military sense is because there is a taboo
against their use, it is generally considered not to be the done
thing to do, and the important thing is to strengthen the extent
to which it is unacceptable for any country to use nuclear weapons.
That global general consensus and feeling we want to make stronger,
and us using the arguments that are in the White Paper is undermining
Ms Jones: I would concur with
what both Bruce and John have said about this being an opportunity
for us to take a different road, and I would refer you to the
International Crisis Group's summary of threats to the world that
was published in December. They noted that the UK, in publishing
the White Paper and in failing as a nuclear weapons state to take
the opportunity to take a lead on disarmament at this particular
time, was one of the things that they counted as a threat to world
security. I would also add a very tangential remark. When we protest
at Aldermaston we send press releases to local press and to news
feeds, and we have this thing called Google Search which sends
us little ticks when we appear in various publications, and it
is very interesting, the number of publications in Iran which
seem to be interested in the fact that people are demonstrating
outside Aldermaston against the development of new nuclear weapons.
This may be propaganda, I do not know what these newspapers are,
but it is not that these people are unaware of the potential for
developments here and it is time to start extending out, opening
out and saying that there are people here who are questioning
the need for new weapons, as there are in countries throughout
world, and there is a significant block within the non-nuclear
weapons states who have been trying to push for some meaningful
process to come out of the NPT.
Q62 Chairman: Ms McDonald.
Ms McDonald: Firstly, I think
that the British Government is responsible for what Britain does.
You mention what threats other countries may pose, such as the
United States' stockpile of nuclear weapons. We are not responsible
for those, so I do not think we can speak to that, but what we
are responsible for is trying to influence our own Government,
as you are, and it seems to me that nuclear disarmament is the
only action that will remove the justification for countries to
waste billions of their money, even if they can develop, produce
and maintain such weapons. So, that is our responsibility and
that is what we need to remove, the justification from the British
point of view.
Q63 Mr Crausby: I want to know what
effect this would have on governments, not the good people of
Iran. I accept that the good people of Iran, just as the good
people of this country, would be happy to see the elimination
of nuclear weapons without the threat. Anyone right-minded would
want to see a non-nuclear world, but what effect would our decision
to abandon Trident have on the Government of Iran and, indeed,
those counties sitting there waiting in the wings to see whether
there is going to be any real proliferation?
Mr Kent: It entirely depends on
what goes with that decision. We would perhaps invite a delegation
from Iran to come and talk with us about non-nuclear progress
on both sides. I think it would be very helpful. It is not just
a question of us saying "No", it is a question of the
political context into which it fits. Nobody expected a Landmines
Treaty to come about, but it did come about. You say everyone
wants a nuclear-free world. I am afraid that is really, up until
quite recently, not true. A large number of people in America
and this country believe absolutely implicitly that nuclear weapons
for ever and ever are the answer to our security, and now that
is changing. So a nuclear-free world is not something that everyone
has been about in different ways.
Q64 Mr Crausby: I think I said "all
right-minded people would want a nuclear-free world"?
Mr Kent: Thank you. All right.
Q65 Linda Gilroy: It sounds to me
very much as if Bruce Kent is taking a multilateral approach towards
disarmament. Is that how you would characterise the statement
you have just made?
Mr Kent: Absolutely. I think it
is a wonderful opportunity to point out that in 1978 this country
and the world at large, in the first special session, called on
all countries to proceed to disarmament unilaterally, bilaterally,
regionally and multilaterally, and that has been the CND's position
from the beginning. Nevertheless, it has been polarised by the
media into, "CND are only unilateral and you are only multilateral"you"
being anybody who is opposed to the CNDand that is nonsense.
Q66 Linda Gilroy: Can I pursue that
a little further in terms of how long you would see this process
taking. You have said we could say to people that we will not
renew our deterrent in 20 years' time, but if I can just take
you back to the opening statement, or proposition, which the Chairman
put where we are really talking about a submarine platform. I
am sure you have read the evidence we took in our last inquiry
and we have a very short window of time, according to the evidence
we took and accepted, in terms of maintaining our ability to produce
a submarine that will carry the deterrent. If you accept that,
then surely you also would have to accept that we would have to
make a unilateral commitment to disarmament, because we would,
in the course of the process you have just described, almost certainly
lose our ability to produce the platform.
Mr Kent: In terms of the timetable,
the Mayor of Hiroshima's campaign is based on the famous 2020,
that it is going to take until that sort of time to bring a treaty,
observable, monitored, effective, controlling fissile material,
inspections and all the rest of it, so it is a long lead-time.
You are pointing out that we have got a short time to make a decision.
I do not know the technicalities, but I point out what I said
in the beginning, that there is even a hint in this document that
we could buy the submarines from somebody else.
Q67 Linda Gilroy: I do not think
so. I think that is purely and simply saying that we may need
to maintain the sovereign capability. There are only three countries
in the world that can produce platforms, and I am sure we would
not be buying them from Russia.
Mr Kent: No, but we could buy
them from the United States, as we buy a lot of the other equipment
from the United States. I think that we should not be pushed by
the technicalities of our industrial base, as it were. There are
other ways of nuclear deterrents, apart from a Trident equivalent
submarine, if we wanted to continue.
Q68 Willie Rennie: I have sympathy
with what you are saying about the negotiations because I think
the Government has fallen short in terms of pushing for a new
round of negotiations; but do you really think, with the reputation
of George Bush and Tony Blair abroad just now and international
relations, that this is the right time to start those negotiations?
Do you really think that Iran and North Korea would come to the
table and start negotiating?
Mr Kent: I do not think those
two gentlemen are the right people to put forward as the pioneers
of negotiation, and I think that it is an open field on both sides
as to who might best do it. It is not your subject, but I was
quite surprised that Gordon Brown hung his hat on the British
independent nuclear deterrent post in the way that he did. He
had an opportunity to wait a bit before doing something else.
So, no, I do not think those two are very attractive, and they
are not here forever, are they?
Q69 Willie Rennie: But they are the
main players just now and you are talking about negotiations?
Mr Kent: One is going to go quite
quickly, the other is going to go fairly quickly, so I think that
it is a good opportunity.
Ms McDonald: I was going to add,
this is exactly the problem that has been identified. There is
a rush to make a decision whilst the present Prime Minister is
in position, and so on, and yet there is the long timescale of
building submarines, by which time George Bush will have gone,
and so on. Some reasonable delay at this stage may clear the water
for a safer world.
Q70 Chairman: I have a quick proposition.
Would you agree that the decision by South Africa to abolish its
nuclear weapons has had no observable impact on proliferation
attempts by countries like North Korea?
Mr Ainslie: Basically, no. My
understanding is that, having got rid of nuclear weapons, South
Africa then played an important role in the subsequent rounds
of the NPT Conference. The old South African regime could never
have done that. At the end of the day, there is a primary focus
for how nuclear proliferation is dealt with. I think the next
one is 2010, and South Africa was able to play a more substantial
role in that having made that decision.
Q71 Chairman: The ability of South
Africa to play that role in those negotiations, though, does not
seem to have had an observable impact on North Korea, does it?
Mr Ainslie: The 13 steps, which
is what we are talking about, was the result of the NPT processthat
was the 1995 thingso it is a step forward. We then took
a step back in the 2000 NPT Review Conference. That is the problem.
Q72 Chairman: Two thousand or 2005?
Mr Ainslie: Two thousand and five.
Q73 Chairman: Because I thought 2000
produced what for you would be the welcome news that the decision
to get rid of nuclear weapons should be within a short timescale?
Mr Ainslie: I am sorry; I am getting
the two dates mixed up.
Mr Kent: Two thousand was the
Q74 Chairman: Two thousand good,
Mr Kent: Two thousand and five
was a failure.
Q75 Mr Borrow: Perhaps I can move
on to the issue of what disarmament has already taken place. Certainly
since the end of the Cold War the number of warheads that the
UK has stockpiled has been reduced by about 75% and, certainly
if the further reduction anticipated in the White Paper goes ahead,
that will be a 50% reduction in the ten years since 1997. Are
those reductions welcomed by yourselves?
Mr Kent: Certainly they are welcomed,
and, if they were pointing towards nuclear disarmament globally,
even more welcome, but what we are talking about, is it not, is
48 warheads at sea at any one time, each one of which, potentially,
is 10 times the size of the Hiroshima bomb? I think talking about
the reduction of warheads is a kind of good housekeeping. There
is no point spending fortunes on thousands of violent weapons
when you can do it with 50 or five. Actually one, I think, if
it could be deliverable, is a sufficient deterrent, if you believe
in nuclear deterrents; so it is welcome, certainly.
Q76 Mr Borrow: Would you accept then
that of the five major nuclear powers the stockpile in the UK
is the least, with perhaps 1% of the world's stockpile, and that,
despite the reductions in the UK stockpile or since the end of
the Cold War, those sorts of reductions have not been seen by
the other four major powers and, therefore, there has not been,
if you like, a multilateral response to reductions in nuclear
weapons by the UK Government which could lead to a new round of
further reductions if we are seeking a multilateral nuclear disarmament
as the end result? Are you as disappointed as I am that my government
over the last ten years has made reductions and got rid of one
whole weapons system and yet other nuclear powers have made very
little progress in that direction?
Ms McDonald: The thing is they
will not have seen them as disarmament measures because they have
not been disarmament measures, they have been measures to remove
old weapons that have become obsolete and they have been measures
of efficiency, measures of logistical arrangements that make sense
in the military. There was never any stage that we reached the
original 512 capability number of warheads for Trident because
it was actually impossible in the way that Aldermaston is configured.
So all the reductions that there have been so far have been for
logistical reasons, and I do not think they have been identified
by informed observers in other countries, and certainly by NukeWatch,
as being disarmament. We do have to look for real disarmament
measures because it has got to come with the language of disarmament.
We have not used the language, we are not in negotiations, we
are not working for disarmament. For politicians it is language
than counts, and that is where there is a huge gap.
Q77 Mr Borrow: Are you saying, in
fact, that reducing the number of warheads does not lead to multilateral
disarmament and non-proliferation and that the only thing that
the UK can do to assist the process of getting rid of nuclear
weapons in the world is to unilaterally get rid of these nuclear
weapons and then Trident: that there is no way in which the UK
can reduce the number of weapons whilst still retaining nuclear
weapons but reduce them to a minimum amount in the hope of getting
a positive response from other nuclear powers and potential nuclear
powers? Are you saying there is no halfway house? We either stick
with what we have got, which is a minimum amount of nuclear weapons,
or we get rid of them and there may be a response? Is that the
position that you take?
Mr Kent: I am saying that "minimum"
is a completely confusing word. What does "minimum"
mean with nuclear weapons? I think getting rid of nuclear weapons
and making steps towards negotiation is the way forward. It is
not insignificant that Britain has cut down; it is highly significant
if it is pointing in that direction.
Q78 Mr Hancock: They are not significant,
are they, to take your point, because if Britain has a nuclear
submarine which has 16 silos, only one ship at sea, one boat at
sea at any one time, the maximum number of missiles available
to be fired would be 16 plus how many warheads? A maximum of four
per missile. You have got 48 missiles actively. To service its
need, Britain would need barely 100. Would you agree with that
Mr Kent: I did not get the end
of it. I agree with your numbers of warheads.
Q79 Mr Hancock: You would have one
ship at sea with 16 silos, with a maximum of 48 warheads, sixteen
missiles, four per missile. I am sorry, 64 on board. So you would
have a situation where you would only need 128 warheads maximum
Mr Kent: Yes.