HC Deb 02 November 1998 vol 318 cc549-50
15. Dr. Ian Gibson (Norwich, North)

What assessment he has made of recent evidence relating to Gulf war syndrome. [55892]

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr. Doug Henderson)

We continue to keep new information about Gulf veterans' illnesses under review. It is encouraging that recently published scientific research is making progress on this subject and I look forward to seeing the first results from the epidemiological studies of UK Gulf veterans at around the turn of the year.

Dr. Gibson

Is not the evidence a long time coming? We have been raising the issue in the House for more than a year. Does not the evidence point towards one common biochemical activation of molecules, which is induced by different chemicals either singly or together? Might that not have different clinical outcomes in individuals? Has not the time come to pay up and to prevent other people from being subjected to those dangerous chemicals?

Mr. Henderson

I thank my hon. Friend for that question, which deals with an important issue. We owe a heavy debt to those who served in the Gulf on our behalf. There are a number of interesting developments in research and I anticipate that three pieces of British research will be published in the coming months. There are also interesting pieces of research in the United States, in particular from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta, which continues to cover new ground. It believes that it is close to defining what sort of illnesses are being suffered by those who served in the Gulf. I look forward to being able to assess the various pieces of research when they are available to me, around the turn of the year. It is essential that, where there is illness, we try to identify the causes and how to remove them, as well as dealing with other important questions.