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12 Feb 1998 : Column WA215

Written Answers

Thursday, 12th February 1998.


Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking, as holders of the Presidency of the European Union or otherwise, to secure for the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo the rights set out in Part IV of the Copenhagen Declaration of June 1990 (Cm 1324) and to prevent violence by the Serbian police and military against the population of Kosovo.[HL331]

Lord Whitty: Her Majesty's Government (both bilaterally and as EU Presidency) have consistently reminded the Government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia that making concrete progress to resolve the serious political and human rights issues in Kosovo is essential if Belgrade is to improve its relations with the international community. We have condemned all acts of violence on both sides. Most recently, my honourable friend the Minister of State, Mr. Lloyd, raised this issue with the new FRY Foreign Minister on 2 February during a visit to the region.

State Pension Statistics and Mortality Rates

Lord Monkswell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What have been, at five year intervals from 1945, the value of the full state old-age pension expressed as a percentage of national average earnings; and what has been at the same time the state retirement age and average life expectancy.[HL315]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): The information is not available in the format requested. Such information as is available is set out in the tables. The state pension age has been 65 for a man and 60 for a woman during the year specified.

Basic State Pension as a percentage of:

YearFull time average manual earnings (Male) Full time average adult earnings (All Adults)
194819.1 per cent.--
195017.3 per cent.--
195517.9 per cent.--
196017.2 per cent.--
196520.4 per cent.--
197018.7 per cent.19.3 per cent.
1975--24.8 per cent.
1980--24.8 per cent.
1985--22.4 per cent.
1990--17.8 per cent.
1995--17.5 per cent.
1997--17.0 per cent.


1. Average manual earnings (male) up to 1970--the October inquiry which includes almost all make manual workers aged 21 and over.

2. For 1970--Office for National Statistics new earnings survey was used which includes all full time male manual workers aged 21 and over.

3. Full time average adult earnings (all adults)--The new earnings survey from Office for ational Statistics for all full time workers aged 21 and over.

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Expectation of life at birth, based on the mortality rates for the given year
Great Britain



Government Actuary's Department.


1. The expectation of life at birth is based on the mortality rates in each year stated and is the number of years a person would be expected to live if he or she experienced the mortality rates of that year throughout their lifetime.

2. The expectation of life at retirement age is greater than the expectation of life at birth minus the age of retirement. This is because expectation of life at birth takes account of mortality below retirement age.

3. 1996 is the latest year for which figures are available.

Laser Weapons

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the implications for future British policy of British officers taking part in United States Air Force war games in which weaponised space-based vehicles, including two space-based lasers, were deemed to be involved, which if in place would breach international law.[HL351]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): Participation by Armed Forces personnel in war games carries no implications for future British policy. On the legality of space-based lasers, I refer my noble friend to the reply given to him on 9 December 1997 by my noble friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Official Report, col. 17).

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Depleted Uranium: Munitions and Materials

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are conducting, or intend to conduct, any research into the short and long term effects upon humans, animals and the environment of the use of depleted uranium munitions and other depleted uranium materials; and, if not, why not.[HL388]

Lord Gilbert: The UK Government are not conducting any experimental work specifically on the short or long term effects of depleted uranium on humans, animals or the environment. However, in order to inform the MoD's research strategy on the management of wounds in the military environment, a review is being conducted of current developments and future trends in munitions that may have clinical implications for the treatment of injured servicemen and women. This review will take into account the radiological and toxicological health hazards posed by the use of depleted uranium ammunition by opposing military forces, which are well understood. In addition, studies have been carried out by the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency into the rate of corrosion of depleted uranium in the marine environment.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their current scientific advice as to the environmental effects of using depleted uranium munitions and other depleted uranium materials within the military test ranges located in the United Kingdom, in both the short and the long term; and[HL386]

    What information they have given to communities living in close proximity to military test ranges as to the environmental and public health hazards, now and in the future, of depleted uranium munitions and other depleted uranium materials used on ranges located in the United Kingdom.[HL387]

Lord Gilbert: During September 1993, local councillors and members of the press were invited onto the ranges at Kirkcudbright and Eskmeals, and were given presentations on environmental monitoring and the possible health hazards associated with depleted uranium firings.

A detailed review of the environmental impact of depleted uranium firings on these ranges was undertaken by an independent environmental consultant, W. S. Atkins, in 1995. The consultant concluded that the radiation doses to members of the public, and the associated risks from exposure to depleted uranium released into the environment, were extremely low. Environmental monitoring completed by the MoD since the Atkins' report was published has confirmed this view. Copies of W. S. Atkins' environmental impact assessment were supplied to local councils and have also been placed in the House of Commons Library.

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Depleted uranium environmental monitoring reports are written annually for both the Eskmeals and Kirkcudbright ranges. The 1996 reports are due to be released to the local councils for each range in the early part of 1998. It is intended that all future environmental monitoring reports will be made public.

The environmental sampling programmes have shown very low concentrations of depleted uranium in the environment at both sites. The levels of depleted uranium found have been generally lower than the levels of uranium that occur naturally in the environment, and samples taken on request from homes of members of the public show total concentrations of uranium at natural levels. No depleted uranium contamination has been measured in marine environmental samples. The MoD will continue to respond to public concerns, and will provide such environmental monitoring data as may be required.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What has been the cost to date of research and development of depleted uranium munitions and other depleted uranium materials in the United Kingdom, including any products, services or raw materials purchased for civil or military use; and[HL390]

    What research and development has been undertaken to date in relation to depleted uranium technology in the United Kingdom; whether this research and development has been conducted unilaterally or jointly with other nations or private organisations; and in which United Kingdom locations.[HL389]

Lord Gilbert: Research and development work has been carried out by the Ministry of Defence on two tank munitions programmes which use depleted uranium, CHARM 1 and CHARM 3. These anti-tank rounds were developed unilaterally under commercial contracts placed by MoD. The UK locations where this work took place are: Royal Ordnance facilities at Birtley and Featherstone; Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Aldermaston; the former AWE Cardiff; and MoD ranges at Eskmeals and Kirkcudbright.

The total cost of these programmes is in the region of £200 million. I am withholding information on other MoD research programmes involving depleted uranium under Exemption 1, (Defence, Security and International Relations) of the Code of Practice on access to Government Information. We are not aware of any other research programmes which involve depleted uranium.

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