Select Committee on European Scrutiny Seventh Report


CONVENTION ON THE PHYSICAL PROTECTION OF NUCLEAR MATERIAL


(22862)
13072/01
COM(01) 583

Draft Council Decision on an objection to be made on behalf of the European Atomic Energy Commission to a reservation formulated by the Islamic Republic of Pakistan at the time of its accession to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.


Legal base:
Document originated: 12 October 2001
Forwarded to the Council: 15 October 2001
Deposited in Parliament: 13 November 2001
Department: Trade and Industry
Basis of consideration: EM of 15 November 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
Discussed in Council: 19 October 2001
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared

Background

27.1  The 1980 Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material requires parties to take appropriate steps to ensure the protection, during international transport, of nuclear material used for peaceful purposes on its territory or on board a ship or aircraft under its jurisdiction. In particular, it requires them to criminalise under their national law various acts of theft, robbery and fraudulent obtaining of such material, and acts likely to cause death, serious injury or substantial damage to property, and its provisions relating to offences apply equally to the international and domestic spheres. They are thus designed to show that all states are united in dealing with offenders regardless of where the offence takes place.

27.2  However, when Pakistan acceded to the Convention in September 2000, it made a declaration stating that it did not consider itself bound by it as regards domestic use, storage and transport. According to the Commission, this means that Pakistan would not be required to assist in the recovery of stolen nuclear material in domestic use, or to make any such transgression an offence under its national laws.

The current proposal

27.3  All Community Member States and Euratom are parties to the Convention, and this document comprises a draft Council Decision issuing an objection on behalf of Euratom to the Pakistani reservation. Similar objections have been raised as well by the Member States themselves.

The Government's view

27.4  According to the Explanatory Memorandum of 15 November 2001 from the Minister for Industry and Energy at the Department of Trade and Industry (Mr Brian Wilson), this course of action has now been agreed by the Council, and an objection was lodged with the depository body (the International Atomic Energy Agency) on 19 October 2001. He says that the UK also considers the reservation to be incompatible with the object and purpose of the Convention.

Conclusion

27.5  Any weakening of the international safeguards for protecting nuclear material would be a matter of concern, but that concern is of course all the greater in the light of the events of 11 September, particularly where it relates to a country located so close to current sources of terrorism in Afghanistan. Consequently, although it is not clear whether, or how, this objection by Euratom might influence the position of the Pakistan Government, it is clearly right that such an objection should have been made, and that we should draw it to the attention of the House.

27.6  Since any further action will presumably take place within the context of the wider Convention, we are clearing the document, but we would be interested to know of any further developments.


 
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