Biological Warfare Research (Departmental Responsibility)

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th July 1968.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr John Lee Mr John Lee , Reading 12:00 am, 25th July 1968

asked the Prime Minister if, in view of recent scientific developments, he will transfer responsibility for the biological warfare research unit from the Ministry of Defence to the Ministry of Health.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I would refer my hon. Friend to the Answer I gave on 18th July to a similar Question by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell).—[Vol. 768, c. 1660–1.]

Photo of Mr John Lee Mr John Lee , Reading

Since the ostensible purpose of this institution is preventive against warfare conducted by other people, would it not be more appropriate for it to be transferred to the Ministry of Health which has, among its responsibilities, public health considerations of all kinds?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I have answered a great number of questions on this. I have said that the matter is continuously under review. I do not rule out a decision to change it at the appropriate time, but no such decision has been taken yet.

Photo of Mr Quintin Hogg Mr Quintin Hogg , St Marylebone

If this ever did come about, would the right hon. Gentleman consider the claims of one of the research councils in preference to one of the executive Ministries?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Yes, Sir. I think that it would certainly be the case that, if there were to be a change it would be to the Medical Research Council rather than the executive Department. But I do not want to tie myself in any way at the moment. No such decision has been taken.

Photo of Sir Henry Legge-Bourke Sir Henry Legge-Bourke , Isle of Ely

As the Prime Minister has said that he will keep the matter under review, can he give an assurance that before any change is made he will at least give an opportunity for a Minister to appear before the Select Committee on Science and Technology to discuss the matter, because we are discussing this research establishment among others?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I will certainly consider that suggestion and discuss the matter with my right hon. Friends concerned. I would not want the House to get the idea that any change was imminent. I just said that we keep the matter under review and there could be a change one day.