HC Deb 04 May 1959 vol 605 cc17-8W
Mr. Mason

asked the Minister of Supply whether he is now able to make a statement on the experiments carried out at the Microbiological Research Establishment to combat germ warfare; and to what extent this threat has receded due to these experiments.

Mr. Aubrey Jones

The Microbiological Research Establishment was set up shortly after the beginning of the last war. Very little was known at that time about the possibilities of biological warfare but there was a general impression that it was unlikely to be effective. This could not be proved, however, because there had been very little experimental work on the problem, and until much more such work had been done the threat could not be assessed nor any necessary defence devised. It has been the Microbiological Research Establishment's function to study this problem and much progress has been made. For example, it has been found that many apparently possible ways of using a biological weapon are quite impracticable. Certain other methods are perhaps practicable and methods of defence against them have been devised. Thus in spite of recent publicity it is not thought that botulinus toxin would be an effective agent and in any case efficient protective measures have been developed. As knowledge of the subject has grown with research our ability to assess and counter the threat has increased, but much still remains to be done.