HC Deb 02 February 1970 vol 795 cc17-8W
Mr. Alexander Lyon

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on disarmament.

Mr. M. Stewart

Our policy is to seek early agreement on constructive and realistic measures of arms control and disarmament, in both the nuclear and the non-nuclear fields, to follow up the Treaty on the non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons which we hope will enter into force at a very early date. In particular, we shall continue to press for the early adoption of our draft Biological Warfare Convention, which would prohibit not only the use but also the production and possession of biological agents for hostile purposes.

I should like to take this opportunity to explain the Government's view on the scope of the 1925 Geneva Protocol as regards the use of tear gases in war.

In 1930, the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Dalton, in reply to a Parliamentary Question on the scope of the Protocol said: Smoke screens are not considered as poisonous and do not, therefore, come within the terms of the Geneva Gas Protocol. Tear gases and shells producing poisonous fumes are, however, prohibited under the Protocol. '—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th February, 1930; Vol. 235, c. 1169–70.]

That is still the Government's position. However, modern technology has developed CS smoke which, unlike the tear gases available in 1930, is considered to be not significantly harmful to man in other than wholly exceptional circumstances; and we regard CS and other such gases accordingly as being outside the scope of the Geneva Protocol. CS is in fact less toxic than the screening smokes which the 1930 statement specifically excluded.