Porton Down to Check on Illicit Weapons Trade
Tom Wilkie Science Editor, The Independent (London, England)
Porton Down, the Ministry of Defence's chemical and biological research centre, is to play a leading role in verifying that British companies are not illegally making or exporting chemical weapons.
But the Government plans to exempt the Wiltshire centre from legislation making chemical weapons illegal. The only public scrutiny of government departments will be through ministerial accountability to Parliament.
The Government has taken the unusual step of publishing draft legislation before introducing the Bill to Parliament. The deadline for comments on the draft expires this weekend.
However experts say the legislation is not tough enough to measure up to the international Convention on Chemical Weapons and may lead to difficulties. Nicholas Sims, of the London School of Economics, said "most of the elements of national implementation of the CWC are . . . absent from the draft Bill."
Just 10 civil servants within the Department of Trade and Industry are to be responsible for monitoring more than 500 companies and 2,000 sites which employ lethally toxic chemicals that have a dual military-civilian use. …