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July 19, 2018

Asbestos NHS costs law overruled

BBC News – Asbestos NHS costs laws overruled by Supreme Court

AM Mick Antoniw says he is ‘absolutely gutted’ by the rejection of the bill


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Firms in Wales whose staff are treated for asbestos-related illnesses will not be ordered to reimburse the NHS.

The Supreme Court agreed with insurers who claimed an assembly law passed in 2013 was outside its competence.

The court said Welsh ministers had no right to impose charges to fund the NHS, and insurers should not be given extra liabilities for asbestos exposure which long predated the bill.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) welcomed the judgement.

“The Welsh Bill would have seen increased insurance premiums for Welsh businesses but no extra compensation for mesothelioma sufferers,” said a spokesperson.

“The insurance industry remains committed to doing all it can to help the victims of this terrible disease and would be happy to work constructively with the Welsh Government on this issue, as it does on other public policy.”

‘Clarity’ call

Pontypridd AM Mick Antoniw, who first proposed the bill, said he was “gutted” at the ruling, having predicted the measure could have raised £1m a year for the NHS in Wales.

The bill had been referred to the Supreme Court by the Welsh government’s Counsel General Theodore Huckle following objections from the insurance industry.

Lung scan showing cancerThe law could have raised £1m a year for the health service, Mr Antoniw claimed

The Welsh government said it would give “careful consideration to this judgment”.

Presiding Officer Dame Rosemary Butler called for “greater clarity” so everyone understood what laws the assembly could pass.

The Supreme Court has previously ruled in favour of the assembly on changes to local government by-laws and the re-establishment of the Agricultural Wages Board which had been abolished by the UK government.

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Asbestos NHS costs law overruled

Illinois removes time limit for filing asbestos-related lawsuits

SPRINGFIELD – Illinoisans will get more time to file lawsuits over asbestos-related ailments under a change in state law signed by Gov. Pat Quinn.

The measure, approved by lawmakers during the fall veto session, removes a 10-year time limit for filing legal action related to the often fatal exposure to the cancer-causing substance.

Supporters said limiting the time to file was unfair to victims because diseases linked to asbestos such as mesothelioma can sometimes take 20 years to develop.

“The deadly diseases caused by asbestos exposure know no statute of limitations, so it’s fitting that our law is finally catching up to medical realities,” said state Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, the measure’s Senate sponsor. “We are giving sufferers and their families no more and no less than what they deserve: their day in court.”

Asbestos was used as a fireproofing material until the 1970s when it was linked to cancer.

Republicans who opposed the measure said the proposal could hurt economic growth if companies stay out of Illinois because of liability concerns.

Travis Akin, executive director of Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch, said the change would benefit attorneys who file asbestos claims.

“We view this bill as a big-time Christmas present for personal injury lawyers,” Akin said. “Obviously, this is very disappointing.”

The legislation is Senate Bill 2221.

kurt.erickson@lee.net|(217) 782-4043

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Illinois removes time limit for filing asbestos-related lawsuits

£150m in shipyard asbestos claims

BBC News – Harland and Wolff asbestos disease claims to hit £150m

Billy Graham said shipyard workers were not told about asbestosis


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Some £150m in compensation is expected to be paid to former Harland and Wolff workers who contracted asbestos-related diseases while working at the shipyard.

More than 2,000 people have been already been paid compensation.

Asbestos was a widely-used insulation material in shipbuilding until the 1970s.

Many workers contracted asbestos-related diseases after they were exposed to its fibres.

The legacy of the once government-owned Belfast shipyard is still causing misery for thousands of former workers.

To date more than 2,000 former workers, relatives and contractors who worked in the yard before it was privatised in 1989 have successfully claimed for compensation at a cost of £60m. That is an average of £30,000 each.

Billy Graham from east Belfast, who worked in ship repair in the yard for 20 years, is one of the former workers who was awarded compensation.

Range of diseases

He said: “We were told nothing about asbestosis. When you were working with old boilers, there was an asbestos ring around them, and we just pulled them off and the dust was flying everywhere.

Eddie HarveyEddie Harvey’s wife died aged 65 after inhaling asbestos fibres from his work clothes

“It’s a big shock when you are told you have a mild form of asbestosis. It does not get any better. It affects you that you can’t walk. You can’t do certain things. You can’t play with the grandkids the way you used to. You are just beat.”

The former employees are suffering from a range of diseases including asbestosis, mesothelioma, pleural plaques and lung cancer.

It is not just shipyard workers who were affected. In some cases there was “secondary contamination” – where people close to the those working in the yard contracted an asbestos-related disease.

East Belfast man Eddie Harvey worked in the yard for 20 years. His wife Margaret died in December 2008, aged 65, from fibres she breathed in while washing his work clothes.


Start Quote

I lost my wife to it, through washing my clothes. She couldn’t breathe in the end. She was in and out of hospital for three years and tried to fight it. She went from being 12 stone to a frail old woman of maybe five stone.”

End QuoteEddie HarveyFormer Harland and Wolff worker

‘Couldn’t breathe’

Mr Harvey urged anyone who has been affected by asbestos in the shipyard to claim against the Stormont Executive.

“I lost my wife to it, through washing my clothes. She couldn’t breathe in the end. She was in and out of hospital for three years and tried to fight it. She went from being 12 stone to a frail old woman of maybe five stone.

“Anyone who has it, make no mistake, they should go and claim because the government says the money is there.

“Don’t be afraid to. The government is not going to give you money if you are not entitled to it.”

The Department of Enterprise (DETI) at Stormont estimates it will pay out another £89m for claims by people who have yet to be diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases. It expects the claims to continue up until 2040 – some 50 years after the government sold the shipyard into private ownership.

After the privatisation DETI retained control of Harland and Wolff PLC, which includes the liabilities for asbestos-related diseases contracted by former workers.

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£150m in shipyard asbestos claims

Asbestos report order to schools

Uses of Asbestos

BBC News – Cwmcarn asbestos: Report order to all Welsh schools

Mr Andrews said it was well known that many schools in Wales built between the 1950s and 1980s contained asbestos


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All schools in Wales must deliver reports on their asbestos levels by next week, Education Minister Leighton Andrews has announced.

Mr Andrews made the decision after Cwmcarn High School in Caerphilly county closed unexpectedly because of asbestos concerns last Friday.

He called the situation at Cwmcarn difficult and said councils had clear legal duties to do annual surveys.

He also announced that Cwmcarn will partially reopen on Friday.

Mr Andrews said it was well known that many schools in Wales built between the 1950s and 1980s contained asbestos.


Start Quote

The health and safety of staff is of paramount importance”

End QuoteLeighton Andrews AMEducation Minister

However, asbestos did not pose a health threat if it undisturbed.

There was cross-party backing for the swift action taken by Caerphilly council to close the school once the risk was identified last Friday.

Opposition parties also called for the register of asbestos in school to be made public and a plan put in place to minimise the risk to pupils and staff.

“The health and safety of staff is of paramount importance,” said Mr Andrews.

Risk assessment

“Public Health Wales is providing a health-based risk assessment. The authority is looking at a number of options to accommodate pupils as a priority.

“There are contingency arrangements being put in place to secure the education for those young people,” Mr Andrews added.

The council said in a statement: “We are delighted to inform parents that Year 12 and 13 will be able to return to the school site on Friday and should report to the Performing Arts centre at 8.30am.


Start Quote

When a school of 900 pupils has had to close because asbestos was found in airborne particles, I think that people across Wales have a right to know if asbestos is a danger in their local school”

End QuoteKirsty Williams AMWelsh Liberal Democrat leader

“This newest part of the school is available for use and is separate from the rest of the school buildings.

“We will also accommodate Year 11 pupils at the site from Monday 22 October and they should also report to the Performing Arts centre at 8.30am.”

It was a “difficult decision” to close the school and a “range of options” were being investigated for the other age groups.

Earlier, a teaching union said it asked the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to investigate the discovery of asbestos at Cwmcarn.

The 900-pupil school was shut late on Friday after a structural report identified the material.

Geraint Davies of NASUWT Cymru said he wanted the HSE to confirm that correct procedures are adhered to.

The HSE said it was looking to whether there are grounds for a full investigation.

Mr Davies told BBC Wales on Tuesday: “In simple terms this is a health and safety matter and the Health And Safety Executive provides independent advice on such matters.

“In view of the seriousness of what has happened at Cwmcarn it’s only fair to all concerned, be it teachers and ancillary staff, parents and pupils and indeed the council itself, for such independent advice to be available.”

An HSE spokesman confirmed: “We are looking into the issue of asbestos at the school. We have to see whether there are grounds for a full investigation.”

NASUWT spokesman Rex Phillips had earlier raised safety concerns, saying high levels of the material had been found throughout the building.

Airborne particles

He said staff and pupils at the school could have been exposed to airborne asbestos.

Mr Phillips said the problem was found when a company visited the school to carry out a survey on a boiler room.

He said the asbestos was found to be in airborne particles, with two-thirds of the school “inoperable”.

Earlier, Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams called on the Welsh government to conduct a national audit of asbestos in schools.

“When a school of 900 pupils has had to close because asbestos was found in airborne particles, I think that people across Wales have a right to know if asbestos is a danger in their local school,” she said.

Pupils at the school have been given work to do at home via social networking sites such as Twitter.

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Asbestos report order to schools