Ministers tell servicemen who witnessed 1950s test explosions they should have claimed years ago
Ministers have been accused of blocking compensation claims brought by hundreds of nuclear test veterans who believe they developed cancers and other illnesses after being forced to witness atomic bomb experiments in the 1950s and ’60s.
Despite pay-outs to former servicemen in the US, France and China, Britain has told its veterans there is no case for offering compensation, and that there is no scientific justification for a full investigation into birth defects suffered by the veterans’ children and grandchildren.
Instead, the Government is relying on studies carried out on the Japanese survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which failed to establish a link to illnesses found among survivors and their families.
This refusal fully to investigate the human legacy of Britain’s nuclear weapons test programme has come as a blow to the airmen, soldiers and sailors who stood on Pacific island beaches in the late 1950s watching nuclear explosions while wearing little more than shorts and sandals.
Ministers are also defending a legal claim brought by 1,000 British and overseas nuclear veterans and their families on the grounds that the case is time-barred. Ministry of Defence lawyers will go to the High Court next week to argue that the men, who could be entitled to hundreds of millions of pounds, should have brought the case as soon as they knew they had a claim, rather than waiting more than 40 years to start litigation. The Government will also say that the medical evidence does not support the veterans’ claims of cancers linked to their time in the South Pacific.