The Lord Chancellor (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, I take the opportunity to inform the House that I shall be undertaking ministerial visits to Hertfordshire and Lancashire on Friday, 4th July and Friday, 11th July. Accordingly, I trust that the House will grant me leave of absence on both occasions.
Lord Morris of Manchester: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I declare an interestnot a pecuniary oneas honorary parliamentary adviser for many years to the Royal British Legion.
Lord Morris of Manchester: My Lords, is it not very sad that this officer of the Parachute Regiment, in broken health ever since the conflict, waited 12 years for his case to be resolved? If, as the Government have implied, the High Court's decision changes nothing, why fight the case for so long at such cost? Is my noble friend aware of the Royal British Legion's concern
Lord Bach: My Lords, Mr Rusling currently receives a 90 per cent war disablement pension. Any suggestion that he receives no war disablement pension, which has been put around, is a lie. The symptoms that he attributes to Gulf War syndrome are already fully compensated for within this award under the World Health Organisation's classification of diseases category "Symptoms, Signs and Ill-Defined Conditions"SSIDC. Nothing emerged during the High Court hearing or in the written judgment to suggest that Mr Rusling has an incorrect level of pension.
Lord Bach: My Lords, it is absolutely clear, and we have said so on I do not know how many occasions in this House and in another place. We acknowledge that some veterans of the first Gulf conflict are ill and that some, alas, have died. The issues surrounding the ill health reported by the veterans of that conflict remain a priority for us.
There is scientific evidence that some Gulf veterans report a large number of multi-system, multi-organ, non-specific, medically unexplained symptoms as well as some recognised medical symptoms, but, I repeat, the overwhelming consensus of the scientific and medical community is that there is insufficient evidence to enable this ill health to be characterised as
Lord Bramall: My Lords, how can the Minister's department be quite so insistent, particularly after the High Court judgment, that there are no attributable medical conditions specifically emanating from service in the Gulf when the tests on what are most likely to bring about such conditionsthe cocktail of inoculationshave still to be completed? Can it not possibly speed up those tests instead of contesting in the courts every one of these cases?
Lord Bach: My Lords, we pay pensions where there is evidence of disablement caused by service. We accept that some members of the Armed Forces became ill in the Gulf. We pay pensions including in those cases where non-specific symptoms are claimed, as I say, under the World Health Organisation's diagnostic label. So far as concerns vaccinations, they are just one exposure cited as the cause of ill health among some veterans. Our research programme, as the noble and gallant Lord knows, is due to report at the end of this year.
Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, since it has been often repeated in this House that the MoD does not accept that there is a proven Gulf War syndrome, will my noble friend explain briefly and clearly the exact grounds on which the MoD is now awarding war pensions to veterans of the first Gulf War?
Lord Bach: My Lords, the Veterans Agency does not normally use the term "Gulf War syndrome" when accepting or rejecting entitlement to an award. Using a generic identifier that has no medical or scientific consensus would, frankly, be inappropriate, even if it would be easy. Instead, for war pension purposes, any vague, ill-defined, non-specific symptoms are normally accepted, as I have said, under the diagnostic label, "Symptoms, Signs and Ill-Defined Conditions". That was not thought up by ourselves, it is a documented diagnostic category of the WHO International Classification of Diseases, 10th Edition, 1992.
Lord Bach: My Lords, I explained to the House why we do not agree that there is an entity called Gulf War syndrome. As we do not agree that there is such an entityand the reason why not is because the medical evidence so far is against itit would be ridiculous just to copy what any other country, however close, may have done.
Lord Winston: My Lords, given that there is now quite a lot of evidence that strange things happen when the immune system is depressed, and given that Gulf War veterans clearly face multiple threats to their immune systems, can my noble friend reassure us by telling the House what active research is following up the immune systems of Gulf War veterans?
Lord Bach: My Lords, a large amount of research is under way at present. I shall not go into the detailthat would be too much for the time that I havebut I shall write to my noble friend to tell him what is happening and place a copy in the Library. A few weeks ago a review of the research that has so far taken place made absolutely clear that, as yet, there is no proof that the entity called Gulf War syndrome exists.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, well kept records provide an essential underpinning to good child protection practice. To expunge allegations of child abuse or neglect, including those which subsequently prove to be unfounded, from local authority records would undermine the proper function of social services' recording and the effectiveness of the area child protection committee. Provided that a social services department complies with legislative requirements in the way that it records and discloses information, it would not breach the human rights of an individual.
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