The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament today welcomed the UK government’s reaffirmation, given at the ongoing NPT Conference in Geneva, that it will not use – or threaten to use – nuclear weapons against countries that don’t have them. That commitment, made in 1995, appeared to be broken by then Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon in 2002, when he indicated that Britain would be prepared to use nuclear weapons against Iraq. Opinion polls show that opposition to such a strike is overwhelming.

Otherwise, CND expressed disappointment at the UK’s performance so far at the Geneva talks. None of the new thinking on multilateral disarmament which has characterised UK government policy over the past year was included in the UK’s opening speech. The brief speech amounted to a series of platitudes, which failed to mention any of the recent statements from senior government figures that have stressed the importance of disarmament initiatives.

The speech fell back on the claim that Britain has undertaken substantial nuclear disarmament since the end of the Cold War without recognising that much of this has been the decommissioning of redundant weaponry that has been superseded by new, more powerful systems.

While the UK subsequently mentioned its initiatives in a ‘cluster session’, failure to do so in the opening session was a missed opportunity. A clear and practical statement of intent would have added focus to the talks, lending the weight of a nuclear weapons state to calls for progress on disarmament.

Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said, “Britain should have made a bold statement to the NPT opening session, outlining Britain’s renewed commitment to disarmament. The new analysis of the last year, which recognises the link between the failure to disarm and the danger of nuclear proliferation, should have been clearly outlined. If the government is serious about disarmament, it has to go out there and fight for it. The NPT is a vital forum for advancing the case, and the case should have been made unequivocally.”

“This weakness will continue while the government still attempts to ride two horses at the same time. Continuing to pursue Trident Replacement runs counter to Britain’s obligation to disarm, as other states have pointed out. The government must also recognise that its support for the US Missile Defence system is a major obstacle to disarmament. Worse than that, the system encourages the development of a new arms race, reducing the possibility of serious multilateral negotiations taking place. Both these issues will be addressed by CND’s meeting at the Conference today.”

The serious threat of renewed rounds of arms-upgrading amongst major powers, not addressed by the UK statement, were tackled in a CND-hosted meeting at the NPT PrepCom yesterday, entitled “Preventing a new nuclear arms race: opposing Trident replacement and the US Missile Defence system”. Speakers included Marian Hobbs MP from New Zealand who is Assistant Speaker and Co-President of the Parliamentary Network for Nuclear Disarmament (PNND) and Alan Mackinnon, Chair of Scottish CND, who is working with the Scottish Government’s working group on the removal of Trident from Scotland.

Notes to Editors:For further information and interviews please contact Ben Soffa, CND’s Press Officer, on 0207 7002350 or 07968 420859
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) is one of Europe’s biggest single-issue peace campaigns, with over 35,000 members in the UK. CND campaigns for the abolition of all nuclear weapons everywhere.
Speakers at CND meeting: Dr Rebecca Johnson, Director, Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy Professor Dave Webb – Vice-Chair CND Marian Hobbs MP (New Zealand), Assistant Speaker and Co-President of the Parliamentary Network for Nuclear Disarmament (PNND) Alan Mackinnon, Chair, Scottish CND Jackie Cabasso, Executive Director Western States Legal Foundation