HC Deb 03 December 1986 vol 106 cc928-30
11. Mr. Mikardo

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the authorities in Iran and Iraq on the use of chemical warfare.

Mr. Renton

We take every suitable opportunity to express our views on the use of chemical weapons to the Iraqis and Iranians. My right hon. and learned Friend last raised the issue with the Iraqi Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Tariq Aziz, when he met him at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, on 24 September.

Mr. Mikardo

I am grateful for that reply. Is it not time to go beyond the presidential statements and guidelines to which the Foreign Secretary referred in reply to a previous question? Should we not be getting together with our friends and allies to find some way of stopping or reducing the supply from Europe to either or both of those countries of chemical weapons, equipment to make them or equipment to adapt fertiliser factories to make them? Should we not be doing something instead of just talking?

Mr. Renton

It is a pleasure to find myself in agreement with the hon. Gentleman. He will know that at present we impose export controls on 10 chemicals which are capable of being used in the manufacture of lethal chemical agents. A longer warning list has been circulated to the chemical industry and traders, and similar measures have been taken by other industrialised countries. More important, as the hon. Gentleman knows, we have taken the lead at the conference on disarmament in Geneva of seeking a worldwide ban on the production and storing of chemical weapons. In that context we have tabled our initiative about challenge inspection and we look forward to discussing it with other countries in the months ahead. This is an area in which the United Kingdom is in the lead.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Will my hon. Friend press on with the Government's initiative to have a worldwide ban on chemical weapons? In particular, will he make representations to the Soviet Union that it should not assist any country in the middle east to develop its chemical warfare potential?

Mr. Renton

Yes, I can assure my hon. Friend that we are already in detailed discussion with the Soviet Union about some of the clauses in the regime for challenge inspection that we have tabled at Geneva. We shall continue to press the Soviets not to do anything to facilitate the export of ingredients which can be used in chemical weapon manufacturing.

Mr. Deakins

If industrial countries are not supplying chemical weapons or the means to make them to Iran or Iraq, does the Minister accept that they are getting the weapons from somewhere? Can we not widen our efforts and ensure that they cannot get those weapons from anywhere? Does he agree that even if we must raise the issue at the United Nations, we should do so?

Mr. Renton

Yes. The hon. Gentleman judges on a difficult point. The problem is that many chemical ingredients can be used either for genuine ordinary chemical manufacture or for the manufacture of dangerous chemical agents. In producing the warning list that is now circulated to the chemical industry we tried to establish which chemicals were particularly dangerous in this area. We constantly consider the list and we shall do everything we can to make international export controls more effective prior to arranging a worldwide ban on chemical weapon production, which must be verifiable. That is the answer to the problem that the hon. Gentleman identified.

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