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Armed Forces: Porton Down Veterans

Volume 709: debated on Wednesday 1 April 2009


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

In 2003 the Government commissioned, via the Medical Research Council, a large-scale and independent epidemiological study of the more than 19,000 UK service personnel who had taken part in human experiments at the Porton Down research establishment between 1939 and 1989.  The study was completed in 2007, and the main findings on mortality and cancer incidence were published on 25 March by the British Medical Journal.

The researchers found no significant difference in overall cancer risk between those personnel who took part in the tests and similar personnel who did not. General mortality was slightly higher among the Porton Down veterans than the controls, but was lower in both groups than in the population at large.  The authors state that it is not possible to attribute the small excess mortality to chemical exposures at Porton Down.

I welcome the publication of these findings, which fulfil the commitment made by this Government to investigate whether the long-term health of Porton Down veterans was degraded by their participation in the tests.