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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 12 December 2000


Gulf War Veterans

Valerie Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the findings of (a) his Department's Medical Assessment Programme and (b) independent scientists concerning the level of depleted uranium in the urine of some sick Gulf War veterans. [142032]

Mr. Spellar: My Department's policy on testing Gulf veterans for uranium was set out in the paper: 'Testing for the presence of depleted uranium in UK veterans of the Gulf conflict: The Current Position', dated 19 March 1999, a copy of which is in the Library of the House. The paper describes the possible health effects of exposure to depleted uranium and the circumstances that might lead to an individual being tested for the presence of uranium. Tests would be conducted only on the basis of clinical indications.

Between one and five people examined by the Ministry of Defence's (MOD's) Gulf Veterans' Medical Assessment Programme physicians have exhibited symptoms that, in the judgment of the examining physicians, have indicated a clinical requirement for testing to detect uranium and have been tested. These test results show that uranium, in any form, is not a contributory factor to the patient's ill health.

MOD is aware of the various testing work which has been undertaken in Canada and the United States. Despite numerous requests, we have still yet to see scientifically robust results from the work from Dr. Durakovic, Dr. Sharma and Dr. Horan. MOD will continue to make requests for such evidence so that we can move forward on a scientific basis. Recognising that this has caused veterans some concern, my Department has offered to arrange independent depleted uranium testing for those UK veterans who had their urine tested for depleted uranium in Canada. A draft protocol under which that testing might take place was sent to veterans' representatives on 1 November 1999 for comment. My officials are hoping to have further discussions on this protocol with veterans and their representatives early in the new year.

Since 1993, a clinic based at the Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center has run a depleted uranium follow-up programme for 33 US Gulf veterans (namely those whose records showed they had been hospitalised for wounds received in friendly fire incidents), which includes 15 who have embedded depleted uranium shrapnel in their bodies. To date, any health impairments among those being monitored appear to be related to their original injuries rather than to depleted uranium. Their scores on standard neuropsychological tests showed no divergence from the normally expected responses. None

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of the 33 is excreting higher than usual levels of uranium, except those with embedded shrapnel. We continue to monitor the work.

My Department is keeping an open mind on the issue of depleted uranium, pending further research.

Valerie Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will commission independent medical analysis of the health of Gulf War veterans, and their children born after 1991, based on clinical examination and assessed alongside comparable groups in the general population. [141952]

Mr. Spellar: The Ministry of Defence announced in December 1996 that, on the recommendation of the Medical Research Council (MRC), it would fund two independent epidemiological studies of the health of Gulf veterans. One of the studies, being undertaken at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is examining the reproductive health of Gulf veterans and the health of their children compared with a demographically similar group of personnel who were in the services at the time of the Gulf conflict, but did not serve there. This work is expected to be completed early next year. The other study at Manchester University examined Gulf veterans mortality and morbidity in comparison with service personnel who did not take part in the conflict. Results on mortality were published in The Lancet in July this year. Publication of a paper on morbidity is awaited.

Once the results from these studies are published we will discuss the findings with the MRC and take advice on whether further research into the health of Gulf veterans' and their children is required.

In addition to the epidemiological work which is questionnaire based, clinical examinations of over 3,000 Gulf veterans have taken place at the Ministry of Defence's Medical Assessment Programme. Independent clinical research into UK Gulf veterans has been undertaken at King's College, London funded by the US Department of Defense and the Ministry of Defence. Results are expected to be published in 2001.

Valerie Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will set up an independent research project to evaluate the health effects of low-dose radiation from insoluble particles of ceramic uranium trapped in the lungs and trachea bronchial lymph nodes. [141951]

Mr. Spellar: While the Ministry of Defence will continue to consider carefully research proposals which bear on its activities, we have no plans to add to the extensive research conducted over many years into the effects of uranic materials on the body. Not only was uranium biokinetics the subject of a major review by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) in 1995, but the ICRP has also published a series of studies addressing the risks to lymph nodes from inhaled radioactive materials, the development of systemic models for uranium and the calculation of dose coefficients based on various lung and systemic models for uranium.

Ex-service Personnel

Ms Kelly: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions his Department has had with

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homelessness charities on the issue of assisting homeless ex-servicemen; and what was the outcome of these discussions. [142035]

Mr. Spellar: The primary focus for work to reduce the incidence of rough sleeping among ex-service personnel is a Working Group of officials from the Ministry of Defence and the Rough Sleepers Unit at the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. Steps taken by the Working Group include, as a pilot project, the launch of the "Single Persons Accommodation Centre for the Ex-Services" (SPACES) at Catterick garrison. This is run by the English Churches Housing Group, and provides accommodation advice to service personnel who are about to be discharged from the armed forces.

In addition, the Ministry of Defence has regular discussions with the "Ex-Service Action Group on Homelessness", chaired by the Chief Executive of the Sir Edward Stoll Foundation. It has been involved in discussions with the homeless charity "Crisis", both prior to and subsequent to publication of their report "Lest We Forget".

The Ministry of Defence values all such discussions and is taking action on a number of the recommendations made in the report, where work was not already in hand.

Atomic Weapons Establishments (Police)

Mr. Rendel: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what was the average amount of overtime worked by his Department's police officers at (a) AWE Aldermaston and (b) AWE Burghfield in each month since June. [141544]

Mr. Spellar [holding answer 11 December 2000]: The information requested is shown in the table:


Month 2000AWE AldermastonAWE Burghfield

Mr. Rendel: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what was the longest amount of overtime worked by a MOD police officer at (a) AWE Aldermaston and (b) AWE Burghfield in any period of (i) one month and (ii) six months since June 1999. [141545]

Mr. Spellar [holding answer 11 December 2000]: The information requested is shown in the table:


AWE AldermastonAWE Burghfield
Highest number of overtime hours worked in one month164132
Highest number of overtime hours worked in six months614588

Mr. Rendel: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what was the average number of sickness hours per officer among his Department's police (a) in total, (b) at AWE Aldermaston and (c) at AWE Burghfield for each month since June. [141543]

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Mr. Spellar [holding answer 11 December 2000]: The information requested is shown in the table:


Month 2000Force Average AWE AldermastonAWE Burghfield
June 9.411.374.43

While collating data for this answer, it was discovered that the Force average figure of "9.5 hours" recorded for June 2000, in my letter (D/Min(AF)JS2931K/2932K/ 2933K/2934K/2935/00/M) to you of 9 August, was incorrect and should have read "9.4" as shown in the table above.

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