Nuclear Test Veterans

Nato – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 16th May 2011.

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Photo of Steve Brine Steve Brine Conservative, Winchester 2:30 pm, 16th May 2011

When he expects to receive the findings of the independent health needs audit of British nuclear test veterans; and whether he plans to publish a response to the study.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

The findings of the health needs audit are expected this summer. The study will document veterans’ self-reported experience of ill health and their experience of health and social care services, and it aims to provide practical, forward-looking recommendations on how health and social care services for this group could be improved. We intend to share the outcome of this work with other relevant areas, such as the Department of Health, and we will publish the report’s findings and any response.

Photo of Steve Brine Steve Brine Conservative, Winchester

I thank the Minister very much for that response. Like many Members, I look forward to the Secretary of State’s statement on the armed forces covenant shortly. One could argue that the duty of care it entails is also relevant to Britain’s nuclear test veterans. What action is the Minister able to take after so many years—it has been many years now—properly to recognise the sacrifices of our nuclear test veterans and to bring some much-needed closure to survivors and their families?

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

I think the whole House would join me in paying tribute to those who served in the armed forces in the 1950s. Most of those involved were national servicemen and were doing their duty, as it was explained to them, by witnessing the nuclear explosions. We provide war pensions to anyone who suffers from an ailment that is linked to the service they underwent, such as watching nuclear tests, but it is necessary that we provide pensions and compensation only to those who were harmed by their service.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North

Does the Minister agree that this is a sad and sorry business? Those people suffered grievously many years ago and successive Governments have prevaricated and obfuscated on the matter. The nuclear test veterans need help, support and compensation, and above all they need an apology from successive Governments for the way they have been treated.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. He says that people suffered grievously. Some people are of course ill, and some are ill because of their service. It is important that the Government should look to that. The previous Government did, as we do, through the war pensions system. However, there is no study showing that people who witnessed those nuclear tests have more cases of cancer than their cohort groups. We must base our response and expenditure of taxpayers’ money on evidence, not on emotion.