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Last Updated: Monday, 14 June, 2004, 00:51 GMT 01:51 UK
'Gulf War syndrome' probe planned
A unidentified soldier is injected during the first Gulf War
Many soldiers had numerous injections
An independent inquiry is to be held into the plight of thousands of British troops who reportedly suffered ill health after the first Gulf War.

The Royal British Legion has appointed a retired judge to question veterans, relatives and doctors.

More than 5,000 British veterans have reported illnesses which they believe may have been caused by vaccines or exposure to chemicals.

The government has never acknowledged the existence of Gulf War syndrome.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick, a former Lord Justice of Appeal, was called upon to head the inquiry by Lord Morris of Manchester, who is honorary parliamentary advisor to the British Legion.

Vaccinations

Lord Lloyd said that although the government had claimed it was not closed to an inquiry, it had "repeatedly resisted one".

He said he intended to open the inquiry as soon as possible and to hold hearings in public.

The Legion first called for a public inquiry into the illnesses surrounding the 1991-1992 Gulf War veterans seven years ago.

There is clearly a major problem to be addressed
Lord Morris of Manchester

Lord Morris, who announced the inquiry, said the Legion had repeatedly called for an inquiry into the reported illnesses from the first Gulf War.

He said: "With 2,585 veterans - many now terminally ill - already in receipt of war pensions, and over 5,000 reporting a wide range of undiagnosed illnesses, there is clearly a major problem to be addressed."

He said many veterans, now in failing health, found themselves locked in a long battle to have their illnesses accepted as war related.

'Whitewash'

A spokesman for the British Legion said he was "delighted" by the announcement and said his organisation would support the inquiry in any way it could.

But he said it was disappointing that an inquiry could not have been held sooner and its findings used to improve procedures to prepare troops for current operations.

The National Gulf Veterans and Families Association gave a cautious welcome to the news.

Chairman Shaun Rusling said: "My first concern would be that the scope of the inquiry would be narrow and we would get a whitewash.

"That is something we would find unacceptable - it has to be a fully open and complete inquiry and nothing withheld from the public."

He added: "I would very much like to see, for all my members, full medical care and proper pensions.

"It's absolutely despicable to make these soldiers fight for these pension rights and entitlements."


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Paul Adams
"Thousands of veterans of the Gulf War have reported health problems"



SEE ALSO:
'Fears over Gulf War chemicals'
11 Jun 04  |  Health
Gulf war compensation bid fails
05 Feb 04  |  Health


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