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Volume 461: debated on Monday 18 June 2007

5. What equipment and training were provided to British troops involved in the invasion of Iraq in terms of protection against the possible use of weapons of mass destruction. (142913)

Troops preparing for combat operations in Iraq were trained before deployment in operating and surviving in a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear environment, and undertook further training in theatre. Armed forces personnel involved at the start of combat operations in Iraq were provided with individual nuclear, biological and chemical clothing and detection equipment.

I am grateful for that answer. It is absolutely right for our troops to be given the best possible protection against any threat that they might face, but as the Secretary of State knows, there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Indeed, the defence and intelligence services appeared to know that when Ministers were telling us that there were plenty of them. On what date was it therefore decided that those precautions and that equipment could be safely withdrawn from our troops?

No such decision has been made. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is aware that insurgents in Iraq are deploying chlorine bombs, which fit into the category of chemical attacks, so we need to keep our guard up against that sort of development. Over and above that, of course, we have occasionally encountered stocks, albeit pre-1991 stocks, of Saddam Hussein’s weapons. They also pose a continuing danger if we come across them, so we have taken no decision such as the hon. Gentleman mentions.

Theatre-specific tactical awareness training sessions were supposed to be mandatory for forces imminently to be deployed in Iraq, but over the four years of this conflict, there have been exemptions. Will the Secretary of State tell us what those exemptions were and whether the decisions about them were taken at command level or ministerial level?

I am afraid that I shall have to write to my hon. Friend about that. I cannot deal with such specificity of questioning in terms of the brief in front of me, but I shall get back to him and ensure that the whole House is made aware of the answer.