HL Deb 21 July 1999 vol 604 cc109-10WA
Lord Desai

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they plan to announce their strategy to combat the threat posed by biological and chemical weapons. [HL3809]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert)

I have today placed in the Library of the House a paper setting out the conclusions of our review into the necessary defence response to the threat posed by biological and chemical weapons. The paper, entitledDefending Against the Threat from Biological and Chemical Weapons, explains our policy and the ways in which we plan to develop our capabilities further.

We will continue to pursue, through international agreement, the verifiable elimination of biological and chemical weapons. Valuable progress has been made in recent years as a result of this country's efforts, but there is a long way to go before our objectives are met in full. In the meantime, we recognise that the use, or threatened use, of these weapons remains one of the challenges we must face.

We place a high priority on ensuring that our Armed' Forces are protected, with the training and equipment they need to deal with the risks such weapons continue to pose. We are enhancing our capabilities with a range of equipment programmes—for example, by bringing into service additional Prototype Biological Detection Systems. We are also establishing the Joint Nuclear, Biological and Chemical, NBC, Regiment, and an NBC Defence Headquarters.

We have also set up a new Directorate in the Ministry of Defence to co-ordinate and take forward work: on NBC defence issues. The Directorate will maintain a rolling plan of action and report progress to the Secretary of State on a regular basis. In total we plan to spend over £270 million in this area over the next three years.

No one should believe that the use, or threatened use, of biological or chemical weapons would determine the outcome of a conflict involving this country or deter this Government from taking action it believes is right.