Dáil Éireann - Volume 466 - 13 June, 1996

Chemical Weapons Convention: Motion.

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs (Ms Burton): I move:

That Dáil Éireann approves the terms of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction, signed by Ireland in Paris on the 14th day of January, 1993, a copy of which was laid before Dáil Éireann on the 5th day of June, 1996.”

I am pleased to move this motion approving the terms of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons, commonly known as the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Chemical weapons are, by their nature, among the most odious of the weapons of mass destruction. They can have [2057] no place in a civilised society. Modern efforts to ban chemical warfare go back over 120 years, to the Brussels Declaration of 1874 which prohibited the use of poisons and poisoned bullets in warfare.

The great merit of the 1993 Chemical Weapons Conventions is that it provides for the elimination of this entire category of weapons. It is an unprecedented international disarmament agreement, unique in its scope in negotiating history and in the comprehensive verification system which is an integral part of the agreement.

The convention was the result of 24 years of negotiations on the framework of the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament. The ending of the Cold War gave fresh impetus to protracted discussions, so that the negotiations were concluded by September 1992. The Convention was approved by consensus at the General Assembly of the United Nations on 30 November 1992 and opened for signature in Paris on 13 January 1993. To date is has been signed by 160 countries, including Ireland, which was among the original signatories.

The 1925 Geneva Protocol had already banned chemical and bacteriological warfare. The Chemical Weapons Convention, for its part, is designed to exclude the possibility of the use or threat of use of chemical weapons.

Thus, it prohibits the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention and direct or indirect transfer of chemical weapons under any circumstances. Each State party to the convention must undertake never, under any circumstances, to use chemical weapons, to engage in military preparations to use chemical weapons, or to assist, encourage or induce any one to engage in prohibited activities.

A core element is that all chemical weapons and related production facilities have to be declared and thereafter eliminated under international supervision, within ten years of the entry into force of the convention. This provision is of real and pressing interest to the [2058] international community. The two principal possessors of chemical weapons, the US and the Russian Federation, are thought to have, between them, some 70,000 tonnes of chemical weapons. Up to two score countries in total are believed to possess some chemical weapons. While their production is cheap, the destruction of chemical weapons is both very expensive and environmentally challenging.

The convention also prohibits the use of riot control agents as a method of warfare and reaffirms the prohibition under international law of the use of herbicides as a method of warfare. Importantly, it establishes the right of States parties to request and receive assistance and protection against the use or threat of use of chemical weapons. This provision is of particular interest to developing countries, as not all countries have highly developed capabilities in this regard.

The Chemical Weapons Convention breaks new ground in multilaterally negotiated disarmament agreements by requiring State parties to demonstrate conclusively their compliance with its provisions. The convention includes a far-reaching verification regime which is designed to enhance the security of States parties by limiting any possibility of clandestine development, production, storage or use of chemical weapons. Ireland looks forward to exercising our right to demonstrate full compliance with our obligations under the convention. States parties in good standing will have nothing to fear from the verification system.

Not later than 30 days after the convention enters into force, each State party must submit detailed declarations with respect to its possession or control of chemical weapons, of old and abandoned chemical weapons and of chemical weapons production facilities together with a general plan for their destruction, the provisions governing which are spelled out comprehensively. Declared chemical weapons production, storage and destruction facilities will be subject to systematic on-site inspections.

[2059] The convention lays down how these inspections will be carried out.

Given that chemical weapons are relatively easy to produce, the convention also requires declarations of chemical facilities that are engaged in permitted activities related to certain scheduled chemicals. Its monitoring system thus involves declarations and routine inspections of relevant civilian chemical industry facilities. It is the proposed declarations and routine inspections of these civilian facilities that are most relevant for Ireland and particularly for our chemical industry. I will revert to this aspect later.

In addition to arrangements for routine inspections, the convention is reinforced by an unprecedented challenge inspection regime. Subject to certain precautions designed to guard against frivolous use of this mechanism, the challenge inspection provision allows any State party to trigger an international inspection at any facility or location in any other State party at short notice, in order to clarify and resolve questions of possible non-compliance. The State party which is the object of a challenge inspection has no right of refusal, an extremely important element of this convention.

To oversee its operation, the convention provides for the establishment of a body called the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons - OPCW — which will be based in The Hague. The OPCW will establish an inspectorate which will have the right to conduct a range of on-site verification and inspection activities to ascertain the validity of each State party's declarations. This will result in the carrying out, at short notice, of routine inspections of certain facilities from time to time. As with bodies established under other international conventions, the budget of the OPCW will be provided by contributions by States parties based on the United Nations' scale of assessment.

Each State party is required to designate an authority to ensure effective [2060] implementation of the convention's provisions by, inter alia, liaison with the OPCW, as well as liaison with other States parties. In Ireland's case the Government has designated the Department of Enterprise and Employment as the national authority. The National Authority for Occupational Safety and Health will carry out Ireland's obligations in relation to the convention.

The convention is expected to have an important role in controlling international trade in substances susceptible of being used by would-be proliferators to develop chemical weapons programmes. This in itself can act as a deterrent to proliferation. Trade in scheduled chemicals with non-State parties will be subjected to certain limitations and restrictions. This means, inter alia, that failure by any EU member state to ratify the convention would have implications for the Single Market, given that once the convention entered into force, trade in chemicals between State parties and non-State parties will be subject to restrictions. All partners, not least Ireland as future Presidency, are determined that this situation will not arise.

As I have illustrated, the Chemical Weapons Convention places quite onerous obligations on State parties. In particular, the obligation to demonstrate full compliance is more highly developed in this convention than in any previous, multilaterally negotiated disarmament agreement. For these reasons, although it has not yet entered into force, the Chemical Weapons Convention already serves as a kind of benchmark against which other disarmament and non-proliferation agreements in the making are measured. Its verification provisions are seen as providing a strong precedent to be emulated in new treaties under negotiation or in existing treaties which are being strengthened.

The negotiations to conclude a comprehensive test ban treaty, for example, have been influenced by the experience of the Chemical Weapons Convention. [2061] Let me state at this point my strong hope that these negotiations will be completed on schedule, so that a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which includes stringent provisions for monitoring compliance, will be be opened for signature at the United Nations in September this year. Following from the indefinite extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1995, a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996, with the coming into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention early in 1997, would amount to heartening progress towards ending the proliferation and advancing the complete elimination of weapons of mass destruction. That has long been a policy of successive Governments and all parties in this House.

The process of strengthening the implementation of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention is also influenced by the Chemical Weapons Convention. In this House on 30 May, The Tánaiste made clear that the period of the Irish Presidency of the EU would be crucial to the final outcome. The Tánaiste said we will do all we can during our term of office to give impetus to the negotiations aimed at reinforcing the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention with a legally binding and effective verification regime which we now have in regard to chemical weapons.

The Chemical Weapons Convention is now expected to enter into force around January 1997. Sixty-five ratifications are needed to trigger a 180 day lead-in period to entry into force. To date, 52 countries have ratified the convention. These include 11 of our European Union partners. Like Ireland, the remaining European Union countries, Belgium, Luxembourg and Portugal are well advanced in the ratification process. Besides being necessary for reasons related to the Single Market, ratification by all 15 European Union members as part of the first 65 would send a strong political message to the rest of the world about the great importance which the Union attaches to the convention and to its role in the elimination of weapons of mass destruction. [2062] Four more ratifications from the side of the Union would bring the, total significantly closer to the threshold figure of 65 and would establish the conditions for the Union to take diplomatic action to promote the earliest possible entry into force of the convention and thereafter the widest possible adherence to it. Ireland, which as Presidency will be leading EU efforts to promote these aims, should itself have ratified before 1 July. If, as we all hope, the United States is in a position to ratify in the coming weeks, the remaining ratifications necessary to trigger entry into force could come quickly. It is also very important for the credibility of the convention that Russia should ratify at an early date, because between them Russia and the United States have more than 70,000 tonnes of chemical weapons.

I met the Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the OPCW, Mr. Ian Kenyon, when he visited Dublin on 30 May for discussions concerned with ratification of the convention.

To carry out Ireland's obligations under the convention, implementing legislation is required. To this end, the Government has approved draft heads of a Bill prepared by the Minister for Enterprise and Employment in consultation with representatives of the industry concerned. The draft Bill is being considered by the parliamentary draughtsman and we hope to publish it very shortly with a view to ensuring that the legislation and any other measures needed to enable Ireland to discharge fully its obligations under the convention will have been adopted in advance of the entry into force of the convention.

In its role as protector of the safety of workers who handle toxic chemicals, the National Authority for Occupational Safety and Health is well placed to identify those companies in Ireland whose handling of scheduled chemicals make them subject to annual declarations under the convention. While it is not yet clear how many Irish facilities might be [2063] affected and while the number could be relatively large, the provisions of data for inclusion in national declarations is not in itself an onerous task. Much of the information required may already be available to the national Authority in other contexts.

Routine and challenge inspections during the first year of operation of the convention are likely to focus on chemical weapons facilities rather than civilian facilities. However, in subsequent years, some routine inspections of Irish chemical facilities can be expected for the specific and limited purpose of verifying, the data on the more toxic chemicals that will have been provided in our annual declarations under the convention. The number of facilities in Ireland likely to be affected by inspections is thought to be very small and in any event significantly smaller than the number subject to declarations. Although we do not anticipate a challenge inspection of a facility in Ireland on foot of an allegation of non-compliance from another State Party, the legislation powers must be put in place to enable Ireland to meet that contingency.

One of the functions of the OPCW is to help developing countries to cope with the obligations imposed by the Chemical Weapons Convention. During my meeting with him last month, I told Mr. Kenyon that we would consider supporting the efforts of the organisation in this area through the Irish aid programme if a suitable project could be identified. This would be in the area of training. Officials from developing countries would be trained by the organisation on the potential use of chemicals for chemical weapons purposes.

The effort incurred in implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention in this country will be very modest in relation to the political and practical costs of failure to ratify. In supporting this motion, the House can demonstrate Ireland's serious commitment to playing [2064] our part in banishing these noxious weapons from the face of the earth. I am confident that the House will share my view that the Chemical Weapons Convention is a precious contribution to a most valuable objective and that Ireland should ratify it at the earliest possible date.

Mr. R. Burke: The Chemical Weapons Convention was open for signature on 13 January 1993 in Paris by the Secretary-General of the United Nations. The signing of the convention on the prohibition of the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons and on their destruction marked the culmination of protracted and intensive negotiations on the part of the international community to ban chemical weapons. After more than 20 years the convention was signed by 127 countries, including Ireland.

The convention had a long history. It has been debated and negotiated at a conference on disarmament by a negotiating body of the international community for a decade and was finally adopted by that conference in September 1992.

It transpires that the Chemical Weapons Convention is the first disarmament agreement negotiated within a multilateral framework that provides for the elimination of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction. A Brussels declaration of 1874 was the first modern attempt to ban chemical weapons. It prohibited the use of poisons and poisoned bullets in warfare, yet despite that chemical weapons were extensively deployed during the First World War. Public horror and condemnation led to the signing of the General Protocol of 1925. The Protocol made the use of chemical or biological weapons illegal but did not forbid their development, production, stockpiling or deployment. This factor led to the beginning of discussions on the Chemical Weapons Convention.

As we know only too well, modern warfare is a treacherous business. We [2065] might be forgiven for believing that anything goes in the midst of war, a notion that is forcibly brought home in the injuries, maiming and deaths that ensue. Close to the start of this century some weapons, from dumdum bullets to biological agents have been deemed horrific enough for the world to seek their banning from battlefields. The use of mustard gas, for example, has been shunned by most of the world states. However, until the convention garners sufficient ratifying states, mere possession of chemical weapons means that no rules are being broken.

It is anticipated that the convention will have enough ratifiers, perhaps by year end, but is every state in favour of such a prohibition? Certainly there are critics. Both the United States and Russia have voiced their concerns and each has yet to ratify the convention. Among other arguments put forward, these two nations have suggested that the convention's task is simply too onerous. They have argued that since just about any chemical could, if misused, contribute to a weapons programme, and since the world's chemical industry is conducted on a massive scale, seeking out proscribed activities is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Apart from individual countries, chemical companies have not been slow in profering their reasons as to why the convention might just prove to be too stifling. Some of these companies have suggested that the rules are two tough, that in providing information to demonstrate that they are not engaged in any illegal activity, they may risk seeing their lucrative trade secrets plundered and pillaged.

In discussions and negotiations on any programme, proposal or convention, there are always arguments on both sides. On balance the UN Convention is a prudent path to progress. We can all appreciate that it would be next to impossible to make any arms control regime watertight and perfect. Seeking a balance means setting the benefits against the dangers, the pros against the cons. On balance, the conclusion must [2066] be that the potential benefits of the Chemical Weapons Convention outweigh any existing or conceivable dangers that lie ahead. Another difficult balance must be achieved between the protection of a company's legitimate commercial secrets and the detection of illegitimate activities.

One aspect which is critical to the effectiveness of the convention is the provision for swoops on suspected targets at short notice, these swoops to be carried out by international inspectors when one company suspects another of engaging in illegal behaviour. As technology drives forward, attempts by individual nations or individual companies to breach convention rules will prove more and more difficult. Skilled inspectors, matched by state-of-the-art equipment and methodologies, should prove an effective beachhead against prospective rule breakers.

One of the real benefits of the conventions is that old and often disintegrating and dangerous stocks will have to be destroyed. Russia, having one of the biggest arsenals in the world, has been one of the strongest critics of the convention. One can appreciate where they are coming from because the destruction of stockpiled mountains of weapons does not happen without adequate resources. Safe and effective destruction demands sufficient resources, and a cash-strapped Russia does not have such flows of money to make even a dent in their existing stocks. As a chemical weapons convention without Russia as a ratifier would not be worth the paper it was written on, it is undoubtedly the case that the richer nations of the world must remit funds to Russia to enable her to safely eliminate her weapons. The benefits would accrue to everyone.

It is interesting to note that even those countries who do not sign up to the convention will not be far removed from the tentacles of its powers. Although national laws will have to be enacted to make the convention rules adhere, non-siders will find that their ability to purchase certain chemicals [2067] and industrial equipment from convention members will be severely curtailed.

I cannot let the opportunity pass without expressing my concern at the nuclear test explosion by China last weekend. Last Saturday China, oblivious to world outrage, carried out a nuclear explosion at its Lop Nor Desert test site, and announced a moratorium from September after a final blast. With the comprehensive test ban treaty talks due to conclude by 28 June next, it is regrettable that China has displayed such insensitivity to world opinion.

At this stage we might well ask if a chemical weapons convention has any implications for Ireland. Although we are probably relatively safe in assuming that the threat to Ireland from military chemical weapons is low, we cannot, nonetheless, turn a blind eye to the potential that exists for a threat to emanate from, for example, a terrorist organisation or for chemical munitions to be washed ashore on to our coast. This threat from old stocks of weapons is very real for Ireland. Facts cannot be ignored. It has emerged in recent months that over a million tonnes of British munitions were dumped off the Irish coast since World War II, in the Beaufort Dyke, for example. The British Ministry for Defence has admitted, for the first time, that it dumped hundreds of tonnes of chemical weapons and poison gases off the Irish coast. What risk do these munitions pose? Apart from storms and violent seas which can easily disturb the sea bed, the increasing use of piping for industrial purposes between Ireland and the UK will undoubtedly disturb it. Assurances from the British authorities that the dumping of redundant munitions has been done in a strictly controlled manner to ensure that no damage to the marine environment will occur are of little comfort to those communities who bear witness to canisters and other artefacts appearing close to their local environment. Certainly it is hoped that ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention will ensure that the disposal [2068] of weapons which re-emerge decades later on the lands of another state will be a thing of the past.

The production of chemical weapons occurred over decades. Mammoth stockpiles of killing machines exist as a result. Their destruction is an urgent requirement. The destruction of decades worth of munitions will not happen with a ratified convention, but a ratified convention signals a will and a method to achieve the aim of ridding this earth of destructive weapons of war.

Chemical weapons represent an ongoing death threat and a persistent environmental hazard. The civilian and military production, development, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons must be halted. They must be banned by this convention. As part of our support for this convention we will continue to persist with our consistent calls for the closure of the Sellafield plant. At EU level we will continue to call for the establishment of an independent nuclear inspectorate. We will also continue to vigorously push the watertight case for a world-wide ban on the production, stockpiling, transfer and use of land mines. Ireland should ratify the instrument which is up for consideration by the Oireachtas today.

Mr. O'Malley: I am glad to support this motion to approve the terms of the Chemical Weapons Convention. It is perhaps one of the easiest motions to support that has ever come before this House.

Mr. R. Burke: Even Deputy Bhamjee might be here for the vote.

Mr. O'Malley: I can assure the Minister of State that this will not become derailed as a result of lethargy in the midwest. I assume that as a result of this motion being passed today Ireland can ratify the convention — the Minister of State spoke of the necessity for legislation but I take it that is only for the [2069] technical implementation of it and not for its ratification.

Ms Burton: That is so.

Mr. O'Malley: I am glad the Minister of State agrees with that because it is important that we should ratify it at the earliest moment, whatever legislation may be necessary later.

The Minister said this morning.

She said:

The challenge inspection provision under this convention allows any state party to trigger an international inspection at any facility or location in any other state party at short notice in order to clarify and resolve questions of possible non-compliance. The state party which is the object of a challenge inspection has no right of refusal.

That is a most far-reaching provision. It is perhaps one of the strongest provisions there is in international law or in any international convention or treaty. It is to the credit of all who signed the convention and will ratify it that its provisions will be enforceable. I would like to think that something similar could be enforced for nuclear weapons and facilities. In particular, I have in mind the Sellafield operation and THORP, the plutonium reprocessing plant, where plutonium is brought in and where what in effect are nuclear weapons are manufactured. A great deal of unpredictable and uncontrollable waste is created.

We have been told that we are powerless to have an inspection carried out at our behest. It is interesting that such an installation cannot be inspected even though its effects are potentially far more dangerous than the effects of chemical weapons, which may be more localised. The significance of this convention should be seen in a broader context, particularly in the nuclear context.

The nations that possess the greatest amount of chemical weapons are the United States of America and the Russian Federation. The United States is, I [2070] believe, on course to ratify the convention and destroy all its chemical weapons. It has the facilities and resources to do it. In the case of the Russian Federation, I hope it is on course to destroy all its weapons but whether it has the resources to do so remains to be seen. As has been suggested, it is incumbent on the west generally to try to help it, financially and otherwise, to achieve that objective.

One might think that these are the only two nations with a significant cache of chemical weapons, but they are not. A country that needs to be discussed in this debate is Iraq. The use of chemical weapons, not once or twice or occasionally but as a systematic part of the state policy is endorsed by that benighted regime, which unfortunately still exists. I might add that regime had supporters in the not too distant past in this country and even in this House. The resources of the free world should be used to the greatest extent possible, in particular the powers under this convention, to try to force Iraq to desist from the manufacture, storage and above all the use of chemical weapons against its own population. It has used them against the Kurds and also, it seems, against the Marsh Arabs. It appears that chemical weapons were used in the Iraq-Iran war. It is well documented that they were extensively used against the Kurds and the civilian population in many villages and towns in Kurdistan. On one day alone up to 10,000 women and children died as a result of chemical attack by Saddam Hussein's regime in Baghdad. I presume Iraq has not signed this convention and that it will not ratify it. Whether it is enforceable against a non member is not terribly clear, but presumably it will not be directly enforceable against them. If the great majority of states subscribe to and ratify this convention they will have a great moral authority in trying to ensure that no country will be allowed to continue to use these dreadful weapons.

Possibly the biggest difficulty we will have in respect of chemical weapons and allied matters will arise as a result [2071] of weapons dumped at sea by the British after the Second World War, not because of anything we manufactured ourselves. When the British dumped the weapons Ireland had no jurisdiction or control over the area, but under the next motion to come before the House this morning Ireland will assume a certain limited jurisdiction, however tenuous. It is interesting to consider our position vis-à-vis those weapons. We did not put them there but we know who did. Is there an obligation to remove them? This is what should be done, but it is a very costly and difficult thing to do. It is unsatisfactory that they could be left there indefinitely. I wonder if this convention deals in any way with this situation.

The headquarters of the organisation being set up to enforce the prohibition of chemical weapon will be based in The Hague. There are three or four what might be termed respectable international cities, The Hague, Geneva, Paris and a few more. It is a great pity that Dublin cannot get itself on that list.

Ms Burton: What about Limerick?

Mr. O'Malley: Or Limerick, I do not mind as long as it is somewhere in Ireland.

Mr. M. Kitt: Limerick is getting the Eurovision.

Mr. O'Malley: Ireland never seems to qualify. even though I would have thought with our background and the ethos on which we are always congratulating ourselves that we would be a very suitable location for many of these bodies. We tend to be ignored. We should make more strenuous efforts to ensure that some of them are located here.

I am glad to see this convention will be ratified shortly by sufficient countries to come into effect early next year. This is to be welcomed. In many respects it is one of the most important conventions of its type that has ever been introduced internationally. It is a headline [2072] for what might be done in other areas, particularly on the nuclear weapons side. I hope it will be copied and taken as the norm in future in terms of international enforcement.

Mr. Connor: I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak on Ireland's ratification of the chemical weapons convention, which I welcome. The Minister rightly drew our attention to the odious nature of chemical weapons and their use in wars and conflicts. I understand their use was more widespread during the first World War. There were about 1.3 million casualties of chemical weapon attacks, 95,000 fatal. I well remember 20 years ago talking to an old man who as a 19 year-old soldier was gassed in Ypres and blinded. He carried this burden until his 85th year when he died. That brings home the awful effects of the use of chemical weapons in warfare. The Minister of State and other speakers reminded us that the Brussels Declaration was signed in 1874. I understand there is an earlier convention signed by France and Germany in Strasbourg in 1675 which prohibited the use of poisoned weapons in warfare.

We do not have a problem with ratifying the convention. We have an extensive chemical and pharmaceutical industry. Many of the products it manufactures could be used in the production of chemical weapons. Naturally, it has legitimate concerns given that all plants will be open to inspection. This is right and proper.

One has to be concerned, however, about those countries which have major chemical industries and would not have the same level of respect for the inspectorate. Our attention has been drawn to the fact that the Russian Federation and the United States probably hold more than two thirds of all the stockpiles of chemical weapons in the world. After the Gulf War Iraq was forced to admit it had an extensive chemical weapons industry. Deputy O'Malley raised the question of whether it will sign and obey the convention. I understand it has been [2073] forced to destroy its stockpiles of chemical and nuclear weapons under the supervision of the United Nations. According to news reports this morning, it denied UN inspectors access to certain sites in Baghdad to assess its nuclear capability.

Deputy Burke raised the question of budgeting. I have a particular concern about the Russian Federation. While it has signed the convention it appears it is a long way from ratification, although the convention has been introduced in the Duma. President Yeltsin has not shown any great enthusiasm for it, perhaps because of the cost involved. The Russian Federation will have to meet at least 25 per cent of the cost of destroying its stockpiles of chemical weapons which are probably larger than those of the United States. Because it is strapped for cash this presents a major problem. The delaying tactics and lack of enthusiasm, although this may change after the Presidential election, give cause for concern. If President Yeltsin is not re-elected, we do not know what attitude his successor will adopt.

In the United States the Bush Administration signed the convention before leaving office in November 1994 when the Republicans assumed control of both Houses, but it has languished ever since in the United States Congress. It has had no champion since the election of Bill Clinton as President. Neither Senator Helms, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee nor Senator Strom Thurmond, the Republican chairman of the Arms Control Committee, both of whom come from North Carolina, has shown any great interest in disarmament.

Senator Helms blocked consideration of the convention over a year ago because of a row with the Administration about the foreign affairs budget cuts he was demanding and it was resisting. There was a breakthrough last December when the matter was resolved and discussion recommenced on the floor of Congress. The hope was that it would be passed to the committee [2074] chaired by Senator Robert Dole who departed the scene yesterday and probably would have been more amenable to its speedy ratification. I hope his successor as Senate majority leader, who has already been appointed, will show the same level of enthusiasm in dealing with the matter.

It is important that the Russian Federation and the United States ratify the convention as soon as possible. When ratified by 65 states it will be triggered 180 days later. I hope the instruments of ratification will be lodged by the requisite number by the end of the summer. It is crucial, however, that it is ratified by the major players. We should do everything we possibly can in our foreign relations policy to ensure that those two countries ratify it as soon as possible.

The selection of sites for the destruction of chemical weapons will give rise to major controversy on a worldwide scale. While it is relatively cheap to produce chemical weapons it is very expensive to destroy them. A very complex procedure is used. To my knowledge there is only one location where chemical weapons are disposed of, Johnson Atoll in the Pacific. If a major site is chosen, like Muroroa Atoll where the French carry out underground nuclear tests, this will give rise to controversy because of the environmental impact of the destruction of highly toxic and poisonous substances. It is claimed that eight to nine major sites will be required in both the United States and the Russian Federation which will have ten years to destroy all weapons. As it will be difficult to reach agreement on which sites should be selected, there will be a tendency to seek sites offshore.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I ask the Deputy to conclude.

Mr. Connor: There is a need for proper budgeting. I understand the organisation [2075] for the prohibition of chemical weapons which——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I ask the Deputy to conclude forthwith. When he hears what I have to say he will thoroughly understand. I am obliged by the order of the House to call the Minister of State in ten minutes' time to make a speech in reply not exceeding five minutes and there are two Deputies offering, Deputies Kitt and Dukes.

Mr. M. Kitt: We will share time.

Mr. Dukes: Agreed.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I thank the Deputy for his generosity.

Mr. M. Kitt: I welcome this convention, one of the most important ever to be discussed in the House. Like Deputy Connor, I have read and heard the stories about the use of chemical gases during World War 1. Vast numbers of people were killed as a result. In more recent times we have heard about Operation Orange during the Gulf War. I welcome Ireland's ratification of this convention. Perhaps the Minister of State will inform the House why it has taken so long to ratify the convention. which Ireland signed in January 1993. I was informed there was some difficulty in identifying a body to examine legislation and deal with ratification. Is this the reason countries such as Belgium, Luxembourg and Portugal have not ratified the convention? We would like to see our European Union partners ratify this convention and, during our Presidency of the EU, we could perhaps encourage all member states to do so.

I am also concerned by the Minister of State's comments about the large number of chemical weapons held by the United States and the Russian Federation. I hope both countries will ratify the convention.

As Deputy Burke stated, concerns have also been expressed about nuclear [2076] testing. The Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs has condemned French action in this regard. China recently ignored the views of the international community and was very insensitive in its announcement about continuing nuclear testing. I hope our comments will encourage these countries to implement a ban on such testing.

The Chemical Weapons Convention involves halting the assembly of chemical weapons. This should be highlighted because the convention goes a step further than past treaties and bans the construction of such weapons. As Deputy Connor stated, the destruction of chemical weapons is a major issue. Chemical weapons can be produced quite cheaply but it is very expensive to destroy them. The subject of damage to the environment arises when we consider locations for the destruction of such weapons. Perhaps the Minister of State can provide some information in this regard.

The question of inspectors and the powers they will have is also important. According to news reports this morning, Iraq has denied the UN access to and information about its weapons. We must double our efforts on these issues. I fully support the Chemical Weapons Convention and I hope Ireland and its EU partners will ratify it in the near future.

Mr. Dukes: I thank Deputy Kitt for his understanding about time constraints. I hope to return the compliment in the future. The Chemical Weapons Convention is extremely important from a number of points of view. As the Minister of State indicated, it is a benchmark convention. Many of its features relating to inspection could be usefully applied to future conventions dealing with other aspects of the arms trade. From that point of view, it merits special attention.

Everyone is concerned about the situation in Iraq, to which Deputy Connor and others referred. That illustrates the need for some of the particular features [2077] of this convention. Iraq is not a signatory of the Chemical Weapons Convention and is not particularly trusted by anyone. Following the Gulf War, a procedure was put in place to dismantle the nuclear and chemical weapons capabilities of Iraq. We cannot be sure this will work because the procedure will not remain in place forever. Once it is finished, we must ensure that no other sources exist from which another unscrupulous regime in Iraq could benefit. It is for this reason that controls on the arms industry are important.

Deputy Burke referred to hesitation in the chemical industry about the terms of the Chemical Weapons Convention. I have no patience with such hesitation. The chemical industry operates successfully in international markets and I have no objection to this. People benefit in many ways from the expertise and creativity of that industry. Like its counterparts, however, the chemical industry must accept that it does not merely operate in a market that protects intellectual property rights. This is one of the industry's main concerns. It also operates in a market with an ethical framework that is fixed by society at large. Through the Chemical Weapons Convention, the international community is stating that the ethical framework conclusively rejects the use, manufacture and storage of chemical weapons. The chemical industry must accept this.

In this area, as in many others, our scientific ability and creative imagination tends to run ahead of our moral capacity to deal with the effects of our achievements. I intend no criticism by stating that this convention, and others like it, are simply a delayed response to society's conscience about the fact that our technical ability exceeds our moral determination to use these weapons properly. Throughout the world there are examples of a disposition in the arms trade to try to circumvent control mechanisms. We have seen this in Iraq and elsewhere in relation to heavy and light weaponry and small arms. Such examples illustrate that there is no point [2078] in having morally satisfactory agreements between countries to ban the use of weapons, unless we control production of and trade in the items concerned. That is the basis of this convention.

It is appropriate that we should highlight the intrinsic value of the Chemical Weapons Convention and its headlining of the kind of action which should be taken in other areas of the arms trade. I could say a great deal more about conventions of this kind. I will simply state that Ireland signed this convention in January 1993 and is only now ratifying it. I am aware it was necessary and essential that the Department of Enterprise and Employment consider the kind of legislation required to give effect to the provisions of this convention. When future conventions of this kind are introduced, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the other Departments involved should give priority to the Preparation of the necessary support legislation for our jurisdiction. The Minister of State would want Ireland to be in the forefront of measures to combat the international trade of weapons of death and destruction.

Ms Burton: I thank Deputies for their contributions and their support for this motion. Some speakers referred to the First World War but my abiding memory of chemical weapons relates to the use of herbicides in the Vietnam war. Those who are familiar with the films of Oliver Stone — I note there are many students in the Public Gallery — will know the large areas of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos have been destroyed and the land cannot be used for agricultural purposes because of the use of herbicides and chemicals such as Agent Orange during that long conflict.

It is important for all parties in this House to agree that we should play our part in seeking to end the use of such weapons. We have a sufficient number of effective killing machines for use in warfare without using agents such as chemicals and herbicides, as well as land [2079] mines, whose effects linger long after the conflict has ended.

Those weapons, including nuclear weapons, have another characteristic in that their removal costs are sometimes ten times greater than the original cost of making the weapons. It costs as little as £3 to £20 to make a land mine but it would cost approximately £200 to £300 to remove it.

The Iran-Iraq conflict had a tremendous effect on the urgency and stringency with which this convention was established. I hope the stringency of some of its measures will be adhered to in the future by other non-proliferation conventions and conventions to ban weapons.

Chemical weapons were used in the Iran-Iraq conflict and because the major powers were involved in that conflict in a particular way, there was a certain sensitivity about the use of those weapons, and the consequences of that use, which did not previously exist.

Iraq is currently subject to a United Nations inspection but, unfortunately, it is not being satisfactorily adhered to by that country. That remains a problem and one of the issues that must be addressed by the international community is to rid countries like Iraq of chemicals weapons and weapons of mass destruction.

A point was made about the non-proliferation treaty. The difference between this convention and that instrument is that this convention seeks to ban totally all chemical weapons and herbicides. The non-proliferation treaty accepts that there are five states in the world which have nuclear weapons. The comprehensive test ban treaty calls on those states to desist from further tests but, unfortunately, it cannot ban nuclear weapons which would be the Government's position; it is a much more limited form of treaty than this convention.

In relation go the urgency with which this convention has come into force, the difficulty for Ireland has been to identify the appropriate authority. Some countries have created independent [2080] authorities but following examination and consultation, particularly with the Department of Enterprise and Employment, it was decided that the National Authority for Occupational Safety and Health was the appropriate body.

Deputy Connor and others, referred to the cost for the Russian Federation of dismantling its huge number of chemical weapons which are stored throughout Russia, from the furthest corner of Siberia to the most western areas of the country. Following ratification of the treaty by all 15 European Union member states, it will then be possible for the EU collectively, as an element of common foreign and security policy, to lobby other states such as the Russian Federation, which is in receipt of substantial aid and assistance from the EU, to sign up to the convention. It will be possible also for the European Union to assist the Russian Federation financially with the cost of decommissioning these weapons, which is significant. Consequently, ratification by all 15 member states is vitally important.

On the points made by the United States, I understand there are highranking supporters of the convention in the United States Senate and that the appropriate motion is again before that body; the Helms amendments were defeated late in April last.

I urge the United States to ratify the convention as early as possible. Public opinion in the United States is now sufficiently advanced, following the experience of the Iran-Iraq war, for there to be large scale public support for ratification. If it is ratified, and if we can assist the Russian Federation, we will move towards the implementation of this historic convention.

Question put and agreed to.