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‘Shameful’ if States vote against asbestos compensation

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IT would be ‘shameful’ if States Members voted against proposals to introduce a compensation scheme for mesothelioma sufferers, a campaigner has said.

June Summers Shaw Picture: ROB CURRIE. (22912622)

Deputy Carina Alves has lodged a proposition calling on Social Security Minister Judy Martin to bring forward a scheme by April next year.

A campaign for the introduction of a States-run scheme for sufferers of asbestos-related diseases has been gathering support and an online petition recently passed 1,000 signatures.

June Summers Shaw, who has been leading the campaign, said she was pleased Members would be forced to debate the issue and that the States needed to acknowledge their past ‘negligence’ for failing to properly warn and protect Islanders about the dangers of asbestos.

Her husband, Keith Shaw, died in 2012 – days after being diagnosed with mesothelioma.

In her proposition, Deputy Alves cites the deaths of both Mr Shaw and Brian Coutanche – a former carpenter and States housing maintenance officer – who died earlier this year after being diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Compensation schemes for mesothelioma victims are already available in the UK and France, while Guernsey has recently stated its intention to adopt a similar scheme.

Mrs Summers Shaw said:

‘The sums needed for compensation would be very modest. The States have to take responsibility for their negligence in the past in not alerting people to the issues of asbestos.

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‘My understanding is that Carina has been testing the waters and she does seem to have support from other Members. I hope the majority of the Chamber support this.

‘The numbers are relatively small and costs are minimal but it is an important piece of legislation that would bring us in line with the UK and other jurisdictions. It would be shameful if we didn’t.’

She added that any money needed to pay compensation would be offset by the pension payments that would no longer be paid out to victims of the disease.

In her proposition, Deputy Alves said: ‘During the times that both Brian Coutanche and Keith Shaw were exposed to asbestos, the States knew of the risks involved, but did little to alert the public to it or ban the substance. Had they taken action, exposure may not have taken place.

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‘There is no denying that asbestos kills and that no amount of money will ever bring back a life.

‘However, by providing compensation to these victims, they are able to access better levels of care, cover the additional costs of their illness and provide access to support which would have ordinarily been beyond their means.’

She estimated that the scheme would cost in the region of £150,000 to £200,000 per year.

The proposition is due to be debated on Tuesday 20 November.

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