Thursday, September 27, 2007

Fury at low cash awards for asbestos victims

FORMER York Carriageworks union leader Paul Cooper has blasted the levels of compensation paid to victims of the asbestos timebomb.

Mr Cooper, who has long campaigned on behalf of people killed because of their exposure to asbestos dust, claimed today that sufferers and their families were getting less in damages than criminals who injure themselves.

He said in a letter to York MP Hugh Bayley that the Government had failed to act on a Law Commission report of 1999, recommending increases in damages for victims of serious diseases such as abestosis and mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos dust.

He claimed the Government was currently looking at the law of damages, and was planning to study various Law Commission reports from the 1990s which had not been actioned - but the review had left out the crucial 1999 report.

"It would oblige our members, many of whom are your constituents, if you could investigate this new matter and press the concerns of our members and affected constituents," he said.

"We continue to have victims/sufferers of asbestos mesothelioma facing a death sentence, with wives and children receiving little more than £200,000 in compensation for their loss. Criminals who self-injure get £500,000, even though they suffer no losses whilst in prison. It is time for our workers to have real justice."

Mr Cooper, who received a Community Pride Volunteer of the Year award in 2005 for his work on behalf of asbestos victims, said he had written to the MP twice before on the subject, but the Government appeared still to be trying to avoid the issue.

"In the case of the victims from the Carriageworks, the state was responsible for their deaths, so the state should accept responsibility."

Scores of former Carriageworks employees have died from mesothelioma over the years, following widespread exposure to the deadly dust, particularly in the 1950s, 60s and early 70s.

Hugh Bayley said he had been campaigning on behalf of carriageworks asbestos victims since becoming MP, and he had helped ensure that they remained entitled to compensation when the railway industry was privatised in the 1990s.

He said he had only recently signed a Commons Early Day Motion calling for people suffering from pleural plaques - scarring of lung tissues caused by exposure to asbestos - to be given more compensation.


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