Skip to main content

Nuclear Weapons

Volume 488: debated on Monday 2 March 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) whether the Mutual Defence Agreement 2004 has been amended to enable co-operation on the Reliable Replacement Warhead programme; (258415)

(2) whether the Mutual Defence Agreement 2004 has been amended to enable the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston to (a) undertake and (b) host work on the Reliable Replacement Warhead programme;

(3) whether the Mutual Defence Agreement 2004 has been amended in order to (a) give the United Kingdom access to information on the use of control technologies and (b) enable the United Kingdom to participate in the Reliable Replacement Warhead programme.

No. While the duration of the Mutual Defence Agreement (MDA) was extended by another 10 years (to 2014) in 2004, no extension to its scope was made then or since. In my reply to an earlier question by the hon. Member on 4 November 2008, Official Report, column 308W, I confirmed that following the exchange of letters between the then Prime Minister and the then US President in December 2006, enhanced collaborations are taking place between the United Kingdom and the United States under the MDA in support of the UK’s nuclear stockpile stewardship programme and which contribute to the ongoing review of warhead options announced in the 2006 White Paper—“The Future of the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Deterrent (CMD 6994)”.

I am withholding the information about the detailed nature of these enhanced collaboration, in the interests of national security.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether staff at the Atomic Weapons Establishment Aldermaston follow similar concept design, development and production processes as in laboratories in the United States. (258425)

There are a number of similarities in approach between the Atomic Weapons Establishment and their counterparts in the United States national laboratories. These include the management of research, the assessment of technology readiness, and the fundamentals of science-based stockpile stewardship in the absence of underground nuclear tests. However, our warheads are based on a wholly UK design and differ from US warheads in a number of areas.