Construction union Ucatt is concerned the coalition Government will renege on a commitment made by the outgoing Labour administration that money would be invested in medical research into the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma.
In February, then Justice Secretary Jack Straw committed the Government to creating a National Centre for Asbestos Related Disease (NCARD). But a Department of Health response to a letter from Labour MP Stephen Hepburn has started to ring alarm bells, the union has argued.
Hepburn asked if the Government would support NCARD and how much would be spent on research into asbestos-related diseases in the next three years.
In reply, health minister Simon Burns avoided all mention of NCARD, simply saying that the National Institute for Health Research and the Medical Research Council continued to welcome applications for funding.
He said: “Future levels of expenditure on research into asbestos-related diseases will be determined by the success of relevant bids for funding.”
The Ucatt general secretary, Alan Ritchie, said: “The Government’s apparent failure to honour the commitment to fund NCARD is sickening but not surprising. The fact that sufferers are predominantly working class means they are not considered a priority.”
It is estimated that more than 2,000 people a year die from mesothelioma, making it the 12th most-common killer of men and rapidly increasing in incidence in women, the union added.