John Baron MP welcomes Prime Minister’s comments on nuclear test veterans

July 2, 2014
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MP reiterates calls for BNTVA Charitable Fund

Today at Prime Minister’s Questions, John Baron MP again questioned the Prime Minister on the British Nuclear Test Veterans. John and the British Nuclear Test Veterans’ Association (BNTVA) are campaigning on behalf of test veterans, with the aim of securing official recognition from the Prime Minister for the veterans’ unique service, along with the establishment of a £25m Charitable Fund for veterans and their descendants – please see ‘Notes to Editors’ for further information.

In the House of Commons, John asked,

“A third of nuclear test veterans’ descendants have been born with a serious medical condition. Our cross-party campaign seeks recognition, not compensation, and includes a Government ex gratia payment into a Charitable Fund to help those in need. Will the Prime Minister, following our last meeting in April, now clear the logjam; recognise our veterans; and resolve this shameful chapter in our nuclear history?”

The Prime Minister replied by paying tribute to the work of the nuclear test veterans and acknowledging their contribution to the nation through their service. He stated that he had asked his officials to investigate the matter further, and undertook to get back to John when this was completed.

Afterwards, John said,

“The Prime Minister’s comments are welcomed by nuclear test veterans. They have been seeking official recognition for their service for many years, and the Prime Minister’s words, on the record, will mean a lot to them.”

“However, the second half of our campaign calls on the Government to make an ex gratia payment into a Charitable Fund to help those veterans and descendants in need – particularly the one in three children born with a serious condition.”

“I thank the Prime Minister for his comments and look forward to hearing from him soon.”

Ends

Word Count: 306
Date: 2nd July 2014

Notes to Editors:

  • John is Patron of the British Nuclear Test Veterans’ Association (BNTVA).

Background:

  • 20,000+ National Servicemen helped Britain develop its nuclear deterrent in the 1950s and 1960s. The science was unknown, and the precautions were rudimentary. Servicemen were often told simply to turn their backs and dust themselves down. Some of those not suffering from incontinence or severe blisters were ordered to collect samples of flora and fauna for scientists who were themselves wearing protective clothing.
  • British Nuclear Test Veterans have found the MoD’s war pension scheme to be unfair. It requires the applicant to prove a causal link between illness and presence at a nuclear test. With the passage of time, and a lack of rigorous research, this can prove almost impossible. It is therefore unsurprising that 90% of applications from nuclear test veterans are unsuccessful.

Two Strands:

  • Both sides can claim to have science on their side. Instead, we point to how badly Britain compares with other countries when considering their treatment of their nuclear test veterans (see attached ‘Table of International Comparisons’):
    • The United States offers its nuclear veterans free healthcare, and up to two payments of $75,000 should the individual suffer one of a list of prescribed illnesses (mostly cancers). No causal link between nuclear service and the illness is required.
    • Canada, which has a healthcare system very similar to our NHS, has paid veterans C$24,000. No proof of illness was required. This is in addition to a war pensions scheme.
    • The Isle of Man Government offers £8,000 to its nuclear test veterans. Again, no proof of illness is required. This runs alongside the MoD war pensions scheme.
  • However, many veterans are more concerned about the possible effects of their service on their descendants. Against a national rate of around 2.5%, evidence shows that 39% of veterans’ descendants were born with serious conditions. These findings accord with studies of French nuclear test veterans, which found the figure to be 35%.

The Campaign:

  • The current recognition campaign is the second of a two-phase process. The first phase was to secure a Health Needs Audit, which was the initial priority of the British Nuclear Test Veterans’ Association (BNTVA), given the age profile of the veterans. This was completed in 2011, and has led to the creation of a ‘veterans’ pathway’ through the NHS.
  • The second phase, launched in June 2013, is to secure official recognition of the veterans’ unique service, by means of:
    • A written or oral statement from the Prime Minister.
    • An ex gratia payment (thereby circumventing any liability) of £25m into a Benevolent Fund for veterans and their descendants, access to which would be on the basis of need, not entitlement – thus illustrating that this is a campaign of recognition, not compensation.
  • John met the Prime Minister in April, who has promised to ask further questions within Government.

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