A Government consultation into a House of Lords ruling on asbestos-related condition pleural plaques will begin this month.

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Justice, Bridget Prentice MP said the Government is committed to finding redress for people with pleural plaques and expects to announce its decision by November in time for the Queen’s speech.

During an adjournment debate in parliament on Wednesday, June 4, she said the consultation will review the effect of a House of Lords ruling which brought to an end the right to compensation for pleural plaques which has existed for over 20 years.

The consultation will consider options including restoring the right to compensation for pleural plaques.

Pleural Plaques is a scarring of the lungs

Pleural plaques whilst rarely causing symptoms is a scarring of the lungs and is associated with an increased risk of developing fatal conditions like mesothelioma.

Many people with pleural plaques tell of the worry and uncertainty it can cause, knowing that one day it may develop into the fatal cancer mesothelioma.

During the debate Mrs Prentice said: “The consultation period will begin very soon, and I hope that as a result my honourable Friends will see serious action from the Government, who are committed to helping people with pleural plaques and asbestos-related diseases.”

Barnsley West and Penistone MP, Mick Clapham urged for the Law Lords’ decision to be reversed.

He said: “I understand that a consultation exercise will be launched in the next couple of weeks, but I strongly suggest to the Minister, even at this eleventh hour, that she does the following things. She has to emphasise to her colleagues the need to reverse the Law Lords’ decision. That is the best and cleanest way forward.”

While Blaydon MP David Anderson called for the consultation to be quick so those with pleural plaques would know finally where they stand.

He said: “The consultation period is welcome, but it needs to be short, precise and effective. We need action in the House: if the law needs changing, we should go ahead and do it.”

The House of Lords ruling was made following a court battle brought by the insurance industry. It is estimated the decision will save the industry £1.4bn.

Exposed to asbestos at work

Frederick Hewitt, 73, Fellside, South Shields worked as an apprentice shipwright in the shipbuilding industry between 1950 and 1967 where he was exposed to asbestos.

Mr Hewitt discovered he had developed pleural plaques in January 2004 following a chest x-ray arranged by his GP.

Since then he has suffered anxiety and is concerned about what may develop in the future as his neighbour who also worked in the shipyards died as a result of asbestos disease.

He said he is pleased the Government have decided to hold a consultation. He said: “When I heard the Law Lords decision I thought it as a disgrace. I believe it is only right for the Government to step in to find a way for pleural plaques sufferers to claim compensation.”

Thompsons Solicitors in Newcastle acted for pleural plaques sufferers in the House of Lords test case.

Ian McFall, Head of Asbestos Policy at Thompsons said: “The House of Lords decision left thousands of working people disillusioned because they know their lungs have been marked by the asbestos they were wrongly exposed to and they have to live with the risk that some day they may develop a fatal illness.

“We welcome this consultation and urge that a decision be made quickly to restore the right of people with pleural plaques to be compensated.”

The consultation comes as the trade union Unite and Thompsons Solicitors are involved in another test case in the High Court to safeguard compensation for mesothelioma sufferers and their families.

The nine-week court battle, being dubbed the ‘trigger issue’, began on Tuesday, June 3. The court decision is not expected until the autumn.

This story was also published by Post Online.