MP fights Lords Asbestos Decision

An MP is campaigning against the House of Lords decision to not compensate people suffering from an asbestos related condition.

Dr Ian Gibson, MP for Norwich North, has started a campaign to overturn the decision made by Law Lords in October 2007, that pleural plaques are no longer a compensatory illness.

Pleural plaques are localised areas of scar tissue attached to the outer wall of the lungs and are totally benign. They do not cause symptoms or any lung disability. They do not become malignant and turn into mesothelioma but are often present in patients with mesothelioma and other asbestos related disease. Around 40% of people exposed to asbestos dust will develop plaques. They usually develop between 10 and 20 years after the first exposure to asbestos.

The eastern region has one of the highest rates of death from the asbestos related disease in the UK, and that number is expected to peak by 2020. Dr Gibson said the figures were particularly high in the East because of the nature of the regions industries and the amount of asbestos used.

“Council houses had it, some of the factories used asbestos to prevent fires and also in the products they made, and of course there’s been the shipbuilding. And the families at home who washed the clothes the people used in the factories have also developed the lung cancer.” he said.

Dr Gibson believes that the campaign should overturn the decision. He said: “I think anybody who knows the history of health and safety does know that there is a problem with exposure to asbestos. I’d rather the workers got the compensation to better their lives than the widows get it.”

Eileen Warton who lost her husband Brian to lung disease, said: “People were told to go and do their job and they did it. They didn’t realise while they were doing it there was all this asbestos dust – 20, 30, 40, years down the line, they’d got a death sentence hanging over them.”

The new law passed by the Lords was to stop people claiming because they had pleural plaques and to stop claims being made for anxiety caused by diagnosis of them.

Norwich Union’s technical claims director Dominic Clayden said: “We welcome the judgment and believe it to be a pragmatic result on the issue of compensation being awarded for an asymptomatic condition.” He added: “The issue of compensating claimants with serious asbestos-related conditions or who suffer from impairment as a result of exposure to asbestos has never been in question and they will continue to receive compensation.”

However, the Scottish National Party is to overturn the decision to still allow claims to be made in Scotland.


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