HL Deb 25 July 1986 vol 479 cc546-7WA
Lord Brougham and Vaux

asked Her Majesty's Government:

If they will make a statement about the United Kingdom's recent initiative on chemical weapons.

Baroness Young

Her Majesty's Government attach a high priority to the conclusion of a comprehensive and verifiable ban on chemical weapons. Although some progress has been made on verification arrangements at certain declared sites, a serious obstacle remains on the verification mechanism of last resort challenge inspection. A valuable standard for the stringency that will be required for a challenge inspection regime has been set by the United States draft Treaty, tabled in the negotiations in April 1984. However, the Soviet Union has refused to negotiate in these ideas.

On 15th July my honourable friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Tim Renton) tabled a new UK paper at the Conference on Disarmament, CD715, "Verification and Compliance—The Challenge Element" designed to seek a way forward in this vitally important area. Our proposals would give each state a right to request a challenge inspection. The challenged state would then be under an obligation to demonstrate compliance within a tight timescale of ten days. The obligation would normally be met by comprehensive investigation by an international team; but direct inspection could be refused in exceptional circumstances, subject to the challenged state being able to demonstrate its compliance by other means.

We believe these ideas would impose a stringent political obligation on a challenged state which would deter any contemplated violation; they would at the same time enable a state to safeguard its legitimate security interests.

I have placed copies of the UK Working Paper and of the speech made by my honourable friend the Minister of State to the Conference on Disarmament in the Library.

In his speech my honourable friend the Minister of State asked the conference to set itself the goal of presenting a complete chemical weapons convention to the UN General Assembly in 1987. That remains our aim.