MoD tries to stop atomic test veterans claiming damages

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Ministers went to court yesterday to try to stop former British servicemen from receiving compensation for illnesses that they allege they suffered during Britain's atomic testing programme in the 1950s.

In June last year the High Court ruled that 10 test cases out of more than 1,000 claims could proceed to trial.

The servicemen blame their ill-health, including cancer, skin defects and fertility problems, on involvement in the nuclear tests on the Australian mainland, Monte Bello islands and Christmas Island between 1952 and 1958. Many are terminally ill and seven – including five of the test case claimants – have died since the litigation began.

While acknowledging the "debt of gratitude" owed to the men, the Ministry of Defence denies negligence and fought the cases on the preliminary point that they were all launched outside the legal time limit.