Asbestos campaigners and MPs lobby Justice Secretary to change Lords’ decision

Justice Secretary Jack Straw said the government will look to change a House of Lords’ ruling on pleural plaques if possible.

The Union of Construction Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT), Labour MPs and asbestos campaigners have lobbied Straw and Justice Minister Bridget Prentice in the latest bid to get the judgment changed.

Straw told campaigners: “I do not want to raise hopes because it is really difficult because of the way the law of negligence is. I am well aware of what the issues are. If we can find a way, we will.”

Alan Ritchie, general secretary of UCATT said: “The Law Lords decision was a grave injustice. Thousands of ordinary workers have had their lives needlessly blighted by exposure to asbestos. As it stands the law allows greedy insurance companies to get rich while those whose only crime was to go to work have had their health ruined, without recompense.”

Bradford North MP Terry Rooney is involved in the campaigning and said it was only a matter of time before the government overturned the decision.

He said: “Sooner or later the government will change its mind and it may as well be now. What is happening is completely wrong.”

So far, 18 MPs are supporting efforts to overturn the ruling.

A Commons motion reads: “We call on the government to bring forward legislative proposals to allow compensation for pleural plaques, recognising the condition as a permanent and irreversible structural change to the lining of the lung caused by negligent exposure to asbestos.”

The ABI said it sees no reason to reverse the House of Lords decision.

A spokesman said: “Insurers remain committed to paying compensation claims for asbestos -related conditions, such as mesothelioma. Any move to reverse this judgement could lead to claims for symptomless conditions – this could impact on the costs of insurance paid by all policyholders.”

In October, the House of Lords ruled unanimously that because pleural plaques is symptomless, it didn’t warrant compensation. Some government ministers have since called for the decision to be overturned.

Pleural plaques are benign cysts that may form on the lungs following exposure to asbestos.