Members present:

Donald Anderson, in the Chair
Mr David Chidgey
Sir Patrick Cormack
Mr Fabian Hamilton
Andrew Mackinlay
Mr John Maples
Sir John Stanley


MR TIM DOWSE, Head, and MR PATRICK LAMB, Deputy Head, Non-Proliferation Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, examined.


  1. May I welcome to our Foreign Affairs Committee Mr Tim Dowse, Head of the Non-Proliferation Department at the FCO, and Mr Patrick Lamb, who is the Deputy Head of the same Department. Gentlemen, let me begin with a general point on the practical problems of enforcement and verification in this field of biological and toxin weapons, that it is a worthy aim but it is never possible to verify compliance satisfactorily. This is an argument we have heard in the US. The Committee has just returned after a week at the United Nations and Washington. We were reminded there, for example, that in 1994/95 the weapons inspectors UNSCOM were about to sign off Iraq as having no biological weapons when the son-in-law of Saddam Hussein defected and pointed out where the facilities were and the regime was then forced to come clean. We are now told that concealment techniques are even more sophisticated with mobile laboratories and speedy transformation of dual use facilities, and of course the cookery books cannot be destroyed, so that what is capable of being made can be stopped and be made again in the future. We were reminded again that the United States cannot find evidence to prosecute the individual who they believe is responsible for the anthrax outbreak which killed nine US citizens. How would you answer this concern, Mr Dowse, that it is a vain quest to secure complete compliance and that those determined to produce biological weapons will always find ways and means of doing so?
  2. (Mr Dowse) It is a good question and it is certainly true that for those of us dealing with non-proliferation across the whole spectrum of weapons of mass destruction the problems posed by biological weapons proliferation are probably the most difficult all all this area, really because, as no doubt you will have heard from your discussions last week in the US, the equipment, the procurement, the materials, the expertise, are all dual use. It is a point that we have made in the Green Paper that what we are dealing with here is scientific technological development that can be used for very great good but equally can be turned to ill. Does that mean that we should not pursue verification measures, international multilateral action, to try and raise the barriers? Our conclusion has been not. It is certainly correct and we would not argue that treaties, even underpinned by compliance measures, whether one calls it inspections or visits or declarations, are not the whole answer. We would not be so naive as to put our faith solely in those instruments as a guarantee. But if we take those measures combined with the other instruments at our disposal, things like export controls, things like - and a lot of this work is heavily based on intelligence which is a crucial element in all this - action with other countries or nationally to intercept shipments of concern, to warn other like-minded countries if we receive information that a proliferator is seeking to acquire materials. When one combines the treaty element and the verification, the compliance mechanisms, with these other more direct instruments, the Government feels (and successive governments have felt since the work to establish compliance measures for the Biological Weapons Convention began in 1994) that it would add something.

  3. It might add something but you accept that it is a vain quest, that it would have a very limited effect?
  4. (Mr Dowse) It is not the sole answer. I think I would question whether one would say it has very limited effect. You mentioned the UNSCOM example. That is an example of what I am saying in a way. The UNSCOM inspectors, correctly, did not uncover the Iraqi biological weapons programme but when they received intelligence they were able very rapidly to unravel large parts of that programme, not all of it, and indeed the concern that we have got is that Iraq continues to pursue biological weapons, but they did make very significant progress in the mid 1990s once they had got the intelligence information. We nationally and other countries devote a lot of resources in our intelligence agencies to addressing this problem of proliferation, not just biological but other weapons of mass destruction. We focus a lot of attention on trying to gather information in this area. What we have found in relation to some of the other conventions, and the Chemical Weapons Convention is a good example, is that when we are able to combine this national source of information with the sorts of exchanges, questions, dialogue that we can have with other parties to those conventions, we are able to look at their declarations, we can question them on their declarations, we can put all these sources of information together and we can increase our knowledge, we an increase the picture of what is going on.

  5. But the analogy with chemical weapons is surely a difficult one because it is so much easier to detect the production of chemical weapons.
  6. (Mr Dowse) It is easier. I still would not say it was easy. Again, there is much that is dual use. It is true that when one is talking about quantities there is a distinction. Biological weapons, I agree, are the most difficult. I say again that we have never suggested that the Biological Weapons Convention, even underpinned by compliance measures of the sort that have been discussed in recent years, would be the sole answer to the problem. It is another tool in the toolbox. We have felt always that we need to look at these tools across the board. We need where we can to strengthen them. It would be foolish simply to discard any one of these tools as useless.

  7. I have a few questions which I hope will clear the ground and can be answered very speedily on the steps the FCO is taking actively to promote universal membership of the Convention. There are currently 145 signatories. Of the non-signatory countries to the Convention which in your judgment are most threatening to UK interests?
  8. (Mr Dowse) It is 146 signatories. There has recently been another one. In addition to those 146 signatories which have also ratified there are a further 17 that have signed but not ratified. Of those that have not joined the Convention, in our own démarches which we tend to conduct with our European partners there have been a number of EU démarches globally. We do not distinguish between non-signatories. Clearly we would like to see much greater take-up in the Middle East. This is an area where in general we have concerns that there are countries pursuing weapons of mass destruction. One tends to find that where there is one programme it can trigger another. It would be, we feel, a confidence building measure if there were universal signing.

  9. Which countries in particular concern you?
  10. (Mr Dowse) We would like to see Egypt ratify. We would like to see Israel ratify. They have signed but not ratified.

    (Mr Lamb) No, they have not signed. They have signed the Chemical Weapons Convention but have failed to accede to it.

  11. What steps are we taking to persuade countries like Egypt and Israel to sign?
  12. (Mr Dowse) As I say, there have been EU démarches,. There was one about six months ago.

    (Mr Lamb) There was one six months ago. There was also a UK démarche that took place prior to the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting that took in largely Commonwealth countries that had failed to accede either to the Chemical or the Biological Weapons Conventions as a follow-up.

    Andrew Mackinlay

  13. It might be useful if we had a definitive list and the witnesses can give fair consideration to it rather than talking in vague terms now.
  14. (Mr Dowse) We can provide that. Specifically in the case of Israel we have a regular non-proliferation dialogue with the Israelis and we take that opportunity every time to raise the issue.


  15. Did you say that Egypt has signed but not ratified?
  16. (Mr Dowse) Egypt has not signed.

    Chairman: We have a list of 31 countries which have not signed and these obviously include some which are perhaps not relevant and do not have the capacity, such as Andorra, the Cook Islands and others. Others which are more relevant include Israel, Kazakhstan, and there is the Sudan, but Egypt is not mentioned. Does that mean that Egypt has signed and not ratified?

    Andrew Mackinlay

  17. That is why I think we should be given a list which is qualitative.
  18. (Mr Lamb) Egypt has signed but not ratified.


  19. Under the Geneva Protocol many States Parties retained the right to retaliate in kind if they are attacked by biological weapons and obviously there is a certain logical inconsistency in not having biological weapons yet having the capacity to retaliate in kind. Which states retain the right to retaliate in kind if they are attacked by biological weapons and why do they refuse to lift reservations to the 1925 Geneva Protocol?
  20. (Mr Lamb) I do not have a comprehensive list of those countries. The depository of the 1925 Protocol is France and a number of the reservations were laid down immediately after signature of the 1925 Protocol. Our own reservations historically were signed I believe in 1931 but they have since been lifted. I do not have a comprehensive list of those countries which maintain reservations. To a large extent the 1972 Convention supersedes the 1925 Protocol and it is a matter of fact that some countries have failed thus far to lift those reservations that they have. That matter is being pursued actively by France and we obviously strongly support that.

  21. What argument can they give, apart from inertia, in not lifting those reservations?
  22. (Mr Lamb) They can logically provide no argument. I think it is in fact largely down to inertia.

    (Mr Dowse) Certainly it would be our view that for any country that has now signed and ratified the 1972 Convention, any reservations that it might have had to the 1925 Protocol are superseded. One of the proposals that we put forward in the Green Paper was that those countries that still maintain reservations to the 1925 Protocol should now lift them, but we would regard that as a tidying up measure rather than something that is necessary for legal purposes.

    Sir Patrick Cormack

  23. Has Iraq reservations? I see Iraq has signed.
  24. (Mr Lamb) The Biological Convention or the Geneva Protocol?

  25. According to this list we have here Iraq is not listed so presumably Iraq has signed the BTWC.
  26. (Mr Lamb) Correct. Iraq acceded to the BTWC in 1991 immediately following the Gulf War. It was one of the conditions of the cease-fire.

  27. Presumably it does not attach much importance to that.
  28. (Mr Dowse) The evidence is clear that Iraq may have acceded but it has not adhered to it.

  29. So how many other nations fit into that category? All those within the "axis of evil" perhaps?
  30. (Mr Dowse) We do of course have concerns that a number of other countries are not observing their obligations under the various international conventions. You will understand that in this area, and again perhaps above within the area of biological weapons conventions, the reporting that are our concerns are based on is frequently intelligence reporting, so it is difficult for me in a session like this to get into detail. There are concerns that we have about other countries. We pursue those concerns actively.

  31. I am glad to hear it. Can I move you on to the Green Paper? How many responses have you had?
  32. (Mr Lamb) We have had a total of 15 responses from academics, trade associations, professional associations, some three responses I believe from United States academics, so a good spread of responses and a number of comments from other States Parties, entirely positive with respect to the effort that we made with that particular paper.

    (Mr Dowse) When I say "responses", those are formal written responses but we have had quite a lot of informal responses, particularly in discussions in Geneva between delegations at the Conference on Disarmament where these issues are now being debated.

  33. Have these responses affected the Government's views on how the Convention can be strengthened?
  34. (Mr Dowse) The responses have been across the spectrum. I would be happy, if the Committee would like it, to provide you with a written synopsis of the responses we have had.


  35. Please do that.
  36. (Mr Dowse) They vary. Our ideas received general support. Questions have been raised by some as to whether they go far enough. Questions have been raised by others as to whether some of our ideas, for example, for investigation mechanisms which strengthen the Secretary-General's UN investigation mechanism, might go too far in terms of imposing burdens on industry, for example. This is one of the issues that has really been thrashed out over some time in the work on the now abandoned protocol, that what we have been looking at throughout has been a question of balancing benefit against burden. This rather goes back, Mr Anderson, to your first question: is the benefit that can be gained from additional mechanisms to investigate compliance with the Convention sufficient to justify the admitted burden that would be created, an administrative burden, a financial burden, a burden on industry which would have to open its sites, its plants, to international visits, a burden perhaps on bio-defence programmes? This has been the issue that all countries have had to weigh up as we have pursued this approach. The UK, in balancing this benefit and burden question, came to the conclusion that the benefits were sufficient to justify the burden. We felt that the burden was an acceptable one. Other countries, like the US, for example, came to a different conclusion or they have different factors to weigh. The United States have a much larger pharmaceutical industry. They have a much larger defence programme. The political circumstances were somewhat different.

    Sir Patrick Cormack

  37. How far has the declaration of the war against terrorism affected the United Kingdom's general approach here, following on from what you have been saying?
  38. (Mr Dowse) Before September 11 our approach was very energetically to promote a strengthening of the Biological Weapons Convention, and particularly to look for ways in which we could encourage compliance, deal with this constant problem of non-compliance. In one sense our policy has not changed since September 11. What we have seen since September 11 has been that the question of weapons of mass destruction and the added consciousness that these things could fall into the hands of terrorists have raised this issue even further up the agenda than before.

  39. Have we devoted more resources to it?
  40. (Mr Dowse) If you are looking across the board, not specifically at biological weapons, my Department is devoting additional time to it. We are acquiring additional staff to deal in particular with it.

  41. Are acquiring or have acquired?
  42. (Mr Dowse) We are acquiring additional staff.

  43. So you have not yet acquired them?
  44. (Mr Dowse) We are in the process of acquiring them at the moment.

  45. How many additional staff?
  46. (Mr Dowse) At the moment we are bidding for two additional staff.

    (Mr Lamb) Currently four have joined and two are on the way.

  47. How many are there already?
  48. (Mr Lamb) We have some 35 members of the Department already.

    (Mr Dowse) Not all dealing with weapons of mass destruction. We also deal with conventional arms exports, but about half deal with WMD issues. That is including the export control mechanisms. Just to complete the answer to your question, things like the anthrax attacks in the United States were one of the factors that certainly led us, and I am sure he would not mind my saying led the Foreign Secretary personally, to very strongly take the view, when the first session of the Review Conference last November/December came to an end without a conclusion, that the UK should try and take the initiative to keep this issue in the public mind, to keep it on the international agenda, and indeed that was why we published the Green Paper. We were trying to ensure that in the inevitable sense of gloom and despondency that followed the immediate break-up of the Review Conference at the beginning of last December there was not a conclusion that this issue should be simply put in the "too difficult" box.

    Andrew Mackinlay

  49. I see that the Ministry of Defence in 1999 said in our defence paper, "So far, very few terror groups have shown an interest in biological or chemical materials ... The current threat to UK interests is low.", etc. Presumably that is now inoperative, is it, in the view of Her Majesty's Government?
  50. (Mr Dowse) The present assessment, and this is of course based partly on evidence that was discovered in Afghanistan which has also been fairly well exposed in the newspapers, is that there are certainly terrorist groups that are interested in acquiring chemical and biological weapons. There are terrorist groups, and al-Qaeda was one, that have taken active steps to acquire such weapons. We have no evidence as of this moment that any have succeeded.

  51. That is a relief. I read the paper twice before I came here and it seems to me that one of the things we are saying is that we have put into our own statute book that which we would like internationally, so let us give ourselves a good mark for that, but I have to say to you that I am petrified - and you are going to reassure me now - because I assumed when you mentioned anthrax in the United States (and it is a reasonable assumption) that this was not brought into the United States; it was made or cultured there. A few miles from here you and I could go up to Bloomsbury, to some very fine postgraduate institutes. There are thousands of scientists in this country, a very transient international community which is a money-earner not just for our commercial side but also for our academic institutions. It is a fact, is it not, that neither you nor I, nor Her Majesty's Government, have the foggiest idea what the vast majority of these scientists are doing and who they are? There is no spot check, is there?
  52. (Mr Dowse) We do have a scheme that is run in conjunction with institutions of higher education, and it is known as the Voluntary Vetting Scheme, under which we have briefed these institutions on countries where we have certain concerns about proliferation and we also brief them on courses of study that would give us concern, that could be of benefit to a proliferator. This is again not just biological weapons; this is also chemical, nuclear and ballistic missiles. We encourage the participating institutions to let us know if they receive an application from a student from a country of concern to study a course of concern. This is essentially postgraduate work. We are not interested in trying to limit people's access to what is available in any textbook. We are then able to advise if the individual concerned is someone who would give us difficulty and where we feel that they should not be allowed to study this course. We have quite a good take-up of this scheme. It is voluntary. It is not something where we have wished to legislate, and there are issues, obviously, of academic freedom. We have had an increasing take-up of this scheme since September 11. We think it is effective in dealing with this.

  53. How many postgraduate students are there in approximate round terms in the United Kingdom in scientific institutions?
  54. (Mr Dowse) I would have to refer back to you on that.

  55. Perhaps you could give us the figures on that.
  56. (Mr Dowse) Sure.

  57. Perhaps you could also give us figures on how many have taken up the voluntary scheme and which institutions have and have not.
  58. (Mr Dowse) We can give you figures. This is a voluntary scheme. I do not want to discourage -----

  59. No, but if it is voluntary, that infers to me that it is patchy. You have probably got some good directors who are diligent and some who are not. That would be fair, would it not?
  60. (Mr Dowse) It is not universal. I would say that we feel we get good coverage of the main institutes.

    Andrew Mackinlay: I still have to say to you that it is woefully inadequate. It is not your fault; it is the legislators' fault. We have not put it in the statute book. The fact is that you could have a postgraduate person here employed on a contract to carry on some research, and 95 per cent of his or her time here he or she might be doing that. You and I have no idea and there is no way of finding out what he or she is doing the other five per cent of the time or what is in the back of the fridge, have we?

    Sir Patrick Cormack: Or whether he is taking flying lessons as well.

    Andrew Mackinlay

  61. It is a serious point, Sir Patrick, and I am not dismissing what you are saying, but this is the real problem, this academic freedom thing. All of us post-September 11 have had some of our freedoms narrowed. We find it is a price we have to pay, a price worth paying. Academic freedom is very important and I also understand the commercial interests, but unless you are going to have a regime nationally - and it might be that you could try and get people to do it nationally because that seems to be the answer in the United States, and then at least we could agree standards of national inspection - we are not going to get anywhere. You have to get a Justice of the Peace warrant to go in and find out what is going on. Surely the answer has to be, with proper ground rules drawn up with academia, that you need to be able to go into some of these institutes and say, "Who is this man? What is he doing?", and, "What is in there?", to put it in simple terms. Surely that is necessary, is it not?
  62. (Mr Lamb) As you recognise, it is a wider problem that goes to the heart of academic freedom. As Mr Dowse said, the reason that this is a voluntary scheme is that we obviously liaise with the universities. The universities at an earlier stage, I have to say, although it is not necessarily the case now, were very intent and keen on maintaining that academic freedom, and of course the whole basis on which research goes forward is freedom of information. Those academic institutions, both in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, are wrestling with the problems of how to control both those who have access to that type of work and indeed the freedom subsequently of their research being published more widely. We ourselves met with a group from the National Academy of Sciences in Washington in July, who came to the United Kingdom to ask a range of institutions here, both in Government and outside Government, exactly how we were facing up to dealing with that particular problem.

  63. What did we tell them?
  64. (Mr Lamb) We said, "We recognise that this is a major problem". On that occasion it was the Foreign Office and we specifically directed them to the Office of Science and Technology and the academic institutions because this is a developing issue.

  65. I am not trying to be awkward with you but you say, "We recognise that this is a major problem". At least we have acknowledged that this is a problem, but as of this morning it is not being addressed, is it? There is a war against terrorism we are told and here we are just saying we have a problem.
  66. (Mr Dowse) There is more than one string to our bow in this area. We do have on the statute book legislation which makes it a criminal offence to assist the development of a weapon of mass destruction, and indeed the transmission of intangible technology where WMD is concerned is also covered by our legislation. Some of this was introduced in the Anti-Terrorist Act last year, some of it was previously on the statute book. Others are covered by the new Export Control Act, so there are offences that can be targeted.

  67. Of course, but they will be after the event. I looked at the legislation this morning before coming in here. In a sense you have to have some prior knowledge. You have to go to a Justice of the Peace to get an inspection. It seems to me that the only prevention, as with so many of these things, like we want to do in Iraq, is where, if there is a possibility of an inspection regime coming in unannounced, that is the only potential serious impediment in this area. I was looking for, in any legislation, a thing which gave the heads of institutions - directors, chief executives, principals, masters, call them what you like - a specific duty (and of course they always have a duty of care; any manager has) to satisfy himself or herself that they knew who the people in their institution were and what they were doing. There is a complete void there in our legislation. What do you say to that?
  68. (Mr Dowse) It is a point we are aware of. To date the way we have tried to tackle this is, as I say, through working together with institutes of higher education and dealing with the sorts of courses that would cause us concern.

    Andrew Mackinlay: Tell Mr Straw I will return to this next week when we see him. It is a political thing but it does seem to me that this is something we need to address.

    Sir John Stanley

  69. I want to continue the line of questioning which Mr Mackinlay has started. The Foreign Office, in a publicly accessible paper which sits in the House of Commons library, has assessed that a litre of anthrax placed on a high storey building in an urban area could kill up to three million people. The lethality of anthrax, smallpox, plague and other germ agents is on such a scale that surely now that you and many others have acknowledged the risk of such agents falling into the hands of terrorists, and that this requires a complete change of view inside our Government and inside governments generally as to government responsibilities on the control mechanisms and the visibility mechanisms that have to be employed to ensure that the people of this country and other countries are protected against such an appalling event. We already have the precedent in the nuclear area. Governments some decades ago realised that there was no way in which fissile material could run around in countries on the basis that a government would not know what was there and in what quantities they had it, and we moved down the road of the fissile control regime. It has inadequacies but that was clearly the direction in which governments had to go. Do you not agree that, given where we are today, we have got to go down the same route in relation to biological agents and chemical agents, but probably most particularly biological agents? Is it not now time when governments have to accept that they must know and have approval systems for who can culture (if anybody) anthrax and smallpox and plague etc, and records as to where those cultures are, the quantities that they are in and a full system of accountability and approval? Is that not now absolutely essential in national security terms?
  70. (Mr Dowse) With regard to issues relating to physical protection accounting for sensitive materials of this sort, we would agree with you on that. There are regulations in place today that address the issue of safe storage of dangerous pathogens and things like that. These regulations have been drawn up essentially with health and safety in mind rather than the terrorist issue in mind. It does seem a gap in the international network of agreements that there are no international standards in this area. I think chemicals is another area that needs to be looked at. It is one of the proposals of course that we put forward in the Green Paper, that there should be a new convention on the physical protection of dangerous pathogens, and that would very much have that in mind. It is something that we have put there as a proposal that we want to discuss with the biotechnology industry and of course it affects the Health Service as well.

  71. But surely it is more than just physical protection. Surely a system of approval is required. Surely we cannot contemplate a situation whereby anybody in this country or elsewhere can without authorisation culture some of these incredibly dangerous agents which can produce mass lethality?
  72. (Mr Lamb) It is not particularly our area but there is already in place a very careful means of scrutiny, largely by the Health and Safety Executive, which would wish to assess any research project that was being proposed that in any way dealt with a dangerous pathogen. It does not answer your problem in so far as whether this is centrally known to government, which probably is not the case at present. However, in one sense, and genuinely to reassure you, these are subject to very careful scrutiny by the academic institutions that are sponsoring them, by the Health and Safety Executive ultimately, and indeed by the commercial companies that are undertaking them. One of the proposals that is being discussed in the context of physical protection, to answer Mr Mackinlay's point somewhat belatedly perhaps, is the actual vetting of those individuals who would have access to these dangerous pathogens, something that has not been the case up until now. Much of this work is in any case done in government laboratories, such as Porton Down, where it has been done previously, but perhaps we need to consider actual vetting to make sure that these individuals are not likely to misuse the information that they have acquired.

    (Mr Dowse) What we can say is that there are some regulations in place. We are actively looking at others. It is not primarily a matter for the Foreign Office. It is more a matter for home departments but, to give one example, you will recall the development in the United States of the synthetic polio virus and the concern that that raised, that this work had gone on apparently with very little supervision. That is something which led us to ask the question, could that have happened here, and the answer is no. That sort of work would not happen free of regulation in the UK.

  73. Can you confirm to me that as of today you, unavoidably at the moment speaking on behalf of the Government as a whole, have no idea at all as to where there are any cultures of anthrax, smallpox, plague or similar such agents in this country and the quantities?
  74. (Mr Lamb) I believe the quantities would be a difficult matter because these are in any case very small. Certainly there are no quantities of smallpox because all the smallpox stocks are now gathered in CDC Atlanta and at Vector in Russia. That is under a WHO decision and the smallpox stocks we previously had in this country are there. With respect to the other agents you mentioned, if there is any storage of such agents it would most likely be at CBW Porton Down and therefore in that sense would be under government control and known to government.

  75. But that is guesswork, is it not? You are nodding. Could you say that verbally? I am saying to you that that is guesswork. Is this an assumption you are making?
  76. (Mr Lamb) It is an assumption I am making, yes, indeed.

    (Mr Dowse) We are speaking as the Foreign Office. We would need to consult our colleagues at the Department of Health before giving you a definitive answer to this point.

    Sir Patrick Cormack

  77. Is that not the point? You said a few moments ago that it is not specifically a Foreign Office matter; it is for the home departments. I think we would all feel a little more confident and perhaps people would sleep a little more easily in their beds if we thought that there was a central co-ordinating authority under you or somebody else who could actually give definitive answers to the sorts of question which my colleagues have been asking. How far are we from having that degree of co-ordination?
  78. (Mr Dowse) We do not have a central authority at the moment although the Department of Health would be the lead department in this area. Were there such a central authority it would not be an authority under the Foreign Office.

    Sir Patrick Cormack: Do you think there should be?

    Andrew Mackinlay

  79. Or against terrorism?
  80. (Mr Lamb) I can see a value for such an authority, yes indeed, and I believe a great deal of work has been going on since September 11, sparked off by September 11, specifically in the United Kingdom but elsewhere, certainly in the United States, looking very specifically at the issue of the handling of dangerous pathogens.

    Sir Patrick Cormack

  81. I do not want at all to be disparaging of your efforts, which I am sure are wholly well motivated and extremely efficiently conducted, and I have great confidence in the Foreign Office, but I do believe that we would all have more confidence if there were this central co-ordination. Could you take that message away from this meeting?
  82. (Mr Dowse) We will take that message away. I say again that I think this is an issue that is not primarily for the Foreign Office to answer but we certainly hear your message loud and clear.

    (Mr Lamb) And as well as the Department of Health we would also be looking at Agriculture because we are talking about potential plant and animal pathogens.

    Andrew Mackinlay

  83. Joined-up government then?
  84. (Mr Lamb) It is much wider than the Department of Health. We have been consulting. All my colleagues I know have been consulting with the relevant officials, looking at the handling of pathogens in that particular area as part of the overall study that has gone forward since September 11.


  85. The head of the biological weapons programme in Iraq was educated in this country. Are you confident that the controls have been so changed since that she or her equivalent would be unlikely to be educated in this country in a related subject?
  86. (Mr Dowse) It is precisely because of that case which first led us to introduce the issue of the institution of the Voluntary Vetting Scheme.

    Andrew Mackinlay

  87. It is voluntary.
  88. (Mr Dowse) We are as confident as we can be, absent a compulsory scheme, which I think would raise issues of academic freedom, that that could not happen here.


  89. "Voluntary" means it is dependent on the goodwill of the head of the relevant department.
  90. (Mr Dowse) I would say again though that we have been pleased with the level of take-up of the scheme among the institutes of higher education and that take-up has increased significantly since September 11.

    Sir Patrick Cormack

  91. Eighty per cent, 90 per cent, 70 per cent? What is it?
  92. (Mr Dowse) I would have to look that up.

    Sir Patrick Cormack: But is it nearer 80 per cent or nearer 40 per cent?

    Andrew Mackinlay

  93. Take the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine by way of example, in fairness to them. Are you saying it is 100 per cent there? What would 80 per cent mean? Does it require the postgraduate himself to say yes?
  94. (Mr Dowse) No. It requires the institution when receiving an application from an overseas student to consult the Government as to the advisability of this person coming to study a preferred course of study.

  95. They do a percentage of these?
  96. (Mr Dowse) No. We encourage them to refer all those in the categories that we have advised on.

    Sir Patrick Cormack

  97. How many institutions? Is it 80 per cent of institutions or 40 per cent of institutions? Are we dealing with most academic institutions on this voluntary basis or not?
  98. (Mr Lamb) We are dealing with all the institutions on a voluntary basis. I would moreover cite the case of that particular individual as being one of the turning points in changing the attitudes of the British universities in particular because clearly, when that university comes to be associated with that individual and knows that she was trained at that university, there is a blow-back on the university and our task has been made easier in terms of approaching universities and getting greater co-operation since that particular event.

  99. How many universities?
  100. (Mr Dowse) We will give you a note on that.


  101. Mr Mackinlay has raised a very important matter. I anticipate that the Committee will wish to return to it and you will provide further evidence in response to the questions
  102. (Mr Dowse) We will.

    Mr Maples

  103. I just want to ask you in some detail about the United States' position on this but first I have a couple of points on potential terrorist use of these biological weapons. Sir John Stanley asked you about a litre of anthrax on the top of a building but actually, if it was a highly infectious disease, you would not need a litre of the stuff. In an era of terrorist suicide bombers you only need to introduce one infected person into London or Paris or New York or wherever; that is all you would actually need to do. If you have got some highly infectious disease like smallpox, presumably that is a really serious danger, but you say that the pathogen is under really strict control. Do you take into account, in your attempts to police this worldwide defending of the United Kingdom against it, the degree of infectious disease and are you very much more concerned about some rather than others, particularly the example where one might be used by the suicide bomber? Secondly, within that context, is there a practical difference in your mind between the people who have the technology to turn biological weapons into a powdered or dried form as opposed to a liquid form, because my understanding is that it is much more stable and much easier to transport it in that form? I just wonder how you look at those two issues in the context of the possible misuse of biological weapons by a terrorist or state terrorist groups.
  104. (Mr Lamb) In terms of the first part of your question with respect to the dangers from specific agents, when we were negotiating the Protocol there was a specific section of that Protocol that was devoted to a list of agents and that required some considerable and very difficult negotiations because countries had different perceptions as to the dangers from different agents. Some of those countries were clearly aware and had the background of earlier research that had been done in defensive BW programmes and thus were aware of the more dangerous agents. One of the other difficulties was that countries placed a greater emphasis in some instances on plant and animal agents that could be used in that particular context, and also a further dimension was the geographic spread. For certain countries some of these viruses are endemic in that particular country and they place greater emphasis, understandably, upon those particular agents. That is a broad answer but a list was established of those most dangerous agents and those most likely to be used in any BW proliferation campaign.

  105. In that context is the most dangerous the most infectious or the most lethal?
  106. (Mr Lamb) I think it is a mistake to automatically assume that we are talking about lethality because one of the effects you might wish to achieve is indeed not lethality but simply to create lethargy, to cause temporary sickness that would oblige an armed force in the field to deal with those casualties, evacuate them, wasting and taking up valuable resources that could be deployed for more effective and direct military use, so to an extent the biological weapons should not necessarily be seen as instruments for killing large numbers of people. They also have, and it is sometimes forgotten, a very dangerous potential with respect to crops and livestock.

  107. What about the powdered and dried form? Is that an issue?
  108. (Mr Lamb) In terms of the Protocol and what we were trying to achieve, it was not a specific issue. I believe you are quite right: it is more stable in powdered form than in liquid form if we are talking about anthrax now. Anthrax occurs naturally, of course. One of the things that you would wish to do in a biological weapons programme would be to mill the spores of anthrax to the point where they were so small that they could be ingested into the lungs, which is what would make it particularly dangerous and indeed lethal.

    (Mr Dowse) If I can just add to that, one of the other instruments that we have other than treaty regimes and inspections in looking at this and trying to counter this problem of biological weapons is the availability of export controls and the multilateral export controls. There is a multilateral group called the Australia Group that co-ordinates and sets certain standards for export controls related to chemical and biological materials and related equipment. One of the things that that group has been doing since September 11, as some of the other export control regimes have been doing, is looking to see whether its controls are properly adapted to the terrorist threat. In the past they have tended to be designed to counter state acquisition of biological weapons for military purposes and quantities and sizes of equipment, for example, have been such that the control has been drawn up with that in mind. In the case of terrorism one could be looking at much smaller quantities. One could be looking at smaller sizes, for example, of fomenters for producing viruses, and the Australia Group is now very actively looking at how to revise its control list to address that issue. It is something that is very much, I would say, on the international agenda between those like-minded countries that participate in these regimes.

  109. Can I come to the United States Government's refusal to sign the control regime's protocol? John Bolton gave three reasons. One was that the biological weapons were not in a traditional arms control methodology, and we have discussed that in one way or another; secondly, that it put at risk national security in biodefence and also commercial biotech companies would be revealing sensitive information, and, thirdly, your point about the Australia Group, that it had undermined multilateral export control conventions. I wonder if you could say what is the British Government's view on each of those three points? Do you think there is substance to them or do you think that they can be dealt with in a way that the Protocol would have been implemented?
  110. (Mr Dowse) They certainly cannot be dismissed. Each one of those issues was something that also concerned us and which we tried to address in the course of nearly six years of negotiations. As I said earlier, ultimately every country participating in these negotiations, trying to decide its position, had to make a cost-benefit assessment and the issues that you quote John Bolton as raising were part of that cost-benefit assessment. The Protocol as it stood in August last year (and it was not finalised) we looked at from this point of view of the perceived benefit against the burden and the considered view of the British Government, across government to other departments who were involved this, was that the balance came down on the side of benefit. It was certainly not everything that we would like to have seen. We would like to have seen a rather more intrusive inspection regime, for example. That had not been possible to achieve in the negotiations. We nevertheless concluded that the benefit outweighed the burden. The United States came to a different conclusion. I think I touched on some of the reasons why that might have been so. Their industry was fairly consistently critical of the Protocol. It is a much larger pharmaceutical industry than ours, or indeed those of our European partners. They have something like 40 per cent of the global pharmaceutical industry. Our industry did not oppose the Protocol in the way that the US did. We consulted our industry at intervals throughout these negotiations. At one stage we ran a practice inspection as a way of trying to expose both to ourselves and to industry what the problems might be and this was fairly successful. That was one issue where the balance was different here than in the United States. Similarly, in terms of biodefence programmes, we were comfortable I think with the proposals that were on the table in the Protocol that dealt with managed access to biodefence facilities. We were confident that we could comply with this, that it would be valuable both in providing confidence to us with access to other countries' programmes, and at the same time the burden that it imposed, which was the risk that it might pose to our own limited biodefence programme, was acceptable and the United States again came to a different conclusion. They have a much larger biodefence programme, considerably larger than ours by many factors. On the question of the Australia Group I have to say that our conclusion was that the Protocol helped to strengthen the concept of export control and the need for multilateral export controls in this area. The Protocol as it was drafted in August did not seem to us to undermine the export controls of the Australia Group. We felt that it legitimised them in a way in that these multilateral export control regimes are often criticised by countries that believe they are discriminatory, that feel themselves on the receiving end of the export controls. We felt that the Protocol as drafted in fact helped to strengthen the case for export controls, so that I think is a point where our interpretation did differ from that of the Americans.

    Sir John Stanley

  111. I want to go back to President Bush's formal statement which he gave on 1 November last year. He said, "My administration is proposing that all parties" - and he lists a total of seven points, all of which I think the British Government would happily endorse, but of those seven points I would like to read two of them. The first is this, "establish an effective United Nations procedure for investigating suspicious outbreaks or allegations of biological weapons used". The next one referred to is, "establish procedures for addressing BWC compliance concerns". That is the stated official policy of the US administration. That being the case, that they want an effective United Nations procedure for investigation, I am still baffled, and indeed even more baffled following our discussions with the relevant people in the State Department last week, as to why, when the President has stated that that is the policy of his administration, there does not appear to be so far - tell me if I am wrong - almost complete non-delivery of the President's policy.
  112. (Mr Dowse) It is not for me to answer for the United States Government.

  113. Perhaps you can explain the British Government's perspective.
  114. (Mr Dowse) We have of course ourselves discussed quite intensively with the US Government how to move forward following the end of the Protocol negotiations and indeed the suspension of the last year's Review Conference. We would say that there is absolutely no doubt that the United States Government shares our view that it is important to strengthen BWC. What we have been working on with both the US and with other like-minded governments, and some of our European partners as well, is a package of measures that we can take when the Review Conference resumes in November and that we would hope all the members of that Review Conference can unite around which will then form the basis of a work programme to take forward multilaterally, internationally, a package of measures that will serve to strengthen the Convention. The contents of that package are still under negotiation. You will not be surprised to hear that the elements are not dissimilar to many of the ideas that are in our Green Paper, which of course also overlap with President Bush's suggestions, and indeed an effective UN procedure for investigating suspicious outbreaks of disease or allegations of use of biological weapons is clearly from our point of view an important part of our package.

  115. Yes, but the phrase is a heading and the British Government, ever since President Bush said that on 1 November last year, must successively have asked American officials how does the US administration intend in practical terms to deliver the President's policy. May I ask you what answers have you got? How do the Americans envisage there is going to be set up an effective United Nations procedure for investigation? How?
  116. (Mr Dowse) Through international discussions. As I say, this is something that will be on the agenda when the Review Conference resumes. To establish a UN procedure you need international agreement to take that sort of thing forward. The UN is the servant of the Member States so there needs to be an agreed proposal that is put forward. You are right that the broad heading to establish an effective UN procedure is simply a broad heading. We in our Green Paper tried to give a little more substance to that by putting forward some ideas as to what form this procedure might take. These are the subject of the discussions that we have been having with US officials, with other interested like-minded countries since then. We are at a fairly delicate stage of negotiations now, I would say. It is not so long before the Review Conference reconvenes next month. What we are aiming for is to achieve a package that is a credible package involving a variety of measures which would then be taken forward internationally in work approved by the Review Conference but would, we would hope, lead to international agreement.

  117. But in everything you have said I have not got a clear answer to the question which I am putting to you. The American President has indicated that he wants an effective United Nations procedure for investigation. Are you saying to me or not that since that was stated by the President almost a year ago now to the day there has been no proposal from the US administration as to the form that that effective procedure should take? Are you saying that or is it just being left to the British Government?
  118. (Mr Dowse) They have not fleshed out that proposal.

  119. At all?
  120. (Mr Dowse) Not in discussions to us.


  121. Indeed beyond that. We heard in Washington that the current position of the US administration is to hold a very brief meeting in November, next month, or even no meeting at all and talk again when the next review is scheduled four years from now.
  122. (Mr Dowse) That is not my understanding of the position of the US Government.

  123. This is what we largely heard from the experts.
  124. (Mr Dowse) In the most recent discussions we have had with the US, which have been at the end of September and earlier this month, that position that you describe is not consistent with what we have heard from the US.

    Sir John Stanley

  125. Can you tell me whether in your judgment the US administration are ruling in or ruling out an on-the-ground inspection regime as part of their policy for an effective United Nations procedure for investigation?
  126. (Mr Dowse) My understanding, and this is based on the discussions we have had with the US over this year, is that as of today they do not believe an inspections regime would constitute an effective procedure. That is essentially one of the judgments they came to at the time of the Protocol. They are not in favour of an inspections regime.

  127. Given the ease of concealment of BW in particular, does the British Government conceive that there is any way at all in which there can be an effective United Nations investigation of abuses without some form of physical inspection on the ground?
  128. (Mr Dowse) This in a way comes back to where we started this discussion. We have never believed that inspections, compliance visits, however you describe them, are a panacea. They are not the answer. A determined proliferator could continue to conceal, particularly in the area of biological weapons. However, we have always taken the view that the sort of compliance measures that were discussed at the time of the Protocol nevertheless do have a value when added to other instruments in making life more difficult for a proliferator. A lot of the time what we are doing in this whole area of counter proliferation is trying to tilt the playing field against the proliferator. That is not to say that you can get a 100 per cent guarantee that you can stop the operation. In the area of biological weapons I think that is probably true more than in any other. You can, however, tilt the playing field. You can raise the cost to the proliferator who knows he has to conduct a parallel programme, he has to conceal his facilities in mountain sides or other places. That raises the cost for him. And there is always the chance, the thought in the back of the mind, that perhaps one day an inspector might walk through the door and he would be caught. You raise a political pressure. As I say, it is certainly not a panacea. We are not starry-eyed about international treaties as being the answer to our problems. They have to be combined with export controls. They have to be combined with strong political measures against proliferators. They have when necessary, as we have seen in the case of Iraq perhaps, to be combined with more direct means, but as part of the toolbox we have always felt that the treaty regimes underpinned by compliance measures do have a value. We would be foolish to discard them and where we can strengthen them we should do so.

  129. Accepting entirely that inspections will not be likely to produce a complete answer, particularly against a regime which is determined to try to conceal its programme, do you believe that there is actually any other weapon - and I am using that figuratively - or any other means that is likely to be still more effective to try to get divulging of what a particular dangerous state might have by way of BW than inspections? Surely you are not going to suggest that external or internal sources of intelligence is likely to be more successful. Surely you are not going to suggest that some form of paper declarations are likely to be more truthful than what the inspectors find. Is it not the case that whatever the weaknesses of inspections on the ground they must still remain the single most useful method of actually trying to see who is in violation of the Convention?
  130. (Mr Dowse) I would say again what I said before. You are right: there is no silver bullet in this area, to use an American expression. What there is is a toolbox and we need to look at that toolbox and deploy that toolbox across the board. Inspections and compliance measures are part of that toolbox. They are not the whole answer.

  131. Do you agree that inspections are the single most useful available tool?
  132. (Mr Lamb) In terms of the Protocol and the issues that we are talking about one makes a distinction between inspections, which are essentially routine and would be the bread and butter activity of any organisation just as they are of the organisation in relation to chemical weapons, and what are variously referred to under the Chemical Weapons Convention as challenge inspections or under the Biological Weapons Convention Protocol as investigations.

  133. I mean challenge as well as routine. Do you agree that of the available tools in the toolbox, inspections, routine and challenge, are the single most useful tool we have available to us?
  134. (Mr Dowse) Challenge inspections, where they can be agreed, and that is a large caveat, are undoubtedly a valuable tool. Again, they are not the whole answer. Challenge inspections are only as good as the intelligence that they are based on, so there is another factor there, but we have been strongly in favour of making use of inspections, including challenge inspections.

    Mr Chidgey

  135. Following on from the questioning of Sir John, it would be helpful if you could give us some guidance and some more information on the UN role in this situation. Can you tell us what resources currently exist to enable the UN Secretary-General to undertake investigations into non-compliance with the BTWC? Of course, the follow-on from that is, it would appear these resources are inadequate and I would like to know where they are inadequate.
  136. (Mr Dowse) The mechanism which is available to the UN Secretary-General dates from the 1980s I think. It was deployed for example when there were allegations of use of chemical weapons in Cambodia. It has not been that much used but essentially what it means is that where there is an allegation made of the use of chemical or biological weapons which is brought to the Security Council, the UN Secretary-General has the authority to mount an investigation of that allegation. I believe it is a requirement of the Security Council to put that to the Secretary-General.

    (Mr Lamb) Correct. It has been used in one or two instances, mostly in respect to chemical weapons issues particularly in Mozambique and an allegation which took place there. It is also worth pointing out that under the Convention and as a result of the developments at a review conference in the early 1990s, there is a mechanism in place by which a country can bring a compliance matter to the attention of States Parties to the Convention, and have that matter discussed at an informal meeting leading on to a formal consultative meeting. That meeting does have the ability to agree an inspection of the country in question. So there is a mechanism already under the Biological Weapons Convention which has been used on one occasion.

  137. What in your view are the inadequacies of that process in resource terms?
  138. (Mr Lamb) There is a time factor clearly. When we, as a depository, receive such a complaint, we have to arrange an informal meeting of all States Parties within 30 days. The formal consultative meeting must take place within 60 days. So you are already talking two months before any effective action can realistically take place. In terms of the resources, none are available, and what would happen in the event it was decided that an inspection should take place, we would have to appoint inspectors, we would have to nominate inspectors, to undertake that. Those inspectors, their appointment and so on, would obviously also take time. They would not necessarily be people who were in the practice of engaging in inspections in relation to biological weapons incidents, so one is talking about expertise which might be lacking.

  139. What in your view are the advantages of a free-standing international agreement to investigate non-compliance over the existing UN Secretary-General process? The key question is how could such an agreement be implemented, in your view?
  140. (Mr Lamb) Just to be clear ----

  141. A free-standing international agreement to investigate non-compliance, and what are its advantages over the existing UN Secretary-General process?
  142. (Mr Lamb) What it would do would be to create a mini-protocol, or a mini-organisation, for the prohibition of biological weapons. It would have some advantages. One would clearly agree a budget, one would clearly have inspectors who would be on call and available. But if one looks back at what was planned with the Protocol, the purpose of having a free-standing protocol based on four pillars - declarations, inspections, investigations (which is what we are talking about now) and the organisation which would implement it - means you would have a secretariat, fully professional inspectors, and they would have gained expertise and knowledge as a result of conducting the routine inspectors when it came to a full-blown investigation, where clearly the stakes are much higher and the issues are much more sensitive. There are practical problems and difficulties about having a free-standing organisation to deal with that. However, I would argue it would be better than nothing.

  143. You feel such an agreement could be implemented?
  144. (Mr Lamb) I think it would be more difficult because in a sense it would require us to go back to the negotiations, and to some extent it is unlikely we would get agreement to such an organisation because one of the factors in the Protocol negotiations always was that the arms control and intrusive verification measures we argued for were always counterbalanced by other demands from non-aligned countries in particular that such an organisation should be used as a means of freeing-up and increasing the degree of trade, co-operation, technical exchanges and so on. That would be bound to be a second element which would have to be taken into account if we were to set up such a minimal or minimalist organisation, so we would go back to a minimal or reduced form.

  145. As you said it is better than nothing, is it not worth putting some effort into this?
  146. (Mr Lamb) I think it would be, but it is fair to say with the ending of the negotiations on the Protocol, countries are clearly not going to be attracted towards embarking on negotiations which might after a period of some years again not reach fruition. There is a certain wariness in looking at how we should go forward with respect to the Protocol which are with BTWC, which our Green Paper is intended to address, because we are leaving aside any attempt to relaunch negotiations or any attempt to regenerate the Protocol, and looking at the practical measures which we believe can be put in place and which will do some good.

    (Mr Dowse) Our view is that the Protocol is not something which will be a valuable use of our effort to try and revive. We do not see that being in the present political situation something which we are going to take forward. What we can do is look to see what are the issues which the Protocol is attempting to address, and in what ways was it trying to address them, and can we take some of those measures and pursue them in other ways. That is really with the package of eleven measures which we floated in our Green Paper what we were trying to do. When you are looking at investigations particularly of alleged use, you might not need to set up a permanent organisation at all. One of the weaknesses of the current Secretary-General's mechanism is that he has no ready-made pool of experts to call on to make these investigations if an allegation of use is brought to him, so it takes time to gather the necessary expertise to send the mission. One could establish a pool, a list of names could be held by the Secretary-General of people who could be called on at very short notice. That is one way we could strengthen this without setting up some elaborate, even if on a small scale, international organisation and bureaucracy to carry it. This is the approach we have been trying to take, how can we pursue the objectives which were pursued under the heading Protocol in other ways.

    Mr Hamilton

  147. The Henry L Stimson Centre which is an arms control and security think-tank in Washington, from where we have just returned, recently hired a group of experts from the US pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry to assess the US Government's policy towards the draft Biological Weapons Protocol. The experts agreed with the US Government policy towards it - their rejection, in other words - because they said, and I quote, "no matter how good the inspection techniques, the inspectors would not have a fighting chance if they were too few in number, lacking in essential skills, and not deployed on site for a sufficient amount of time to accomplish their jobs. The draft protocol was [therefore] deficient in all these respects." My question is, gentlemen, have you offered your US counterparts a critique of the Stimson Centre report or other studies of possible BW inspection regimes? If so, what has been the response?
  148. (Mr Dowse) We have not offered them a specific critique of the Stimson Centre Report but the sort of issues which the Stimson Centre are raising are ones which were certainly aired at considerable length in the Protocol negotiations. There were some repeated and I think fairly intensive exchanges between the UK and others, and the United States, on some of these issues. This again comes back to the issue of benefit and burden. As I think I said earlier, from the UK's point of view, the Protocol as it was drafted - and we need to remember it was not the final text - in the middle of last year was not all we had wanted it to be. We would have liked to see something which was more robust in some of these specific areas which the Stimson Centre is touching on in terms of the degree of intrusiveness. That was not something which was going to be possible. We took a very hard look at the text together with our colleagues across Whitehall and our conclusion was nevertheless the balance of benefit versus the burden was in favour of the Protocol, but that is not to pretend we thought this was going to be the answer to all our problems.

    (Mr Lamb) There have been numerous exchanges with various US trade associations and that view, as reported by the Stimson Centre, is consistent with what we have been hearing throughout the negotiations and we took issue with them on a number of counts. They were ironically instrumental in pressing for as short a period of inspection as possible because of course that has direct impact on the down time for any particular facility and therefore an inability to undertake its normal commercial activity. I think a point which needs to be made relates to the way in which the visits or the inspections would have worked under the Protocol, and what they were intended to do was to check the essential accuracy of the declaration which was made about that site. No one imagined that on a routine visit one would go to a facility and find BW activity. What one wanted to do was ensure that indeed the activity at that facility corresponded to what the country had indicated in its national declaration. In the event that the inspectors came back and reported there were anomalies or discrepancies or some concerns they had about the activity, at that point States Parties could have intervened and could have suggested either a further visit or indeed an investigation, a full-blown challenge inspection of that particular facility. So what was intended by the visit regime was a trip-wire system, if you like, which would set alarm bells ringing and cause further, heavier action.

    (Mr Dowse) The other side of that is that as well as being a trip-wire it was also a confidence-building mechanism.

  149. What other reports have actually been published which are critical of the draft Protocol or of possible inspection regimes?
  150. (Mr Lamb) They have been produced by trade associations. The most prominent would be PhRMA, which is an American trade association, and they have produced a number and produced a number of documents throughout the period of negotiations which were critical of the inspection regime which was being planned. The Stimson Centre is, if you like, a collection of the more recent views.

    (Mr Dowse) As I said earlier, the concerns of US industry - understandable because of the size of that industry and its position at the cutting-edge of biotechnology - were in general not reflected to that degree of seriousness by pharmaceutical industries elsewhere. We did have exchanges with our own national industry who did not take the position which the US industry took against the Protocol.

    (Mr Lamb) The view is that somehow an inspection would have turned up a facility which was in the process of producing BW and probably weaponising it. Nonsense, that was never the case and never likely. Our approach was altogether subtler. I think sometimes a straw man is set up in order to best knock it down. This was not what we had in mind.

    Andrew Mackinlay

  151. On page 9 of the Green Paper, Confidence Building Measures, at the Third Review Conference, or consequent upon that, it says, "Submissions were now also required on the existence of national biodefence research and development programmes, on whether past defensive or offensive BW programmes had existed, and on human vaccine facilities." We are also urged to contemplate how we could come to the aid of parties who might be subject to attack. Can you bring us up to speed both on what we could do, or what could be done with others, to respond to people who might suffer attack? Also, what about our own human vaccine facilities? I realise this might be primarily the Department of Health but in a sense we have an obligation consequent on the Third Review Conference to be satisfied about that. Could you help me on both those points?
  152. (Mr Dowse) We respond to this CBM requirement. One of the problems with these CBM requirements is that they have tended to be honoured in the breach rather than in the observance. The UK, nevertheless, does put forward an annual declaration in response to this and we have been quite scrupulous in doing so. Not all other States Parties do. One of the proposals that we have put forward later in our proposals in the Green Paper is to strengthen these requirements and to try and get more consistent and more full reporting under this area. As far as our national vaccine facilities are concerned, I think that really is a matter for the Department of Health rather than for the Foreign Office. We would be quite happy to provide you with a copy of our most recent return under the confidence building measures.

  153. Thank you very much. It seems to me, listening to the problems we have as regards the United States, the concerns from both the security of point and also commercial interests, and also what you and I discussed earlier, is not the way forward, although it would not be the whole story, if we could get a treaty or agreements so there would be a common standard of national oversight? Our legislation, which clearly I think is flawed, to some extent is nonetheless a very good start, because we have already criminalised the conduct of some of these things. Could that not be something which we could suggest around the world? I also notice that there are references in there to the 2001 Act which could be a model.
  154. (Mr Dowse) The Anti-Terrorist Act?

  155. Yes.
  156. (Mr Dowse) I think you are right, we do need greater consistency, more international standards in this area, greater spreading of best practice. This can be done informally or formally. Some of the proposals we have put forward in the Green Paper - and in fact in these cases they overlap with some of the proposals by President Bush last year - really go to address this issue of criminalising and also issues to do with greater standards of protection for dangerous pathogens.

  157. Has it been or is it being pursued?
  158. (Mr Dowse) We are. When we are discussing with our partners now the sort of package that we think might stand a change of providing a basis for agreement at next month's Review Conference these are very much the sort of measures we would like to promote additional work on. If that is not agreed at the Review Conference, and nothing is guaranteed, we will certainly from the British Government's point of view want to pursue them anyway with like-minded countries. You earlier drew rather a good parallel with the situation in the nuclear field where the IEA has established certain standards for nuclear materials and there is certainly a case that we need to take forward work on that sort of approach in the chemical and biological areas.

  159. Going back to some earlier questioning, it seemed to me you and your colleague are handicapped because some of these things are at such a level they can only be prosecuted at the political level. The impression I get even in that reply is, yes, you agree and it has been talked about, but I suppose what is at the back of my mind was in some of the replies you gave to Sir John you were saying to yourself, "This is a matter for Straw, not for us" or the Prime Minister. There really needs to be a banging on the door. I cannot help feeling that you are signed up to what we are saying but there has not been sufficient action at the political level. It could be as high as the Prime Minister because, after all, taking Sir John's point about President Bush's statement, it seems to me somebody here needs to have seized it, but it cannot be at your level.
  160. (Mr Dowse) I think I would question your suggestion about the efforts we are making as officials. Some of these are quite technical and they do not have political value. Certainly the Green Paper itself was very much the initiative of the Foreign Secretary personally, and it was him who, after the suspension of the Review Conference last year, very much took the initiative.

    Chairman: I would like to make progress. Mr Hamilton?

    Mr Hamilton

  161. Can I turn now to assistance in the event of, or threat of, use of biological weapons. The UK National Statement at the Fifth Review Conference proposed that the Convention be strengthened through, "Making the assistance elements for Article VII (which says that each state undertakes to provide assistance to any party exposed to danger as a result of a violation of the Convention) more specific." The Green Paper argues that, "States Parties could reiterate and re-emphasise their existing obligation under the BTWC to provide various kinds of assistance in the event of a BW attack." Graham Pearson of the University of Bradford also proposes the "creation of a small secretariat which could collate offers of assistance from States Parties and serve as a focal point to facilitate their provision in the event of an attack". My question is, what measures currently exist for the co-ordination of assistance to States Parties in the event of attack and how might they be enhanced? Secondly, how do you regard the proposals to create a small secretariat to collate offers of assistance?
  162. (Mr Dowse) The answer to your first question is, there is not a great deal at the moment as regards co-ordination of international assistance to a state, it would really be ad hoc, and that is one of the issues we think it is worth trying to address. There are some proposals which are being brought forward at the moment, for example in the context of the forthcoming NATO Summit there is an initiative in the NATO context for greater co-ordination of NATO countries' collected response, their ability to respond and the procedures for responding to a chemical or biological attack. So that is one area where it is being addressed specifically in NATO. It is not surprising, NATO is a collective defence organisation, the countries there are used to this sort of co-ordination. Beyond that, there really is not very much, and that is really why we, when producing the Green Paper and putting forward our package, believed this was something which was worth taking forward.

    (Mr Lamb) That proposal at Review Conference was obviously part and parcel of the original Protocol negotiations, albeit taken forward in that context. With the collapse of those negotiations, clearly we need to start again, as it were, and, as Tim has said, the extent to which there is concerted international co-operation on this is non-existent.

  163. Would you support in principle Graham Pearson's proposals for a small secretariat?
  164. (Mr Dowse) Certainly we are very prepared to discuss that and I think we would need to be convinced it would serve a purpose, whether this could be handled through existing mechanisms like the UN, or perhaps NATO could make some collective offer, or whether in fact there is a requirement. But it is certainly something we would be very prepared to look at.

    Sir John Stanley

  165. Can we just go to paragraph 54 of the Green Paper. I would like to go briefly through, if we may, the five specific areas for immediate action which the British Government is postulating. If I could just take them in turn. The first one is the, "... establishment of an effective and legally binding process for investigation into suspected non-compliance with the Convention, to include misuse of facilities, unusual outbreaks of disease believed to be connected to a violation of the Convention, and alleged use of BW." You have already dealt with that in terms of the discussions which you are trying to take forward in Geneva. That is presumably how the British Government is trying to handle that. Is there anything you want to add to the evidence you have already given on that subject?
  166. (Mr Dowse) I would simply say that we are at a fairly delicate stage of discussion at the moment in preparation for the Review Conference. We are trying, quite intensively now, to develop a package which will command the widest possible support at the Review Conference. We hope that the package which we are able to develop will contain some of the key elements we have in this Green Paper. Those that are not or ultimately may not be included in such a package, we will look for ways in which we can pursue them outside the framework of the Geneva Conference.

  167. On the second one, I was somewhat perplexed as to why it got in here. Obviously it is highly laudable. "Greater efforts to tackle the threat posed by natural infectious disease to human, animal and plant health." That appears to me to be a very important health issue but I did not quite see how it got into this Green Paper which is basically on the arms control side. Perhaps I have missed something. Do help me please.
  168. (Mr Lamb) It is where there would have been a very real symbiosis between public health issues and biological weapons organisations. Clearly one of the proposals which was also under discussion in the Protocol was the setting up of an epidemiological surveillance network as part of the eventual organisation, which would have established a pattern of disease worldwide. That would have had immediate beneficial effects for the WHO, for example, and that information could have been shared with the WHO. It would have also served a valuable purpose for the organisation because in trying to plot or discover where there has been a biological attack, you would want to have some overall pattern of understanding of disease worldwide to spot an anomaly. It is not quite as simple as that because clearly a proliferator might well exploit the fact that a particular disease was endemic in a country and use very much that specific agent. But that is the way in which there was a very real symbiosis between something which was of genuine public health value and which would have been directly valuable to the detection of a biological weapons attack.

  169. That is a very helpful answer. The third one is very important, and obviously we have touched on it a little. "Criminalisation of violations of the Convention." Just two angles on that. Can you tell me whether the UK Government in terms of UK national criminal legislation is contemplating any further criminal legislation in this area? Obviously one takes it as read that any attempt to engage into a conspiracy or actual use of BW inside the UK would be comprehensively covered by the criminal law on conspiracy, murder, et cetera, but is there any suggestion within the Government - and I will come to the international side in a moment - that any further national legislation in this area is required?
  170. (Mr Dowse) We are confident following the passage of the Anti-Terrorist legislation last year, which did contain various clauses concerning weapons of mass destruction, that our legislation is now as comprehensive as it needs to be.

  171. On the international side, the question I would like to put to you - and I appreciate you are not lawyers and if your department wants to come back to us with a considered, legal view, we will entirely understand - as far as criminalising violations of the Convention internationally is concerned, can you tell us whether if an individual or a state used BW (and we are all of course aware of speculation that in the event of any military operations against Iraq there is a possible risk that the Iraqi regime might retaliate with BW either against forces entering its country or possibly against Israel or other potential targets) under present legislation governing the international criminal court it would automatically fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC?
  172. (Mr Dowse) I think we would need to take advice on that question. I would like to take up your invitation to refer that.

  173. Can we have a note from your legal department or whoever is appropriate inside the Foreign Office in answer to that specific question? We would definitely like to know what the FCO's legal view is at the moment.
  174. (Mr Lamb) I believe it would because it would be considered as a crime against humanity.

  175. That is what I had assumed.
  176. (Mr Lamb) As a result of the question of the 25 Protocol and indeed the 1972 Convention, it has entered into international customary law that any such use would be. We will need to take formal advice though.

  177. I hope that is the answer, that anybody using BW and indeed CW is potentially somebody who could be arraigned before the ICC. The fourth one I think we have covered as far as national legislation is concerned, "the implementation by more countries of effective physical protection, containment measures and operating procedures for dangerous pathogens and toxins, and genetic modification." In relation to the UK, is the UK Government currently satisfied with the present legislation on the statute book here for the proper protection of pathogens and other dangerous substances in the BW area? Is that legislation in the Government's judgment currently adequate or does it need strengthening?
  178. (Mr Dowse) I think on that too we would like to take advice from other government departments who are more directly responsible for domestic legislation. In terms though of whether we have implemented the requirements of the BTWC in UK domestic legislation, we have a note on this which we would be very happy to provide to you, which takes each element of the BTWC and explains how that has now been translated into UK law.

  179. Thank you for that, plus a couple of results of your further consultations within Government, the HSE and so on. Lastly, how are you seeking to achieve the fifth point, "greater transparency between States Parties about their legitimate activities whose dual-use capabilities might be in danger of being misconstrued or misused." A key dual use area. How is the British Government taking that forward?
  180. (Mr Dowse) That is addressed by our proposal for revised confidence building measures, where we specifically say we should look at it. It would be something which would be required to be achieved through international agreement, to see whether there is room for improving the scope or the level of detail to ensure more useful annual returns from States Parties and indeed more consistent returns by States Parties. As I noted earlier, this is a requirement which has tended to be observed in the breach. I should say that what we have been putting forward in the Green Paper are proposals. It was a consultative document. We have received responses, as we have said, from a variety of sectors. We are going to be taking this forward. We have a round table tomorrow with academics, with industry, with other commentators, to discuss further some of the issues which have been raised and the responses to the Green Paper. We would expect, and our hope is, if we can agree a package of measures at the Review Conference next month that the practical outcome would be further multilateral working groups to try and reach specific agreement on some of these individual steps. That is the way forward. We are not going to be in a position to present something and expect the rest of the international community to sign up to our ideas on the spot. There will be working groups. And some of these ideas do need to be elaborated, which is why it was presented as a consultative document. But our aim has been to keep the issue of countering biological weapons and the spread of biological weapons high on the international agenda and to produce some constructive ways to take the work forward internationally following the collapse of the Protocol negotiations.

    Andrew Mackinlay

  181. On page 10, paragraph 29, it says, "The Third BTWC Review Conference ... established an open ended ..." and they are the words I found interesting, "... expert Group to evaluate possible verification measures from a scientific and technical standpoint." I have read that two or three times. I well understand there is inertia politically but the impression I have reading this is that "open ended" really does mean open ended and from these boffins - because it seems to me this was not civil servants, this has been handed down to these academics - frankly nothing much has emerged. Am I right or am I wrong?

(Mr Lamb) That would be very wrong and indeed I suggest I would be pilloried by my colleagues who were involved with it because they were indeed government representatives and they were boffins, if you want to use that term, but they were specifically tasked with looking at how one would address the task of trying to determine whether biological weapons were used and the circumstances in which they were used, and as a result of that technical work the negotiations post-1994 on the Protocol went ahead. So they performed a very valuable task in mapping out the scientific parameters of the issue which we have to address as simple civil servants.

Andrew Mackinlay: In which case I apologise, I misread it totally.

Chairman: That reply to Mr Mackinlay was reassuring at least. There was not very much for our comfort elsewhere in the questioning. Gentlemen, there are a number of questions which arise, particularly from Sir John's final series of questions, which need to be addressed by you. Other questions were generated by the discussion. I anticipate that I may be sending further written detailed questions to you so there will be quite a lot of homework. Can I say that perhaps there is not the urgency on the international scene which we would like but we are pleased, I am sure, that the British Government has tried to keep the issue live by the publication of the Green Paper. We look forward to further dialogue. Very many thanks for your evidence.