The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, William Hague: The House may welcome a report on the outcome of the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) held in New York from 3 - 28 May and government action and policy in this regard.
It is the view of the Government that we are facing the risk of a new age of nuclear insecurity. In recent years, the NPT has come under unprecedented pressure from a combination of factors: the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea; the risks of terrorist groups acquiring nuclear materials; the expected global renaissance in civil nuclear energy potentially leading to the dissemination of sensitive technology; and a fraying of the international consensus that has underpinned the Treaty due to a perception that the Nuclear Weapon States have not done enough to meet their nuclear disarmament commitments under the NPT.
But all States benefit substantially from the NPT, in terms of both enhanced security and cooperation on civil nuclear energy. It is too important to be allowed to be undermined.
As I said in the Foreign Affairs debate on 26 May, ‘stemming an uncontrolled spread of nuclear know-how and equipment, deterring any country that might be tempted to try to acquire nuclear weapons from doing so and keeping nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists must be a top foreign policy priority of any British Government…. In opposition, my party promised decisive UK leadership in this effort if elected, and the coalition agreement pledged an immediate and strong UK role at the Conference.’
I am therefore delighted that the Conference successfully reached agreement to revitalise the Treaty as the cornerstone of global efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, to promote the safe and secure use of civil nuclear energy and to pursue the goal of a world without nuclear weapons.
I warmly congratulate the President of the Conference, Ambassador Cabactulan of the Philippines, and all the States parties to the NPT for successfully putting aside the failures of the past to make this Review Conference a success.
The UK pushed hard for this success. During the Foreign Affairs Debate in this House on 26 May, as an immediate contribution further to assist in building the climate of trust between nuclear and non-nuclear weapons states, I announced the ceiling figure for the UK’s overall nuclear warhead stockpile (225) and that the Government will re-examine the UK’s nuclear declaratory policy as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State the Member for North East Bedfordshire attended the Review Conference on the same day to repeat these announcements there as well as to meet other delegations to help promote a positive outcome.
The negotiations were not easy and the outcome necessarily represents compromise between the States Parties. But it also marks, after the failure to secure agreement at the previous Review Conference in 2005, the first time in ten years that the international community has been able to come together to agree on the collective efforts that will be required. President Obama’s leadership, with the conclusion of the New START agreement, the US Nuclear Posture Review and the Washington Nuclear Security Summit in April provided critical political impetus.
The UK’s Objectives
We wanted the Conference to agree on a balanced outcome with specific forward action plans to strengthen implementation of the Treaty’s non-proliferation and disarmament provisions and to support civil nuclear energy without increasing proliferation risks. We also wanted the Conference to decide how to implement the Resolution, adopted at the 1995 Review and Extension Conference, on a zone free of Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East, particularly as agreement on this was critical to achieving consensus on the other elements.
Achieving consensus among 189 States Parties on such a substantive agenda was deliberately ambitious and we recognised that it would be challenging. The Conference nonetheless succeeded in reaching agreement, for the first time in the NPT’s history, on a detailed and balanced set of actions to revitalise the Treaty, establishing benchmarks for future progress.