Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham is calling for “truth, justice, and accountability” from Prime Minister Boris Johnson 70 years after the UK was catapulted into the Cold War arms race
Boris Johnson has been told to issue a national apology to Britain’s nuclear test veterans for “the greatest injustice of them all”.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham made the call for “truth, justice, and accountability” at a gathering of survivors and their families, 70 years after Operation Hurricane which catapulted the UK into the Cold War arms race.
Test veterans are routinely denied war pensions, despite high rates of cancer and blood disease, elevated rates of miscarriage in their wives and 10 times the normal rate of birth defects in their children.
The meeting heard emotional testimony from wives, widows, and children, as well as veterans.
In one extraordinary moment, when a group of seven veterans on stage were asked if they’d had cancer, all raised their hands.
When asked how many of them had lost a child to miscarriage or early death, six raised their hands again.
“This is the greatest injustice of them all, because it betrayed brave people who signed up to serve our country, and it inflicted an ongoing and repeated harm to generations,” said Mr Burnham.
“In this 70th anniversary year, the Prime Minister of this country needs to stand at the despatch box in the House of Commons and make a national apology to each and every one of you, and every member of your families, who have suffered through these past 70 years.”
He asked how anyone could feel “anything but shame for how these members of our armed forces have been treated?” and added: “This is the year that this country faces up to what was done.”
He said that all 650 MPs should “get up off “get up off those green benches, look these veterans in the eye, listen to what they’ve got to say”.
Deputy Labor leader Angela Rayner called on Defense Secretary Ben Wallace to issue a service medal to all who took part in nuclear tests between 1952 and 1991, a full compensation scheme for veterans and descendants, provide additional medical support, and carry out research into the complex health problems of testing veteran families.
“These are not big asks,” she said. “It’s impossible to deny that these human beings were exposed to an unknown level of risk. These brave veterans were experimented on without consent, and most have reported suffering from medical problems since learning about the extent of the radiation that they were exposed to, causing them and their families untold distress and anxiety. At the very least our nuclear test veterans deserve to be honored with service medals.”
Suzanne Eades-Willis, whose father was a veteran, told of her struggle with multiple autoimmune diseases and being told just a week ago her liver was “dying” and she had not got long left to live. “I am determined to walk my daughter down the aisle in June,” she said.
Anne Quinlan, whose father Terry witnessed multiple H-bombs, urged the PM to hurry up. “I can’t pin a medal on a gravestone,” she said.
John Morris, 84, of Rochdale, was diagnosed with pernicious anemia, a condition known to be caused by radiation exposure, a few years after witnessing the Operation Grapple tests in 1957. The only safety equipment he was given was a pair of sunglasses.
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He told the meeting: “I’ve applied for a war pension on that basis, and I’m still waiting for a decision, two years on. But not as long as I’ve been waiting for the government to recognize its duty of take care.”
He added: “The person who made the bomb and his entourage received full PPE equipment and an insurance policy in the event anything happened to them. I’ve got nothing.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to meet veterans in November, but so far his office has been unable to provide a date for them to come to Downing Street.
For more than 30 years the Mirror has campaigned for justice for the brave men who took part in Britain’s nuclear weapons tests.
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