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The Countess of Mar: My Lords, the Minister quoted from Professor Wessely's results. However, he did not say that Professor Wessely found that Gulf veterans were between two and three times more likely to be suffering from illness than veterans of Bosnia or Northern Ireland. He also stated that there was a possible connection between the administration of nerve agent pretreatment tablets and the anthrax vaccine. I have always maintained that there is no such thing as "Gulf War syndrome"; but there are Gulf War illnesses because of the variations in the mens' illnesses. That is precisely why we need causal research. If we do not know what is happening, we will not find the answers.

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I would not disagree with a word that the noble Countess has said. I shall refer to the actual words in the author's interpretation of the other Lancet articles, and I shall abbreviate so as not to impose on your Lordships' time:

Lord Burnham: My Lords, when the research is undertaken, will it include an examination of the geographical location of the people suffering from these illnesses? It looks strongly as if a very high proportion come from the north-east of the country.

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, we have been looking more at the geographical distribution of people in the Gulf rather than where they come from in this country. However, I shall certainly bear in mind the noble Lord's suggestion. I have no idea whether it has any medical validity, but I shall put it to our people.

The Earl of Effingham: My Lords, Professor Wessely's report certainly confirmed the view of the Royal British Legion that those who were deployed in the Gulf are more unwell than their colleagues who were not so deployed. Is it not a fact that 400 people have died since the Gulf War, and that one has already committed suicide? Can the Minister give us his view as to what happened at a recent inquiry into the verdict regarding a craftsman, John Callaghan, who committed suicide? At that inquiry there was a representative from the Ministry of Defence who actually did not answer the questions posed. Can the noble Lord say why an open verdict was given and why the evidence of that witness was not reviewed?

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, it is not in my hands to say why a particular verdict is given in any court proceedings in this country. I imagine that the noble Earl is referring to remarks made by Colonel Bosanquet, who was not then a representative of the Ministry of Defence; he was giving his own personal views.

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EU/US Banana Dispute

3.30 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they and other member states of the European Union propose to take to confront the threat made by the United States to impose sanctions on 520 million dollars-worth of European Union exports as from 1st February in consequence of the breakdown of negotiations between the European Union and the United States.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): My Lords, I should like to give assurance to the House that the United Kingdom, along with other member states of the European Union and acting through the European Commission, is doing everything it can to seek a solution to the dispute about bananas through the World Trade Organisation. Negotiations are now under way between the European Commission, acting for the European Union, the United States and the WTO's director-general Ruggiero. We are likely to know more about the outcome of these negotiations during the course of today. However, I want to make it clear that we must do all we can to resolve this dispute through the WTO and avoid the imposition of retaliation. We want to see all sides engaged fully and urgently in the panel process to determine whether or not the EU's banana regime is consistent with WTO rules.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that intellectually respectable reply. Is it not absolutely "bananas" that, at the time of a severe downturn in world trade, the United States is seemingly resolved to start a trade war over the revised European Union banana regime by applying arbitrarily selected, unilateral and punitive sanctions, 23 per cent. of which would hit the United Kingdom? Is it not very clear that the line taken by the EU and by our Government is the right one? Can my noble friend the Minister tell the House what steps the Government and the EU are proposing in relation to retaliation if in fact the negotiations do break down while abiding by the due process of the WTO?

Lord Simon of Highbury: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that it does not appear quite appropriate that this dispute has been raised to the level of intensity that it has. However, I am absolutely sure that our negotiators are currently seeking to achieve the following objectives: first, that no retaliation should come into effect unless the panel rules that the EU regime is not consistent with WTO rules; and, secondly, to press the EU and the US to implement the WTO panel outcome, when it is known, without delay. We understand the concerns of our Caribbean partners in the matter. We know that both the UK and the EU have very longstanding political and legal obligations.

Lord Steel of Aikwood: My Lords, notwithstanding the very proper negotiations in which the Government

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are engaged with the EU and the WTO, will they make it clear to our allies in the United States that this form of economic bullying is wholly unacceptable and that one of the threats would have a devastating effect on the Scottish cashmere industry if it were carried out? As that industry is located in the Scottish Borders, which have suffered a series of hammer blows recently, will the Minister have discussions with his noble friend Lord Macdonald of Tradeston, who has visited the area, and express his vehemence and knowledge to the US Government on this quite absurd and improper threat?

Lord Simon of Highbury: Yes, my Lords. I quite understand the impact of the threat of retaliation; indeed, even before it is there, it is bad for industry. I totally recognise that fact. Such uncertainty is unacceptable. However, I can confirm that, through my noble friend in the Foreign Office, the trade departments and, indeed, at the highest levels of government in this country, we have stressed extreme urgency in our consultations with our colleagues in the United States about the severity of our reaction to the problem.

Lord Peston: My Lords, following the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Steel, does my noble friend the Minister recall that noble Lords have made it clear that this House in particular dislikes being threatened by our very good friends in the United States? Can my noble friend throw any light on the article which appeared in the Financial Times either yesterday or the day before which stated that our colleagues in Italy are already advocating that we make concessions on the matter before the battle has even begun? Can we be reassured that our Government and the EU generally will show complete backbone in the matter and simply not stand for any of this?

Lord Simon of Highbury: My Lords, I cannot assure my noble friend of the individual position of any of our partners as portrayed in newspaper reports. However, I am certain that the process of negotiation to resolve what is an acute problem--even though it is a very small and slippery subject--is being taken extremely seriously. The EU negotiators know full well the nature of our position, but, in order to resolve such a dispute, we must be able to negotiate.

Baroness Young: My Lords, does the Minister recognise that we all agree that a trade war would be an absolute disaster for the world as a whole? Indeed, it would have a terrible impact on some Caribbean islands, with disastrous effects on their populations. If the banana trade collapses, is there not also the prospect of that vacuum being filled by drugs? Can the Minister assure the House that this point is being made most vigorously to the American Government who would be sufferers of the effects of this policy, just as much as we in Europe would be?

Lord Simon of Highbury: My Lords, again, I can only confirm to the noble Baroness that we take the matter extremely seriously. We have gone through all

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the accepted channels in government to make our position, as the UK, clear. Noble Lords should be in no doubt that that is also extremely clear to the European Union negotiators who, naturally, have to negotiate on behalf of all the EU signatories to the agreement.

Health Bill [H.L.]

3.37 p.m.

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to amend the law about the National Health Service; make provision in relation to arrangements and payments between health service bodies and local authorities with respect to health and health-related functions; confer power to regulate any professions concerned (wholly or partly) with the physical or mental health of individuals; and for connected purposes. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.--(Baroness Hayman.)

On Question, Bill read a first time, and to be printed.

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