Victims of asbestos poisoning in the Bristol area have been betrayed after the Government quietly dumped plans for a compensation fund, it has been claimed.
A proposal for a fund of up to £400 million – to help former workers unable to trace the employers who exposed them to asbestos dust – has been dropped, a trade union said.
A separate plan for a national research centre for mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases has also been abandoned.
Both proposals were put forward in a consultation that finished 15 months ago, but ministers have said nothing since.
Jim Kennedy, the political officer of UCATT union of construction workers, said: “The Government is betraying people with mesothelioma – there is a deafening silence about this. Ministers won’t formally say that this scheme has bitten the dust, but we are confident it has.
“The insurance lobby is extremely powerful – it was hard enough to make progress under the Labour government and this coalition government is less sympathetic to what’s a class issue.”
Almost 2,500 men died from mesothelioma in the South West over the 25 years to 2005. There were 182 deaths in Bristol, 171 in Somerset, 104 in South Gloucestershire, 80 in Bath & North East Somerset and 194 in Gloucestershire.
Taking population size into account, Bristol is ranked 75th out of 396 council areas in Great Britain, South Gloucester 85th, B&NES 119th and North Somerset 122th.
The death toll is expected to rise sharply, with 61,000 men expected to die nationwide over the next four decades – peaking at around 2,040 fatalities in 2016. Labour promised the fund – the Employers Liability Insurance Bureau, largely paid for by the insurance industry – in January last year:
A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman denied the “fund of last resort” had been scrapped. She said: “We have not responded to the consultation yet.”