Jeremy Corbyn: Could the Prime Minister assure the House that the government is committed to the terms of the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty which does require the five declared nuclear weapons states to engage in a process of long term disarmament and does he not accept that rearmament by any of the five declared nuclear weapons states reduces any moral clout we might have in encouraging other states not to develop their own nuclear weapons and thus make the world a more dangerous place?Say what you like about Blair, when it comes to avoiding the issue he truly is the master.
PM: Actually, we have made considerable reductions both in our system and, I think actually, in the number of warheads as well. And, of course it is true that progressively over time, if we can negotiate the right terms of this, we want to see a reduction in nuclear capability worldwide but it has to be done by negotiation.
Here's another reminder as to our treaty obligation:
NNPT, Article VIWe have an international obligation to pursue negotiations towards a treaty on "general and complete disarmament".
Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.
Compare that to what Blair says he is willing to negotiate towards "progressively over time"; he says his government is prepared to negotiate towards a "reduction in nuclear capability". That is clearly not the same thing.
This isn't splitting hairs. A commitment by the nuclear weapons states to work towards "general and complete disarmament" is one of the fundamental pillars of the NNPT. This trade off, the promise not to develop nuclear weapons by non-nuclear states set against the disarmament commitment of the nuclear states, is one of the key reasons why the NNPT has been ratified by over 150 non-nuclear states.
The record now shows that the Prime Minister of our country is not willing to commit to this international obligation to work towards complete disarmament (not even "progressively over time"). Perhaps he is right to reject this treaty obligation. I don't believe he is but I can certainly see that there are rational arguments in support of such a position.
In the Prime Minister's case, reading between the lines, he doesn't seem to believe that complete disarmament is a viable goal. I'm putting words into his mouth slightly (which I'll happily stop doing when he starts answering questions properly) but it seems clear that he believes, as many others do, that support for complete disarmament is foolishly naive.
If we are to adopt such a position, however, we must realise that it is a position which makes a mockery of our actual international obligations under the NNPT. If we are to so repudiate the treaty as unworkable or naive, we must accept that this fundamentally weakens both the NNPT itself and our country's ability to call on other nations to adhere to its proliferation provisions.
To upgrade our nuclear weapons capability at this time would be a very public confirmation of the UK's abandonment of the goal of disarmament in the post Cold War world. The consequences and implications of such a move will have a serious impact on our international standing, on our future foreign policies and on the global climate in which they operate. These implications must be considered as part of the decision as to whether to renew our WMD programme. They must not be swept under the carpet, misrepresented as a trivial matter of concern only to tree huggers and woolly headed peaceniks. To renew our own nuclear arsenal would have serious consequences all around the world. Pretending this isn't so is not the way to an informed debate.
Tags: News, Politics, PMQs, WMD, Tony Blair