Peter Gartside’s speech at the APPG calling for Cape Altrad to pay £10 mil towards medical research

Peter Gartside’s speech at the APPG calling for Cape Altrad to pay £10 mil towards medical research – YouTube

My name is Peter Gartside. I worked for Cape as a Managing Director of its overseas industrial services businesses and have recently published a book covering the second 60 years of its history. It is titled: ‘Asbestos and Cape: A Tale of Three Stakeholders’ since it deals with the conflicting demands of shareholders, industrial disease claimants and the Company’s employees.
Cape closed its last Asbestos-based product manufacturing facility in the late 1980’s having introduced asbestos-free alternatives to all of its products. This was too late to avoid leaving a legacy of industrial disease and the book does not shy away from pointing out its failures alongside others in the industry to warn and protect those, mining, making or using its products. The Forum have added damning evidence covering these failures through their persistence in securing access to records. By the 1990’s, in the words of one of the TV documentaries Cape ‘was brought to its knees’ facing claims in the USA, South Africa and the UK.
 Over the period of my book Cape were able to set aside nearly £300 million of profits to meet industrial disease compensation claims and set up a Scheme for payment. This was against a backcloth where many of its competitors filed for bankruptcy. It was able to do this as a result of its success in creating a successful business beyond asbestos and the book traces the development and growth of its Industrial Services business. By the year 2000 this was Cape’s only activity and it gradually progressed to a position of a world leader in its activities in industrial Insulation, scaffolding and corrosion protection under the name of Cape Industrial Services, operating in the oil, gas and petrochemical sector in over 25 countries and with over 18,000 employees. It won two Queens Awards for Export and Enterprise and became a UK champion in its field with, ironically, a reputation for world class standards of safety.
Like many successful soundly financed UK public companies, they can fall prey to takeover and in 2017 Cape was taken over by private French Company Altrad. At the time Cape had £172 million set aside in provisions for future disease liabilities and these provisions were inherited by Altrad. My book suggests it to have been an attractively priced deal for Altrad and as a substantial company they could provide security for claimants.
The profits enabling this money to be set aside were earned not from asbestos but through the efforts of the employees of Cape Industrial Services. These provisions are now under the control of Altrad and whilst I have no reason to believe that Altrad will not properly devote them to the needs of claimants, which they are obliged to do, it is an outcome in which former employees of Cape Industrial Services understandably have an interest.
Cape mined a type of asbestos (blue and brown) and produced market leading products Asbestolux and Marinite, which offered remarkable fire-resistant properties. The fibre and the products however were amongst the most dangerous in causing life-threatening asbestos related disease, and in particular mesothelioma. Asbestolux remains in UK infrastructure and its buildings today, subject to strict protective measures.
It became clear to me in writing the book that it would be in Altrad’s interest to make an investment out of the Cape provisions for Mesothelioma research to Asthma & Lung UK, as proposed by the Forum. With the right focus this could reduce the long term extent of its existing liabilities and de-risk the prospect of further areas of claim and compensation arising. There is nothing unusual in this – many of us give to charities involved in research where we have a personal interest in successful outcomes. Moreover such an investment would not be the first time monies had been allocated by Cape for research into the diseases associated with asbestos, it having funded asbestosis research as far back as 1957, albeit driven by self-interest.
The provisions made by Cape in 2016 were based on actuarial forecasts of the incidence of claims up to and including the date 2070. The benefits of successful research will extend therefore over many years to come, and therefore be in Altrad’s best interest.
It is for these reasons that, in my book, I support the proposal put to Altrad by the Forum.