§ Mr. Key
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if, further to his answer on 6 November,Official Report, column 486, he will make a further statement on the circumstances which led to the discharge of fluid from an aircraft operated by A and AEE Boscombe Down on 25 October.
§ Mr. Neubert
The aircraft was involved in a routine training exercise during which it was intended to release chemical agent training mixture over troops exercising on the Porton battle run. The agent used was polyethylene glycol 300, which is harmless to humans, plants and animals. The purpose of the exercise was to provide the troops with as realistic as possible a simulation of a chemical attack. Because of technical problems with the aircraft's communications equipment, the pilot was unable to complete the release of the liquid as planned and had to jettison the remaining contents in order to bring the aircraft below the safe maximum landing weight. It was this discharge of liquid which probably caused damage to paintwork on a number of cars in the area.
An investigation is under way into this incident. It will include a review of existing procedures.
As I have already indicated, the Ministry of Defence will consider claims for compensation from those whose property has been damaged.