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Biological Weapons Convention

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:10 pm on 1st November 2001.

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Photo of Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Minister of State (Middle East), Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Trade), Department of Trade and Industry, Minister for Trade and Investment and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also Department of Trade and Industry), Minister of State (Trade and Investment) Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also FCO) 3:10 pm, 1st November 2001

My Lords, the United States' proposals were received somewhat later than had originally been anticipated--for the understandable reasons that the US government departments concerned were preoccupied following the events of 11th September. I agree with the noble Lord that some of the proposals are far-reaching, including the criminalisation of possession. They include, for example, improving the network for reporting disease that may flow from the use of biological weapons, stricter controls on pathogen handling and a rapid reaction force in the event of any attack. Those are only a few examples.

The noble Lord asked about the United Kingdom's reaction. We are studying the proposals with great interest. I cannot give the noble Lord a blow-by-blow account, but what is being suggested has particular force in the light of what, sadly, we have seen happen in recent days and weeks in the United States. As for any changes to United Kingdom law, those would have to be considered in the light of any agreements that were made internationally.