[Media July 2004] MoD gags Gulf war research
James Meikle, health correspondent
Friday July 16, 2004
The Guardian

The Ministry of Defence has asked scientists it pays to research illnesses in
veterans of the first Gulf war not to reveal ongoing findings to the
independent inquiry into the health of former troops.

Other advisers, including retired officers, as well as those monitoring the
health of troops involved in last year's invasion of Iraq, have also been
to "observe the confidentiality" of pre-publication findings.

The MoD says presenting such work before it has been reviewed by other
scientists might put the credibility of the research at risk.

Last night the ministry said a letter sent to researchers on Wednesday
represented a request not a warning, but Shaun Rusling, the vice-chairman
of the
Gulf War Veterans and Families Association, called the move "despicable". He
accused the government of trying to manipulate the way research was presented.

The letter came as the inquiry, headed by Lord Lloyd, the former lawlord,
revealed that Sir Peter de la Billiere, the British commander in the first
war, would give evidence next week, as will Lord Bramall, a head of the
staff during the 1980s.

Simon Wessley, a professor at King's College London and one of the scientists
advised not to reveal unpublished work, will also attend. However, no serving
ministers, officials or members of the armed forces are to attend the
The MoD says it will provide "appropriate documents".

In the letter to more than 40 scientists and advisers, Malcom Lingwood, the
director of the MoD's veterans policy unit, said the only way to establish
causes of ill-health in veterans was through its own funded research

"It would be inappropriate for the ministry to try to influence your own
approach to the investigation. However [...] I am sure you understand we would
not want to jeopardise the scientific credibility of work still in hand by
presenting material before it's been given proper peer review."