DEFENCE – DEBATE EXTRACTS – 21 October 2004
(i) TACTICAL TOMAHAWK
Dr Julian Lewis: Before my hon. Friend [Nicholas Soames] moves on from the question of platform numbers, does he agree that it is curious that a Government who are emphasising high technology and reducing the number of Type 45 destroyers that they propose to build are nevertheless refusing to put Tactical Tomahawk missiles on those destroyers, despite the fact that all our Navy chiefs are unanimous that we need that for force projection purposes?
[Mr Soames (Shadow Secretary of State for Defence): I am grateful to my hon. Friend. It is sad that he is not on the Front Bench with us for such debates and we miss him a great deal. ... About Tactom, I agree with him entirely. It would be more than an aspiration for us to get Tomahawk on the new batch of Type 45s because that would create a formidable piece of kit.]
(ii) LIBERAL DEMOCRATS AND NUCLEAR WEAPONS
Dr Julian Lewis: The hon. Gentleman [Paul Keetch] is making a good speech and holding the attention of the House. While we are on the subject of Liberal Democrat defence policy, what is official Liberal Democrat defence policy on the future of the nuclear deterrent? Is it not right that the Liberals would not replace the strategic nuclear deterrent when Trident becomes obsolete?
[Mr Keetch (Liberal Democrat Defence Spokesman): It is funny that the hon. Gentleman asked me that question because I expected it to come from a Labour Member, but I am happy to deal with it. The Liberal Democrats support the retention of an independent British nuclear deterrent. That does not necessary commit us to replacing Trident with a submarine-launched deterrent system, because there is an important discussion to be had about the kind of nuclear deterrent that is appropriate for Britain after Trident – personally, I do not think that it is a submarine-launched ballistic missile deterrent. Our policy document, "Defending Democracy", which was produced at the beginning of last year, stated that we retain the principle of an independent British nuclear deterrent.]
(iii) NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION -- ARTICLE VI
[Llew Smith (Lab): ... The Government's latest attempt to justify nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction appeared in their response to a question tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Denzil Davies). The Minister for Europe stated:
"Under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty ... five states – the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Russia and China – are legally entitled to possess nuclear weapons." – [Official Report, 1 September 2004; Vol. 424, c. 689W.]
The problem is that that statement is untrue. The Minister conflated the definition of a nuclear weapon state under the NPT with its legality. The NPT, however, is clear on this matter: article 9, paragraph 3, states:
"For the purpose of this Treaty, a Nuclear Weapon State is one which has manufactured and exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive devices prior to 1 January, 1967."
That defines what constitutes a nuclear weapon state, but it does not make legal our continued possession of nuclear WMD. In fact, as Ministers well know, Article VI of the NPT explicitly requires our nuclear WMD to be negotiated away. Most independent observers will agree that we have failed to carry out that obligation.]
Dr Lewis: That is a common myth put forward by unilateral nuclear disarmers. Article VI does not require us to get rid of our nuclear weapons unless or until there is a global agreement by all countries to get rid of all nuclear weapons.
[Mr Smith: By sheer coincidence, I happen to have the relevant passage from article VI of the NPT. It states:
"Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control."]
Dr Lewis: That means the whole world.
[Mr Keith Simpson (Shadow Defence Minister): ... The hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Llew Smith) repeated his well-known arguments against nuclear weapons and he had an interesting and frank exchange of law with my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, East (Dr Lewis).
... My hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, East – we Front Benchers miss him as a result of his transfer to another Shadow Department – made two powerful points, the first of which concerned platforms and numbers, to which I shall return. He also provided a very interesting checklist on the running requirements for peacekeeping and, above all, for victory in the battle of ideas.]