MINUTES OF MEETING OF THE
ALL PARTY PARLIAMENTARY GROUP OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH SERVICES
Held on 15 February 2000
Committee Room 20
Houses of Parliament
Chairperson Mike Clapham MP
Dr.. N A Godman MP
Ian Fitspatrick MP
Tony Worthington MP
Roy Beggin MP
Jeffry Spencer MP
Charlie Kavanagh - Liverpool & District Asbestos Victims
Dr. Nancy Tate MBE, OEDA
Sara Marsden TGWU
Own Tudor TUC
Ian McFall Thompsons Solicitors
Tom Jones Thompson Solicitors
Ivor Harris BSIF
Tommy Coley BSIF Denis Hands CITB
Geoff Hooke BSIF
Karen Outran Health & Safety at Work Magazine
Ian Stewart MP
Peter Kilfoyle MP
Phyllis Craig Clydeside Asbestos Support Group
Judith Church MP
Stephen Day MP
AnDr.ew Dismore MP
Gwyneth Dunwoody MP
Michael Hancock MP
Ian Stewart MP
Allan Whitehead MP
The Chair, Mick Clapham declared the first meeting of
the sub committee open. The committees brief is to look at all asbestos
related issues. The Chair reminded everyone the sub-committee is under
the umbrella of the All Party Occupational Health Services Committee.
The sub-committee has been set up to exclusively look
at asbestos related issues because of the complexity and the wide ranging
implications asbestos dust continues to have on health and the environment.
It is planed initially the sub-committee will meet twice yearly.
He added the sub-committee will present us with the opportunity
to look at all the issues on asbestos and invite the views of Asbestos
campaigning groups, Occupational Health groups and others on a problem
which sadly will keep us occupied for years to come. The Sub-committee
will also present us with the chance for us to express our concerns
and suggestions on matters concerning Industrial Disease, D.S.S. compensation,
workplaces etc straight to Ministers.
As an example of the complexity the Chairperson reported
on the number of cases from the power industry in which asbestos related
eye problems seem to be prevalent.
Dr. Tait was invited to adDr.ess the meeting commemorating
the work of the late Dr.. Molly Newhouse. Dr. Tait reported that Dr. Molly
Newhouse had recently died and she had attended the service. Nancy briefly
reported on the contribution that Molly had made to the recognition
of asbestos as being a health hazard.
John Flanagan from the Liverpool and District Victims
of Asbestos Support Group (L.D.V.A.S.G.) outlined the submission as
follows. The Liverpool Group Dr.afted the following sections unless
It was explained the submission had been discussed and
circulated for comments to Asbestos Support Groups all over the country.
The submission document had also been circulated previously to members
of the sub-committee (Please note the minutes contain an amended version
of the submission document). For a copy of the full submission please
contact the L.D.V.A.S.G.
1. Duplicate diagnosis of mesothelioma for the purpose
of applying for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit. (I.I.D.B.).
Prescribed disease D3.
The current procedure for applying for I.I.D.B. appears
to only serve to delay Benefit Agency (B.A.) payment to people when
they most needed it. The very large majority of applicants were in effect
diagnosed twice, once clinically by a hospital consultant and again
for the BA. It has been suggested this should change while keeping the
necessary checks and balances in place to ensure welfare benefits are
not paid to those not entitled to receive them.
2. Asbestos related disease sufferers and their relationship
with Health care Professionals. Submitted by the Greater Manchester
Asbestos Victims Support Group.
Concern had been expressed by some Victim Support groups
as to the lack of understanding and support given by some health care
professionals to victims and their families. While it was felt this
was not by any means the norm, anecdotal evidence pointed to it being
true in far too many cases. The issue could be adDr.essed with very little
expense by relating to medical staff and identifying best practice,
such as the protocol used by breast cancer services.
3. Issuing of DS 1500 report form. ("Special Rules")
for the Assessment of qualification for Disability Living Allowance
It was explained the procedure presently used, in effect
for the terminally ill to receive benefit in a "fast track" system,
which in some circumstances failed to work because a small number of
GPÕs were reluctant to sign the form because of the apparent good health
of the patient in spite of the inevitable poor prognosis of a mesothelioma
4. Reported plans to repeal the Industrial Injuries Disablement
Benefit Scheme. (I.I.D.B.)
This issue had been included in the submission due to
press speculation. It was felt that if the government was to repeal
consideration should at least be given to the latency period of asbestos
5. A proposal for a national help line for A.R.D. sufferers
and their Families.
Nurse Mavis RobinsonÕs (Macmillan nurse, Cookeridge hospital,
Leeds) was cited as an example of excellence and could become a blue
print for a nation wide help line for A.R.D. sufferers. However the
help-line was currently only for Macmillan nurses and is in danger of
losing it's funding.
Tom Jones reported Clydeside Action on Asbestos and the
G.M.B. Trade Union had a telephone help-line in the northern region
and we had to avoid duplication. We should avoid Telephone help-lines
competing with each other and ensure any services are co-ordinated.
6. Asbestos lung fibre counts at post mortem.
Dr. Tait was invited by the Chair to speak on the subject
because she has studied the problem for more than 15 years. OEDA uses
it's electron microscope to analyse, photograph and measure fibres but
discontinued fibre counts several years ago because the results are
so unreliable. Nancy explained that some coroners were still returning
verdictÕs of "Death from Natural Causes" for some A.R.D. patients because
they rely on Lung fibre count reports from the Environmental Lung Disease
Research Group (ELDRG) at Llandough Hospital, Penarth Wales, rather
than evidence of substantial exposure to asbestos during working life,
such as statements made by the deceased in life, witness statements
and experts' reports.
Dr. Tait circulated a document (enclosed) outlining the
problems and to illustrate the point outlined 2 cases, one a carpenter,
the second a former power industry worker, each with a history of several
years exposure to asbestos during employment. Both died from mesothelioma.
ELDRG advised the Coroners that death should not be attributed to occupation.
ELDRG has published that asbestos fibres are never evenly distributed
in lung tissue, which means that the number of fibres counted is never
typical of the lung as a whole. Nancy reported that a leading specialist
wrote to one coroner that he regards levels of up to one million amosite
(brown) and one million crocidolite (blue) per gram of Dr.ied lung tissue
as normal for an urban population and he only regards chysotile (white)
above fifty million as abnormal. Dr. Tait said she knew of no published
study, which supports these opinions.
Some Coroners are using Cardiff Laboratory guidelines.
The whole area needs to be investigated; it is a battleground for civil
litigation and a nightmare for families. The insurance companies rely
on a few specialists who support the ELDRG approach and claimants' lawyers
often fail to challenge it. The technique is as inconstant and controversial
as Drug testing for athletes
It was Dr. Tait's view that guidelines, which include
occupational exposure levels as well as a lung fibre count.
Tom Jones of Thomsons said it could be a real trauma
for families at inquest with no support on hand. It may be an education
issue for coroners who should be informed of the support available to
families. John Flanagan reported coroners have a newsletter, which is
published and distributed every 3 months and suggested this medium could
probable be used.
The Chair said he would write to the chair of the Industrial
Injuries Council and the sub committee could then decide on the next
7. Financial support for victims support groups.
Mick Fleming from the Liverpool Group talked about the
lack of information given to victims and the mental anguish they and
their families go through.
Agreed the sub-committee would look at the funding situation
for groups and the general issues of services for victims and their
8. Civil litigation in asbestos related disease.
Because of the Civil Procedures Rules introduced by the
Woolf Report discussion took place on how these new procedures were
working in practice and what impact the further changes to be introduced
on April 1, including the virtual scrapping of Legal Aid, was having.
Ian McFaul from Thompson gave a very informative outline of the new
rules and suggested how improvements could be made.
9. Tracing employer's liability insurance policies.
The government had published a Code of Practice (COP)
to help litigants and their representatives to trace insurance companies.
While an alternative method of dealing with litigantÕs claims was identified
in the submission it was felt this issue would have to wait until after
the review of the COP in November of this year. Ian McFaull stated he
had already started a file on the success/failure rate of the COP and
advised all those in the legal field to do likewise in order to be able
to present a case at the COP review stage.
Ian McFall briefly explained the step victims of asbestos
had to go through before they could take legal action. Including trying
to trace the insurers responsible for insuring the claimant at the time
of exposure to asbestos dust. If the claimant could not identify the
insurer then legal action would not proceed. The person would then go
on to the Department Environment Transport Regions (D.E.T.R.) 1979 Act
route for compensation which is much lower than would normally be awarded
by the courts.
Some members of the sub committee expressed concern that
the naming and shaming policy for insurance companies who did not disclose
the name of the insurers in civil litigation cases was not punitive
enough. The Scheme needs to be monitored with the intention of reviewing
how it has worked in the first year.
Charlie Kavanagh from the Liverpool Group reported that
they had met officials from the DETR 1979 Act today and they had reported
that they had paid out approximately 10 million 1998-99 and officials
expected an approximate rise of 20 % in costs each year due to the new
numbers of asbestos victims applying.
Correspondence had been received from the Lord ChancellorÕs
Department (LCD) in reply to Mr. Ian Stuart MP raising the issue that
money was being wasted in repeatedly calling for EngineerÕs ReportÕs
to identify the working conditions of litigants in when well known occupations
have been documented in previous cases. It was felt the letter from
the LCD supported this point of view and consideration should be made
as to how this can be publicised within the legal world.
10. Memorial to those who have died of asbestos related
disease. Submitted by ODEA.
Dr. Tait proposed to erect a memorial to those who have
died as a result of asbestos related illness. Dr. Tait said she has a
large postbag covering the subject particularly from widows.
The Chair said the issue could be explored with the D.E.T.R.
minister and involve the TUC victims support groups etc. We could also
attract a lot of media attention. The media could be involved
An action point on each item of the agenda requiring
further action to be taken. All correspondence will also be passed on
to members of the sub-committee.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
A. Section 10 of the Armed Forces Act.
John Flanagan reported that a former Naval seamenÕs widow
in Liverpool was considering an appeal to the European Court of Human
Rights on the Crown Immunity Act on the basis of being denied the right
to take legal action on behalf of her late husband.
Ian McFall reported on the legal aspects of section10
of the Crown Immunity Act and how it works to bar former armed service
personal from suing the Ministry of Defence. Ian reported that Thomsons
is pursuing claims against the manufactures and suppliers to the armed
forces, one such suppler being Turner and Newel on the basis of product
liability. The costs and implications of repealing the Act should be
looked at seriously.
It was reported that the Royal Navy is currently engaged
in an asbestos-cleaning programme which is costing several millions.
B. Conference in Northern Ireland
Tom Jones reported that the proposed discussion on holding
a conference in Northern Ireland was still on. The Chair said we could
look to respond to the proposed conference when the minutes are Dr.awn
up. Northern Ireland has, because of its shipbuilding traditions, a
particular high rate of asbestos related illnesses.
Date for Next Meeting to be Arranged