Updated: Wednesday, 23rd April 2014 @ 12:58pm

Manchester MP Kate Green's bid to save legal aid for asbestos victims fails

Manchester MP Kate Green's bid to save legal aid for asbestos victims fails

By James Haviland

Manchester MP Kate Green has failed in her bid to stop the government removing access to legal aid for asbestos victims.

Over 4,000 people in the UK die annually from exposure to asbestos with the figure estimated to peak at 10,000 a year by 2020.

The ‘Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill’ will make legal aid available only in specific cases and allow government to remove further areas.

Ms Green suggested an amendment to the bill that would add victims of industrial illness and disease to the cases covered.

Ms Green said: “I’m outraged and upset that families who’ve suffered so terribly are being treated so shabbily by the government.

“After all these years, asbestos victims deserve justice. I’ll be keeping up the fight.”

Someone unable to afford a costly legal battle will soon have to convince lawyers to take their case on a no win no fee basis.

These cases are often unattractive to lawyers who must go back several decades to prove where exposure occurred and track down companies or insurers responsible.

If successful, legal costs will now be taken from the settlement, possibly wiping out any compensation potentially even leaving the victim in debt.

The remaining alternative is the Government’s compensation scheme which is offers a maximum of £16,000 in comparison to an average court pay out of over £100,000.

Manchester is particularly affected as Trafford Park which once employed 500,000 people working in heavy industry is seen as a major source of asbestos victims.

Between 2004 and 2008 at least 1,251 died from Mesothelioma in the north west of England.

A spokesman from the Greater Manchester Asbestos Victim Support Group (GMAVSG) said: “Coming to terms with their illness is daunting enough for most people and many simply don’t claim anything. 

“Now victims are being made to feel guilty, these proposals are criminal, many of our members have expressed their deep revulsion at the proposed changes.

“I have had three phone calls this week informing me of deaths and usually receive at least one a week.”

As early as the 1880’s it was known that asbestos had negative effects on health, yet successive Governments did little to protect workers.

It was not until 1986 that blue and brown asbestos was banned in the UK, and not until November 1999 that white asbestos was banned.

Symptoms can take from 10 to over 40 years to develop but after diagnosis death can follow quickly as sufferers lose the ability to breath.

Asbestosis occurs when asbestos is inhaled causing inflammation and scaring in the lungs as the body’s defences tries to fight the fibres.

Mesothelioma is a cancer with no cure, it affects the lungs but can spread throughout the body and can occur even after brief exposure.