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19 Dec 1995 : Column WA131

Written Answers

Tuesday, 19th December 1995.

Organophosphate Sheep Dips: Epidemiological Research

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether dipping contractors, owners of fewer than 50 sheep and employees of sheep farmers will be included in their recently commissioned epidemiological study into the chronic effects of exposure to organophosphate sheep dips.

Lord Lucas: The study population for the research has not yet been chosen. The researchers propose to select randomly a wide range of farm sizes and types from areas where there is a relatively high density of sheep farming. Workers from local sheep-dipping contractors will be invited to participate. Control groups of workers from non-sheep farms and other non-farmers from the same broad geographical areas as the farms themselves will also be included.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will place a copy of the protocol for their recently commissioned epidemiological study into the chronic effects of exposure to organophosphate sheep dips in the Library of the House.

Lord Lucas: A detailed background note on the research entitled, Epidemiological study to detect well-defined, pre-determined chronic effects, in humans, of dipping sheep with organophosphorus products was placed in the library of the House in October, when the contract was awarded to the Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM). The contract with IOM contains a detailed description of how the research is to be carried out. Disclosure of the research procedures at this stage could alert the intended study population and thereby bias the findings of the research. It would therefore be contrary to the proper and efficient conduct of operations to disclose these matters (Exemption 7b of the code of practice on access to government information). Moreover, the contents of the contract, which contain detailed costings as well as the research specification, are commercially confidential. IOM has not agreed to the release of this information and it would therefore be wrong for me to authorise disclosure (see Exemptions 13 of the code of practice).

Bosnia: Rules of Engagement

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the words President Clinton is reported to have spoken to US soldiers going to Bosnia--"If you are threatened with attack, you may respond immediately and with decisive force"--constitute the

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    rules of engagement for the US contingent only in the NATO force, and if so what are the rules of engagement under which the British contingent will be operating, and whether the rules of engagement for all contingents in Bosnia are to be in accordance with the UN Charter, the Hague Conventions, and the Geneva Conventions.

The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): The NATO-led peace implementation operation in Bosnia will be authorised by a UN security council resolution. The rules of engagement for the force are NATO-wide and consistent with the requirements of international law.

HELIOS II Programme

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the United Kingdom has expressed any interest in joining the HELIOS II programme, concerned with intelligence satellites, in which other European governments have already expressed an intention to take part; whether arrangements with the United States of America preclude their expressing any interest in participation in this programme; and if not whether they will now express such an interest and inform themselves about the programme.

Earl Howe: HELIOS II is a French programme which is to be pursued collaboratively with Germany, following the Franco-German summit earlier this month. There has been no suggestion of UK participation. But the UK will continue to take part in work in the Western European Union to assess the conditions under which WEU might participate in a multinational satellite programme. It will be for the nations concerned to consider whether they wish to make an offer of WEU participation in HELIOS II; if such an offer were to be made, the UK would consider it with her partners on its merits, and would not be precluded from doing so by any arrangements with the United States.

IFOR Operations

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they insist on full military 'transparency' among the participants in Intelligent Forces (IFOR) on all matters of mutual interest, including operations etc. undertaken by Admiral Leighton Smith in his other-than-NATO command roles with the non-NATO designated US forces operating in the general area of interest to IFOR.

Earl Howe: Military units involved in the NATO-led peace implementation force (IFOR), including the US contribution, will come under the NATO chain of command and will be subject to the direction and political control of the North Atlantic Council. NATO will carefully co-ordinate all IFOR operations.

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Royal Naval College, Greenwich: Advisory Group

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will give details of the steps to be taken following receipt of expressions of interest in the buildings of the Royal Naval College Greenwich.

Earl Howe: In his capacity as sole trustee of the Crown Charity, Greenwich Hospital, and with the agreement of his right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for National Heritage and the Environment, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence has invited Lord Faringdon, Dame Jennifer Jenkins, Lord Sainsbury and Jocelyn Stevens to form an advisory group to advise him on the expressions of interest and on the future use and management of the Royal Naval College, Greenwich. Hayden Phillips and Sir Moray Stewart (from the Department of National Heritage and the Ministry of Defence) would also participate in the work of the group. It will be asked to give particular attention to the extent to which the proposals are sympathetic to the status of the building and their wide enjoyment by the public. A shortlist may be produced early in the New Year; a final decision is not expected until Summer 1996.

Mr. Darrel Gunn

Lord Monson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether Mr. Darrel Gunn, sentenced to three years' imprisonment at Northampton Crown Court on 15 November for unlawfully imprisoning a youth alleged to have threatened to kill Mr. Gunn's family, had any previous convictions, and if so, for what.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): Information about criminal convictions sometimes becomes public as a result of police investigations or legal proceedings, but it is not normally the practice of the police or the Government to divulge such information about individuals other than for operational purposes, in connection with the administration of justice, as a result of established vetting arrangements, or in response to a request by the individual concerned for subject access under the provisions of the Data Protection Act.

Asylum Applications: Processing Officers

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Who makes the initial decisions on applications for asylum and whether these people are in receipt of performance-related pay.

Baroness Blatch: Initial recommendations on applications for asylum are generally made by executive officers. Final decisions are generally made by higher executive officers. All civil servants whose performance

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fully meets the requirements of the grade are entitled to receive performance-related pay increases.

Whitemoor Prison: Learmont Report

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to publish the report of General Sir John Learmont's review of the implementation of the recommendations contained in Sir John Woodcock's report on the escape from Whitemoor prison on Friday, 9 September 1994.

Baroness Blatch: My right honourable friend has today placed a copy of General Sir John Learmont's report in the Library.

We are extremely grateful to Sir John, and to Sir John Woodcock with whom the review was undertaken, for their work. The report concludes that in both security and control terms, a "sea change for the better had taken place at Whitemoor" (paragraph 2.2), and that "in a period of less than a year the Prison Service has made infinitely more headway in implementing the Woodcock recommendations than it seemed reasonable to expect, and in line with the published timetable. It has made this progress with an optimism and enthusiasm that demonstrates the calibre of the staff at all levels of the service. All concerned deserve praise for what has been achieved in getting the fundamentals of custody, care and control into better balance" (paragraph 4.6).

General Sir John Learmont has already recommended the appointment of a Director of Dispersal Prisons at Prisons Board level, and in this latest report he says that this issue needs addressing without delay. The acting director general has today appointed Mr. Philip Wheatley, at present Area Manager (London North), to be Director of Dispersal Prisons with responsibility for the management of the five dispersal prisons--Frankland, Full Sutton, Long Lartin, Wakefield and Whitemoor--and of HMP Belmarsh, which also holds a significant number of Category A prisoners.

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