Global Security: Non-Proliferation - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents

 Submission from the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)


  1.1  The Religious Society of Friends in Britain is a religious denomination with 16,000 members in 470 worshipping communities. We are committed to working for peaceful and effective responses to violence and social injustice.

  1.2  The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) has a long history of seeking peaceful solutions to intractable political problems. We are committed to an understanding of security that recognises the inherent, absolute worth of every person, and to long-term sustainable security built on trust and mutual understanding.


  2.1  We welcome the government's stated commitment to the rules-based international system, and its continuing support for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as the cornerstone of the international community's approach to non-proliferation.

  2.2  We emphasise the dual-nature of the NPT, requiring that nuclear weapons states should take steps towards disarmament in return for those states that do not have nuclear weapons undertaking not to develop them. Article VI includes the provision that "Parties to the Treaty undertake to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control".

  2.3  Although we welcome the UK's 20% reduction in its operationally available warheads, we are concerned that this decision was announced alongside the decision to renew Trident—the UK's nuclear submarine system—which we regard as displaying a deep-seated reliance on nuclear weapons.

  2.4  We consider the 2007 decision to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system to be incompatible with our obligations under the NPT. The replacement programme sends the unedifying message that such weapons systems are morally acceptable. It encourages other States to develop these weapons systems and it undermines the rules-based international system to which the government has emphasised its commitment.

  2.5  We regret the UK government support for the recent Nuclear Suppliers Group decision to endorse the US nuclear agreement with India. This decision weakens the NPT and undermines the rules-based international system by signalling that there are benefits to remaining outside of the NPT regime.

  2.6  We welcome the fact that the National Security Strategy (NSS)—for the first time in a government document of this nature—emphasises the interdependence of different issues affecting the UK's security. However, we regret that it fails to make any link between the UK's decision to renew its Trident nuclear weapons system and the impact this has on non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament.


  3.1  We welcome the government's willingness to work outside of orthodox approaches and with partners beyond government—including an offer to host a technical conference for the 5 NWS on the verification of nuclear disarmament. We note that by working outside normal channels, the UK government was recently able to contribute significantly to making the agreement on the new Cluster Munitions Convention possible. We urge the government to pursue such independent approaches—which we regard as essential tools in helping to break deadlocks.

  3.2  We commend the government's decision to remain fully engaged in the work of the UN Conference on Disarmament. This body remains important and it is crucial that the UK as a NWS continue to seek to break the deadlock.

  3.3  We commend the government for pressing for entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) at the earliest possible moment, and for seeking agreement to start negotiations for a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT). We also commend the government's continuing and active role in sustaining and strengthening the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) regimes.

  3.4  We regret that the government's approach to non-proliferation—set out in the NSS as "Dissuade, Detect, Deny and Defend"—makes only one mention of nuclear disarmament, and fails to acknowledge the essential role that disarmament plays in non-proliferation efforts.

  3.5  We believe that for non-proliferation efforts to succeed, Nuclear Weapons States (NWS) need to recognise that so long as they still regard nuclear weapons as fundamental to their security, other states will seek to acquire nuclear weapons as a means of ensuring their own security. We affirm the words of Mohamed ElBaradei, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who in 2005 said: "As long as some countries place strategic reliance on nuclear weapons as a deterrent, other countries will emulate them. We cannot delude ourselves into thinking otherwise."

  3.6  We consider it a necessity that NWS such as the UK remain seriously engaged in multilateral arms control and disarmament efforts, if we are to prevent proliferation. We affirm the comments of the Shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague that "Showing that we take our disarmament commitments seriously is a vital part of winning the moral argument against nuclear proliferation."

  3.7  As regards UK government attempts to prevent NNWS from acquiring nuclear weapons, we advocate firm diplomacy linked with strong signals of one's own willingness to move towards nuclear disarmament as key to non-proliferation success.


  4.1  We welcome the government's undertaking to lead the international effort to accelerate disarmament among possessor states as well as its goal of a positive outcome at the 2010 NPT Review Conference. We believe that the 2010 Conference will be critical and we urge the government to ensure progress at the conference by making firm steps to implement its Article IV obligations.

  4.2  We call on the government to: implement fully the 13 steps as agreed at the 2000 NPT Review Conference, to report on UK's progress towards achieving these at the 2010 Conference and to encourage other NWS to do the same.

4.3  A unilateral act of disarmament by a NWS would be the most significant step that the UK could take in breaking the deadlock in negotiating towards non-proliferation. We therefore call on the government to exercise bold leadership by incorporating its disarmament obligations into its approach to non-proliferation and by rejecting nuclear weapons as a tool for security.

14 October 2008

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