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The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): The MoD has conducted an extensive review of the issue of pay deductions from officer Prisoners of War and Protected Personnel in German and Italian hands during the Second World War and the subsequent arrangements for repayment. Overall, the review found no evidence of lack of care, of significant injustice, or grave financial disadvantage. The long and detailed report accepts that there were real difficulties, but these were recognised at the time and reasonable steps were taken to minimise them. Accordingly, there is no basis for reopening the issue. I have placed a copy of the full report in the Library of the House.
My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State is writing to those individual right honourable and honourable Members who have a constituency interest. Former officer Prisoners of War and Protected Personnel covered by the review and their families who have written direct to the MoD will also be contacted to let them know the result of the review. I know, and very much regret, that those people who have had their hopes raised will be very disappointed. We must conclude that the contemporary evidence does not support the claims which have been made.
Lord Gilbert: The previous government announced that each Trident submarine would deploy with no more than 96 warheads and possibly significantly fewer. It also announced that Trident will assume both the strategic and sub-strategic roles, allowing the withdrawal, without replacement, of our WE177 free-fall bombs. We are considering our future warhead requirements in the light of current circumstances as a part of the Strategic Defence Review.
Lord Gilbert: Analysis of the information available to the Government, including that provided by other countries, has produced no evidence that chemical weapons were issued to operational Iraqi forces during the Gulf War. We shall of course examine carefully any new information which might emerge on this subject in future.
Our view remains that there is no confirmed evidence of the use of chemical weapons during the Gulf War. Such detections that did occur during the conflict were subject to follow-up at the time and were not substantiated. However, in view of public concern, the department is reviewing specific events during the Gulf War in response to reports from British veterans.
Lord Gilbert: As described in the policy statement Gulf Veterans' Illnesses: A New Beginning, the Ministry of Defence is reviewing all available information relating to the tank of liquid found at the Sabahiyah Girls' School in August 1991. When this review is completed the results will be published.
Lord Gilbert: During the Gulf War, nine biological detection system vehicles were operated by the 1st Field Laboratory Unit (1FLU). Samples collected by the Sandfly air sampling system on the vehicles were tested for the presence of biological material. In the course of operations, 1FLU did not record any instances of biological warfare agents being detected. As previously announced, the activities of 1FLU will be reviewed by the MoD as part of the new work on alleged biological agent detections during the Gulf War.
Under what circumstances of threat to British forces they would authorise the use of anti-personnel mines.
Lord Gilbert: Authorisation for the use of anti-personnel landmines would be promulgated through the rules of engagement for a specific operation. The nature of the authorisation would depend on the operational circumstances existing at the time.
Such authorisation would be given only where we were satisfied that, for a specific operation, the security of our Armed Forces would be jeopardised without them. It is impossible to predict what such exceptional circumstances might be, but Ministers would wish to be satisfied that it was not feasible to provide adequate protection for our Armed Forces using other means. As we have made clear, in such exceptional cases, Parliament would be informed of the decision and the reasons behind it.
Lord Gilbert: As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence said in answer to an oral Question in another place on 14 July 1997 (Official Report, cols. 14-15), one anti-personnel mine laid by UK military personnel on the Falkland Islands remains unaccounted for.
Whether building a crude bomb with an assured yield of one kiloton from reactor-grade plutonium would be no more difficult than building one from weapons-grade plutonium.
Lord Gilbert: It is technically possible that a nuclear device could be constructed from plutonium which had been recovered from the fuel from nuclear power reactors. It should be emphasised, however, that it is technically difficult to produce weapons using weapons grade material. It would be even more difficult to use this reactor grade plutonium to produce a reliable weapon giving a predictable yield.
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