Government plans to examine the process for tracking and tracing the former employers and insurers of the victims of asbestos-related disease are welcome if they lead to the setting up of an Employer’s Liability Insurance Bureau (ELIB).

Thompsons Solicitors, the UK’s most experienced personal injury law firm, says the statement today by Justice Secretary Jack Straw of a review of the system for compensation claims for mesothelioma – the asbestos related cancer - must focus on ensuring that people get compensation even when their previous employers or their liability insurers cannot be traced.

Tom Jones, head of policy and public affairs at Thompsons said: “The only effective way to protect the rights of people claiming compensation for asbestos related disease is to establish an insurance fund of last resort, or Employers Liability Insurance Bureau (ELIB) modelled on the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) uninsured drivers agreement. What is good enough for car driver should be good enough for asbestos disease sufferers. Why should someone with a fatal asbestos-related disease get nothing because the employer who negligently exposed them, or their employer’s insurer (the law says all employers must have insurance), cannot be traced?

“We hope that Jack Straw’s announcement today is an indication that the government has recognised the fairness an ELIB would bring.”

Funding research into asbestos related disease

Thompsons also welcomed the government’s indication that it will make a financial contribution to funding research into asbestos related disease though in the light of the savings made by the government and the insurers they sought clarity of the amount of money committed.

“It is only right that medical research into a disease caused by exposure at work receives substantial public funding,” Jones said.

But the further delay in announcing there will be compensation for people with pleural plaques, the asbestos related scarring of the lungs, will just increase the agony for those whose claims were suspended when the courts first said that pleural plaques should not be compensatable condition.

“All the while the insurers who, by their accountant’s admission, saved £1.4billion as a result of the House of Lords ruling, continue to thumb their nose at pleural plaques sufferers and their families.

“We again call on the government to ensure that compensation for pleural plaques sufferers is paid, and paid for by the insurers who have the money on one side and not out of the public purse.

“Ministers need to focus less on the medical evidence and instead face the fact that these workers were negligently exposed to asbestos, their lungs have been damaged and the plaques they now have are an indication that they may get a fatal disease. For that they should be compensated.”