Lords debates multilateral nuclear disarmament

25 January 2013

Members of the Lords debated the prospects for multilateral nuclear disarmament and the contribution Britain can make, yesterday (Thursday 24 January)

Lord Ramsbotham (Crossbench) opened the debate, saying: 'We sit at nuclear disarmament tables not least because of our possession of nuclear weapons. However, as with France and China during the Cold War and other states that have acquired them later, we do so conscious that we are a bit player compared with the two nuclear giants, the United States and Russia. Like many others, I am absolutely at one with President Obama's commitment in his famous Prague speech of April 2009,"to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons."’

He continued: ‘...if progress is to be made with the United Kingdom's published position with regard to multilateral nuclear disarmament, and if Britain is to make a credible contribution to achieving that aim, my plea to the minister is that she will recognise the unease and suspicion created by the government's apparent reluctance or refusal to examine all the criteria associated with continuing our possession of nuclear weapons and denial of objective scrutiny and searching debate, and undertake to enable a proper debate on the conclusions of the Trident alternatives review.’

Baroness Williams of Crosby (Liberal Democrat) followed, saying: ‘I suggest strongly that we should look to the developments in cyberwarfare, which are terrifying, and at developments in robot warfare, of which we have the example of the drone, which is used increasingly in Pakistan and Afghanistan and is likely now to be used in west Africa, in countries such as Somalia and other out-of-control states, and ask whether Trident is relevant, and whether nuclear weapons are relevant.’

Lord Lea of Crondall (Labour) spoke about the role of inspectors, saying: ‘Huge importance should be attached to the problem of inspection within the regime and the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). When some of us were in Vienna - I have got a long history of being involved with the IAEA for various reasons - and were discussing Iran, it seemed to me that the nuclear powers wanted to push the IAEA procedures to one side. However, we have to recognise the use of the proper procedures in the treaty obligations to which we have signed up and not make things up as we go along.’

Baroness Warsi (Conservative) responded on behalf of the government, saying: ‘The UK strongly supports the goal of a world without nuclear weapons and is active in helping to build the international environment that we hope will deliver this. We have shown considerable leadership in reducing our own nuclear weapons capabilities and in offering reassurances about the very limited and discrete circumstances in which we may contemplate their use... Our contribution towards the goal of multilateral disarmament is and will continue to be strong. We will take every opportunity to pursue our resolute commitment to a world without nuclear weapons.’

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