Campaigners have written to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak urging him to suspend any new contracts being awarded to a company they believe has links to ‘hiding’ the dangers of asbestos.

Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK (AVSGF) – which Clydebank Asbestos Group (CAG) is a member – has asked both Mr Sunak and leader of the opposition Sir Keir Starmer for a moratorium on new UK public contracts being awarded to global industrial services giant Altrad.

Cape – which was acquired by Altrad for £332m in 2017 - was a leading manufacturer of asbestos products in the UK from the 1950s to the 1980s.

For more than a year now, AVSGF has been asking Altrad - who in May was awarded a major £30.8million contract for decommissioning and asbestos removal at Berkeley Power Station in Gloucestershire - to pay £10m towards research into life-extending treatments for mesothelioma.

However, as yet, AVSGF says no payment has been forthcoming and has now called on whoever may be in government in the future to block any new contracts with Altrad until a donation is made.

Rob Rayner, chair of AVSGF and the man who penned the letters, said: “Cape’s asbestos products are responsible for many deaths.

“Altrad has a moral obligation to put right some of the wrong that has been done. Until Altrad does the right thing, they should not be given any more taxpayer’s money.

“Altrad is a global brand and a major sponsor of the French and New Zealand rugby teams. It beggars’ belief that they cannot find £10 million towards mesothelioma research”.

A 2019 legal case won by AVSGF in the Supreme Court forced Altrad to disclose documents about Cape’s past behaviour.

The AVSGF claim these documents show that, from the 1960s, Cape withheld evidence on the risks its asbestos products posed to human life.

It is alleged these papers revealed the products were far more dangerous than previously disclosed by Cape.

In the letter to the leaders of the Conservative and Labour Parties, Mr Rayner points out the irony of the recent award for Altrad to take out asbestos, considering it was their company Cape who had put asbestos in places in the first place.

It read: “A generation ago, Cape profited from asbestos. Today, Altrad is being given taxpayer money for asbestos removal. This cannot be right. It cannot be allowed to continue. Thousands still die from asbestos disease every year.”

Ian Lavery MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health, said: “Cape’s asbestos products put people in harm’s way, with devastating consequences.

“A significant donation to mesothelioma research would go a long way to atone for what they did”.

A spokesperson of Altrad said in response: "Cape has been actively engaged with AVSG for many months and regrettably, despite offering significant sums towards medical research on mesothelioma, we were unable to find an acceptable agreement that balanced the interests of both parties.

“Our offer demonstrated our empathy towards those affected by historic asbestos use as well as our resolve to go above and beyond our legal responsibilities.

“Cape has already paid out over £100m in asbestos compensation and expects to pay at least £50m more in compensation to victims and families affected by Cape's legacy involvement in the asbestos industry.

"We will continue to explore ways in which we can do more and commit to channelling funding towards asbestos-related initiatives alongside our wider philanthropic activities."