It came as a blast from nowhere, but yesterday’s Budget has been hailed a “victory” by a surviving British nuclear test veteran from Moulton who has spent more than 10 years fighting for recognition and a fund to help those still suffering in the aftermath.
A fund of £25 million was announced by Chancellor George Osborne during his speech to the House.
I had no idea – I never thought it would happen. If I was a young man I would be jumping for joyVeteran Douglas Hern
He said: “In each Budget we have used the LIBOR fines paid by those who demonstrated the very worst values to support those who represent the very best of British values.
“Today I can announce a further £75 million of help...
“We will provide £25 million to help our eldest veterans, including nuclear test veterans.”
Veteran Douglas Hern was listening to the announcement on the TV while he was making lunch.
When we contacted him, the 77-year-old was supergluing a strap to his mobile phone, so he didn’t drop it because he knew he would be making a lot of telephone calls.
He said: “I had no idea – I never thought it would happen. If I was a young man I would be jumping for joy.”
In July last year, the veterans felt they had sunk to the bottom of the political agenda when a video of their experiences on Christmas Island was shown to only a handful of MPs in the Commons for Prime Minister’s Question Time.
But for Mr Hern – and men like him – the fight went on, with a film documentary being shown at cinemas across the country telling the shocking story of how some 18,000 to 19,000 of the 25,500 home and overseas military personnel who witnessed nuclear tests died from illnesses like cancer as a result.
Cancer – and other disorders like heart problems and Spina Bifida – still plague their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
However, in January MP John Hayes vowed to the Spalding Guardian that there would be justice for the families and descendants of the veterans.
Speaking from the House just after the Budget was delivered, Mr Hayes described the fund as “a promise made and campaign won”.
He said: “I have been so proud to work with Mr Hern and to have campaigned for the nuclear test veterans.
“The figure is more than what was expected and I am delighted for them.
“We said we would do it and today we did.”
Mr Hern said: “I’ve been in touch with the offices of Mr Hayes and MP John Baron who have done so much to help us.
“Going forward the British Nuclear Test Veterans’ Association has a lot of work to do to establish a system that caters for the needs of veterans and their children.
“It’s been a great day – one of the best I can remember.”
How residents and businesses in Lincolnshire stand to benefit
Lincolnshire County Council has welcomed the final Budget before the General Election as having initiatives that will benefit business and residents across the county.
Among the highlights listed are:
* Growth is forecast to increase – this mirrors the council’s own findings.
* Increase in wage for apprenticeships – the council expects greater Lincolnshire to create 100,000 new jobs by 2022.
* Proposals for investment in an agricultural innovation centre in East Anglia are also welcome.
* Investigation into how to address skills shortage in food production.
* Freeze in fuel duty will encourage more visits within the UK.
* Beer duty has been reduced – making Batemans’ new “Law of the Land” beer cheaper.