A Government proposal to introduce a £400million “fund of last resort”, which would provide finance assistance to former employees and their asbestosis lawyer to help trace former company employers whose workplaces had exposed them to the deadly asbestos fibre dust, has been reported to have been quietly abandoned.
A separate plan for a £10 million national centre to research mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases also appears have been permanently shelved.
It was back in January 2010 when the Ministry Of Justice announced plans to create an Employers’ Liability Tracing Bureau, largely funded by the insurance industry, which would securely ringfence the fund and also aimed to reduce the length of time taken to process a serious asbestosis claim.
The original proposals were announced after a court appeal upheld an October 2007 ruling that future sufferers from pleural plaques, a condition that could trigger mesothelioma and lung cancer although not dangerous in themselves, would not be awarded compensation.
There is an exceptionally long gestation period of between 15 to 50 years from first asbestos exposure to the onset of mesothelioma or asbestosis symptoms and a confirmed diagnosis. Often this means every year, more than 3,000 asbestos disease sufferers are unable to trace their original employer and their insurer or the company had been dissolved.
As a result, victims would experience tremendous difficulty in pursuing mesothelioma compensation, often as a result of a difference in the value of a claim, which is settled before or after death has occurred. In many cases, discovery of mesothelioma at an advanced stage often means the survival rate is no more than 6 to 18 months.
It is estimated that 100,000 workers have already died from contracting fatal asbestos-related diseases, and more than 2,000 from mesothelioma, across the asbestos-using industries of the North-East up to 2005, since asbestos use was banned in the early 1980s.
It is forecast that the number of UK deaths from asbestos-related disease is expected to continue, rising to around 61,000 over the next four decades and peaking at over 2,000 fatalities by 2016.