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Committee on Standards in Public Life: Defamatory Evidence

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): This will be a matter for the Committee on Standards in Public Life to determine in the light of the general law. The committee, with appropriate legal advice, reviews all evidence submitted to it so as to ensure as far as reasonably possible that it does not re-publish material which might consitute a libel.

Human Rights Convention and Sub Judice Rule

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked the Leader of the House:

Baroness Jay of Paddington: Paragraph (2) of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights allows that the exercise of the freedoms under that article may be subject to restrictions for various reasons including maintenance of the authority and impartiality of the judiciary. The sub judice rule is such a restriction. Article IX of the Bill of Rights prohibits the UK courts from impeaching or questioning proceedings in Parliament. If a member of the House were to consider that the sub judice rule created an unnecessary or disproportionate restriction on the rights of Members, he or she could ask the Leader of the House to propose that it be waived in a particular case, or put forward a Motion to modify the Resolution of 11 May 2000.

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Reserve Forces' Gulf Service:Attributable Benefits

Lord Morris of Castle Morris asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether members of the reserve forces who served in the Gulf are entitled to attributable pensions benefits.[HL2545]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): Attributable benefits for Reserve Service were introduced in 1980, and the regulations are contained in the Naval and Marine Pay and Pensions (Non-Effective Benefits and Family Pension) Order 1999, the Army Pay Warrant 1977, and the Queen's Regulations for the Royal Air Force. It has been the practice since 1980 to award attributable benefits only where members of the reserve forces are medically discharged from the reserves at an end of a period of active duty. During periods of recalled service for operations, individuals in the regular reserve forces could claim benefits only if they were medically discharged at the point of demobilisation. We have now taken legal advice, which suggests that Army reservists are, under current regulations, eligible to claim attributable benefits if they are medically discharged from the reserve at any time. Our legal advisers have also identified some anomalies in the regulations for the other Services.

We therefore propose for the future that all members of the volunteer reserves and regular reserves should be eligible for attributable benefits if they are medically discharged from the reserve forces at any time for reasons attributable to reserve service. The existing anomalies in the regulations, under which reservists are treated differently depending on which Service they come from, will be removed. We shall re-examine claims from Gulf Reservists under the interpretation of the regulations we now believe to be correct.We shall also consider any new claims.

Pyridostigmine Bromide

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What assessment they have made of the RAND Corporation report entitled A Review of the Scientific Literature as it Pertains to Gulf War Illnesses, volume II: Pyridostigmine Bromide.[HL2544]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The RAND report, which is a comprehensive compilation of published literature on pyridostigmine bromide (PB) and its relationship to Gulf Veterans' Illnesses (GVI), has now been carefully reviewed and a written assessment of the report has been produced. We are placing a copy of this assessment in the Library of the House.

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The RAND report does not present any new work on pyridostigmine bromide. It concentrates on several hypotheses of how PB might be the cause of GVI and to a lesser extent discusses the effectiveness of PB. Although a number of theories have been identified, they have not, in our view, been critically evaluated and there is no differentiation between the credibility and value of the various pieces of research. The report gives no guidance as to which of the various hypotheses is worthy of further investigation or for the prioritisation of further research. The approach and methodology adopted for this review do not advance the debate on whether PB is possibly linked to illness in Gulf veterans.

Gulf War: Biological Warfare Detection Unit

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What assessment they have made on the role of the 1 Field Laboratory Unit that operated a biological warfare agent detection facility during the 1990-1991 Gulf conflict and the work of that unit in detecting biological warfare agents.[HL2543]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The 1997 "Gulf Veterans Illnesses: A New Beginning" policy statement set out a number of commitments to help address the health concerns of Gulf Veterans. One of these commitments was to review specific incidents of suggested biological warfare exposures and the activities of 1 Field Laboratory Unit. As part of this commitment, we are today publishing a paper entitled A Review of the Activities of the 1 Field Laboratory Unit and Suggested Biological Warfare Agent Detections During Operation Granby.

As a result of our review of the available information we assess that UK troops were not subject to attack by or exposed to biological warfare agents during the Gulf conflict. There were alarms on some detectors, many of which were recognised to be false by the system operators at the time. On one occasion, a biological substance was detected and samples returned to the UK for testing. The tests concluded that this was not caused by a biological warfare agent. Our review re-examined this incident and concludes that the evidence suggests that the detection was caused by natural biological material.

Nitrochemie: Ordnance Products

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there was any evidence in recent trials that shells now manufactured by Nitrochemie are damaging the gun barrels of the Challenger 2 tank; and, if so, what.[HL2374]

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Ministry of Defence is not aware of any damage being caused to Challenger 2 gun barrels during trials of charges manufactured by the RO Defence supplier, Nitrochemie.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many people were treated for skin exposure to nitro-glycerine leaking from shells manufactured by Nitrochemie in Germany, which is planned to replace Bishopton in Scotland as the manufacturer of these shells.[HL2373]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Ministry of Defence has no evidence or information on an alleged leakage of nitro-glycerine from shells.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What were the results of recent tests of the propellant for Charm 3 training rounds which are now manufactured by Nitrochemie in Germany in place of Bishopton in Scotland.[HL2372]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Ministry of Defence has no contracts with Nitrochemie for Charm 3 training rounds. The contractor for these rounds is RO Defence, who we understand are assessing options for the supply of propellant and combustible charge cases following their intended closure of RO Bishopton. The conduct and outcome of this work is a matter for RO Defence.

Joint Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Regiment

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will make a statement on the long-term location of the Joint Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Regiment currently based at RAF Honington. (123004)[HL2540]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Joint Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Regiment, which was established as a joint initiative in April 1999, following recommendations arising from the Strategic Defence Review, will be permanently based at RAF Honington.

The regiment was established at RAF Honington as a successful joint initiative in April last year, following the recommendations of the Strategic Defence Review, and was fully operational by December. The regiment's operational capability will comprise nuclear, biological and chemical detection, reconnaissance and survey, and will combine these aspects with expertise in decontamination techniques. This is a critical enabling capability--and the regiment will be invaluable in reducing the risk to our Armed Forces who deploy in dangerous areas like the Gulf.

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