Nuclear test veterans’ case backed by council

'BRILLIANT NEWS' ... nuclear test veteran John Taylor has welcomed South Tyneside Council's support for former servicemen.
'BRILLIANT NEWS' ... nuclear test veteran John Taylor has welcomed South Tyneside Council's support for former servicemen.

CRUSADING South Tyneside Council has taken up the cause of nuclear test veterans who were exposed to radiation in the Pacific back in the 1950s.

A motion is to go before a meeting of the borough council on Thursday calling on the Government to acknowledge its debt to the servicemen.

It also urges Prime Minister David Cameron to establish a £25m benevolent fund to provide assistance for these veterans and their descendants in need.

Both the borough’s MPs, Stephen Hepburn in Jarrow and Emma Lewell-Buck for South Shields, are being asked to support the campaign.

And the authority is to write to the Government’s defence secretary, Philip Hammond, urging him to heed their plea.

Today, the intervention was enthusiastically welcomed by nuclear test veteran John Taylor, 76, of Carnegie Close, South Shields.

Mr Taylor has battled for justice for years as one of the 1,000 British ex-servicemen who were exposed to radiation.

Wearing little or no protective clothing, he witnessed three nuclear explosions between July and September 1957, during Operation Antler.

The South Shields father and grandfather, who was at the time serving as a leading aircraftman with the RAF in Maralinga, Australia, feels the tests triggered health problems, which have been passed on to his family. Now he is waiting a crucial European Court of Human Rights decision over the rights of the servicemen to receive compensation.

He said: “This really is brilliant newsG and I am absolutely delighted that my own local authority has chosen to sign up in support of the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association.

“My hope now is that other local authorities across the country will follow South Tyneside’s example and add to the growing pressure for justice.

“I often get stopped in the street by people saying that they support me, but I’m over the moon that we now have the council behind us.

“This is a big boost for the campaign and I’m hopeful that when we get the date for the action in the European Court of Human Rights the verdict will go in our favour this time.”

The borough council is to meet at South Shields Town Hall from 6pm on Thursday. Members of the public are invited to attend.

Twitter: @shieldsgazpaul