It has come to our attention that tommorow one of our veterans, regular readers and comment contributors, Dave Whyte, is attending a First Tier Tribunal to have his case considered by the Information Commissioner.
We wish Dave the best of luck and look forward to getting an update on how he gets on. For those who want to show their support the case will be heard: 45 Bedford Square at 10.00 hrs on Thursday 16th February, in Courtroom No 3
The Combined Veterans’ Forum International put out the following press release :
At 10 am on the 16th February an individual nuclear test veteran , David Whyte , is attending a First Tier Tribunal to have his case considered by the Information Commissioner . This is in relation to Freedom of Information Act ( FOIA ) questions directed to the Ministry of Defence ( MoD ) regarding radiation dose levels he was exposed at the nuclear weapons test experiments in the late 1950’s .
This is a David versus Goliath meeting of an individual arrangned before barristers in wigs who will be putting the case for the MoD’s reluctance to answer legitimate questions .
It appears that the FOIA is only valid up to a point . When questions asked are deemed by Ministers to be ‘sensitive’ they are then frequently referred to by Ministers as being vexatious . The shutters are then firmly brought down .
Above is the latest letter to veterans’ campaigner Shirley Denson, who needs no introduction from me here, from Defence Minister Andrew Robathan.
Decision expected soon
The Mirror reported at the weekend that a decision on whether nuclear test veterans can sue the Ministry of Defence is expected from the Supreme Court within “days”.
The story, which you can see here at the Mirror website, doesn’t make clear exactly when they think the decision will be.
Certainly the information I had was that it would come before the end of January, but as we all know the courts can be unpredictable.
Not again Robathan!
Defence Minister Andrew Robathan, bane of the nuclear test veterans, appears to have got himself into trouble…again.
This time it’s over Arctic Convoy veterans trying to get recognition for their momentous efforts during WWII through nothing more than a medal.
Yet Robathan bizarrely chose to compare them to people given medals by murderous dictators like Colonel Gaddafi.
Perhaps it’s time for a little reshuffle at the MoD.
MSPs debated test veterans case last night
LAST night in the Scottish Parliament MSPs debated the nuclear test veterans, their stories and the scientific case behind their problems.
It was an illuminating and detailed debate the likes of which we need to now try and push for in the House of Commons. There have been debates on the issue in Westminster before, but not for some time and also not covering as many bases as this one does.
Furthermore it seems the MSPs are also now pushing for the release of data from the MoD.
You’ll see Fiona McLeod says: “I have been unable to find any meta-analysis of [studies into test veterans] – and I have to wonder why. Indeed, the conspiracy theorist in me began to wonder what was happening and when I followed some links to find the medical research programmes listed, which should be on the National Information Governance Board for Health and Social Care website, I got a ‘404 Not Found’ message. We need to ask where that information has gone; in fact, I have sent an e-mail asking where the research has disappeared to.”
You can read the full report of the Holyrood debate here.
Vets' lawyers have made their case
So this week the Supreme Court finally heard the veterans’ case, with the hearings closing yesterday.
The press coverage that came with the case was immense and I’ve no doubt will win the veterans many new friends.
I’m told that the final decision from the Supreme Court may not be due, however, for some weeks and for once I was not personally able to attend the hearings this time.
So I’d be grateful if those among you who did make it along on one of the days gave their views here of how things went – this place is your forum.
In particular I’m interested in knowing whether there were any points about both sides’ cases that were particularly probed by the court panel.
When the court agreed to allow the veterans legal team to make their appeal there was genuine surprise in the Ministry of Defence, let’s hope there is when the next decision comes through too.
MoD carried out health audit on veterans
The real detail of the study into Nuclear Test Veterans was covered in the Sunday Mirror and was more interesting than previously disclosed. You can see the full story here…..
A survey by the Ministry of Defence shows 83 per cent have since developed between two and nine serious long-term illnesses. Some have more than 10.
Hopefully the data will act as a spur to push the Government to provide better services for veterans. But there is also one other point about information extracted from veterans. The story continues….
Asked if they believe their health had been affected by being at a nuclear test site, 28 per cent said they were certain it had, 23 per cent thought it had and 24 per cent said it may have done – a total of 75 per cent. Only eight per cent said it definitely had not.
One of the key issues in the ongoing court case is “limitation” – that any person bringing a case for negligence has to do so within three years of the date they found out that another party’s negligence damaged their health.
The Government has consistently argued that many of the veterans involved in the current court case have exceeded the three year limit, but it is sometimes difficult to show when a person ‘became aware’ of the cause of their injuries or poor health.
For the MoD this survey could now act as a reference point, from which they can say veterans definitely believed that tests caused their poor health as of November 2011. That could have implications for veterans who are yet to bring their individual case to court.
For now however the focus must be on the next hearing at the Supreme Court in November.
Many vets say NHS meets their needs
Yesterday the Government announced the results of its much vaunted audit of nuclear test veterans’ health needs.
In total 891 questionnaires were sent out to veterans and some 630 were returned, a response rate of 71%. In addition 84 individuals took part in eight discussion groups which took place around theUK.
According to the survey which was paid for by the MoD at a cost of £75,000, most veterans felt their needs were being met well by the NHS, though there were some concerns expressed about access to social care services.
Veterans made a number of suggestions including how communication with the MoD could be improved and the provision of better information about the nuclear tests.
While it’s good that veterans’ heath needs are looked after, the fact that they believe the NHS is meeting their health needs says nothing about whether those needs came about as a result of radiation from nuclear testing.
Of course the living conditions and services for veterans should always be refined and improved, but doing so does not remove the need for the Government to accept responsibility for putting some of these veterans in harms way in the first place.
The court battle between veterans and the MoD will continue.
Scottish Veterans Minister Keith Brown
Nuclear test veterans are making headway north of the border where they recently met with Scottish Veterans Minister Keith Brown.
Veterans Ken McGinley and Robert Caldwell joined Jessie Munn, the widow of a veteran, and lawyer Neil Sampson to discuss the ongoing court action against the MoD with Mr Brown, himself a Falklands War veteran.
You can read the reports in The Herald and The Edinburgh News.
Vets' appeal will be heard on November 14
It turns out that the Supreme Court has now set a date for its hearing.
The court has directed that the hearing of the veterans’ appeal will be on November 14 2011 which is a year earlier than would have been expected.
A vets’ spokesman told this site: “Too much time and money has already been wasted by the Ministry of Defence in pursuing technical arguments, while ignoring the real issues of concern, that of the welfare of the UK’s atomic veterans.”
The hearing relates to the nine test cases out of a total of 1,011 cases involved in the wider action. I’m told, the other 1002 claimants will proceed with their cases regardless of the Supreme Court’s eventual decision.