Cancer sufferer formerly of Wheathampstead welcomes victory in asbestos campaign
PUBLISHED: 06:00 04 March 2016
A Royal Navy veteran with terminal asbestos-related lung cancer at the centre of a Herts Advertiser-backed campaign for fair compensation has applauded a change of heart from the government.
Fred Minall, who left St Helen’s CE Primary School in Wheathampstead at the age of 15 to join the Royal Navy in 1957, was diagnosed with the cancer, mesothelioma, and is not expected to survive for more than about a year.
The 74 year old discovered he had been left with the fatal legacy after working in the forces, when exposed to dangerous asbestos dust which he regularly breathed while employed as an engineer on destroyers, removing and replacing pipe lagging – a small amount of that dust was retained in his lungs.
Despite the severity of his illness and undergoing treatment for his cancer, feisty Fred and fellow former residents from this district, Len Lambe and Peter Harbour, have spent months pushing the government to overturn an unfair compensation scheme.
Fred has hailed an announcement on Monday (29) that veterans with mesothelioma caused by their service can choose to receive lump sum compensation of £140,000, as eligibility rules have now been extended.
The extension follows a decision on December 16 last year to allow veterans diagnosed with the cancer on or after that date to have the choice between a one-off tax-free lump sum or regular smaller payments.
Before then, there was an absurd situation where personnel diagnosed with the terminal lung cancer after being exposed to asbestos while in the Forces prior to 1987 could not claim compensation comparable to their civilian counterparts.
However the government’s U-turn prior to Christmas meant that 60 veterans, including Fred, would miss out on the payment.
Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans Mark Lancaster said on Monday: “It is right that we do more to support veterans affected by this condition; it’s part of our commitment to our Armed Forces.”
Chris Simpkins, director-general of the Royal British Legion, which also campaigned for fairer compensation, said: “The Government has done the right thing and we appreciate the effort that has gone into accommodating the 60 people missing out. We are grateful to the Ministry of Defence to consider offering lump sums to correct the disadvantage faced by some veterans when compared to their civilian counterparts.”
Fred, suffering the after-effects of recent radiotherapy, urged fellow veterans in St Albans to seek medical attention if, like him, they were exposed to asbestos during their service.
Adding that he was very pleased with the extension of the scheme, Fred went on, “The minister has done the right thing, and made sure the loose ends are tied up”.
Peter Harbour said it was “wonderful news. I think Fred should receive a gong because the influence of his campaign has been huge”.