Showdown: MPs demanded compensation for A-bomb victims
A campaign begun by the Sunday Mirror in October, taking up the case of nuclear bomb test victims demanding compensation, saw defence minister Lewis Moonie grilled by fellow MPs on Wednesday.
In a 90-minute debate, MPs demanded to know why the Government had reneged on a promise to compensate the victims of A-bomb tests. Prime Minister Tony Blair and many of his Cabinet were among MPs who pledged compensation before they came to power.
It was the first time in more than 10 years that a Government minister had been called to answer demands for compensation for the British servicemen, who suffered the effects of horrific doses of radiation.
Last week, more than 200 veterans and relatives crowded into the Grand Committee Room in the House of Commons to voice their demands and hear speeches in support of their case from MPs, Lords and experts in radiation and cancer statistics.
Before the meeting they had staged a two-hour protest outside the gates of Parliament, and later delivered a dossier of cases to 10 Downing Street.
Richard Stott, Sunday Mirror columnist and long-time campaigner on the issue, said: "The plight of the nuclear veterans and their children is the biggest unresolved post-war scandal. Successive governments have failed them. It’s time to put it right."
An earlier Commons motion calling for an independent inquiry attracted the support of more than 80 MPs before the end of the last Parliament three weeks ago. This week’s debate was called by Labour MP Mark Todd.
In October, the Sunday Mirror revealed the horrifying legacy of Britain’s A-bomb tests. An investigation showed that not only the veterans, but also their children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren are suffering genetic defects and cancers.
Fifty years after the first nuclear explosion on the Pacific island of Trimouille, the Sunday Mirror study revealed the after-effects of the events which exposed more than 15,000 servicemen to massive doses of radiation. The men were lined up on beaches to witness hydrogen bombs 1,000 times the power of the Hiroshima bomb, exploding just a few miles away.
They were ordered to stand on decks of ships while deadly radioactive fall-out rained down.
And airmen flew through the middle of mushroom clouds to collect deadly particles.
The newspaper’s study showed that three generations of British men, their children and grandchildren have suffered cancers, mental illness, deformity, infertility and long-term illness.
By Jean Morgan