HC Deb 02 May 1995 vol 259 cc158-9
4. Mr. Dalyell

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what concrete evidence he has had of Gulf war syndrome. [20079]

Mr. Freeman

To date, we have found no convincing scientific or medical evidence from our investigations, or elsewhere, to suggest the existence of a Gulf war syndrome. However, despite the lack of evidence, my Department keeps an open mind and these investigations will continue.

Mr. Dalyell

From the admittedly circumstantial material that I sent to the Ministry of Defence a fortnight ago, is there any evidence that Gulf war syndrome could at least be related to precautionary medicine?

Mr. Freeman

No. I am aware of the work at Duke university and the Department of Defense in the United States, but at both places it is at a very preliminary stage and no conclusions may yet be drawn. It may be helpful to the hon. Gentleman and to the House if I put in the Library—I shall send a copy to the hon. Gentleman—a report recently issued by the US Department of Defense, dated April 1995. It reviews progress to date on clinical evaluation of—from memory—some 15,000 American service men who have been subject to investigation, compared with about 200 in the United Kingdom. The report says that there remains no clinical evidence for a single or unique agent causing a Gulf war syndrome.

Dr. David Clark

While veterans of the second world war are very much in our thoughts, should we not also consider veterans of more recent conflicts such as the Gulf war? Why do the Government treat the Gulf war veterans who are suffering from Gulf war syndrome so shabbily? Will the Minister confirm that Colonel Johnson has been withdrawn from the medical examinations of our veterans and that only one doctor is involved in examining the several hundred veterans who claim that they are suffering from that syndrome?

Mr. Freeman

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman should accept, on behalf of the Labour party, the existence of Gulf war syndrome before he has seen the evidence and the facts. The plain fact is that some 500 service men and women from our forces who served in the Gulf have expressed a claim or concern as to their health to the Ministry of Defence. About 200 of them have had a medical examination by a wing commander who is a medical expert and consultant and we have ensured that a report has been put in the British Medical Journal to reflect the results of examinations so far. It is still far too early to tell, but there is no clinical or medical evidence to suggest the existence of the syndrome. I shall write to the hon. Gentleman and send him a copy of the British Medical Journal article.