The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) English Forum Chair, NFLA Secretary and senior representatives from other organisations attended a ceremony yesterday to rededicate a memorial stone to Yorkshire Branch members of the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association (BNTVA), held in the grounds of Leeds Minster. (1)
The ceremony is part of a project to rededicate such memorial stones around the country. They are an ongoing reminder of the long campaign for recognition, for scientific research on the health of veterans and future generations, and for adequate compensation of illnesses and ill-health many of them believe are due to their exposure to radioactive materials arising from the tests.
Last October, the first rededication ceremony of a BNTVA memorial stone took place opposite Manchester’s cenotaph on the 65th anniversary of the first British atomic weapon test. This ceremony included the Lord Mayor of Manchester, senior councillors, veterans and leading members of Manchester’s multi-faith communities.
The Leeds Nuclear Test Veterans Memorial Stone lies in the grounds of the historic Leeds Minster (formerly Leeds Parish Church) and it has been thoroughly cleaned and refurbished. At the local ceremony led by the Rector of Leeds Minster the stone was formally unveiled by Brian Gay, a member of the Yorkshire branch of BNTVA and a nuclear test veteran stationed at Maralinga, Australia where the first British nuclear test took place on the 3rd October 1952. He was accompanied by Nigel Heaps, former BNTVA Chair and now a Project Manager with the Nuclear Community Charity Fund (NCCF). (2)
Amongst the invited guests were a good number of nuclear test veterans and their families, the Lord Mayor of Leeds, the Deputy Leader of Leeds City Council, and the NFLA English Forum Chair, who is also a Leeds City Councillor.
There are a number of such memorial stones across England, Scotland and Wales and the process of refurbishment and rededication of these memorials has now begun. The British nuclear weapons testing programme took place in the 1950s and 1960s, and many members are now deceased, with others in poor health. NFLA welcomes the creation of the NCCF and the initial research on the health issues of veterans being undertaken with Brunel University. It hopes that British veterans will be given the same equity in compensation and full recognition as has taken place with other countries who have compensated their own atomic test veterans.
Those who have been directly exposed to the dangers of nuclear weapons are formally mentioned within the International Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which was agreed at the United Nations in July 2017. After the recent meeting of the UN General Assembly there are now 69 signatories and 19 States Party to the Treaty. Once 50 states have fully ratified the treaty it will become international law.
As a member of the Nobel Peace Laureate organisation ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons), NFLA is working with a large number of campaigning groups encouraging states to support and ratify the treaty. It has developed a model resolution encouraging its member councils to support the Treaty and call on the UK Government to engage with this process, rather than opposing it. The resolution follows on from a similar campaign in the United States supported by prominent cities like Los Angeles and Baltimore, as well as the Senate of the State of California. (3)
NFLA English Forum Chair, Councillor David Blackburn said:
“I was honoured to represent the NFLA at the rededication of the nuclear test veterans’ memorial stone at Leeds Minster. I support the activities of the BNTVA and NCCF to continue to work for the welfare of its members and their campaign for full recognition and support. NFLA was established to call for a nuclear weapons free world and it is the direct and difficult experience of such veterans, indigenous communities and the hibakusha of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that reminds us of the importance of our aims and objectives. NFLA member representatives will continue to seek to support ICAN, work with the Mayors for Peace and on other ways to support multilateral nuclear disarmament as a core part of the basis for a fairer and more peaceful world.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 0161 234 3244.
Notes for editors:
(1) Selected photos from the Leeds ceremony are attached with this media release and are on the NFLA website, Facebook page and Twitter page – http://www.nuclearpolicy.info
(2) For more information on the NCCF go to its website – https://thenccf.org
(3) Agreed model resolution sent to all members of the NFLA for consideration:
“(N) Council is a member of the Nuclear Free Local Authorities, which has been working for over three decades to promote multilateral nuclear disarmament.
The NFLA is a member of the UK and Ireland branch of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). In December 2017, ICAN received the Nobel Peace Prize for its work in encouraging over two thirds of United Nations members to agree to the international Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). At present 69 nations have now signed this Treaty, and 19 have fully ratified it. The Treaty is expected to come into international law in 2019. However, existing nuclear weapon states, including the United Kingdom, as well as all NATO states and those in tactical alliances with NATO, such as Japan and Australia, have refused to support this process.
ICAN are working with Governments, Parliamentarians and Councils to encourage supporting the TPNW as one the most effective ways to bring about long-term and verifiable nuclear disarmament. As a supporting member of ICAN and NFLA, this Council fully supports the TPNW as a method to bring about multilateral nuclear disarmament.
The Council also calls on the United Kingdom Government to lead a global effort to prevent a war involving nuclear weapons by:
- Renouncing the option of using nuclear weapons first;
- Cancelling the plan to replace its entire Trident nuclear arsenal with enhanced weapons;
- Actively pursuing a verifiable agreement among nuclear-armed states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals by supporting the Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons and the ‘Good Faith’ Protocols within the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The Council will ask the Chief Executive to write to the UK Government to inform them of this resolution and urge it to take full account of it.”