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The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): The Veterans' Advice Unit was launched by the Minister of State for the Armed Forces on Monday 5 October in the presence of the media. A full information pack and press release for the launch was distributed to the national and regional media. The telephone number, 08456 02 03 02, which charges callers at local rates, is listed in all telephone directories under "Ministry of Defence Veterans' Advice Unit."
Since its launch, some 80,000 leaflets publicising the unit have been distributed through Resettlement Offices, the Confederation of British Service and Ex-Service Organisations, COBSEO, The Royal British Legion, SSAFA-Forces Help and other veterans' organisations and charities including the British Limbless Ex-Service Men's Association, BLESMA, the Ex-Services Mental Welfare Society, "Combat Stress", and the Regular Forces Employment Association, among others.
The leaflet has been, or is being, sent to DSS benefit offices nation-wide, the War Pensions Agency and Citizens' Advice Bureaux. The "military media" such as Navy News, Soldier magazine, RAF News and the "British Forces Broadcasting Service" have carried items about the Unit. The MoD is continuing to look for ways in which the unit can be publicised.
In the six weeks that the Veterans' Advice Unit has been operational, the unit has taken nearly 1,100 calls. Most calls can be dealt with immediately, but some require investigative work and a subsequent return call to the enquirer.
The range of problems dealt with has been quite diverse, including homecare and housing, Falklands and Gulf war issues, finance, the tracing of relatives, War Graves and historical records, among others. However, the largest number of calls have concerned pensions, employment, the provision of medals and information about the unit itself.
Lord Gilbert: Within the Air Staff Secretariat, the Ministry of Defence focal point for all matters relating to "UFOs", a total of 76 files dating from 1985 are held. These files contain public correspondence, sighting reports and associated papers and are referenced as follows:
Lord Gilbert: During the 1990-91 Gulf conflict, UK armoured forces used a new 120mm armour-piercing tank round which contained a solid depleted uranium, DU, penetrator core with a protective, non-DU, coating in its Challenger 1 tanks. The Government's current assessment is that UK tanks fired fewer than 100 of these rounds against Iraqi military forces, which equates to less than 1 metric tonne of DU, although additional rounds were fired during earlier work-up training to establish the round's mean point of impact.
At the time of the Gulf conflict, the Royal Navy was equipped with 20mm ammunition containing DU for its Vulcan Phalanx close-in-weapons-system. This ammunition was not, however, used during the Gulf War, apart from some rounds fired for proving purposes. No other types of ammunition or weapon systems used by UK forces during the Gulf conflict, including missiles or rounds fired from aircraft, contained DU.
On 4 August 1998, the US Department of Defense, DoD, published a detailed "case narrative" entitled "Depleted Uranium in the Gulf", which gave details of the DoD's latest assessment of the quantity of DU-based ammunition used by US forces during the 1990-91 Gulf conflict. This assessment shows that over 860,000 DU-based ammunition rounds of varying calibre were used by US forces, containing over 320 US tons, or over 290 metric tonnes, of DU, although it should be noted that, for some categories of ammunition, the data were incomplete or not available. A copy of this case narrative has already been placed in the Library of the House.
So far as we are aware, only UK and US forces used ammunition containing DU during the Gulf conflict. Accordingly, based on current UK and US assessments, the suggested figure of 1,200,000 DU-based ammunition rounds fired overall by coalition forces appears to be an overestimate.
Lord Gilbert: The main battle tank used by UK forces during the Gulf conflict in 1990-91 was the Challenger 1, armed with the 120mm rifled-barrel L11 gun. When planning Operation Granby, the MoD assessed that the existing tungsten-based armour-piercing rounds in use with Challenger 1 might not be sufficiently powerful to defeat the most modern Iraqi tanks--Soviet designed T72s. It was, decided therefore, that MoD should undertake the emergency development and deployment of a new armour-piercing round for Challenger 1.
This new round was based on a 120mm armour-piercing round, which was then being developed for use by the more powerful gun on the new Challenger 2 main battle tank. It contained a solid depleted uranium, DU, penetrator core with a protective, non-DU, coating, and was known as CHARM 1. In fact, the CHARM 1 round needed only minor modifications in order to fit the L11 gun on Challenger 1, but a totally new charge needed to be developed.
In the mid-1980s, measurements to assess the radiation dose rates inside a Chieftain tank loaded with DU-based rounds, and the contamination levels to which tank crews might be exposed, were carried out by the atomic weapons establishment, AWE, at Aldermaston. These measurements showed that there were no reasonably foreseeable circumstances in which tank crews would be likely to receive radiation doses greater
No modifications to Challenger 1 or its L11 gun for safety reasons were, therefore, considered necessary. Clearance for crews to fire the modified CHARM 1 round from Challenger 1 was subsequently confirmed by the Ordnance Board in December 1990.
Lord Gilbert: Any Gulf veteran who is concerned that his or her health has been adversely affected by service during the Gulf conflict, including possible exposure to depleted uranium, DU, dust is urged to seek a referral to the Medical Assessment Programme, MAP, for a full medical assessment.
The kidneys are particularly sensitive to the presence of DU and the standard battery of tests carried out as a matter of routine on MAP patients includes a baseline trawl of renal functions, which includes: serum creatinine, urea and electrolytes, urine test for protein and blood and an ultrasound abdominal scan. Such tests should indicate the presence of any current kidney damage in patients, although such damage would not necessarily have been caused by the presence of DU. The standard MAP tests do not, however, include a specific test to detect the presence of DU. Those veterans who have so far been examined by MAP physicians have not exhibited symptoms which, in the clinical judgment of the examining physician, have indicated a requirement for a specific referral to another agency or organisation for DU testing. Thus, no UK Gulf veterans have been specifically tested for the presence of DU as part of the MAP.
In general, the Government have no knowledge of any tests which may have been carried out on Gulf veterans, independently of the MAP, through other organisations providing medical or radiological services. However, the Ministry of Defence is aware that a US physician is reported as having carried out tests in Canada for the presence of DU on some UK Gulf veterans. However, we have not yet seen details of the tests which have been performed or the results obtained. Accordingly, the MoD cannot comment on the physician's reported findings.
A very small number of British troops, who expressed concern that they might have inhaled DU dust during training in the Gulf before the start of hostilities, were subject to whole body monitoring on 8 February 1991 by the Defence Radiological Protection Service, DRPS, at the Institute of Naval Medicine. They showed no detectable DU contamination.
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