Saturday, 21 April 2012

Crouch rebels over Legal aid but where is Reh?

A serious work related health problem that blights the country, especially the older generations is the Mesothelioma from exposure to Asbestos dust. Those of you, like me, who work in old buildings will know of the lengthy procedures to verify the presence of of the substance and then an even lengthier procedure to remove it by experts in protective clothing. Also, as I work in a Museum filled with World War Two equipment we have on site staff who specialise in safety checks.

Unfortunately the effect of Asbestos dust on workers was not known at the time and the substance was widely used everywhere including Gas Masks, insulation in Lancaster bombers and also more relevantly to Medway in the lining of ships engines, wrapping of pipes, wrapping turbine parts and engines. Indeed in the USA, especially in the Hampton Roads Mesothelioma and Asbestosis are incredibly virulent. It is estimated that out of the 4.3 million ship workers some 14 out of every 1000 died of Mesotelioma (it is estimated that 100,000 have or will die from Mesohelioma.) and an unknown amount of Asbestosis. This is despite the fact that the condition and the danger of Asbestos was first used in Medical journals in 1931 and the Asbestos Industry regulations coming into affect in March 1932.

So what has this got to do with Medway and her MPs? Well Chatham dockyards was a hub of activity until the 1980's and many Royal Navy vessels were built and refitted in the docks including the construction of two U-class Submarines (HMS Umpire and HMS Una) HMS Ajax, of River Plate fame, was refitted in 1940 as well as countless others. Exposure to Asbestos was unavoidable and as time has gone by victims have begun to appear.

It was reported in the Medway Messenger (30th March Victims' Court victory in fight for compensation) that the Supreme Court had granted a landmark victory that means that any Insurance company that insured you (the claimant) at the time of your exposure must pay out rather than wait for the symptoms to appear to be diagnosed.

At the time Tracey Crouch MP said; It has taken a long time coming, but it is obvious that compensation should be made when workers are exposed and not when they have been diagnosed. It is an illness which catches up quickly. The earlier compensation the better for financial peace of mind.

However Tracey has had to continue fighting the cause in Parliament and has rebelled against the Government's position on the Legal Aid bill. The bill, as I understand it, will block legal aid to those involved in civil cases, such as this but still allow those facing a criminal conviction legal aid. This would mean that sufferers of Asbestosis or Mesothelioma would have to fund the cases themselves and thus lose a majority of their compensation to lawyers.
Speaking in Parliament: Anecdotal evidence shows that sufferers often pass away long before their claim has been settled, leaving their grieving families to settle the claim. Sometimes, the stress of doing so is too much and the claim is no longer pursued.
I want to see meso victims receive a fair package of compensation and I am concerned that the Bill as drafted will cause a significant sum of the compensation package to be lost in success fees paid to lawyers.

This conditions can be localised to certain areas and unfortunately Medway is one of them because of the Docks. You would hope, considering the geography, that the other two MPs for Medway would also support Miss Crouch on this. Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood) voted with the Government and Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham) was absent. It is especially interesting considering the fact that a large body of Gillingham residents worked in the docks, as did those of Chatham and yet Mr Chishti failed to turn up. I can understand voting for the Government if that is where your convictions lie but to be absent on a debate that has implications to your constituents like this... I hope that he had a good reason.

We, as a nation, talk a lot about looking after our servicemen and women post war and the Veterans of the Second World War who fought for this country but those who worked for the Dockyards in a civilian capacity also did very essential war and military work. How can we let them down and leave their families without monetary compensation?

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