HC Deb 08 March 1979 vol 963 cc777-8W
Mr. Woodall

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the use of depleted uranium ammunition in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Mulley

A research and development and proof firing programme of anti-armour ammunition with depleted uranium penetrators will take place at Ministry of Defence ranges in the United Kingdom, starting at the Proof and Experimental Establishment, Eskmeals, Cumbria, in 1980. The high density and metallurgical properties of this material appear to make it particularly suitable for use in anti-armour ammunition which we are constantly seeking to improve in response to the preponderance of Warsaw Pact tanks on the Central Front and improvements being made to them. The United States Air Force will also store ammunition containing depleted uranium alloy—known as staballoy in the United States—for its A-10 aircraft in this country. Depleted uranium is already being handled and worked safely in this country for a variety of civil applications, and ammunition containing it is in no sense a nuclear or radiological weapon.

Test firings will only be used for research and development purposes. There is no intention either by the USAF or the British Army to use depleted uranium for training purposes in the United Kingdom in peacetime.

I have today placed in the Library of the House a memorandum which gives further details.