HC Deb 10 February 1997 vol 290 cc4-5W
Sir James Hill

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what were the dates in 1977 of the germ warfare tests which involved spraying the city of Southampton with simulants chosen to mimic biological warfare germs; and if he will make a statement. [14599]

Mr. Arbuthnot

This is a matter for the chief executive of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency. I have asked the chief executive to write to the hon. Member.

Letter from John Chisholm to Sir James Hill, dated 10 February 1997:

I have been asked to reply to your question about dates in 1977 when biological defence studies were carried out in Southampton. The chemical Biological Defence Sector (CBD) at Potion Down is now part of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) for which I am responsible as Chief Executive.

No studies were carried out in Southampton in 1977. Between 1965 and 1966 a series of experiments were conducted at various locations around the Southampton area using the harmless strains of the E.coli MRE 162 organism. These were immobilised on microthreads and contained within boxes which were then exposed to the atmosphere at various locations. No material was released in these experiments. The studies were carried out to determine the survivability of organisms when exposed to the atmosphere and those around Southampton particularly addressed survivability in or near built up city areas.

The technique for the immobilisation of the organisms was published in the scientific press in 1968 under the title 'A Microthread Technique for Studying the Viability of Microbes in a Simulated Airborne State' K. R. May and H. A. Druett. Journal of General Microbiology (1968) Vol. 51 pages 353–366.

I hope this information is helpful.

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