HARTLEPOOL’S MP has welcomed a new compensation fund for victims of mesothelioma – but has slammed the Government for not going far enough to give sufferers justice.
Iain Wright described the diagnosis of the aggressive form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos as a “death sentence”.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Wright said thousands of people in Hartlepool have died painful deaths as a result of the danger they were exposed to at work, and says tragically there are more deaths to come.
The MP said the North-East is the worst-affected region, with Hartlepool being the 16th worst-affected constituency in the country.
He said he was once made aware of a tragic case in the town when a woman lost her father, husband, son and then her own life to the killer disease.
Under a proposed new £350m fund, sufferers will now be able to get damages if they are unable to trace the employers who exposed them to the deadly dust.
But Mr Wright has criticised the legislation, saying some aspects of the bill are “monumentally unfair”.
Only people who were diagnosed after July 2012 will receive payouts and those payouts will only be 75 per cent of the average asbestos compensation levels.
The compensation fund is also only for those who were directly employed, which Mr Wright criticised for failing to take into account wives and children who have been exposed at home.
He told the Mail: “It’s a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go far enough.
“Sufferers have had to fight for far too long. Yet despite the thousands who have died as a result of this awful disease only those who have been diagnosed after July 2012 can claim, that is just monumentally unfair.”
Mr Wright added: “We in Hartlepool suffer more than our fair share of mesothelioma and asbestos-related deaths because of our industrial legacy.
“My town was a major centre for heavy manufacturing, which was based around the docks, shipyards and steelworks.
“Firms such as Richardsons, Westgarth and Co and William Gray and Co are long gone, but are ingrained in the social history of my town, having provided employment for many generations of Hartlepudlians.
“However, asbestos was regularly used in those environments for lagging and other purposes, and employees were far too often not provided with proper protective clothing or equipment.
“We should think about the families, and the tragedy that we have seen.
“When I do, it brings to mind one of the most tragic cases that I have heard of in my constituency.
“A woman who was brought up in a community of laggers lost her father, then her husband, then her son, and finally her own life, to mesothelioma. All because of exposure to asbestos in the workplace as a result of negligent employers.
“Far too many of my constituents are suffering from this disease, and to make matters even worse, they are not seeing justice done or getting compensation for their suffering.”