Nuclear Test Veterans: Recognition

Cabinet Office – in the House of Commons at on 7 September 2023.

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Photo of Jack Lopresti Jack Lopresti Conservative, Filton and Bradley Stoke

What steps he is taking with Cabinet colleagues to (a) recognise the contribution of nuclear test veterans and (b) support the roll-out of the Nuclear Test Medal.

Photo of Johnny Mercer Johnny Mercer Minister of State (Cabinet Office) (Minister for Veterans' Affairs)

While Hollywood remembers the work of Oppenheimer, the Government are committed to recognising the contribution of veterans and civilian staff across the UK and the Commonwealth to Britain’s nuclear test programme. The Office for Veterans’ Affairs is investing £450,000 in projects to commemorate and build further understanding of their experiences. I recently visited the Worcestershire Medal Service in Birmingham’s jewellery quarter to see the first nuclear test medals start rolling off the production line.

Photo of Jack Lopresti Jack Lopresti Conservative, Filton and Bradley Stoke

Will my right hon. Friend update the House on the progress of applications for the nuclear test medal, and whether the medals will be ready to be awarded by Remembrance Sunday?

Photo of Johnny Mercer Johnny Mercer Minister of State (Cabinet Office) (Minister for Veterans' Affairs)

Of course. Last time we were here, I made a commitment that we would do everything possible to get these medals on chests by Remembrance Sunday. We are in line with that commitment. We will meet that commitment. This has been a 70-year project and campaign by these individuals. I totally respect that for some it is not fast enough, and for some it is not enough to be done. We are straining every sinew to bring recognition to this cohort and we will continue to do so. We will have those medals ready for Remembrance Sunday this year.

Photo of Rachel Hopkins Rachel Hopkins Shadow Minister (Defence)

I am pleased to hear that continued commitment to ensuring that medals are with nuclear test veterans in time for Remembrance Sunday. Our nuclear test veterans served our country with pride and distinction, but given the uncertainty caused by the Government’s previous comments that the medals would be awarded by late summer, and then that they would be ready in the autumn, can we have some clarity, and will the Minister tell the House what recent discussions he has had with nuclear test veterans and their representatives about a formal medal ceremony? Can he guarantee that nuclear test veterans will be awarded their medals in a manner befitting their brave service?

Photo of Johnny Mercer Johnny Mercer Minister of State (Cabinet Office) (Minister for Veterans' Affairs)

The hon. Member will be aware that Remembrance Sunday is coming up, which is a timeline that campaigners wanted to meet. That gives us a narrow window to do the sort of ceremony that I would think befits these individuals. It is a balance between getting the medals on people’s chests for Remembrance Sunday and at the same time ensuring that they are awarded in a manner that is in keeping with their service. That is simply the art of the possible and what can be done. I am proud of what the Government have done on nuclear test veterans. Her party, when it was in power, did not award nuclear test veterans; in fact, she signed early-day motions to campaign against nuclear weapons, so I will not take any lessons on this. I am proud of what we have done, and I look forward to seeing medals on chests for Remembrance Sunday.