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Volume 171: debated on Friday 27 April 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on steps Her Majesty's Government have taken and plan to take to ensure the detection of any diversion by any other state of biotechnology for offensive military purposes.

The 1972 biological and toxin weapons convention, to which over 110 states are party, prohibits the development, production, stockpiling, or other acquisition of microbial or other biological agents of toxins, except for peaceful purposes. Any evidence that a party was in breach of the convention would be a serious matter. We have alerted our Australia group partners to the possibility of diversion or biotechnology equipment, material and know-how for use in biological warfare, and are taking parallel action with potential United Kingdom suppliers. The Export of Goods (Control) Order has also for many years prohibited the export of biological materials and related equipment adapted for use in war unless specifically licensed.