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Volume 29: debated on Thursday 28 October 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will estimate the number of people in Great Britain working with asbestos or using it in any of its forms.

I refer the right hon. Member to the reply I gave to him on 27 July 1982—[Vol. 28, c. 455.]

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will impose a limit of 0·5 fibre/cc on chrysotile and amosite asbestos and aim to reduce this limit to 0·2 fibre/cc by 1984.

The exposure limits for asbestos will be reduced to 1 fibre/ml for chrysotile and 0.5 fibre/ ml for amosite as from 1 January 1983. Not later than August 1983, the Health and Safety Commission will consider, on the basis of reports it has requested, whether any further action needs to be taken on the question of control limits.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is his estimate of the risks to workers exposed to asbestos getting asbestos diseases from a lifetime exposure to 1 fibre/cc.

The advisory committee on asbestos estimated that, for workers exposed to 1 fibre/ml for a period of 50 years, the excess mortality is likely to be within the range of about 0·25 per cent. to about 2·25 per cent. However, the committee went on to take account of the fact that strict compliance with a control limit of 1 fibre/ml will reduce long-term average exposure to a lower level, and the excess mortality is likely to be rather lower.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many prosecutions there have been each year under the 1969 asbestos regulations since they came into operation; what was the average annual total fine; and what was the annual cost of monitoring the observance of the regulations and taking any necessary action against companies.

The following table shows the number of informations laid, convictions obtained and average fine per conviction for prosecutions taken by Her Majesty's Factory Inspectorate under the Asbestos Regulations 1969. The figures relate to hearings completed during the years 1971–81.Information is not available specifically for the annual cost of monitoring the observance of these regulations and taking any necessary action against companies.

Informations laidConviction obtainedAverage fine per conviction £

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will arrange for special retraining grants, special redundancy payments and other assistance for workers on asbestos products.

The statutory redundancy payments scheme provides compensation without regard to industry or occupation; it is open to particular industries to negotiate extra-statutory payments if they wish. The Manpower Services Commission's employment and training services are available to workers from the asbestos industry on the same basis as to all others.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment (1) what is his latest estimate of the numbers of deaths each year from asbestos-related diseases and of the number of people who are disabled by these diseases;(2) how many asbestos workers have been recorded as dying of mesothelioma in each year since 1968; and how reliable a reflection of actual deaths he considers these figures to be.

The figures requested for the latest estimate of the number of deaths each year from certain

Death certificates mentioning specified asbestos—related diseases, 1969–80
Year of death
Together with lung cancer242632444333495359604449
Together with mesothelioma274029403064507453857266
Alone together with other disease272133243441486372505347
Of pleura105116105124138142165193206235260235
Of peritoneum151112192520193022313439
Of pleura and peritoneum324334461357
Site not specified366558675775778296112129153

asbestos-related diseases are given in the following table. Asbestosis and mesothelioma are the only asbestos-related diseases for which mortality statistics are held.

Figures of the actual number of people disabled by these diseases are not available. I am able to provide, however, Department of Health and Social Security figures for the number of cases of asbestosis examined by the pneumoconiosis medical panel and approved for disablement benefit payments:










*Indicates provisional figures.

As regards asbestos workers, the information about occupation on death certificates is not complete. While the total recorded number of death certificates mentioning mesothelioma and bearing evidence of occupational exposure to asbestos workers is as follows:



These figures are not reliable and probably do not represent the full occupational association of the disease.


Health and Safety Executive

* Industrial action by registrars has delayed notification of cases to HSE. The final figures for 1980 will therefore be higher.

†Both totals include death certificates mentioning both asbestosis and mesothelioma.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will list the members of the advisory committee on asbestos giving the number of(a)independent academic or Government experts,(b)those involved with the asbestos industry and(c)those involved in the trade union movement.

The advisory committee on asbestos, which was chaired by W. Simpson, chairman, Health and Safety Commission, comprised the following members:

Prof. E. D. Acheson, Dean, Faculty of Medicine, Southampton University.
A. C. Blyghton, Secretary, Legal Department, Transport & General Workers Union.
The Hon. P. Bradbury, Chairman, Safety, Health and Welfare Committee, Confederation of British Industry.
Dr. J. C. Gilson, CBE, Formerly Director, Medical Research Council, Pneumoconiosis Unit, Penarth.
H. D. S. Hardie, OBE, Director, Turner & Newall Ltd.
W. Lewis, Organisation Officer, Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians.
W. D. Lomas, Assistant General Secretary, National Union of Dyers, Bleachers and Textile Workers.
Prof. A. Mair, Professor of Community and Occupational Medicine, Dundee University.
Dr. M. Molyneux, Occupational Hygienist, Institute of Naval Medicine.
Dr. C. J. Stairmand, OBE, Consultant Chemical Engineer and Physicist.
Dr. J. Steel, Senior Lecturer, Department of Occupational Health and Hygiene, University of Newcastle upon Tyne.
F. G. Sugden, MBE, Chief Environmental Health Officer, Middlesbrough.
Prof. M. Turner-Warwick, Professor of Medicine (Thoracic Medicine), University of London.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what advice has been given to him about the minimum level of exposure to asbestos that leads to a health risk; if he will express the level in terms of duration and intensity of exposure; and how reliable he considers such estimates to be.

Volume 2 of the final report of the advisory committee on asbestos in 1979, which acknowledged the difficulties of dose/response estimation, concluded that the available studies indicated that there was no threshold of dose below which there was no risk to health.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will set out the meetings of the Health and Safety Commission which have taken place in 1979, 1980, 1981 and 1982 so far and list those meetings when specific action on the Simpson committee report on asbestos was discussed.

The Health and Safety Commission Newsletter is published bi-monthly and contains information on the commission's decisions. Specific action on the reports of the advisory committee on asbestos was discussed on 17 April 1979, 2 December 1980, 17 February 1981, 7 April 1981, 20 July 1982, 24 August 1982 and reported in theNewsletter.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment, pursuant to his answer of 20 October,Official Report, c. 100-1 and 143-44, if he will make it his policy eventually to impose a ban on the use of asbestos.

While it is not intended to introduce a general ban on the use of asbestos, regulations are being prepared to prohibit the spraying of asbestos, the use of asbestos in insulation and the import, marketing and use of crocidolite and products containing it.