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Water Supplies for Civilians in Times of War

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bach: Deliberate targeting of drinking water installations and supplies is already forbidden in international law under Article 54 of the First Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949. The employment of poison and poisoned weapons is further prohibited by article 23 of the Hague Regulations of 1907. International law does, however, recognise that lawful attacks directed at military objectives may have unwanted consequences for civilians and/or civilian objects. It is not possible to guarantee that lawful military attacks will not under any circumstances result in damage to water supplies for civilian populations.

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Depleted Uranium: H & S Advice to Service Personnel

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What health and safety guidance they have issued to servicemen when in the vicinity of Iraq tanks that have been destroyed by ordnance containing depleted uranium. [HL3132]

Lord Bach: I refer the noble Baroness to the answer my right honourable friend the Minister for the Armed Forces (Adam Ingram) gave to the honourable Member for Blaenau Gwent (Llew Smith) in another place on 11 April 2003 (Official Report, Commons, col. 421W).

Safety instructions covering all aspects of the hazard management of DU munitions in theatre were issued through the operational chain of command by the Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ). These can be found on the Ministry of Defence Internet site at uranium/gulf safety instructions.htm.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the guidance issued to servicemen when in the vicinity of Iraq tanks that have been destroyed by ordnance containing depleted uranium varies from that given to United States servicemen; and, if so, how. [HL3133]

Lord Bach: Safety guidance for our personnel reflects the specific requirements of United Kingdom government policy and statutory obligations contained within UK and EU regulations. Informal discussions between UK and US officials suggest that broadly similar arrangements exist for ensuring the safety of those who might encounter depleted uranium munitions debris.

Iraq: Post-conflict Deployment of UK Armed Forces

Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to adjust UK force levels in Iraq. [HL3319]

Lord Bach: In the Written Statements by my right honourable friend the Defence Secretary of 11 April (Official Report, Commons, 38–39WS) and 30 April (Official Report, Commons, 15–16WS) in another place he described UK force level adjustments to reflect the evolving strategic situation in Iraq, including the call-out of up to 1,200 reservists. In the subsequent Written Statement of 22 May (Official Report, Commons, 44–45WS) in another place, he announced the call-out of a further 1,500 reservists to support continuing operations within Iraq. We continue to assess the requirements for a continued UK presence in Iraq in support of the Iraqi people.

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This process is dependent on a number of factors, including progress made against our military campaign objectives, and multinational contributions to stabilisation operations.

Positive discussions continue with a number of nations regarding military deployments to Iraq. We have so far received commitments from seven countries for contingents comprising a total of around 5,500 personnel to contribute in the UK area of operations. A Danish Marine battalion has already arrived, and is making a valuable contribution to Coalition operations in Al Qurnah.

Overall 25,000 UK servicemen and women have returned from operations in the Gulf—more than half those originally deployed. Some 17,000 UK servicemen and women currently remain in the region. We will maintain a balanced and flexible force to suit the operational situation in Iraq. To this end, we are now in a position to announce a number of further adjustments to our forces in the region.

Since the Statement of 30 April in another place, we have continued where possible to scale back our military presence within Iraq and the surrounding region. The maritime presence in the Gulf now comprises two frigates, currently HMS "Richmond" and HMS "Chatham", and a nuclear-powered submarine, supported by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels "Brambleleaf" and "Diligence". On current plans, we envisage maintaining a maritime presence at this level for the foreseeable future.

For land forces, the planned withdrawal of 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines and of other land personnel which he announced on 30 April in another place is now complete. In addition to the movements set out in that statement, 16 Air Assault Brigade has now been withdrawn including 3 Parachute Regiment and 3 Army Air Corps. We have also withdrawn the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, 1st Battalion The Light Infantry, the Queen's Royal Lancers and 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards.

These adjustments will be followed by the replacement of HQ 1 (UK) Armoured Division with HQ 3 (UK) Armoured Division, which we anticipate will complete by mid-July. As we have previously announced, we envisage that 19 Mechanised Brigade will deploy within the same timescale, and preparations are under way to prepare for and to facilitate this movement. HQ 102 Logistic Brigade completed its hand-over to HQ 101 Logistic Brigade in early May as planned, and the brigades' sub-units are currently engaged in a phased rotation. When fully assembled, these units will represent a total of around 10,000 servicemen and women.

Around 90 fixed-wing aircraft and some 80 helicopters have returned following the highly successful contribution of the Royal Air Force and the Joint Helicopter Command to the Coalition air campaign. The deployment of the 1st Air Control Centre to Tallil to contribute to an overall ground-based radar picture over Iraq has allowed for the withdrawal of our two deployed E3D aircraft. The Royal Air Force now has 8 Tornado GR4s remaining

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in theatre with a number of supporting aircraft. In addition, the Joint Helicopter Force retains a balanced rotary-wing presence, 18 helicopters comprising Chinook, Sea King, Lynx and Gazelle helicopters.

Since the Statement of 30 April in another place, around 850 additional reservists have been accepted into service, and the call-out process continues. Our reservist men and women continue to play a vital role in supporting stabilisation operations in Iraq, in accordance with the aims of the Strategic Defence Review that the reserve forces should be more integrated, relevant and useable. In parallel to the call-out process, we have so far demobilised over 1,700 reservists who have returned from Iraq as a part of the wider programme of withdrawals.

We pay tribute to all of the men and women who have contributed so successfully and professionally to the military campaign in Iraq. We continue to assess the situation as military operations contribute to the gradual return of stability to the country, and to respond in an appropriate manner; our presence will continue to be dictated by the requirements of Iraq and the Iraqi people. The House will be kept informed of any further significant developments.


Lord Dixon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the Government's response to the security situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. [HL3321]

Lord Bach: The House will be aware of the humanitarian crisis in the Ituri province in the Democratic Republic of Congo, particularly in and around the town of Bunia in the north-east of the country.

The UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has requested an interim multinational force to stabilise the town of Bunia and to facilitate the arrival of UN reinforcements. This is likely to be an EU-led operation under European foreign and security policy auspices.

The UK is discussing possible contributions with EU member states and other potential contributors. We are considering providing a small contingent of support elements together with aircraft to assist in the deployment of the force. The House will be informed once final decisions have been taken on the size and scale of UK contributions.

Health Records: Requests for Access

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What powers of sanctions they will use against National Health Service trusts which do not comply with requests for access.[HL3156]

Baroness Andrews: Requests for access to health records are governed by the Data Protection Act 1998

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(DPA 98). Responsibility for compliance with the DPA 98 rests with individual National Health Service (NHS) trusts. Enforcement is undertaken by the Information Commissioner. The Department of Health supports the National Health Service in meeting data protection requirements via the provision of guidance and through performance management arrangements.

Non-residential Property: Stamp Duty

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish or place in the Library of the House the submissions they made to the European Commission in order to receive approval for the exemption of non-residential property transactions in disadvantaged areas of the United Kingdom from stamp duty until December 2006, and if not, why not.[HL3066]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: It is not usual to publish submissions to the European Commission in these cases. However, the documentation related to the state aid approval for the extension of this measure to all non-residential property transactions does not contain commercially sensitive information and negotiations have been concluded. I am therefore able to place a copy of the relevant submissions in the Library of the House.

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