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6 Dec 1994 : Column WA73

Written Answers

Tuesday 6th December 1994

COUNCIL TAX BANDING APPEALS

Baroness Jeger asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Viscount Ullswater): As at the end of October, 275,231 and 19,212 initial period council tax banding appeals were outstanding in England and Wales respectively. There were 19,686 initial period appeals outstanding in Scotland at the end of September, the latest date for which figures are available. Information on the number of appellants who have died while awaiting the outcome of appeals is not collected.

WINSKILL STONES AND ORTON SCAR: LIMESTONE

Lord Norrie asked Her Majesty's Government:

Viscount Ullswater: Should these two areas become European sites under the EC Habitats Directive, and if it is then decided to revoke existing consents, compensation will be payable by the decision making authority under existing statutory arrangements.

LANDLORD AND TENANT CODE

Lord Gallacher asked Her Majesty's Government:

Viscount Ullswater: The code is intended to address certain issues which relate to commercial property leases and which were raised in the Government's recent review. The code is being developed by the commercial property industry and it will be for them to determine its contents.

EQUAL PAY DIRECTIVE: JUDGMENT

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Inglewood: The Government have been giving careful consideration to the House of Lords judgment and expect to announce their conclusions shortly.

ORGANOPHOSPHATE SHEEP DIPS: RESEARCH PROJECT

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the research project, conducted by the Institute of Occupational Health at Birmingham University on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive, to ascertain whether chronic, low level exposure to organophosphate sheep dips causes ill-health is complete, and, if so, when the results will be published.

Lord Inglewood: The findings of the project are being analysed and the results will be submitted early next year to a scientific journal for publication.

OPERATION GRANBY: LEISHMANIASIS TESTS

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are aware of any British forces who served in Operation Granby who were bitten by sand flies whilst in the desert, and whether they have looked for, or found, leishmania infection among members of those forces who have complained of ill-health.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Henley): The possible threat to UK personnel from sand fly bites during Operation Granby was well recognised and effective protective measures were taken. Tests for leishmaniasis are routinely performed on all personnel whose service and personnel history, symptoms and signs are suggestive of the disease. No case of leishmania has been found in British armed forces personnel who served in the Gulf.

CBDE: STUDIES AND TESTS (DEFINITIONS)

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether studies and tests of chemical and biological defence equipment conducted at the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment, Porton Down, are defined as medical research, and if they are, whether the studies and tests are conducted according to Recommendation No. R(90)3 of the Committee of Ministers of Member States concerning medical research on human beings.

Lord Henley: Responsibility for the subject of this question is a matter for the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment. The chief executive of the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment has therefore responded to the question and his letter is given below.

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Letter to the Countess of Mar from the chief executive of the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment, Mr. Graham Pearson, dated 6th December 1994:


    1. Your Parliamentary Question to Her Majesty's Government of 22 November 1994 asking whether studies and tests of chemical and biological defence equipment conducted at the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment, Porton Down, are defined as medical research, and if they are, whether the studies and tests are conducted according to Recommendation No. R(90)3 of the Committee of Ministers of Member States concerning Medical Research on Human Beings has been passed to me to reply as Chief Executive of the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment.


    2. The role of the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment is to ensure that the UK armed forces have effective protective measures against the threat that chemical or biological weapons may be used against them. In order to carry out this work, it is necessary to use Service volunteers to:


    a. assess the ability of Service personnel to function with new equipment and procedures,


    b. develop medical countermeasures to protect service personnel and


    c. evaluate the effects of very low and medically safe concentrations of CW agents on the ability of unprotected personnel to operate normally.


    Studies and tests of chemical and biological defence equipment which do not involve volunteers are carried out as part of our research programme and are not defined as medical research.


    3. Studies and tests of chemical and biological defence equipment at CBDE which involve service volunteers are only carried out where there is a clear military need and a detailed protocol has been reviewed and approved by an independent ethics committee in accordance with the guidelines laid down by the Royal College of Physicians. These guidelines define medical research as "the primary intention is to advance knowledge so that patients in general may benefit; the individual patient may or may not benefit directly." In a defence context the beneficiaries are the members of the armed forces. Consequently, studies and tests of chemical and biological defence equipment involving volunteers conducted at CBDE are regarded as being covered by the definition of medical research in the guidelines laid down by the Royal College of Physicians.


    4.The principles contained in the Council of Europe Recommendation on Medical Research on Human Beings R(90)3 are encompassed within the Royal College of Physicians guidelines.

TERRITORIAL ARMY: ROLE

Lord Gainford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will complete their review of the Territorial Army units.

Lord Henley: We announced in July that the new role for the Territorial Army (TA) would be to act as a general reserve to the Army. It will remain an integral component of our defence forces on mobilisation, and it is intended to make a greater use of volunteers in peacetime. We have now completed our examination of the structure of the TA against this background. This process has involved wide consultation, particularly within the TA itself.

We have concluded that our operational requirement necessitates some adjustments to the current balance of arms and services within the TA. Accordingly, we intend to increase the number of sub-units in the Royal Armoured Corps from 17 to 22; in the Royal Logistic Corps from 69 to 86; in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers from 13 to 16; and in the Adjutant General's Corps from 10 to 11. We propose to reduce the number of rifle companies in the TA infantry

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from 109 to 87. We intend to maintain the current effective manpower strength of the Special Air Service TA, although there will be some restructuring to enable manpower to be used more flexibly and efficiently. Army Medical Services units will also be restructured to provide a more flexible capability. In all other arms and services the number of sub-units will be unaffected.

In the Infantry, we shall concentrate the support weapons platoons of the eight battalions currently so equipped into specialist, two company, fire support battalions. These fire support battalions will be available to support all infantry battalions and will, we believe, improve overall infantry training and operational effectiveness. The four battalions which will take on this role are the 5th Battalion, the Royal Green Jackets; the 3rd Battalion, the Prince of Wales' Own Regiment of Yorkshire; the 1/51st Highland Volunteers; and the 3rd Battalion, the Cheshire Regiment. The 1st and 2nd Battalions, the Wessex Regiment, will merge. The 8th Battalion, the Light Infantry, will re role as a National Defence Reconnaissance Regiment in the Royal Armoured Corps, taking over the current role of the Royal Yeomanry which will become the Army's Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Defence Regiment. The Royal Anglian TA will be reduced from three to two battalions, with elements re-roling to form a new independent transport regiment. All other new sub-units will be newly formed.

The majority of these changes will be implemented by April 1997 within an overall TA size of 59,000, as previously announced. In the months ahead we shall be considering the implications of these changes for the existing distribution of TA centres.

These plans offer the TA a structure consistent with its new role founded firmly on the operational requirement. They will, I believe, be widely welcomed in the TA.


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