SNP MP highlights UK Government’s nuclear test “shame” in House of Commons

An SNP MP has led a debate in the House of Commons seeking to secure compensation for personnel who took part in nuclear weapons tests.

Carol Monaghan, the SNP’s Westminster spokesperson for Armed Forces and Veterans, led the adjournment debate regarding Operation Grapple, one of Britain’s earliest atomic and hydrogen bomb tests, which took place at Christmas Island in 1957 and 1958.

As many as 20,000 personnel were present as nine nuclear explosions were initiated in one of the UK’s biggest military operations since D-Day.

A number of medical issues came to blight those personnel and their descendants, such as cancers, miscarriages, and birth defects.

Many countries have acknowledged and compensated such personnel. The UK remains the only nuclear power to fail to acknowledge the risk of its nuclear weapons to its own service personnel – with the potential exception of North Korea.

Monaghan, the MP for Glasgow North West, raised the case of William Caldwell, who witnessed the ‘Grapple Y’ test in 1958.

Mr Caldwell suffered greatly from ill health throughout his life, before he passed away in 2018. His son, Robert, is keen to continue to campaign for what the family believe he deserved.

Commenting, Carol Monaghan MP said:

“I am very pleased to have led today’s adjournment debate on Compensation for Royal Fleet Auxiliary personnel following the Christmas Island nuclear tests.

“It should be a source of great shame that the UK is perhaps the only nuclear power to refuse to acknowledge the dangers of its weapons to its own service personnel.

“The UK has failed to follow the lead of other countries around the world in providing compensation and war pensions to these service personnel and their families.

“Leading medical journals were reporting that exposure to radiation would inevitably have genetic effects from as early as 1946, so it is clear that establishing and developing our nuclear deterrent in the midst of the Cold War was to come at any cost.

“This UK Government are so boastful of our nuclear deterrent, yet continue to fail those service personnel who suffered so much to establish it.

“Many of them have now passed on, but it is not too late to do right by these servicemen and their families.”