[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 April, 2005, 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK
Gulf war illness fight continues
Lord Lloyd of Berwick
Lord Lloyd's findings were dismissed by the government
Fourteen years after the first Gulf War, veterans are still fighting for the government to recognise the illness they claim affects thousands.

Disappointed at ministers' refusal to recognise an independent inquiry's findings, they have the backing of Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy.

In November, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, said the syndrome did exist, but the government dismissed it, saying it contained "no new substantive or scientific evidence".

The government has also failed to give credence to two US reports published in the past 12 months acknowledging a link between veterans' illnesses and Gulf service.

Election pledge

However, veterans groups have vowed to keep fighting to keep the issue on the political agenda.

They want to know what made them ill and to see effective treatments developed for the symptoms, which range from chronic fatigue and inflammation to depression and nervous system disorders.

1990 Gulf War troops
Some 6,000 Gulf War veterans are thought to be ill

Above all, they want the "closure" of hearing the government admit their illnesses were caused by their service in the Gulf.

Veterans' hopes have been raised by a letter from Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy, pledging to implement the Lloyd recommendations if his party is elected in May.

Lord Lloyd's inquiry found troops who served in the 1991 conflict were twice as likely to be ill as those who served in Bosnia.

Although it did not identify a single cause, it said their problems were caused by their Gulf War service and that it was fair to describe them collectively as Gulf War syndrome.

And it recommended the MoD establish a special fund to make compensation payments to veterans of the 1991 conflict whose health had been damaged.

'Peripheral points'

The MoD says it accepts there is good evidence of raised sickness levels among Gulf veterans but not that their symptoms constitute a unique syndrome.

It says this does not stop ex-servicemen and women made ill by their service from claiming war pensions.

Anwea Humphries
They haven't taken any notice of what was said at the public inquiry - that amazed me
Anwea Humphries

At a special hearing under the auspices of the Lloyd report on Tuesday, Lord Lloyd was scathing about the government's response, saying it had been "worse than negative".

"It did not attempt to deal with any of the important issues we raised. Instead, the government has seen fit to concentrate on peripheral points," he said.

This, he suggested, was because ministers had "no real response" to its findings or its recommendations.

Many veterans, too, were astonished at the government response.

Anwea Humphries, 42, of Cardiff, said: "They haven't taken any notice of what was said at the public inquiry - that amazed me."

In a letter made public at Tuesday's hearing, Mr Kennedy said the response to Gulf War illnesses had been "mishandled" and he hoped all political parties could work together to reach a settlement.

Cautious on progress

His support has touched veterans who say they are more used to being ignored by politicians.

Shaun Rusling, vice president of the National Gulf War Veterans and Families Association (NGVFA), said: "It's heart-warming for us that a political party has supported the inquiry and has concern for our suffering."

Andy Hazerd
I think the best we can expect is to become an election issue
Andy Hazerd

But Raymond Bristow, 47, of Hull, an NGVFA trustee, said little would change without the backing of government decision-makers.

"It would be nice if somebody in Labour or the Conservatives would take a stance like Charles Kennedy," he said.

Veteran Andy Hazerd, 34, of Nottingham, was also cautious about what Mr Kennedy's support would achieve, saying: "I think the best we can expect is to become an election issue."

A Labour Party spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

A Conservative spokesman said the party's stance - that there was no scientific evidence to show that Gulf War syndrome existed, and every case should be taken on its own merits - would not change in response to Mr Kennedy's letter.

The veterans feel let down by the Ministry of Defence and by both Conservatives and Labour governments.

They say Labour promised them a public inquiry if they were elected in 1997 but then refused to call one once in government.

'Fight goes on'

The Lloyd inquiry was called by Lord Morris of Manchester, who represents the British Legion in Parliament, and funded privately.

Voicing sentiments echoed by many veterans, Major Christine Lloyd described the fight to get her illness recognised as an "epic struggle".

She accused the MoD of "arrogance" towards servicemen and women who had been "proud" to serve their country.

But Mr Rusling, 46, of Hull, left the hearing in a defiant frame of mind, saying: "We're going to continue to fight to get Gulf War syndrome accepted.

"We'll continue to question the government while they continue to cover up our ill health and suffering."

Q&A: Gulf War illness
17 Nov 04 |  Health
Gulf War syndrome 'does exist'
16 Oct 04 |  Americas

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific