Global Security: Non-Proliferation - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents

 Letter from Lesley Docksey

  I would like the deliberations of the Foreign Affairs Committee Inquiry, Global Security: Non-Proliferation to take the following submission into account.

  Before going into more detail, I will make these general points:

    —  The first (and how many times do those in favour of disarmament have to make this point?) is that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty does not allow the P5 to maintain nuclear weapons; it simply recognises that those states possessed and had tested nuclear weapons at the time of the drawing up of the Treaty. Under Article 6 they committed themselves to disarmament.

    —  The Non-Proliferation Treaty has been effective in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to other countries.

    —  The P5 are modernising their nuclear arsenals, not honouring their commitments.

    —  Unless there is genuine movement on the part of the P5, the NPT is in danger of collapse.

  The British Government's stated goal is "to counter weapons proliferation and its causes." Let us look at the British Government's non-proliferation approach, as set out in the National Security Strategy:


4.17  Our approach to proliferation reflects our commitment to… multilateralism and the rules-based international system.

  If the Government is committed to the "rules-based international system", this includes the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which, by keeping and updating the Trident missile programme, the United Kingdom is not complying with. The Government is therefore demonstrating a lack of commitment to the "rules-based international system", not otherwise.

4.20  In the run-up to the 2010 NPT conference, we will lead the international effort to accelerate disarmament among possessor states…

  "Possessor states" includes the United Kingdom. Disarmament means disarmament. It does not mean reducing the number of weapons we hold, while updating the remainder. It means removing all nuclear weapons from our arsenal, something the United Kingdom has signally failed to do since it signed the Non-proliferation Treaty in 1968.


  4.23  …tackling chemical and biological weapons. We will work to …press possessor states to meet the agreed 2012 deadline for the destruction of chemical weapons.

  We are a "possessor state". Does this include our own weapons? Or will the Government continue researching developing chemical and biological weapons "for defensive purposes"—in other words using the same approach as for nuclear weapons—one rule for me, another rule for you?

  My contention is that, in possessing these weapons ourselves, we are one of the causes of proliferation. In particular, our use of military force over the last few years has been viewed by much of the world as a threat, has increased the risk of terrorism, and has made it more rather than less likely that other states would wish to arm themselves as a "deterrent".

  The United Kingdom also causes weapons proliferation by manufacturing and selling weapons, and arming states, which states later become seen as a threat. Witness the arming of Iraq with chemical and biological weapons, and then using Iraq's supposed possession of them as a reason for a disastrous invasion.

  Your terms of reference in this Inquiry are to examine the work of the British Government in working towards the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's policy goal on countering weapons proliferation and its causes.


  While the NPT has had some success in preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons, international rules apply to all states. When the P5 insist on keeping their nuclear arsenals while demanding that other states get rid of theirs, they are demonstrating that they consider themselves to be beyond rules and laws, those rules and laws which they demand other states comply with.

  This one thing by itself makes any rules-based international system completely ineffective, a discouragement to any other state to disarm, and a very real encouragement to other states to procure their own nuclear weapons. The very fact that we continue to possess these weapons increases the security threat to the world and our own country. Holding onto our nuclear weapons does not protect us—it simply increases the likelihood of other states (rogue or otherwise) attempting to go along the nuclear route.


  I repeat—one cause of proliferation is the UK's possession of WMD. While we continue to pour resources into the research and development of WMD we do not make ourselves secure; we pose a perceived threat to other states which some will inevitably address by the production of WMD.

  The National Security Strategy says we should keep our nuclear arsenal:

4.22  …maintaining our independent nuclear deterrent, based on our 2006 assessment that we cannot rule out a nuclear threat to the United Kingdom re-emerging over the next 50 years.

  We also cannot rule out a large meteor strike on the United Kingdom in the next 50 years or that this country will become uninhabitable due to climate change. We cannot do anything to prevent a meteor, and we can only work to prevent the worst effects of climate change, not to prevent climate change itself. The nuclear threat we can do something about. The way to rule out a nuclear threat is to remove all nuclear weapons from the world, and that includes our weapons. The Government cannot "lead the international effort to accelerate disarmament among possessor states…" (see above) while stating in the same document a commitment to maintaining our nuclear weapons arsenal.

  But also in the National Security Strategy it says this:


3.25  Our assessment remains the same as in the 1998 Strategic Defence Review: for the foreseeable future, no state or alliance will have both the intent and the capability to threaten the United Kingdom militarily, either with nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction, or with conventional forces.

  "For the foreseeable future." The Government cannot have it both ways. Either you can foresee the possible re-emergence of a nuclear threat or you can foresee that there is no threat.

  The UK could and should take a world lead in honouring its commitments under Article 6 and abandoning plans to renew Trident. Apart from removing one of the causes of proliferation, the country would benefit financially to the tune of several billion pounds.[1] It could also stop its expensive military research into chemical and biological weapons.[2] In today's financial climate, the country cannot afford to keep these programmes running. And the money would be far better spent elsewhere—training for and implementation of conflict resolution would do far more for the security of this country (and the rest of the world) than the possession of highly dangerous weapons, the use of which, under international law, is illegal.

  Finally, the Government should, in the long-term security interests of the world, refuse the use of Menwith Hill and Fylingdales bases for the US missile defence programme. The US plan to place missile interceptors in Europe has greatly increased insecurity in our part of the world. The agreement to site interceptors in Poland has played a large part in the current tensions between Russia, Europe and the US. We are beginning to see a new arms race and a new cold war—in other words, an increase in insecurity and the further proliferation of weapons, something which the Government insists it wishes to prevent.

  I trust your Inquiry will point the Government in the right direction and advise that the most fruitful way of countering and preventing weapons proliferation is to start, in the near future, with the destruction and disarmament of our own WMD arsenals.

4 September 2008

1   The Eurofighter, Trident and aircraft carrier programmes as of now are costing us £5 billion a year (Simon Jenkins Sunday Times 24 Feb 2008). Back

2   In 2004/5 the MoD spent £2.5 billion on military research and development for "defence purposes" (figures from Scientists for Global Responsibility). Back

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