Ex-Minister Warns over Gulf War Syndrome Claims
By Vik Iyer, PA News
3 August 2004
Gulf War Syndrome sufferers may not win Government compensation unless medical science backs up their claim, a former Armed Forces minister warned today.

Nicholas Soames told Lord Lloyd of Berwick’s Gulf War illnesses public inquiry: “Thank God I am not Secretary of State for Defence or whatever. I don’t know what is the right thing to do.”

In 1997, Mr Soames was the Tory Armed Forces minister who faced demands to resign following a damning report into the use of harmful pesticides by British forces in the Gulf War.

An internal Ministry of Defence inquiry found ministers were not to blame for misleading MPs over the extent to which Organophosphates (OPs) were used during the conflict.

The issue was highly sensitive as the exposure of troops to OPs has been linked by campaigners to Gulf War Syndrome.

He added this morning: “It is very difficult for all governments to ever admit to something going very wrong. I don’t think the Government (of the time) was culpable.

“Had they not vaccinated and had the soldiers of Saddam Hussain used the weapons that they had, we would have been criminally negligent and thousands of servicemen and women could have died.”

He cast doubt on whether an official Government inquiry would help, saying that it would not achieve closure for suffering veterans.

Mr Soames said: “If the medical science is not there to back it up, I don’t see how the Government can pay compensation in a meaningful way.”

He also criticised lawyers who were targeting Armed Forces personnel with personal injury advertisements.

He further stated that he still believed the Army treated its soldiers properly.

He added: “Governments are very reluctant to admit responsibility for something which is going to involve them writing large cheques, none more so than the MoD.”