31 January 2008
Today, 31st January, the lawyers representing 359 of the Porton Down Test Veterans and the Ministry of Defence announced that a settlement had been reached for the claims of the Veterans for the sum of £3m to be split between the veterans.
Further, an apology has today been given by Derek Twigg Under Secretary of State for Defence and Veterans Minister in the House of Commons. The wording of the apology is:
‘The Government has in the past made clear the debt owed by the nation to those who took part in the trials at Porton Down designed to ensure that the United Kingdom had the defensive and deterrent capabilities to counter the very real and horrific threat that chemical weapons would be used against our Armed Forces or civilian population as they had against others; the security of the country rested on the contribution of those people who took part in these trials.
The trials which were carried out in the period of the Cold War were in many cases undertaken under considerable pressures of time as new threats emerged. The Government accepts that there were aspects of the trials where there may have been short-comings and where, in particular, the life or health of participants may have been put at risk. The Government would wish sincerely to apologise to those affected.’
In an agreed joint statement from the lawyers and the MoD it was said:
The Ministry of Defence and Leigh Day & Co and Thomson Snell & Passmore, solicitors for a group of Porton Down veterans, are pleased that an amicable settlement has been reached with respect to claims by the group arising out of their participation in trials that took place during the Cold War, designed to ensure that the UK had the defensive and deterrent capabilities required to respond to the threat of the use of chemical weapons against the UK. This settlement is without admission of liability by the Ministry of Defence and involves the payment of a global sum of £3 million in full and final settlement of all claims made by the group, together with an apology by the Department.
The Claimants’ solicitors said that the settlement represented a fair deal for the Claimants and welcomed the constructive approach shown by the Ministry of Defence in reaching the settlement.
Eric Gow, Chairman of the Porton Down Veterans Group said today:
"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 today:
"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."
Martyn Day, solicitor for the Group from Leigh Day and Co, said today:
"Today ends a very sorry chapter in the history of the Ministry of Defence. The treatment of the veterans was simply appalling. 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."
Alan Care, longstanding lawyer (since 1994) for the Veterans, said today:
“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."
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