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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): The immunisation programme for Armed Forces personnel in the Gulf conflict involved a number of vaccines. These can be divided into three categories: those which were part of the anti-biological warfare (BW) immunisation programme; routine service health immunisations; and travel and specific immunisations against the risks associated with individuals' particular employment. These are listed below.
Lord Bach: British forces have access to a range of radiation and contamination monitoring equipment and specific items are issued to deployed forces when a risk assessment indicates a need for their use. Monitoring equipment was issued for use in Afghanistan by a specialist team from the Joint Nuclear Biological and Chemical Regiment and was subsequently used to confirm the presence of radiation sources in hospital and university buildings in Kabul.
Lord Bach: The US has not used any munition warranting the use of NBC masks by ground troops in Afghanistan. No specific NBC-related instructions have been issued for sweep operations. Standard medical instructions regarding NBC exposure have been issued, as would be the case in any operation.
Lord Bach: Contracts have been placed with five laboratories to carry out a pilot study to determine a test that will identify the presence of depleted uranium in urine. The pilot exercise will examine a number of different methods and establish whether a suitably accurate, precise and sensitive test is available. Following assessment of the results of the pilot exercise, arrangements for the main voluntary testing programme will be put in place. If a suitable test is identified, the voluntary test is likely to be available in October 2002.
It is extremely important that the method of testing be credible to all parties. This pilot exercise is a vital step in ensuring that the correct test is chosen so that both veterans and the Ministry of Defence can have confidence in the results of the voluntary testing programme.
The Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith): I would like to express my deep sympathy for the Taylor family, who still have many questions left unanswered despite an intensive police investigation and a lengthy trial.
This was always going to be a difficult case. It is the job of the CPS to bring cases before the courts where in their judgment there is a realistic prospect of a conviction and it is in the public interest to prosecute. It is then the job of the court, in this case the judge and jury, to examine the evidence and decide on guilt or innocence. The approach of the CPS results in cases being brought before the courts that ought properly to be examined in a trial. Inevitably, there will sometimes be acquittals. If the CPS prosecuted only in cases where conviction was near certain, there would be far fewer cases and many guilty people would go free. Where there is an acquittal after a contested trial it should not be assumed that there has been a failure in the criminal justice system or that it was in any way wrong for the CPS to bring the case.
However, it is important now that we take time to learn any lessons. I therefore asked the Director of Public Prosecutions last Friday to look into the handling by the prosecution of the case, to consider whether there are implications for the conduct of future cases and to make recommendations. He will involve HM CPS Inspectorate in the review. I have particularly asked the director to examine whether the time has come to introduce a system where, before trial, interviews of certain key witnesses are conducted by the prosecutor in a limited category of cases.
The Minister of State, Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): Mercer Management Consulting has been commissioned to carry out a wide-ranging consultation of rail industry stakeholders to gather views about all aspects of the UK railways. This is at an advanced stage but the date of and the arrangements for its completion have not yet been set.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: As I made clear in the exchanges to which the noble Baroness refers, the Government are committed to a continuing dialogue on the implementation of the planning Green Paper. The policy statement, which the Government plan to issue before the Summer Recess, will set out the Government's thinking in response to the consultation on the Green Paper. Our Green Paper was issued to allow a full consultation before the Government made any policy statement, whether in the form of a Statement or White Paper.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has accredited 27 out of the 28 awarding bodies' specifications and associated specimen papers. The final one will be accredited soon. These are available now via the awarding bodies' websites.
On training and support, the department has funded an extensive programme for schools and colleges to support the expansion of vocational opportunities at key stage 4, including the introduction of the new GCSEs. In addition, the awarding bodies have run training and support events of their own. Besides this, the department will be making available funding of £38 million in 200204 to support a programme aimed at increasing vocational and work-related learning opportunities. This will cover support for the roll-out of the new GCSEs at key stage 4, including the provision of equipment and materials.
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