On 24 January 2013, the House of Lords debated a motion moved by Lord Ramsbotham on the prospects for multilateral nuclear disarmament and Britain’s contribution to the process.
Stating that "there are lots more causes for alarm and concern than there are for complacency", Lord Hannay, Chair of the UN All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), drew particular attention to the following challenges:
- the lack of meaningful progress towards reducing (and eventually removing) tactical nuclear weapons in Europe
- the postponement of a conference on a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone in the Middle East, which had been scheduled for 2012
- a new and "extremely dangerous phase" in efforts to contain nuclear proliferation attempts by North Korea and Iran, which he believes must be tackled through diplomatic means
In making progress on these challenges, and in furthering multilateral nuclear disarmament more generally, Lord Hannay said that the initiative should come from the US and Russia, which have by far the world's largest nuclear arsenals.
But the UK, even though it possesses the smallest arsenal of the five recognised nuclear powers, also had a crucial role to play, for example, in driving forward disarmament discussions among the P5 - the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, also the five recognised nuclear powers: China, France, Russia, the UK and the US.
Lord Hannay said he believed that the UK should keep its nuclear weapons for the right reasons and not for the wrong ones, for instance, the erroneous notion that the country's place among the P5 depends on these weapons. Quoting Lord King of Bridgwater, he opined that the UK's position "depends infinitely more on the role that we play in peace making, peacekeeping and conflict prevention”.
Other UN APPG members such as Lord Judd and Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer also made useful contributions to the debate. They spoke on how a nuclear-free world is a safer world and referred to a handbook published by Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, a global network of 800 Parliamentarians from over 80 countries.