St Albans MP demands action over asbestos-related cancer
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Although the Government has recently bowed to pressure to better compensate veterans with asbestos-related cancer, St Albans MP Anne Main wants more action on the contentious issue.
Until recently, an absurd situation existed where personnel who were exposed to the potentially deadly fibre while in the Armed Forces prior to 1987 and have since been diagnosed with the terminal lung cancer mesothelioma, could not claim compensation comparable to their civilian counterparts.
Among those fighting for a fairer deal is a former Wheathampstead man who is facing a death sentence 60 years after working with asbestos-ridden material while in the Navy.
Fred Minall, 74, approached the Herts Advertiser to help warn fellow veterans in Hertfordshire that they, like him, could end up being diagnosed with the incurable asbestos-related lung disease.
Along with the Royal British Legion, Fred has successfully spearheaded a campaign to help secure pay-outs for thousands of veterans.
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He and the Legion told politicians it was unfair that compensation rules meant veterans developing mesothelioma from working with asbestos during service could be left £150,000 worse off than their civilian counterparts.
The introduction of the 1987 (Armed Forces) Act allowed the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to be exempt from responsibility regarding any veteran’s exposure to asbestos, which resulted in people like Fred being isolated and ignored.
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However, just before Christmas, the Government announced a U-turn on the unfair compensation rules, saying that all veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma on or after December 16, 2015, would be given the choice between receiving a traditional War Pension, or £140,000 in lump sum compensation.
The British Legion’s director general Chris Simpkins welcomed the change, but added, “we remain disappointed that around 60 veterans who are currently in receipt of a War Disablement Pension for mesothelioma will be unable to apply for the new lump sum compensation award.”
Anne Main said she also welcomed the government’s correction of, “the ridiculous inequality between veterans and civilians.
“It cannot be right that those with mesothelioma who have bravely served their country are entitled to less money than anybody else. We must recognise the difficulties faced by everyone who is affected by this type of cancer.”
But, she said: “Clearly, there is more that can be done. I’ve asked if the new scheme will be extended to those on the War Disablement Pension. There are currently around 60 veterans who fall into this category who are unable to apply for the new compensation award.
“It is extremely important that members of the Armed Forces face no disadvantage simply because of military service.”
It is understood that around three or four veterans in Hertfordshire are diagnosed with the incurable lung disease at any one time.
Fred Minall grew up in Wheathampstead and attended St. Helen’s CE Primary School in the village.
His mother, Mary Minall, was very active in the British Legion and Fred, upon leaving home at the age of 15, joined the Royal Navy in 1957.
In mid-1958 Fred went aboard the first of four destroyers, and in the following eight years he worked in the engine and boiler rooms. Unfortunately, his work as a mechanical engineer meant that he would regularly remove and renew asbestos-related heat insulation material from machinery and steam pipes during repair and maintenance. Dust and debris from asbestos material would penetrate his overalls and cover his head, hair and body.
Fred, who has been undergoing chemotherapy treatment, said he was concerned for fellow veterans, including those who attended school with him and joined the Navy, who might have also unknowingly developed the fatal disease.
The primary aim of his campaign was to encourage the MoD to identify and make proper payment to current and potential sufferers of mesothelioma, in order that they might seek compensation.