Every now and again, worthy causes do reach a positive conclusion through Parliament, and it is good to be reminded of such occurrences, writes John Baron.

One benefit of serving two decades in Parliament is that you get to follow causes and, on occasions, are able to see them through to a good conclusion. Politics rarely advances in straight lines, with a fair number of false dawns and unexpected setbacks, but sometimes plugging away and sticking to your guns can pay off. In the last few weeks, I have been reminded of one such example.

This is the cause of the nuclear test veterans, which sprang into my mind courtesy of a PMQ from Rebecca Long-Bailey on 17th November. These are the 20,000 men, often doing their National Service, who helped to develop Britain's nuclear deterrent in the 1950s and 1960s. This was done in at great speed to ensure we kept our place at the top table and to guarantee our security against the Soviet Union – there were doubts that the US would really risk nuclear conflict on Britain's behalf.

Given the infancy of nuclear technology, large parts of the science were unknown and the precautions could be rudimentary. Servicemen in regular kit were told to turn their backs to the bombs and cover their eyes. More than one veteran has told me that the searing flash of the explosion meant they could see the bones in their arms through their closed eyelids, before the shock of the blast wave caught up with them. Some veterans were then ordered to dust themselves down and collect samples of flora and fauna from the blast zone for analysis. Others were required to fly through mushroom clouds.

Many veterans believe that this exposure to radiation at these tests has affected their health. However, the MoD's war pension scheme requires the applicant to prove a causal link between presence at a nuclear test and subsequent illness. This can be very hard, and 90 per cent of test veterans' applications were unsuccessful.

By contrast, other countries such as the United States and Canada (which sent a fair number of its personnel to British tests) do not require this causal link before making awards. Even the Isle of Man awards £8,000 to its test veterans without this link. The UK's different approach can lead to a strange lack of fairness – the widow of Pat Spackman, a British airman who had been ordered to fly through the aftermath of American bombs, was awarded $75,000 by the US Government for his throat cancer, even as the MoD refused to award her a war widow's pension.

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Moreover, many veterans are concerned about the possible effects of their service on their descendants. Against a national rate of 2.5 per cent, a study from the University of Dundee shows that 39 per cent of veterans' descendants were born with serious conditions. These findings accord with surveys of French nuclear test veterans and their children, which found the figure to be 35 per cent.

Initially alerted to this situation by a constituent, in 2012 I joined up with the British Nuclear Test Veterans' Association for a two-phase campaign, first of all to obtain official recognition of the veterans' unique service from the Prime Minister, and then an ex gratia payment of £25 million into a charitable fund for veterans and their descendants, access to which would be on the basis of need non entitlement.

Around 80 MPs came out in support of the campaign, and we began a series of debates and questions in the Commons Chamber and in Westminster Hall. The test veterans launched a display of artworks from veterans and their descendants on the Parliamentary Estate, and the print and broadcast media took up the story.

Finally, at PMQs on 2nd July 2014, David Cameron officially recognised the test veterans: "I am happy to tell the House that the Government recognise and are extremely grateful to all the service personnel who participated in the nuclear testing programme. We should be in no doubt that their selfless contribution helped to equip the UK with the deterrent that it needs."

Then in Budget 2015, George Osborne announced that the Treasury was creating a £25m Aged Veterans' Fund, funded out of LIBOR fines, to which the nuclear test veterans and their descendants could apply. This led to the creation of the Nuclear Community Charity Fund to oversee the use and disbursement of these funds, which works alongside the British Nuclear Test Veterans' Association in its ongoing work of advocacy for the veterans.

Rebecca Long-Bailey was incorrect in her PMQ on 17th November to say that the test veterans have never been recognised (as above, the British Prime Minister has already done this), and I have been in touch with her, the MoD, the Prime Minister and the veterans to clarify this. However, I understand the thrust of her question was towards a medal in further recognition of the veterans' service, and in this I wish her and the veterans every success.

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