Global Security: Non-Proliferation - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-79)


19 NOVEMBER 2008

  Q60  Andrew Mackinlay: Were any of you three involved in the debriefing or interviews with Wouter Basson?

  Chairman: Perhaps we can pursue that matter elsewhere.

  Q61  Sir Menzies Campbell: I was wondering whether I interpreted a relationship between Dr. Jones and Mr. Sims, in the sense that Dr. Jones said—please correct me if I am wrong—that the acquisition of the technical ability for chemical and biological weapons is easier than for nuclear. It is that ease that gives rise to Mr. Sims's enthusiasm for control through convention. Of course, we do not have a nuclear convention. We have a biological convention and chemical convention in which control lies at the heart of efforts to achieve international supervision. Is it because of the relative ease of manufacture and the relative ease—at least in the case of biological weapons—of portability that the convention is so important?

  Nicholas Sims: I am not sure. That would imply that we do not need a nuclear weapons convention, after a Biological Weapons Convention and a Chemical Weapons Convention.

  Sir Menzies Campbell: That hypothesis does not lie behind my question.

  Nicholas Sims: Good. The fact that the three weapons categories have been tackled in such different ways is mainly attributable to the fact that biological and chemical weapons were marginal to the armouries of most states when nuclear weapons were very far from marginal for several. Therefore, it was historical opportunity that one could do something about biological weapons and then chemical weapons. It is nuclear weapons that are the odd ones out, where there is a series of treaties but none is an abolition, full-disarmament treaty of the kind that BWC and CWC represent.

  The question about ease of manufacture is interesting—the relative ease of acquisition of materials, the relative ease of acquiring the technology and the know-how and so on. That was a very important motivation for the negotiations on BWC and CWC, although they took place at different times. In the case of nuclear weapons, I would guess the main motivation is the unequivocal undertaking to complete the elimination of nuclear arsenals, given at the sixth review conference of the NPT in 2000. That unequivocal undertaking interprets article VI of the NPT in an abolitionist direction which, to my regret, was not reaffirmed at the seventh review conference, which could not produce an outcome document at all. I hope it will be reaffirmed at the review conference in 2010. I repeat that I see nuclear as the odd one out in that we do not yet have a disarmament convention of the kind we have for biological and chemical weapons.

  Q62 Ms Stuart: May I follow on with a question regarding weapons of mass destruction, in terms of the legal structures not making sufficient distinction between nuclear, chemical and biological? Dr. Jones, you are on record as saying that you thought it required a slightly more sophisticated approach. For the benefit of our report, would you please say a little more on that?

  Dr. Jones: Yes, I do have problems with the term "WMD," mainly because I think its use masks the very important differences between not only the technical aspects of the weapons systems but also their concepts of use and how they are likely to be used. The term is useful to the extent that it reminds people that there is more to this subject of producing large numbers of casualties than nuclear weapons. Nuclear seems to be a little bit exclusive. The papers that have been submitted to the Committee contain barely a mention of biological and chemical weapons. Not that I want to play down nuclear: nuclear is very important. Do not get me wrong. But it is important to realise that some biological weapons have the potential to produce the same number of lethal casualties as nuclear but they would not be used in the same context and in the same way, and they do not have the same deterrent properties. It is those differences that are quite poorly understood.

  I should like to cite Professor Meselson from Harvard, whom Daniel's organisation is closely associated with. He assisted Dr. Kissinger when the Americans gave up biological weapons in 1969 and in the late '90s he explained what had happened. He said that the American advice to President Nixon at the time realised that biological weapons were cheaper than nuclear weapons because the cost, effort and expertise required for their acquisition was much smaller than for nuclear weapons. But he added the rider that it was no simple thing either. There are important distinctions, but that is an important point and something that we tend to lose. When biological weapons raise their head from time to time we remember it, but then it rapidly recedes again in my experience.

  Q63 Ms Stuart: This is a question for the entire panel. If you have a more differentiated approach between the various weapons, the response presumably also has to be different, does it not? With some of them we talk about non-proliferation and with others we talk about disarmament. I would add a third: powder in condoms thrown at the backs of Prime Ministers is sheer disruption, which in a modern society is probably even more damaging than anything else.

  Daniel Feakes: I would share Brian's concerns about the term "weapons of mass destruction". In some ways WMD is convenient shorthand. It helps to emphasise the linkages between nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. I would not for a minute argue that they should be totally separate and not looked at together because there are states that potentially have or have had all three programmes running at the same time. There are linkages between them.

  The term WMD originates with the United Nations. It is written into various multilateral treaties. It is not something that we can ignore, but I would agree with Brian. The national security strategy, for example, uses the term WMD. I would hope that in that case it is used as shorthand. I hope that policy-making, assessment and analysis is based on the differentiated approach that you describe because these weapons are different in terms of what they can do and how they can be used. They are different in terms of the treaty regimes.

  We have two disarmament regimes—the CWC and the BWC—and we have the NPT, which is the odd one out. I would strongly urge that they be disaggregated. If there is too much of a focus on lumping them all together, nuclear dominates and chemical and biological weapons get left behind. People assume that what works with nuclear weapons therefore also works for chemical weapons. A second order value is therefore given to chemical and biological weapons. If they get neglected in that way and one's thinking is dominated by nuclear weapons, one could come up with responses that work for nuclear weapons but do not work for chemical and biological weapons. That could be quite damaging in itself.

  Finally, the UK has been one of the leaders on chemical and biological weapons, disarmament and arms control. Since the late 1960s, the UK has been one of the strongest supporters of disarmament and control of these weapons. I hope that what we see in the national security strategy and in the Foreign Office memo to your inquiry is that chemical and biological weapons are not being neglected, because the UK has a good and a positive record in that area. I hope that this focus on nuclear disarmament, which is obviously welcome and good, is not to the detriment of chemical and biological weapons.

  Nicholas Sims: I very much agree with that. I also think that it is very unfortunate when all three treaties are placed under the heading of non-proliferation, which sometimes, rather carelessly, happens. It is most important that the CWC and the BWC are understood as banning possession and all activities prior to possession equally for everyone; there are no permitted possessors, as there are, for a time, in the NPT. Rather than "non-proliferation" I like the phrase "non-diversion," which Daniel has used at the end of paragraph 9 of his memorandum. It is a very useful term to use about the CWC and BWC. He applies it to the CWC in paragraph 14, but I think that it is equally true for the BWC. The diversion of biological or chemical materials, or know-how, to weapons purposes is forbidden equally to the great majority of states that have not possessed and do not possess the weapons and to those that have possessed them in the past or that, with the CWC, are still on the way to completing the destruction of stockpiles—there are still four parties to the CWC in that position. It is equally important for all of them to ensure that there is no diversion.

  I am much happier with the term "non-diversion," both for the BWC throughout its history and for the CWC, particularly after the completion of the destruction of stockpiles in 2012, than I am with "non-proliferation". The danger with the overall category of non-proliferation is that it diminishes the standing of the BWC and the CWC as absolute, unconditional renunciations—in effect, simple disarmament treaties. As well as everything else that they have in them, they are simple disarmament treaties.

  Q64 Mr. Hamilton: Gentlemen, as we are aware, the enforcement of the Chemical Weapons Convention relies on inspections and verification. There is obviously a similar regime to strengthen the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. However, in your written evidence to the Committee, Dr. Jones, you said that the false assertions about the status of Iraq's WMD capabilities that were used to justify the war in 2003 have challenged confidence that the compliance of states with their international obligations relating to these weapons can be reliably monitored, and you said that it is an important omission. Do any of you think that multilateral rules-based treaties and conventions are effective against the states that are the most likely to flout them? Is this an effective non-proliferation strategy? Clearly, it is quite flawed—discuss.

  Chairman: Who wants to start with that one?

  Dr. Jones: Clearly, it is a major problem, and the extent of the problem varies from weapons system to weapons system. At the lowest level—a single nuclear weapon of small capability or a chemical or biological weapon—I think that the chances of detecting breaches to treaty obligations are very small, but I may be wrong. I hasten to add that I am not an expert in treaties or conventions. It is not something that I have ever studied; I have looked at the capabilities and the technical processes associated with the development of those weapons capabilities. A very major problem with biological weapons, which causes great confusion, is the lack of a requirement of a large stockpile to develop a significant capability. The development of a national-based nuclear weapons capability of the sort that we fear will be reasonably visible and detectable. From that follows one's ability to reinforce the convention, or the deterrence value of a convention as I understand it.

  As far as chemical weapons are concerned, I believe that a nation could break out and develop a capability over a period of months, say, during which time large quantities would have to be produced and physically large stockpiles generated. The problem with biological weapons, and I suspect one of the reasons why they currently have no inspection-type controls, is that it is possible to begin with relatively small amounts and generate sufficient quantities to be very dangerous very quickly. That makes the whole business of catching a nation that decides to do so very much more difficult. That is a special problem.

  Daniel Feakes: Under the Chemical Weapons Convention, which I guess is the one that I know best, in terms of straight numbers there have been almost 3,500 inspections over the past 10 years at almost 200 chemical weapons facilities and more than 1,000 industrial facilities. There is a very intrusive and robust verification regime under the CWC. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, over in The Hague, has about 200 inspectors who go out every day to military and civilian facilities around the world. The regime is there and it is robust.

  When we get to the question whether the regime could detect everything, no regime will ever be 100% foolproof and verifiable. That is impossible in a global industry such as the chemical industry or, even more so, the biotech industry, in which things are done on a very small scale. What on-site inspections give you is some kind of confidence. They allow the organisations—the OPCW in this case—to build up a picture of what is going on in a particular state. Over time, they can build up an idea of that state's capabilities, whether civilian or military. It gives them a picture of what is going on in that state. They send in inspectors and have them in that state, on the ground, asking questions. They might not find a smoking gun on any particular inspection, but it works over time. From what I understand of the United Nations Special Commission in Iraq, that was what happened there.

  It is like a detective story—one builds up a picture. I understand from talking to people who were in Iraq that the things that they found were often not the weapons or the programmes themselves but all the concealment activities to do with them. If you find heavily guarded facilities, there might be nothing inside, but the existence of the guards or fences raises suspicions.

  In the case of the CWC, there is also the possibility of a challenge inspection—an almost surprise inspection that the OPCW can be requested to launch. Again, there are potentially ways in which states could get around those and still escape detection, but all those parts of the regime add up to a fairly strong deterrent. Any state that went down the path of developing, say, a break-out capability, would have to be sure that it could never be detected. It could never be 100% sure that something would not be detected, whether through the OPCW itself, the other states parties by their own intelligence means or a whistleblower in a particular programme. There will often be leaks from programmes, as we saw in Iraq and with the former Soviet Union's programme. Verification is an important thing, with people in there on the ground who are able to go to the states involved and build up a picture.

  Finally, even if a state has developed a break-out capability in a legitimate, civilian industry, it is something quite different to produce a deployable weapon for use, say, by military forces. The military forces will need training. They will need doctrine. They will need to know that they have such things and know how to use them. Even if the state had stockpiles of chemical agents, it is a question of how it would use and deploy them for them to be militarily useful. Production is one thing, but the other step is to translate the capability into a useable weapon. OPCW inspectors can pick up on that too and add it to their picture.

  Q65 Mr. Hamilton: Do you think there is an alternative strategy to the verification regime, the rules-based approach to inspections on the ground and the scenarios that you have described? Is there an alternative to that? Clearly, Iraq showed us that it was rather flawed.

  Daniel Feakes: I do not know. People assume that Iraq showed the failure of inspections, and in some ways it showed that inspections can actually succeed, because the UN inspectors did find evidence of programmes. They picked up on various things. Because of what followed, I guess that UNSCOM has the image of being a failure. Perhaps it was a failure politically, but technically in terms of on-site verification, it was quite successful. Lots of things that happened in UNSCOM were lessons that the OPCW learned from when it started its operations in 1997.

  As for alternatives, it is hard to think of anything better than getting people on the ground in facilities. The OPCW has gone to facilities in Russia that, during the cold war, we did not know existed. It has gone to previously unknown chemical weapons programmes in India and South Korea. We did not know that India and South Korea had chemical weapons programmes before 1997, whereas now the OPCW sends its inspectors there on a routine basis. At present, I cannot think of anything different.

  Q66 Mr. Purchase: Given that the Iraqis and others might from time to time deny the existence of any development proposals, and given that inspections on the ground—unavoidable as they are and desirable as they are—may not discover serious concrete evidence that development is taking place, is it not the case that politicians are left with the serious dilemma of deciding whether to take at face value the protestations of the regime? How long can they expect the verification programme to continue in the face of denials, before a decision has to be taken? I hurriedly want to say that I voted against going to Iraq. Dr. Jones made the point—the words he used were "falsely asserted"—but politicians are still left with a dilemma about what they should do in those very difficult circumstances.

  Chairman: Dr. Jones, you were quoted. Do you want to come back on that?

  Dr. Jones: Absolute certainty in most areas is—

  Mr. Purchase: Impossible—

  Dr. Jones: Just about impossible, not least because any state that is transgressing will find some way of pulling the stumps before the smoking gun is found.

  Q67 Mr. Purchase: So that could apply to Iran now, could it not?

  Dr. Jones: Probably.

  Mr. Purchase: It is the same conundrum.

  Dr. Jones: Yes. I am thinking as I speak. The end point of the process has to be one step back from that absolute certainty and involve the sort of processes that are already available in conventions and United Nations Security Council resolutions. There comes a point at which the onus must be on the suspected transgressor to come clean. In the case of Iraq, that was a major problem. That never happened and there was uncertainty.

  Chairman: I am conscious that we do not want to discuss the nuclear issue and Iran, because the focus of the meeting is supposed to be on other areas, but it was worth making a point.

  Nicholas Sims: I cannot see an acceptable alternative to the treaty approach as the cornerstone of our efforts, because that approach involves equality of obligation for everyone. There must be that equality of obligation for everyone, whether it is openness to inspection or, in the case of the BWC, where there is not a verification regime or inspection, the obligation to explain and to engage in various confidence-building measures, which are politically binding commitments, and also to consult and co-operate, which are legally binding commitments. We have to build on all those substitutes for verification and make them as strong as possible so that the compliance regime is as robust as it can be in the absence of verification.

  The treaty approach is the cornerstone, but you can also have export controls co-ordinated by the Australia Group, for example, and the sort of obligations that states are under as a result of Security Council resolution 1540, directed particularly at preventing diversion to non-state actors in that instance. There must also be a tremendous amount of national implementation so that the prohibitions that a state has accepted at the international level are transmitted into domestic penal legislation and enforced.

  Q68 Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: I am still trying to get a feel for the scale of the risk, because plainly the effort that the world is prepared to put into that is proportionate to the threat that it feels it faces. We have not seen the widespread use of chemical weapons since the first world war, and although there have been highly damaging incidents since then, the use of biological and chemical weapons has by and large been fairly rare and isolated, compared to the millions killed in every other way and the traumas that the world has gone through. Can you say a little more about the scale of the threat? Perhaps you might start, Dr. Jones. Without giving away too many secrets from your past work, you clearly faced that. I am looking for a quantitative assessment of how important that is.

  Dr. Jones: We always used to talk about low probability but high impact if ever such things happened, and I do not know that there are any easy answers. In my submission to you, I pointed out that the National Security Strategy quite rightly recognises a whole range of problems for us as a nation, not all of which were from weapons and the military. Although at this range there are possible weapons-based, WMD-type threats downstream, it seems to me that there are probably more potential existential threats to us, for example from climate change, although I am not sure about the exact point in that debate. It seems to me that that is something we need to be concerned about for a variety of reasons. Perhaps I should also include mention of the possibility of pandemics.

  One of the points that I was trying to make to the Committee is that an additional consideration for the whole non-proliferation agenda is that it is very important to ensure that we get some idea of those balances. My criticism of the National Security Strategy is that it gave us no guidance on how the Government see that. It is five years since I was working in Whitehall, so I can slope shoulders on that, but those are the sorts of issues that need to be addressed much more vigorously than they are. We tend to see suggestions and problems right across the board, where I think we really need to begin to say, "We think that this one is more important than that one."

  Q69 Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: I think that we need a few more facts here, if we can. There are declared states which possess chemical and biological weapons, but do we have any idea about whether they deploy them, whether they are training troops to use them, or whether they have been recently tested? In the case of non-state agents, roughly what is the proliferation threat? How many terrorists have been picked up in possession or near the possession of these sort of agents? It is quite important that we get a handle on the realistic threat here. Maybe it is impossible. I imagine that if one asked to inspect Afghanistan, it would not be brilliantly successful, given that there are only one and a half provinces that are in any sense pacified. Is the answer that we just do not know? Or are we just groping around because there is a real threat—a possibly catastrophic one—and we are just taking out an insurance policy against it? That is probably valid, but I am trying to get an idea of the proportionality of the threat.

  Dr. Jones: I do not think that I can help you very much with that, not having access to intelligence information at this stage.

  Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: We do not know, in other words.

  Dr. Jones: I do not, but someone might.

  Daniel Feakes: In terms of declared states, when the Chemical Weapons Convention entered into force, states parties to that convention had to declare whether they possessed chemical weapons or production facilities for chemical weapons and also whether they had in the past possessed chemical weapons programmes. There are a total of six states since 1997 which have declared that they currently possess chemical weapons: Albania, India, Libya, South Korea, Russia and the US. Of those, Albania and South Korea have destroyed all their stockpiles, India is due to destroy its stockpile by the end of next year, I think, and Libya by the end of 2010. The big stockpiles are those of Russia and the US. The original deadline in the CWC was 10 years after entry into force, so all these stocks should have been destroyed by 2007. The CWC allows a one-time, five year extension, which all the states had to apply for, and they were granted various extensions. The US and Russia applied for the full five years, so their deadline is now 29 April 2012, but both of them look unlikely to meet that deadline. The US has already said publicly that it cannot do so and that it will be perhaps 2017, or even 2023. The Russians are still saying that they can do it, but people who know doubt that they can do it by then as well. Within the convention that is what we know about.

  Outside the convention there are 11 states that have not joined the CWC yet, among those 11 there are four—Israel, Syria, Egypt and North Korea—which people strongly suspect of having some kind of chemical weapons capability, but because they are outside the convention we do not know what they have. The production facilities of those inside the convention have been closed down, and lots of them have already been converted or destroyed. The ones that are still open are inspected by the OPCW and the stockpiles are being destroyed under OPCW verification. The weapons that exist there are under international monitoring. They have seals and tags on them and the facilities are being destroyed or converted. So training and so on would not be happening in those states that are inside the CWC, unless there was a covert programme in there somewhere, which hopefully the OPCW would detect. As I said, we do not know what is happening with the other four. There are efforts by the OPCW and by states such as the UK to get Israel, Syria, Egypt and North Korea on board, but it is difficult—particularly in the Middle East.

  In terms of biological weapons, various states have historical biological weapons programmes—the UK, for example. Again, there are states outside the Biological Weapons Convention, similar to the states that I just mentioned regarding the Chemical Weapons Convention, that are suspected of having biological weapons programmes. Even for the states inside, as we said, there is no verification mechanism for the BWC, so there is no way of telling exactly what the states inside are up to. But there is a system, which Nicholas mentioned, of confidence building measures, in which states have to submit information on various facilities and various parts of legislation—domestic measures. They have to submit that annually to the United Nations, but unfortunately a very small percentage of states actually do so.

  In quantitative terms, it is hard to give a definitive answer, particularly regarding terrorists. Terrorists are an unknown quantity. So I am sorry, but I cannot help you with that. In terms of the CWC and BWC numbers that we know about, those are the figures.

  Chairman: I think that we should move on now.

  Q70 Mr. Horam: Looking at non-proliferation policy over the three areas—nuclear, chemical and biological weapons—one bit of evidence that has been put to us is that NATO has effectively ceased to be interested since President Bush came to power, and has abandoned any attempt at threat reduction through arms control, in favour of a purely military response to potential WMD-armed adversaries, and that is because European nations have submitted to the American view of this area. Do you think that that is correct? Do you think the Europeans have given in on the issue in NATO, despite not sharing the Washington view, and that NATO has ceased to play a part in the whole thing?

  Chairman: Mr. Sims?

  Mr. Horam: You are looking very anguished, Mr. Sims.

  Nicholas Sims: I am looking anguished because it is such a good question and so difficult to answer. I think that regardless of what is or is not the case at the moment, the coming-in of the new Administration in the United States gives the UK and other NATO countries an enormous, almost unprecedented opportunity to re-engage the United States in a much more wholehearted, reinvigorated multilateralism in this field, as in others.

  Q71 Mr. Horam: You are implying, therefore, that the Americans are not engaged at the moment.

  Nicholas Sims: I am more than implying: they certainly are not engaged. In the BWC, they have been remarkably discouraging to multilateral endeavours ever since 2001, and therefore the predominant mode in BWC diplomacy in Geneva has been, "How much will the Americans allow us to do? How fast can we move towards recovery from the debacle of the ending of the protocol negotiations in July 2001? How far and how fast can we move towards something that is almost a secretariat?" The Americans will not let us call it a secretariat, so we have to call it an Implementation Support Unit. It is a tremendous achievement to be allowed to employ three people full-time for four years. That is the sort of grudgingness that I hope the new US Administration will get right away from. If we look far enough back, they have a very good national record.

  Q72 Mr. Horam: The Americans?

  Nicholas Sims: Yes. They gave up their biological weapons to try to encourage the BWC. They had completed the abolition of their own BW stockpile before the BWC entered into force in 1975, and they also had a major role intellectually in the genesis of the first set of confidence-building measures in the mid-1980s. I would like them to be encouraged to be far more positive on reinforcing the BWC from within, allowing the treaty regime to develop in the sorts of ways that plenty of European Union and other NATO members, such as Canada and Norway, have put forward. Those members have, however, found themselves held back by the constraints that the US has placed since 2001 on any development of multilateralism within the BWC—very severe agenda constraints, very severe constraints on linking progress in one year's meeting of states parties to the next, very severe constraints on any negotiation or addition of commitments at all and, unfortunately, no secretariat. At least, finally, in 2006, this four-year, three-person Implementation Support Unit was allowed. It is good that it was allowed, but let us hope that the new Administration will be persuaded to be far more positive.

  Q73 Mr. Moss: Can I just follow on from that, Mr. Sims? You talk about hope that the new Administration may take a different approach. Were there any signs or signals during the presidential campaign from the eventual winner, President-elect Obama, that suggest to you that there might well be a significant change in the attitude of the USA towards non-proliferation?

  Nicholas Sims: I am not aware of anything concrete from him. Within the Democrat camp, there have been encouraging signs that the US would be much more engaged in multilateral endeavours generally. Where people are perhaps over-optimistic is in expecting that the change of Administration would lead the US to be more favourable to verification of the BWC. I frequently have to diminish those hopes—pour cold water on them—because the Clinton Administration was extremely dubious about verification of the BWC. It became almost a dogma that the BWC was not really verifiable and, therefore, other types of compliance measures need to be sought, which the second Clinton Administration actively pursued through the protocol that was under negotiation between 1997 and 2001.

  The new Administration is likely to provide a change of tone first of all. It is likely to be less grudging. Given all the Democrats who hope to be involved in policy making under President-elect Obama, I would be very surprised if there were not at least a change of tone. However, I do not expect a change of substance in regard to verification.

  Daniel Feakes: May I add something to that? In a presidential debate or a statement by President-elect Obama—on the issue of science and technology, I think—he spoke about biological weapons and making the use of biological weapons a crime against humanity. "Crime against humanity" was the phrase he used, but I cannot remember if he was just addressing that to bio-terrorism, or whether he meant biological weapons used more widely. I am not sure of the context, but I remember it, because we monitor the press and pronouncements for this kind of thing. I remember that that phrase was used, which could mean various different things—a reinvigoration of the multilateral process, or a focus on non-multilateral measures against terrorism and non-state actors. I am not exactly sure of the thinking behind it, but I remember that that statement was made.

  Q74 Mr. Moss: Could I turn to a European dimension? Back in 2003, we had the publication of the European Security Strategy and the publication on non-proliferation. Do you think that there are any lessons in those publications that might steer the UK's policy on non-proliferation in any different direction?

  Daniel Feakes: I have studied this area quite a lot. I have spoken to people in Brussels and in various places—The Hague and Geneva as well—about EU policy in this area. It is an evolutionary process. Over the years, the EU is becoming more involved. Since the strategy that you mentioned, the EU has also adopted a WMD strategy and action plan—later than 2003, I think. We have seen the profile of the EU develop in Geneva, say, when we attended the ad hoc group negotiations during the 1990s for the protocol, in the meetings that have happened since and in The Hague for OPCW meetings. The visibility of the EU has gradually increased in that area. Earlier, it was pretty low key—if it existed at all. People in Brussels told me that the aim was to increase the visibility of the EU. That was one of my concerns. What was it about? Was it about doing something, or was it just about increasing the EU's visibility and making it more of a presence within a particular negotiation forum or meeting?

  It is important to distinguish the rhetoric. The presidency will make a statement on behalf of the EU at CWC or BWC meetings, rather than the 27 states making their own individual statements. A co-ordination process currently goes on among the EU states. It is useful. Since then, the EU has done various substantive things. A number of common positions have been adopted on both the BWC and the CWC about the universalisation of the treaties. After that, there have been joint actions in support of the BWC and the CWC in terms of resolution 1540, and one fairly recently in support of the World Health Organisation.

  The EU is also putting money behind the rhetoric in some ways. Over the years, it has given between €5 million and €7 million to the OPCW for its activities. I think that it put in almost €1 million in support of various meetings to raise awareness of the BWC. The role of the EU is growing. It is still very much into common, foreign and security policy. It is intergovernmental. It is not something in which the Commission plays a great role.

  There is another concern. Some people have spoken about a straitjacket on the 27 EU members within the treaties. Not all 27 are as engaged and as active as one another; but whether they are in a straitjacket, they negotiate common positions, and that is the lowest common denominator that can be agreed on among the 27. The UK might want to go further, but it is limited by that. The other side is that the 27 states negotiating a position together are already a fairly sizeable number of CWC or BWC states parties. As opposed to the policy straitjacket, there is also a laboratory of consensus model, whereas states outside the EU are more likely to say, "Yes, that is a good approach or position because you have already negotiated it among yourselves. Obviously, it is value that combines the national positions." The EU is playing a positive role, but it needs to do more, and it needs more financial resources behind it.

  Chairman: We are very conscious of the time. I shall bring Sir John Stanley in briefly, and I want to ask about the Chemical Weapons Convention. I hope that we shall then conclude. We are running late, and I am worried about Divisions.

  Q75 Sir John Stanley: I want to talk about proliferation in relation to chemical weapons. I am following the question asked by Mr. Heathcoat-Amory earlier. As far as I am aware, the biggest single user in a so-called military context of chemical weapons since the first world war has been Saddam Hussein—first against the Iranians and then against his own people, the Kurds. The use was widespread, and as we know, they are incredibly awful weapons resulting in terrible, protracted deaths with acute pain. As has been widely reported from open sources, the foundations of Saddam Hussein's chemical weapon capability were laid by chemical companies based mainly inside EU member states.

  Do you believe that, since those chemical exports took place into Iraq, the EU has sufficiently tightened up its control over dual-use chemicals and that, in future, it will be impossible—or, I hope, very difficult—for chemical companies inside the EU particularly or, say, in the United States, to make those types of exports to someone who could then put together that technology and create a chemical weapon capability? Or are we still basically as vulnerable as we were when Saddam Hussein's chemical weapon capability was established?

  Daniel Feakes: I think that things have improved a lot since then. The EU now has a dual-use goods regime, which it did not have in the 1980s. That has also been improved over the years. All the member states have obligations under both conventions to have strong export controls. All members of the Australia Group do as well; they harmonise and talk about their export controls together. These things are also being more rigorously enforced. More press reports are coming out of the US about companies being fined for exporting to so-called countries of concern or companies that do not have licences to export what they have exported. A UK chemical company received a fine for an export made either last year or the year before. So enforcement is improving. The framework and the national enforcement are getting better. I would hope that something like that did not happen again.

  There was a lot of soul searching within the German and Swiss industries—the various ones involved in the Iraqi programme. In Holland, there is the case of Frans van Anraat—a Dutch person who facilitated a lot of those transfers. He was tried last year or the year before and sentenced to prison. More has happened on that score, so I hope that that will not be allowed to happen again.

  Q76  Sir John Stanley: If we do not have it already, could you please let us have a brief note of the UK company that was fined for breaching the chemical export control?

  Daniel Feakes: Yes.

  Q77  Chairman: Could I just ask a couple of questions about the chemical weapons convention? Mr. Feakes, you referred to the countries that had signed and those that were outside the regime. What is the British Government doing to encourage those who are outside to sign up and those that have signed but not ratified to ratify? Are we doing enough?

  Daniel Feakes: It is hard to say exactly what is happening. As far as I know, there are demarches every so often. The EU has a collective demarche, say, in Tel Aviv or Damascus. Every so often, our ambassador or the EU representative will deliver demarches to the Governments there. These countries are all invited to the various OPCW meetings. The Middle East is particularly tough area. There are some meetings that Israel will not attend—for example, if Syria or Egypt are attending—or vice versa. That is a very tricky area.

  One thing that the EU has being doing recently is trying to link arms control—these kinds of issue—more to other issues such as trade. The EU holds a very big soft power weapon. It has come up with a non-proliferation clause in its recent agreements with third countries, so that the EU is saying, "We will meet you on trade as long as you do something on arms control." There are various ways to do it. I am not sure of the details of what the UK Government do, but I know pressure is exerted, although I guess there could always be more.

  Q78  Chairman: What about those countries that have signed but not yet legislated, or have not appointed or designated a National Authority within the terms of the chemical weapons convention? Are we doing anything on that issue?

  Daniel Feakes: As far as I know, the same sort of things happen. It is a matter of pressure. For a long time, the OPCW would say that many states have not met such and such an obligation, whereas now it is naming such states. There is a naming and shaming process going on.

  Q79 Chairman: Perhaps you could give us a note setting out more detail on these areas, because clearly it will be helpful when we produce our report if we can name and shame as well.[5]

  Daniel Feakes: The UK is also involved in technical assistance programmes, so there is finance behind it, too.

5   Ev 288 Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2009
Prepared 14 June 2009