I received a letter dated 11 November 2009 on behalf of the British Atomic Veterans Claimant Group. I understand that a similar letter was sent to all Members of Parliament with one or more atomic veterans in their constituency.
The letter explains that many of the veterans view recognition as more important than substantial compensation. I should therefore like to reiterate the statement I made in the House on 22 October 2008, Official Report, columns 421-24, which is that the Ministry of Defence recognises the debt of gratitude we have to the servicemen who took part in the nuclear tests. They were important tests that helped to keep this nation secure at a difficult time in terms of nuclear technology. There is a memorial to British Nuclear Test Veterans at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.
At the conclusion of his judgment Mr. Justice Foskett said
“The Government is, of course, pledged to settle legal cases by alternative dispute resolution in all suitable cases whenever the other party agrees to it. In my view, this is such a case”.
The Ministry of Defence has adhered to the judge’s wish but, unfortunately, I cannot reveal the contents of the negotiations because this would breach the confidentiality agreement between the parties. However, I can say that genuine negotiations have taken place between the parties respective counsels and a settlement proposal was made by the Ministry of Defence (although I cannot disclose the amount). To date, no response has been received from the claimants’ counsel or the law firm representing them (Rosenblatts). This is obviously disappointing, but we remain open to meaningful discussions. In the meantime, we have been left with no option but to proceed with our appeal for which the High Court judge has given us permission. I understand the appeal is listed for a three week window starting on 4 May 2010.