Give nuclear test veterans cash - MP

A Norfolk MP last night called for Britain's nuclear test veterans to be given £4,000 each from the government in goodwill interim payments.

A Norfolk MP last night called for Britain's nuclear test veterans to be given £4,000 each from the government in goodwill interim payments.

Ian Gibson, MP for Norwich North, said a new streamlined tribunal system was needed to recognise a possible link between service exposure to radiation during Britain's nuclear weapons tests in the 1950s and subsequent ill health among veterans and their families.

In addition, Dr Gibson and a cross- party group of MPs called for interim financial payments in the region of £4,000 to be offered to each veteran as a gesture of goodwill on the part of the Ministry of Defence and in recognition that servicemen might have been put in harm's way.

It came on the 50th anniversary of the beginning of Operation Grapple X, Britain's nuclear detonations at Christmas Island in the South Pacific.

Last month, the MPs spent two days hearing evidence from scientists, veterans and campaigners about safety standards during the tests and new scientific evidence of genetic damage and ill health among offspring. The MoD declined to attend.

A spokesman for Rosenblatt Solicitors, which is fighting for compensation for 700 nuclear test veterans - including those from East Anglia, said: "We welcome the call from the cross-party inquiry for the MoD to stop dragging its feet. The veterans have been suffering for a long time. Anything that can speed up the process is welcomed, which the MPs' findings may well do."

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There were 40,000 servicemen and civilians at the UK tests in Australia and Christmas Island, 22,000 of them from Britain and the rest from Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.

The East Anglian branch of the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association has about 40 members.

Dr Gibson said: "Britain's nuclear test veterans have been stonewalled by government for too long. The case for recognising a possible link between service exposure to radiation and subsequent ill health is much stronger than the MoD admits.

"Veterans want a fair hearing, but the present system for considering claims for compensation is stacked against them. Instead of requiring veterans to apply for a war pension, a new system should be created to give them greater benefit of the doubt.

"Ultimately, this is a political problem which calls for co-operation between veterans and the government. But veterans have lost faith in the Ministry of Defence after a long history of poor co-operation. We are therefore calling on ministers to make an interim payment in the region of £4,000 to each veteran."

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