A new UK chemical weapons defence centre is to be established in the wake of the nerve agent attack on the Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, the defence secretary will say.
The Ministry of Defence, in spite of a budget squeeze, is to spend £48m setting up the centre, which will be under the umbrella of the Porton Down military research establishment.
Other measures Gavin Williamson is set to announce today include thousands of British troops receiving a vaccination against anthrax so they can be deployed almost immediately in the event of an attack, either in the UK or overseas.
Williamson is to use his first keynote speech since becoming defence secretary last year to respond to the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, which the government is blaming on Russia.
According to excerpts of the speech distributed in advance, Williamson, one of the most outspoken critics of Russia within the government, will say: “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.”
The MoD said in a press release that funding for the chemical weapons centre followed “ the calculated and brazen assassination attempt on Sergei Skripal by the Russian state”.
As a signatory to the international convention banning chemical weapons, the UK cannot develop nerve agents but it can work on defensive measures.
Williamson, who is to deliver the speech in Bristol, will say the threat from chemical attacks comes not just from Russia but other state actors.
Against that background, he will say: “I made the decision to offer the anthrax vaccine to our high readiness forces providing them with vital protection against a deadly danger.”