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18 Sept 2003 : Column WA191

Written Answers

Thursday, 18th September 2003.

Opposition Parties: Financial Assistance

Lord Patten asked the Leader of the House:

    Why it is that duly appointed Opposition Front-Bench spokesman may not claim any allowance on sitting days when their duties take them away from attendance in the House, for example to speak at a conference in north-western England, or to visit a hospital in north-eastern England.[HL4455]

The Lord President of the Council (Lord Williams of Mostyn): There are two main sources of public funds available to support the costs of work related to the parliamentary duties of Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen.

These sources are the Peers' Reimbursement Allowance scheme and the Financial Assistance to the Opposition Parties ("Cranborne money").

If their travel is not on party business, Front-Bench spokesmen may recover the costs of travel on parliamentary business within the United Kingdom from the Peers' Reimbursement Allowance scheme, on the same basis as Back-Bench Members. In common with other Members, Front-Bench spokesmen may not claim subsistence costs arising from such journeys under the Peers' Reimbursement Allowance scheme, since such allowances can only be claimed after attendance at a sitting of the House or a committee.

Cranborne money is the money provided by the House to fund the Opposition parties in the House of Lords. The House agreed to a substantial uprating of Cranborne money funds in 2002. It is up to each party to choose how to use the Cranborne money funds allocated to them.

Committee on Standards in Public Life: Appointments

Lord Desai asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to announce the new appointments to the Committee on Standards in Public Life.[HL4566]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Prime Minister is pleased to announce that four new members have been appointed to the Committee.

Sir Alistair Graham and Professor Hazel Genn will take up appointment from 1 October 2003 in succession to Ann Abraham, who stood down from the committee on appointment as the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration and Health Service Commissioner for England, and Professor Alice Brown, who resigned from the committee on appointment as the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.

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Patricia Hodgson and Brian Woods-Scawen will take up appointment from 1 January 2004 in succession to Frances Heaton and Sir Anthony Cleaver, who will both step down from the committee at the end of this year, on completion of their second terms of office.

All four appointments are for three years in the first instance, and were made fully in line with the guidance of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.

The Prime Minister is very grateful to Ann Abraham, Alice Brown, Frances Heaton and Sir Anthony for their work on the committee and for the significant contribution they have made to standards in public life. bjc

Palace of Westminster: Replacement Stone

Lord Laird asked the Chairman of Committees:

    What was the cost and quality control process used in the selection of replacement stone for the work currently under way on the Palace of Westminster.[HL4554]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): The replacement stone being used in the current programme of restoration of internal courtyards within the Palace is an oolitic limestone from Clipsham in Rutland. It is supplied at a cost of £17 per cubic foot (excluding VAT). Quality control is carried out by a chartered surveyor from the project management consultants, who is on site whenever necessary (generally some two and a half days a week).

Iraq: Prisoners Captured by British Forces

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

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Bach on 8 July (WA 32), whether they will place in the Library of the House the papers documenting the "arrangement" with the United States in relation to captured persons.[HL3919]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): I will write as soon as possible to the noble Lord and a copy of my letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

Gulf War Immunisations: Thiomersal

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the comments by Lord Bach in the debate on Gulf War illness on 15 July (HL Deb, col. 836), whether any of the immunisations contained thimerosol.[HL4342]

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Lord Bach: In the United Kingdom, thimerosol is more commonly known as thiomersal. According to the information leaflets provided with the vaccines to which the noble Lord refers, the anthrax vaccine and the pertussis vaccine manufactured in the UK contained thiomersal. No mention is made of thiomersal in the leaflets that accompanied the pertussis vaccine manufactured in France or the plague vaccine manufactured in the US. The position regarding cholera vaccine is being researched and I will write to the noble Lord when work is complete and place a copy of my letter in the Library of the House. I should like to correct part of the statement I made on 15 July (HL Deb, col. 836). Pertussis vaccine was used as an adjuvant, not to protect "against pertussis".

Iraq: Casualties of Bombing

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Bach on 8 September (WA 43–44) concerning cluster bombs in Iraq, how many people have been killed and how many have been injured in the bombing of Iraq.[HL4436]

Lord Bach: We make every effort to minimise the impact of military operations on the Iraqi civilian population. We have no means of ascertaining the number of people killed or injured during the coalition's military action.

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many people have been killed and how many people have been injured by unexploded bombs since the end of hostilities in Iraq.[HL4437]

Lord Bach: Unexploded ordnance in Iraq includes munitions from the Iran-Iraq war as well as mines laid by Iraqi forces, ordnance fired or dropped by both sides during recent hostilities and stores of ammunition and other ordnance left by Iraqi military and paramilitary forces.

We have no means of ascertaining the number of people killed or injured by unexploded ordnance since the end of the conflict.


Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made in gathering new information to inform the further development of the Government's veterans initiative.[HL4545]

Lord Bach: The Ministry of Defence is announcing the publication of a new report entitled Improving the Delivery of Cross Departmental Support and Services for Veterans, which the department commissioned from King's College London last year. The publication of this study demonstrates the commitment of the Government as a whole to the

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veterans initiative through the participation of a working group which included members from the Department of Health, Home Office, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Her Majesty's Treasury, Department for Work and Pensions and veterans' organisations. The aim was to produce a map of veterans' needs, with emphasis on the more vulnerable veterans, match this against current provision and identify priority research gaps. This involved a literature survey, detailed interviews with "at risk" personnel, and analysis and further interviews of an existing cohort of personnel for ex-service outcomes.

This study is a preliminary scoping study and will inform the direction of policy and research. It therefore represents an important contribution to the veterans initiative. The report conclusions confirm that "For many (indeed most) personnel military life is 'a great leveller'; it is a positive experience (especially for disadvantaged youths who enter service early), allowing them to enjoy a more favourable life trajectory", and that "Over three-quarters of service leavers do well and gain employment after leaving".

The report finds that there is little peer-reviewed published UK literature on outcomes of veterans, and that most published research concerns US service and ex-service personnel, from which it would be inaccurate to draw extrapolations. It also shows that mental health is an important issue—most personnel do not develop problems as a result of their service, but the small percentage that do can face a range of difficulties in civilian life, including access to appropriate treatment.

The Government welcome this report and would like to thank Professor Wessely and his team for their work. The report recommends a number of actions, as well as further research on ways to help the most vulnerable groups. We can confirm that we will look in detail at these recommendations and will evaluate them against existing policies and activities.

A copy of the full report will be placed in the Library of the House, and also on the websites of the MOD and Veterans Agency, at and

Night Military Low Flying

Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to modify the night military low flying systems.[HL4551]

Lord Bach: The existing night low flying system (NLFS) will remain unchanged in principle, but some adjustments are being made to its structure and management to improve the efficiency of the system and reflect an increasing requirement for helicopters to be able to train at night.

The NFLS is divided into two by a line from Swansea in the west to Colchester in the east. The southern area is allocated to rotary-wing aircraft and the northern area to fixed-wing aircraft, with small exceptions to account for locations where rotary-wing

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aircraft are based in the fixed-wing region and vice-versa. This basis remains unchanged, but the area available to rotary-wing aircraft will be increased and the system made more flexible by the introduction of sectors that may now be allocated to either fixed-wing or rotary-wing aircraft. In addition, we are introducing some management changes to make the procedures that units use to book in to the system more efficient.

The Government understand that military low flying training is disturbing, and can reassure the House that there is not expected to be a significant impact for those on the ground as a result of these changes. The existing basis of the NFLS will remain, and for most of the country there will be no change to the structure of the system. Where change is being introduced, the impact is generally expected to be limited to the possibility that those on the ground may witness different aircraft types than may currently be the case, and will be small in scale. We have considered the requirement for a sustainability review and recognise that some parts of the changes may lead to such a requirement, although, as stated, the overall impact is likely to be small. Where necessary we can confirm that more detailed work may be carried out. Detailed environmental impact and sustainability studies are being carried out in respect of AH 64, which is likely to be one of the major users of the revised NLFS.

Finally, night flying is essential if our aircrews are going to meet the demands that are placed upon them. These changes will assist with these demands.

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