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Iraq

Volume 412: debated on Friday 11 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he will publish the findings of the inquiry into Challenger II friendly fire incident on the 25 March in Iraq. [108147]

Any incident of this nature will be subject of a Board of Inquiry. The Board relating to the suspected "friendly fire" incident on 25 March will be convened when the security environment in Iraq allows. It is not possible at this stage to predict when the findings of that Board will be available for publication.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what evidence he has received that British servicemen involved in the invasion of Iraq were executed by Iraqi authorities after being captured as prisoners of war. [106428]

Initial information available to us indicated that two British servicemen may have been executed by Iraqi forces. We are conducting a full investigation to try to determine all the circumstances of this incident.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the combat forces in Iraq contributed by coalition members other than the United Kingdom and the United States. [107662]

The role of combat forces in Iraq is a matter for the Governments of their respective countries, but as the Prime Minister acknowledged in his joint Hillsborough statement with President Bush,, "we are grateful to our men and women in uniform, as well as to the brave troops of Australia and Poland, and to forces contributed by other members of the Coalition".

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many cluster bombs have been used by British forces in Iraq since the start of the war. [107833]

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what guidelines have been issued to United Kingdom military personnel and medical auxiliaries in respect of protection measures to be taken when approaching Iraqi tanks destroyed by depleted uranium munitions; and what post operational health checks are planned for United Kingdom military and medical auxiliaries who may be exposed to the inhalation or ingestion of depleted uranium dust in the battlefields during the invasion of Iraq. [107998]

Safety instructions, covering all aspects of the hazard management of DU munitions in theatre, have been issued by the Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ) through the operational chain of command to all units and formations deployed in the joint area of operations. I will be placing copies in the Library of the House and on the MOD website.The safety instructions make clear that the risks from DU are far lower than those from other hazards arising from military operations and that combat and lifesaving activities should never be delayed on account of concern over DU.UK military personnel are advised not to touch, pick up or retain souvenirs from tanks struck by DU rounds, nor climb onto or into them unless specifically required to do so. In general, personnel should stay at least 50 metres away from a struck tank and attempt to stay upwind of the tank while it is on fire. Eating, drinking and smoking should be avoided near struck tanks.If there is a requirement for UK military personnel to enter the vicinity of a DU—struck tank, then the advice is to cover all exposed skin. If practicable, NEC rubber or leather gloves should be worn and a dust mask or wet cloth should be used to cover the nose and mouth. Full NEC protective equipment is not necessary unless prolonged dust-raising activities are to be carried out. The task should be completed as quickly as possible, keeping dust disturbance to a minimum. As soon as possible after task completion, dust should be brushed off clothing in a controlled and marked site. Facial masks and gloves should be maintained until contaminated clothing has been removed. Outer clothing should be changed at the first convenient opportunity and laundered in the normal way before being worn again. Hands should then be washed before eating, drinking or smoking.The Defence Medical Services Directorate has disseminated separate medical instructions to medical staff. Medics should, if practicable, wear filter masks, plastic aprons and double-layered surgical gloves. Aprons and gloves should be changed between patients. Patients should be wrapped in a blanket for transport, contaminated clothing should be cut off and bagged and wounds that may contain DU must be cleaned at the earliest opportunity under running water and covered with a dry dressing.UK military personnel that may have been contaminated with DU are to have that fact annotated in their medical and personal records. Personnel will be advised of their access to biological monitoring; Personnel who have had an encounter with a struck tank will be advised to accept a urine test for uranium exposure. All other troops who served in theatre will have the opportunity to have a urine test for uranium exposure if they wish. Other tests will be conducted as considered clinically necessary. MOD's full policy for biological monitoring for DU is published on MOD's internet site at: http://www.mod.uk/issues/depleteduranium/du-biomonituring.htm.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to introduce a free parcel scheme which will allow the family and friends of members of the armed forces currently based in the Gulf, to send parcels at no cost. [108120]

[holding answer 9 April 2003]: I refer the hon. Member to my Written Ministerial Statement of 8 April Official Report, column 15WS and 10 April Official Report, column 32–34WS.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the Prime Minister's oral Answer of 2 April 2003, Official Report, column 912, on postage to Her Majesty's forces in Iraq, when he expects operational difficulties to have been resolved to allow packages to be sent free to the forces. [108209]

[holding answer 9 April 2003]: I refer the hon. Member to my Written Ministerial Statement of 8 April 2003, Official Report, column 15WS, and 10 April 2003, Official Report, columns 32–34WS.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what the qualifying period will be for a member of the British Armed Forces to be awarded a campaign medal in recognition of their service in Iraq; [108527](2) whether soldiers that prematurely return from the Gulf on medical grounds will be awarded campaign medals in recognition of their service in Iraq; [108526](3) what plans he has made to award campaign medals to British troops fighting in the Gulf in recognition of their service in Iraq. [108525]

A decision on whether to award a campaign medal to British Armed Forces serving as members of the Coalition Forces in Iraq will not be made until the primary objectives have been completed. Certainly a case for an award will be considered in due course and the associated eligibility criteria will take into account those individuals evacuated from the Gulf on medical grounds as a matter of course.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what provision has been made by the British armed forces to clear unexploded bomblets from cluster bombs used in the war in Iraq. [108684]

A United Kingdom joint force explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) organisation of over 200 EOD-trained personnel is currently active in Iraq dismantling minefields, demolition charges and booby traps erected or left behind by the Iraqis. It is also stockpiling and destroying munitions, explosives and weapons discarded by members of the Iraqi armed forces. The same force will, as part of its routine operations to support freedom of military action, destroy any alliance weapons it finds that have failed to function, including unexploded cluster bomblets. Plans for humanitarian clearance of unexploded or abandoned munitions by appropriate UN or civilian contractors are still being drawn up. The Ministry of Defence will provide information on the use of munitions to assist humanitarian clearance.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to his written statement of 8 April, on welfare support for personnel in the Gulf, when he expects that the operational situation will allow the Government to implement its plans for enabling families to send parcels free of charge to troops serving in the Gulf; and if he will make a statement. [108829]

Family and friends will be able to send letters and packets up to 2kg in weight to named personnel at BFPO addresses in the Gulf with effect from Thursday 17 April 2003. I refer the hon. Member also to my Written Statement to the House of 10 April 2003, Official Report, columns 32–34WS.