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OPERATION GRANBY PERSONNEL: HEALTH

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Henley: No requests have been received on behalf of the civilian wives or pre-war children of British forces personnel who served in the Gulf for medical assessment under our medical assessment programme for those concerned about their health as a result of Operation Grabby. Nor have we received any reports of such unusual illnesses among categories of service dependents. One United Kingdom servicewoman who served in the Gulf, and is married to a Gulf veteran, has come forward claiming that a medical condition is due to her service there, but has yet to be assessed by my department's specialist.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Henley: The defence medical services have received reports of six cases which are alleged to fall into the categories mentioned, but no substantive evidence. These include one reported birth defect in a child born to the wife of a United Kingdom Gulf veteran, one miscarriage, three reports of children suffering from specified illnesses, and one reported loss of child. Five of these cases relate to potential claims which may be made against my department. We are also aware of media reports alleging an increased incidence of these health difficulties. We have no evidence to suggest that the incidence of miscarriage, genetic defects or infant morbidity among the spouses or children of United Kingdom Gulf veterans is any higher than that experienced in the general population, or that further research is required, although we shall continue to monitor developments.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are conducting any formal surveillance on any individuals who may have been exposed to depleted uranium from anti-tank shells during Operation Granby, and if so whether any distinction is being made between those who did and those who did not receive instructions on safety precautions to be followed when handling the shells or other contaminated articles.

Lord Henley: The health of all service personnel is monitored as a matter of routine and there is no evidence of members of the British armed forces who served in the Gulf suffering from any symptoms which would call for such surveillance. None of the individuals coming forward with concerns about their health as a result of service in the Gulf who have so far been examined have displayed symptoms consistent with exposure to depleted uranium.

OPERATION GRANBY: RADIATION EXPOSURE LEVELS

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any members of the British forces who served in Operation Granby were issued with radiation badges when they were required to handle shells or articles contaminated with depleted uranium, and whether the level of radiation to which they were exposed is known.

Lord Henley: No radiation dosemeters were issued to personnel who handled depleted uranium ammunition during Operation Granby, but the levels of radiation to which such personnel were exposed is known from trials carried out while the ammunition was being developed. These trials showed that personnel could handle depleted uranium shot for hundreds of hours per year and remain in tanks loaded with this ammunition for

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thousands of hours per year before any current statutory dose limits would be exceeded.

BOSNIA: US UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLES

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they still think, as stated in a letter from the Lord Henley, that the launching by the US of unmanned aerial vehicles from Croatia to "observe" events in Bosnia, is "a bilateral matter between the US and Croatian governments"; whether it is their view that these UAVs can pose no risk to NATO aircraft, including British aircraft, which are operating in the area under a UNSC resolution; and whether these aircraft are under the non-NATO command of the NATO Commander-in-Chief, Naples, and if not under whose command they are.

Lord Henley: The operation of US unmanned air vehicles from bases in Croatia is a bilateral matter between the governments concerned. The unmanned air vehicles are under US national command although their operations are carefully co-ordinated with NATO to ensure they pose no additional risk to aircraft safety.

CONFERENCE ON POPULATION AND DEVELOPMENT, CAIRO

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will place in the Library of the House the published proceedings of the International Conference on Population in Cairo.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): The final version of the Cairo Programme of Action is still not available. When it is received, we will arrange for a copy to be placed in the Libraries of Parliament.

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What discussions they had with representatives of the People's Republic of China at the International Conference on Population in Cairo, and on what subjects.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The United Kingdom delegation participated with Chinese and other delegations to the International Conference on Population and Development in discussions on reproductive rights and a range of other issues.

SCHOOL LIBRARY SERVICES

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have read the statement of the National Book Committee on School Library Services and what is their response.

Lord Lucas: I can assure the noble Lord that the Government has given attention to the National Book Committee's statement and welcomes the recent

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publication of the Department of National Heritage's report on school library services mentioned there. It is the Government's firm view that decisions about the appropriate level of expenditure on school library services, and on the purchase of books in general, are best taken at local level and not by central government. A school's governing body and its headteacher are in the best position to decide how to allocate a school's resources, taking into account their statutory responsibilities, their own priorities and the needs of their pupils.

ASYLUM APPLICATIONS

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many of the 40,000 applications for asylum which were said to be outstanding when the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act 1993 came into force had been resolved by the latest convenient date.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): In the period 1st August 1993 to 31st October 1994, 22,050 decisions were taken on applications for asylum. Of these 4,775 decisions were made on applications which were outstanding at the time of the implementation of the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act 1993 on 26th July 1993. In the same period, a further 2,495 of these outstanding applications were withdrawn.

LLOYD'S OF LONDON DTI SUPERVISION

Earl Alexander of Tunis asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What role the Department of Trade and Industry plays in supervising the regulatory standards of Lloyd's of London.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie): The principal role of Secretary of State in regulating the activities of Lloyd's of London is defined in the Insurance Companies Act 1982, (particularly sections 83 to 86 of the Act), and in the Regulations made under the Act (particularly the Insurance (Lloyd's) Regulations 1983). In addition the Department of Trade and Industry has a responsibility for the implementation by Lloyd's of relevant European Community directives.

UK-IRELAND: MILK QUOTA

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are aware of either the cross-border sale of Republic of Ireland milk quota into the United Kingdom or the sale of United Kingdom milk produced in excess of quota into the Irish Republic to avoid superlevy liabilities.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Baroness Denton of Wakefield): Sale of milk quota from one member state to another is not permitted under EC law. The Government are aware of allegations that milk produced

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in excess of the United Kingdom milk quota is being sold into the Republic of Ireland to avoid supplementary levy liability. There is presently no evidence to confirm existence of such a trade. Any report or evidence that this is happening will be investigated.

N.I. TRIALS: DELAY REDUCTIONS

Lord Lyell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What further progress has been made to reduce delays in coming to trial in Northern Ireland.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield: The arrangements we have put in place in recent years to reduce delays are yielding clear benefits, although we must and will continue to seek further ways of attacking the problem.

My right honourable and learned friend the Secretary of State set out on 23rd November last year in reply to a question from the honourable Member for Belfast South (Official Report, column 19-20) the results of the first year's operation of the scheme introduced in 1992 to reduce the time defendants spent in custody awaiting trial on indictment for scheduled cases. He also announced a reduction to 11 months in the overall target set by the scheme for cases to move from first remand to arraignment, the formal start of the trial, and its extension to non-scheduled cases tried on indictment.

I can now report on the scheme's first two years of operation, up to 30th June 1994. Overall, 86 per cent. of defendants in custody awaiting trial in scheduled cases who had reached arraignment had met the overall reduced target of 11 months; and 95 per cent. of such defendants in non-scheduled cases did so. Figures for the average time taken to process scheduled cases show a substantial improvement since the introduction of the scheme. In 1991, the last full year before its introduction, average aggregated time from first remand to arraignment for defendants remanded in custody on scheduled charges was 44 weeks; in the two years ending 30th June 1994, the average for such cases in the scheme was 35 weeks, an improvement of 20 per cent. It is too early yet to present reliable comparative figures for non-scheduled cases.

I believe these results are much to the credit of the agencies who have operated the scheme, and we have decided to extend its life until at least the end of June next year.

The results do, however, also reflect the fact that there are a significant number of cases in Northern Ireland of a particularly complex nature, whose preparation is necessarily prolonged. Nevertheless I believe it is important to explore all further means by which delay may be averted. The Northern Ireland Office, in partnership with others more directly involved in the criminal justice process in Northern Ireland, is therefore investigating ways in which procedures may be further streamlined.

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INCAPACITY BENEFIT: MEDICAL TEST

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in light of the delays in issuing copies of The Medical Assessment for Incapacity Benefit they will consider extending the consultation period beyond the allotted month.

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The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): Pursuant to my reply of 28th November 1994, Official Report, column WA28, I regret that the information given on the date on which regulations setting out details of the medical test were laid before Parliament was inaccurate. Regulations were laid before Parliament on Thursday 24th November 1994, not Monday 28th November, as previously stated.



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