§ 2.47 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:
§ Whether it is their policy that the successful completion of the current Geneva negotiations for a comprehensive test ban treaty is a necessary preliminary if the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty Extension Conference in April 1995 in New York is to be equally successful; and whether they will encourage and support endeavours to achieve this.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Viscount Cranborne)
My Lords, our aim is to conclude an effective comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty (CTBT) which makes a genuine contribution to non-proliferation as soon as possible. We continue to believe that imposing a deadline will not necessarily help the progress of negotiations. We do not, therefore, see a CTBT as an 477 essential pre-requisite for a successful conclusion to the Non-Proliferation Treaty review and Extension Conference in 1995.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, I am obliged to the; noble Viscount for that Answer, although I am sure that he will understand why I do not entirely agree with it. Will the Minister take into account the fact that proliferation has grown during the lifetime of the present Non-Proliferation Treaty? I take it that that is what the Minister means when he says that the Government are looking for an "effective" extension of the treaty. Would it not be a contribution towards making it effective if, by that time, we were to have an agreed CTBT? In those circumstances, can the Minister say whether there are any other plans to make the NPT more effective, if and when it is extended, than it has been hitherto? I ask that because, as the Minister is aware, proliferation—that is, both vertical and horizontal—has taken place throughout the lifetime of the present treaty.
My Lords, I am sure that your Lordships will accept from me that it distresses but does not altogether surprise me that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, and I are not in agreement on the point. However, I ask the noble Lord to consider the fact that the NPT and a comprehensive test ban treaty seek to achieve two different objectives. The Non-Proliferation Treaty, which will come to the end of its initial period of 25 years and fall due for renewal in 1995, is designed to try to prevent more states becoming nuclear weapon states. The comprehensive test ban treaty is allied to this but it is not contingent upon the NPT; it is really designed to try to prevent people from testing nuclear weapons. As to the second part of the noble Lord's question, I would remind him that the NPT is not easily susceptible to amendment. We will therefore seek to extend it in 1995, but we will at the same time endeavour to improve particularly the verification procedures with the IAEA which, as he well knows, are dependent and parallel with the NPT.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, does not the noble Viscount agree that unless a treaty is in place by April next year when the non-proliferation conference begins, that conference is likely to fail, for the same reason as it did last time—that there was no comprehensive test ban treaty? Is the noble Viscount aware that there is great urgency about this matter? Is he also aware that the Government's insistence that safety tests be excluded from the ban is not only of doubtful validity in itself but is opposed by the Americans, the Russians, the Chinese and practically everyone else and has no chance whatever of being accepted but is delaying negotiations towards an agreement?
My Lords, I shall not attempt to repeat the argument that I put to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins. However, I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, who I know knows a great deal about these matters, that it is very much more important, in view of the different nature of the two treaties, that we should endeavour to conclude a comprehensive test ban treaty as soon as possible, but what matters more is that the 478 terms of that treaty should achieve the objects we all desire. If it needs to be delayed beyond 1995 it would be merely artificial to attempt to link that in with the Non-Proliferation Treaty. If we can do it before 1995 —that looks increasingly doubtful—no one would be happier than I.
§ Baroness Blackstone
My Lords, will the Minister answer the question of the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, when he asked why the UK Government are continuing to argue and apply pressure for safety tests within the remit of the comprehensive test ban treaty when it is perfectly clear that this will be unacceptable to the US Government and when, as I understand it, our Trident warheads have already been certified as safe?
My Lords, I am happy to tell the noble Baroness that our Trident warheads have indeed—as she knows—been certified one point safe. It is through the negotiations, and the form that they take, that we should try to make sure that the quality of the agreement—as I said to the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew —is as good as we can make it. There are a number of matters which we shall have to negotiate with our partners and with other states which are taking part in the treaty, of which safety is one.
§ Baroness Blackstone
My Lords, I must come back yet again to remind the Minister that he has not answered the question: why are we still pressing for safety tests? Will he please answer that question?
My Lords, as I have already said to the noble Baroness, there are a number of matters as regards which we must play an important part in the negotiations. Safety tests are important as regards proliferation and indeed the safety of nuclear weapons. We must pay careful regard to the purpose of a comprehensive test ban treaty. Safety is an important part of that as I am sure the noble Baroness will agree.
§ Lord Avebury
My Lords, has the Minister seen any evidence that the existing provisions on atmospheric testing are being widely ignored by the Chinese at their Lopnur site causing devastating increases in morbidity and mortality in the neighbouring state of Kazakhstan? What steps can the international community take to persuade China to comply with her existing obligations let alone any new ones that may be imposed under the comprehensive test ban treaty?
My Lords, the fact that atmospheric tests are still taking place in one of the five recognised nuclear powers under the Non-Proliferation Treaty rather accentuates the difference between the two treaties that we have been discussing during the course of this afternoon, and underlines the importance of our achieving a proper and effective comprehensive test ban treaty and the fact that it is well worth our while taking the trouble and the time to achieve that rather than over-hurrying the process.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Wakeham)
My Lords, we must go on. We only have six minutes left for each of the other two Questions.