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Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, on the first point, the noble Countess will be aware that much research is going on. She is quite right; there is a lot more that we need to learn about organophosphates and poisoning generally. As to the second point, only 2 per cent. of all referrals are ECRs and there are few reasons why they should be refused. If patients feel they are not receiving the service they need, they always have the option of asking for a second opinion.
On the third point, I have just received a paper from the noble Countess which outlines regional proposals for an assessment and investigation unit. I received it about 20 minutes ago. It is an interesting proposal that I would wish to pursue with officials.
Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, will the Minister examine an individual case with which I have been dealing from the Harrogate health district? It is of a farmer who is suffering from organophosphate poisoning and the health authority has refused to pay to send him to a specialised unit. He was accepted by both Glasgow and Guy's hospital in London, but the authority refused to pay because his case was considered to come under the heading of research. It said that it could not be sure that there would be any clinical help.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the noble Countess has rightly drawn attention to a new and serious health problem? If dogma about extra-contractual referrals and the operation of the internal market prevent the Government giving central funds to help to promote proper care, will they consider funding research from central NHS funds under the NHS R&D programme?
Baroness Robson of Kiddington: My Lords, I accept the Minister's reply about extra-contractual referrals. However, is it not above all important that the average general practitioner be given greater information and education in order to recognise the symptoms before he can even begin to refer the case?
Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, toxicology is covered in the initial training of doctors. There are also postgraduate courses available of which doctors can avail themselves. Indeed, the department produced a book, Pesticide Poisoning, which was published and circulated. On two occasions the Chief Medical Officer has written to all doctors in England explaining the problem. On the last occasion, the letter was also signed by the chief executive of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate. So we are trying to give the issue maximum exposure. However, it is important that research is carried out. That is exactly what the Government are doing.
The Countess of Mar: My Lords, does the noble Baroness appreciate that the papers and letters to which she referred all deal with acute poisoning by toxic chemicals? There is nothing about the effects of chronic poisoning. Secondly, I have received a number of complaints about the failure of ECRs. If I give the noble Baroness a list of the problems, will she kindly investigate them for me?
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): My Lords, we raise this issue at the United Nations at every opportunity and were instrumental in obtaining a progress report from the ICRC to the Security Council which was submitted on 9th June.
Lord Molloy: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that reply. However, is she aware that during the recent Recess I had occasion to go to Kuwait? I was invited by the Speaker, to whom I spoke, and he expressed his deep appreciation of the British Government's endeavours at the United Nations, particularly those of the noble Baroness. He appreciated the sincere manner in which she answered the questions
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for the thanks which he has passed on from the Government of Kuwait. We intend to continue our work. We were instrumental in obtaining a progress report from the ICRC. We maintain constant touch with the Kuwaitis and other coalition countries. We made it quite clear to the Iraqis that we expect to see substantive results soon. It is vitally important for relatives of the missing that Iraq should comply so that an end can be put to the period of uncertainty as soon as possible.
However, let us not leave the issue without condemning Iraq for rejecting, for the third time, a scheme which would allow humanitarian goods in, such as food and medicines, in return for the export of some oil. Every time we try to help, the Iraqis refuse to help the Iraqi people.
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I can tell my noble friend that there were 609 inquiry files. So far, we know that the technical sub-committee has discussed 168 of those. I believe that there may be a further 18 people from countries including Saudi Arabia and the Philippines who are also detained, but we do not know where or under what conditions because the ICRC has not been given access to all of them.
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I regret to say that the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, is undoubtedly right. We have no idea of the numbers, nor where those people are held. However, every time the ICRC goes in, for one reason or another, it will obviously try to find out about all people who may be illegally detained by Iraq.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, is the Minister aware that a powerful lobby is organised, I suppose by Iraq, to try to persuade people in this country that the resolutions of the United Nations are to be rejected? That includes the latest and most generous arrangements to allow Iraq to sell oil so as to acquire humanitarian goods. It is suggested that the West is responsible for the deaths of babies and other kinds of humanitarian disasters within Iraq. Will the Minister place in the Library whatever documents she has which show the reasonableness of the offers that have been made by the Security Council and the benefits that would accrue to children, nursing mothers and other victims of the blockade if the Iraqis were prepared to accept the generous offer?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for picking up the point. He is absolutely right that some Iraqis are setting out to deny the benefits of United Nations Resolution 986. It would allow Iraq to export oil in return for other humanitarian goods. Again, I underline that medicines and food can go into Iraq; they are not caught by the embargo. It is the additional help which the West wishes to give for the sake of the Iraqi people that is caught. I am not sure that an exact document exists, but one can certainly be drafted so that it could be placed in the Library, and I shall do that.
Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that the arranging of meetings, postponing them and then claiming that they were never arranged, is part of a policy of procrastination by the Iraqi Government in the hope that the rest of the world will grow weary and lose interest? Will she give an undertaking that that policy will not work and that the questions will continue until either the prisoners have been released or there has been an honest account of what has become of them?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I hope that the world will never grow weary of fighting the cause of human rights for people placed in such intolerable positions by Saddam and other Iraqis. It is for that reason that we are so determined to spread democracy across the world so that other parliaments, like our own, can raise these issues at every possible point, keep the issues alive and make sure that Iraq knows that it will receive no mercy until it shows mercy to those it detained illegally.
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