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Westminster tweets of the week

Baroness Fairhead emphasises government support for Iran nucelar deal

In the House of Lords,  Baroness Fairhead, Minister of State in the Department for International Trade, stated that “There are sanctions that we support against Iran. However, as I have said before to the House, we believe that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is the best plan to make sure that we prevent Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. We believe that protecting trade with Iran, supported by this blocking regulation, is important to show that we are committed to legitimate trading with Iran. We are firm believers in the importance of the JCPOA.

Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee addresses questions on legality of Trident

Lord West of Spithead: “For example, wiping out a whole city is very understandably completely illegal under international law and normally there are certain bases to do these things. Because of this flexible substrategic response, what that in theory allows is use of a nuclear weapon. Rather than your total response to us being wiped out, a single nuclear weapon for a specific reason. Where that is targeted the submarine CO will not know, because none of our warheads at the moment are targeted. They are untargeted. What happens is when the codes come through, if it is a flexible response, he will have a single missile and one warhead that will be targeted somewhere. He will not know what it is and yet in international law as the man who says “go” he will be responsible for this. Do you see what I am getting at? That needs to be clarified, I believe, and it needs to be removed from him. I think that is important.”

Ronnie Cowan: “We have received substantial written evidence on this very topic and it would have been good to take this conversation further.”

Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy: “To be absolutely clear, with the targeting we have a very mature process for targeting all of our weapons and it is completely under political control.”

Lord West of Spithead: “Absolutely, but they need to be the ones. It is going to be a politician in the dock, not the submarine CO, that is what I am saying.”

Ronnie Cowan: “It does raise the legality of the person who turns the switch to launch that missile if he does not know where it is targeted.”

Lord West of Spithead: “Absolutely, which is why I believe this needs to be clarified. It does not need to be clarified for the normal deterrence criteria. That is different and that has been done effectively.”

Chair: “But that is impossible to clarify for the inventory officer in the heat of battle or the helicopter commander, wondering whether to”

Lord West of Spithead: “Absolutely. This is a one-off situation, I believe.”

See full text of the debate. 

Oral Defence Questions in the House of Commons

In oral defence questions, Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson confirmed that  “in this, the 50th year of the continuous at sea nuclear deterrent, the MOD is proud to continue to protect the security and stability not only of our nation, but of our allies. I will be attending the commemoration service at Westminster Abbey on 3 May, and I hope that many colleagues from both sides of the House will also be able to commemorate this important milestone.”

During the questions, the issue of security on the Korean peninsular was raised.

Full text available here. 

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon states the governments commitment to the “long term goal of a world without nuclear weapons”

The Marquess of Lothian asked Her Majesty’s Government “what action they are taking to ensure that the global accords internationally agreed to prevent nuclear proliferation are reinforced and upheld.”

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon responded that “The British Government is committed to the long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons and to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as the cornerstone of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. We attach great importance to the implementation of International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards and we believe that the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA) and the Additional Protocol(AP) together represent the current verification standard. We urge all States parties that have not yet done so to bring into force both a CSA and an AP as soon as possible. We regard the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as a crucial agreement that makes the world a safer place by neutralising the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. We continue to promote the universalisation of the NPT, the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the commencement of negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty in the Conference on Disarmament.”

Weekly Westminster insights

Welcome to the first weekly update from CND’s Parliamentary Officer, Amy Keegan, on what is going on in the Houses of Parliament. 

Last week in Parliament was pretty quiet on nuclear disarmament news as Brexit remains the number one topic of discussion and debate. But it was great to see the news that after lobbying from Yorkshire CND activists, Sheffield MPs Louise Haigh and Paul Bloomfield signed the Parliamentary Pledge. This commits them to working within parliament to promote the UN Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Early Day Motion 2073 on the INF suspension continues to gain momentum with 31 MPs having signed up to it so far.  In other news it looks like next month there will be a debate on 50 years of continuous at-sea so-called ‘deterrence’, proposed by a group of pro-nuclear MPs. We just need to wait and see if it will get the elevated status of being debated in the chamber of the House of Commons or if it will be in Westminster Hall (still a debate, but with slightly less prestige than being held in the chamber.) As you can expect, we are watching these developments closely and our Parliamentary CND MPs will be ready to engage with this.

This week in Parliament, Brexit is the main focus of Parliament again so should be quieter on the nuclear disarmament side. This afternoon there will be Defence Oral Questions at 2.30pm in the chamber of the House of Commons where Secretary of State for Defence, Gavin Williamson, and his team will answer questions from MPs across the house. Ahead of these sessions there are 25 questions already agreed and assigned as well as a few topical questions that could be on anything. I’ll be keeping an eye on the Secretary of State’s response to a question from Conservative MP Kevin Foster on his assessment of the security situation in the Korean peninsula. Since peace talks broke down between North Korea and the US we are keeping a close eye on how the security situation is developing. I’ll be attending the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Global Security and Non-Proliferation meeting this afternoon to discuss the breakdown of the Hanoi Summit and to ask what is next for discussions with North Korea.

As always, I’ll share updates throughout the week here.

Amy  @amy_keegan

Pro nuclear MPs attempt to secure a debate for the 50 years of a continuous at sea nuclear weapons system

The 29th April sees the anniversary of 50 years of the UK having a continuous at sea nuclear weapons system. A group of pro nuclear weapons MPs have this week applied to the Backbench Business Committee to secure a debate in Westminster Hall on this.

It was also raised with leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, and requested that it be held as a debate in the chamber of the House of Commons.

We’ll be following the developments on this and keeping this page up to date.

Westminster tweets of the week