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Iraq: Peacekeeping Operations

Volume 462: debated on Monday 25 June 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many soldiers are in theatre in Iraq; and how many sets of body armour have been issued; (128844)

(2) if he will make a statement on the provision of body armour to the armed forces in Iraq;

(3) how many soldiers from 1 Battalion, The Rifles are deployed in Iraq; and how many sets of body armour have been issued to them.

In March 2007 there were some 7,100 UK troops in Iraq which has reduced to currently some 5,500 personnel in theatre. There have been four members of the 1 Battalion, The Rifles deployed to Iraq since March 2007 of which three are still currently in Iraq. All of the troops serving with the Rifles Battalion are issued with Enhanced Combat Body Armour (ECBA) which is standard issue to all troops deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. Improved Performance Body Armour (known as ‘OSPREY’) and Enhanced Personnel Protection Equipment (EPPE) (known as ‘KESTREL’) are provided in addition to ECBA and have been designed to protect against specific threats faced by personnel undertaking certain roles. In total there are over 14,000 sets of body armour in theatre.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the replacement costs of military equipment damaged and destroyed owing to use in Iraq since the start of the war (a) in total and (b) for (i) tanks and other armoured vehicles, (ii) aircraft and (iii) helicopters. (141465)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what methods have been used to decontaminate or dispose of protective clothing used by British military personnel who investigated the remains of Iraqi tanks or other military vehicles disabled by depleted uranium weapons used in the invasion of Iraq. (144357)

[holding answer 21 June 2007]: Depleted uranium is a heavy metal used in some anti-armour munitions. While there is no appreciable radiation health risk, it can pose a toxic hazard through inhalation of ingestion of depleted uranium dust, or contamination of open wounds. This risk is relatively low and does not require individual protective clothing to be worn unless personnel are working in contaminated areas for a prolonged period. Advice provided on decontamination during combat operations was that clothing that may have been in contact with depleted uranium should have the dust brushed off in a controlled site while the individuals concerned were still wearing oral-nasal protection and gloves. Once brushed clean, the clothing was to be washed as normal. Thereafter clothing could be worn or disposed of locally as required.

Subsequent monitoring of several hundred UK troops has shown that this advice was effective. Tests have shown no detectable depleted uranium in anyone other than a very small number of troops injured directly by depleted uranium munitions.