Global Security: Non-Proliferation - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents

 Submission from Jim McCluskey, Ministry for Peace movement, National Co-ordinating Committee

Submitting Organisation: The Ministry for Peace is a voluntary citizens' organisation that works towards enhancing a culture of peace both outside government and within it. We pursue this goal by seeking to raise awareness of peaceful non-violent solutions to problems and conflicts, and by advocating a peace-oriented approach to social and cultural affairs.


  1.  In our view the question of non-proliferation is bound up with issues of security, the arms trade, international law, and democratic accountability, hence the subheadings below.


  2.  We would like to start by welcoming the Foreign Secretary's recent statements regarding the need for an Arms Control Treaty. Such a Treaty could, if adequately structured and honoured, become a useful step towards a more secure world. We also welcome renouncement of cluster bombs and fully support the movement towards the banning of depleted uranium weapons. Such measures are also useful steps towards greater security and indirectly enhance the goal of non-proliferation by reducing the atmosphere of threat and tension in international affairs.

  3.  We note that in 2007 the UK exported more arms than any other nation, largely due to the Al Yamama contract. The alleged corrupt practices involved in this deal is, in itself, ample proof of the need for much better control over the arms trade. In the average year the UK is among the five largest exporters of arms. We consider this a shaming fact that works towards a more violent world and we note that in modern armed conflict the large majority of victims are innocent civilians and a large proportion of these civilians are children and women.

  4.  We reject the argument that the UK arms export industry is justified by the number of jobs created. At a time when there is an urgent need to develop alternative energy sources and work on means of tackling Global Warming there is an overwhelming case for diverting destructive jobs in the arms industry to creative ones in the burgeoning new tasks arising from these areas of activity. These points are cogently argued in the Report "Making Arms, Wasting Skills" by Steven Schofield.

  We welcome the announcement of the extension of controls to cover brokering of small arms by British citizens overseas (Cm 7291, p36).

  We urge that the government continue its work towards an internationally agreed and enforced Arms Trade Treaty.


  5.  In the National Security Strategy as described in Cabinet Office Paper Cm. 7291 there appears to be a fundamental misconception of what constitutes security.

  There is no weapon in existence that can incinerate most of the human race in an hour except nuclear weapons. There are 27,000 of these weapons. It is estimated that about 5,000 are held in a state of high alert. This means that they can be sent on their way in about 15 minutes after the order is given. The missiles carrying the weapons can travel at 15,000 miles per hour, in other words they can travel 1,000 miles in four minutes. The leader of a nuclear state has therefore, almost no time to decide whether to order a retaliatory launch after the Chiefs of Staff have informed him that the country is under attack; the decision of the Chiefs of Staff have necessarily been based on fallible electronic information.

  6.  In view of the above, the statement in the Cabinet Office Paper that "…we are more secure than at most times in our history" (p10) is simply amazing. President Kennedy stated that the chances of global nuclear war breaking out in 1962, during the Cuban crisis, were between one in three and fifty/fifty. We are arguably less secure than we were then, since there are now eight nuclear weapons states rather than two.

  There are also the huge risks of nuclear proliferation, nuclear accidents, and a nuclear launch due to a misunderstanding (there have already been terrifying near-misses).

  There can be no true security or peace in the world while there are nuclear weapons, nor can the drive to stop proliferation be successful if the nuclear states insist on retaining their stockpiles.

  It is our view that security is best achieved by establishing amicable relationship with other states and dissociating ourselves from the policy of those who take a primarily militaristic approach to foreign affairs.


  7.  We fully support the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the full amplication of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty including completion of its verification system, and the development of a treaty to control and phase out weapons-grade fissile materials (Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty).

  We consider that the government has failed to honour the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which states that "There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects…" This government failure seems to be confirmed by the statement in the strategy document that "… we cannot rule out a nuclear threat to the United Kingdom re-emerging over the next 50 years" (P31), implying a further 50 years of nuclear tension and threat for UK citizens.

  8.  We also take the view that the expenditure at Aldermaston on facilities for the electronic testing of nuclear weapons and components is against the spirit of the nuclear Test Ban Treaty and all such activities can only contribute to the tendencies towards greater proliferation.

  However we welcome the government's offers to host a technical conference for the 5 NPT Nuclear Weapons States on the verification of nuclear disarmament.

  We recommend that the government should increase its efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons and in particular we ask that the government support the Nuclear Weapons Convention which is now lodged with the United Nations.


  9.  The key to preventing nuclear weapons proliferation is an enforced world-wide ban on nuclear weapons. Any other approach will inevitably cause conflict which could lead to escalating violence as is currently threatened between America/Israel and Iran, and has recently been threatened between India and Pakistan.

  10.  We fully support the following statement made by Margaret Beckett, when addressing American leaders in Washington, on 25th June, 2007, when UK Foreign Secretary

    "Mine, like yours, is a generation that has existed under the shadow of the bomb—knowing that weapons existed which could bring an end to humanity itself. We have become almost accustomed to that steady underlying dread, punctuated by the sharper fear of each new nuclear crisis: Cuba in 1962, the Able Archer scare of 1983, the stand-off between India and Pakistan in 2002."

"But there is a danger in familiarity with something so terrible. If we allow our efforts on disarmament to slacken, if we allow ourselves to take the non-proliferation consensus for granted, the nuclear shadow that hangs over us will lengthen and it will deepen. And it may, one day, blot out the light for good."—

  The underlying dread is still there and the threat is worsening since, partly due to the nuclear posture of the original nuclear states including the UK, proliferation continues.

  11.  The National Security Strategy Paper (NSSP) states "Our approach to proliferation reflects our commitment to act early to reduce future threats" (p29). We trust that this does not imply the use of pre-emptive strikes against sovereign states which we consider counter-productive. It also states that part of the government approach to proliferation is to "Dissuade states from acquiring, developing, and contributing to the spread of WMD, and related materials and expertise". With respect to nuclear weapons we consider that this is unrealistic without disposing of our own nuclear arsenal.

  12.  We consider that the government is wrong to welcome US plans to place further missile defence assets in Europe (p44) since this will only increase the likelihood of nuclear standoffs as will the further extension of NATO in Eastern Europe.

  We consider that the stopping of nuclear weapons proliferation can only be achieved by nuclear weapons countries disposing of their own arsenals.


  13.  We hold the view that terrorism in the UK is primarily a matter for the police and the intelligence community. We welcome the integration of the government's counter-terrorism approach with the establishment of the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, the Multi-departmental Research, Information and Communications Unit, and the cross-government Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism.

  14.  We believe that a major contributor to the prevention of terrorist activity in the UK is the establishment of good relations with the Muslim community. We note that £2.5 billion pounds of tax-payers wealth is currently spent on counter-terrorism and intelligence and that this is to rise to £3.5 billion by 2011 (p27). We urge that a significant proportion of this expenditure is dedicated to improving relations with, and helping to integrate, the Muslim community.

  We further recommend that a substantial proportion of defence expenditure be focussed on increasing the intrapersonal and interpersonal skills of all military personnel to increase effectiveness in winning hearts and minds, including violence prevention, conflict management, community building, and humanitarian professionalism such as rescue and infrastructure restoration.

  15.  The Security Strategy Paper claims that the only threat the UK faces at the present time is the terrorist threat. This being the case the massive expenditure of the citizens money by this government seems wildly out of proportion. The paper mentions a new generation of Typhoon fast jets at £50 million each and the new Type 45 destroyers at £1 billion (p46) each. We can add to this an estimated total cost for replacing the Trident fleet of nuclear submarines of £70 billion, the new Armed Forces Academy planned in South Wales at £14 billion, two new aircraft carriers with their support vessels and aircraft add many more billions, and so on. All this vast expenditure on weapons of war can only increase pressure for proliferation in countries that feel threatened. And all this is in the face of the fact that the worst recent terrorist attack on the UK mainland resulted in the death of 52 people.

  16.  Clearly the existence of our nuclear arsenal and much of our huge expenditure on armaments, which contribute to the tendency towards proliferation, are not relevant to the elimination of terrorism.

  We recommend that the government considers diverting some of its expenditure on "The War On Terror" and re-scheduling it to building alternative energy facilities in addition to the other recommendations in Para. 14 above.


  17.  We note that nowhere in the National Security Strategy Paper is there any mention of eliciting the views of the citizens of the UK regarding what measures they want taken to protect their security with respect to the threat of nuclear weapons proliferation. Nor does there appear to be any plan put forward for an on-going dialogue with the citizenry and NGOs—nor does there appear to be any plan to discover whether or not the population of the UK wants our nuclear arsenals to be retained. We consider these grave omissions.

  18.  The citizens of the world do not want nuclear weapons. Of the 192 states of the United Nations only eight have developed nuclear weapons. The remaining 184 states are put at risk by the eight who have them. Of the eight states that have developed these weapons, in no case has the populations of those states been asked if they want them.

  We recommend that the National Security Strategy be worked out in consultation with the citizens of the Nation.

22 September 2008

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