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Gulf War Syndrome

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what proposals he has to add a gynaecologist to the medical team examining British service men and ex-service men and their partners who are suffering prolonged illness following service in the Gulf war. [40496]

Mr. Soames: It is not intended to add a gynaecologist to the medical team running the Department's medical assessment programme. If a consultant gynaecological opinion is required, this will be obtained through the usual medical referral procedure.

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Mr. Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what research in collaboration with the United States Institute of Medicine has been funded by his Department into Gulf war syndrome. [40497]

Mr. Soames: The United States Government are funding a range of studies into Gulf health issues, including one in the United Kingdom by Dr. Simon Wessely of King's college medical school. I shall be announcing the final selection of research projects to be funded by my Department, as recommended by the Medical Research Council, in November.

Mr. Wareing: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to compensate victims of Gulf war syndrome; and if he will make a statement. [40557]

Mr. Soames: Those who served in the Gulf war have the same legal right of compensation against the Ministry of Defence as civilian workers have against MOD or any other employer. Any Gulf veterans who can be shown to be suffering from illness caused by negligence on the part of my Department will be entitled to compensation in line with common law principles. However, no such compensation claims have yet been pursued by lawyers for claimants, although a list of over a thousand names of potential claimants has been lodged with MOD. This list gives the symptoms or disease claimed to have been experienced by each person since the Gulf war, without specific allegations of negligence.

Gulf War Clean-up Operations

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many British troops were involved with United States forces in the clean-up operations near A1-Nasiriyah in 1991 following the Gulf war. [40498]

Mr. Soames: Our records indicate that no British troops were involved in the US Army's activities in the Al-Nasiriyah area after the Gulf war.

Operation Granby

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which British forces served directly with the US Army's 37 Engineer Battalion during Operation Granby. [40499]

Mr. Soames: We have no record of any British forces serving directly with the US Army's 37th Engineer Battalion during Operation Granby.

Gulf War Publications

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which sections of the text of the recent book on the Gulf war by Major-General Patrick Cordingley, were amended by his Department on submission of the draft text for clearance; and if he will list the reasons for the removal of sections of the submitted text. [40505]

Mr. Soames: Minor changes to Major-General Cordingley's manuscript were agreed in order to protect confidentiality and national security.

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Military Bases (Pollution)

Mr. Meacher: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what studies have been commissioned by his Department into (a) the degree of contamination and (b) the prospects for remedial action at (i) military bases in the United Kingdom and (ii) dependent territories abroad. [40426]

Mr. Soames: Within the United Kingdom my Department is introducing a procedure of land quality assessment to establish the condition of individual sites on the defence estate and where appropriate make recommendations for and implementation of remediation. Given the extent of the defence estate a prioritised programme for this work is being drawn up. For dependent territories abroad, a similar land quality assessment process is being adopted, where this meets the requirements of the host country.

Mr. Meacher: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what representations he has received this year from the Celtic League concerning the environmental consequences of pollution at and leakages from existing and retired military bases in the United Kingdom. [40427]

Mr. Soames: None. The league has asked for environmental information about UK military bases, but it has not yet confirmed that it would be prepared to meet any MOD administrative costs for researching the information due under the Environmental Information Regulations 1992.

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what studies his Department has commissioned on the levels of (a) toxic and (b) other pollution at military bases in Wales; and what publications his Department has issued in this respect over the past 12 months. [40518]

Mr. Soames: My Department is introducing a procedure of land quality assessment to establish the condition of individual sites and detect the presence of contaminants on the defence estate, and where appropriate make recommendations for and implementation of remediation. Given the extent of the defence estate, a prioritised programme for this work is being drawn up. Land quality assessment work is being undertaken at the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency sites at Aberporth, Llanbedr and Pendine, and an assessment of RAF Caerwent was commissioned on 4 October 1996.

My Department has not issued any publications about the level of contamination at military sites in Wales during the last 12 months.

HMS Royal Oak

Mr. Meacher: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the potential environmental threat from the seepage of oil from the wreck of HMS Royal Oak at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands. [40428]

Mr. Soames: My Department has taken urgent steps to remove the environmental threat to Scapa Flow posed by oil leaking from a small area of the wreck of HMS Royal Oak. The leak has been sealed, and the small quantity of oil which had come ashore prior to this action has been removed.

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Landfill Tax

Mr. Meacher: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what consultation his Department has undertaken with Her Majesty's Customs and Excise over the implementation of the landfill tax; and if he will make a statement. [40429]

Mr. Soames: Her Majesty's Customs and Excise have kept my Department informed of the plans to implement the landfill tax. As the MOD and its agencies do not operate any landfill sites, we do not except to pay direct landfill tax charges.

Submarines

Mr. Wareing: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many submarines are now assessed to be surplus to requirements; and what plans exist for their disposal. [40551]

Mr. Arbuthnot: There are currently six diesel-electric submarines surplus to the Royal Navy's requirements: four Upholder class and two Oberon class boats. The four Upholder class submarines are currently being marketed for sale or lease to a number of friendly countries. The Oberon class boats are in the hands of a commercial residual asset manager who is stripping them of reusable components before the hulls are sold for breaking.

Eleven nuclear-powered submarines have been withdrawn from service. Our current policy is that decommissioned nuclear-powered submarines should be stored safely afloat at the location where they are decommissioned, pending disposal. We envisage final disposal, early next century, in the deep repository currently being developed by Nirex.

Deysbrook Barracks, Liverpool

Mr. Wareing: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the future of the Deysbrook barracks site in Liverpool. [40552]

Mr. Soames: It is planned to redeploy the Regular Army units currently occupying Deysbrook barracks to other locations. The majority of the site will therefore no longer be required by my Department, and will be disposed of within the next four years. A small enclave will, however, be retained as a Territorial Army centre to house the Territorial Army and cadet units currently using the barracks.

Private Simon Jeans

Mr. Wareing: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the murder of Private Simon Jeans serving with IFOR in Bosnia-Herzegovina. [40556]

Mr. Soames: Private Simon Jeans of the Royal Logistics Corps was attacked in Split, Croatia, on 7 September this year. Sadly, he died of his injuries 10 days later, having been medically evacuated to the UK. Her Majesty's Government are very saddened by this vicious and senseless act, and offer our most heartfelt sympathies to his family.

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Criminal proceedings are progressing against four Croatian youths. Every assistance has been, and will continue to be, given to the Croatian civil police to bring the perpetrators of this dreadful crime to justice.


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