Nuclear Test Veterans

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:30 pm on 4 February 1998.

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Photo of Mr Llew Smith Mr Llew Smith Labour, Blaenau Gwent 12:30, 4 February 1998

My hon. Friend is right. The same has happened on other occasions and in other instances. I tabled dozens of questions about problems relating to Gulf war syndrome and organophosphates, but was told by the then Government that there had been no problem, and that organophosphates had not been used. Some months later, however, the Government had to make a statement saying that I had been misled.

The Minister should bear in mind the fact that Roff is using the methodology that has frequently been used in other studies conducted by the same people who undertook the MOD studies. Her methodology is perfectly legitimate, but it calls into question the validity of the findings of major studies using another methodology. That is a common experience in medical and scientific research; what is less common is the refusal of major Government agencies to accept the implications of the findings. That is why today's debate is taking place.

Let me remind the Minister what was written in a confidential document—declassified by his own Department on 26 January 1985—by the rear admiral who was in charge of Britain's first atomic bomb in 1951. In a memorandum to Vice-Admiral Brooking, he wrote: radiological safety must be one of the chief concerns of the naval commander … I believe that all Government servants are in fact entitled to compensation for injury on duty". I agree, and I trust that the Minister agrees.

In March 1991, the then Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent, South ended his Adjournment debate on nuclear test veterans with the words What the men need is justice. "—[Official Report, 20 March 1991; Vol.188, c. 377.] That is just as true today. It is unforgivable that those men have had to wait seven long years, when so many have died painful deaths. The people—and, indeed, Parliament—deserve much better.