Calls for 'justice' in wrangle over asbestos pay-outs

JUSTICE Secretary Jack Straw, right, is facing calls to hold a crunch meeting with insurance companies as thousands of people affected by asbestos are being denied the chance of receiving compensation.

A delegation of MPs – including Leeds West Labour MP John Battle – urged Mr Straw to "get the insurers to the table".

They want ministers to directly tackle those firms who stand to save an estimated 1.4bn from a controversial Law Lords' decision made last year.

Mr Battle used his meeting with Mr Straw this week to stress that urgent government action was needed.

He told the YEP: "I think he will look for a way through this. I urged him to get the insurance companies around the table now with the Ministry of Justice."

Last October, the Law Lords upheld an Appeal Court ruling that pleural plaques sufferers were no longer entitled to compensation for the condition.

Pleural plaques is a scarring of the lungs which can be a forerunner of deadly mesothelioma.

The ruling makes the claiming of compensation for mesothelioma almost impossible within a victim's lifetime.

Insurance companies have argued that pleural plaques should not be a reason for compensation because they are symptomless and do not have any effect on health and the ability to work.

The YEP has thrown its weight behind a campaign to overturn the ruling.

Last Wednesday, pleural plaque sufferers joined MPs including Leeds West MP John Battle and leaders of the construction workers' union UCATT to demonstrate outside the Ministry of Justice.

They are distributing 100,000 postcards across the country calling for the Government to follow the lead of the Scottish Parliament and introduce legislation to reverse the Lords ruling.

People are being invited to sign the postcards and send them to Mr Straw's office.

The Government has previously insisted that it would not be appropriate to introduce new legislation to overturn the Lords' judgment because it would "fundamentally" change the law of negligence.

However, speaking in a recent Commons debate, Lewisham East MP Bridget Prentice said the Government might be able to reconsider its position if the Industrial Injury Advisory Council was to change the way it defines pleural plaques as an industrial injury.

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