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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps the Government are taking to
9 Feb 2006 : Column 1403W
support (a) former and (b) current members of the armed forces who are disabled; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Touhig: The policies and procedures of the armed forces aim to avoid unnecessary threats to health; to provide the treatment and rehabilitation to ensure personnel can return, where possible, to normal service duties; or, where medical retirement becomes necessary, to provide proper resettlement and after-care services.
Personnel who become disabled but who are still able to contribute usefully to operational capacity, may be retained. Those who have to be medically retired are provided with advice on pay, allowances and pension compensation entitlements, housing and financial matters before returning to civilian life, including, if appropriate, resettlement advice and information to assist them to prepare for, and find, suitable employment.
The Veterans Agency provides a single point of contact within the MOD for veterans and their dependants seeking help and advice on a range of issues including health, housing, employment and financial matters. The War Pensioners' Welfare Service, a nationwide network administered by the Veterans Agency, provides help and advice on a wide range of welfare needs.
David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many departmental employees have taken early retirement due to ill health in each of the past five years for which figures are available. 
Mr. Touhig: It has been a key principle of this Government's approach to the health concerns of veterans of the 199091 Gulf conflict that there should be appropriate research into veterans' illnesses and into the factors that may have a bearing on them. Research already sponsored by the Ministry of Defence includes: epidemiological studies; clinical and laboratory tests; a programme of investigation into the possible adverse health effects of the medical countermeasures offered to troops; a systematic review of research literature; and a study of the social aspects of the issue. Most of this work has been completed and published. We have also maintained close contact with the US authorities to ensure visibility and understanding of the extensive programme of research that they have commissioned. The research has shown no evidence of a unique illness associated with service in the Gulf, nor has it identified a specific cause of the illnesses in question.
Independent advice on the direction of this research is provided by the Medical Research Council. The Ministry of Defence is currently considering with the council potential additional studies aimed at improving the long-term health of veterans with persistent symptoms and also of an enzyme involved in metabolising organophosphates. Announcements will be made in due course regarding the outcome of these considerations.
Mr. Touhig: The Ministry of Defence's ability to recruit Gurkhas over the past 12 months has not been diminished. In the most recent recruitment exercise some 15,000 applicants for selection competed for 230 available places. We have however adjusted and streamlined our recruitment process in recent years, partly in response to the situation in Nepal.
Mr. Touhig: Between January 2003 and September 2005 inclusive, 1,333 United Kingdom service personnel who had served in Iraq were subsequently assessed as suffering from a mental health disorder,. This represents less than 1.5 per cent. of total UK service personnel deployed to the region during the same period. Of those 1,333 personnel, 182 were assessed as suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Figures are not held centrally on a tri-service or single service basis on the total number of service personnel who are suffering from any mental health condition and this could therefore be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the warheads carried by the United Kingdom's Trident nuclear deterrent will continue to contain high-explosives manufactured exclusively in the UK. 
Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when (a) he and (b) Ministers in his Department last discussed possible links between Parkinson's disease and Gulf War illnesses with US counterparts. 
Mr. Touhig: I am aware of research undertaken by Robert Haley at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre raising the possibility of a link between Gulf war illnesses and Parkinson's disease. Defence Ministers have not held any formal discussions with US counterparts about this research. Officials keep abreast of research published in the US through a British liaison officer who is based permanently in Washington DC. He is tasked with ensuring that the UK has full visibility of US research into Gulf health issues and with providing a channel for communicating our own work to interested US parties.
Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what research projects related to possible links between Parkinson's disease and Gulf war illnesses are being undertaken by his Department; 
Mr. Touhig: It has been a key principle of this Government's approach to the health concerns of veterans of the 199091 Gulf conflict that there should be appropriate research into veterans' illnesses and into the factors that may have a bearing on them. Under the direction and guidance of the Medical Research Council, the Ministry of Defence has sponsored a broad programme of research. No research has been undertaken or sponsored by the United Kingdom Government into possible links between Parkinson's disease and the ill health reported by some Gulf veterans. However, we are aware of work undertaken in the United States suggesting the possibility of such a link and are following developments on this closely.
David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many parliamentary questions tabled in the last 12 months for answer by him on a named day (a) were transferred and (b) received a substantive answer (i) on the day named and (ii) after the day named; 
(2) how many ordinary written parliamentary questions tabled for answer by him in the last 12 months have been answered (a) within 14 days, (b) between 14 and 28 days, (c) between 28 days and two months and (d) in excess of two months after the date of tabling; and if he will make a statement. 
During the period 1 February 2005 to 31 January 2006, the Ministry of Defence received 637 parliamentary questions for answer on a named day and 2,729 ordinary written parliamentary questions for answer.
Defence Ministers aim to ensure that Members receive a substantive response to their named day question on the named day and to endeavour to answer ordinary written questions within a working week of being tabled.
I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning) on 2 November 2005, Official Report, columns 106768W, in which I advised of our plans to introduce a new toolkit to better track and handle all parliamentary questions and correspondence later in the year; which should enable us to better monitor and report on our performance.
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