24 November 2016
Asbestos victims welcome Companies House change of heart on destroying records
Groups representing sufferers of asbestos related diseases have welcomed reassurances given on behalf of the Government that proposals to destroy records of dissolved companies have been abandoned.
The Guardian reported in August that Companies House was planning to destroy the records of companies that had been dissolved for longer than 6 years, overturning their current policy of retaining records for at least 20 years.
If these proposals had been implemented they would have proved disastrous for people with the incurable asbestos related cancer mesothelioma seeking to secure compensation for their negligent workplace exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos diseases take decades to develop1, sometimes as long as 60 years following exposure to asbestos.
Because of this long latency period the negligent employer has usually gone out of business by the time the disease develops.
Access to Companies House records on dissolved companies is crucial for victims trying to secure justice, enabling them to identify the correct trading name of their former employer and the insurance company liable to pay compensation.
Thousands of people could have been denied access to justice if these records had been destroyed.
Responding to Parliamentary questions2, Margot James MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), confirmed that not only would there be no reduction in the length of time Companies House retained these records but that there would now be no destruction of any records currently held on dissolved companies until and unless there is an agreed change of policy.
She also confirmed there would be no change in this policy without a full public consultation.
Welcoming this change of heart, Graham Dring, Chair of the Asbestos Victims Support Groups' Forum UK said:
"This decision is good news for victims of mesothelioma and other long-tail industrial diseases who already face an uphill struggle securing justice in the courts. If these proposals had gone ahead it would have denied access to justice to many asbestos victims unable to pursue a negligent employer or their insurer.
"It is also reassuring to hear the Minister confirm that no records will now be destroyed as even the 20 year retention period is inadequate in protecting the interests of terminally ill asbestos victims who may have been exposed to asbestos 40 or 50 years before. There is no way of predicting which records may be needed in the future. Storage should not be an issue with the technology available to us today and we expect Companies House to maintain its commitment to those suffering from mesothelioma now and the thousands more predicted in the future by retaining records of all dissolved companies."
For further details, please see this press release: Companies House press release
Read the Guardian article on this
Kathleen Ruff honoured by Quebec’s National Assembly
One of Canada’s best known anti-asbestos campaigners has been awarded the prestigious Medal of Honour by Quebec’s National Assembly in recognition of her tireless work campaigning against Canada’s deadly asbestos trade, and her pivotal role in bringing this trade to a halt.
Kathleen Ruff is well known to Forum members but her achievements deserve wider recognition. This award would have been unthinkable until fairly recently. Quebec was the heart of Canada’s asbestos industry, and Canada was one of the world’s leading asbestos producing and exporting countries. To defeat the asbestos industry in Canada the fight would have to be taken to the heart of the beast and Kathleen did this with relentless determination. She managed to pull together an effective coalition of doctors and scientists who were prepared to stand up and say publically that chrysotile kills. She worked closely with asbestos victims in Canada and other countries to expose the devastating effects of Canada’s love affair with asbestos. She persuaded key politicians to break with the consensus and take a stand against the asbestos industry. And she took on the lies and distortions of the asbestos lobby, their go-to scientists and the politicians who pushed their interests in Government.
As recently as 2012, the Quebec government had awarded the asbestos industry $58 million to help open the giant Jeffrey underground asbestos mine. But later that year, thanks in large part to Kathleen’s tireless campaigning alongside others, the loan was withdrawn and the mine closed, effectively putting an end to Canada’s century old asbestos trade. This was a triumph for campaigners in Canada as they defeated an industry with powerful friends and deep pockets.
The results, in terms of lives that will be saved in Canada, and the countries which received its asbestos exports, are incalculable. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Kathleen for her tireless and selfless campaigning. She is a shining example of what can be achieved with truth and determination. We in the Forum would like to extend our heartfelt congratulation to Kathleen on this richly deserved award.
Kathleen Ruff at Action Mesothelioma Day in Manchester, July 2012.
More info on the award and Kathleen’s work can be found here
Action Mesothelioma Day
Friday 1st July 2016
Every year, on the first Friday in July, people gather around the country to commemorate those who have lost their lives to mesothelioma. Campaigners, victims of asbestos diseases, families and carers will be joined by trade unionists and MPs to raise awareness of mesothelioma and to campaign for better funded research and improvements in treatment.
Details of events organised by Forum groups can be found below:
Action Mesothelioma Day in Portsmouth
Action Mesothelioma Day in Manchester
Action Mesothelioma Day in Derby
Action Mesothelioma Day in Sheffield
Action Mesothelioma Day in Gateshead
Action Mesothelioma Day in Wallasey
Action Mesothelioma Day in Leicester
Action Mesothelioma Day in Barrow
Action Mesothelioma Day in Leeds
Action Mesothelioma Day in Swansea
Action Mesothelioma Day in Birmingham
Details of other Action Mesothelioma Day events:
30 March 2016
Asbestos Victims Groups welcome £5 million pledged for a National Mesothelioma Centre but argue for full consultation and open tenders before funds allocated.
Funding for mesothelioma research has always been pitifully low and for years now the Forum has campaigned hard for better funding. Our groups have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for research through sponsorship of our Action Mesothelioma Day events and other fundraising activities.
So we are delighted that £5 million has been pledged by the Chancellor with the express aim of establishing a National Mesothelioma Centre to give a lead on developing research to find better treatment and a cure for this dreadful disease. This is a significant sum, at least compared to funding previously given for mesothelioma research.
Although this is a one-off grant it can be a springboard for the future if used wisely. We desperately need a national strategy for research which enhances collaboration amongst the leading researchers and builds on the cutting edge work already going on in the UK. We also need ongoing, sustainable funding earmarked specifically for mesothelioma research so that we can continue to develop new ideas and treatments, and also attract more researchers to the field, who may currently see this area of work as too risky given past funding difficulties.
At the moment it is unclear where and how this money will be allocated and that is a major concern. None of the leading mesothelioma researchers, research institutions or charities were consulted before the Budget announcement and were as surprised as anyone to hear the news.
During discussions at the annual All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) Asbestos Seminar in the House of Commons on 22 March it was suggested that a decision had already been made by the relevant Minister to award this money to a consortium of institutions led by Imperial College, all based in London. If true, this is a shocking disregard for the existing experience and talent of mesothelioma researchers in the UK. Imperial College may have many fine qualities but they have published little, if any mesothelioma research.
There is no need to reinvent the wheel, we have some of the best research in the world already going on under our noses. A National Mesothelioma Centre does not have to be a ‘bricks and mortar’ centre. Why not a ‘virtual centre’, co-ordinating the research already happening in places like Leicester, Cambridge, Sheffield and Southampton?
The Forum has written to George Freeman MP, the responsible Minister, to urge full consultation and an open tender process before any decisions are made about the allocation of the £5 million, or the National Mesothelioma Centre. We need decisions that are made in the best interests of mesothelioma patients, and that requires open consultation with all the best people, not secret backroom deals.
We have an opportunity to drive the fight against mesothelioma forward and give victims some hope for the first time. That requires collaboration and openness not private negotiations. We should seize this opportunity with both hands, get all those currently leading on mesothelioma research around the table with politicians and civil servants and decide collectively the best way to spend the £5 million Budget award, what type of National Mesothelioma Centre we need and how we sustain progress in research for the future.
Click here to read the letter to George Freeman
15 February 2016
Asbestos victims will miss Lord Avebury, one of their staunchest champions, who died on the 13 February 2016.
Lord Avebury championed many causes during his long political career, including the campaign to protect workers from the dangers of asbestos, and to provide justice for asbestos victims and their families, which continues to this day.
In 1976, Lord Avebury was one of the first, and most influential supporters of the late Nancy Tait MBE, assisting her in the publication of her book, Asbestos Kills, and becoming a trustee of Nancy Tait's organisation, the Society for the Prevention of Asbestosis and industrial Diseases (SPAID).
More recently, Lord Avebury was one of the main proponents of exceptional treatment for asbestos victims in the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, and for improvements to the Mesothelioma Act 2014, which set up a scheme to pay compensation to mesothelioma sufferers who cannot trace employers' liability insurance. During the passage of both Acts Lord Avebury kept in close touch with the Forum and spoke eloquently and passionately in support of the Forum's demands.
Lord Avebury was a champion of Human Rights and a true friend of asbestos victims. He will be greatly missed in the ongoing campaign for justice for all asbestos victims.
14 January 2016
Victims Groups disappointed at Mesothelioma Fund levy cut
Click here to read press release
16 October 2015
The asbestos crisis – why Britain needs an eradication law
Asbestos victims’ groups have today welcomed proposals for a new law to remove asbestos from workplaces, public buildings and homes in Britain.
Click to read more...
9 October 2015
Michael Lees, who set up the Asbestos in Schools group and initiated the Joint Union Asbestos Committee, stepped down from his roles in these organisations earlier this year. Michael, who lost his wife to mesothelioma, was a committed and effective campaigner on the issue of asbestos in schools. This tribute from Tony Whitston, former Forum Chair, given at an event last month to celebrate Michael’s achievements, gives a flavour of the man.
“It is no exaggeration to say that Michael stands among that pantheon of remarkable asbestos campaigners, Alice Jefferson, June Hancock and Nancy Tait, all of whom were personally affected by mesothelioma, and through their courage, determination and sheer bloody mindedness faced down an uncaring and often callous bureaucracy.
Like Nancy Tait, Michael lost his spouse to mesothelioma and, like her, dedicated his every waking moment to fight for justice. Both were awarded an MBE. Both had to master complex, technical data to challenge government experts. Nancy’s expertise was recognised with an honorary doctorate. Michael deserves no less: in our view, anyone who can follow Robin Howie’s baffling statistics deserves the highest academic accolade!
It was said of Nancy that “She could be obstinate and uncompromising, even with those sympathetic to her cause.” We have to confess that when Michael came on the scene we soon learnt that he wasn’t taking his place in turn on any committee agenda and it was no use grumping about it. Michael was shrewd enough to recognise that the Forum was essentially a victim-first organisation and though we had our part to play we were not up to the task he had set. As things turned out, Michael gave us all a master class in how to establish an effective asbestos in schools campaign - the painstaking detail of which is known to many here who worked with Michael setting up the Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) and working across the political divide.
It was said that Nancy’s benign appearance and gentleness of manner made her an unlikely campaigner. We can recall a meeting where someone, referring to Michael, asked ‘Who’s that posh bloke in a suit?’ That posh bloke in a suit, like Nancy, combined courtesy and charm with incisive shrewdness and steely determination as many a Minister and civil servant found to their cost.
Sadly, the organisation Nancy set up, OEDA, did not survive her. The same cannot be said in Michael’s case. Michael has ensured that the asbestos in schools campaign will continue on his retirement and JUAC will carry on the work he started and will build on his many achievements. That is no mean feat. All he has achieved came at great personal cost and, it has to be said, at considerable financial cost.
Michael has been an inspiration to us all, a good friend and comrade, a tireless campaigner who has an honoured place in the history of asbestos. We wish him well on his retirement.”
29 September 2015
Asbestos: Killer Fibre!
Paris, France: An explosive report released today at the 13th Congress of the European Trade Union Confederation documents a shocking loss of life caused by asbestos exposures throughout the European Union (EU), with the number of deaths per year estimated to be in excess of 47,000.
The figures cited by Dr. Jukka Takala and the co-authors of this report are more than treble previous estimates but, as bad as they are, they do not tell the whole story about Europe's asbestos pandemic.
There are multiple reasons for this. The deaths counted exclude:
- those from environmental or domestic asbestos exposures – which are killing even more people in asbestos hotspots than workplace exposures;
- fatalities from other asbestos-related diseases such as cancers of the larynx and ovary, and possibly stomach, colorectal and pharynx cancers;
- asbestos-related mortality from European countries not in the EU, many of which
continue to consume large amounts of asbestos and asbestos-containing products.
27 July 2015
STOP PLAYING WITH CANCER!
Asbestos victims support groups, trade unions and UK campaigning bodies are urging local authorities, government agencies and market surveillance bodies to prioritize the threat posed by the possible asbestos contamination of UK imports.
4 July 2015
Government gives way again over court costs in face of asbestos victims’ legal challenge
The Asbestos Victims Support Group’s Forum brought a judicial review challenge to the Government’s enhanced court costs which means that most mesothelioma sufferers will have to pay an average £7,500, and up to £10,000, to bring a claim for compensation.
Claimants can receive remission from paying court costs if they are on a low income and they do not have more than £16,000 in capital. Since most mesothelioma sufferers are paid approximately £16,000 in statutory compensation they would not be eligible for remission of court fees.
The Government have accepted that this was wrong and are amending the remission fee order so that statutory payments are not treated as capital. This change is effective from 3 July 2015.
The Forum says:
“Yet again, dying mesothelioma sufferers who have very limited financial resources have had to take court action to get justice. In this case they should never have had to launch legal action to stop the Government charging £10,000 in court costs to claim compensation for the criminal negligence of employers, often Government as employer, who continued to expose them to asbestos decades after it was known to cause cancer.”
23 April 2015
Charter for Justice launched
The Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK has issued a Charter for Justice for asbestos victims. The Charter sets out a small number of easily affordable reforms that would make a real difference to asbestos victims.
This country owes a debt of justice to asbestos victims and their families. We all have a duty to make sure victims receive the help they need. We all have an interest in making sure that asbestos is removed from the buildings we live and work in so that no one suffers in the future. This Charter sets out how we could achieve these aims. We hope everyone can support it. In particular we would like our politicians and policy makers to support it.
Please pledge your support for the Charter for Justice today, and make sure that any politician you vote for supports it too.
Click here to view the Charter
13 March 2015
Asbestos Victims Groups Welcome Publication of Government’s Asbestos in Schools Report. Now we need long term strategic policies to remove this deadly material from our schools
Click to read more...
28 January 2015
UK victims of mesothelioma support Eternit victims in Italy
On 18 November 2014, a delegation of 13 Forum members travelled from the UK to Italy. Our itinerary would be to spend 2 days in Rome to witness the Italian Supreme Court's verdict on the Eternit trial - click to read more...
3 October 2014
High Court Halts Government Plans to Increase Asbestos Victims’ Legal Costs
In a stunning rebuke for the Government the High Court has today (2 October 2014) put a halt to Government plans that would have seen court damages paid to mesothelioma victims cut, a move designed to save money for the wealthy insurance companies liable to pay damages. The High Court, only two months after the damning report of the Parliamentary Justice Select Committee, found in favour of the Forum’s Judicial Review application to stop these changes being forced through.
To read the Forum’s press release click here
5 September 2014