HC Deb 30 October 1990 vol 178 cc861-2
10. Mr. Clay

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what reassessment he has made of the effect of nuclear radiation on service men and women, ex-service men and women and others employed or fulfilling a contract with his Department.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement (Mr. Kenneth Carlisle)

The Ministry of Defence, along with the rest of the United Kingdom nuclear industry, relies on the estimates of radiation risk derived by the International Commission for Radiological Protection, which is in the process of completing a re-evaluation of levels of risk.

Mr. Clay

In February, I drew the Ministry's attention to the fifth report of the United States Research Council on the biological effects of ionising radiation. I do not know whether the Ministry has bothered to study it, but, as a result of that report, the United States is compensating its nuclear test veterans for two more forms of cancer, in addition to the 11 types for which it has been compensating veterans for some time. When will British nuclear test veterans receive the same justice as their American counterparts, or does the Minister intend to keep his head buried in the sand until all those concerned are dead?

Mr. Carlisle

No, we take these matters very seriously and are happy to consider any new evidence that comes to the fore. We have great confidence in the safety of our working practices.

Mr. Rowe

Does my hon. Friend accept that I and my colleagues from the Medway towns are most grateful for the sympathetic way in which he has dealt so far with our request for an inquiry into the circumstances of people who worked on nuclear submarines at the dockyard in Chatham and have died of cancer? May I take it from his first answer that when the report is to hand he may be able to tell us whether there is to be an inquiry, as we should like?

Mr. Carlisle

Obviously, we have much sympathy for the people affected in my hon. Friend's area, and we hope that Mr. Molinari will make a speedy recovery. We shall consider all the evidence. We believe that our working practices are safe. It may be of interest to my hon. Friend to know that we shall be considering a no-fault compensation scheme.

Mr. Boyes

We welcome the new Minister to his post, but I warn him that during his short period of office this matter will not go away. He is clearly not accepting or facing his responsibilities to nuclear test veterans who have suffered over the years without compensation. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Clay) said, many loyal and brave soldiers who were present during nuclear tests have already died. Why can the Australians and the United States pay compensation while the British Government spend their cash on surveys deliberately and continually to delay matters? It is a disgrace and an absolute outrage, but above all it is a betrayal of a special group of British citizens.

Mr. Carlisle

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his initial kind words, but he has his facts wrong. Where people can show reasonable doubt, we pay; so far, six people have received war pensions.