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Calls for UK Government to compensate veterans of atomic nuclear testing

26/07/2022

Plaid Cymru’s Arfon MP Hywel Williams has called on the UK Government to compensate veterans suffering the long-term effects of atomic nuclear testing which took place in the 1950s.

Many veterans have suffered medical problems such as cancer, infertility and skin defects as a direct result of their involvement in testing which took place in Australia, the Monte Bello islands and Christmas Island between 1952 and 1958.

In 2009, around 1000 veterans brought evidence to the High Court which substantiated their case and showed a link between the exposure to ionising radiation and their conditions. The MOD disputes their claim arguing that too much time has passed for them to bring a case against the UK government. Many of the men are terminally ill and many have died since the hearing.

The US, France, Russia and China, which conducted similar trials, have each set up funds to award their atomic veterans.

This Thursday the campaigners will go to the Supreme Court to challenge the MOD’s decision. They are asking the UK government to set up a compensation fund of £30million that would give payments to eligible veterans or their dependents.

The MOD has already spent approximately £6.5 million defending compensation claims.

Plaid’s Hywel Williams MP said:

“When the UK Government conducted nuclear tests in the mid-Pacific in the 1950s and 1960s, service personnel were exposed to ionising radiation, which increases the risk of cancer.

“At the time, they were simply told to look away as the tests took place. Safety precautions were non-existent.

“Now the Ministry of Defence argues that there is no link between the tests and the illnesses the veterans have developed. Fifty years later and they are embroiled in long compensation battles in the courts and the MOD is attempting to wash its hands of responsibility.

“But we owe it to these veterans. It is not about the money, these veterans should be recognised for their sacrifice.

“We could end up dealing with the health consequences of this for generations to come.

“The US, France and Russia are streets ahead of us already and are actively compensating our atomic test veterans. What on earth is stopping the UK Government from showing that same level of respect?

“The UK Government needs to own up to their culpability. It is an absolute disgrace. These are dignified veterans who do not deserve to be dragged through the courts to prove the legitimacy of their claims. I am one hundred percent behind this cause and will be championing it wherever I can.”