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Written Answers

Thursday, 20th November 2003

Immigration Detainees: Visits

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will list the permissions granted to officials from Ministries of the Interior of foreign countries, and the number of detainees seen on each visit.[HL5222]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): There has been one occasion where officials from a Ministry of the Interior have requested and been granted permission to visit immigration detainees in the UK. This involved a visit by an official from the Ministry of the Interior from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), during which six immigration detainees were seen.

Documentation interviews are occasionally carried out by various consular officials from Embassies and High Commissions in the UK to establish the nationality and identity of immigration detainees. It is not possible to provide data relating to these as it could only be obtained at disproportionate cost.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 4 November (WA 99), whether they will take steps to ensure that detainees held in prisons and removal centres under the Immigration Acts have the same rights to social visits wherever they are held.[HL5381]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Immigration detainees held in Immigration Service removal centres and those held in prisons solely under immigration powers both have rights to social visits.

The extent and timing of visiting hours at each Immigration Service removal centre do not need to be identical given that individual centres have different operational priorities and may accommodate different categories of detainees. However, it is reasonable for detainees and their families to be able to expect a minimum standard of visiting arrangements and we are working towards this position.

Individual immigration detainees held in prisons for reasons of control and security have visits in accordance with procedures for which the Prison Service is responsible and no differently from other unconvicted prisoners with whom they are categorised and held. Arrangements for social visits to unconvicted prisoners, including immigration detainees, are set out in the Prison Service operating standard on prisoners' family life. It would be impracticable and undesirable to provide special visiting arrangements for a specific group of unconvicted prisoners, especially where the individuals concerned are unlikely to be held together.

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As such, immigration detainees held in prisons will continue to receive social visits in line with the existing Prison Service operating standard.

Gulf War 1990–91: Vaccines

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Bach on 9 October (WA 67), how the multiple vaccination process was changed since 1990–91; and for what reasons.[HL5110]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): The Armed Forces vaccination policy follows national guidelines as set out in Immunisation against Infectious Disease 1996 ("The Green Book") published by the Department of Health, and is laid down in JSP 311—Joint Service Manual of Immunological Procedures.

It is Ministry of Defence policy to offer public health vaccinations to service personnel routinely, with boosters at appropriate intervals thereafter. Therefore it should not be necessary to administer several vaccinations or boosters together immediately before a deployment. In an emergency, or if personnel are required to deploy at short notice, then boosters or additional vaccinations may be unavoidable if personnel are not up to date. This is the same as for anyone travelling overseas at short notice. In such circumstances, full account would be taken of any other treatment or medication that an individual might be receiving at the time, balanced against the risk of contracting potentially serious diseases during deployment. The MoD has specific guidance in place to prevent certain vaccines being administered together.

Immunisation programmes for service personnel are kept under review to ensure they develop in line with Department of Health practices, military-specific risk and threat assessments, medical advice and recommendations from internationally recognised health organisations, such as the World Health Organisation. Where military-specific risk assessments indicate a policy variation from the "Green Book" or the World Health Organisation guidance, changes would only be made following consultation with experts in communicable disease and public health medicine. Policy changes may also be driven by the availability of suitable pharmaceuticals. Changes to vaccination policy are issued to medical officers via Surgeon General policy letters, which are sent out down the single service chains of command.

The differences between the immunisations given to service personnel in 1990–91 and the immunisations given today are summarised in an Answer given in another place on 10 June 2003, (Official Report, col. 764W).

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Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Bach on 28 October (WA 25), whether they will provide a substantive answer to the question asked by the Lord Morris of Manchester (HL5094) instead of a reference to a Ministry of Defence paper, thereby providing information for those affected by the issue who do not have access to the House of Lords Library or to the Internet.[HL5502]

Lord Bach: The MoD paper published in January 2000 referred to in my answer of 28 October (WA 25) is available in hard copy form from the MoD's Gulf Veterans' Illnesses Unit who can be contacted as follows: by telephone on Freephone 0800 169 4495; by fax on 020 7305 2374; by e-mail at and by writing to: GVIU, 7th Floor Zone A, 2–12 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2SH.

Iraq: Prisoners Held by Allied Forces

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many prisoners are now held by allied forces following military combat in Iraq; how many have been brought before a tribunal to determine their status under Article 5 of the Geneva Convention; and in how many cases it is intended to bring charges of war crimes, terrorism or other crimes; and[HL5425]

    Following the war in Iraq, how many prisoners are now held by allied forces; whether each prisoner will be brought before a "competent tribunal" to determine his status, as required by Article 5 of the Geneva Convention; how many prisoners have already been released; and how many criminal justice prisoners are held.[HL5468]

Lord Bach: The information requested will take some time to compile, and I will write to the noble Lord as soon as I am able and a copy of my letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

War Memorials

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their policy towards the financing of major public monuments to the memory of those who participated in battles of historic importance to the United Kingdom.[HL5429]

Lord Bach: It has been a long-standing policy of successive governments that the cost of erecting memorials and associated projects are not usually met from public funds, but from private donations or public subscription. The Ministry of Defence does not have responsibility for either the funding or maintenance of war memorials. The MoD receives many requests from individuals, ex-servicemen's groups and charitable organisations seeking assistance with various projects. It would not be possible to be

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seen to support one project rather than another. The vast majority have worthy goals and can make an equally compelling case for support. It would be divisive and open to criticism from unsuccessful applicants, if the Government were to pick and choose which projects to support.

BAE Systems and Al Yamamah Arms Contracts

Baroness Ludford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to investigate allegations of fraud and bribery of officials with regard to BAE Systems and the Al Yamamah arms contracts; and whether the Defence Exports Services Organisation will be included in the scope of any such investigation.[HL5524]

Lord Bach: I will write to the noble Baroness and a copy of my letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

Armed Forces Pension Scheme

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the current cost to individual members of the Armed Forces pension scheme of the benefits it confers; and when and by how much the cost to them has changed since the scheme was introduced; and[HL5317]

    What will be the cost to individual members of the Armed Forces pension scheme of the planned improvements to the scheme due to take effect in 2005.[HL5318]

Lord Bach: There has been no direct cost to individual members of the Armed Forces Pension Scheme for the benefits that the scheme confers since the current scheme was introduced in 1973. The scheme is non-contributory for members, with the cost of benefits being met by the Ministry of Defence.

While members make no direct contribution, the Armed Forces Pay Review Body (AFPRB) compares the overall remuneration of the Armed Forces with that offered by comparator civilian employers. The AFPRB currently makes a 7 per cent abatement of the pay of civilian comparators to take account of the extent to which AFPS benefits are better than those of civilian comparators. This abatement has varied over time depending on the outcome of the AFPRB's comparisons. The abatement does not equate to the cost of providing pension scheme benefits.

As with members of the current AFPS, members of the new AFPS will not make a direct financial contribution. The next valuation of the AFPS by the AFPRB is scheduled for the 2006 report. It would not be appropriate to forecast what the AFPRB may decide on the comparative value of the scheme. As an independent review body, they will reach their own decision on this matter.

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