§ 39. Mr. George
asked the Secretary of State for Defence, in view of the public anxiety expressed over the decision to remove the nerve gas VX from the secret list, if he will now say when he expects to make a statement on the review of declassification procedures.
§ 41. Mr. Douglas-Mann
asked the Secretary of State for Defence what action his Department proposes to take concerning the decisions of his predecessors in 1962 and 1973, respectively, first to register a patent for the nerve gas VX and then to remove the limitations on public disclosure originally attached to the registered information.
§ Mr. William Rodgers
Her Majesty's Government have never patented VX. The patent application made in 1962 covered certain improvements in the chemical processes for making the group of compounds which includes V agents. The classified procedure was followed in view of the potential military applications of some of these compounds.
By 1973 much information on V agents had become widely known, partly as a result of a process of disclosure with a view towards the prohibition of chemical weapons. The nature of VX itself had been disclosed in 1971 when all the Western countries concerned had agreed to its declassification. As no justification was seen for retaining the classification of the United Kingdom patent application, it was published in February 1974.
However, given present circumstances I am reviewing the procedures relating to declassification to ensure that safeguards are adequate. The case for reclassifying the information related to V agents is also being considered.