£11 million boost to chemical defences on eve of Novichok attack anniversary

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has set aside £11 million to spend on improving the UK’s response to chemical attacks, the Ministry of Defence said.

The announcement comes on the eve of the anniversary of the Salisbury Novichok nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia.

Threats posed by chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks are “increasing” globally and the UK must be able to counter them, according to the Ministry of Defence.

It said the money will pay for measures including the development of plans to deploy drones and robots in areas that might be hazardous to people because of nerve agents.

Other developments include boosting the technical capability to analyse substances at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and funding advances in medical advancements to help combat chemical agents.

Mr Williamson said: “After the Novichok attack in Salisbury a year ago, the nation turned to the armed forces and expert scientists.

“From the investigation to the clean-up, the military and everyone involved in the operation worked tirelessly to decontaminate the streets of Salisbury.”

The funding will be made available in the new financial year and is in addition to the £48 million announced by the Defence Secretary last year to develop a new Chemical Weapons Defence Centre, according to the MoD.

Mr Williamson added: “Britain and its allies have also demonstrated that they will take a stand against the use of chemical weapons, from the sanctions enforced on Russia following the reckless use of Novichok to the strikes against the chemicals used by the Syrian regime.

“We recognise we need resilience to face evolving threats which is why we have invested £11 million into ensuring we have a world-leading capability.”