Thursday, January 31, 2008

British Govt settles with Cold War "volunteers" used at Porton Downs

Porton Down veterans awarded £3m compensation

Laura Smith and agencies
Thursday January 31, 2008

Guardian Unlimited

Hundreds of veterans who were subjected to tests at the Porton Down chemical
warfare installation are to be awarded compensation totalling £3m, the
defence minister Derek Twigg announced today.

In a written statement to MPs, Twigg said the sum was "in full and final
settlement" of claims, and was being awarded without an admission of
liability by the Ministry of Defence.

He said: "The government sincerely apologises to those who may have been
affected." The MoD will pay £8,300 to each of the 369 veterans - a total of
just over £3m.

The award was welcomed by representatives of the veterans, who say they were
tricked into taking part in tests at the Wiltshire facility during the Cold
War. Many believed they were helping to find a cure for the common cold.

A group of 369 of the servicemen affected launched legal action against the
MoD in March last year, arguing that tests - including being sent to gas
chambers and being exposed to nerve gas, mustard gas and tear gas - had left
them with health problems ranging from respiratory and skin diseases to
cancer and psychological problems.

Eric Gow, chairman of the Porton Down Veterans' Group, said: "It has been a
long and protracted battle for justice but today makes it all worthwhile.

"I am just so very sorry and angry that many of our comrades had to die
before we reached this point - but I am sure they will be looking down on us
today with some degree of satisfaction."

Ken Earl, spokesperson for the group, said: "I am so pleased that settlement
has at last been reached. It will allow our members to at last have some
degree of closure on this issue."

Lawyers for the veterans said their acceptance of the compensation and the
apology brought to an end the group legal action against the MoD. Mediation
on the settlement began in December last year.

Solicitor Alan Care, who has acted for the veterans since 1994, said: "Today
is the culmination of well over a decade's work to obtain some justice and
recognition for the veterans who have undoubtedly been treated poorly until
now by the Ministry of Defence for so many years.

"Today we see a truly historic apology from the MoD and government who now
'sincerely apologise' to the veterans."

Solicitor Martyn Day said: "Today ends a very sorry chapter in the history
of the Ministry of Defence. The treatment of the veterans was simply

"However, today's settlement and apology will, undoubtedly, go some way to
healing the wounds that this episode caused. It is such a shame it has taken
so long for this point to have been reached."

It is believed that around 12 veterans have died since the current legal
case was launched.

Twigg said Britain owed a "debt" to those who took part in trials at Porton
Down, adding: "The security of the country rested on these trials and the
contribution of those who took part in them."

He added: "The government accepts that there were aspects of the trials
where there may have been shortcomings and, where, in particular, the life
or health of participants may have been put at risk."

Since 1916 more than 25,000 servicemen took part in tests at Porton Down,
where scientists developed chemical weapons and protective equipment. It is
the longest-running programme of chemical warfare tests on humans in the

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