HC Deb 14 January 1986 vol 89 cc905-6
1. Mr. Ron Davies

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he has any plans to review the provisions under which former service personnel could pursue a claim following injury in United Kingdom nuclear tests.

9. Mr. Terry Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he has plans to seek to compensate ex-service men and women for ill-health arising from nuclear tests.

The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Mr. Norman Lamont)

Section 10 of the Crown Proceedings Act 1947, which bars such claims, is currently under review. However, it is open to former service personnel who believe that they have suffered injury which is attributable to service to apply to the Department of Health and Social Security for a war disablement pension. Nevertheless, it remains the Government's view that no one was harmed as a result of exposure to ionising radiation from the United Kingdom test programme. The matter will be reviewed when the results of the National Radiological Protection Board survey are available later this year.

Mr. Davies

Is it not clear, particularly as a result of the findings and recommendations of the Australian Royal Commission, that significant numbers of British ex-service men who served in the Pacific were unnecessarily exposed to nuclear radiation? Is there not a clear moral responsibility on the Government to waive the provisions of section 10 to allow compensation to be paid to those people whose health is suffering?

Mr. Lamont

There were 202 different conclusions in the report, and they require careful study. We have had some meetings at official level with the Australian Government. Later this month the Foreign Secretary and I will meet Senator Evans, the Australian Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, and we shall discuss the findings of the commission.

Mr. Lewis

Is the Secretary of State aware that there is a stong feeling among ex-service men that the NRPB submission is just another delaying tactic? If the Government are serious about the matter, as they should be, they should initiate their own commission of inquiry, as the Australians have done.

Mr. Lamont

The Government are serious about the matter. I hope that the NRPB survey findings will be available in the autumn. I take the matters that have been raised extremely seriously, but in order to assess the possibility of illness and death resulting from the tests we must have a proper survey of those who were involved in them.

Mr. Holt

My hon. Friend may take note of whether our ex-service men have nuclear disease, but is he aware that the council in Middlesbrough will not employ people who were long-serving personnel in our armed forces?

Mr. Lamont

I have listened to what my hon. Friend has said, and that seems most extraordinary.

Mr. Alton

In view of what the Minister has said about a proper survey, why does he not extend the NRPB survey to examine the genetic effects on the children of service men who were involved in the tests?

Mr. Lamont

The NRPB survey could be extended in many ways, but, as it is presently defined, it will enable us to establish whether people were adversely affected by the tests. We can then decide on the appropriate action.

Mr. Harrison

Will the survey, when sending a questionnaire to the families of the 20,000 personnel, both military and civilian, take into account the fact that many of them are dead? I have been looking into the matter, and I am not satisfied. Is the Minister satisfied with the survey as it has been carried out?

Mr. Lamont

A questionnaire is not being sent to the 20,000 people. Obviously information is available about the health records of those people, and that is what the survey will be based on. The right hon. Gentleman has tabled questions about that before, and I have taken them seriously. I am satisfied that the survey will give us the information that is necessary to reach a proper and considered conclusion. We do care about the matter.

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