HC Deb 26 January 1988 vol 126 cc161-2
10. Mr. George Howarth

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects to receive the report of the National Radiological Protection Board on nuclear test veterans; when he will respond; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Sainsbury

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer given in the House on Monday 18 January. I am pleased to be able to tell the House that on 28 January 1988 the NRPB intends to publish the final report into the mortality and cancer incidence in United Kingdom participants in the United Kingdom atmospheric nuclear weapon tests and experimental programmes.

Mr. Howarth

In the light of the recently released Cabinet papers, does the Minister accept that it is now clear that in 1950s British service men were exposed to the effects of nuclear tests and that undoubtedly some have suffered and are suffering? Is not the introduction of a proper system of compensation long overdue so that the families and the service men can be properly compensated for the damage to their health?

Mr. Sainsbury

As I said, the report is to be published on 28 January. It would be wrong to anticipate its contents.

Mr. Benn

Will the Minister address his mind to the question of the papers and reports in the Public Record Office that may have been suppressed, as the report on the Windscale fire in 1957 was suppressed, which prevented people who had claims for possible death or injury following 1957 having access to the relevant information? Will the Minister give an undertaking that all the reports made available to successive Governments since the original tests were conducted will be published so that people may study those reports as well as those of the National Radiological Protection Board?

Mr. Sainsbury

I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman awaits the publication of the report and then studies it before trying to anticipate its contents.

Mr. Denzil Davies

Does the Minister agree that the protection board's report is about statistics, not people, and that the board has never examined one person who was at the tests? Will the Ministry of Defence now sit down with the representatives of those people, who were not properly protected, to try to work out some decent compensation for them, because that is the British Government's moral responsibility?

Mr. Sainsbury

We shall all be in a much better position to judge the situation when we have had an opportunity to read what is a full and exhaustive report, involving a study of the records of over 22,000 service men who took part in the tests.