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Written Answers to Questions

Wednesday 20 March 2002


Service Personnel Memorial

Dr. Vis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made with the memorial to service personnel killed since the second world war; and if he will make a statement. [44480]

Mr. Hoon: A project team was appointed early last year to look at potential sites for the memorial and to consider the qualifying criteria for those to be commemorated. Extensive research was carried out on suitable sites both in and outside London. There has been wide consultation with the services and ex-service organisations on both the siting and eligibility criteria. There is general support for the proposals.

I am delighted to be able to confirm that the Armed Forces Memorial will be sited at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. The names of those commemorated will either be engraved on the memorial or in Rolls of Honour that will be kept close by in the Millennium Chapel at the Arboretum. The design of the memorial will be decided following an architectural competition that will be held later this year.

The qualifying criteria for inclusion on the memorial are:

An additional part of the project will be to erect a memorial plaque in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey to those members of the armed forces killed in conflict since the end of the second world war. Finally, there will be Rolls of Honour recording the names of all members of the Royal Navy and the Army who have died in service during this period. These will be kept in suitable churches in London and will be similar to those for the Royal Air Force that are kept in the Church of St. Clement Danes.

Trustees of the Armed Forces Memorial trust will now be appointed to take this project forward. They will take on the ownership of the memorial and will be responsible for its funding and construction. Funds will be raised by public subscription.

This is a very important national project that will also provide a platform to help educate our younger generations about the value of our armed forces.

Strategic Defence Review

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) TA AMS field hospitals, (b) TA AMS medical squadrons and (c) TA AMS specialist units were required under the terms of the Strategic Defence Review;

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what plans he has to alter these requirements; what plans he has to ensure each category if fully recruited; and if he will make a statement. [38321]

Dr. Moonie [holding answer 27 February 2002]: There are no plans to alter the number of TA AMS field hospitals, TA AMS medical squadrons and TA AMS specialist units, which are currently as follows:

The TA AMS will continue to benefit from a national, targeted, recruitment campaign. Since the campaign was launched in 1999, we have seen the strength of health care professionals in the TA rising by a steady 5 per cent. per annum.

Depleted Uranium

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the monitoring systems he has put in place to check the levels of depleted uranium entering the ground water and food chain from the use of munitions containing depleted uranium at Eskmeals and Kirkcudbright training areas. [43415]

Dr. Moonie: Comprehensive environmental monitoring programmes have been in place at both Eskmeals and Kirkcudbright ever since the beginning of the DU munitions trials announced in the House in 1979. These programmes have focused on the collection and analysis of samples of soil, vegetation, freshwater, seawater, seaweed, molluscs and seabed and shoreline sediments. Faecal samples from domestic and wild animals have also been collected on an opportunity basis. This monitoring continues to show that DU does not pose a significant risk to members of the public or site personnel.

Other Government Departments with statutory health and safety and environmental protection responsibilities were consulted while these programmes were being established, and their successors, principally the Environment Agency and Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, continue to be advised of the nature and results of the monitoring activities. The local councils also

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receive copies of the annual environmental monitoring reports for both sites. The Ministry of Defence also made a commitment on 13 May 1998, Official Report, columns 128–29W, to continue these monitoring activities for as long as the regulatory authorities consider necessary.

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what clean up operations he has put in place on the Crown Estate relating to the use of munitions containing depleted uranium. [43422]

Dr. Moonie: As Eskmeals, depleted uranium (DU) rounds have been fired against hard targets and the resulting DU fragments and contaminated debris have been collected after each firing. The material has then been sent for disposal at the low-level radioactive waste repository at Drigg. Air filters from the target area have also been disposed of via this route. Some higher activity material, such as DU plate, which is not suitable for disposal at Drigg, remains in storage pending a national decision on future radioactive waste disposal strategies. Some steel targets contaminated with very low levels of DU are still stored at the site and options for the disposal of this material are currently being discussed with the Environment Agency.

At Kirkudbright, the trials require the DU rounds to be fired through very soft targets (such as hessian sheets) and to travel out to sea. In this case, remediation is required only if an experimental round malfunctions and contaminates the range area. When such impact points have been located, samples of soil and vegetation have been collected to assess the degree of contamination: clean-up is then carried out if pre-set action levels have been exceeded. Specially marked drums have been kept at each firing point for storing contaminated material and the Radiation Protection Adviser has provided disposal advice on a case-by-case basis.

At West Freugh, a small number of DU projectiles, weighing less than 25kg in total, were fired into the sea 2km below the low-water mark. There are no records of any DU projectiles accidentally striking the land in the region. The small number of DU rounds in the sea were not considered to pose a hazard which would warrant a clean-up operation.

Foulness had an indoor facility, in which small experimental DU projectiles were fired between 1982 and 1983. The building was designed to prevent any escape of particulate DU into the atmosphere. It is no longer in use and was decontaminated in 1997.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the conclusions of the Royal Society report on the health effects of depleted uranium munitions; and if he will make a statement. [44038]

Dr. Moonie: We welcome the publication of part II of the Royal Society report which is a valuable addition to the scientific knowledge on the risks from depleted uranium (DU) munitions.

Overall, the report's conclusions are very much in line with the Ministry of Defence's assessment that the risks DU poses to the health of UK Gulf veterans, peacekeepers in the Balkans and UK forces/civilians in current and future conflicts, are very low, in all but extreme cases. This is what we have always believed, and bears out the

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findings of research carried out by organisations such as the United Nations and World Health Organisation as well as ourselves.

The extreme circumstances mentioned in the report could affect individuals such as the crew of a vehicle that had been hit by a DU round or personnel who had worked for long periods, unprotected, in a vehicle which had been hit. I am pleased to say that no UK service personnel have been exposed in this way.

Nevertheless, there are a number of areas where we believe that further research is desirable to enhance the database on which to make judgments weighing the potential loss of life arising from not using DU munitions in battle against any potential longer term impact on human health and the environment resulting from its use.

On 14 March 2002, I released details of the MOD research programme which contains elements that address this subject. The full details of our proposals have been placed in the Library of the House. They have also been published on the MOD website.

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