Defence Secretary Des Browne today offered to host a conference of all five recognised nuclear weapon states to address the difficult technical challenges of verifying nuclear disarmament. He made this offer at a major speech to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on Tuesday 5 February.

Des Browne, Secretary of State for Defence, said:

"For the first time, I am proposing to host a conference for technical experts from all five recognised nuclear states, to develop technologies for nuclear disarmament.

"At the centre of this offer are the skills and expertise of UK scientists at the Atomic Weapons Establishment. Those skills will form the basis of pioneering technical research into nuclear disarmament – to become a ‘nuclear disarmament laboratory’."

As part of his speech, Des Browne highlighted disarmament that has already been achieved and the need to have a forward plan for a world free of nuclear weapons in order to maintain global support for countering nuclear proliferation. He said:

"Despite significant reductions in stockpiles since the Cold War, there remain thousands of nuclear warheads worldwide. The proliferation of nuclear material, technology and weapons represents a grave threat to international security.

"These challenges require a global solution. The international architecture to promote disarmament and counter proliferation is extensive, but still not sufficient. So we must continue to address these threats internationally.

"Every nation, both with and without nuclear weapons, needs to contribute to this effort. Nuclear Weapons States must show forward commitment to disarmament in order to maintain broad support from the Non-Nuclear Weapons States on countering proliferation.

"As one of the five recognised nuclear weapons states, the UK has made a significant contribution to countering proliferation, but this cannot be a unilateral approach. In the current circumstances, we cannot undermine our own national security. In renewing our own nuclear deterrent, we clearly set out our position in the 2006 White Paper as maintaining "minimum deterrence".

"The UK is determined to have a world free of nuclear weapons. But to get there we must first create an international environment that better supports disarmament. The UK has and will continue to pursue this until nuclear weapons no longer exist."

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