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CBRN Capability

Volume 639: debated on Monday 23 April 2018

2. What steps his Department is taking to invest in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defence capability. (904860)

12. What steps his Department is taking to invest in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defence capability. (904870)

The Department regularly looks at CBRN capability as part of the annual financial planning round. The Ministry of Defence will consider its overall CBRN capability as part of the modernising defence programme.

I thank the Secretary of State for his answer. Will he update the House on the continuing contribution of MOD personnel now that the urgent response to the Russian chemical attack in Salisbury has moved into the recovery and clean-up stage? Can he confirm that our armed forces have everything that they need to continue to keep all our constituents safe from such attacks in the future?

Very much so. It is pleasing to be able to report the progress that Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey and Sergei and Yulia Skripal have made since that attack. Let us not forget the important role that the Ministry of Defence and our armed forces played in assisting the police with their investigations. More than 170 armed forces personnel were involved and, due to our unique capabilities, 192 British service personnel will be involved in the clean-up operation in Salisbury.

I am aware from constituency work locally for Thales that the UK has invested in a state-of-the-art biological surveillance system. Given the horrific nerve-agent attack on British soil, will the Secretary of State confirm that there are sufficient resources in his Department to deal with such attacks, whether they are at home or, indeed, against our forces overseas?

I can confirm that that is the case. We are stepping up our investment and putting a substantial amount into our capabilities and facilities at Porton Down, which will ensure that we continue to preserve our world-leading position and expertise in this field.

I am sorry—Rachael Maskell; I beg your pardon. I do not wish to confuse York and Redditch, and I apologise to the hon. Lady. I feel that I know her very well, and I should not have made that mistake. I call Rachael Maskell.

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

May I ask the Government how they work with the UN Security Council and organisations such as the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to identify stockpiles of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons across the globe, and what steps they have taken to achieve de-escalation?

We have always worked incredibly closely with those organisations, and it is a shame that nations such as Russia have not always had such a positive and collaborative relationship with them. We share our expertise and knowledge with them, and we have been incredibly open with them to make sure that they have a clear understanding of the threats and dangers that this country faces as a result of Russia’s hostile act.

We need to invest in our defence capabilities against changing and emerging threats in warfare, including the unchecked use of lethal autonomous weapons. Has the Secretary of State seen last week’s House of Lords report on artificial intelligence, which concludes that the UK’s definition of lethal autonomous weapons is

“clearly out of step with the definitions used by most other governments”.

That makes it harder to reach an agreement on regulation, so will he commit to reading that report and revising the definition?

As has been pointed out, there is currently no defined international agreement, and that is something towards which we need to work rapidly. I am very committed to trying to reach that agreement at the earliest possible stage.