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New fund for mesothelioma victims must go further, says TUC

Welcoming the announcement yesterday (Wednesday) that the government is to make compensation claims easier for the thousands of people who have mesothelioma - as a result of asbestos exposure at work - but who until now have been unable to claim because their employer no longer exists, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:

'This new system will at least help provide some financial security to mesothelioma victims and the families of those who develop this devastating disease, but it falls well short of the scheme proposed by ministers a few years ago.

'Compensation should be available to all those who cannot get justice because, through no fault of their own, their insurer cannot be traced. While this scheme will come as a relief to those with mesothelioma, it will provide no help to workers who develop other cancers or life-threatening diseases, and who find themselves with no means of claiming compensation.

'Over the years insurers have been happy to take insurance premiums from employers, yet thousands of workers are unable to get compensation because of sloppy record-keeping on the part of insurance companies.

'And even those mesothelioma sufferers now 'fortunate' enough to be able to get compensation will be denied the full amount they would have received had they been able to take their original employers to court.

'We hope that the legislation to introduce this scheme can be passed as soon as possible and that, even at this late stage, ministers will consider widening its scope to make it fairer for all workers whose jobs have made them dangerously ill.'

Mesothelioma kills over 2,300 people every year, but over ten per cent of them currently receive no civil compensation because their employer's insurer cannot be traced. The setting up of this scheme, where insurance companies will have to pay a percentage of the compensation that is due, is one step on the road to justice, says the TUC.

For several years the TUC has been calling for the setting up of a system to allow those who cannot receive compensation after developing an illness through their work, because they cannot trace their employers' insurance, to get the money they should be entitled to.

Although employers' liability insurance has been compulsory since 1972 there was no requirement for employers or insurers to keep records until 1999, and as a result there is no central historical record of employers' insurance policies.

While the insurance industry runs its own voluntary 'tracing scheme', it has a success rate of only 41 per cent. This means that the many thousands who develop diseases such as cancers, often many years after they were exposed at work, receive none of the compensation they should be entitled to.


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