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Parachute Training

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many training jumps from (a) balloons and (b) aircraft recruits to the Parachute Regiment are required to make as part of their training; [52592]

Mr. Ingram: Recruits to the parachute regiment are required to complete a minimum of eight jumps from aircraft in order to qualify as a military parachutist. The use of balloons ceased in 1995. Basic parachute training is carried out from RAF Brize Norton and the aircraft used are a Skyvan, for an initial familiarisation jump, and a C130 Hercules, for the remaining qualifying jumps. During the last financial year, four basic parachute courses were cancelled due to Hercules aircraft unavailability, caused by operational commitments. Although this has had no effect on the ability of the regiment to carry out its assigned duties we are currently looking at how greater use of the Skyvan could reduce the Hercules requirement to support the basic parachute course to the essential minimum number of jumps that must be done from the operational platform.

Porton Down

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the (a) titles and (b) classmarks are of documents placed in the Public Record Office by his Department since 1972 regarding an official inquiry in 1970 into allegations that the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment Porton Down had experimented on old people for germ warfare purposes; and if he will make a statement. [53349]

Dr. Moonie: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 23 April 2001 Official Report, column 96W. These documents are still in the process of being transferred to the Public Record Office.

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on what dates between 1 January 1997 and 1 January 1999 the Independent Ethics Committee overseeing human experiments at the Chemical Defence Establishment, Porton Down discussed the question of the possible long-term effects of nerve gas on humans during its meetings. [53385]

Dr. Moonie: The Independent Ethics Committee overseeing the conduct of the Service Volunteer Programme at Defence Science and Technology Laboratory Porton Down has not discussed the possible long-term effects of exposure to nerve agents during any of its meetings between 1 January 1997 and 1 January 1999.

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will place in the Library a copy of the report produced by the Chemical Defence Establishment, Porton Down in 1987 entitled 'A Quantitative Investigation into the Effects of Pupil Diameter and Defocus on Contrast Sensitivity for an Extended Range of Spatial Frequencies in Natural and Homatropinized Eyes'. [53364]

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Dr. Moonie: No report with that title has been produced by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory Porton Down or its predecessors. I believe the hon. Member is referring to a report published in the journal Ophthalmic Physiology Optics by a research group from the university of Glasgow (Ophthal. Physiol. Opt. Volume 7, numbers 1, 21–30, 1987).

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will place in the Library a copy of the report produced by the Chemical Defence Establishment, Porton Down in 1985 entitled 'Evaluation of Pyrodostigmine Bromide as a Pretreatment for Nerve Agent Poisoning in Man'. [53363]

Dr. Moonie: Yes.

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will place in the Library a copy of the protocol drawn up by the Chemical Defence Establishment for the experiment which was recorded in 1973 in the report entitled "A Comparative Study of Central Visual Field Changes Induced by GB Vapour and Physostigmine Salicylate Eyedrops". [53345]

Dr. Moonie: In the early 1970s formal protocols did not exist in the form which is recognised today. The details of the proposals would be recorded within the minutes of the committees overseeing the research undertaken within the Service Volunteer programme.

I am withholding these minutes in accordance with Exemption 2b of the Code of Practice to Access to Government Information, relating to internal advice and discussion.

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 20 March 2002, Official Report, column 316W, regarding Porton Down, if he will place in the Library a copy of the protocol drawn up by the Chemical Defence Establishment for the experiment which was recorded in 1973 in the report entitled "The Effects of a Chemical Agent on the Eyes of Aircrew"; on what dates the Ethics Committee overseeing the human experiments at the Chemical Defence Establishment, Porton Down scrutinised this experiment; and if he will place in the Library copies of the papers of the Committee which relate to the discussion of this experiment. [53412]

Dr. Moonie: In the early 1970s formal protocols did not exist in the form which is recognised today. The details of the proposals would be recorded within the minutes of the committees overseeing the research undertaken within the Service Volunteer programme.

The research study referred to is detailed in the minutes of the 78th meeting on 31 January 1972 of the Committee on Safety of Human Experiments. I am withholding these minutes in accordance with Exemption 2b of the Code of Practice to Access to Government Information, relating to internal advice and discussion.

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on what dates since 1 January 1999 the Independent Ethics Committee overseeing human experiments at the Chemical Defence Establishment, Porton Down has discussed the question of the possible long-term effects of (a) mustard gas and (b) pepper gas on humans during its meetings. [53384]

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Dr. Moonie: The Independent Ethics Committee overseeing the conduct of the Service Volunteer Programme at Defence Science and Technology Laboratory Porton Down has not discussed the possible long-term effects of exposure to either mustard gas or pepper gas during any of its meetings between 1 January 1997 and 1 January 1999.

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will place in the Library copies of the documents held by his Department relating to a meeting on 5 February of representatives from his Department and the Medical Research Council Liaison Group regarding the epidemiological study into the health of service personnel who took part in experiments at the Chemical Defence Establishment, Porton Down. [53348]

Dr. Moonie: Requests for the release of papers relating to the meetings of the Medical Research Council (MRC) Liaison Group should be addressed to the MRC. The Ministry of Defence has not produced any documents relating to this meeting and holds no papers, except the invitation and meeting agenda.

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 17 December 2001, Official Report, column 72W, regarding Porton Down, which agencies conducted the searches of his Department's archives; what the locations were of the archives which were searched; and if he will make a statement. [53414]

Dr. Moonie: Searches of the Department's archives at the Public Record Office, the Imperial War Museum, the Ministry of Defence main archive at Hayes, and documents held by MOD in London and at Porton Down, have been conducted by staff at MOD and Defence Science and Technology Laboratory Porton Down.

In addition, two signals have been sent requesting service units to search their own archives for relevant documents. The first, in February 2001, was sent to all service units world wide. The second, in April 2002, was sent to all RAF units in the United Kingdom. Both signals were sent in collaboration with the Wiltshire police as part of Operation Antler, their investigation of the Porton Down Service Volunteer programme.

The Wiltshire police have also conducted independent searches of the Department's archives.

Primary Casualty Receiving Ship

Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on progress with the introduction of the primary casualty receiving ship. [53515]

Dr. Moonie: Work is progressing to plan. The Ministry of Defence is considering options for meeting the requirement as part of initial assessment work. The primary casualty receiving ship capability remains on target to enter service later this decade.

Nuclear Weapons

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 23 April 2002, Official Report, column 194W, on nuclear weapons, upon what evidence he relies for his statement on the wide agreement regarding the transparency of the UK with regard to its holdings of nuclear weapons. [53467]

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Mr. Ingram [holding answer 30 April 2002]: Moves in the Strategic Defence Review to increase transparency on nuclear weapons issues were widely welcomed. For an instance of support for the example set by the UK in this area, I refer the hon. Member to remarks quoted by the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs in their Eighth Report of Session 1999–2000 (HC 407) at paragraph 122. Commendation of the UK's transparency was also offered by some of those giving written evidence to that inquiry.


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