HL Deb 08 May 2002 vol 634 cc176-7WA
Lord Hughes of Woodside

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of unaccounted stocks of Iraqi precursor chemicals, chemical agents and special munitions, based on the findings of the United Nations Special Commission. [HL4158]

The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean)

In answer to Questions on 12 March, my right honourable Friend the Foreign Secretary said that weapons inspectors were unable to account for 4,000 tonnes of so-called precursor chemicals used in the production of weapons; 610 tonnes of precursor chemicals used in the production of nerve gas; and 31,000 chemical weapons munitions (Official Report, Commons, 12/3/02; col. 744).

This information was the best available at the time, and was based on Iraqi declarations to UNSCOM inspectors between 1991–98 and data contained in an UNSCONI report published in 1999.

Since he gave this answer, Her Majesty's Government have carried out a more detailed study. This latest assessment of the quantities of material unaccounted for by UNSCOM inspectors which has potential applications in Iraq's chemical and biological weapons programes is as follows:

  • up to 3,000 tonnes of precursor chemicals, approximately 300 tonnes of which, in the Iraqi CW programme, were unique to the production of VX nerve agent;
  • up to 360 tonnes of bulk CW agent including 1.5 tonnes of VX;
  • and over 30,000 special munitions for delivery of chemical and biological agents;
  • large quantities of growth media acquired for use in the production of biological weapons—enough to produce over three times the amount of anthrax Iraq admits to having manufactured.

These figures represent our latest assessment. This assessment is subject to continual review in the light of any updates from UNMOVIC or incoming intelligence reports. Some of the estimates are unchanged. The changes we have made do not alter our view on the scale of the Iraqi WMD threat. Indeed, they reinforce our judgment that Iraq's chemical and biological capabilities are substantial and a very real danger to the region and the wider world. We shall be releasing further material about this threat in due course.