MP calls for school asbestos audit

The Government should carry out a national audit to find out how much asbestos remains in school buildings, a Labour MP has said.

Ian Lavery (Wansbeck) said many children's lives were potentially being put at risk because the amount of asbestos, which can cause the fatal disease mesothelioma later in life, was not known.

A culture of openness was required so parents knew if their children were at risk, he told the Commons during an adjournment debate.

The slamming of doors and the removal of drawing pins from the walls could release dangerous particles in the air, while lagging, which contains asbestos, insulated the central heating systems of many schools, MPs heard.

Mr Lavery added: "In terms of openness we have a huge problem. The presence and incidents of asbestos fibre release is often played down. It's accurate to suggest that many parents are not aware or not informed of the presence of asbestos at their children's place of education. A recent survey found that at least a half of school staff were not informed of the problem either."

But Education Minister Nick Gibb said the Health and Safety Executive advised that it was safer to leave asbestos that remains in buildings undisturbed rather than try and remove it.

Headteachers should know if asbestos was in their schools but there was no need for a national register of asbestos in public building as this would duplicate data that is already available.

It was up to schools and local authorities what information should be provided to parents, he added.

Ministers were due to receive a report on the effect of asbestos on children. It would then review its advice to schools on asbestos management, he told MPs.

Mr Gibb added: "The Government takes the issue of managing asbestos in schools very seriously. As with previous governments, it follows the expert advice of the Health and Safety Executive in formulating policy and managing safely the asbestos in school buildings."