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Sea King asbestos scandal

MoD accused of ‘shamelessly hiding behind commercial interests’ in Sea King asbestos scandal
Ryan Fletcher, Thursday, April 25th, 2019

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is shamelessly hiding behind “commercial interests” in refusing to provide information about the asbestos scandal involving the maintenance of its Sea King helicopter fleet, Unite said today (April 25).


The union has been campaigning for the past year for the MoD to contact the estimated 1,000 workers who undertook maintenance on Sea King helicopters since 1969, following the discovery that many of the components in the helicopter contained asbestos.


Some of those components remained part of the aircraft even after a modification programme in 2006.


The MoD claims it does not have a central record of the workers who had undertaken the maintenance work, much of which was undertaken by contractors rather than MoD staff.


Unite national officer Jim Kennedy said it was “simply not credible to believe that the MoD does not have records of the workers who operated on military bases”.


In February, Kennedy wrote to the MoD seeking information on what the MoD was doing to contact the workers and strongly urging the ministry to do more.


Despite the request not being made under Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, the MoD decided to treat it as an FoI.


The MoD then delayed answering Unite’s letter citing its concern that in doing so it would potentially affect ‘commercial interests’ and therefore it may not disclose the information, under legal exemptions contained in the FoI Act.


The MoD will now not reply before the end of the month, two months after the questions were first asked.


“Not only has the MoD allowed workers to be exposed to asbestos for nearly 50 years, it is now trying to cover up their failings, citing ‘commercial interests’,” said Kennedy.


“Workers could have been handed a death sentence by the MoD and it is not even prepared to warn them of what has occurred.


“If government ministers had an ounce of decency they would step in and ensure that all the affected workers were properly notified about their contamination.”


Every year over 2,500 people die of mesothelioma; the incurable cancer of the lining of the lung caused by breathing in asbestos fibres.


If you believe you have been exposed to asbestos, immediately record the details on Unite’s online asbestos database.


If you are diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease immediately contact your Unite regional legal officer.


Local asbestos victim support groups can be found at asbestosforum.co.uk.


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