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Ex-servicemen: Radiation Exposure

Volume 487: debated on Monday 26 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent representations he has received from veterans who were present at the nuclear tests which took place in and around Malden Island in the 1950s; if he will make compensation payments to such veterans whose health was affected by the tests; and if he will make a statement. (250209)

[holding answer 22 January 2009]: I refer the hon. Member to the replies I gave today to the hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Davies) and to the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes).

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent representations his Department has received from the British Nuclear Test Veterans' Association (BNTVA) over claims for compensation from such veterans; and what the outcome was of his most recent meeting with the BNTVA to discuss compensation. (248784)

In December 2008 I received a letter signed by the Chairman of the BNTVA John Lowe, the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Baron) and my hon. Friend hon. the Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson). That letter set out a case for an end to the atomic veterans litigation and for payment of damages to "nuclear test veterans and their affected offspring". While I have considered the points made, the Ministry of Defence has seen no general evidence of damage to nuclear test veterans' health, and therefore in my view the atomic veterans litigation must proceed at the High Court. I will place a copy of that letter and my reply in the Library of the House.

I do, however, take the concerns of our nuclear test veterans very seriously. For that reason, I met with representatives of the BNTVA, John Baron and Ian Gibson in October 2008 to discuss taking forward a study into the health of the offspring of nuclear test veterans. Officials also met the BNTVA and John Baron on 4 December 2008 to discuss preliminary scientific and ethical considerations that may be relevant to such a study. Both meetings were in clear agreement that compensation should not be discussed in advance of the forthcoming legal case. The Ministry of Defence has received no other recent representations from the BNTVA concerned with claims for compensation.

We are currently arranging a follow-on meeting to include the BNTVA and scientific experts, to take place as soon as practicable.