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CBRN Defence Capability

Volume 648: debated on Monday 22 October 2018

5. What steps his Department is taking to increase investment in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defence capability. (907162)

The UK has world-leading counter-chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear capabilities. The MOD has committed around £950 million to maintain and improve these over the next 10 years.

The Minister will know that following Salisbury, the armed forces played a vital role in identifying the nerve agent and helping to clear up the scene. Will he reassure the House that the MOD will do everything that it can to ensure that the investment in that capability will be maintained and increased?

Absolutely, and I pay tribute to all those who worked so carefully and so hard in Salisbury and Amesbury on our behalf. As I said, the £950 million is there to improve this over the next 10 years. That includes £48 million to help to set up a new chemical weapons defence centre in Porton Down to make sure that we maintain our cutting-edge capability in chemical analysis and defence.

Earlier this month, along with other Members of the NATO Parliament, I visited the Joint Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defence Centre of Excellence in the Czech Republic. One of the training courses that it runs is a skills training course for first responders—for police and ambulance personnel—who may often, as in Salisbury, be the first on the scene. What efforts is the Ministry of Defence making to make sure that we have that capability in this country?

The hon. Lady makes a very important point. Of course, this is not just about the armed forces; we have to recognise that all the emergency services were there very quickly. We need to ensure that they have all the training that they need. I will speak to colleagues in other Departments to ensure that that is happening.