Sergei Skripal: Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson to announce British troops vaccination against anthrax

Sergei Skripal: Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson to announce British troops vaccination against anthrax

Gavin Williamson is to say the chemical threat isn't only from Russia

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson is to announce British troops will be vaccinated against anthrax as the "chemical threat does not just come from Russia."

His message comes after the nerve agent attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

In his first keynote speech since becoming Secretary of State last year, Williamson will set out the threats facing the UK, outline his vision for the Modernising Defence Programme, and make the case for investment in the armed forces.

"If we doubted the threat Russia poses to our citizens, we only have to look at the shocking example of their reckless attack in Salisbury," Williamson is expected to say.

"We know the chemical threat doesn't just come from Russia, but from others.

"But we have world-class expertise at Defence Science Technology Laboratory (DSTL) Porton Down and today I can announce we will be strengthening this capability by investing £48m in a new Chemical Weapons Defence Centre to ensure we maintain our cutting edge in chemical analysis and defence."

Experts based at DSTL in Wiltshire were tasked with analysing the nerve agent used to poison Skripal and his daughter Yulia, and played a crucial role in linking the attack to Russia.

In light of what he will describe as a growing chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threat from a range of state actors, he will confirm that thousands of British troops who are held at high readiness will be vaccinated against anthrax.

In a move to ensure personnel are protected and ready to deploy to areas where the risk of this type of attack exists, Williamson is expected to state how the voluntary vaccination will offer "vital protection against a deadly danger".

Anthrax is a spore-producing bacterium and is often used as a weapon in a powder, spray or as an aerosol, with inhalation the most dangerous form of transmission and usually fatal.

During his speech today (March 15), hosted by Policy Exchange and Rolls Royce in Bristol, Williamson is also expected to set out his vision for the ongoing Modernising Defence Programme.

The South Staffordshire MP will say that the programme, launched in January and due to report in the summer, will give Britain a "more productive, harder-hitting joint force," which is able to counter conventional threats and "deal with the new challenges of asymmetric conflict."