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British Nuclear Test Veterans

Volume 686: debated on Thursday 17 December 2020

What criteria was used by the Advisory Military Sub-Committee to inform its decision not to recommend a service medal award for British nuclear test veterans. (910442)

The independent Advisory Military Sub-Committee first considers whether there are exceptional circumstances that merit a review. The criteria for historical recognition are the exposure of deployed personnel to a significant degree of risk to life and limb and to arduous conditions, in excess of what might be expected as part of normal service duties.

The UK is the only country that performed nuclear tests that has not formally recognised the contribution of its 20,000 nuclear test veterans. These elderly veterans, who were exposed to ionising radiation with no protection, have heard decades of rhetoric about their bravery, but without formal recognition, those are simply hollow words. Members on both sides of the House know that these veterans deserve a campaign medal, but his Department continues to refuse that modest request. Why does the Minister consider these veterans unworthy of a medal?

I am afraid that there were a number of inaccuracies in the hon. Member’s question. It is not my Department, and we are not the only country in the world that has this view. Only this summer, I met the chairman of the veterans group concerned and asked Veterans UK—this is separate from the medallic recognition scheme—to revisit and redesign the support available to our nuclear test veterans. I understand the disappointment at this decision. It is not within my gift. My job is to make sure these people are looked after properly. I am confident we are doing that. Again, I am happy to meet campaign groups to see what more we can do.