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8 May 2003 : Column WA145

Written Answers

Thursday, 8th May 2003.

Peers' Expenses Scheme: Motor Mileage and Bicycle Allowances

Lord Jenkin of Roding asked the Chairman of Committees:

    Whether the motor mileage and bicycle allowances within the Peers' expenses scheme have been uprated.[HL2805]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): The Resolution of the House of 20 July 1994 provided for the rate of motor mileage allowance to be uprated annually on 1 April in line with the increase in the retail prices index over the previous 12 months to March.

Accordingly, with effect from 1 April 2003, the rate of motor mileage allowance was increased to 56.1p for the first 20,000 miles for the period to 31 March 2004. Further mileage in this period is payable at the rate of 25.9p per mile.

The Resolution of the House of 20 May 1998 provided for the rate of the bicycle allowance to be uprated annually on 1 April in line with the increase in the retail prices index over the previous 12 months to March.

Accordingly, with effect from 1 April 2003, the rate of the bicycle allowance was increased to 7.2p per mile.

Cross-Border Implementation Bodies

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the breakdown of the set-up costs of £199,072 incurred by the Special European Programmes Body as part of the North/South implementation process.[HL2472]

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): I refer the noble Lord to the Answer given to him in (HL2305) on 30 April (Official Report, col. WA 100).

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the breakdown of the set-up costs of £200,000 incurred by Waterways Ireland as part of the North/South implementation process.[HL2473]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I refer the noble Lord to the Answer given to him in (HL2305) on 30 April (Official Report, col. WA 100).

Northern Ireland Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why there was an underspend of £10.1 million by the Northern Ireland Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in the year 2001–02.[HL2503]

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Lord Williams of Mostyn: I would refer the noble Lord to the Resource Accounts 2001–02 which were presented to the House of Commons by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland by command of Her Majesty in November 2002 and laid before the Northern Ireland Assembly under Section 10(4) of the Government Resources and Accounts Act (Northern Ireland) 2001 by the Department of Finance and Personnel on 15 November 2002. A copy is available at The Stationery Office.

Brownfield Sites

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the level of development on brownfield sites is 90 per cent in London and less then 40 per cent in south-western England.[HL2574]

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): There are a number of reasons why the level of development on brownfield sites in the English regions is less than in London. The main factors are the lower levels of urbanisation, the suitability for development of the available brownfield land and because, on average, they achieve lower residential densities than seen in London. The Government's planning policies for the South West set out in Regional Planning Guidance (RPG10) aim to increase the level of housing development on brownfield sites to an average of at least 50 per cent across the region. Higher levels of brownfield development, closer to the rate achieved in London, are expected in the South West's larger urban areas.

Cyprus: Publication of UN Proposals

Lord Kilclooney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the United Nations published its proposals for a settlement in Cyprus in the Turkish language.[HL2592]

The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The UN proposals for a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus are available online at www.cyprus-un-plan.org in English only.

However, they have been widely reported on and disseminated in both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot language media.

Passports

Lord Palmer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to simplify the method of form-filling for a United Kingdom resident wishing to renew their passport.[HL2577]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): The United Kingdom Passport Service (UKPS) keeps the passport application form and the accompanying guidance notes under regular review. For an adult simply renewing a passport, only four sections of the application form normally require

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completion, and page 1 of the latest guidance notes contains clear advice on what to do. The UKPS has made a number of improvements in recent years to the application form, and guidance notes, and its market research has confirmed that around 90 per cent of its adult customers renewing passports find the form very or fairly easy to complete. A further version of the application form pack is being prepared for issue in the spring of 2004 and subject to customer feedback there are no current plans to further simplify the requirements for renewal applications. The UKPS would welcome the noble Lord's detailed comments on the application form.ral

Armed Forces: Post-Gulf Conflict Health Effects

Baroness Billingham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What measures they are putting in place to identify and investigate possible post-military-conflict health effects.[HL2744]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): Building on the extensive measures put in place to protect the health of our personnel deployed to the Gulf, the Ministry of Defence has decided to conduct research into the physical and psychological health of those who have been involved in the conflict. It is too soon to know whether health concerns will emerge, but we are of course conscious of the range of physical and psychological health concerns reported by veterans of the 1990–91 Gulf conflict. If health concerns arise out of the current operations, we will want to identify and investigate them as soon as possible.

We therefore propose to put in place the following measures once the units currently deployed have returned from theatre, as my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of Defence (Dr Moonie) promised in his Answer to the Member for North Cornwall (Mr Tyler) of 14 April 2003 in another place (Official Report, Commons; col. 570W).


    As soon as possible after personnel have returned from post-operational leave, researchers will hold face-to-face interviews with up to 50 individuals. This will produce qualitative data on any emerging concerns. This work will be carried out by King's College London.


    Once personnel have returned to duty and resumed their normal lives, researchers will issue questionnaires to a large representative cohort of those who were deployed seeking data on health status and exposures. As well as regular and reservist service personnel and MoD civilians, other groups who deployed with them such as representatives of voluntary aid societies, contractors' personnel and embedded journalists will be invited to form part of the cohort. The same questionnaire will be distributed to a cohort of those who did not deploy, to provide a comparison, or control group. This work will also be carried out by King's. We propose to set up an oversight board to monitor the work chaired by

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    an independent scientist with members drawn from MoD and outside bodies. The research will be published in the peer reviewed scientific literature.


    This will be a longitudinal study. Having identified the members of the cohorts we will aim to keep in touch with them wherever possible so as to be able to carry out further surveys in future and monitor any changes.


    Depending on the outcome of this work, clinical investigations within the cohorts will be carried out as necessary to provide objective assessments of self-reported ill health. This work too will be carried out by King's.


    All regular and reservist service personnel and MoD civilians who deployed and have concerns about their health will be able to attend a Medical Assessment Programme (MAP) run by MoD at St Thomas's Hospital, on referral by their doctor. The MAP will not provide treatment; it will assess patients and recommend treatment as appropriate. This facility will be made available to attached voluntary aid society personnel, contractors and embedded journalists on a repayment basis.


    All regular and reservist service personnel and MoD civilians who deployed are already entitled to receive a urine test for uranium if they are concerned. Those who have received high exposures are positively encouraged to do so, and in addition to have an isotope test for depleted uranium. Voluntary aid society and contractors' personnel and embedded journalists will be able to receive the test on a repayment basis. To provide a baseline for comparison, we will be asking the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh to carry out a study to establish normative values in a military population who did not deploy. (This exercise is separate from the test currently being devised for veterans of the 1990–91 Gulf conflict, where any concentrations will be much lower 12 years on and very much harder to detect).


    We currently monitor the mortality of veterans of the 1990–91 Gulf conflict compared with a control group and publish figures every six months. The same will be carried out for those who have taken part in the current operation.

Detailed arrangements are now being made and will be announced when they are available.


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