Examination of Witnesses (Questions 240-259)|
MP, PAUL ARKWRIGHT
4 FEBRUARY 2009
Q240 Andrew Mackinlay: I used Iran
as an example, but are you comfortable that we have sufficient
powers in statute law to be homing in on the three categories
to which I referred? Those are terrorists, rogue states and other
states. I am not arguing this thing. It shows a flaw in our powers
does it not? We have boasted around the worldwe bash people's
heads around the worldsaying it must comply with the United
Nations, the Greenstock committee and so on, yet we have been
found to be flawed.
Bill Rammell: If you look at our
track record compared with other states, we have a good record.
Does that mean that it works in every circumstance? Arguably not,
and we constantly need to keep under review whether we need to
Q241 Sandra Osborne: Minister, you
suggested that the IAEA needs to be strengthened. Should the additional
protocol be implemented on a more widespread basis? Given the
likely increase of the use of civil nuclear power to secure energy
supply and climate change obligationsan independent commission
of experts suggested last year that they would need £80 million
up front with £50 million increases in real terms on a yearly
basiswhat commitment are the British Government going to
give to increasing the resources as part of their contribution
to the IAEA's budget?
Bill Rammell: Let us look at the
track record. We are the fourth largest contributor to the IAEA
at the momentI think I am right in saying that we are the
second largest contributor to the non-statutory funding stream.
So, we are substantial contributors to areas such as the technical
co-operation fund and the nuclear security fund. We contribute
thousands of IAEA safeguard inspectors, we have been undertaking
that process since 1981the IAEA is certainly very appreciative
of the support that we give.
Across the boardas MPs around this table
will knowwe face a tight fiscal environment. We have a
general policy of zero real growth towards the budget of international
organisationsI think most of our constituents would say
that that is the right approach. It is also the case that if you
look at the 2020 report commissioned by Mohamed el-Baradei, it
recommends that the IAEA should place more priority on those areas
that it works in and that there was further scope for efficiency
savings. We want the IAEA to be resourced to do the job, and we
will help in any way we can, but to say that we will commit greater
resources than we are at the moment is not realistic.
Q242 Sandra Osborne: May I ask you
about the al-Kibar facility in Syria? The IAEA was not aware of
thatit did not pick up on itand the US did not divulge
the information that it had about it in advance of the attack
on the facility. What do you think that says about the IAEA's
role in effectively monitoring compliance with the NPT?
Bill Rammell: The IAEII
always have problems with that terminologythe International
Atomic Energy Authority has argued that states should make available
the intelligence information that they have about Syria, We have
done that and other states have done that. If you look at the
presentation that the US made in April last year, in our estimate
that did provide compelling evidence to support the assessment
that Syria was building a nuclear site with North Korea's co-operation.
Undoubtedly we want positive interaction between states that are
party to the NPT and the IAEA.
Q243 Chairman: The Syrians vigorously
denied the allegation that that was a nuclear site. Neither Syria
nor Israel has been prepared to co-operate with the IAEA to answer
how the uranium traces found at the site got there. Why do you
think that is?
Bill Rammell: I am not sure that
I know the answer to that in detail. Certainly we have spoken
directly to the Syriansyou will know that for the last
18 or 20 months we have been developing a dialogue with the Syriansand
we have strongly urged them to engage with Dr. el-Baradei. If
you look at his report from last November, that concluded that
the building that was destroyed and its related infrastructure
was similar to that which may be found at a nuclear reactor sitealthough
he could not rule out a non-nuclear use. He went on to call explicitly
for Syria to agree to a further IAEA visit. That is what we have
urged and asked Syria to comply with. Similarly, if Israel has
information that can help Dr. el-Baradei get to the bottom of
that problem, it should do that.
Q244 Chairman: The Syrians are claiming
that the uranium traces were introduced when the Israelis bombed
the site. Presumably the Israelis could provide information that
would make clear that that was not the case.
Bill Rammell: And that is what
we have said, publicly and privately, that we want the Israeli
Government to do. Also, from Syria's point of view, I think that
if there is genuinely nothing to hide, there is a way of reassuring,
and that is to bring the IAEA in and allow them unfettered access
to reach a conclusion.
Q245 Mr. Horam: Do the Government
have any dialogue with Israel on its assumed nuclear capacity?
Bill Rammell: I said to you earlier
that we have consistently made it clear that we want Israel to
sign up as a non-nuclear weapon state.
Q246 Mr. Horam: But it cannot, of
course, if it has got nuclear weapons.
Bill Rammell: Yes. Mariot, do
you want to talk about dialogue on that front?
Mariot Leslie: I think that the
simple answer is no.
Q247 Mr. Horam: We do not have such
dialogue. Moving on to India, how does the Government's support
for the US-India civil nuclear co-operation initiative advance
the aim of bringing India into the NPT?
Bill Rammell: Ideally, I would
like India to be in the NPT now as a non-nuclear weapon state.
In the short term, that is unlikely to be achieved. One of the
advantages of the US-India deal was that it brought India into
the broader non-proliferation framework. The fact that, unilaterally
and publicly, India declared that it would not test further was
a positive step. The fact that it said that it was willing to
engage in negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty was
a positive indication. Short of getting India to do what we ideally
want, it was a step to pull it in within the broader non-proliferation
Q248 Mr. Horam: Do you think that
we have got as far as we can?
Bill Rammell: No. I would still
like to get to the position where India signs up as a non-nuclear
weapon state. In the short-term, however, this is better than
where we were.
Paul Arkwright: The Indians have
now signed the safeguards agreement with the IAEA, which I think
is a very important step following the separation of the civil
and military nuclear facilities in India. We are pressing them
hard to continue their negotiations on signing up to an Additional
Protocol, which would be another further step of confidence that
they can take. We would like them to pursue those negotiations
Q249 Sir Menzies Campbell: If the
policy is that Israel should sign up as a non-nuclear power, then
that could only be effective if Israel was a non-nuclear power.
Accepting for the moment, as most people do, that Israel is a
nuclear power, it is very difficult to foresee circumstances,
in the medium or even the long term, where that is likely to happen.
Bill Rammell: That remains our
position. However, realistically, short of a substantive agreement
in terms of the Middle East peace process, that is unlikely to
Q250 Sir Menzies Campbell: If there
is no dialogue, then how do you progress the policy? Is it raised?
The Prime Minister told usI think at Prime Minister's Questions
todaythat he had had a conversation with Mr. Olmert. When
he has conversations with Mr. Olmert, do you understand that that
issue may be raised?
Bill Rammell: Certainly, the Israeli
Government are aware of our position. In terms of discussions
with the Israeli Government, I think you will understand that,
over the recent periods, the 100% focus of that has been about
trying to secure a ceasefire in Gaza. But the Israeli Government
are certainly aware of our view and position.
Q251 Sir Menzies Campbell: The truth
is that, for the foreseeable future, Israel is going to retain
its nuclear capability.
Bill Rammell: There is an assumed
Sir Menzies Campbell: Mr. Mordechai Vanunu,
I think, tells us a little bit about that when he is allowed to
from time to time.
Bill Rammell: I do not resile
from the position at all. The Government and I would like to see
a nuclear-free Middle East and we would like Israel to sign up
as a non-nuclear weapon state. That is our position. However,
if one is realistic, until there is much greater progress in terms
of peace within the Middle East, the auguries for that are not
Q252 Sir Menzies Campbell: I wonder
how realistic it is to have a policy which, on the face of it,
is incapable of achievement.
Mariot Leslie: You can perfectly
well have a position that you are working to achieve through other
means, notably the great effort the Government are putting into
the Middle East peace process, into dealing with Iran, and into
improving security in the region. Those are the conditions that
would make it possible to have a Middle East that was free of
Q253 Sir Menzies Campbell: Is this
not more a hope and a prayer than a policy?
Bill Rammell: No, I do not think
it is. Our position is clear. As with a lot of these issuesand
I find this a lot in terms of the foreign policy debateit
is not the case that we can just say something and make it happen.
Q254 Sir Menzies Campbell: We all
understand that. But there are questions of credibility about
how realistic policies may be. Do you not feel any reservations
about articulating that as being the Government's policy, when
the prospects of achievement are as limited as I think you concede?
Bill Rammell: Let us turn it on
its head. The alternative to that would be to say that we are
comfortable accepting states that are not parties to the NPT possessing
nuclear weapons. That is emphatically not our position, which
is why we hold the position that we do. However, does that mean
that I think it is realistic that we will make progress on that
in the short term? NoI am being straight with youI
do not think the prospects for that are good.
Q255 Sir Menzies Campbell: I am personally
comfortable with that last answer, but that would, in my mind,
trigger the importance of seeking dialogue.
Bill Rammell: I hear what you
are saying, but there is a very great awareness of our position.
Q256 Chairman: May I take you back
to India and Pakistan? The Americans have signed the deal with
the Indians, which has run into difficulties. What is the British
Government's assessment of the prospects of that deal actually
coming to fruition? Also, what are the implications of that deal
for Pakistan, given that the memorandum from the FCO says that
co-operation with Pakistan on civil nuclear power is "not
Bill Rammell: In terms of the
prospects to get the deal through, I think that ultimately they
are still good, but there are issues and challenges that need
to be addressed; I believe that those can be. In respect of Pakistan,
I think our position is more accurately described as "not
now"in that the conditions are not appropriate"but
Q257 Chairman: So, it could be under
consideration next month, or the month after?
Bill Rammell: We are not talking
about that time scale. I think you would need to see a number
of other changes within Pakistan. But certainlyas an indicator
of the efforts we are making in this regardwe are at the
moment working with the IAEA in assisting Pakistan in implementing
its nuclear security action plan. If, over an extended period
of time, we made progress on that and on other fronts, we could
envisage circumstances in the future where that may be possible,
but, certainly, that is not the position at the moment. We would
not contemplate that at the moment, but, as I said, it is not
now, but it is not never.
Q258 Chairman: May I put it to you
that India and Pakistan nearly went to war five or six years ago
and that would have been a nuclear conflict? It could happen at
any time over Kashmir or other issues, including the very bad
relations that there currently are as a result of the terrorism
in Mumbai. Is this not one of the most urgent prioritiesto
deal with this potential nuclear conflict between two countries
which still have very bad relations, closed borders and lots of
potential sources of friction?
Bill Rammell: The answer to that
is yes. That is why we strongly support the composite dialogue
between the two countries
Chairman: Which has been broken off.
Bill Rammell: Yes, but I still
think that that is the best route to make progress. It is very
positive that, between the directors general of their respective
militaries, there is a continuing channel of communication. In
terms of our efforts, I agree with your assessment that there
have historically been real concerns about the balance of power
and the potential conflict between these two countries. We invest
a lot of time and effort in working with both sides to ensure
that we do not get to the position of ultimate conflict.
Chairman: We will come back to this later
in the year. I think we should move on.
Q259 Mr. Hamilton: Successive British
Governments have insisted on retaining an independent nuclear
deterrent. Within the last two years, this Parliament has voted
on the continuation and reconstruction of Trident submarines.
The memorandum, which I think was submitted to the Committee by
the FCO, accepted that there is a possible linkage between non-proliferation
efforts and progress in wider nuclear disarmament. It says, "Counter-proliferation
efforts risk being undermined if other states perceive, rightly
or wrongly, that the Nuclear Weapon States are not delivering
on their side of the bargain and actively pursuing nuclear disarmament".
Last December, the Foreign Secretary said, "The
UK is committed to working actively to create a world free from
nuclear weapons", and that international action against proliferation
needed to include "re-energised action on multilateral nuclear
disarmament" in order to be fully effective.
Do you accept, Minister, that the Government's
decision to renew Tridentwhich Parliament endorsedis
problematic? Surely in terms of public perception, the fact that
we continue to build submarines and have a nuclear deterrent,
while telling other countries that they may not have them, is
a little embarrassing?
Bill Rammell: No, I do not think
that is the case. However, I preface that by saying that it is
a statement reflecting the reality that, in terms of our international
posture, no subject has been more divisive, particularly in this
country, for decades. People on either side of the argument hold
very strong views.
Part of our challenge politically is to get
across our track record on disarmament and the fact that our explosive
capability in nuclear terms has been reduced by 75% since the
height of the cold war. Our missiles are not targeted and they
require several days' notice to fire. Those are de-escalatory
measures. We are among the strongest advocates for the universal
ratification of the comprehensive test ban treaty, and we are
energetically pursuing a fissile material cut-off treaty. All
those measures indicate that we are not only strong advocates
of nuclear disarmament, but that we practice what we preach. We
are rightly seen by international partners and by non-governmental
organisations as the most forward leaning of the nuclear weapon
states in terms of disarmament.
However, to come to the nub of your question,
despite that track record, and even with the reductions that have
taken place elsewhere, substantial arsenals still exist internationally.
There are rogue states which, according to all available evidence,
are clearly seeking a nuclear capability, and there are terrorist
networks that would like to develop that capability into the bargain.
Given all that, and given the projections about the time span
over which the submarines and equipment would become dysfunctional,
we faced a choice. Had we not taken the decision at that stage,
we would have effectively been committing future Parliaments and
generations to unilateral nuclear disarmament. Although I genuinely
want to arrive at a world that is free from nuclear weapons, I
do not think that it would have been the right decision to take
at that stage.