HC Deb 28 March 1990 vol 170 cc626-42

`(1) In the principal Act, after section 78, there shall be inserted the following Chapter:—


78A.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, a person shall be entitled to a benefit or benefits, to be known as radiation exposure payments, payable at a prescribed rate or rates, if he is—

  1. (a) a radiation exposed Crown employee who suffers from a relevant disease;
  2. (b) the widow or widower of a radiation exposed Crown employee who suffered from a relevant disease; or
  3. (c) a person entitled to child benefit in respect of a child of a deceased radiation exposed Crown employee who suffered from a relevant disease.

(2) Subsection (1) above shall come into force six months after the passing of the Social Security Act 1990.

(3) In this Chapter— 'a radiation exposed Crown employee' means a person who, while serving as a member of Her Majesty's forces or in any other prescribed employment under the Crown, was, or is deemed in accordance with regulations to have been, exposed to ionizing radiation as a result of his participation in activities connected with a prescribed test or series of tests of a nuclear device or devices; `a relevant disease' means a disease presumed to have been caused by service as a radiation exposed Crown employee.

(4) For the purposes of this section, any disease specified in column 1 of Schedule 9A to this Act, which a radiation exposed Crown employee develops or has developed at any time after the last day on which he was, or is deemed in accordance with regulations to have been, exposed to ionizing radiation as a result of his participation in activities connected with a prescibed test or series of tests of a nuclear device or devices, but not longer after that day than the maximum period specified for that disease in column 2 of that Schedule, shall be presumed to have been caused by service as a radiation exposed Crown employee, and no other disease shall be presumed to have been so caused.

(5) The Secretary of State may at any time make an Order amending Schedule 9A to this Act in such manner as he considers appropriate in the light of medical evidence.

(6) Where, on the day before such an Order comes into force, a person is treated as suffering or having suffered from a relevant disease for the purposes of this section, or would have been so treated if his claim for benefit under this section had been determined, the provisions of Schedule 9A shall apply in his case as if the Order had not been made.

(7) Regulations may prescribe circumstances in which a claim for benefit under this section is to be determined as if an Order under subsection (5) above which came into force after the date of the claim had been in force on that date.

(8) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (2) above, the first regulations under subsections (1) and (3) above shall be made before subsection (1) comes into force.

(9) Before making the first regulations under subsection (1) above, it shall be the duty of the Secretary of State to satisfy himself that the benefit or benefits payable under that subsection by virtue of those regulations will be on the whole as favourable as the benefits that would be payable under section 76 above to persons in similar circumstances if the relevant disease were prescribed for the purposes of that section and the other conditions of entitlement to benefit under that section were satisfied.

(10) A claim for benefit under subsection (1) above made within 12 months after the day on which the Social Security Act 1990 was passed shall be treated as if the provisions of that subsection and of the first regulations under subsections (1) and (3) above had come into force on that day and as if the claim had been made on that day or on the first day on which the claimant satisfied or would have been satisfied the requirements for entitlement to the benefit, whichever is later."

(2) In section 93(1) of the principal act, there shall be added at the end— (f) a question whether a person is or was on any day a radiation exposed Crown employee for the purposes of Part II, Chapter VA.

(3) In section 113(1) of the principal Act, for the words "Chapter V" there shall be substituted the words "Chapters V and VA".

(4) In section 115(3) of the principal Act, for the words "those relating to industrial injuries benefit" there shall be substituted the words "Chapters IV to VA".

(5) After Schedule 9 to the principal Act there shall be inserted the following Schedule—

Disease Maximum period
Leukaemia (other than chronic lymphocytic leukaemia) 40 years
Cancer of the thyroid 40 years
Cancer of the breast 40 years
Cancer of the pharynx 40 years
Cancer of the oesophagus 40 years
Cancer of the stomach 40 years
Cancer of the small intestine 40 years
Cancer of the pancreas 40 years
Multiple myeloma 40 years
Lymphomas (except Hodgkin's disease) 40 years
Cancer of the bile ducts 40 years
Cancer of the gall bladder 40 years
Primary liver cancer (except if caused by cirrhosis or hepatitis B) 40 years"

(6) In section 63 of the Social Security Act 1986 (annual up-rating of benefits)— (a) the following paragraph shall be inserted after subsection (1)(i)— (j) specified in regulations under section 78A(1) of the Social Security Act 1975,"; and— (b) in subsection (3)(b), for the words "or (ee)" there shall be substituted the words "(ee) or (j)".'.—[Mr. Clay.]

Brought up. and read the First time.

12.15 am
Mr. Bob Clay (Sunderland, North)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The new clause stands in my name and in the names of hon. Members from both sides of the House. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) and other hon. Friends for not moving new clause 7, thus enabling this debate to take place. New clause 8 is about the 22,000 British service men and approximately 3,000 Crown employees who participated in the British nuclear weapons test programme between 1952 and 1958. Tragically, it is more about the dependants of those men, since the men are dying disproportionately from leukaemia, myeloma and many other cancers.

For years, successive Governments have argued that those involved in the British nuclear testing programme were not exposed to danger from radiation and that there was no connection between the incidence of cancer that they have suffered and their participation in the tests. For years, too, increasing scientific, medical and statistical evidence has contradicted Governments' assertions.

Many hon. Members on both sides of the House have interviewed many constituents who took part in these exercises at Christmas island, Maralinga or other test sites and have been told stories of how the men wore no protective clothing or dosimeter film badges to measure radiation. It is possible to believe that one or two of them were cranks, or that their memories had faded, or that one or two did not know what they were talking about. But when so many serious, sober people with clear recollections tell us that that was their experience, we cannot go on believing the claims of successive Governments that everyone was protected and wore radiation-measuring badges, and that there was no evidence that anything went wrong.

Leaving aside anecdotal evidence of this kind, however, we can turn to a newly declassified document written before the test programme started, on 20 September 1951. It was sent by Rear Admiral Torlisse to Rear Admiral Brooking. The former was the military commander of the first British nuclear test. I do not have time to read the whole letter, but I want to quote two key passages from it: Radiological safety must be one of the chief concerns of the naval commander, but equally evidently, some degree of risk must be run by some people if we are to achieve the full purpose of the trial. As naval commander I must expect to have to order or approve the acceptance of some degree of risk. This is a customary service obligation, but it is performed in the knowledge that the Admiralty accept liability for those killed or injured in duty … I believe that all Government servants are in fact entitled to compensation for injury on duty, but the particular points to be covered in Hurricane arise from the fact that

  1. (a) the ill effects may be long delayed
  2. (b) illness unconnected with the operation might have caused the same symptoms."
So before the test programme had even started the military commander recognised that, uniquely, the detrimental effects on men's health might be long delayed —precisely what has happened.

The scientific and medical debate has dragged on for years. Eventually the National Radiological Protection Board was asked to commission a study, which was duly carried out, and the board reported to the Government. No doubt the Minister will tell us tonight that that report found that, with the exceptions of leukaemia and myeloma, there was no evidence that other cancers could have been linked with participation in the test programme. But that is not what the NRPB report says. It came up with two hypotheses: first, that leukaemia' and myeloma probably were caused by participation in the programme; secondly, that other cancers probably were not. The report said that neither hypothesis was proven and that more research and study were required.

Tonight the House must face up to the issue of how much longer we shall go on studying and debating while men continue to die. I hope that the Government will finally accept this point: only a limited number of these service men are now receiving pensions; mostly, we are talking about widows receiving pensions because their husbands died from leukaemia or myeloma. They are receiving those pensions because the NRPB study finally decided, in 1988, that there probably was a connection.

For any service man who died of leukaemia or myeloma before 1988, that deasion was too late. For any widows of the service men who died before 1988, that decision was too late, If, at the end of 1991, when the next NRPB report comes out—nearly two years from now—it finally concludes that, for example, cancer of the larynx was possibly caused by participation in the test programme, it will be too late for many more who will have died of that disease and for their widows.

We cannot go on and on neglecting this closed universe of people. This is not happening any more. It happened in the 1950s. Time has moved on. The fact that it is a closed universe should make the Government say that on a no-fault, benefit-of-the-doubt basis they will compensate those who were affected by particular diseases.

Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside)

I do not say that this country should always follow everything that the United States does, but does the hon. Gentleman agree that if the Americans can pay compensation to their nuclear test veterans, surely we can too?

Mr. Clay

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making that point. He anticipates the next but one part of my speech.

Many believe that the NRPB study is fundamentally flawed in several ways. There is not time to cite all the examples, so I shall give the most stunning point. It was discovered that the records of service supplied by the Ministry of Defence to the NRPB did not include all those who participated in the test. An important category was missing. All the files of those who had claims outstanding for pensions as a result of their participation in the test were not included. By definition, those who ware most likely to weight the statistics to show a high incidence of cancer were not included. It is claimed that the study was to some extent weighted to take account of that, but, again, without going into the most laborious statistical detail, it is difficult to deal with that in a brief speech. Many people have concluded that the study was flawed in many other ways and that the Government should not rely on it.

The new clause is modelled, as nearly as possible in the terms of our legislative procedure, on existing legislation in the United States. It simply says that if one participated in the test and one of a list of cancers has manifested itself within 40 years of participation, it will be presumed that there is a service connection and one will benefit accordingly.

There was some debate in the United States before the legislation was passed. In January when I went to Washington to research this and met the Bush Administration, I said, "We know that President Reagan faltered before signing the legislation passed by the House and Senate. How do you feel about it now?" They said that they were glad it happened and tha if it happened again President Bush could sign legislation happily. It has taken away the hassle of going to court, stopped an enormous sense of injustice and offence felt by veterans and is not costing large sums. The United States has 250,000 men involved whereas we have oly 25,000. Moreover, their men went into Nagasaki and Hiroshima. I asked whether I could convey their view to the British Government and they said that their advice to the British Government, in so far as it was their place to give such advice, would be to do the same. The message has already been conveyed to the Government, but I convey it again tonight.

Progress is so far ahead in the United States because the research that has been conducted there is far ahead of any such research in this country. The existing American legislation is almost certainly due to be improved this year, with manifestation caps being lengthened and more diseases that are compensatable being added to the list. Report No. 5 of the National Research Council, "Biological Effects of Ionising Radiation", concluded that all the previous understandings about which low level, of radiation cause various diseases have been wrong. The Americans have exhaustively studied what happened in their nuclear test programme and have taken much evidence from many parts of the world. The report—which the Ministry of Defence had not bothered to obtain or study until a week or so ago—concluded that further legislation was needed in the United States. It is believed that it will pass through the House of Representatives and the Senate without much difficulty.

In a sense, we do not need another report from, the NRPB if we assume two things—first, that the radiation yields from American nuclear explosions must have been much the same as British ones and, secondly, that American service men must be much the same physiologically as British service men. The Government must either say that the Americans have got it totally wrong and are compensating people for no reason or acknowledge that they have got it wrong themselves and face up to that.

The new clause is a modest measure. It is carefully drafted to ensure that considerable scope is left to the Secretary of State to fix the compensation levels, to add to or to subtract from the list of prescribed diseases and to change the manifestation levels. I hope that the Minister will not say that some technical problem exists. The new clause has been carefully drafted with, I acknowledge, technical assistance from her Department. If the Government have any problem with the detail of the clause and how it is set out, they can easily amend it in another place.

It may be argued that if we legislate for a service connection presumption, we will automatically compensate some people who are suffering, but not because of their participation in a test programme. There is nothing to be done about that. Those people will, after all, suffer and will be compensated only if they have one of these diseases. Better to have the generosity to compensate those who have leukaemia or cancer for some other reason than not to compensate those who have it because of service. For the sake of argument, take 10 people with cancer of the stomach who we know were all at Christmas island. I have been told that, whatever the records and even if there could be an action replay, any physician would say, "We may know that statistically of the 10, five had cancer from radiation at Christmas island and five had it for some other reason." No physician will ever establish which five were which. Better to compensate the five who did not get it because of being on Christmas island than deny justice to the five who got it because they were there. We are trying to establish that fundamental principle.

It is disingenuous for the Government to argue that some of the evidence, anecdotal as it might be, could and should have been tested in the courts and that, if service men believed that they could prove that they got these terrible diseases as a result of the test programme, they should prove that in the courts and claim compensation in that way. That is a disingenuous argument, because, until recently, they could not get into the courts because of section 10 of the Crown Proceedings Act 1947. Even the abolition of that section was not retrospective. The Government having appealed all the way, Mr. Melvyn Pearce from Bristol won in the House of Lords the right to sue retrospectively. The first case will soon go into the courts, but by the time the Government have appealed that case all the way to the House of Lords, many more people will have died. We cannot have a situation in which this issue is eventually settled through the courts. It is a difficult issue to take to the courts and, in any event, by the time the courts have eventually settled the matter, it will be too late for far too many people.

12.30 am

These people believed that they were serving their country. This issue has nothing to do with one's view on nuclear weapons. If, like me, one is totally opposed to their possession, one obviously takes the view that it is horrific that people should have contracted these terrible diseases while participating in the testing of them. If, like many Conservative Members, one believes that nuclear weapons have kept the peace for many years, one should be all the more grateful to those service men who participated in the programme to test them. This is not a pro or anti-nuclear weapon issue. It is an issue of basic justice.

Radiation kills just as a bullet kills. It is less obvious, it happens later and it is more difficult to prove. I urge the Minister to reflect on the words of President Reagan, who had great difficulty before deciding to sign the legislation that was passed in the United States. He said: Enactment of this legislation does not represent a judgment that service-related exposure of veterans covered by the Act in fact caused any disease. Nor does it represent endorsement of a principle of permitting veterans to receive benefits funded through veterans' programmes which bear no relationship to their former military service. Instead, the Act gives due recognition to the unusual service rendered by Americans who participated in military activities involving exposure to radiation generated by the detonation of atomic explosives. The nation is grateful for their special service, and enactment of H.R. 1811 makes clear the nation's continuing concern for their welfare.

If the British Government have any concern for the continuing welfare of those who are suffering and for the widows who have lost husbands as a result of those men participating in the test programme, they will end the statistical nit-picking tonight, say enough is enough and accept the new clause.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

I cannot match the eloquence of the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Clay) on this subject. Nor can I match the depth of his knowledge. The consistent commitment that he has shown to the cause of justice for those who have exposed themselves in the service of the Crown to ionising radiation deserves the praise of the House and a favourable response from the Government.

I was always aware, in a background sense, if that is the right analogy, that perhaps we were not doing justice to those who were exposed to such radiation in our test programmes in the 1950s and 1960s. It was brought home to me just how great the concern was when we had a particularly unedifying occasion here on the afternoon of Friday 2 March, when the hon. Gentleman sought a Second Reading for his admirable Radiation Exposed Crown Employees (Benefit) Bill. It is sad to recall that there was a filibuster, and the many members of the Royal British Legion and veterans who came to witness what they thought would be an important debate went home disappointed. This debate may be taking place late at night and we may not have much time to discuss the new clause, but it is all the more important in view of the fact that the matter did not get the attention that it deserved on 2 March.

It can be clearly established that there is a pathological connection between exposure to ionising radiation and the list of diseases, mostly cancers of various types, in the schedule, which is taken from the United States legislation. Indeed, one could draw up an actuarial connection between the level of ionising radiation received and the likelihood of contracting a number of illnesses subsequently. That is well understood.

Thus—I say in unparliamentary language—we need not nit-pick about the causes or consequences of exposure to ionising radiation. What we have to do is ensure that ex-service men who served the Crown well, and their dependants, receive the appropriate compensation. That would be achieved by acceptance of the proposed new clause. Under the present war pensions provisions, compensation can be achieved, but there is an element of doubt. The order says that, in deciding whether disablement or death is attributable to service, benefit will be given if there is reasonable doubt. But it is extremely difficult to establish what constitutes reasonable doubt.

On 15 May 1989, my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Mr. Lloyd), the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, answering a question on this point, said: One war disablement pension and six war widows' pensions have been awarded because servicemen who took part in nuclear tests contracted or died of leukaemia … or multiple myeloma."—[Official Report, 15 May 1989; Vol. 153, c. 73.] In other words, the precedent has been set. It has been established that the state has a duty to look after the welfare of those unfortunate people. We now have to put the appropriate legislative framework in place to guarantee that compensation is received as of right, and not by peradventure.

I most earnestly beg right hon. and hon. Members to do the honourable thing—to vote on the new clause as their consciences dictate, to make sure that we do our duty by those who have done their duty by us.

Mrs. Shephard

As there is a great deal of interest in this matter among hon. Members on both sides of the House, I shall be brief.

I want to begin by paying tribute to the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Clay), who has been so assiduous in his pursuit of this cause and in his research. I understand perfectly the concerns that have been expressed in the House and elsewhere about the nuclear weapons test programme conducted in the south Pacific in the 1950s, and the suggestion that that programme has bequeathed a legacy of illness to those who participated. The Government's view is that there is no evidence, either medical or scientific, to link participation in the nuclear weapons test programme with the ill health that some of the participants have suffered subsequently. [Interruption.] If hon. Members listen, I shall attempt to develop my argument.

Most of those who took part in the tests were young. Indeed, many were doing their two years' national service. The scientists, too, were mostly young, and because the physical conditions were tough, those who took part had to be fit. Those young men of the 1950s are now, inevitably, middle-aged or elderly. Some of them have developed ill health, and, sadly, others have died. The new clause that we are debating is based on the presumption that exposure to radiation during participation in the nuclear weapons trials was responsible for these illnesses and these deaths. The Government believe that this presumption is not well founded.

It is a sad fact, but a fact nevertheless, that in the western world, where we enjoy a relatively high standard of living, more than 20 per cent. of deaths are due to cancer.

Mr. Wilkinson

Can my hon. Friend explain why, in the legislation enacted by the United States Congress, compensation is extended to American service men who took part in the occupation of Nagasaki and Hiroshima even if there was doubt about the adverse consequences of doing duty in those cities?

Mrs. Shephard

Obviously arrangements in the United States are a matter for that country, but I am coming to the provisions in war pensions which may go some way to give comfort to my hon. Friend.

I was saying that, tragically, there are well over 100,000 cancer-related deaths a year in this country. Sadly, many of those who participated in the nuclear weapons test programme would by now be suffering from cancer or might have died, even if they had spent their national service in this country and had never gone anywhere near the south Pacific. Of course, it is understandable that some of them, knowing that radiation can cause cancer—

Mr. Frank Cook (Stockton, North)

Is the Minister aware that, despite the fact that documentary evidence exists on MOD files that there is no such thing as a harmless increase in radiation, some service men and women were given protective clothing but some were barred from having it and were asked to roll in the dust on the ground at ground zero? Is the Minister aware of that when she tells us that their health could have been the same if they had spent their national service in this country? It was a deliberate test. Does not the Minister accept that? Their health was deliberately put at risk to find out the results.

Mrs. Shephard

I shall deal in a moment with the way in which the tests were conducted.

It is generally impossible, medically speaking, to distinguish between cancers caused by one factor and those caused by others.

Mention has been made of the test programme. The tests were implemented with professional thoroughness and bear favourable comparison with the standards in force today. There is much evidence of the importance attached at the time to the safety of those who took part. Individuals who might be exposed to radiation were issued with dosimeters, usually of the film-badge variety, to record the actual exposure experienced. Readings were taken after each possible radiation exposure, and they provided objective and reliable evidence that the exposure limits set before the tests were respected and complied with. The regulations in force were consistent with recommendations of the International Commission on Radiological Protection and advice from the Medical Research Council.

Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton)

I received a letter last week from the Ministry of Defence stating that workers at the Clyde submarine base in my constituency were exposed to nuclear radiation because the dosimeters were faulty. That was in 1990. Can the Minister be sure that everything was working to perfection in the early 1950s when the equipment is not working properly in 1990? I have that on record.

Mrs. Shephard

I point out to the hon. Gentleman that the Government have confirmed on more than one occasion that they are satisfied that a positive effort was made to monitor the observance of the safety procedures and that, if there has been significant non-compliance, that fact would have been observed by those responsible for implementing the safety regulations.

Mr. Clay

Is the Minister aware that literally hundreds of those directly involved have stated categorically that they were not issued with badges, defective or otherwise? In the Minister's view, are they daft, or are they liars?

Mrs. Shephard

I can only repeat what I have just said. Had non-compliance been observed by those responsible for the safety of the tests, criticisms would have been made at the time.

Despite the fact that the Government have remained confident that the safety precautions were adequate and that the personnel who took part were protected by safety checks, we were anxious to alleviate the concern expressed, understandably, by participants that their involvement in the nuclear weapons test programme might well have been the cause of their subsequent ill health in later life.

As a result, the National Radiological Protection Board study was commissioned in 1983. It has already been mentioned by the hon. Member for Sunderland, North. The purpose of the study was to examine statistically the health of men who participated in the tests and experimental programmes carried out in Australia and the Pacific between 1952 and 1967.

Mr. Jack Thompson (Wansbeck)

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Shephard

I shall, but I am beginning to be a bit nervous about the time.

Mr. Thompson

Can she tell me the number of badges issued against the number of personnel involved in the explosion?

Mrs. Shephard

I am sorry, but I did not hear the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Thompson

I am sorry. Please will the hon. Lady give the number of badges issued at the time compared to the number of personnel who were on the island and who were exposed to radiation?

12.45 am
Mrs. Shephard

Dosimeters were issued to people at the beginning of the tests. After the tests had proceeded and the appropriate authorities were satisfied that the arrangements were satisfactory, dosimeters were no longer issued.

The National Radiological Protection Board has been somewhat rubbished by comments in the Clamber this evening. I must point out that the report was conducted by eminent scientists from the NRPB, from the cancer epidemiology and clinical trials unit of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund and with the participation of people eminent in the field such as Sir Richard Doll.

The results were published in the British Medical Journal, and the conclusion was that participation in the nuclear weapons test programme has not had a detectable effect on the participants' expectation of life or on their total risk of developing cancer, apart from a possible effect on the risks of developing multiple myeloma and leukaemia, other than chronic lymphatic leukaemia. The authors of the study acknowledged that the evidence relating to these two diseases was confusing, but on balance they concluded that there may well have been small hazards of both diseases associated with participation in the programme, although this had not been proved.

Mr. Stan Crowther (Rotherham)

Has the hon. Lady read the Cabinet papers released under the 30-year rule last year, which make it quite clear that the Government were well aware that people were being exposed to risks which were not made public at the time? Has she read those papers?

Mrs. Shephard

I have not read those papers, but they do not alter the position as far as the NRPB report is concerned. When the authors of that study produced their report in January 1988, they recommended, as the hon. Member for Sunderland, North said, that observations on the two defined groups of participants and controls should be continued for the first 10 years. The Government welcomed that proposal and they confirmed their willingness to co-operate with the NRPB to implement the recommendations to continue to observe the—

Mr. Wilkinson

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mrs. Shephard

May I finish my sentence?

—to continue to observe the mortality and cancer incidents for participants over a further 10 years as a means of testing the hypotheses formulated by the NRPB.

Mr. Wilkinson

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend but is she aware that she is, I am afraid, quoting selectively from the NRPB report? It says in an earlier section: Some aspects of the results, however, suggest that a real hazard was associated with the programme. The most striking is the very low probability of finding by chance such large differences as those observed Specifically for two diseases"— like the ones she quoted.

Mrs. Shephard

I do not accept that I am in any way quoting selectively. The simple fact is that the conclusions of the report were that small hazards of leukaemia and multiple myeloma may well have been associated with participation in the nuclear weapons programme.

Mr. Jack Ashley (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

I am the patron of the Nuclear Tests Veterans Association and I can tell the Minister that that association will be shocked by her statement tonight. I suggest that she is guilty of misinterpreting the NRPB report, and of selectively quoting from that report. I offer the Minister one phrase from the report which should burn in her mind: Some aspects of the results suggest that a real hazard was associated with the programme. That is what the NRPB report said. What is the Minister's answer to that?

Mrs. Shephard

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention, but I should like to move on to what is being done under the war pensions scheme, which is administered by the Department of Social Security.

There only needs to be reliable evidence which raises a reasonable doubt about whether a condition is caused or aggravated by service. The Department's doctors are satisfied that the report's evidence raises sufficient doubt in the case of participants suffering from multiple myeloma or leukaemia and any claim to a war pension by such service men or their widows is likely to succeed. Seven awards have already been made, and there are more in the pipeline. The appropriate machinery is in place to provide for war pensions when there is reliable evidence that raises reasonable doubt as to whether a condition is caused or aggravated by service.

I must emphasise that the Government would be willing to pay compensation—

Mr. Roland Boyes (Houghton and Washington)

Will the Minister give way?

Mrs. Shephard

I really think that I cannot.

I must emphasise that the Government would be willing to pay compensation wherever the Crown's legal liability is established and when there is firm evidence to show, on a balance of probabilities, that those who took part in the United Kingdom's nuclear weapons programme did, indeed, suffer ill health as a result of exposure to radiation in the course of their duties.

Perhaps I may conclude by repeating that the Government cannot just ignore—

Sir Rhodes Boyson (Brent, North)

I know that the Royal British Legion and many others are deeply concerned about this matter. What amount of money is involved? And is the Minister saying that what happened in America is wrong and that there was no basis for the different decisions reached there following American research?

Mrs. Shephard

To answer the second question first, I have already said that arrangements in the United States are a matter for that country. The amount of money involved as a result of the Bill, which is not flawed, is £4 million to £5 million. I reiterate that my Department already accepts reasonable doubt in the case of awarding war pensions to people who may be suffering from multiple myeloma of the other condition to which I referred.

The Government cannot just ignore the evidence from the expert advisers in this field that not only is there no such evidence available but there is the conclusion that those who took part in the nuclear weapons test programme did not suffer harm. But we shall await the NRPB's further report with interest and we will take full account of the findings to the extent that they provide any additional information that might affect participants' entitlement to war pensions.

Mr. Boyes

It is disgraceful that the Government should guillotine a Bill and then take up a disproportionate amount of time in a debate, thus excluding Opposition Members who would have liked to speak on this matter. The Minister has given us a most disappointing reply. Some of her remarks have been disgraceful and most hurtful to those involved.

We are discussing the future of a number of men who have suffered over a long period, either because they were too near to the test of a nuclear device or because they had inadequate protective gear or even a combination of the two. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Clay) said, plenty of research has been carried out already, at a cost that could possibly have compensated the victims. Some of the research has cost more than £200,000. It is unacceptable to suggest that there should be even more research.

Surely after 40 years it is time for the Government to take action rather than trying to find further means of delaying payment. There is more than enough evidence already to justify payment to the nuclear test veterans. The Government should treat claims for compensation much more sympathetically. That is what other countries have done. President Reagan signed legislation in May 1988 granting compensation to United States test veterans who participated in the nuclear programme—for those who were in Hiroshima or Nagasaki between August 1945 and July 1946.

A survey of 1,000 American nuclear test veterans revealed twice as many cases of cancer as were expected, and an incidence of sterility 12 times higher than usual. Consequently, the United States are compensating those with 10 per cent. or more disablement within 30 years of exposure to radiation. In Australia, a Mr. Rick Johnstone could receive as much as £300,000 compensation. If compensation can be paid to Americans and Australians, surely British nuclear test veterans should also be compensated.

The conditions that test veterans suffered are well documented, but I shall cite a couple of examples. I have a copy of a MOD memo dated 20 may 1953, classified top secret, which states: Tests were vital to discover detailed effects of various types of explosion on equipment, stores and men, without various types of protection.

The 1983 Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council found that service personnel were used as guinea pigs in testing the effects of radiation. In 1956, 200 British and 62 Australian service men experienced the effects of an atomic blast at a closer range than normally allowed.

Recently, the Government changed the rules concerning post-1973 war widows' pensions, which was welcomed by right hon. and hon. Ministers in all parts of the House. The Secretary of State should make a statement to the House at an early opportuniy, which I am sure all right hon. Members will welcome, confirming that proper and adequate compensation wil be paid to those who participated in British nuclear tests and who now suffer illness as a consequence.

I have in my possession the names of many nuclear test veterans who have already died as a result of their presence at test sites. The House is debating the future of some very brave men who served their country loyally, and who, as they grow older, continue to suffer both physically and financially. There is no excuse for not dealing speedily with the financial predicament.

Among the many organisations that I have consulted was the Royal British Legion, which holds the view that ex-service men with a clearly defined condition that can be related to their involvement in nuclear tests should be given the benefit of the doubt. I believe, as does the Nuclear Tests Veterans Association, that public opinion is clearly on the side of the test veterans.

I hope that the Government will prove their flexibility tonight, acknowledge public opinion, and welcome the support given to nuclear test veterans by right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House. I believe also that the House is broadly with me when I ask that nuclear test veterans be given the benefit of the doubt and adequate compensation. I assure the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary that this matter will not go away. It will surely come before the Government again.

Mr. Clay

The Under-Secretary's admission that seven veterans are already receiving compensation after contracting leukaemia and multiple myeloma emphasises that many others died before they had an opportunity to receive any compensation. The Minister said that studies will continue and that another report will be published in two years, so she must recognise that those studies may discover further cases that the Government might finally acknowledge were caused by radiation during the test programme.

By then, it will be too late for other veterans. The House has a simple choice to make. I hope that it will make the right choice, and that we shall not have to return to this matter again. If right hon. and hon. Members choose only for research to continue, week by week more veterans will die and their dependants will suffer. The importance of the new clause is not so much the financial compensation it will provide but the feeling of justice it will engender among the victims and their families.

The debate will continue for as long as it is necessary to maintain it, but in the meantime people die. The House should have resolved the matter by now. In 100 years' time we may know for certain who is right and who is wrong, but it will then be known for certain that everyone who was concerned is dead and that the finding is too late. Let us end the issue tonight. I implore Conservative Members to take that approach. I ask for support for the new clause from hon. Members on both sides of the House.

The Government have hardly produced an argument. They have merely repeated what they have been saying for years. Let us put ourselves in line with what the Americans have already done, in the knowledge that they will be even further ahead of us by the end of the year. We must end this nonsense.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 218, Noes 276.

Division No. 147] [1 am
Abbott, Ms Diane Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)
Allen, Graham Faulds, Andrew
Alton, David Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Anderson, Donald Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Fisher, Mark
Armstrong, Hilary Flannery, Martin
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Flynn, Paul
Ashton, Joe Fookes, Dame Janet
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Forman, Nigel
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Foster, Derek
Barron, Kevin Fraser, John
Battle, John Fyfe, Maria
Beckett, Margaret Galloway, George
Beggs, Roy Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Bell, Stuart George, Bruce
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Godman, Dr Norman A.
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Gordon, Mildred
Bermingham, Gerald Gould, Bryan
Blair, Tony Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Blunkett, David Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Boyes, Roland Grocott, Bruce
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Hannam, John
Bradley, Keith Harman, Ms Harriet
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Haynes, Frank
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Buckley, George J. Hinchliffe, David
Caborn, Richard Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall)
Callaghan, Jim Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Holt, Richard
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Home Robertson, John
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Hood, Jimmy
Cartwright, John Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Hoyle, Doug
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Clay, Bob Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Clelland, David Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Cohen, Harry Illsley, Eric
Colvin, Michael Irving, Sir Charles
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Corbett, Robin Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Corbyn, Jeremy Kennedy, Charles
Cousins, Jim Kilfedder, James
Cran, James Kirkwood, Archy
Crowther, Stan Lamond, James
Cryer, Bob Leighton, Ron
Cummings, John Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Lewis, Terry
Cunningham, Dr John Litherland, Robert
Dalyell, Tam Livingstone, Ken
Darling, Alistair Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Loyden, Eddie
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I) McAllion, John
Dewar, Donald McAvoy, Thomas
Dixon, Don McCartney, Ian
Dobson, Frank Macdonald, Calum A.
Doran, Frank McFall, John
Duffy, A. E. P. McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Dunnachie, Jimmy McKelvey, William
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Maclennan, Robert
Eadie, Alexander McNamara, Kevin
Eastham, Ken McWilliam, John
Evans, John (St Helens N) Madden, Max
Mahon, Mrs Alice Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Mans, Keith Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Marek, Dr John Short, Clare
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Sillars, Jim
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Skinner, Dennis
Martlew, Eric Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Maxton, John Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Meacher, Michael Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
Meale, Alan Snape, Peter
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Soley, Clive
Moonie, Dr Lewis Spearing, Nigel
Morgan, Rhodri Steinberg, Gerry
Morley, Elliot Stott, Roger
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Straw, Jack
Mowlam, Marjorie Summerson, Hugo
Mullin, Chris Tapsell, Sir Peter
Murphy, Paul Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Nellist, Dave Taylor, Rt Hon J. D. (S'ford)
O'Brien, William Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
O'Neill, Martin Turner, Dennis
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Vaz, Keith
Owen, Rt Hon Dr David Wallace, James
Patchett, Terry Waller, Gary
Pendry, Tom Walley, Joan
Pike, Peter L. Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Wareing, Robert N.
Prescott, John Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Primarolo, Dawn Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Randall, Stuart Wigley, Dafydd
Redmond, Martin Wilkinson, John
Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Rhodes James, Robert Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Richardson, Jo Wilson, Brian
Robertson, George Winnick, David
Rooker, Jeff Winterton, Mrs Ann
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Wise, Mrs Audrey
Ross, William (Londonderry E) Worthington, Tony
Rowlands, Ted Young, David (Bolton SE)
Ruddock, Joan
Salmond, Alex Tellers for the Ayes:
Sedgemore, Brian Mrs. Llin Golding and
Sheerman, Barry Mr. Ray Powell.
Aitken, Jonathan Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)
Alexander, Richard Burns, Simon
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Burt, Alistair
Allason, Rupert Butcher, John
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Butler, Chris
Amess, David Butterfill, John
Amos, Alan Carlisle, John, (Luton N)
Arbuthnot, James Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Carrington, Matthew
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Carttiss, Michael
Ashby, David Cash, William
Aspinwall, Jack Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda
Atkins, Robert Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Atkinson, David Chapman, Sydney
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Chope, Christopher
Baldry, Tony Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Batiste, Spencer Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Bellingham, Henry Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Bendall, Vivian Conway, Derek
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Bevan, David Gilroy Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Cope, Rt Hon John
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Couchman, James
Boscawen, Hon Robert Currie, Mrs Edwina
Boswell, Tim Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Bottomley, Peter Davis, David (Boothferry)
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Day, Stephen
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Devlin, Tim
Bowis, John Dorrell, Stephen
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Brazier, Julian Dover, Den
Bright, Graham Dunn, Bob
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Durant, Tony
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Dykes, Hugh
Eggar, Tim Luce, Rt Hon Richard
Emery, Sir Peter Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd) MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Evennett, David MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Fallon, Michael Maclean, David
Favell, Tony McLoughlin, Patrick
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael
Fishburn, John Dudley McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Madel, David
Forth, Eric Major, Rt Hon John
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Malins, Humfrey
Franks, Cecil Maples, John
Freeman, Roger Marland, Paul
French, Douglas Marlow, Tony
Fry, Peter Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Gale, Roger Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Gardiner, George Mates, Michael
Garel-Jones, Tristan Maude, Hon Francis
Gill, Christopher Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Mellor, David
Gorst, John Meyer, Sir Anthony
Gow, Ian Miller, Sir Hal
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) Mills, Iain
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Mitchell, Sir David
Gregory, Conal Moate, Roger
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Grist, Ian Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Ground, Patrick Morrison, Sir Charles
Grylls, Michael Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)
Hague, William Moss, Malcolm
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom) Moynihan, Hon Colin
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Mudd, David
Hampson, Dr Keith Neale, Gerrard
Hanley, Jeremy Needham, Richard
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'Il Gr') Nelson, Anthony
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Neubert, Michael
Harris, David Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Haselhurst, Alan Nicholls, Patrick
Hawkins, Christopher Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Hayes, Jerry Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hayward, Robert Norris, Steve
Heathcoat-Amory, David Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Oppenheim, Phillip
Hordern, Sir Peter Page, Richard
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Patnick, Irvine
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath)
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Patten, Rt Hon John
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Pawsey, James
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Porter, David (Waveney)
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Portillo, Michael
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Powell, William (Corby)
Hunter, Andrew Price, Sir David
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Irvine, Michael Redwood, John
Jack, Michael Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Jackson, Robert Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Janman, Tim Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Jessel, Toby Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Johnston, Sir Russell Roe, Mrs Marion
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Rossi, Sir Hugh
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Rowe, Andrew
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Key, Robert Ryder, Richard
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Sackville, Hon Tom
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) Sayeed, Jonathan
Kirkhope, Timothy Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Knapman, Roger Shaw, David (Dover)
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Shelton, Sir William
Knowles, Michael Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Lawrence, Ivan Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lee, John (Pendle) Shersby, Michael
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Sims, Roger
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lightbown, David Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Soames, Hon Nicholas
Lord, Michael Speller, Tony
Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W) Tredinnick, David
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Trippier, David
Squire, Robin Trotter, Neville
Stanbrook, Ivor Twinn, Dr Ian
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Steen, Anthony Waddington, Rt Hon David
Stern, Michael Walden, George
Stevens, Lewis Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood) Ward, John
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N) Warren, Kenneth
Stokes, Sir John Watts, John
Stradling Thomas, Sir John Wells, Bowen
Sumberg, David Whitney, Ray
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Widdecombe, Ann
Taylor, John M (Solihull) Wiggin, Jerry
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Winterton, Nicholas
Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman Wood, Timothy
Temple-Morris, Peter Woodcock, Dr. Mike
Thompson, D. (Calder Valley) Yeo, Tim
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Thorne, Neil
Thurnham, Peter Tellers for the Noes:
Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath) Mr. Alastair Goodlad and
Tracey, Richard Mr. Nicholas Baker.

Question accordingly negatived.

It being after One o'clock, further consideration of the Bill, as amended, stood adjourned.

Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee), to be further considered this day.