Lawyer calls for new legislation to restrict UK- based asbestos trade

By agency reporter
July 23, 2019

A leading industrial diseases lawyer has joined calls for a change in the law after a Sunday Times investigation revealed that Britain is one of the world’s biggest traders in asbestos, a deadly material that kills more than 100,000 people every year.
 
The Sunday Times investigation found that despite asbestos being banned in the UK for the past 20 years, British-registered companies are still responsible for shipping hundreds of thousands of tons of asbestos to some of the world’s poorest countries including India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia where it is still used in construction.
 
According to the Sunday Times these Scottish limited partnerships can operate without paying taxes, publishing accounts or declaring publicly who owns them. In 2015, a single UK-registered company was responsible for shipping almost half the asbestos mined in Russia, which is the world’s biggest producer of asbestos.
 
Trading in asbestos is not unlawful in the UK and there is no suggestion the LPs are engaged in illicit activity.
 
However, Harminder Bains from the law firm Leigh Day said more needed to be done to curb laws which facilitated UK companies to be part of an industry which claims hundreds of thousands of lives every year.
 
Miss Bains said: ”There remains no doubt around the danger asbestos poses to anyone who comes into contact with it. For there to be companies, registered in the UK which profit from the trade in this deadly material in poorer countries around the world, is horrifying.
 
“The Government in both Westminster and Holyrood must do everything it can to ensure there are no corporate structures that can shield companies from their responsibilities.”
 
Miss Bains said she supported moves by the Scottish National Party MP Martin Docherty-Hughes, a member of Westminster’s all-party group on occupational health and safety, who raised the issue of LPs in the Commons last week, demanding urgent action to restrict their ability to trade in secrecy.
 
According to the Sunday Times the biggest trader in Russian asbestos over the past 17 years is Minerals Global Trading LLP, a limited partnership company, formerly based at an industrial estate unit in Wood Green, north London.
 
According to the paper, in 2015, it arranged the export of 263,660 tons of asbestos, worth a total of $71.46m for use in India, Indonesia, China, Mexico, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, according to Russian customs and excise data.
 
None of the LP companies responded to inquiries by the Sunday Times.
 
The government told the paper: “We are aware of reports that in a minority of cases Scottish limited partnerships have been used for criminal activity. We have published proposals to reform limited partnership law and intend to bring forward legislation to bring them into law as soon as possible.” 

* Leigh Day https://www.leighday.co.uk/

[Ekk/6]

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.