In June 2008 the Council of Ministers (The Hon. N.Q. Cringle, President of Tynwald and the Honourable the Council and Keys in Tynwald assembled.)
A motion was moved by Mr Eddie Lowey, MLC in Tynwald on 15 January 2008;
"That Tynwald Court requests the Council of Ministers -
to make available all appropriate medical tests immediately available to all Manx Servicemen and Servicewomen who were subjected to radiation exposure in the 1950's and 1960's in Atom/Hydrogen bomb tests (as provided for under EU Directive); and
to consider a method of providing an ex-gratia sum to those surviving members;
and to report back no later than the March 2008 sitting of this Court"
The debate was strongly in favour of medical tests being offered with immediate effect and, bearing in mind the advanced ages of those subject to this exposure, that a formulae for an ex-gratia sum was also arrived at speedily; the example of ex-gratia payments made to former World War II Prisoners of War held by Japan was highlighted by a number of Members.
The report from the Director of Public Health stated
"that there is no single physical condition or groups of conditions which are particularly common in those exposed to nuclear tests."
But did state:
"The issue of the impact of the tests on the mental health of those exposed to such tests has not been studied....The concern [of veterans] that they were used a 'guinea pigs' for a nuclear experiment and that there has been no official recognition for their suffering considerably adds to the mental distress. This needs addressing as a matter of urgency"
He recommended closer work between Public Health and GP's of nuclear veterans, to closely monitor their health of those individuals and assist with early identification of radiation related illness.
He also emphasised the mental health issues of those individuals exposed to these tests and recommended that recognition be provided from the Government for their efforts.
The UK Governments position on the nuclear veterans was discussed. As per usual, the MoD included their standard statement (which is included in every letter sent back to veterans or organisations when referencing the nuclear veterans)
"We acknowledge the gratitude to all the servicemen who participated on the nuclear testing programme and take their health concerns seriously"
The MoD had still not been persuaded that there was a case for ex-gratia payments due to the absence of evidence that the health of the veterans or their offspring had been damaged by participation in the tests. Even though the American RECA program had now been established for 16 years.
The MoD even fought the EU Council Directive 96/29/Euratom which concerns "laying down basic safety standards for the protection of the health of workers and the general public against the dangers arising from ionizing radiation". It was made clear that the Euratom does not apply to defence activities (and nuclear testing would fall under this category)
So the MoD have officially declared that the nuclear testing was a defence activity. So they can now ignore the Euratom directive. Judgements made by the European Court of Justice meant that the UK were satisfied that they had met it's legal obligations. Surely, this declaration means that the veterans service now qualified for a medal and they were actively defending the UK.
The Isle of Man paid World War II prisoners of war held by Japan in February 2000 and this was discussed.
Despite the medical evidence regarding the effects on nuclear test veterans exposure being disputed, the motion to pay an ex-gratia sum was passed. Furthermore, because the view of the Director of Public Health is that there is undoubtedly evidence of mental anxiety in the veterans which should be recognised by the Government.
A one off tax free payment of £8,000 to each of the veterans exposed to nuclear tests in the 1950s and 1960s, who are resident in the Isle of Man and in respect of whom sufficient evidence is produced to verify their claim. Such ex-gratia payment is in recognition of their contribution and the consequent mental anxiety they experienced.
Obviously the number of veterans who were eligible for these payments was significantly lower than those residing in the UK, but the principle remains. The Isle of Man recognised the mental anxiety and problems faced by the nuclear veterans and recognised this with a one off tax free £8,000 payment.
Yet the same men who stood side by side with them are not compensated because they live in a different country. In 2019, we have:
- British veterans who have received compensation from the USA
- British veterans who have received compensation from the Isle of Man
- British veterans now living in Australia who cannot receive the gold card
- British veterans living in the UK who have not received compensation
- British veterans who have fought many court battles for compensation and lost
- British veterans who have war pensions denied and have to fight via appeals and tribunals
The UK Government continue to fight the veterans, they ignore other countries who have now paid compensation, they fight EU directives and continue to deny any responsibility. The 2007 Massey study proved genetic damage but it was again dismissed. The current Brunel university study may prove it further.
How many millions of pounds has been spent on fighting the veterans, when the decent thing to do is to acknowledge the sacrifice, reward them with a medal and compensate them with war pensions or an ex-gratia payment as per the Isle of Man.
Of the 1,500 (approx) veterans that are still alive, an ex-gratia payment of £15,000 would cost the Government £22,500,000. If they were to pay war pensions to these men, the figure would be even less. To put this in perspective, the UK Government have already spent £4.2bn on the preparations for Brexit since 2016. (according to a BBC article)
If the British servicemen had known that the Isle of Man were prepared to recognise the service and pay compensation and look after the health of the veterans, perhaps more of them would have settled there.
I congratulate the council of minsters for their recognition, especially as they had no funds to pay the veterans in their budget, but they paid them anyway. If only the Isle of Man officials were running the UK government.
A copy of the full report can be found here