HC Deb 09 February 1998 vol 306 cc70-1W
Mrs. Ewing

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on potential linkage between illness and radiation exposure for workers at (i) Rosyth and (ii) Faslane; what is his policy on levels of compensation for workers who have radiation-related illnesses; and what medical checks he is undertaking in respect of these workers. [26070]

Mr. Spellar

[holding answer 3 February 1998]: The risks of disease, including cancer, as a result of exposure to ionising radiation are well documented. Risk estimates for the UK population are published by the National Radiological Protection Board whose evidence is used to formulate national legislation. The exposure of MOD radiation workers at both Rosyth and Faslane has always been monitored and controlled in accordance with this legislation, the purpose of which is to limit the risk to workers to tolerable levels. As required by legislation, my Department's policy is to reduce risks to the lowest reasonably practicable level.

My Department's policy on compensation for radiation workers is to be a member of the nuclear industry's Compensation Scheme for Radiation Linked Diseases. This is a no fault scheme where there is no requirement for claimants to prove negligence on the part of the Department in order to receive compensation. The Scheme was set up and is run jointly by the participating employers and Trade Unions and does not affect the claimant's right to seek legal redress. It provides for the assessment of a case, on an agreed technical basis, in order to determine the probability that a cancer contracted by a radiation worker could have been caused by occupational radiation exposure. The amount of compensation payable in a successful case is determined by negotiation between the solicitors representing the parties, using as a basis the same guidelines as would apply if the case had proceeded to Court. However, the Scheme provides for payments to be made at lower levels of causation probability than would be allowed by the Courts. It does this by making a "full" payment at 50 per cent. causation probability similar to the Courts, and in addition making lesser payments down to a 20 per cent. causation probability. In this way the assessment of a case recognises that even below the balance of probability there is a chance that occupational exposure to ionising radiation played a role in causing the disease.

Within my Department, medical checks are undertaken at the discretion of the Appointed Doctor when considered necessary as part of the annual health review of classified radiation workers.