Skip to main content

White Phosphorus

Volume 495: debated on Monday 6 July 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether civilians and non-combatants have been injured during operations by British military personnel using white phosphorus in (a) Iraq, (b) Afghanistan and (c) elsewhere in the last 10 years; what his policy is on the use of white phosphorus munitions by British forces; and if he will make a statement. (283298)

White phosphorus munitions are only used by UK forces to protect troops on operations by producing a smoke screen to provide cover in accordance with the Third Protocol of the UN Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the use of Certain Conventional Weapons, ratified by the UK in 1995, when it became illegal to use white phosphorus as a primary incendiary weapon under UK law. Training of UK forces in the use of white phosphorus emphasises that it should only be used for its intended purpose; as an obscurant and not as an anti-personnel weapon.

The Government do not collate figures for civilian casualties in Afghanistan, Iraq or on other operations. Every effort is made to avoid civilian casualties in all theatres, and any that are the result of action by UK armed forces are always a matter of profound regret.