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CAPE MILL'S 40m FOR PAYOUT FUND

HALIFAX COURIER - 17 June 2005

Firm admits anguish caused

CAPE, the asbestos group that owned the Calder Valley factory Acre Mill, is to create a multi-million pound fund to pay for future UK asbestos-related claims.

The company said 40 million would be put aside to make proper compensation payouts to affected British workers who are expected to file claims for at least the next 46 years.

The decision was a key demand in an Evening Courier campaign highlighting the "forgotten tragedy" of Acre Mill. Today it was welcomed by victims' families.

Hundreds of the company's employees and their relatives died from industrial diseases after exposure to the deadly material. Now they could win substantial compensation.

Derek Ellis, of Elland, whose wife Doreen died of asbestos-related cancer in 2004 after washing her husband's overalls, is still fighting the case in court.

He said: "It is a U-turn. I think pressure from the Courier has had an impact. I thought they were going to get away with it.

"They will probably still fight every case and we will have to battle to get the money."

Cape chairman Martin May said its proposal to set up the fund and top it up with future injections of money should enable all claims to be settled.

He said: "We have former employees we have damaged. Asbestos has killed a lot of people and impaired their lives. If you prove you have a form of asbestos disease and have a need for compensation, Cape will pay."

Cape, which has a market capitalisation of around 70m, expects claims will continue for at least the next 46 years and will review the fund every three years.

"This is about doing the right thing and making sure Cape has the resources to meet final claims," Mr May said. "We hope that this will put the issue firmly behind the company."

Calder Valley MP Chris McCafferty, whose father died from asbestos-related cancer after working for a Cape subsidiary, said she was delighted that having resisted for so long, the company had finally accepted its responsibilities.

"I and others have raised the issue in the Commons on a number of occasions with the hope of getting access to work records and compensation for victims, which Cape has always refused to provide.

"The Courier has helped to ensure the tragedy of Acre Mill and other asbestos plants will never be forgotten."

Specialist solicitor Paul Glanville, of Halifax-based John Pickering and Partners, said: "This is a fund that the company has ring- fenced for asbestos damages.

"The only thing we are concerned about is that Cape keeps meeting the responsibilities as far as asbestos-related claims go.

"The concern would be if this money runs out. What happens then?" The group stopped using asbestos in the UK in the 1960s, but has received a rising number of claims from staff employed in one of its factories or who handled the material during contract work.

Family members of workers have also submitted claims, along with people who lived in the neighbourhood of one of its plants, the company said.

Acre Mill at Old Town was torn down in 1971.

An independent review of the fund will take place every three years to ensure there is enough money to cover all the claims anticipated over the next 13 years.

In 2003, Cape settled with the representatives of more than 7,500 claimants in South Africa, where it used asbestos until the 1970s.

To date, about 2,000 individuals have sought compensation in Britain, with the company paying around 3m to 4m to settle 130 claims a year. Legal fees are 42p in the pound.


YORKSHIRE POST 17th June 2005

Firm in asbestos payouts action
Sally Cope

a Yorkshire engineering firm is setting aside millions of pounds for compensation claims by workers with asbestos-related illnesses.

Wakefield-based Cape said 40m would be put into a special fund for payouts to sick British workers who are expected to file claims for at least the next 46 years.

The group stopped using asbestos in Britain in the 1960s, but has received a rising number of claims from staff who were employed in one of its factories or who handled the toxic material during contractual work.

Family members of workers have also submitted claims, along with people who lived in the neighbourhood of one of its plants, the company said.

A total of 18m has been paid out since the start of 2000, and Cape said it was "extremely difficult" to predict the long-term financial impact of its liabilities.

Legal actuaries have estimated that the company could be facing a compensation bill as high as 160m, the peak value of claims expected to occur in 25 years' time.

Chairman Martin May said the proposal to set up the fund and top it up with future injections of money should enable all claims to be settled.

He said: "Many of the people who will suffer asbestos-related illness are in fact former employees many of the potential claimants could be elderly people who worked for Cape 40 years ago.

"We intend to write to all of them and will be advertising and holding meetings in village halls around the country, to give them all the information they need."

In 2003, Cape settled with the representatives of more than 7,500 claimants in South Africa, where it used asbestos until the 1970s.

Later that year the company agreed to make one-off payments totalling 2.6m to settle all outstanding claims from UK shipyards and pay a share of all future compensation demands.

Halifax solicitor Paul Glanville, of John Pickering and Partners, has dealt with claims for the last 15 years on behalf of Cape employees who worked at the firm's Acre Mill site in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, until it closed in 1970.

Mr Glanville said: "The South African litigation left Cape in serious financial difficulties and ever since then there has been a question mark over whether it had sufficient funds set aside to pay damages.

"The latency period for mesothelioma is anything from 10 to 70 years, so we would expect to see cases coming from there well into 2030."

A test case is pending into the death of Doreen Ellis, who died of asbestosis as a result of washing her husband's overalls when he worked for Cape in Hebden Bridge in the 1950s.

Mrs Ellis's family are taking the firm to court for compensation, claiming it was responsible for her death as company chiefs should have realised contaminated clothes would put wives and families at risk.

Cape currently employs 3,400 staff in Britain at its Wakefield headquarters, its base in Aberdeen serving the offshore oil and gas industry, and sites in Warrington and Elsham, North Lincolnshire. At its peak, the firm had more than 6,000 employees on its payroll.

New shares will be issued to raise 32m, while Cape will also plough its own money and 15m of loans from banking giant Barclays into the fund.

The move, which will prevent Cape from paying any dividends until 2008, needs the support of creditors and the court before it can go ahead.

An independent review of the fund will take place every three years to ensure there is enough money to cover all the claims anticipated over the next 13 years.

Yorkshire Post 17 June 2005

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