Below is a press release from UCATT which I thought worth putting out. I've subbed it down a little but otherwise it is their words and their interpretation of what sounds liks a shocking situation.
Construction union UCATT have described proposals, which would deny compensation to pleural plaques victims as “disgraceful”.
The decision not to compensate pleural plaques victims is due to the Government’s unwillingness to pay compensation to public sector workers exposed to asbestos whilst employed in former nationalised heavy industries, such as shipbuilding.
The Government’s liability is claimed to be £35 million per annum, but this is a diminishing liability due to the historic nature of the exposure.Alan Ritchie, General Secretary of UCATT, said: “The State employed these workers and exposed them to asbestos now the State must pay their compensation. A failure to do so is morally indefensible.”
The Government is only planning to compensate plaques victims who had already lodged a legal case before the Law Lords banned compensation for pleural plaques in October 2007.
There are £30 million worth of legally stayed pleural plaques cases. These include many cases where insurance companies would have been liable to pay compensation. Instead the Government is proposing to use public funds to pay compensation.
Mr Ritchie added: “The Government is intending to pay compensation, from an already severely overstretched public purse, to pleural plaques victims when it is the insurers who are liable. Why on earth are the insurers not being made to pay?”
The Government’s decision is in stark contrast to that of the Scottish Parliament, who last year passed a law allowing pleural plaques victims in Scotland to receive full compensation.
A formal announcement on the Government’s pleural plaques plans is expected to be made by Jack Straw the Justice Secretary shortly.
In an attempt to head off widespread criticism of its plans the Government is proposing funding of a National Centre for Asbestos Related Disease (NCARD), a register for pleural plaques sufferers and faster payments for mesothelioma victims. The Government are also considering establishing an Employer Liability Insurance Bureau, to compensate victims of fatal asbestos conditions such as mesothelioma, if no insurer can be identified.
Mr Ritchie, said: “This is the opposite of social justice, which Labour was founded on.”
The Government is basing their evidence that pleural plaques victims should not be compensated on a report commissioned by the Chief Medical Officer and written by Professor Robert Maynard, an expert in air pollution who had never met a pleural plaques sufferer.
Note: In October 2007 the Law Lords overturned over 20 years of civil law and ruled that pleural plaques could no longer be compensated. In July 2008 the Government launched a consultation exercise to examine whether the Law Lords ruling should be overturned. Despite repeated promises that the Government would respond to the consultation, no announcement has yet been made.