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Army Cadets (Safety)

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what reports he has received of the Coroner's inquest into the death of army cadet Claire Louise Shore; and what arrangements he will make for his Department to respond to the findings of the inquest. [86354]

Mr. Doug Henderson: The Coroner's inquest into the tragic death of Cadet Claire Louise Shore took place at the Coroner's Court Basingstoke, between the 17 and 20 May 1999. The inquest jury returned a verdict of "accidental death" and no specific recommendations were made by the Coroner. A Board of Inquiry (BOI) will however, now be held by my Department, to investigate the circumstances surrounding the accident and to make, where appropriate, any necessary recommendations to ensure that a similar incident does not reoccur. A copy of the BOI report would be made available to the family if they wish.

Paternity Leave

Mr. Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what paternity provision is available for members of the armed forces (a) as a general right and (b) when there is medical advice that the health of the mother and baby, pre or post natal, requires the presence of the father. [86735]

Mr. Spellar: There is currently no national legal requirement to provide paternity leave and my Department has no policy to provide special leave for Service fathers. However, as a good employer, the Services seek, whenever possible, to grant a serviceman annual leave (or compassionate leave if appropriate) before or after childbirth. Operational commitments may, on occasions, make it impossible for every serviceman to be released from his duties.

Harpoon Missiles

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to upgrade the Harpoon missiles fitted to HM ships to give them Block II land attack capability. [87001]

Mr. Spellar: There are currently no plans to upgrade the existing Harpoon missiles fitted to HM Ships to Block II land attack capability.

Block II Missiles

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to fit Block II land attack missiles to HM ships. [87002]

Mr. Spellar: There are currently no plans to fit HM ships with Block II Harpoon land attack missiles.

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Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what advice will be given to returning Kosovan refugees and what precautions will be taken to protect them from contamination from depleted uranium in the region consequent on its use in ordnance and missiles; [86743]

Mr. George Robertson [holding answer 14 June 1999]: The UNHCR is the lead agency responsible for the return of the refugees to their homeland. It will be for them to provide such advice as they judge to be necessary on the hazards which returning refugees may face.

Although we believe that the health risks to our personnel from the use of depleted uranium ammunition in the Gulf War were very small we are making available to the UNHCR the March 1999 paper produced by the MOD's Gulf Veterans' Illnesses Unit in respect of testing for the presence of depleted uranium in UK veterans of that conflict. This contains detailed material which we believe may be of use to the UNHCR.

As far as Service personnel are concerned, appropriate guidance is given to them on dealing with any potential hazards from depleted uranium which they might encounter in Kosovo. As a precaution, this guidance includes advice to wear respiratory protection and gloves when contact with vehicles damaged by depleted uranium ammunition is unavoidable. UK forces in theatre have been issued with the appropriate range of NBC clothing and equipment.

"Costing the Earth"

Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if his Department has obtained a tape of the entire BBC Radio 4 programme, "Costing the Earth", broadcast on 7 June to which the Minister of State for the armed forces contributed. [86742]

Mr. Doug Henderson [holding answer 14 June 1999]: We do on occasion tape programmes, particularly those to which we make a contribution. We did not on this occasion as there are various ways of obtaining a tape should it be required.

Depleted Uranium

Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what epidemiologically valid trials have been conducted on service people who were exposed to depleted uranium debris in the Gulf War. [86951]

Mr. Doug Henderson [holding answer 15 June 1999]: The Ministry of Defence's portfolio of research programmes into Gulf veterans' illnesses matters currently comprises two major epidemiological studies looking at the health of UK Gulf veterans, a neuromuscular symptoms study, an independent review of research literature, and a programme to investigate possible interactions between the medical countermeasures which were used during the 1990-91 Gulf conflict. The Ministry of Defence is also supporting

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a further epidemiological study of UK Gulf veterans which is being funded by the United States Government. However, none of these programmes, epidemiological or otherwise, is specifically aimed at investigating the health effects of depleted uranium.

Nevertheless, all three teams conducting epidemiological research are well aware that depleted uranium is one of many possible exposures in the Gulf which have been put forward as a potential cause of Gulf-related illnesses, and they have and will continue to, take this into account in their studies. Possible exposure to depleted uranium at the time of the Gulf conflict was included in the questionnaires which the teams have sent, or are sending, to random samples of Gulf veterans and control groups.

One of the epidemiological studies--that being conducted by a team from King's College, London--published their initial results in the Lancet in January. Of the 30 different exposures reported by those veterans who completed the survey, depleted uranium was the fourth least frequently reported.

The need for further research work is kept under regular review by the Ministry of Defence and the Medical Research Council (MRC) which advises the Government on its overall strategy for Gulf health issues. So far, however, the MRC has not recommended that the Ministry of Defence commission any specific depleted uranium related research.

Gulf veterans who are concerned that their health has been adversely affected by service during the Gulf conflict, including by possible exposure to DU, are entitled to seek a referral to the Gulf veterans' Medical Assessment Programme (MAP) for a full medical assessment. During this assessment, veterans receive a standard set of tests and are asked by the examining MAP physician to provide detailed information about possible factors, including depleted uranium, to which they may have been exposed during the Gulf conflict. Any further tests which are considered clinically appropriate by the examining MAP physician, including those to detect the presence of depleted uranium, are also arranged.

Army Training and Recruiting Agency

Mr. Dennis Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the key targets are for 1999-2000 for the Chief Executive of the Army Training and Recruiting Agency. [87565]

Mr. Doug Henderson: The Chief Executive of the Army Training and Recruiting Agency has been set the following Key Targets for 1999-2000:

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Gulf Veterans

Mr. Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what factors underlie recent trends in the number of referrals to the Gulf veterans' Medical Assessment Programme. [86224]

Mr. Doug Henderson: The Gulf veterans' Medical Assessment Programme (MAP) was set up by the Ministry of Defence in 1993 to provide as full a diagnosis as possible to Gulf veterans who are concerned about their health, or provide reassurance if no illness is found. It will continue for as long as it is needed.

So far during 1999, a weekly average of five new patients have been referred to the MAP. The comparable figure for 1997 is about 19 and for 1998 is 12.

The Ministry of Defence has made no assessment of the factors underlying this trend but has taken a number of steps over the last two years to highlight the MAP's existence and its purpose. Most recently, for example, the Department of Health's Chief Medical Officer's May Update highlighted the existence of an information pack to provide GPs and other health professionals with information they may find useful in dealing with Gulf veterans' health concerns. This pack includes a section on the MAP.

As of 15 June, my Department had sent 176 copies of the information pack in response to requests from doctors. The pack is also available on the Ministry of Defence's Gulf veterans' illnesses webpage ( and was highlighted in the memorandum "Current Activity relating to Gulf Veterans' Illnesses" which I published in April. Copies have also been sent to various Parliamentarians and placed in the Library of the House.

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