Thompsons Solicitors has expressed disappointment at the decision not to restore compensation for people with pleural plaques in England and Wales, but welcomed a multi million pound package which will see increased state benefit payments for dependants of deceased asbestos victims and funding for research into asbestos-related disease.

The announcement confirmed fears that the Government would not be overturning the House of Lords ruling on pleural plaques. Instead the Government will make lump sum payments to those who had already begun a legal claim for pleural plaques at the time of the Law Lords’ ruling in October 2007.

It is anticipated around 6,000 people will receive ex-gratia payments of £5,000 each. Others will receive nothing despite many being diagnosed with pleural plaques before and since the House of Lords changed the law on compensation. 

An information telephone line for enquiries from people with pleural plaques claims will be set up by the Ministry of Justice by the end of the week.

National Centre for Asbestos Related Disease

Today’s announcement also outlined plans to commit £3m funding towards a National Centre for Asbestos Related Disease and plans to increase state funded lump sum payments to dependant family members. Existing awards to mesothelioma sufferers will also be increased by 1.5% from April 1, 2010.

The Government has also announced plans to look into the establishment of an Employers Liability Insurance Bureau (ELIB) as a fund of last resort to compensate injured workers where the employer has ceased trading and the insurer cannot be found.

Ian McFall, head of asbestos policy at Thompsons Solicitors said: “On behalf of our clients we are disappointed the Government has decided not to overturn the House of Lords judgment although we recognise that at least some people with pleural plaques will get something.

“The commitments to the long cherished ideals of a national centre for medical research and a positive move on ELIB are as welcome as they are overdue.

“It is essential that ELIB is a guaranteed insurance fund of last resort to protect all injured workers, not just those who have asbestos-related disease.”

Thompsons is the UK’s most experienced personal injury law firm

As the UK’s most experienced personal injury law firm, Thompsons has campaigned with trade unions, victims and their families on a wide range of asbestos related issues.

It was involved throughout the pleural plaques test cases in the courts representing trade union members in the House of Lords and has consistently argued that the Government should reinstate the right to claim damages for pleural plaques. Thompsons has also as a law firm long been at the forefront of the campaign for an ELIB.

Currently anyone who cannot trace the insurer of an employer which has gone out of business is unable to claim damages.

Thompsons has also campaigned with asbestos victims to increase the level of bereavement compensation to bring it in line with that paid to victims in Scotland.

Commenting on the proposed national centre for asbestos related disease Ian McFall said: “The funding for the national centre for asbestos related disease is a victory for strenuous lobbying by asbestos campaigners. Currently there is no government funding into asbestos related disease and all recent research has been funded by charities."

"Financial support for researchers to pool their resources and knowledge more effectively will hopefully stimulate positive developments. The level of proposed funding will be viewed by many campaigners as insufficient to sustain any meaningful long term research."

This news story was also published by and Chronicle Live.