New United Nations negotiations on a nuclear weapons ban treaty were established by UN resolution, which the UK government voted against when it went before the General Assembly last year. The government has stated that, while committed to a world without nuclear weapons, it does not believe that the negotiations will lead to progress on global nuclear disarmament. The government did not participate in the organisational meeting on negotiating a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons on February 16 and will not attend the substantive negotiations which started on March 27.
The UK is a recognised nuclear weapon state under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and therefore has a legal obligation to pursue disarmament under Article VI of that Treaty. I support international efforts toward multilateral nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.
The UK made huge progress in nuclear disarmament through international frameworks between 1997 and 2010. This saw the number of operationally available warheads almost halved, and the number of deployed warheads on each of our Vanguard nuclear submarines reduced. These efforts also resulted in the UK becoming the only recognised nuclear weapon state that has reduced to a single deterrent system, when WE-177 freefall tactical nuclear weapons were withdrawn in 1998. This was important action towards multilateral nuclear disarmament.
The UK now possesses approximately 1 per cent of the total global stockpile of nuclear weapons amongst recognised nuclear weapons states, and by the mid-2020s the UK will have achieved a 65 per cent reduction in the size of its overall nuclear stockpile from Cold War levels. This will make the UK the smallest of all the NPT nuclear weapon states.
I hope the current government will ensure that Britain continues to play a leading role in moves toward the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons.