MP speaks up for veterans exposed to radiation


Servicemen exposed to nuclear radiation were spoken about in Parliament by the Mitcham and Morden MP last Thursday.

By Luke Ritchie

Servicemen exposed to nuclear radiation were spoken about in Parliament by the Mitcham and Morden MP last Thursday.

Siobhain McDonagh spoke during an adjournment debate on behalf of constituent Shirley Denson, whose husband’s suicide might be related to radiation exposure during the 1950s and 1960s in the Pacific.

The speech came during a continuing legal case over the Ministry of Defence providing compensation to the ex-servicemen and their families.

“Seven years ago I spoke in the house to ask for justice for Eric and Shirley Denson,” said Ms McDonagh.

“I hoped that progress would be made, I hoped there would be an apology to the family of these service men who unquestionable and courageously followed orders, something that says we would not do anything like this again and we are sorry for the suffering it has caused.

“I had also hoped that people like Shirley would have received a modest recompense.

“But here I am again, seven years on, and the opportunity for the government to appear magnanimous and generous seems to have passed it by.  Millions have been spent in courts and not a penny has reached the families of those who have suffered.”

Ms McDonagh also said that families across the Commonwealth were also seeking recompense, but no one wanted to see the ministry made bankrupt.

However, Defence minister Kevan Jones refuted the direct links made by claimants between their mental and physical health, and exposure to radiation.

“The reason for that is based on three comprehensive and exhaustive studies, none of which found the great instance of mortality or cancer in nuclear test veterans as opposed to a matched, control group,” he said.

“Do I feel for these individuals? Yes I do.  Do I feel for Honourable friend’s constituent? Yes I do, like she does. The hard evidence simply does not support the veterans’ case. Grounds do not exist for compensation to be paid.”

Referring to legal proceedings begun in April 2005 by the veterans and their legal representatives, Rosenblatt Solicitors, Mr Jones rejected media reports that declared the veterans had secured a compensation ruling, and also claimed they had put forward a settlement proposal, which has not been acknowledged.

Shirley’s husband, Fl Lt Eric Denson, was ordered to fly his Canberra Bomber into a nuclear ‘mushroom’ cloud to obtain samples for scientists at Aldermaston, an atomic weaponry establishment.

His aircraft hit a ‘hot spot’ and was heavily irradiated.  He was too ill to move away from the area and stayed for three days at Nadi, Fiji.  Suffering from nose bleeds, allergies, mood swings and sneezing attacks, he committed suicide eighteen years later.

It was recently discovered that the veterans as a whole had a very high rate of suicide and cancer deaths, as well as children with deformities.

The parliamentary session is available online at:

Related Articles