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New fund for mesothelioma victims must go further

The announcement 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, has been welcomed by the TUC.

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.”

Mesothelioma kills over 2,300 people every year, but over 10% 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.

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%. 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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