BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK: Politics  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Wednesday, 7 February, 2001, 21:39 GMT
Troops 'not told' about uranium risks
HMS Ark Royal
HMS Ark Royal: Believed to be carrying DU ammunition
Defence ministers have revealed that briefings on the dangers of radioactive weapons were axed for 1,000 British servicemen who were sent to Kosovo.

Balkan and Gulf War veterans have blamed debris from depleted uranium (DU) weapons, used extensively in both areas, for a host of serious health problems.


Yet again this Labour government has treated the armed services with contempt by putting cuts first and military personnel last

Iain Duncan-Smith
Ministers insisted they had always been warned about the "minimal" risks posed by the tank-busting DU ammunition and told how to avoid them.

But now defence minister John Spellar has acknowledged not all those sent overseas had received the warnings.

Briefings scrapped

Mr Spellar said medical briefings, including warnings on depleted uranium, for troops heading abroad had been scrapped last August because of "pressure on the course programme".

The MoD said around 1,000 troops had been sent to the Balkans before the briefings were reinstated on 12 January.

The revelation brought immediate calls for an inquiry from shadow defence secretary Iain Duncan-Smith.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman played down the significance of the axed briefings, saying they had simply duplicated information given during training already carried out by the units.

John Spellar
Mr Spellar had told MPs all troops received warnings
Mr Spellar had previously assured MPs that all those sent to the Balkans had received the warnings.

But officials realised that amid the pressure of deployment some had either not received the information or had not read it, the MoD spokesman said.

Scathing criticism

Mr Duncan-Smith was scathing in his criticism and called on Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon to face the Commons and explain why MPs had been misinformed.

"Yet again this Labour government has treated the armed services with contempt by putting cuts first and military personnel last," he said.

"Our troops need to be satisfied that they are not at risk and the MoD must immediately instigate an inquiry to show our troops are not at risk.

"The defence secretary must come back to parliament and inform us why the truth was not given to parliament the first time, " he said.

'I feel cheated'

Former tank engineer Kevin Rudland, 41, of Hull, who says he suffers from osteoarthritis, hair loss and post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Bosnia, called the government "pathetic".

He said: "How can you possibly miss out something like that? Now they have got to put their hands up and admit they were wrong.


I feel very much cheated and I think it's a disgrace to the country

Kevin Rudland, Bosnia veteran
"I think they let the upper ranks know about depleted uranium and they didn't pass it down to the normal squaddies.

"I feel very much cheated and I think it's a disgrace to the country," he said.

"You go out there to fight for your country and get shot maybe - but it turns out your own country is trying to kill you and you have been lied to and poisoned by some unknown substance.

"We had a conference before going to Bosnia, we had a brigadier there and he didn't say anything about depleted uranium problems."

The issue was also being raised in the Commons in a late night debate on Wednesday, with MPs calling for an end to the test firing of radioactive weapons on British ranges.


Key stories

Eyewitness

TALKING POINT

FORUM
See also:

15 Jan 01 | UK Politics
09 Jan 01 | UK Politics
07 Feb 01 | Scotland
14 Jan 01 | UK
Internet links:


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


E-mail this story to a friend



© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes