Minister for Veterans, Keith Brown has paid tribute to local woman Jessie Munn in the campaign to get compensation for British Nuclear Test Veterans. The comments came during a parliamentary debate on Nuclear Test Veterans.
Mr Brown said “we owe the nuclear test veterans and, indeed, all veterans a debt of gratitude is not in doubt. All the service personnel served with honour and distinction, and we applaud them for that.
“A member made the point that veterans’ families should be equally in our minds, which is true. I think that Mrs Jessie Munn from East Kilbride, who is the widow of a man who served during the tests, is in the gallery. It is often the families who pay a huge price for the activities that our service personnel are involved in.
“On whether veterans of nuclear testing should be financially compensated, I fully support the position that where ill health is proved to be a result of service in the armed forces, wherever and whenever that service took place, it is right that the UK Government provide adequate compensation. Ultimately, however, that is a matter for the UK Government and the Ministry of Defence.”
Over 20,000 servicemen, primarily young conscripts, were involved when the United Kingdom carried out nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific Ocean and at Maralinga, Australia, between 1952 and 1967. There are now only around 1,000 surviving British nuclear veterans and 70 in Scotland.
The men, who were carrying out their national service, were exposed to radiation during nuclear weapons testing near Christmas Island. At the time, the veterans had no idea what was going to happen and the only protection they were provided with was the instruction to hide their eyes or turn away when the A-bombs went off. Many of the surviving veterans are now terminally ill and approximately three of the veterans a month die.
There are stories from veterans who became infertile, developed terrible skin cancers, suffered with bone problems, bowel cancer, leukaemia, eye conditions and other illnesses; wives who suffered multiple miscarriages at three times the normal rate; children who suffered 10 times the expected rates of birth defects; and grandchildren suffering defects at eight times the normal rate for deformity.
Linda Fabiani MSP for East Kilbride said “Jessie is a remarkable woman who has fought tirelessly for the British Nuclear Test Veterans on behalf of her late husband Philip.
“Philip served in the Royal Engineers as part of his National Service. He witnessed the explosion of ‘the bomb’ on Christmas Island in 1957. He died aged 60 from leukaemia.
“I wish Jessie and the rest of the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association all the very best in the next stage of their campaign.”