HC Deb 11 July 1968 vol 768 cc730-1
Q3 Mr. Dalyell

asked the Prime Minister (1) whether he will propose to President Johnson that the United States and United Kingdom Governments should together seek a new international convention on the problems of inspection and verification of weapons of chemical and biological warfare;

(2) whether he will propose to President Johnson that the two Governments should promote the establishment of a new international convention forbidding the use of chemical and biological weapons.

The Prime Minister

I would refer my hon. Friend to the Answer given to a Question by him on 1st July by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.—[Vol. 767, c. 167.]

Mr. Dalyell

Since the use earlier this week by the Vietcong of asphyxiating gas, does not such an agreement assume even greater urgency, and, in this field, is not the temptation to escalation even greater than in the nuclear field? Has not the time come when, as co-Chairman of the Geneva Convention, we should at least attempt to do something about it?

The Prime Minister

It is certainly no less dangerous in this field than in the nuclear field, I quite agree. Of course, we utterly deplore any breach of long-established and binding treaties and conventions wherever this may happen. I am not fully informed of what happened, or is alleged to have happened, in the Vietnam fighting, but I will certainly make inquiries, and of course my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, as co-Chairman, will be concerned with it.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

As the making of germ weapons is not only an obscene prostitution of medical science but also military lunacy, will the Prime Minister bring some realism into the matter by ordering his experts to prepare some plan on the lines proposed by my hon. Friend so that it may be ready when a disarmament treaty is being made?

The Prime Minister

I think my right hon. Friend knows that this matter can be handled only on a multilateral basis, as indeed can the nuclear problem, and that we are examining the whole question of what proposals we should make when the 18-Nation Disarmament Committee reconvenes next week. We have been devoting very close attention to the question of chemical and biological weapons in our study of arms control and disarmament matters.