Marquess of Lothian questions Government on nuclear weapons use risk

The Marquess of Lothian asked Her Majesty’s Government “what assessment they have made of reports that Renata Dwan, Director of the UN Institute for Disarmament Research, warned on 21 May that the risk of nuclear weapons being used is at its highest since World War Two, and that the world should take this threat more seriously.”

Earl Howe, Minister of State for the Ministry of Defence responded “Today’s security climate is challenging, with the threats faced by the United Kingdom increasing in scale, diversity and complexity. However, Her Majesty’s Government does not believe that the risk of nuclear war is greater today than it was during the Cold War.

While the operation of an independent, minimum, credible nuclear deterrent continues to be necessary to protect the United Kingdom from the most extreme threats to our national security and way of life, the UK has taken a number of unilateral actions that build confidence and reduce international tensions. Our negative security assurances, as set out in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review, are designed to give Non-Nuclear Weapons States in compliance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty confidence that nuclear weapons will not be used against them. Further, since 1994, UK Trident missiles have not been targeted at any State; our Vanguard class submarines are at several days’ notice to fire; only the Prime Minister has the authority to launch nuclear weapons maintaining political control at all times; and the UK has been transparent about its nuclear capability, including missile and warhead numbers.

The Government is committed to the long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons and continues to work internationally, within the framework of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, towards achieving the conditions in which all nuclear weapons possessor states are willing to relinquish their nuclear weapons.”

Westminster tweets of the week

 

Caroline Lucas MP questions government on Trident vote in Parliament

Caroline Lucas asked the Secretary of State for Defence “with reference to the United Kingdom’s Future Nuclear Deterrent: The Dreadnought Programme 2017 Update to Parliament published 20 December 2017, what the procedure will be for taking the decision on replacing the warhead in this Parliament; if she will make it her policy for there to be a vote in Parliament on the decision; and if she will make a statement.”

Penny Mordaunt, Secretary of State for Defence, responded, “As set out in the 2017 and 2018 updates to Parliament, work is continuing to refine options and technical solutions to inform the Government’s decision on replacing the warhead. We will continue to provide updates as appropriate.”

Lord Taylor of Warwick questions government on Iran and US tensions

Lord Taylor of Warwick asked the Government “what assessment they have made of recent escalating diplomatic tensions between the United States and Iran.”

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Office, responded, “We are concerned by the risk of unintended escalation between the United States and Iran. That is why we are speaking to all parties and specifically advising Iran – using our diplomatic relationship – that escalation is not in their interest. We are also concerned by the potential of further tension as a result of the failure of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. We are clear that maintaining this deal is important to our national security interests; the UK Government is working with our European partners to ensure it is upheld as long as Iran continues to meet its nuclear commitments in full.”

 

Westminster tweets of the week

Westminster tweets of the week

Paul Girvan MP questions government on North Korea

Paul Girvan asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, “what steps he is taking with his international counterparts to enforce international sanctions on North Korea.”

Mark Field Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Office responded, “The Government is actively working with international partners to fully implement all relevant UN Security Council measures in respect of North Korea. The UK has contributed four Royal Navy vessels in the past year to a US-coordinated maritime sanctions enforcement operation. We have lobbied widely to encourage all States to enforce sanctions on North Korea and to stem major sources of illicit revenue for North Korea, such as overseas labourers and cyber-crime. Until North Korea takes concrete steps towards its complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation sanctions must remain and all states must continue to enforce them in full. We also welcome the work of the UN Panel of Experts who report on States’ implementation of UN Security Council measures. The Panel’s latest report details continued evasion of sanctions by North Korea. The Panel of Experts reports can be found at https://www.un.org/securitycouncil/sanctions/1718/panel_experts/reports.”

Jonathan Edwards MP questions Government on the Dreadnought submarines

Jonathan Edwards asked the Secretary of State for Defence “if she will make an estimate of the cost to the public purse of potential late changes to the Dreadnought submarine design. What assessment she has made of the effect of delays to Dreadnought submarines on the out of service date for Vanguard submarines.

Stuart Andrew Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence responded “The design and build of the Dreadnought class submarines continues. The programme remains on track to enter service in the early 2030s, it remains within its budget. The build phase for the entire class will take approximately 20 years. The Dreadnought programme will ensure the United Kingdom has a credible, independent and capable nuclear deterrent out to the 2060s.”

Jonathan Edwards asked “Secretary of State for Defence, what assessment she has made of the effect of delays to the Astute submarine programme on the delivery of the Dreadnought programme.”

Stuart Andrew replied “The Dreadnought submarine programme remains within budget and on track to deliver the first boat in the early 2030s.”

Jonathan Edwards asked “the Secretary of State for Defence, what steps her Department in taking to tackle delays to the Vanguard submarine maintenance schedule. What estimate she has made of the cost to the public purse of delays to the Vanguard submarine maintenance schedule.”

Stuart Andrew replied “The Ministry of Defence is committed to working closely with Babcock to safely deliver submarine support work, including our major planned maintenance projects. With Babcock, we are employing robust programme management techniques to deliver the HMS VANGUARD planned period of deep maintenance and refuel work. I am withholding the estimated cost as its disclosure would prejudice commercial interests.”

Jonathan Edwards asked “the Secretary of State for Defence, what estimate her Department has made of the cost to the public purse of upgrading docks at Devonport as part of the UK nuclear programme.”

Stuart Andrew responded “The Ministry of Defence continues to undertake work to define the future infrastructure requirements at Devonport to deliver the submarine programme safely and securely. We are currently conducting negotiations with industry partners.”

Jonathan Edwards asked “the Secretary of State for Defence, if she will publish the full-life costings of all elements of the UK nuclear programme.”

Stuart Andrew responded “The Ministry of Defence does not, and has no plans to, routinely publish whole life costs for projects, nuclear or otherwise, beyond what is already published in reports such as the Defence Equipment Plan, Ministry of Defence Annual Report and Accounts, and the Infrastructure and Projects Authority’s Annual Report on Major Projects.”