Labour Research September 2009

Health & Safety Matters

Straw delays on plaques

The government has delayed an announcement on whether thousands of pleural plaques sufferers will receive compensation, much to the frustration of unions.

Justice secretary Jack Straw announced a number of measures, including government funding of a National Centre for Asbestos Related Disease, a register for pleural plaques sufferers, and faster payments for mesothelioma sufferers.

However, a widely anticipated decision on the pleural plaques compensation issue would be delayed until the autumn to allow time for “further consideration”.

The general union Unite slammed the delay. Tony Woodley, joint general secretary, said it was “an absolute disgrace” that the government had not reversed the House of Lords ruling on compensation for those with pleural plaques.

“It’s an insult to hard-working British people who have been negligently exposed to asbestos,” Woodley added.

There is plenty of medical evidence that pleural plaques do harm workers, and new research has been published in the United States on the physical pain experienced by pleural plaques sufferers. Straw told the House of Commons that he would be “delighted” to examine such “fresh medical evidence”.

Alan Ritchie, general secretary of UCATT construction union, said: “While a further delay is frustrating, it is preferable that the government make a fully informed decision. It is imperative that the government utilises the latest delay to fully assess the new medical evidence.”