Union chief Alan Ritchie condemns attempts to deny compensation to victims of pleural plaques

The insurance industry will face a stinging attack today by the general secretary of Ucatt in his speech at the Labour Party conference.

Speaking in a debate generated by Ucatt, Alan Ritchie said he planned to condemn the recent attempts by insurers to deny compensation to asbestos victims.

Earlier this summer, the insurance industry took a case to the High Court, arguing that the insurer at the time a person was exposed to asbestos should no longer be responsible for paying compensation. The “trigger” for compensation, they said, should be when the disease developed.

The most serious illness from exposure to asbestos, the incurable lung cancer mesothelioma, can take over 30 years to develop. Ucatt said that many people would have retired by the time the disease develops, and might not have a current insurer.

Ucatt said that if the insurance industry carries its point then hundreds of asbestos victims will no longer receive compensation, saving insurers billions in reduced claims.

In his speech, Ritchie will say: “Every week 40 people die of mesothelioma. It is incurable. Victims die an agonising death. It is sickening that the insurance industry wants to block their compensation.”

He will announce that Ucatt is intent on dismantling industrial injury compensation “piece by piece” unless the government takes action against the insurance industry.

Last year insurers won a case in the Law Lords arguing that victims of pleural plaques - scarring of the lungs caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos - should no longer receive compensation.

The government is now consulting on the issue, following a wide campaign by the unions - led by Ucatt - to get the Law Lords decision overturned.