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Armed Forces: Porton Down Veterans

Volume 698: debated on Thursday 31 January 2008

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Derek Twigg) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Ministry of Defence has for some months been in discussions with solicitors representing a group of Porton Down veterans regarding compensation claims arising out of their participation in the programme of trials undertaken at the chemical defence establishment during the Cold War. I am pleased to report that an amicable settlement has now been reached with respect to these claims. This settlement is without admission of liability by the Ministry of Defence and involves the payment of a global sum of £3 million in full and final settlement of all claims made by the group.

The Government have in the past made clear the debt owed by the nation to those who took part in the trials at Porton Down designed to ensure that the United Kingdom had the defensive and deterrent capabilities to counter the real and horrific threat that chemical weapons would be used against our Armed Forces or civilian population, as they had against others; the security of the country rested on these trials and the contribution of those who took part in them.

The trials were in many cases conducted under considerable pressures of time as new threats emerged. The Government accept that there were aspects of the trials where there may have been shortcomings and where, in particular, the life or health of participants may have been put at risk. The Government sincerely apologise to those who may have been affected.