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Bonded Labour (Subcontinent)

Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions the Government have had with the Nepalese Government regarding the incidence of bonded labour in Nepal; and what representations his Department has made to the Nepalese Government to ratify ILO Convention No. 29. [102807]

Mr. Hain: The British Embassy and DFID office in Kathmandu are both actively involved in helping the Nepalese to address the issue of bonded labour. DFID Nepal is working to develop a strategy for realising the rights of the poorest and most disadvantaged people in Nepal.

The ILO in Kathmandu has confirmed that the Nepalese Government is in the process of ratifying ILO convention 29. It is hoped that it will be ratified within the next six months.

Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if the Government will make representations to Pakistan and India requesting them to undertake surveys, at federal, provincial and district level, of the number of bonded labourers in each of these countries. [102808]

Mr. Hain: We are deeply concerned by all forms of bonded labour. I raised the issue with Indian Ministers during my visit there in November. We have also raised our concerns with Pakistan. We have welcomed the steps which the Governments of India and Pakistan have taken to reduce child labour. We have no plans to ask them to undertake surveys on this issue.

International Students

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to increase the number of students studying in the UK and ensure that the target number of students from (a) China and (b) Hong Kong by 2000-01 will be met. [102701]

Mr. Wicks: I have been asked to reply.

In June 1999 my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced an initiative to attract to the UK an extra 75,000 international students by 2005. The target relates to students who do not warrant a home fee classification. China and Hong Kong have priority in this initiative but recruitment targets have not been set for particular countries.

The initiative includes four main components. First, a world-wide marketing campaign, using a "UK Education Brand" and marketing materials to promote the high quality of UK education, will begin early in 2000. There will be enhanced promotion activity in many regions, including China and Hong Kong, where British education exhibitions, clearing missions and MBA fairs are planned. Second, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs aims to expand the Chevening Scholarship Scheme, with up to 1,000 extra scholarships awarded each year. Third, we have made it easier for international students to work part-time and in

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vacations. Fourth, visa and entry procedures are being made more user-friendly for students. Through this package of measures the Government are helping UK education institutions to increase their marketing capability overseas and thereby increase international student enrolments.


Naval Vessels

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Royal Naval vessels made overseas visits during the last 12 months; and if he will list (a) the countries visited and (b) the length of each visit. [102709]

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Mr. Spellar: I am placing in the Library of the House a list of visits to overseas ports made by Royal Navy vessels between 1 January and 13 December 1999. In addition ships deployed under the Atlantic Patrol Task (South) and the ice patrol vessel HMS Endurance make frequent visits to the UK South Atlantic Overseas Territories.

Mr. Ottaway: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 8 December 1999, Official Report, column 560W, concerning the withdrawal of naval vessels from planned exercises, if he will list (a) the exercises the vessels were withdrawn from and (b) the reasons for withdrawal. [102714]

Mr. Spellar: The RN withdrew ships from the following exercises for the reasons stated:

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ShipExerciseReason for withdrawal
HMS InvincibleJFTEXRedeployment to Gulf
HMS NorthumberlandAurora 99Redeployment as Atlantic Patrol Task (North)
HMS LedburyUsbaltopsChange to maintenance dates
HMS GloucesterArgonaut 99Operational tasking
HMS NewcastleArgonaut 99Operational tasking
HMS CattistockOpen SpiritNational tasking
HMS MontroseNorthern LightsOperational tasking
HMS MonmouthNorthern LightsRevised training schedules
HMS FearlessNorthern LightsDeployed to Mediterranean
HMS OceanNorthern LightsDeployed to Mediterranean
HMS EdinburghNorthern LightsDeployed to Mediterranean
HMS SandownSandy CoastTo accommodate Gulf Deployment
HMS EdinburghFalcon NutOperational tasking
HMS WestminsterFlotexIn Year Budget Management Measure

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Flight-Lieutenant Deborah Burns

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if a D Notice has been issued in respect of Flight-Lieutenant Deborah Burns, Royal Air Force. [102568]

Mr. Spellar: The six standing Defence Advisory Notices are concerned with matters of national security, and are not issued in response to individual cases. No Notice has been issued therefore, nor invoked, in respect of Flight-Lieutenant Burns.

RAF Chinook

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what incidents have involved RAF Chinooks in the last two weeks of November; and if he will make a statement. [102565]

Mr. Spellar [holding answer 13 December 1999]: Between 14 and 30 November there have been 12 reported incidents involving RAF Chinooks. Eleven of these were minor day-to-day occurrences but one incident, which occurred during a training exercise on 25 November 1999 and involved damage to the rear of the aircraft, is being investigated by a RAF Board of Inquiry. Nobody was injured. After carrying out a preliminary assessment the Board reported that they had no urgent recommendations to make affecting the Chinook fleet as a whole. Their investigation is continuing and a summary of the Board's final report will be placed in the Library of the House in the normal way.

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Mr. Derek Twigg: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on troop levels in Bosnia. [103548]

Mr. Hoon: NATO has agreed to revise arrangements for manning the headquarters in the UK sector of SFOR. We have worked closely with our Dutch, Canadian and Czech partners on plans. This will allow a reduction in UK forces in Bosnia from around 3,300 to some 2,000 in the course of next year, while fully maintaining the operational effectiveness of SFOR. This reduction is in addition to the withdrawal of some 900 UK troops announced in late October, and will further reduce overstretch in the British Army.

Gulf Veterans

Ms Squire: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what information he has obtained regarding the number of veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf conflict that have died, and the underlying causes of death; and if he will make a statement. [103469]

Mr. Spellar: The Ministry of Defence has reviewed its own records and has found that between 1 April 1991 and 22 November 1999 (the latest date for which information is currently available) there were 413 deaths of UK armed forces Gulf veterans (out of a total of 53,462 deployed). The causes of death for 387 of the deaths have been determined and are set out in the table. Sufficient information on the causes of death in the remaining 26 cases is not currently available; work is continuing to establish this.

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The Ministry of Defence also has information on the number and causes of deaths in a similar sized comparative sample of armed forces personnel in service in January 1991 but who did not deploy to the Gulf. This information has been used by the Ministry of Defence funded epidemiological study undertaken by Professors Nicola Cherry and Gary Macfarlane at Manchester University. The results of this study, commissioned by the Medical Research Council, have been submitted to a leading medical journal for consideration for publication. They will show whether or not the Gulf veterans are experiencing a higher mortality rate than their peers and if so what the causes might be.

It is important that this study is independently peer reviewed to ensure publication in a leading medical journal. To ensure this my hon. Friend the Minister for the Armed Forces has withheld the information on the comparative group under Exemption 11a of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

UK armed forces Gulf veterans' deaths 1 April 1991 to 22 November 1999--classified according to the World Health Organisation's International Classification of Diseases 9th revision (ICD-9) (1977) (1)

(ICD-9) (1977) Chapter Cause of deathNumber of deaths
IInfections and parasitic diseases3
VMental disorders7
VIDiseases of the nervous system and sense organs6
VIIDiseases of the circulatory system(3)48
VIIIDiseases of the respiratory system4
IXDiseases of the digestive system5
XVISigns symptoms and ill-defined conditions2
E.XVIIExternal causes of injury and poisoning256
of which:
Transport accidents119
Other accidents53
Accidental poisoning9
Operations of war(5)3
Undetermined accidental deaths2

(1) Manual of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases, Injuries and Causes of Death. World Health Organisation. Geneva (1977). ISBN 92 4 154 004 4.

(2) Neoplasm is the medical term for a new or abnormal growth of tissue. All the deaths included in the table were from cancers or leukaemia.

(3) The term includes heart disease and stroke.

(4) The term includes self-inflicted injury and cases where it is undetermined whether the inquiry was accidentally or purposely inflicted. This includes an open verdict at inquest.

(5) The term includes deaths as a result of military operations and exercises.

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