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Nuclear Proliferation

Volume 978: debated on Wednesday 13 February 1980

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1.

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he is satisfied that all possible steps are being taken by Her Majesty's Government to prevent the spread of nuclear armaments to countries which do not currently possess them.

The Government believe that the non-proliferation treaty is the best defence against nuclear weapons proliferation. As a depository Power, the United Kingdom tries to persuade others to adhere to the treaty, which now has 113 parties. We have fully observed our obligations under the treaty and the Nuclear Suppliers Group arrangements on nuclear exports.

Is the Minister aware that there will be widespread support for the proposal that the Government's main effort in this vital subject should be through the non-proliferation treaty review conference due this summer? Does he agree that there is a unique opportunity at present, in view of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the reappraisal of defence needs in that area, when some countries calling for help have not yet subscribed to the non-proliferation treaty? Does he agree that Pakistan and other nations that seek help at this time, from us and our Allies, should be encouraged to participate in the non-proliferation treaty?

:Yes, Sir. President Zia has said that Pakistan has no intention of acquiring a nuclear weapon or transferring nuclear technology to other countries. The best course, as my hon. Friend says, would be for Pakistan to sign the treaty. It has said that this would have to be accompanied by a signature from India. If there is anything that the Government can do to help forward that process, we shall do so.

Are the Government involved in the American $400 million package of aid to Pakistan? What active steps have been taken to help the Nuclear Suppliers Group stop Pakistan from getting nuclear weapons?

The hon. Gentleman, who follows this matter closely, knows the measures that we have taken. They have been discussed in this House. As regards defence help for Pakistan, we are not involved in that proposal but we are discussing, as has been stated, with our partners and Allies, possible forms of help to that country.

This development on nonproliferation is to be welcomed, but would it not be realistic to accept that many countries, whether we like it or not, will develop nuclear weapons for the same reasons that we and other nations have done so? Is it not time to look again at the overall policy and, perhaps, consider examining regional agreements that might be more effective in stabilising the balance of power elsewhere in the world?

There is something in that. As the hon. Gentleman knows, some Latin American countries have come together in discussions on those lines. There will be the conference reviewing the progress of the non-proliferation treaty probably towards the end of the summer or early autumn. We intend to take a full part.

Will the Minister say what export licensing orders and arrangements are still in force restricting the supply of components that could be used in the manufacture of nuclear equipment in Pakistan and other countries? Will he say something about the progress being made with the INFCE report, which will have implications for the better policing of nuclear materials throughout the world?

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, from his last office, these export controls are in being. They are looked at from time to time. We have recently tightened them to take account of the latest developments. The INFCE discussion to which he refers is still in being. I understand that there is a final meeting shortly. It has cleared the ground a good deal and removed some of the misconceptions. We believe that the final documents, when they emerge, will contain useful guidance for the future.