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Wednesday, 16 February 1977

Dr KLUGMAN (Prospect) -I draw the attention of the House to the Geneva Protocol of 1925-for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare. This Bill deals with part of that Protocol in that it prevents the development, production, stockpiling, acquisition or retention of such biological weapons, but it does not do anything about the gases which are also mentioned in the Geneva Protocol. I raise this point in the hope that it will be considered by people who deal with problems associated with drawing up other conventions. My only point relates to the use of gases. To me, the question of the use of gases is not as clear cut as the use of bacteriological methods of warfare. The law strikes me as hypocritical to some extent and ridiculous to some extent. We get terribly excited about the use of certain gases which knock out people, make them nauseous or whatever gases used in warfare might do. To me it is a much more reasonable proposition if there is to be a war, or even for police use, to use gases which come under the definitions of the Geneva Protocol. They are certainly 'other gases', but they are probably also asphyxiating gases to some extent. It strikes me as ridiculous that one should exclude a type of warfare, if there is to be warfare, that does not leave any permanent damage to the person on whom it is used. If I had a choice of being affected by some gas which makes me nauseous for a day or which knocks me out for a few hours, and the following day I am OK, I would certainly prefer that to being hit with what are commonly called conventional weapons which, even if they do not kill one immediately, certainly injure one to the extent that one finishes up in hospital.

There seems to be hypocrisy- I use that word again- about certain types of warfare or alleged warfare which ought to be considered in more depth before we say that they can never be used but that it is OK to shoot people or for people to be injured by shrapnel or bombs or explosives. I congratulate the Government on introducing this legislation which in effect ratifies the Convention and which introduces a method of dealing with individuals who are extremely unlikely- but it is necessary to do this under the Convention- to go in for any of the sorts of things that are prevented by this legislation.

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