Friday, October 03, 2008

1983 Asbestos Debate: Step Forward Nick Brown

Regular curmudgeon EHC has been chirping a lot these days about the new Chief Whip Mr Nick Brown and his record on asbestos. Recently Brown has had government jobs related to the ongoing struggle against asbestos-related illness, set back so much by Sir Cyril Smith MBE and his Conservative allies in exploiting, nay killing the workers for the sake of profits. But here is Nick Brown's contribution verbatim to the 1983 Debate in the Houses of Parliament.

CORRECTION Sat 12:51: You know. NOT The one with Cyril reading company lines, with well fed company execs in the front row of the gallery, all ignoring the weight of evidence against the killer dust. Addition starts: Or at least just now there is no proof of their speech writing, hospitality exchanged, witnessing their owned MP delivering for the dark satanic asbestos millers of Rochdale. End addition. and here Sir Cyril is also a rude, unnecessarily interrupting, self important bastard:

Mr. Nicholas Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, North)

In some respects it is not inappropriate that the debate should follow our discussion on the Trade Union Bill. Some hard, and at times ill-informed, comments about trade unions were made today. It must now be said that the trade union movement has been consistently in the vanguard of the move to expose the murderous way in which asbestos has been casually treated.

I take this opportunity to praise the "Alice: A Fight for Life" programme which did so much to heighten public consciousness of the issue. The trade union movement has consistently pressed for stringent precautions to be taken in the handling of asbestos — not only in the manufacturing process but in the equally important construction and demolition industries.

Before being elected to the House I had the honour to serve the General, Municipal, Boilermakers and Allied Trades Union as a full-time officer in the northern region. Part of my duties involved industrial health and safety, and part common law matters. My union has encouraged and, perhaps more significantly, financed, pioneering legislation for asbestos-induced cancers. The northern region is justly proud of its part in that.

It is important to remind the House that the victims of asbestos-induced cancer are working people or their kin—people with no accumulated wealth, who could not have financed their own protracted, civil litigation against the wealthy multinational conglomerates that have caused them such terrible, cruel and, ultimately, fatal injuries. People in such circumstances can look only to their trade unions for support. There is no other institution in our society today that will take up a case for an ordinary, working person who has suffered such a terrible injury. Unions are justly proud of their fight for people who have been wronged. They have fought against the very rich and very powerful. That is a job that the trade union movement does alone.

The saddest job that I have ever had to do was to take responsibility for the involvement of the northern region of my union in asbestos-induced cancer common law cases. To watch healthy people wither away to skeletons before dying is absolutely heartbreaking. It is hard to tell a man who thinks that he is healthy—I see that the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) is leaving the Chamber. — 260

Mr. Cyril Smith

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am not leaving the Chamber, but simply taking my notes to the Attendant.

Mr. Brown

There is nothing twittish about dying of asbestos-induced cancer. It is hard to tell such a man that the union has obtained £70,000 for him. People are not fools. If they are given a large sum of money they realise that it is for a purpose. The saddest thing that I have ever had to do was to tell someone that we had got him a large sum of money. He burst into tears, not of joy but because he realised why he been given a large sum of money. He is now dead.

The most upsetting aspect of the common law side is a case in which the victim is dying and the insurance company, acting for the employers, deliberately delays proceedings because the compensation payment to a victim's next of kin is substantially less than to the victim himself. Insurance companies use that despicable tactic.

The regulations are important. Working people in the thermal insulation and construction industries, and indeed the general public, look to the House to prevent employers from causing industrial cancer. It is no use for the industry to pretend that blue asbestos is the dangerous one that is not used and that white asbestos is not nearly such a bad thing. It is a bad thing. We are talking about degrees, not absolutes, and the myth that white asbestos is gentle must be nailed. It is unsatisfactory that the main deterrent in the handling of asbestos should be the threat of trade unions taking common law cases on behalf of their members after the event.

Before I leave the issue of common law cases I should like to urge the House and the Minister to consider carefully the introduction at some future stage of no-fault legislation for the victims of asbestos-induced cancer. The difficulty of proving exactly when it happened, in what circumstances and whether the manufacturer rather than the employer at the time should be sued sometimes produces an unfair result for the victim. No-fault legislation is needed.

Do the regulations meet our purpose, which is to ensure the safety of workers and the general public? If we do not get this right, the licensing regulations will be a licence to kill and nothing else. I am sorry that the Health and Safety Executive has turned down the proposal of the General, Municipal, Boilermakers and Allied Trades Union that Government inspectors should be supplemented by experienced worker-inspectors drawn from the industry itself. As that will not happen, will extra Health and Safety Executive inspectors be drafted in to enforce the regulations? Will there be fresh recruitment into the inspectorate? The policy will not work unless it is enforced. What attitude will be adopted to sanctions? There will not be prior inspection when licences are issued so may we have an assurance that any breach of the law will mean that the licence is revoked or, at the very least, that it will be revoked following a successful prosecution?

It is fairly easy at the moment to set up as an asbestos consultant. The industry has its rogues and they must be controlled. I was a little disturbed when the Minister said that a licence will be required for most work with asbestos. I may have misunderstood him, but if a licence is required for most work, for what work with asbestos will a licence not be required?

With the current staffing of the Health and Safety Executive there has been a shift away from the field-work 261 side of enforcing the law towards a rather more policy-making role of writing guidance notes about the law. That is worrying and I am told that it is having an effect both on health and safety standards and on the morale of the service.

There is the problem of the EC directive, which lays down duties that are currently triggered off only by an action level, to which the Minister referred, of 0.25 fibres per cc. That means that large sections of the asbestos manufacturing industry are exempt or are getting past some of the regulations, one of which is the duty to provide medical surveillance. May I have an assurance that those provisions will be firmly enforced?

There appear in the 1969 legislation a whole series of requirements which are called "practicable duties." I hope that those duties will continue to be treated as practicable ones and that the phrase "reasonably practicable" will not be used in its place. There is a fear, particularly on the trade union side, that some erosion is intended. While that could not be drawn from the Minister's opening remarks, perhaps he will say that that fear is unfounded.

The trade union side, particularly my union, has called for some time for an environmental control limit. Will that suggestion be adopted? The idea has received widespread support from, among others, the Institute of Environmental Health Officers and the Association of Metropolitan Authorities. To talk of using the occupational control limit, which the Health and Safety Executive sometimes does when dealing with asbestos, is not fair, because that limit is not used by the executive in other areas; the executive itself says that it is not appropriate for, for example, carbon monoxide. I therefore appeal for a specific environmental control limit for asbestos.

Following the "Alice: A Fight for Life" programme, we were told that an advice booklet would be published. The current booklet, "Asbestos and You", is very much out of date. Consultations have taken place and I understand that drafts have been drawn up for a new leaflet about asbestos. When is it scheduled to appear?

A large number of public buildings, particularly schools and hospitals, have enormous amounts of asbestos in them. Some that has been there for some time is flaking and crumbling, and it is when asbestos deteriorates and turns to dust that it is at its most dangerous. Can the Minister say what financial assistance to local authorities and area health authorities is being made available to help them deal with the problems that they face?

The hon. Member for Rochdale rightly referred to the connection between smoking and asbestos-induced cancers. There is some evidence to show that smokers are more suspectible to contracting an asbestos-induced cancer if they are exposed to asbestos. We should be fighting for the right of a person, regardless of his job, to smoke if he wants to. In a free society that is a decision that grown-up people should make for themselves and it should not be said that only people who do not smoke should work in circumstances where they will have a slightly reduced chance of contracting an asbestos-induced cancer. The working environment should be made such that nobody faces that risk.

11.59 pm

We're guessing that asbestos apologist EHC has something else in mind. Perhaps he'll tell us? Perhaps the new asbestos compensation rules which came into force on 1 October 2008? Which notably Labour's PPC Simon Danczuk is speaking up against, has written to Jack Straw about, and is joined on by my Union and many others. But on which Mr Paul Rowen, the disappointment-in-chief of Drake Street, has said nada, zip, nowt. The dog that didn't bark? Indeed.

CLARIFICATION Sat 12:51: The new rules relate to pleural plaques which is lung scarring caused by a fibre or fibres of asbestos where the body's defences "ring fence" the problem. Although this does not lead to the uncureable fatal mesothelioma cancer its presence indicates that some fibre has made it into the lungs and caused a problem and is clearly very alarming for those involved.

The perverse Law Lords decision which the government have surmounted with these new rules decided that pleural plaques would not attract compensation. I've yet to get my head round the idea of some of the restored settlements for this (say £8,000 instead of £70,000 for fatal mesothelioma) being clawed back. EHC has been very quiet on the matter of Nick Brown and alleged issues with his dealings with asbestos ... perhaps they should apologise?


tory boys never grow up said...

Every time EHC or his friend try and smear an opponent of the asbestos industry - does it cross their tiny minds that it becomes more obvious every time that they are trying to divert attention from Cyril, and highlights that there is a lot which is yet to expose.

Perhaps they might want to have a go at Max Madden next - an MP who was campaigning against the asbestos industry even before the MP for Turner and Newall was elected.

Chris Paul said...

Haven't they already called him? I thought they had. I don't think he was in parliament in 1981 (brief hiatus) but he was back in 1983 and spoke immediately after Nick Brown.

tory boys never grow up said...

It would be very interesting to hear Max's views on the assistance Cyril Smith provided to his campaign against asbestos and to getting proper compensation from the asbestos industry for its victims. As an assidious campaigner on the issue and the MP for a nearby constituency which already knew how dangerous asbestos was - it is inconceivable that he didn't ask Cyril Smith for support at some time.

Of course Max is still alive and may wish to provide his perspective on Cyril - but the fact that every Labour MP with an interest on this subject at the time saw him as being hostile speaks volumes.

Chris Paul said...

Indeed it does. "We don't like Cyril" said Tony Lloyd MP just recently. he himself worked for T&N I think for a short while. In Mcr office.

Anonymous said...

I see from the lack of reaction to my original post that nobody has noticed the glaring anomaly in Nick Brown’s speech. You know, Nick Brown, the old/new Labour Chief Whip.

Is it really that nobody has noticed it or could it be that everybody wants to keep quiet? I feel like a schoolteacher with a class full of slackers. “Has anybody actually read through this passage?”

Before coming on to the relevant part, I looked for a quote that would reflect everything that is wrong with it. To my surprise, I found one in the same Commons debate. Does anybody want a stab at who said the following?:

“There is overwhelming evidence to prove that smoking by asbestos workers in asbestos factories can heighten the risk of cancer to those workers. I put forward a suggestion that would be welcomed by the employers' side of the industry and that the Minister might discuss with the trade union movement, which is seriously and properly concerned about the health of its members. The trade union movement should join the employers in agreeing to ban all cigarette smoking in asbestos factories.”

That statement is absolutely spot on. There are inherent dangers of working with asbestos that contributors to this blog claim to be concerned about. There are also obvious dangers from smoking. However, to calculate the risk of smoking while working with asbestos you do not simply add the threats from each. In fact, there is a multiplier effect in operation. The dust and fibres collect on the end of the cigarette which is ten heated and drawn deep into the lungs of the smoker. I am told that in cotton and asbestos mills, cigarettes glow a different colour than normally.

The quotation is actually from Cyril Smith.

But then we get:

“There is some evidence to show that smokers are more susceptible to contracting an asbestos-induced cancer if they are exposed to asbestos. We should be fighting for the right of a person, regardless of his job, to smoke if he wants to. In a free society that is a decision that grown-up people should make for themselves and it should not be said that only people who do not smoke should work in circumstances where they will have a slightly reduced chance of contracting an asbestos-induced cancer. The working environment should be made such that nobody faces that risk.”

That sounds just like the argument that the incredibly right-wing former Tory MP, John Carlisle, would make when he later went on to represent the British Tobacco Association. Or even the uber-libertarians from groups such as FOREST. But actually those words were spoken by the then fledgling Labour MP, Nick Brown. And here he is campaigning for the right for anybody, in any environment, regardless of their co-workers to be able to pay tobacco companies to give them cancer.

And this is where we get down to the very nub of this issue, the one that I suspect will prove the rank hypocrisy of Chris Paul and his bloggerettes.

If you were to investigate the reasons for Nick O’Tine-Brown making these crass statements it would be hard to ignore the fact that one of the main employers in his constituency was WD & HO Wills, part of Imperial Tobacco. Anybody want to have a little guess what they manufactured?

A constituency MP defending local jobs for workers who made dangerous products. Gosh.

I suggest that anybody who has commented about health & safety issues here should take their comments, replace ‘asbestos’ with ‘tobacco’ and ‘Cyril Smith’ with ‘Nick Brown’ and then re-post them.

I wonder who’ll be first? I can’t wait to find out.

Chris Paul said...

You're coming over a bit of a muppet here EHC. First you try and excuse Cyril with the old Coal meme. Now it is nicotine which is still of course legal, though it comes with clear health warnings.

Cyril Smith is and was trying to instill Spodden Syndrome (cf Stockholm Syndrome) where the victims start to empathise with their captors - in this case the makers of asbestos products.

Not conspiring because these products are "irreplaceable" as they often claimed but because they are sitting on a huge mine chock full of the stuff and have willing women and children workers in Africa teasing tons of the stuff out of rocks with their bare hands.

Cyril has already tried the line of making all the workers responsible for their own deaths by even working for the place - which he claimed was as safe as can be - and making products - which he claimed were absolutely safe - and now he suggests that they were increasing their peril by smoking.

While this may well be true - 100s of illnesses are caused or worsened or made more likely by smoking after all - but it is no excuse whatsoever for the asbestos industry and therefore Cyril Smith's callous disregard for their workers' and their consumers' health.

This is pathetic EHC. Nick Brown was in fact right on this. Because blaming workers proven to be working at extremely high risk because of asbestos - by Alice documentary if not by 100 years of literature already by this point - a risk kept from them by the bosses and the MP, for having a smoke is seriously pathetic.

Smoking increases the risk of many many diseases. But again blaming working people for getting unnecessary, preventable illnesses is just a smokescreen.

Anonymous said...

I am not blaming the workers for contracting these diseases, quite the opposite. And that's my whole point. Nor am I particularly attacking Nick Brown.

What's at issue here is that Nick Brown, among others, was defending the right of people to use products that were produced by his constituents. Very dangerous products at that (oh, and please don't pretend that the cigarette manufacturers were totally up front about all the health risks associated with smoking). You are a hypocrite. You are a tobacco apologist.

Your problem is that you could quite easily, as I suggested, take all remarks made about asbestos and replace them with identical ones about tobacco. You could just as easily replace the sneers about Cyril Smith with ones about Nick Brown, but that would also involve replacing "Liberal Democarts" with "Labour Party" and that is a line that you are unable to cross.

I repeat, Nick Brown made this and many other statements that were designed to promote the continued use of tobacco. Either attack him with the same ferocity you use here or again stand condemned as a charlatan.

tory boys never grow up said...

EHC - yet again you demonstrate that you are as ignorant as pig shit. One of the things that Turners and the asbestos industry were continually arguing at the time in order to reduce their liability and the level of claims against them was that smoking was a contributory factor to the asbestos deaths - the line being put forward by Cyril was one that the asbestos industry was constantly using in order to reduce claims - and of course Cyril was more than happy to support their argument.

Could I suggest that you try and get a better understanding of what happened before demonstrating your ignorance again in the future.

And no I don't like tobacco either - but it is not as deadly as asbestos. A few cigarette butts in Spodden Valley would be nowhere as dangerous as what is currently there.

Anonymous said...

For years the tobacco indusry, as with the abestos industry, hid the true dangers of their products.

Nick Brown's line was that it was acceptable to smoke in the workplace, wherever and in whatever circumstaces that may be. Apparently, it was a matter of 'personal choice'.

On many occasions he argued that tobacco companies should not be held legaaly liable for the damage that their produce caused.

One of the largest sources of employment in Nick Brown's constituency was a tobacco factory.

You fail to regognise the connection between those facts and yet you call me "as ingorant as pig shit". I can't tell you how much I resent that. Imagine being called two-faced by Chris Paul and you'll understand what I mean.

Anyway, I thing the phrases that you were hopelessly fumbling for were 'pig ignorant' or 'thick as pig shit'.

But presumably that's because you are as uneducated as a docker's buttie.

tory boys never grow up said...

Quite frankly I don't care about your feelings - to have called you "pig ignorant" would have been an insult to pigs. As for being uneducated all I can say is that I have a considerably better university degree than Dave Henneghan.

As I said below the asbestos industry at the time was seeking to reduce the compensation it paid its victims at the time by arguing that lung cancer was a contributory factor - and in some cases asbestos was only accepted as the cause after a postmortem on the victim (imagine for a moment what a pleasant experience that was for the relatives - and remember that Turners were the driving force behind the industries response to asbestosis at the time) . And the point that Nick Brown was trying to make was that the link to tobacco was irrelevant in the case of asbestos victims - and if you cannot understand that may I suggest that you go and spend a little time educating yourself on this matter before playing your silly games.

tory boys never grow up said...

And if EHC wants to provide a serious anlaysis on Nick Brown's attitude to the smoking ban - perhaps he may want to look here.

And perhaps compare his score with that of the LibDem President (and laughing stock) who Hennegan sticks up for so much elsewhere

But anyway we were talking about asbestos weren't we - rather than decending to silly political games.

Anonymous said...

Nick Brown's point was nothing of the sort, Tory Boy. It was an explicit plea for people to be allowed to smoke in any environment at any time. It was a position he took up in many later debates as well as in the media.

That would include smoking in the 'charnal house that was TBA - as Piss Crawl refers to it - the equivalent of sticking a firework down your throat.

He also rounded on any attempt to make tobacco copmanies legally responsible for the damage they caused.

I won't bother looking up the Public Whip records if you don't mind. If I remember rightly, they on;y run from 2001. By that tiem Nick Brown had compleyely changed his attitude seeing as the tobacco factory that employed his constituents had closed 16 years before that. I think that makes him more hypocritical rather than less.

And sorry to harp on about ignorance, but Lembit Opik is not President of the Liberal Democrats. I heard Simon Hughes referred to as exactly that on Radio 6 only yesterday. If you don't mind, I'll take their word rather than yours.

And quite frankly, I don;t care that you don't care about my feelings. However, I do care about the fellongs of my many Muslim colleagues, friends and neighbours. Both they and I find your remarks about pigs to be deeplu offensive. Maybe you'd like to take some diversity awareness training.

I'd call you a hypocrite, but that would be an insult to hippos.

tory boys never grow up said...

The remarks about pigs are meant to be deeply offensive to you - not to any Muslims, who from past experience you seem to have no hesitancy in offending whatsoever. As for offending people you patently have no idea as to how the asbestos companies behaved in respect of claims - they even tried to reduce the claims of those who smoked but never did so at work. And what did the asbestos companies do to enforce their own smoking bans at work??

Lembit - President/leader of the Welsh LibDems - who cares? Still far worse than Nick Brown ever was - whats his excuse.

Chris Paul said...

Now now now chaps. This tobacco ruse is just that. There is no sensible comparison between the two products. EHC actually knows that but is sadly a complete muppet.

Tobacco is a crop with no serious danger associated with its cultivation, harvesting, transport, processing or manufacture of end products. The product itself is noxious and has carried health warnings and known dangers for a good long time.

Asbestos in contrast has been noxious at every step of the way. Negligible wages for men in dangerous blasting and quarrying, dangerous direct exposure for women and children teasing it out of rock, dangerous exposure for transport workers including drivers, mariners, dock workers, more hauliers, unloaders, unpackers, weavers etc.

The end product is also noxious at various levels. Some would say that many of the domestic products e.g. brake linings, iron stands, lab mats, fire blankets, protective clothing (haha there's a paradox), nasa heat shields, even tiles and cement and concrete of some types are not particularly harmful during their normal working lives.

All three types are however horribly dangerous in manufacture, in builders' yards, during fires and demolitions, in landfill and dumps cf SV, when they get worn or damaged etc etc.

Tobacco products have a long standing relationship with various cancers for smokers and as secondary ambient smoke. These risks are very well known. And include some uplift in rates for other things like bronchial diseases, asbestos-related diseases, coronary heart disease, stroke, and so on and so forth.

Many of which risks can be reduced or eliminated by stopping or even reducing smoking.

Noxious stuff indeed. But nothing compared to asbestos.

One fibre is enough, and it's normally a 30-40 year time bomb, and "giving up asbestos" just doesn't work.

Your argument EHC is absurd. Next you'll be blaming Michael Meacher MPfor the obesity issue because Park Cakes have a big works in his constituency, or Tony Lloyd MP because we still have some breweries on our patch and he will no doubt have stuck up for jobs for local people at the S&N one for which hundreds of homes were demolished. Full of asbestos they were too.

So that's Cakes from Oldham and Lager from manchester central - you puritan ass you.

Stick with the asbestos. Stop the ridiculous, stupid, muppety stretches to excuses, excuses, excuses for Cyril Smith.

tory boys never grow up said...


The point that is extremely offensive about EHC's comments - is that he doesn't realise (or more likely care) is that is argument about tobacco was that is is exactly the same argument that was used by the asbestos industry to deny many of its victims compensation until they were dead and it could be proved conclusively that they had asbestosis. Nick Brown who had done union case work on such claims (and has worked consistently on such matters ever since) would have been well aware that such arguments were being employed within the industry - and I suspect parlimentary rules prevented him saying something a lot stronger about Cyril's tobacco comments in the 1983 speech.

Perhaps next time EHC is in Emma Street he can look into Cyrils' case files to see how much his paymaster did to help asbestos victims with their claims and to understand the stance being taken by the industry at the time. As an alternative he might want to read Teasdale's books on the subject. Until then perhaps he should not abuse the freedom of speech which he is so willing to deny others.

Anonymous said...

Tory Boy

You wrote
"The remarks about pigs are meant to be deeply offensive to you - not to any Muslims, who from past experience you seem to have no hesitancy in offending whatsoever."

Can you please give me one example of a remark I have made that has been offenside to Muslims? You say you have lots to choose from, but just one will do.

And quickly. No going through comments in order to try to mangle one into supporting your slur. If there have been that many you should be able to find one without any bother.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I hit the wrong key. That last comment should have been attributed to my tag

tory boys never grow up said...


Go and search Henneghan's comments on ROL and find enlightenment there.

Anonymous said...

That's not good enough or anywhere near. You said I had made comments that are offensive to Muslims and I would like you to provide any evidence of this

tory boys never grow up said...

If you're not Hennegan then please accept my unreserved apology about the you offending Muslims. If you are - tough.

Anonymous said...

I am not David Hennigan. Apology accepted.

But if you're Chris Paul, you can shove it up your fundament. Only joking!