Global Security: Non-Proliferation - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents

Letter to Stephen Hammond MP from The Rt Hon Bob Ainsworth MP

  Thank you for your letter of 9 May enclosing one from your constituent, Mrs J Bazley, regarding the Government's position with regard to a Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC).

  The aim of a NWC would be to prohibit both the development and use of nuclear weapons and set a framework for the elimination of existing stockpiles. We agree with these principles—we are publicly committed to achieving a global security environment in which there is no longer a requirement for any nuclear weapons in the world; a commitment which has been reaffirmed by Gordon Brown, Margaret Beckett and Des Browne within the past year—and we recognise that a NWC could particularly form the legal underpinning of such a world free of nuclear weapons.

  However, as was explained to Ms Bazley in a letter to her dated 21 February, present political realities mean that negotiations toward a NWC are unlikely to make headway. You will be aware of the difficulties experienced in attempting to open negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT), which itself forms only part of the model NWC. FMCT remains our priority at the Conference on disarmament in Geneva, without which we could not expect progress on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons outright. Moreover, it is difficult to see how a NWC could not undermine the credibility of nuclear deterrence, which has been a major part of the security calculus of the Nuclear Weapons States for over half a century. Attempts at negotiations would therefore prove fruitless in the current security climate where nuclear deterrence plays such a key role and, significantly, focus diplomatic efforts away from the international architecture already in place.

  Rather, efforts need to be concentrated on reinforcing and reinvigorating the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The NPT has served the international community extremely well over the last forty years and provides the path towards a world free of nuclear weapons. It makes an invaluable and irreplaceable contribution to multilateral nuclear disarmament and is the cornerstone of UK policy in this area. The UK, and the vast majority of the international community, remain committed to the three pillars of non-proliferation, disarmament and the peaceful use of nuclear energy. I strongly believe that continued and balanced application of the NPT will eventually lead to a world in which negotiation of a NWC can become a reality.

  I hope this explains the situation.

23 May 2008

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