CALLS for a public inquiry into Gulf war syndrome were gathering pace last night after a landmark ruling found a link between one of the main symptoms of the illness and injections given to soldiers.
Alex Izett, 33, who was a Lance Corporal with the Royal Engineers in 1991, but was not posted to Iraq, suffered osteoporosis and depression when his immune system was damaged after the course of injections.
He has won a claim for a veteran’s pension after the Ministry of Defence confirmed that it would not be appealing against an earlier ruling by the War Pensions Tribunal. Campaigners claimed the case would be a watershed in the struggle by Gulf war veterans to achieve official recognition of the existence of the syndrome.
However, Lewis Moonie, the defence minister, insisted the government still did not accept the claims. "No reputable medical authority whatsoever accepts the existence of a syndrome called Gulf war syndrome", he said.
Mr Izett, who is originally from Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire, said the MoD now had no alternative but to grant a public inquiry . "We have to have this sorted out once and for all," he said. "The MoD has to admit what it got wrong."
Mr Izett was given the injections as a precaution before the 1991 Gulf war but in the end was never sent to the theatre of operations.
However, his health rapidly deteriorated in the following years as he was diagnosed with osteoporosis and depression, which led to two suicide attempts in 2001.
"The last ten years have been hell for me and my family. The inoculations should never have been given in the way they were given", Mr Izett said. I hope this judgment will have a knock-on effect and that the MoD will now finally tell the truth. I’m not only pleased for myself, I’m delighted for the Gulf war veterans community as a whole."
Mr Izett, a father of two who lives in Bersenbruck, Germany, said the MoD should admit it made a mistake in administering untested drugs to soldiers before the Gulf war.
His case was taken to the War Pensions Tribunal, which ruled in December that he should receive a pension in recognition of the physical harm he had suffered during his service in the forces.
In its ruling, it said: "The tribunal finds that the appellant was vaccinated with a concoction of drugs prior to planned deployment in the Gulf war.
"The concoction of drugs caused osteoporosis."
The MoD had planned to appeal against the ruling but has now conceded that there are no legal grounds to do so.
Dr Moonie said that the government did not believe the tribunal was able to make a judgment over whether the vaccinations were to blame for Mr Izett’s illness.
However, leading campaigners for the recognition of Gulf war syndrome, which is said to cause depression, muscle wasting, fatigue and nausea , said Mr Izett’s case was a major breakthrough.
Charles Plumridge, the senior co-ordinator for the National Gulf War Veterans Association, said: "The veterans finally have justice. There must now be a public inquiry.
"The last time we asked for one the prime minister told us that it would not be appropriate because there wasn’t sufficient evidence. We now have that evidence.
"We are now calling on the MoD to officially confirm that we are ill because of the inoculations we were given.
"We are also calling on all veterans of the first Gulf war to submit claims for vaccination damage."
Paul Tyler, a Liberal Democrat MP and a member of the Royal British Legion Gulf War Group, said he would demand a statement from the MoD: "I will be asking the Secretary of State to cut the legal waffle and recognise that our troops deserve better."