HC Deb 01 February 1983 vol 36 cc132-3
6. Mr. Allan Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government towards widows of ex-service men whose husbands died after service where they could have suffered from the consequences of the testing of nuclear weapons.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces (Mr. Jerry Wiggin)

Were the Department of Health and Social Security to accept that death arose from causes related to service, it would award a war widow's pension; and if the Ministry of Defence also accepted that death arose from such causes, provided the husband served on or after 31 March 1973, an attributable widow's pension would be awarded.

Mr. Roberts

Is the Minister aware that there are cases in which the DHSS has accepted that death was caused by contact with nuclear weapons when they were tested, but that the Ministry of Defence has refused to accept that? Now that we have a new Secretary of State for Defence, will he show some compassion towards widows of ex-service men who died because they were in an area where nuclear weapons were tested? Is he aware that many of those widows fear that the Ministry of Defence is refusing to accept its responsibilities because it does not wish the British people to know about the horrific consequences of nuclear weapons, even when they are being tested in a controlled manner.

Mr. Wiggin

In one case there is a disparity of view between the two Departments. The reasons for the success of the lady's appeal was purely legal. As to medical evidence, my Department does not accept that the death of the person was due in any way to the causes suggested by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Ashley

As the Ministry of Defence has said categorically that safety precautions at the time were more than adequate to preclude health risks, is it not the case that Ministers have prejudged the issue and that what we need now is an independent assessment of the entire position?

Mr. Wiggin

In the case that has been mentioned, we must, as must all Ministers, bow to the advice given to us by our medical advisers. In this case the medical advisers were in no doubt. On the more general question, the right hon. Gentleman will find that there is another question to be answered soon by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Skinner

Yes, mine. No. 15.