Peterborough Labour politicians call on government to apologise to Britain's nuclear testing veterans

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The group has a nuclear testing veteran among its number in the city council

Britain’s nuclear war veterans should receive an apology from the government after being treated as “guinea pigs”, Peterborough’s Labour group says.

The local party is mounting a campaign calling for justice for men affected by the UK’s nuclear testing programme between the 1950s and 1990s.

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Few of these veterans are still living today, the group says, but one of their number – Cllr Alan Dowson (Labour, Fletton and Woodston) – is a member of Peterborough City Council (PCC).

Members of Peterborough's Labour Party and Peterborough First group meet with veteransMembers of Peterborough's Labour Party and Peterborough First group meet with veterans
Members of Peterborough's Labour Party and Peterborough First group meet with veterans
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Cllr Dowson was exposed to the effects of a hydrogen bomb dropped on Christmas Island – also known as Kiritimati – in the late 1950s while serving with the RAF.

He has been involved in the campaign by holding medal ceremonies for nuclear testing veterans in recognition of their service in Peterborough, for which he was congratulated in parliament by Shadow Defence Minister Luke Pollard MP this week.

The medals were issued by the government earlier this month – but Labour says it should now go further and apologise to all those exposed to nuclear bombs dropped in Australia, Christmas Island, Malden Island and the Nevada Desert between 1952 and 1991 as part of its testing programme and release their medical records.

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The campaign is being spearheaded by Cllr Katy Cole (Labour, Dogsthorpe) who has tabled a motion for the next PCC meeting calling on her fellow councillors of all stripes to show their support for it. The ruling party, Peterborough First, has already shown support.

The council should resolve to lobby government for a full apology to veterans for treating them as "guinea pigs", it says, as well as demand that they release their medical records to them without them having to go through the courts.

Schools and colleges in Peterborough should also be encouraged to learn about British nuclear testing, it adds, and the Town Hall and other public buildings should be lit up in yellow in October next year to commemorate the anniversary of Britain’s first nuclear test.

Cllr Cole told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that her motion is the first of its kind in the UK and that she hopes other councils will follow suit.

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She became interested in the campaign, she said, after attending a talk at this year’s Labour Party conference in which war veterans recounted their experiences of nuclear testing and the effects they say it’s had on their health and their children’s health.

“I left that fringe meeting and I was in floods of tears,” she said, after having heard “heartbreaking” stories.

The UK government acknowledges that it carried out nuclear weapons testing that affected tens of thousands of military personnel, but does not accept that this has necessarily had an impact on their health.

The tests were carried out in accordance with safety standards at the time, it says, and subsequent testing has not proven nuclear testing veterans were exposed to harm.

PCC will hold its vote on Cllr Cole’s motion on 6th December.

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