The shocking story out today is that the British Government handed £20m to help settle the compensation claims of Australian servicemen who took part in British nuclear tests – but that they refuse to do the same for their own boys.
One British veteran I spoke to branded it a betrayal, and it’s not hard to see why he felt that way.
The British veterans have been fighting ministers in this country for years to try and get some sort of recompense and recognition of the suffering they have endured after being exposed to radiation during the UK’s nuclear weapons tests.
But the MoD has consistently rejected their claims. So to now find out the British Government were prepared to contribute to settle the claims of another nation’s troops who took part in the same tests must really hurt.
Many people were aware that the Brits had handed £20m to the Australian Government in 1993 – but most believed that it was paid for the sole purpose of decontaminating test sites.
That is not the case, and the MoD admits it in the full story.
This document from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra shows that the British agreed to pay the £20m “in full and final settlement” of the claims of “any person” – which could have included veterans.
As it is, it seems the Australian Government at the time was just as miserly as their British counterparts are being now – and little of the money found its way to veterans.
But the Australian Government has at least made some steps towards righting that wrong by introducing the Veterans’ Affairs Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 which offers nuclear veterans better benefits, treatment and pensions.