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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 8 June 1999

ATTORNEY-GENERAL

Paul Marc Hobson

Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Attorney-General on what grounds he decided not to exercise his discretion under the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1996 to certify that the charge of murder of Robert Hamill against Paul Marc Hobson be not treated as a scheduled offence. [85494]

The Attorney-General: In determining whether or not to certify that an offence should be treated as a non scheduled offence, I take into account the circumstances of the case on the basis of a note and recommendation furnished on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland. In the case of Paul Marc Hobson, who faced a charge of murdering Robert Hamill, on the basis of the information available to me, I took the view that the offence was connected with the emergency and declined to issue a certificate.

PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL

Millennium Compliance

Mr. Coleman: To ask the President of the Council, pursuant to her answer of 20 April 1999, Official Report, columns 480-81, when the Government will issue further public information on the likely impact of the millennium bug. [86303]

Mrs. Beckett: I have today placed copies of the new public information booklet "The Millennium Bug--Facts Not Fiction" in the Libraries of the House. This has been compiled by Action 2000 on behalf of the Government for the general public and explains what the Millennium Bug is and how it could affect people in their everyday lives. It covers domestic appliances, home personal computers, shops and petrol stations, health, travel, personal finance, insurance and utilities.

The booklet will be distributed as an insert in most Sunday newspapers on 13 June and in TV listings guides the following week. It will also be available at main Post Office counters from 14 June. The booklet will be supported by TV, radio and press advertising.

DEFENCE

Vaccines

Mr. Steinberg: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the recent work of his Department's vaccine fact-finding team with particular

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reference to the findings relating to the presence of squalene in blood samples provided by US and British veterans. [83015]

Mr. Doug Henderson: The MOD's Fact Finding Team within the Gulf Veterans' Illnesses Unit (GVIU) was established in September 1997 to look into the implementation in-theatre of the 1991 immunisation programme against biological warfare agents, with particular reference to the level of coverage and uptake of vaccine across the various units of the UK Armed Forces that participated in the Gulf conflict. 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.

This review is aimed at providing more information about how the immunisation programme was carried out in principle, not the compositions of the vaccines used, which have already been set out in the MOD paper "Background to the Use of Medical Countermeasures to Protect British Forces during the Gulf War (Operation GRANBY)".

Mr. Steinberg: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which vaccines were acquired from the USA for the use of British soldiers in the Gulf War; which vaccines were used; and which contained squalene. [83014]

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. None of the vaccines used for this programme contained squalene. 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 either acquired from the US or contained squalene.

Mr. Steinberg: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if (a) his Department, (b) the Defence and Evaluation Research Agency and (c) the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment produced vaccines or components of vaccines for use on Gulf War troops which contained squalene preparations. [83013]

Mr. Doug Henderson: No.

Strategic Export Controls

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list those countries to which the sale of military aircraft has been stopped in each of the last five years, indicating the reasons for the decision in each case. [84524]

Mr. Spellar: On 25 March 1999, Official Report, column 343, my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office announced that the

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Government had published its first Annual Report on Strategic Export Controls. The Report contains, by rating, details of all licences refused or revoked by the Government between 2 May and 31 December 1997, and none of these covered military aircraft. A report covering 1998 will be issued in due course.

It would not be possible to provide validated data for previous years without significant inter-departmental effort and incurring disproportionate cost.

Gulf War Illnesses

Mr. David Heath: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what investigations have been undertaken into the physical rather than epidemiological aspects of illnesses exhibited by Gulf War veterans; [84354]

Mr. Doug Henderson: The Government have pledged that appropriate research will be carried out into Gulf veterans' illnesses. In addition to two major epidemiological studies, the Ministry of Defence has in place a neuromuscular symptoms study. This study involves carrying out clinical tests on UK Gulf veterans. A separate study is examining the possible interactions between the various medical countermeasures used to protect UK personnel during the Gulf conflict, which includes laboratory research involving animals. These four research studies are complemented by an independent review of relevant research literature. A further study, which is being funded by the United States Government, is being undertaken by King's College, London. This study includes clinical tests on UK Gulf veterans.

Any UK Gulf veterans concerned about their health can seek a referral to the Gulf veterans' Medical Assessment Programme (MAP) for advice and a full medical. The assessment comprises various standard investigations and any further tests considered clinically appropriate by the MAP physician to provide as full a diagnosis as possible of any medical symptoms which a patient may be exhibiting. MAP physicians provide diagnostic information and recommend any appropriate treatment to the veteran's doctor. It is the veteran's doctor's responsibility to arrange any treatment and to monitor progress. A paper on the clinical findings from the first 1,000 patients seen by the MAP was published in the "British Medical Journal" on 30 January. A copy of this paper has already been placed in the Library of the House.

There is now strong scientific evidence, following the publication of a number of research papers over recent months, that Gulf veterans report more ill-health than other comparable groups. A further hypothesis, that Gulf veterans are not all suffering from a single illness, seems to be gaining support. However, there is still no medical or scientific consensus about the aetiology of the illnesses being suffered by some Gulf veterans. Nevertheless, the need for further research work in the light of emerging study findings in the UK and elsewhere (most notably from the United States), is kept under regular review by the Ministry of Defence and by the Medical Research Council (MRC), which advises the Government on its

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overall strategy for Gulf health issues. So far, the MRC has not recommended that the Ministry of Defence commissions research into possible treatments.

Nevertheless, the Ministry of Defence is aware that the United States Government announced in March that it would be beginning two medical treatment trials-- an antibiotic treatment trial and exercise-behavioural therapy--in April to evaluate possible therapeutic approaches to improving Gulf veterans' health. The Ministry of Defence will monitor the outcome of these trials.

Military Uniforms (Overseas Manufacture)

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list those British military uniforms which are produced by overseas countries; and if he will list the countries that make such equipment. [84965]

Mr. Doug Henderson: This is a matter for the Chief Executive of the Defence Clothing and Textiles Agency. I have asked the Chief Executive to write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Michael Roycroft to Mr. Tom Cox, dated 8 June 1999:



    Unfortunately, we are unable to provide the requested information. The Defence Clothing and Textiles Agency (DCTA) is responsible for the procurement of all clothing items for the Armed Forces. The vast majority of DCTA purchases are made-up garments, with MOD having no requirement for contractors to specify the country of origin of the textiles used to make the items, and there is no remit on DCTA to record such information.


    We can, however, provide some analysis of clothing contracts. Current figures indicate that around 73% by value of DCTA clothing contracts for 1998/99 were awarded to UK firms, leaving 27% to overseas firms. As required by Government Accounting, DCTA must advertise all potential contracts valued greater than £160,670 in the European Journal, which certainly attracts overseas contractors. There can, therefore, be no "buy British" policy for Defence Textiles. The only contractual stipulation regarding the country of manufacture is that 10% of garments must be made at the main contractor's accredited facilities.


    Of paramount importance is to ensure that fabrics meet the MOD's demanding specification, such as fibre content, wear quality and fire retardancy and the country of manufacture is secondary. All firms, from UK and abroad, utilise cloth manufactured overseas and whilst DCTA could certainly provide examples of countries supplying textiles, this information is considered nugatory as it would not give the comprehensive answer that you seek.


    I am sorry I am unable to provide the information in the form it was requested.


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