Harminder Bains Welcomes the Government’s Announcement

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Leading asbestos lawyer Harminder Bains welcomes the Government’s announcement to scrap plans to dispose of the records of companies which are no longer in existence

24 November 2016
Leading asbestos lawyer Harminder Bains has welcomed the announcement by the Government to scrap plans to dispose of the records of companies which are no longer in existence.

 

The Guardian reported in August this year that Companies House was planning to destroy the records of companies that had been dissolved for longer than six years; this would have overturned their current policy of retaining records for at least 20 years.

 

Responding to Parliamentary questions[1], Margot James MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), confirmed that not only would there be no reduction in the length of time Companies House retained these records but that there would now be no destruction of any records currently held on dissolved companies until and unless there is an agreed change of policy.

 

She also confirmed there would be no change in this policy without a full public consultation[2].

 

Harminder Bains from the law firm Leigh Day had planned to take legal action against the Government, on behalf of the Asbestos Victims Support Groups’ Forum UK, had the proposal to dispose of the records taken place.

 

She said: “It is essential that victims of asbestos exposure are able to access historic records so that they, and their lawyers, can trace companies, former employers, and the insurance company responsible for their liabilities.

 

“We are pleased that the Government has taken this step so that we, on behalf of our clients, will no longer have to challenge these proposals in the High Court as these proposals would have seen thousands of victims of asbestos exposure denied justice.

 

“We are especially pleased that the Minister has confirmed that there would now be no destruction of any records currently held on dissolved companies. This is important to our clients as asbestos diseases can take decades to develop[3], sometimes as long as 60 years following exposure.”

 

Graham Dring, Chair of the Asbestos Victims Support Groups’ Forum UK said:

 

“This decision is good news for victims of mesothelioma and other long-tail industrial diseases who already face an uphill struggle securing justice in the courts. If these proposals had gone ahead it would have denied access to justice to many asbestos victims unable to pursue a negligent employer or their insurer.

 

“It is also reassuring to hear the Minister confirm that no records will now be destroyed as even the 20 year retention period is inadequate in protecting the interests of terminally ill asbestos victims who may have been exposed to asbestos 40 or 50 years before.

 

“There is no way of predicting which records may be needed in the future. Storage should not be an issue with the technology available to us today and we expect Companies House to maintain its commitment to those suffering from mesothelioma now and the thousands more predicted in the future by retaining records of all dissolved companies.”

 

Notes:

 

[1] Martin Docherty-Hughes MP, West Dunbartonshire, 14 November 2016

[2] Ministerial reply to Martin Docherty-Hughes MP, 17 November 2016

[3] Average latency period for mesothelioma is 34 years.

 

The legal team from Leigh Day was led by Harminder Bains instructing Jeremy Hyam QC from One Crown Office Row and Kate Beattie from Doughty Street
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Author: Philip Lewis

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