Asbestos payouts secured

Hundreds of Wigan workers battling chronic industrial disease have received a boost.

The Government is changing policy and allowing former Turner and Newall employees (the parent company of Hindley Green-based Turner Brothers) who went on to develop asbestos-related diseases to keep their full Government compensation alongside that paid by the company's administrators.

It had previously recovered the lump sums paid out under the Pneumoconiosis (Workers' Compensation) Act to those suffering from the chest diseases, if they subsequently received the reduced compensation from the firm's successors.

The Government compensation scheme was introduced as an interim measure because of a legal impasse which had been blocking Turner and Newall's own payments offer.

Now the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says it has decided to act so that those receiving compensation from T and N – often only a fraction of what they have been found to be legally entitled to – will no longer have this lump sum deducted from the calculations.

Since of the collapse of Federal Mogul, the American conglomerate owners of T and N, some former employees who developed crippling illnesses such as mesothelioma have been receiving reduced compensation from T and N Trusts set up to help victims worldwide.

A spokesman for the Greater Manchester Asbestos Victims Support Group, which represents Wigan victims, welcomed the decision as a "positive step forward".

The DWP said: "We have been in discussion with those representing the workers and have decided not to make deductions any more.

"This will mean those receiving only a fraction of their full compensation will not be penalised further.

"We will work up the details of how this will be achieved and implemented so the changes can be brought into effect as soon as possible.''

The former Turner Brothers asbestos firm off Leigh Road once employed more than 2,000 staff.

Latterly, the plant produced colliery conveyor belting and closed in the mid 1980s.

Tinned foods giant Heinz, and the Clarington Forge-owned spade-makers Bulldog Tools of Ince, are both also locked in asbestosis compensation battles with the families of employees who subsequently fell ill with the disease.

In the North West there are currently 272 surviving people diagnosed with the potentially fatal cancer, which is triggered by breathing in fibres of the deadly mineral.

The number of people confirmed as affected is expected to increase over the next decade as the effect of exposure to asbestos in the 1960s and 1970s – when Turner Brothers itself closed – becomes more apparent.

Makerfield MP and former trade minister Ian McCartney, who has represented a number of constituents in their battle for redress, has also welcomed the new ruling.

He said: "Too many people have been dying before they get compensation, or they find they aren't eligible because they contracted the disease from living near a factory or being exposed to a relative who worked there, rather than working at the factory themselves, which has been awful injustice.

"No amount of money will ever make up for the suffering and loss, but no-one should have to worry that they or their family will have to wait years before they see a penny of compensation, especially as in many of these cases people do not have years to wait."