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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, Her Majesty's Government believe that it is difficult to see how such a peace police will be set up. It is hard to see what its remit would be, and reaching agreement on the issues would be difficult and consuming of time and effort. The Chemical Weapons Convention is administered by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the Hague; the Biological Weapons Convention is administered by review conferences of the states parties which take place every four or five years. The Chemical Weapons Convention is bound by inspectors who go into various countries. We are not happy with the inspections under the Biological Weapons Convention, which is why the UK is using the presidency to try to ensure that verification procedures on biological weapons comparable to those for chemical weapons are in place.

Lord Garel-Jones: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the Question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, seems to fit neatly within the ethical framework that the Foreign Secretary has set out for British foreign policy? On that subject, will she inform the House what are the improvements that the Government have detected in the human rights record of China that have led them not to support the UN resolution on human rights in China this year as their predecessors did?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I do not believe that Her Majesty's Government will take lessons from anyone over questions of ethics. The best approach to my noble friend's Question is to strengthen the existing regimes in order to fill in the gaps, as I indicated we are seeking to do in our presidency.

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As regards China, the noble Lord really must read his Hansard. The other evening I was able to tell his noble friend Lord Moynihan of eight separate improvements which have been made in China since October last year when we began the dialogue process.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, perhaps we may return closer to the Question. Will the Minister accept that there are severe problems in obtaining properly qualified inspectors to search for biological and chemical weapons? The experience of Iraq shows that too many inspectors came from too few countries. Do the Government have any plans to assist other countries in training inspectors for such international duties in order to spread the burden more widely?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I do not accept that too few nationalities were involved in the inspections in Iraq. Of the 44 inspectors who were regularly used to inspect sites in Iraq, 17--I repeat, 17--different nations were represented.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, is not national sovereignty becoming bad for our health? Has my noble friend noticed the next Question on the Order Paper? As with every year which passes there is fresh evidence that nuclear and biological weapons are falling into irresponsible hands, is it not now urgent that we should work for a global convention making them unlawful in any hands and committing the whole international community to enforcing that?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, my noble and learned friend will not be surprised to know that I have indeed noticed the next Question on the Order Paper as it is for me to answer!

The United Kingdom Government believe in universal adherence to and compliance with both the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. As I said, we have detected shortcomings in the second convention, which is why we are eagerly pursuing improvements to it. As to the longer term, suggestions about examining these issues will be considered appropriately by Her Majesty's Government.

Lord Chalfont: My Lords, will the Minister accept that some of us are puzzled by the Question? If such an international peace force is to be armed, it would be a new procedure and departure which would place armed forces under the direct jurisdiction of the United Nations. If the force is not to be armed, is there anything that it can do that is not already done through the sanctions of the Security Council, the administration of the various treaties and, more importantly, the activities of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, as I said to my noble friend Lord Jenkins, Her Majesty's Government find it difficult to see the argument to institute the kind of peace police which he suggests. The idea of such a force to verify compliance with international treaties and conventions has not, so far as

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we know, ever been raised through the United Nations. As the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, indicated, we do not believe that it would be practical. We believe that it would duplicate arrangements under existing weapons of mass destruction treaties and for that reason we are unable to support my noble friend's suggestion.

Lord Burnham: My Lords, can the Government see any advantage in controlling chemical and biological weapons in those countries which are susceptible to control and doing nothing in those countries which are not susceptible to control?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the difficulty is that it is only possible for us to have inspections in the countries which have already signed in particular the Chemical Weapons Convention. The noble Lord is right in saying that all our efforts should be bent upon encouraging other countries to sign up to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which we believe is a fairly solid convention with good verification procedures. However, we need to strengthen the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention and then to encourage all countries to sign up to it.

Iraq: Weapons Exports

3.24 p.m.

Baroness Cox asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their response to reports that Saddam Hussein has exported chemical and biological weapons, and experts and materials for the establishment of plants for the manufacture of such weapons, to foreign countries, including Sudan and Libya.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, we are concerned about reports that Iraq has exported weapons of mass destruction, materials and expertise to other countries. We are monitoring the situation closely, but to date we have no evidence to substantiate these claims. Nor has the United Nations Special Commission reported any evidence of such transfers since the Gulf War conflict and the imposition of sanctions in 1991.

Baroness Cox: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her Answer. It is encouraging to know that the Government take these reports seriously and will be monitoring the situation. As Sudan is currently subject to United Nations sanctions for its record on terrorism and human rights, will the Government consider raising concerns generated by recent reports, particularly that of the US Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, with the Security Council to discuss the possibility of some action?

Is the Minister aware of the urgency of the situation, because the government of Sudan have already used weapons of indiscriminate destruction against their own people--weapons deemed to have been made in Iraq? I have seen cluster bombs dropped on playing fields where children are playing and I fear that that

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government will not be inhibited in using any weapons at their disposal unless deterred by the international community.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the noble Baroness asked a number of questions. Of course we view with concern any reports which allege the transfer of weapons of mass destruction. We have indeed studied the paper to which the noble Baroness referred in great detail and against all other sources. However, the noble Baroness should know that we are unable to corroborate many of the details. Moreover, we know that some of the claims made in the paper are untrue. The United States Administration have said the same. The White House response is:

    "We have no credible evidence that Iraq has exported weapons of mass destruction technology to other countries since the Gulf War".

The defence intelligence staff in the MoD have similarly written a critique which does not support the report's findings. But of course this is an issue on which we should be extremely vigilant.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that UNSCOM has the power to investigate collaboration between Iraq and other states in the development of prohibited weapons and in the transfer of technological capacity from Iraq to those states? Will the Government therefore consider requesting Mr. Richard Butler to carry out a thorough study of all the allegations which have been made and to report back to the Security Council as soon as possible?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the remit of UNSCOM is specific to Iraq. That begs two questions. First, it begs the question of whether Iraq has exported weapons of mass destruction. Secondly, it begs the question about whether there are weapons of mass destruction in other countries in the area.

Iraq has admitted to a number of joint ventures with other countries in the missile area prior to the Gulf War. However, UNSCOM has not reported any evidence of the transfer of technology, materials or know-how since then and since sanctions were imposed. However, it is worth remembering that Iraq sought to shelter war planes in Iran during the Gulf War. None of those planes was subsequently returned. Whether in the light of that experience Iraq would want to risk losing a major part of its weapons of mass destruction arsenal by entrusting it to a neighbour is a pretty moot point.

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