MPs and peers have written to to Altrad, the parent company of Cape Intermediate Holdings Limited. Cape was once one of the UK’s biggest manufacturers of asbestos products. The MPs and peers have called on Altrad to make a £10m donation towards mesothelioma research. This is because, when it was making these products, Cape “knowingly putting people in danger”.
What Cape tried to keep out of the public domain
In their letter to Altrad, the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on occupational safety and health says that documents released after a long-running court battle show Cape historically “provided misleading reassurance about the dangers of asbestos”. The MPs and peers also say the documents show that Cape “compromised the government’s regulatory response to asbestos” by selectively sharing sampling data about asbestos, and lobbying for higher permitted dust limits and watered-down product warnings.
Cape resisted the release of the documents, taking the case to the supreme court. Since the documents were released the Asbestos Victims Support Groups’ (AVSG) Forum UK has been campaigning for the company to make a £10m donation towards mesothelioma research. As members of the Forum, we are supporting that campaign.
In a letter to Altrad’s chief executive, Ran Oren, the APPG urges him to meet the demand. The MPs and peers point out that, in 1969, Cape were advised that mesothelioma could be caused by “short and possibly small” exposure to asbestos. The advice went on to say that “no type of asbestos proved innocent”.
The APPG’s Appeal to Altrad
The Labour MP Ian Lavery is the APPG chair. He said, “Knowing the links between the products made by your company, the role of Cape in knowingly putting more people in danger, and the devastating consequences, we appeal to Altrad to make this donation. Mesothelioma is always terminal, and Britain has the highest rates of anywhere in the world. Your company has played a major role in exposing people to the toxic substance. Meanwhile it profited at their expense. Your contribution to medical research may go some way to recompense victims of asbestos disease.”
The MPs and peers say that Cape had net assets of £151.5m in 2021. Its parent company Altrad made a net profit of £148m. Therefore they think the companies “have substantial resources to pay the £10m”.
A similar letter was sent to Altrad by the TUC
The letter follows one sent to Altrad by the TUC. It also urged Altrad to make the £10m donation. It cited that 80% of schools which responded to a government survey said their buildings contain asbestos. The TUC fears this means that children are also still being affected.
Cape’s response to the letters
A Cape spokesperson told The Guardian newspaper, “Cape understands the unfortunate legacy which asbestos has on people’s health. It will be reaching out to the AVSG to establish how it and other stakeholders can support victims of asbestos-related illness beyond the support already provided through its victim compensation fund.” They said that the company had already paid in excess of£48m to individuals and families affected by its past activities under the scheme.
The spokesperson added, “It is important to highlight that the materials referred to extend to certain extracts from thousands of documents dating to around 60-70 years ago. The current management have not reviewed these documents and cannot comment on the accuracy of the allegations.”
However, they still decided to resist publication of the documents.
 Click here to read the Guardian article.