HC Deb 11 April 1989 vol 150 cc722-3
2. Mr. Moss

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what contribution his Department is making to the Geneva negotiations on a chemical weapons convention.

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. George Younger)

The negotiation of a comprehensive, global and effectively verifiable ban on chemical weapons is a major Government and NATO arms control priority. As the House knows, my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary takes the lead on this and other arms control negotiations. However, my Department contributes in a number of ways to the Geneva negotiations, particularly through the provision of military, technical and scientific advice both in Geneva and, by close liaison with the Foreign Office in London.

Mr. Moss

Is not my right hon. Friend as puzzled as I am that in all the time that the Russians recently spent in Britain they never once sought to refute the allegations, widely carried in the British press, that their stockpile of chemical weapons is some 10 times the size that they claim? Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is about time that there was a little more glasnost from the Soviet Union with regard to its chemical weapon capability?

Mr. Younger

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. As I think my hon. Friend will know, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister raised that issue last week with Mr. Gorbachev and took the opportunity to emphasise our commitment to a global and verifiable ban. However, Mr. Gorbachev produced no further information on that matter.

Mr. Robertson

Does the Secretary of State think that the Government's position is helped by the fact that increasing evidence—some of which has been verified by his Department—of the use of chemical weapons by Iraq against its own Kurdish civilian population is being greeted in the United Kingdom not by proper condemnation but by a doubling of trade credit to Iraq?

Mr. Younger

I cannot confirm what the hon. Gentleman says, but some evidence has been put about of the use of chemical weapons on the Kurdish minority by Iraq. We would regard that as a serious matter because chemical weapons are undesirable in all circumstances.

Mr. Brazier

Did Mr. Gorbachev, in his welcome discussions here, offer to open up to international inspection those parts of the Soviet Union's chemical weapons supply which were not opened up to us as promised during our last visit to the Soviet Union?

Mr. Younger

I appreciate my hon. Friend's point but I am afraid that no such offer has been made. As it is a long time since Britain possessed any chemical weapons, it is disappointing that in the new climate of openness which is supposed to exist there does not yet seem to be openness on the subject of chemical weapons, which we believe should be banned on a world-wide basis.