This week, I led for the SNP on a Statutory Instrument debate to support plans by the Government to uprate lump sum worker compensation payments.
Workers and their families endure real sadness and suffering caused by often fatal diseases resulting from prolonged exposure to asbestos and other listed agents.
It is right that the Government acted to increase these payments, and I call on them to commit to make this increase annually.
In my contribution, I started by remembering my Unison comrade and friend Tom Begley, who sadly died as a result of asbestos-related cancer, and all the other workers who have sadly succumbed to these pernicious industrial diseases.
I also paid tribute to the work of campaigners, trade unions and charities such as Clydeside Action on Asbestos in highlighting the devastating impact that these industrial diseases have on victims and their families.
The Government can do more to ensure that people at risk are identified and diagnosed as soon as possible, not just those who have worked in factories and buildings but those who, for example, contracted these diseases due to washing clothes with asbestos on them.
It was SNP MPs in the 1970s who warned of the dangers of asbestos and industrial diseases. At that time, they were accused of scaremongering, but thankfully we have come a long way since then in recognising the dangers of asbestos and its impact on people’s health.
The Government committed in 2010 to address the disparity between payments to sufferers and dependants. An equality impact assessment should have been carried out on the benefits, so I called on the Minister to look at what progress has been made in addressing the disparity.
Finally, in my contribution, I asked the Minister to indicate what help and support the Health and Safety Executive, as part of the Department for Work and Pensions, is being given to ensure asbestos-free workplaces? And, What work is being done raising awareness of asbestos and industrial diseases?