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Smallpox Vaccination and Operation Granby

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Gilbert: The position as regards the vaccination of UK Service personnel against smallpox prior to and during the Gulf conflict was set out in my Written Answer of 21 April (WA 200). I am withholding any further information concerning the very small number of UK Service personnel who were vaccinated against smallpox in late 1990, for reasons unrelated to the Gulf conflict, under Exemption 1 (Defence, Security and International Relations) of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information. The immunisation status of US and other coalition forces during the Gulf conflict is a matter for the governments concerned.

Vaccines administered during Operation Granby

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Gilbert: A genetically modified organism can be defined as an organism in which the genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination. This would include a genetically modified virus. MoD is not aware of any medicines, including vaccines, containing genetically modified organisms which were administered to UK troops prior to August 1991, when Operation Granby officially ended. In particular, none of the medical countermeasures used during the Gulf conflict to protect UK troops from Iraqi chemical and biological weapons contained genetically modified organisms.

19 Nov 1998 : Column WA195

Nerve Agent Immobilised Enzyme Alarm and Detector

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    At what level of detection British CAM and NAIAD alarms were set compared with the level of the lethal doses of the agents they were designed to detect.[HL3837]

Lord Gilbert: The standard Chemical Agent Monitor, CAM, is used to test for the presence of blister and nerve agents: It does not have an alarm facility and is, therefore, not a chemical warfare agent detector. The Nerve Agent Immobilised enzyme Alarm and Detector, NAIAD, is used to give an initial alarm of the potential presence of nerve agents. However, during the Gulf conflict in 1990-91, a CAM Remote Alarm Display Unit, CRADU, and a Field Alarm Module, FAM, based on the CAM, were developed and deployed to provide an additional warning alarm and, thus, a detection capability.

Any warning of the potential presence of chemical warfare agent is followed up by using CAM in standard mode and other testing systems. Warning and detection capabilities are part of the suite of measures used to protect UK Service personnel from the threat posed by chemical weapons.

The effect of a chemical warfare agent depends upon the type of agent involved and the dose which an individual receives. For example, when a chemical warfare agent is in its gaseous phase, the dose received is a product of the concentration of the agent present and the length of time over which the exposure takes place. The levels of dose considered to be first hazardous and then lethal differ for each agent and vary according to the prevailing circumstances.

CAM and NAIAD respond to concentrations of chemical warfare agents, not doses. They indicate the potential presence of chemical warfare agent at the lowest possible concentration consistent with the inherent technical limitations of the equipment. These limitations relate to the sensitivity of the equipment to other substances, because these can lead to false alarms. Even so, there remains the potential for CAM and NAIAD, to give false detections that have been caused by such "interferents". For this reason, any apparent detections of chemical warfare agent must be immediately followed up and substantiated by the use of other procedures. The correct use of CAM, in detection mode, and NAIAD should allow personnel to take any necessary protective measures, including the donning of individual protection equipment, before they are exposed to a potentially hazardous dose of chemical warfare agent.

Further information on CAM and NAIAD will be published in the forthcoming report of the review of alleged chemical warfare agent detections by UK troops during the Gulf conflict.

19 Nov 1998 : Column WA196

The Territorial Army

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What would be the deployable strength of the Territorial Army not including the University Officer Training Corps of 3,500 undergraduates.[HL3775]

Lord Gilbert: The strength of the Territorial Army is 37,700 excluding the Officer Training Corps.

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the terms of engagement of 3,500 undergraduates serving in the Officer Training Corps at universities allow them to be deployed and integrated onto a more readily and useable reserve army during their studies.[HL3774]

Lord Gilbert: One of the main aims of the Officer Training Corps is to provide a reserve of potential officers for mobilisation and a structure through which to mobilise. As members of the Territorial Army, Officer Training Corps personnel have a liability for call-out on mobilisation as do others subject to the terms of Territorial Army Regulations. In practice, OTC personnel have not been called out since before World War I.

Viscount Trenchard asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether proposals currently under consideration for the Territorial Army envisage a reduction in the strength of its infantry of nearly 60 per cent. from an establishment of 16,000 to one of 6,500; and what will be the annual saving to the defence budget resulting from this reduction.[HL3858]

Lord Gilbert: The strength of the Territorial Army infantry will fall from 16,000 to slightly over 7,100. It is anticipated that the overall Territorial Army restructuring package will generate long-term savings of some £70-£75 million per annum. Savings accruing from individual elements have not been separately identified.

Viscount Trenchard asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in considering proposals for the Territorial Army, they have taken account of the social and other benefits which the Territorial Army provides to the community; and whether they have considered the feasibility and cost of providing these benefits in other ways.[HL3859]

Lord Gilbert: The decision announced in the House on Tuesday 17 November, (Official Report, cols. 1155-1158) took account of the wider, non-military aspects of the Territorial Army, including the social benefits it offers to the community and the Army. It was for this reason that we decided to maintain a widespread representation of the Territorial Army across the regions and counties of the United Kingdom.

19 Nov 1998 : Column WA197

Khamisiyah Munitions Dumps

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Observer newspaper of 1 November is correct in reporting that the destruction of the munitions dumps at Khamisiyah occurred after British troops in the area had removed and packed both their chemical alarms and their NBC suits.[HL3835]

Lord Gilbert: In response to two earlier questions on this subject from the noble Countess, I undertook on 30 October last year to review the availability of chemical agent detection and protection equipment at 32 Field Hospital at the time of the Khamisiyah demolitions. A report on that review, together with other relevant material relating to the Khamisiyah demolitions, is currently being written up and I hope to be able to respond on the issue shortly. The answer to this new question will be covered in that report.

Gulf War and the Health of the People of Kuwait

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are aware of any reports of an increase in the incidence of childhood cancers, pulmonary disease, cardiac disease and immunological disorders in the population of Kuwait since the Gulf War; and whether there is any co-operation between clinicians and scientists from the United Kingdom and Kuwait.[HL3866]

Lord Gilbert: The Government have not received any representations from the Kuwaiti Government concerning an increased incidence of ill-health among the population of Kuwait since the 1990-91 Gulf conflict and are not aware of any published reports on the subject. We would, of course, be prepared to consider carefully any medical or scientific data which became available on this topic. The Government are not aware of any current co-operation between UK and Kuwaiti clinicians and scientists concerning the incidence of ill-health in Kuwait. However, we understand that there may be proposals for Kuwaiti researchers to visit the UK to discuss this issue under the auspices of the Royal British Legion.

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