Labour Pledges to Support Asbestos Victims

Labour Pledges to Support Asbestos Victims 25942

Labour has promised to offer more support to asbestos victims if it wins the next general election.

According to Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves, Labour intends to enshrine in law a new levy on the insurance sector.

This, she stated, will "secure a sustainable funding stream for improved asbestos compensation for victims and ongoing research into asbestos diseases and treatments".

Ms Reeves said this will "ensure there is no short-changing of those who have already paid far too much". 

The MP made the announcement during this week's conference of the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT).

Steve Murphy, general secretary of UCATT, welcomed the commitment, saying, "The insurance industry are happy to take the premiums but they never want to pay compensation."

He stated that introducing a levy would represent a big step towards ensuring asbestos victims receive justice. Mr Murphy added that thousands of workers in the UK die from asbestos-related diseases every year.

Emmerdale Praised for Raising Awareness 

Labour's announcement comes at a time when the asbestos issue is under the spotlight on one of the UK's most popular TV programmes. ITV soap Emmerdale is currently in the middle of a storyline in which a 28-year-old character has been diagnosed with the fatal asbestos-related disease Mesothelioma.

The plot surrounding Donna Windsor, who is played by Verity Rushworth, has been widely praised for drawing attention to the issue.

For example, Eddie Strong of the UK Asbestos Training Association said it is helping to challenge the popular misconception that asbestos-related diseases are "a thing of the past and an old man's disease".

Writing in the Burnley Express, he insisted that "nothing could be further from the truth" and warned that more than 1.5 million buildings in the UK are still believed to contain asbestos materials.

Mr Strong acknowledged that it is rare for a person as young as Donna Windsor to develop an illness linked with the substance, but said "it does happen and the illness is terminal".

Asbestos Victim Advice (AVA) added that it is very uncommon for Mesothelioma to be mentioned in mainstream media.

Indeed, it said news related to asbestos is typically limited to local newspapers running stories on changes to asbestos compensation legislation, or about small building firms handling or disposing of the substance incorrectly.

However, the AVA stated that since a typical episode of Emmerdale tends to attract between six and eight million viewers, it should be praised for drawing attention to the subject.

The organisation said showcasing it prominently on one of the UK's most watched television programmes "can only help to raise awareness of asbestos exposure for many viewers unfamiliar with the ever-present risk".

Former Construction Workers Vulnerable to Mesothelioma

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), men who worked in the construction sector at a time when asbestos was widely used in the industry are particularly likely to develop Mesothelioma.

Figures from the HSE show that the number of Mesothelioma deaths was 2,291 in 2011, down from 2,360 in the previous year. However, the HSE believes the annual number will keep going up in the next few years and peak near the end of the decade.

By Chris Stevenson