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The Army: Reconnaissance Capability

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Gilbert: The Strategic Defence Review has emphasised the importance of investment in the area of fast, detailed and accurate intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance, known as ISTAR. This is not only vital for combat operations, but also for many peace support operations.

We have, therefore, decided to undertake a programme of work aimed at enhancing the Army's tactical reconnaissance capability. This involves an integrated series of studies into future sensors, land reconnaissance vehicles and unmanned air vehicles. These studies will enable us to identify the most cost-effective mix of reconnaissance sensors and platforms to meet our future needs.

As part of this programme, we will conduct with the United States a collaborative project definition study which will examine sensors, sensor integration and the vehicles needed to meet our armies' future manned land-based reconnaissance requirements. This joint project is known as the Armoured Scout and Reconnaissance Vehicle (ASRV) and seeks to provide a highly mobile, stealthy, battlefield reconnaissance capability. A memorandum of understanding with the United States has now been signed, and an invitation to tender will be released to industry in the near future. The United Kingdom element of ASRV is known as TRACER--Tactical Reconnaissance Armoured Combat Equipment Requirement. The United Kingdom will be an equal partner with the United States in this project, which will have major benefits for the United Kingdom Armed Forces and industry.

In parallel, we are conducting national studies into the use of unmanned air and land vehicles for meeting the Army's future reconnaissance requirements. The sensor and sensor integration work carried out under the ASRV project will inform this work. We are also examining the scope for collaboration with the United States on the unmanned air vehicle element of the programme.

Medical Assessment Programme:Non-Gulf Veterans

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Gilbert: The Ministry of Defence is not aware of any reports suggesting that some non-Gulf veterans have recently attended the MoD's Medical Assessment Programme (MAP) and been referred elsewhere within the MoD.

The Ministry of Defence is, however, aware that a short paper was published in the Royal College of Psychiatrists' psychiatric bulletin in late February which reported that, in an unspecified 12-month period, 5 of 39 ex-service personnel referred to the Defence Services Psychiatric Centre at Catterick for the treatment of combat-related post traumatic stress disorder were patients whose description of their combat experience was largely fictitious. MoD officials have contacted the paper's author and ascertained that the period covered by the paper was 1996 and that two of these subjects were referred by the MAP. We are now attempting to identify the individuals concerned in order to determine whether they are Gulf veterans or were otherwise entitled to attend the MAP.

MoD has also carried out an extensive search of case notes at the MAP in order to ascertain whether there have been any more recent instances of incorrect referral. This exercise identified a small number of patients who have been seen by the MAP since 13 October last year, when the MAP moved to its current location--St. Thomas' Hospital in London--and who were not Gulf veterans. However, none of these patients has been referred by the MAP to other MoD facilities or military establishments. All but two of these patients are servicemen of ex-servicemen who claimed they had been vaccinated for Gulf service, but did not deploy to the Gulf to participate in Operation GRANBY. It is our policy to allow individuals in this category to be examined at the MAP. The remaining individuals were referred to the MAP by their respective GPs in good faith, but it was subsequently discovered that one had never been a member of the Armed Forces whereas the other actually deployed to the Gulf later, in 1992, to participate in Operation JURAL to enforce the no-fly-zone in southern Iraq.

In order to prevent further such occurrences, the registration form for MAP patients has been updated to include service numbers and patients referred to the MAP will henceforth be checked against a database of those who served in the Gulf to confirm their eligibility to attend.

Boards of Visitors

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will arrange for the publication of lists of names of members of the Boards of Visitors of England and Wales.[HL2506]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The names of members of Boards of Visitors are not published for reasons relating to their own personal protection.

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Chairmen of Boards of Visitors can always be contacted, in writing or by telephone, by use of their official title, "The Chairman of the Board of Visitors" at the prison establishment to which they have been appointed.

Lincoln Prison: Drugs

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will investigate the allegation made to the Chief Inspector of Prisons that prisoners in Lincoln Prison A Wing switched from cannabis to heroin use following the introduction of mandatory drug testing.[HL2505]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: These allegations have been investigated. The results of random mandatory drug testing at Lincoln do not indicate that prisoners there have moved from using cannabis to heroin following the introduction of testing. Results for prisoners on A wing are not separated from the rest of the prison.

This allegation has been made in relation to a number of prisons and is not specific to Lincoln. However, statistics on mandatory drug tests results have never supported the contention that prisoners are switching from cannabis to heroin.

Because of the concern surrounding this issue, the Prison Service specifically commissioned independent research into it. Separate studies by the National Addiction Centre (NAC) and the Oxford Centre for Criminological Research examined the evidence. The NAC draft report found that, overall, the results do not directly support substantial switching from cannabis to opiates. A 4 per cent. sample of drug misusers in the Oxford research had experimented with heroin for the first time because of mandatory drug testing, but none had persisted with it.

The Government are not complacent about this and the Prison Service will continue to examine the results of drug testing carefully. My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Mr. Howarth) recently announced the new Prison Drugs Strategy, which sets out a more discriminating approach to provide a greater emphasis on tackling the misuse of drugs which cause the greatest harm, and this is a measure of our concern about the use of opiates, such as heroin in particular.

Lincoln Prison: Redecoration

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will employ prisoners at Lincoln Prison to clean the walls and give the ground floor of A Wing a fresh coat of paint.[HL2503]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The ground floor of A wing at Lincoln Prison has already been redecorated by prisoners. The redecoration was completed prior to the publication of the report by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons on 16 October 1997.

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Young Offenders: Legal Support

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the light of the information on pages 16-17 of the Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales, they are now in a position to say what proportion of 16 and 17 year-olds receiving custodial sentences were, at the time of offending, without visible legal means of support.[HL2493]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: There is insufficient information available to say what proportion of 16 and 17 year-old offenders had no legal means of support at the time of offending. The kind of information requested has never been collected on a systematic basis by the Prison Service.

Roads: Wales

Lord Islwyn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What new road schemes will be carried out in Wales in the next five years; what are the estimated costs; and how this figure compares with the expenditure over the previous five years.[HL2550]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: With the exception of the proposed dualling of the A55 across Anglesey, all schemes in the forward trunk road programme are subject to the review announced by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales in July last year. A report on the review will be published later this year. This will include details of the future strategy for and role of the trunk road network in Wales.

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