Emma calls for support for nuclear test veterans

February 4, 2014

130709 - Emma Lerwell Buck MP 01 smallOn Monday Emma called on the Ministry of Defence to look in to establishing a fund to help veterans of nuclear weapons tests and their descendants.

Speaking at Defence Questions, Emma asked the Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans Anna Soubry:

“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?”

The Minister said that the Government “continue to recognise, and be grateful to, all the servicemen who participated in the British nuclear testing programme” but argued that the case for support had not been proved, replying that “I am always available to listen to arguments, but so far I have heard no good argument to support that case.”

However, nuclear test veterans themselves disagree with the Minister, with three quarters of those surveyed believing nuclear testing may have damaged their health.  Last October over 100 campaigners from the British Nuclear Test Veterans’ Association (BNTVA) marched to Parliament to demand action from the Government.  They point out that other countries including the United States and France set aside funds to support veterans of nuclear testing.

On that day MPs debated the issue, although the Government refused to accept the case.  This debate can be read by clicking here.

Speaking after Defence Questions, Emma said:

“What the Minister said does not fit with the views of nuclear test veterans, or with the attitude taken by other countries who carried out nuclear tests.  I hope the Government reconsiders its position on this issue and recognises the debt we owe to veterans who took part in these tests.”

Between 1952 and 1967, over 20,000 service personnel took part in British Nuclear Weapons Tests. The BNTVA represents around 1,000 of those veterans, many of whom report health concerns for either themselves or their descendants.

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