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Nuclear Weapons Tests (Veterans)

Volume 575: debated on Monday 3 February 2014

It is important for me to make clear that the Government continue to recognise, and be grateful to, all the servicemen who participated in the British nuclear testing programme. Like all veterans, they are entitled to a comprehensive range of support from the veterans welfare service at the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency, which can also put them in contact with other organisations that can help with specific issues.

I am sure the Minister is aware that, according to the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association, nearly half the descendants of those veterans have experienced some kind of congenital problem such as illness or disability, while the veterans themselves are particularly susceptible to cancer and other diseases. Will she consider establishing a benevolent fund to support those who are still suffering the after-effects of nuclear tests?

We had a lengthy debate in, I think, Westminster Hall on this very issue. I am aware of the argument that is being advanced by the survivors, but there is no evidence to support their claims, and I do not think that it would be right to set up a £25 million benevolent fund when no proper basis for it has been provided. I am always available to listen to arguments, but so far I have heard no good argument to support that case.

Will my hon. Friend ensure that the nuclear veterans data are shared with other parts of the national health service, so that it can deal with some of the issues that may arise?

I cannot see any difficulty with that. As long as people have given permission for their data to be shared, it seems to me to be eminently sensible.