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Citizens Advice Bureaux: Donations

Baroness Harris of Richmond asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bach: All citizens advice bureaux are registered charities and consequently it would be inappropriate for the Ministry of Defence to provide financial contributions from public funds.

It is, however, possible for the three services to make donations to citizens advice bureaux from their own non-public welfare funds.

Maritime Patrol Aircraft

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Bach: Euopean Allies' national requirements for maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) are a matter for individual nations, although NATO assesses that there is currently no overall shortfall in provision of MPA to the alliance and there are no indications that this position is likely to change. The United Kingdom continues to provide sufficient maritime patrol aircraft for the protection of its territory and territorial waters, and is currently upgrading its fleet to deliver an enhanced surveillance capability.

Smallpox Vaccine

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Following the letter from the Lord Bach to the Lord Morris of Manchester dated 2 December concerning smallpox vaccine—(a) whether the vaccine was administered routinely to members of HM forces until the mid-1970s, and how many members of HM forces, if any, suffered serious adverse reactions or fatalities; (b) which other vaccines administered to troops deploying to the Gulf in 1990 have had similar side-effects for a small number of service personnel; and (c) what is the result of the combined immunisation programmes for those who do react adversely, and whether they will place a copy of the Minister's letter in the Library of the House.[HL925]

Lord Bach: Smallpox vaccine was administered routinely to UK civilians of school age until the mid-1970s. Armed Forces personnel were also vaccinated upon enlistment and routinely re-vaccinated every three years. This programme was abandoned in the early 1980s following a declaration by the World Health Organisation that smallpox had been eradicated. Smallpox vaccine can produce mild adverse reactions common to many vaccines, including a sore arm, mild fever, headache, fatigue and a permanent scar at the vaccination site. In a very small proportion of people, vaccination against smallpox can produce more serious adverse reactions including serious skin reactions and inflammation of the brain (encephalitis). Records of adverse reactions to smallpox vaccine among Armed Forces personnel from that era were not kept centrally and the information requested could only be provided at disproportionate effort. Smallpox vaccine was not given to UK Armed Forces personnel during the 1990–91 Gulf conflict. We are confident that none of the vaccines given to UK Armed Forces personnel at the time of the 1990-91 Gulf conflict would have produced serious adverse reactions similar to those than can arise from smallpox vaccine.

We announced our intention to vaccinate a small cohort of Armed Forces personnel against smallpox. I refer the noble Lord to the Answer I gave to my noble friend Lady Goudie on 2 December 2002,WA 73–74. UK Armed Forces personnel offered smallpox vaccine will be rigorously screened so as to eliminate, as far as possible, the risk of a serious adverse reaction.

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Smallpox vaccine would not be administered alongside other vaccines except in an emergency.

I will place a copy of the Letter in the Library of the House.

Mr Douglas Robertson: War Pension

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they reconcile the refusal to accept Gulf War Syndrome as a pensionable condition with the Army Personnel Centre's decision in the case of Douglas Robinson, a Gulf War veteran and former Sergeant Major in the Royal Military Police, whose application for a war pension, approved by the centre's medical adviser, was based on Dr R G Alexander's description of him as suffering from Gulf War Syndrome.[HL936]

Lord Bach: I believe my noble friend refers to Mr Douglas Robertson and his award of war pension by the Veterans Agency and I have answered this Question accordingly.

The overwhelming consensus of medical and scientific opinion is that there is no evidence to support the existence of a discrete medical disorder called "Gulf War Syndrome". Accordingly, this term is not used as a diagnostic label in respect of awards of war pension. However, this does not prevent Gulf veterans who are ill from getting a war pension. A war pension can be paid for any disablement provided a causal link to service is accepted.

The Veterans Agency noted that Mr Robertson's GP used the term "Gulf War Syndrome" to describe his medical condition. However, this label did not influence the outcome of his claim for a war pension. In accordance with standard practice the decision to award a war pension was based on case specific facts, the relevant standard of proof and contemporary medical understanding.

Death of Detective Constable Stephen Oake: Inquiry

Lord Hughes of Woodside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will provide further information on the operation in Manchester on 14 January, which led to the death of a police officer.[HL1122]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): My right honourable friend the Home Secretary said yesterday that he would report further to the House, when he was able to do so, about the operation in Greater Manchester on 14 January in which a police officer, DC Stephen Oake, died.

The basic facts about this incident have not been confirmed by Greater Manchester Police. In the late afternoon of Tuesday 14 January, two immigration officers, with the support of Greater Manchester

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Police, entered premises in Crumpsall Lane, Manchester, for the purpose of detaining, pending deportation, an individual whom the Home Secretary had certified earlier in the day under the provisions of Part IV of the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001. In addition, the officers of Greater Manchester Police had obtained a warrant to search the premises.

Three men present at the premises were detained. Nine Tactical Aid Unit officers, who had entered the premises, assisted in securing these men and in making the scene safe. All these officers were wearing full protective equipment, including body armour, and remained in the premises. Fourteen Special Branch officers were there to undertake aspects of the operation involving investigation and intelligence gathering. These officers were not wearing body armour.

The exact detail of what took place is still under investigation and will be the subject of an inquiry. But, as is already known, it is clear that a violent incident occurred during which DC Oake was fatally stabbed. Three other officers were stabbed and a fourth officer sustained a broken ankle. One of these officers remains in hospital, suffering from stab wounds to the abdomen. His condition is stable and he is likely to leave hospital next week. The other three officers have now been released from hospital.

Following the struggle, the situation was brought under control by the police and all three men were arrested under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000. Subsequently, one man was released from these provisions and immediately detained by the

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Immigration Service. He is currently detained in prison under Part IV of the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act. The second man has also been released from the provisions of the Terrorism Act and remains in the custody of Greater Manchester Police pending investigation into the death of DC Oake and injuries to the other officers. The third man remains detained under the Terrorism Act and is now in the custody of the Metropolitan Police.

Armed response vehicle resources were available throughout the operation for immediate deployment as required, but firearms officers were not deployed in specific support of this operation. The inquiry will obviously examine this. All the Tactical Aid Unit officers who entered the building were wearing full protective equipment, including body armour.

The Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, Michael Todd, has, with the agreement of the Home Secretary, established an inquiry which will be led by a senior police officer from outside the Greater Manchester police force. The inquiry will be held with the support of the Immigration Service. The senior investigator from Greater Manchester Police will be a detective superintendent and, from the Immigration Service, an assistant director.

The inquiry will concentrate on all aspects of planning, briefings, communications and implementation of the operation. The key objective will be to learn the lessons from this tragic incident, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary made clear in his oral statement to the House yesterday. The preliminary findings will be available within four weeks.

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