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Nuclear Security

Volume 974: debated on Thursday 29 November 1979

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asked the Prime Minister whether she will order a review of British involvement in joint European projects in so far as matters of nuclear security are concerned, in the light of the Khan incident at Urenco.

I have been asked to reply.

The Government attach importance to continued participation in the collaboration on centrifuge enrichment. Our concern about the Khan incident in the Netherlands has been made very clear to our partners, and action has already been taken to reinforce the arrangements for monitoring the implementation of existing tripartite security rules and procedures. Security is being kept under close review by the joint committee of the three Governments in the light of he report by the Netherlands Government of their investigation of the Khan incident.

No other joint European projects in the civil nuclear field currently involve the transfer of classified information but all are kept under continuous review for security and other impilcations.

Since the issue is nuclear proliferation in Asia, are the Government saying that they are satisfied with the Dutch proposals put forward at the joint committee on 16 November?

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's close interest in this matter. It is extremely important. He had the courtesy to make clear what he wished to ask in putting down his question. It is perhaps difficult always to be satisfied, but we shall do everything possible through diplomatic channels to impress upon our partners the vital importance of these security arrangements.

What steps are being taken to make sure that nationals of countries that are not signatories to the non-proliferation treaty, such as Israel and South Africa, do not have access to the techniques covered by Urenco?

These are matters relating to arrangements on security reached between the Governments concerned. I shall make sure that they are brought to the attention of those concerned.

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that the development of nuclear power, on a civil basis, internationally or nationally, involves grave dangers? This has been demonstrated at Harrisburg. Will he also accept that grave reductions in our civil liberties are involved, due to the tight security arrangements that are frequently necessary? Will the Government move away from their obsession with nuclear power and cease to build, construct or develop nuclear power until an absolutely concrete and complete safeguard is provided against any injury?

The answer to that question must be "No, Sir". But we will keep all security considerations carefully in mind.