Nuclear Testing Veterans: Service Medals

Defence – in the House of Commons on 7th November 2022.

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Photo of Rebecca Long-Bailey Rebecca Long-Bailey Labour, Salford and Eccles

If he will take steps with Cabinet colleagues to help ensure that British nuclear testing veterans are awarded service medals.

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

I pay tribute to our nuclear test veterans in this 70th anniversary year of our first nuclear test, and we look forward to the commemorative event at the National Memorial Arboretum later this month. The award of a medal to nuclear test veterans is first a matter for the Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals. The case is being considered through the well-established process for reviewing historical medal cases, and the outcome will be announced in due course.

Photo of Rebecca Long-Bailey Rebecca Long-Bailey Labour, Salford and Eccles

A Cabinet Office source reportedly told the Daily Mirror that the Advisory Military Sub-Committee has recommended to the main Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals that there be no medal for nuclear testing veterans, despite a Government scientist reporting in February that atomic troops were more likely to die, and to die from cancer, than other servicemen. Given that the Sir John Holmes military medal review in 2012 states clearly that the Prime Minister can personally make a direct recommendation to the sovereign on a medal issue, will he now recommend that those servicemen finally receive the medal they deserve?

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

I am grateful to the hon. Lady, but she really ought not believe everything she sees in the pages of the Daily Mirror. The procedure is for the Advisory Military Sub-Committee to make a recommendation to the HD Committee, which will make a determination on that matter. She will know well that in June this year the then Prime Minister decided to review the case, and asked the HD Committee to look at it again. She will also be aware of all the money that the Government are putting into nuclear test veterans, in particular the £450,000 project to commemorate and build public understanding of the contribution to our country made by those important veterans.

Photo of Rachel Hopkins Rachel Hopkins Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office), Shadow Minister (Defence)

As we approach Armistice Day, I pay tribute to our armed forces personnel, veterans, forces families and all those lost through conflict over the years. Theirs is the ultimate public service.

As the Minister said, this month marks 70 years since the first British atomic tests in the Pacific. We are the only atomic nation that has not provided recognition of or compensation to nuclear test veterans. As well as the warm words, will the Minister commit to ending that scandal by setting out a clear timetable for nuclear test veterans to receive medallic recognition? Will he back Labour’s call for a complete review of the medals system to make it easier to recognise exemplary service personnel and veterans of unusual operations, such as those who took part in the Afghanistan withdrawal and nuclear test vets?

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

The hon. Lady has fallen into the same trap as Rebecca Long Bailey. She really must not take what she reads in the press at face value. I gave the timetable in my opening remarks, and I said that it is for the HD committee to make a determination, which it will. She must not confuse commemorative coins and medallions with medals. Medals are worn on uniform; medallions and commemorative coins of the sort that other countries have issued cannot be worn.