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Human Rights

Lorna Fitzsimons: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what approach the Government are taking in relation to statements about the compatibility of new legislation with the Convention rights set out in the Human Rights Act 1998. [83540]

Mr. Straw: A statement under section 19(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act may be made where, in the view of the Minister, the provisions of the Bill are compatible with the Convention rights. In other cases a statement under section 19(1)(b) of the Act should be made: such a statement is not one that the provisions of the Bill are incompatible with the Convention rights but only one to the effect that the Minister is unable to make a statement of compatibility. A section 19(1)(a) statement is a positive statement of compatibility.

If a section 19(1)(a) statement is to be made, a Minister must be clear that, at a minimum, the balance of argument supports the view that the provisions are compatible. Lawyers will advise whether the provisions of the Bill are on balance compatible with the Convention rights. In doing so, they will consider whether it is more likely than not that the provisions of the Bill will stand up to challenge on Convention grounds before the domestic courts and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. A Minister should not be advised to make a statement of compatibility where legal advice is that on balance the provisions of the Bill would not survive such a challenge. The fact that there are valid arguments to be advanced against any anticipated challenge is not a sufficient basis on which to advise a Minister that he may make a statement of compatibility where it is thought that these arguments would not ultimately succeed before the courts.

Section 19 of the Act applies where a Minister of the Crown is in charge of a Bill, that is, either a Government Bill or a Consolidation Bill. Section 19 does not apply to Private Members' bills: there is no duty to make a statement about their compatibility with the Convention rights. Where the Bill is directly assisted by the Government, however, the Minister responsible for the policy should, as a matter of good practice, express the Government's views on compatibility with the Convention rights during the Second Reading debate.

Criminal Injuries Compensation

Ms Roseanna Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many claims were submitted to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (i) in total and (ii) by the victims of rape and

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incest; and what percentage in each case were (a) processed, (b) awarded and (c) rejected, in each of the last five years. [83266]

Mr. Boateng: The available data record the number of applications received in a year, the number of claims settled in that year and the outcomes. Claims are not necessarily settled in the year in which they are received, but may be settled in subsequent years. In the following table the term 'rape' includes rape within the family.

1994-951995-961996-971997-981998-99
Claims received
Total number71,73475,66775,03277,32675,956
Rape3,9973,8913,5814,0203,260
Claims settled
Total number64,54976,22579,21979,54485,493
Rape9052,3552,4013,0183,594
Percentage settled attracting monetary award
Total5858595755
Rape6667697168

Remembrance Day

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to change (a) the name of and (b) ceremonials associated with Remembrance Day. [83272]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: There are no plans to change the name "Remembrance Day", which is also known as "Remembrance Sunday". Nor are there any plans to change the present arrangements for the official ceremony at the Cenotaph, which are generally recognised as successfully uniting the nation in memory of all those who made the supreme sacrifice and all who mourn them.

The Royal British Legion, which organises the march past the Cenotaph that follows the official ceremony on Remembrance Sunday, has made proposals which will allow greater participation in future years by non ex-Service groups and individuals. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has welcomed the proposals for expansion of the march past put forward by the Royal British Legion, and Home Office officials are discussing the details with them.

DEFENCE

Landmines

Ann Clwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many of each type of anti-personnel mine are presently held by (a) the Royal Air Force, (b) the Royal Navy and (c) UK Special Forces. [81995]

Mr. George Robertson: The Royal Air Force's stock of 209,625 HB876 bomblets (as at 1 April 1999), the sub-munition for the JP233 runway denial weapon, is being withdrawn from service to comply with the Ottawa Convention and destroyed by a contractor in Germany. Destruction will be completed by 1 January 2000, well ahead of the schedule stipulated under Ottawa of the four years after entry into force of the Convention. No anti-personnel mines are held by either the Royal Navy or UK Special Forces.

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Ann Clwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what (a) anti-personnel landmines, (b) weapons containing anti-personnel landmines and (c) weapons containing anti- vehicle mines equipped with anti-handling devices have been developed by NATO forces carrying out operations in Kosovo. [81993]

Mr. George Robertson: Providing details of those weapon systems being developed by other NATO forces currently carrying out operations in Kosovo is a matter for those nations concerned. The Ottawa Convention, and the Landmines Act 1998, prohibit the UK from developing, stockpiling, using or transferring either (a) anti-personnel mines, or (b) weapons containing anti-personnel mines. The RAF's stocks of the JP233 Runway Denial Weapon--which is prohibited under the Ottawa Convention--have been withdrawn from service and will be destroyed by 1 January 2000, well ahead of the schedule stipulated under the Ottawa Convention. In the case of (c), the UK's equipment programme (including those weapons in service; being developed in collaboration with other NATO countries; or awaiting procurement decisions) currently contains the following anti-vehicle systems. They are all required to be compliant with the definitions and provisions of the Ottawa Convention and the Landmines Act 1998:









Gulf War (Vaccines)

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which vaccines or components of vaccines given to Gulf War service personnel contained squalene preparations; and how many British Gulf War veterans have tested positive for the presence of squalene in blood samples. [82286]

Mr. Doug Henderson: Details of the Ministry of Defence's programme to immunise UK troops against the potential threat posed by Iraq's biological weapons during the Gulf conflict were published in October 1997, in the MOD paper "Background to the Use of Medical Countermeasures to Protect British Forces during the Gulf War (Operation GRANBY)". None of the vaccines used for this programme contained squalene. In addition, UK Service personnel would have received other

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immunisations against diseases which potentially posed a public health threat. So far as has been ascertained, none of the latter vaccines contained squalene either.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which vaccines used on Gulf War service personnel were acquired from the USA. [82287]

Mr. Doug Henderson: Details of the Ministry of Defence's programme to immunise UK troops against the potential threat posed by Iraq's biological weapons during the Gulf conflict were published in October 1997, in the MOD paper "Background to the Use of Medical Countermeasures to Protect British Forces during the Gulf War (Operation GRANBY)". This describes in detail how a vaccine against plague was purchased from the US DoD for use by UK forces. None of the other vaccines used for this programme were acquired from the US.

In addition, UK Service personnel would have received other immunisations against disease that potentially posed a public health threat. So far as has been ascertained, none of the latter vaccines were acquired from the US.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made in the investigation into vaccines used on Gulf War service personnel. [82288]

Mr. Doug Henderson: Details of the UK's anti-biological warfare agent immunisation programme for the Gulf conflict were declassified in December 1996. An explanation of the vaccines used and the reasoning behind the programme was published in October 1997 in the MOD paper "Background to the Use of Medical Countermeasures to Protect British Forces during the Gulf War (Operation GRANBY)". A copy of this publication has been placed in the Library of the House at that time.

A Fact Finding Team within the Ministry of Defence's Gulf Veterans' Illnesses Unit (GVIU) was established in September 1997 to look into the implementation in-theatre of the 1991 programme of immunisation against biological warfare agents. This review is based on oral testimony and extant documentary evidence. with a view to making public as much information as possible. The team's fieldwork was completed last autumn and a paper based on their work, and on other contemporary material that has been located, is in the course of preparation. This will be published once it is completed, which is expected to be within the next three months.

In May 1997, the Government announced the funding of a research programme to investigate the possible adverse health effects of the combination of vaccines and tablets which were given to troops in the Gulf to protect them against the threat of biological and chemical warfare agents. An Independent Panel has been set up to oversee this research programme. The Panel consists of experts in fields of toxicology, immunology, virology, microbiology and epidemiology and includes two members who have been nominated by Gulf veterans groups. The programme as a whole is now expected to take some three and a half years to complete. However, we expect to publish results from the first phase of work during the first half of 1999.

This research involves an in depth study into the potential adverse health effects of interactions between the vaccines which could have been administered to Service personnel at the time of the Gulf War, both with

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and without pyridostigmine bromide (PB) which was present in the NAPS tablets given to UK troops in the Gulf War as a pre-treatment against nerve agents.

Investigation of the specific combination of anthrax and pertussis vaccines is a priority element of the programme. The National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC) have been asked to repeat the tests they carried out in the late 1990 that led the Department of Health to notify the MOD that it had anxieties about the simultaneous use of anthrax and pertussis vaccines. NIBSC will commence this work later this year, when protocols are finalised. Their programme is expected to run for two years.

Initial dose-ranging work at CBD Porton Down on the physical effects of vaccines and PB in rodents is nearing completion and a meeting of the Independent Panel held in March this year gave CBD permission to proceed with longer term studies to investigate potential cognitive and neurophysical effects of the vaccines/PB combination. NIBSC have also been invited to participate (in particular in the anthrax/pertussis work) and it is intended that a number of other scientific and academic bodies will contribute to the research in due course. It is expected that this study will report towards the end of 2002.

The Independent Panel also approved a study to determine whether CBD Porton Down staff, who have received multiple immunisations including anthrax and plague in the course of their duties, exhibit higher levels of ill-health than their non-vaccinated colleagues. This study is expected to be complete by the end of this year.


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