In order to assist Lord Lloyd's investigation into Gulf veterans' illnesses, the Ministry of Defence provided the noble Lord with a pack containing more than 80 documents that were considered essential background to Ministry of Defence policy on Gulf veterans' illnesses. The pack also provided full details of our findings to date, and set out the key issues involved. In line with this Government's consistent policy of openness and transparency, the documents had already been made publicly available.
"fails to take into account the large amount of either substantive or scientific written material provided by the Ministry of Defence . . . to help inform his investigation."?—[Hansard, 13 December 2004; Vol. 428, c. 911W.]
Why would an eminent retired Law Lord simply cast aside the 80 volumes that the Minister has just mentioned? Does the Minister acknowledge that there is continuing public disquiet on this issue? Does he agree with the Public Administration Select Committee's report, published last week, which urged Parliament to reassert itself and to initiate public inquiries in circumstances in which the Government refuse to do so?
I stand by what I told our hon. Friend Mr. Donohoe during the Adjournment debate. That debate was useful, in that it put on record the Government's overall response to Lord Lloyd's inquiry. I must say that his four recommendations were disappointing. I did, in fact, respond to one of them on
We have been open and transparent with Gulf war veterans since 1997. Lord Lloyd has consistently refused to say where the funds for the inquiry came from, and that is not open and transparent.
In 1997 I accompanied my constituent Major Christine Lloyd, herself a Gulf war veteran suffering from a Gulf war illness. She was in the medical corps, and gave and received injections. She was promised in 1997 that the Government would undertake a full inquiry, and that it would be open and transparent. Nearly eight years later, she has received no further support and her health has deteriorated significantly. She and many others now look to the Government to honour their promises and hold a full public inquiry.
I am not sure that that would necessarily help the hon. Gentleman's constituent.
About 2,800 Gulf war veterans are receiving war disablement pensions, and if memory serves me aright some 50,000 troops went to the Gulf. The way to resolve the issue is to do so properly, as we are doing, through medical research. That research is under way, at a cost of £8.5 million, and I think it is the best way to find out why some Gulf war veterans are ill.
When the Government have accumulated all the research—for which I am very grateful—will they commit themselves to a public inquiry, so that they can draw a line under this very difficult matter?
I hope that my hon. Friend will accept that today would be the wrong time to give such a commitment. We should wait and see what the medical research shows, and then consider the matter further. I have made clear before that a public inquiry has not been ruled out, but we need to research the medical background to the Gulf war veterans' illnesses before making further decisions.