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Chemical and Biological Weapons

Mrs. Calton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to his Answer of 20 March 2003, Official Report, column 884W, on chemical and biological weapons, what estimate has been made of the individual useable minimum and maximum lifetime, given the varying degrees of initial purity and differing storage conditions, of (a) wet form of anthrax, (b) smallpox, (c) VX gas and (d) mustard gas. [106235]

Dr. Moonie: As I set out in my previous response, the stability of the individual agents will depend on both their initial purity and the precise conditions in which they are stored.

The usable lifetime as chemical or biological warfare agents can vary widely. In respect of the biological warfare agents, it can vary from a couple months to 40 years for the wet form of anthrax and from a couple

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of days to 30 years for smallpox. For the chemical warfare agents VX and mustard, it can vary from a couple of days to 30 years.

Civil Service Travel

Mr. Maples: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what grades in the Civil Service in his Department are allowed to travel by air (a) first class and (b) business class at public expense when on official duties. [104962]

Dr. Moonie: Official travel should always be arranged by the most cost-effective means and route. The Ministry of Defence operates a range of RAF Trooping and part-charter flights to and from those overseas areas where there is a major and permanent United Kingdom military presence such as Germany, Cyprus, the USA and Brunei. If the journey is covered by a Trooping or MOD charter flight this should be used whenever possible. Where commercial flights are necessarily used, however, the MOD can call upon a number of Discounted Fare Agreements that have been negotiated with major airlines to enable journeys to be completed at reduced cost. If scheduled commercial flights are used in this way, the class of travel is determined by grade and flight time. Those in the grade of Permanent Secretary are entitled to fly business class where the flight time is under 2.5 hours and first class for longer flights. All other grades are required to use economy class for flights of less than 2.5 hours duration and business class for the longer journeys.


Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to his Answer of 25 February 2003, Official Report, columns 447–8W, on telephone helplines, how many calls were made to each helpline charged at national rate in the last year for which records are available; and what the average duration was of these calls. [105890]

Dr. Moonie: In my Answer of 25 February, I referred to seven telephone helplines that were charged at the national rate. Of these, three do not record information on the number or duration of calls received. Information relating to the other four is as follows:

MOD Public Enquiry Office (0870 607 4455)—during the calendar year 2002 51,174 calls were received, with an average duration of 94 seconds;

Welsh Language Public Enquiry Office (01554 821 413)—during the calendar year 2002 only four calls were received. The estimated average duration of these calls was 60 seconds;

Gulf Veterans Advice Unit (020 7395 2375)—full records are not kept, but the average number of calls during 2002 was in the region of six a month. The number is an answer machine, which asks callers to leave their details so that their call can be returned at a later date. It also directs callers to the freephone number 0800 1694495.

Defence Vetting Agency helpline (01904 662 644)—for the year from March 2002 to February 2003 the helpline received a total of 81,925 calls. On average, these calls lasted 122 seconds.

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Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the cost to his Department was of missions involving the release of ordnance by UK aircraft over Iraq in each month since September 2001; and if he will make a statement. [104316]

Mr. Ingram: The Ministry of Defence identifies the costs of operations in terms of the net additional costs it has incurred. It is not possible to separate out those costs attributable only to missions involving the release of ordnance, because they are an integral part of the whole operation.

Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will (a) place in the Library and (b) post on the departmental website on a daily basis the battle damage assessment for coalition forces in their invasion of Iraq. [105543]

Dr. Moonie: It would be inappropriate to make battle damage assessments available. To do so would provide the Iraqi regime with considerable information which might jeopardise the future effectiveness of coalition operations. I am therefore withholding this information under Exemption 1 (Defence, Security and International Relations) of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

Regular unclassified reports providing updated information on the progress of operations are placed in the Library of the House on days when no ministerial statement is made to the House.

Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Iraqi civilians have been (a) killed and (b) severely injured since the coalition forces invaded Iraq; and if he will place in the Library, on a daily basis, details of new deaths or severe injuries caused to Iraqi civilians by the use of military force in the invasion of Iraq. [105563]

Mr. Ingram: We have no means of ascertaining the numbers of Iraqis killed or injured during the coalition's military action, although we make every effort to keep any impact upon the Iraqi civilian population to an absolute minimum. Saddam Hussein has a history of falsely claiming such casualties, and it would be wrong to accept all reports at face value. It would not be helpful to publish daily the details requested by the hon. Member before the facts have been accurately identified.

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence under what powers Iraqi military personnel are held prisoner by UK forces; whether such prisoners are prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention; and if he will make a statement. [105344]

Mr. Hoon [holding answer 27 March 2003]: Coalition military action against Iraq is in conformity with international law. The taking of prisoners of war is a recognised and legitimate means of reducing an enemy's strength and fighting capacity. Iraqi military personnel who fall into the hands of United Kingdom forces will be treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention.

Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many members of the Baathist Party Fedayeen have been killed by British Marines in Basra since the invasion of Iraq began. [105613]

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Mr. Ingram: Personnel of 3 Commando Brigade, Royal Marines, have engaged both regular and irregular Iraqi forces which posed a direct threat to coalition forces on a number of occasions. Coalition forces have also attacked legitimate military and regime targets in and around Basra. The Ministry of Defence is unable to verify how many members of the Iraqi armed forces, Ba'ath Party or State Security Organisation have been killed as result of those operations.

Middle East (Health Advice)

Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to his answer of 12 March 2003, Official Report, column 277W, on Middle East (Health Advice), on what records he will rely if personnel returning from the Gulf consider that a failure by his Department to provide appropriate health briefings was a contributory factor to an illness from which they are suffering. [103575]

Dr. Moonie: The Ministry of Defence retains copies of pre-deployment health briefings for future reference.


Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment has been made of the (a) prevalence and (b) causes of occupational stress in (i) Her Majesty's forces, (ii) the MOD Police and (iii) the MOD Guard Service. [93670]

Dr. Moonie: According to centrally held records, 13 Service personnel were medically discharged with occupational stress as the main cause between January 2001 and January 2003. Between 1 April 2002 and 7 March 2003, 10 officers in the Ministry of Defence Police were medically retired due to occupational stress or anxiety-related illnesses. No information is held centrally on the prevalence of occupational stress among members of the Ministry of Defence Guard Service.

In 1998, the Royal Navy undertook a three-year study of occupational stress among naval personnel. This found that the two principal causes of stress were trying to balance work and home life and discord in working relationships, and that good supervisor support was very effective in managing stress.

Our policies on occupational stress are kept under review in the light of developments in the field of stress management and treatment.

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what arrangements he plans to make to provide post traumatic stress disorder counselling to members of the armed forces following any possible action in Iraq. [102643]

Dr. Moonie: Service personnel deploying to the Gulf region are given briefings on health issues, including stress-related disorders, and mental health staff are available to personnel in theatre. Briefings will be given to personnel prior to leaving theatre. These will cover post traumatic stress reactions and the problems that may be encountered on returning home to families. Personnel identified by commanders or medical staff as being at special risk would be referred to mental health staff.

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