HC Deb 14 July 1952 vol 503 cc1801-2
43. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Minister of Supply what is the nature of the work being carried out by his Department at Porton; how many persons are employed there; and what has been the expenditure incurred there up to the latest available date.

The Minister of Supply (Mr. Duncan Sandys)

The Ministry of Supply establishments at Porton are engaged on chemical and microbiological research. It would not be in the public interest to give the figures asked for in the Question.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Could not the right hon. Gentleman invite the Dean of Canterbury there to prove that there are no bacteriological warfare preparations going on? As the Americans give in their public accounts the amount of money which has been spent on such activities in America, are not Members of the House of Commons allowed to know how much of our money is being spent on bacteriological warfare preparations?

Mr. Sandys

I know that the hon. Member himself has become infected by a germ from Canterbury. We do not consider it desirable to publish figures which indicate the scale of effort which is being carried out in the various spheres of military research. I am surprised to see the hon. Member so full of admiration, for a change, for practices in the United States.

Mr. Hughes

Is the Minister unwilling to give the information because he knows that the scale of research would appal the British public?

Mr. Sandys

Not at all. Perhaps I might remind the hon. Member, because he is trying once again to blacken the name of this country by insinuations of this kind, of a Question he asked of the late Government in 1948, in reply to which the then Minister of Defence said: The possibility that bacteria may be used in a future war is not being overlooked. Researches are being conducted so that we may be ready to meet any situation which may arise."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th June, 1948; Vol. 451, c. 2165.] I have nothing to add to that answer except to say that we shall, of course, scrupulously carry out our obligations under the Geneva Protocol of 1925.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is it not a fact that Marshal Voroshilov said in 1939 that the Soviet Union were fully equipped to carry out bacteriological warfare if it was used against them? Have we not proposed at the Disarmament Commission that all preparation for bacteriological warfare shall be abolished by everybody?

Mr. Sandys

I have not Marshal Voroshilov's words in my mind, but no doubt the right hon. Member is correct.