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Written Answers

Friday, 7th November 2003.

Gulf War 1990–91: Vaccines

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Bach on 9 October (WA 67), what is the procedure by which individual service and ex-service personnel have access to their personal medical records for the information of their general practitioners; and what steps have been taken to improve the procedure and on what dates. [MoD][HL5096]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): Under the Data Protection Act 1998, individual service personnel are able to request access to their service medical records by making a subject access request. For access to primary healthcare records, the request should be made by individuals through their local service medical centre. For access to secondary healthcare records, the request may be sent to either the appropriate service records office, the hospital they were treated at, or to the MoD Central Health Records Library. The location of the relevant secondary healthcare record would be recorded in their personal medical folder (Form F Med 4).

On leaving the Armed Forces, personnel are provided with a summary of their medical history (Form F Med 133) to give to their civilian doctor. Release of full military medical records is permitted if an individual makes a subject access request to the appropriate service's records office, as stated on the F Med 133. If an individual wishes to make his or her full military medical records available to other parties, such as civilian healthcare providers, (including their GP), he or she must also give their written consent to release the records.

The F Med 133 form is currently being revised to provide more information to civilian GPs. Increasing use is also being made of electronic Primary care patient records.

Iraq: Reconstruction and Healthcare

Lord Rea asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will, if necessary in conjunction with the World Health Organisation and the International Atomic Energy Authority, assist Iraqi

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    health personnel to conduct an appropriate high quality epidemiological survey of the area of South Iraq which they control so as to assess persistent Iraqi claims of increased rates of cancer and congenital abnormalities since 1991.[HL5145]

Lord Bach: The allocation of future UK assistance for the reconstruction and development of Iraq will be considered in view of priorities agreed with the Iraqi authorities in the context of social and economic needs assessments produced by the World Bank and the United Nations for the Donors' Conference on Iraq which took place in Madrid on 23 and 24 October. These needs assessments estimated the requirement for Iraq's health sector to be 1.6 billion US dollars for the period 2004 to 2006.

At the Madrid conference the UK pledged a total of £544 million for the three years from April 2003, £38 million of which is our share of planned European Community expenditure. We anticipate channelling a significant proportion of this assistance through trust fund arrangements which are being established by the World Bank and United Nations. The total sum pledged by donors at Madrid was over 33 billion US dollars.

Any specific Iraqi request for assistance with an epidemiological survey of southern Iraq will be considered within this overall context.

Far East Prisoners of War: Ex-gratia Payments and Gurkhas

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the ex-gratia payment scheme for Far East Prisoners of War will be extended to include Gurkhas.[HL5365]

Lord Bach: The Government have carried out a detailed review of the eligibility for the ex-gratia payment scheme established in 2000 for Far East Prisoners of War. This follows the ruling in the High Court by Mr Justice McCombe in November 2002.

We are now able to announce that, in accordance with the principles set out in the judgment of the court, the scheme will be formally extended to include those Gurkha Far East Prisoners of War (FEPOW) who were held captive by the Japanese in the Second World War and who, in 1951 when the peace treaty between the United Kingdom and Japan was signed, were citizens of Nepal. Claims can be made by the FEPOW or by their surviving spouse for the payment of £10,000.

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In order to deal with applications, a team from the Ministry of Defence will be established in Kathmandu and in Delhi by the end of February 2004. Application forms will be available for claims after this date but in the mean time an Internet site <www.army.mod.uk/fepow> is available now for potential claimants to register their interest.

Science and Technology Select Committee Report on Fighting Infection: Government Response

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish their response to the report of the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology, entitled Fighting Infection (HL Paper 138).[HL5401]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): The Government have today published their response to the report of the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology, entitled Fighting Infection. Copies of the response (Cm 6012) have been placed in the Library.

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War Widows' Pensions: Disregard for Income-related Benefits

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there are any plans to disregard war widows' pensions when calculating council tax relief and housing benefit.[HL5192]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): A statutory disregard of £10 is applied to war disablement pensions and war widows' pensions when calculating entitlements to income-related benefits. There is also a full disregard of the war widow's supplementary pension.

In the case of housing benefit and council tax benefit, local authorities have the discretion to apply a further disregard up to the full amount of any war pension in payment.

At April 2003, 392 local authorities disregarded war pensions in full and two authorities, Middlesbrough and Bolton, applied a full disregard to war pensions but not war widows' pensions. A further 12 authorities applied a disregard in excess of the statutory £10. They are, as follows: Barrow; Chester-le-Street; Gateshead; Newcastle; North Tyneside; Preston; Salford; South Tyneside; Sunderland; Surrey Heath; Tynedale; and Weymouth and Portland. The remaining two authorities, Easington and Wear Valley, applied the statutory disregard only.



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