Tory MP claims she was silenced over justice campaign for mesothelioma victims

The Northern Echo: Silenced: Tracey Crouch Silenced: Tracey Crouch

A CONSERVATIVE MP says she has been silenced by her own party after speaking out for justice for victims of asbestos exposure.

Tracey Crouch, an MP in Kent, was asked to serve on the Bill committee which will thrash out the details of a compensation package for mesothelioma sufferers.

But Ms Crouch has now been removed from the committee – just days after strongly criticising the help on offer, during a Commons debate on the Bill.

Last week, the backbencher won praise from North-East MPs after describing the payouts as “incredibly unfair”, at only 75 per cent of average compensation levels.

She told ministers: “Something might be better than nothing, but this Bill puts the something squarely in the pockets of the insurers and the lawyers.”

The comment echoed criticisms made by Labour MPs, one of whom – Durham North’s Kevan Jones - condemned a “roll over to the insurance industry”.

Ms Crouch asked to be on the committee because she represents a shipyard constituency with one of the highest rates of the “horrible disease” of mesothelioma.

She told The Northern Echo: “I was told I was going to be on the committee and then – as soon as I made that speech – I was off it. So you can draw your own conclusions.

“It was the most passionately that I have felt about any issue as an MP and I believed it was something I had an expertise I, from my own constituency.

“I feel I have let down the victims of mesothelioma by not being able to press for these changes on the Bill committee. I’ve been neutered.”

Mr Jones said: “This is completely outrageous, when Tracey actually knows something about the subject and cares passionately about it.

“It shows how weak the Government’s arguments are. Mesothelioma victims and their families in the North-East are being let down.”

The legislation is designed to compensate victims of mesothelioma who have been unable to trace the employer who exposed them to the deadly asbestos dust.

Nearly 2,400 people, mostly men, die from mesothelioma every year – of which 300 do not have an insurer, or that insurer cannot be traced.

Asbestos was used in shipbuilding, construction and the automotive industry, exposing workers. Carpenters, joiners, plumbers and heating engineers are at particular risk.

A ‘standardised mortality ratio’ (SMR) is used to identify blackspots, where a figure of 100 would be the expected number of deaths, given the age of the population.

The figures are far, far higher in Hartlepool (240), Stockton-on-Tees (211), Sunderland (230), South Tyneside (317), Redcar and Cleveland (167) and Middlesbrough (140).

Ms Crouch was pushing ministers to increase compensation to 80 per cent, but also to cut the punitive rate of benefits ‘clawback’ from those receiving help.

At present, they will be required 100 per cent of benefits. Ms Crouch had vowed to “look carefully at the recovery issue in committee”.

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