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Civil Defence

Volume 477: debated on Monday 16 June 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what strategy her Department has established to deal with a chemical or biological attack on the UK; and if she will make a statement. (209348)

The Government’s Counter Terrorism Strategy (CONTEST), published in July 2006, includes planning for chemical and biological attacks. This is predominately taken forward through the ‘Prepare’ strand of CONTEST via the cross-government Chemical, Biological, Radiological or Nuclear (CBRN) Resilience Programme.

The CBRN Resilience Programme aims to ensure that the response to a CBRN incident is as quick and effective as possible in order to save lives and minimise any impact on property or the environment. As such, plans to deal with chemical or biological incidents include procedures which cover:

identifying the source of the threat;

giving advice to victims caught in the area and to others worried about contamination;

arranging urgent medical attention for casualties; and

decontaminating victims and the area itself.

The Government are committed to ensuring that the emergency services have the most appropriate equipment and training to respond to such an incident. Planning is underpinned by a CBRN Science and Technology Programme which is focused on developing the necessary capabilities and providing evidence to assist with policy and planning decisions.

Additional information on the CBRN Resilience Programme and recent developments in this area are available on the Home Office website at:

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent assessment she has made of the threat of a chemical or biological attack on the UK. (209349)

The Government have a risk assessment process which identifies risks (including those from chemical or biological attacks) to the UK as a whole over a five year period. This process, managed by the Civil Contingencies Secretariat in the Cabinet Office, draws on relevant information and expertise from across Government. In the interests of national security, specific details are not made publicly available.