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David Lidington MP addresses the challenge of nuclear proliferation

LIDINGTON DAVID NEW In a Westminster Hall debate last week, Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister David Lidington MP discussed the challenge of nuclear proliferation.

The non-proliferation treaty has a good history: "When we look at the history of the non-proliferation treaty, we can take some pride in the fact that it has helped, in its way, to keep the peace in the world over recent decades. Most importantly, the existence of the treaty and the framework of inspections and controls it incorporates have provided mechanisms that have prevented proliferation. In trying to imagine how the world might have developed if the NPT had not existed, I think we would today see a world with many more powers in possession of nuclear weapons. The NPT and the International Atomic Energy Agency have also provided a mechanism for allowing certain countries—the ex-Soviet republics of Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, and also South Africa—to dismantle nuclear weapons programmes that they had on their territory."

But today's challenges are enormous: "There are now not only sovereign states that have developed or are seeking to develop nuclear weapons capability in defiance of the non-proliferation treaty, but terrorist groups that make no secret of their wish to obtain weapons of mass destruction and use them to create as many victims as possible. Today the ambition and example of North Korea and Iran are testing to the limit whether the controls embodied in the NPT actually work and will provide a safeguard against further proliferation."

The International Atomic Energy Agency needs to make unannounced inspections: "We would like to see the parties to the treaty set themselves a number of objectives next year. One should be to strengthen the inspectorate by, for example, making the additional protocol, with its provision for unannounced inspections, mandatory for all signatories to the treaty. Another should be to make it easier for action to be taken against violations of the treaty or defiance of the IAEA. For example, there might be provision for automatic reference to the Security Council if a country acted in the way that Iran has done, having withdrawn from the additional protocol after originally subscribing to it."

Internationalising the nuclear power cycle: "Another important item on next year’s agenda should be efforts to internationalise the nuclear fuel cycle. Again, that is very much a live issue in respect of Iran. Different Governments, including our own, have made various proposals such as international banks of enriched material or guarantees from existing nuclear weapons states to supply the enriched material required for the civil nuclear programmes of countries that are not nuclear weapons states but that wish legitimately, within the treaty framework, to develop civil nuclear energy programmes. Establishing some form of international control over the nuclear fuel cycle is essential if those countries seeking to develop civil nuclear energy are to be able to press ahead while retaining confidence that adequate safeguards against weapons proliferation remain in place."

The US needs to ratify the comprehensive test ban treaty: "I hope that next year the Government will encourage our friends in the United States, particularly our friends in both parties in the US Congress, to accept that American ratification of the comprehensive test ban treaty would be a major signal of US commitment to the process of multilateral disarmament. It would undoubtedly help towards the achievement of a successful review of the non-proliferation treaty, which is profoundly in the interests of this country to secure and which, clearly from today’s debate, commands the support of all sides of the House."

> Mr Lidington's full contribution is here.


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