Committee report assesses global security threats

14 June 2009

In its new report, published today, the Foreign Affairs Committee provides an assessment of the current threat posed by nuclear, biological, chemical and conventional weapons and ballistic missiles, both from states and from terrorists, and current Government policy to mitigate these threats.

On nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, Committee Chairman Mike Gapes MP said:

"The critical threats to international peace and stability posed by the recent actions of North Korea and Iran’s continuing nuclear ambitions are some of the vital issues which must be addressed at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference next year. Although we think that the UK has the best record among them, my Committee concludes that the five recognised nuclear powers are often perceived as a group by the non-nuclear weapons states, and that, as such, the group is seen collectively to have failed to live up to its nuclear disarmament commitments. We further conclude that this undermines prospects for containing nuclear proliferation. We therefore believe that the renewed talks on nuclear disarmament which have been launched recently by Presidents Obama and Medvedev could greatly aid progress at the 2010 conference and hope that they come to speedy fruition. We call on all five of the recognised nuclear weapons states to commit to further progress on nuclear disarmament. We commend the steps that the Government has taken to scale down and de-escalate the UK’s nuclear arsenal. We welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement that the new Trident submarines are to carry fewer missiles than the current boats, and we recommend that the Government should do more to highlight this and other nuclear disarmament steps which it has taken.

"The international nuclear non-proliferation system is also challenged because three states—India, Pakistan and Israel—have failed to sign up to the NPT and developed nuclear weapons outside it. We support the Government’s aim of bringing them in, although we are sceptical about prospects for this. It will also be crucial to maintain international support for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), including through proper funding."

On ballistic missile defence, Mr Gapes said:

"We are unconvinced that the planned US ballistic missile defence (BMD) deployments in the Czech Republic and Poland represent a net gain for European security, under current circumstances. We urge that BMD in Europe should be developed, if at all, as a joint system between the US, NATO and Russia. We repeat the call that we made in a report two years ago for the Government to schedule a full Parliamentary debate on ballistic missile defence."

On biological and chemical weapons, Mr Gapes said:

"There is still work to do in the control of both biological and chemical weapons. In particular, the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the full destruction of existing chemical weapons stockpiles around the world are vital steps. More work is required to make sure that all states sign up to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention and to find new mechanisms to strengthen the Convention, with the ultimate goal of agreeing a verification protocol."

On conventional weapons, Mr Gapes said:

"We commend the Government’s work towards securing an international Arms Trade Treaty, and we argue that the strength of the future treaty should take priority over the breadth of its membership. The Government should continue its work in these areas and to provide international leadership, both individually and as part of the EU."

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