Tobias Ellwood reports to the House of Commons on the 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.
Mr Ellwood said:
The House may welcome a report on the 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, held at the United Nations in New York between 27 April and 22 May to review progress and agree future actions against the NPT’s three pillars: disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The Review Conference was a substantive event, which advanced discussion on each of the Treaty’s three pillars but concluded without reaching a consensus outcome.
The UK played an active role both in the preparation for the Review Conference and at the Conference itself. As part of its preparations for the Review Conference, the UK invited certain non-nuclear weapons states and civil society representatives, for the first time, to the UK-hosted P5 Conference of nuclear weapon states in February this year. The UK also submitted a revised National Report setting out the action the UK is taking to support the NPT. We encouraged and participated in five rounds of informal consultations between Israel and Arab States on a Conference on a Middle East zone free from nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.
The Minister of State at the Foreign and Comonwealth Office, the Rt Hon Baroness Anelay of St Johns DBE, set out the UK’s approach and progress against NPT objectives on the opening day of the Conference. The UK delegation participated actively, both in the main Conference and at side events, including on our pioneering verification work and nuclear energy. We engaged constructively in the negotiations throughout, seeking to reach agreement and to make progress on all three pillars of the Treaty.
We were disappointed that, despite the progress made in many areas, the Conference was not able to find common ground on how to make further progress on the proposed Middle East zone free from nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. This issue was the reason that consensus was not reached on the draft outcome document. The UK sought a process which was meaningful and based on arrangements freely arrived at by all states of the region. The proposed text would not have enabled tangible progress to be made and so we were unable to support the draft conclusions. We remain committed to the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East, the creation of a Middle East zone free from nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction, and the steps agreed in 2010 towards that end.
The UK’s commitment to the Treaty and to fulfilling our NPT obligations, including under Article VI on disarmament, remains undiminished. As a responsible nuclear weapon state and an original party to the NPT, the UK remains committed to creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons. We have reduced our nuclear forces by well over half since the Cold War peak and dismantled all of our air delivered nuclear weapons. In 2010 the UK committed to reducing the number of operationally available warheads to no more than 120; we have now achieved this which means that our Vanguard submarines now carry 40 warheads. We also remain on course to reduce our total stockpile of nuclear weapons to no more than 180 warheads by the mid 2020s.
The lack of a consensus outcome neither undermines the Treaty nor changes States’ obligations. Of the eight previous Review Conferences, three have ended without consensus. Throughout, the Treaty has remained vitally important for the UK and for the international community as a whole, playing an unparalleled role in curtailing the nuclear arms race and keeping the world safe. The Action Plan agreed at the 2010 Review Conference remains valid as a comprehensive roadmap for all NPT States to follow to take forward action on disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful use of nuclear technology, as do the agreements from 2000 and 1995. The UK will continue to pursue this roadmap, working closely with our partners in the NPT.