HL Deb 10 February 2005 vol 669 cc39-40WS

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Ivor Caplin) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

At Defence Questions on 29 November 2004 (Official Report, col. 354), I announced that the Ministry of Defence would investigate the rejections of war pension cases referred to by Lord Lloyd of Berwick in his report into gulf veterans' illnesses which was published on 17 November 2004.

One of the recommendations referred to, "272 claimants who have had their claims rejected (and) should have those claims reviewed in the light of this report". Of these cases, more than half related to diagnosed disorders such as traumatic physical injuries, low back pain, or coronary disease which we would expect to find in any group of service personnel and which certainly do not relate to anything that might be construed as a "Gulf War" illness. This investigation therefore concentrated on the remaining 100 or so cases that may or do relate to gulf veterans' illnesses.

This work is now complete and revealed some form of irregularity in six of the 110 cases. Otherwise, procedures on claims, reviews and appeals have been properly followed, and the outcomes reflect the evidence and contemporary understanding, and would not have been affected by subsequent developments in the understanding, of symptoms and illnesses occurring among gulf veterans. In considering the rate of irregularities, account needs to be taken of the complexity of many claims from gulf veterans, often involving multiple conditions or symptoms and repeated requests for the addition of further conditions:

One involved a procedural error, involving failure to implement a decision that the individual was suffering from an illness attributable to service in the gulf. Arrangements are being made to pay the arrears as soon as is practicable.

One claim was wrongly rejected.

In the other four cases the claim was only partly answered—the decisions made did not cover the full range of conditions and symptoms claimed, all of which related to service in the Gulf.

In all these cases, the relevant decisions are being formally reviewed and will be notified to the claimant, with an appropriate notice of award or rejection. Any decision taken on review will carry a full right of appeal. I am today placing copies of this report in the Library of the House. It is also being placed on Ministry of Defence websites at www.veteransagency.mod.uk and www.gulfwar.mod.uk.