A building contractor who had carried out work at a number of Marks & Spencer stores has made a series of claims to the BBC about the level of risk from asbestos at a number of stores during refurbishments.
M&S was fined back in 2011 for asbestos risks in its Reading store during refurbishment. However, the contractor is claiming this is just one of many incidents in his experience with the company.
Asbestos is present in buildings across the high street, as builders took advantage of what they thought at the time was a versatile, cheap and flame-retardant material. It was used extensively until the 1970s, but at that point the building industry became aware of the true hazards of the material. If fragments of asbestos are inhaled it can cause cancer and a number of lung conditions.
The material had been used for hundreds of years, but only became commercially successful in the 1920s and 1930s. Because asbestos-related disease takes up to 40 years to develop, the true risks took this long to emerge - during which time asbestos continued to be fitted and worked with around the country. It is now banned in the UK, but the effects continue to blight thousands of lives.
The contractor's story will be on the BBC's Inside Out programme tonight. He makes a number of allegations during the programme. He says that during the refurbishment of London's Marble Arch store in 2008 there were a number of incidents where asbestos was not treated properly, and that asbestos had been broken up and left lying around.
Steve Rowe, a Marks & Spencer board member, told the programme: "On the face of it these allegations sound worrying, but our team at the time 15 years ago thoroughly investigated them on the day. They thoroughly investigated them some three months afterwards and again I've spoken to those individuals and could find no case whatsoever to say any member of staff or any member of the public was put at risk."
A spokesperson told AOL that there had been one incident in 2008 in a store in Reading, which was being renovated when ceiling tiles containing asbestos fell to the floor. The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive, and a case brought in 2011. M&S was convicted of two charges of failing to ensure the health and safety of workers, and fined £1 million. She said: "There was one regrettable incident in Reading for which M&S has apologised, but there have been no further incidents in the 129 year history of M&S."
The spokesperson added: "M&S stores are completely safe for employees and customers."
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Building contractor says M&S knew of asbestos risk
Using a mobile phone to make and receive calls, send texts and browse the web while abroad can be extremely costly – especially if you are travelling outside the European Union (EU), where calls can cost up to 10 times as much as at home.
To avoid high charges, Carphone Warehouse suggests tourists ensure a data cap is in place, use applications to check data usage, turn off 'data roaming', avoid data-intensive applications such as Google Maps and YouTube and use wi-fi spots to update social networking sites.
Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) is supposed to help people to continue meeting their loan, mortgage or credit card repayments if they fall ill or lose their jobs. However, policies are often over-priced, riddled with exclusions and sold to people who could not make a claim if they needed to.
At one point, sale of this cover - which was often included automatically in loan repayments - was estimated to boost the banks' profits by up to £5 billion a year.
Now, though, consumers who were mis-sold PPI can fight back by complaining to the bank or lender concerned and taking their case to the Financial Ombudsman Service (08000 234567) should the response prove unsatisfactory.
It could be you, but let's face it, it probably won't be. In fact, buying a ticket for the Lotto only gives you a 1 in 13.9 million chance of winning the jackpot.
With odds like that, you would almost certainly be better off hanging on to your cash and saving it in a high-interest account.
No-frills airlines such as EasyJet may promote rock-bottom prices on their websites. But the overall fare you pay can be surprisingly high once extras such as luggage and credit card payment fees have been added - a process known as drip pricing.
Taking one piece of hold baggage on a return EasyJet flight, for example, adds close to £20 to the cost of your flight, while paying by credit card increases the price by a further £10.
It may therefore be worth comparing the total cost with that of a flight with a standard airline such as British Airways.
Cash advances, which include cash withdrawals, are generally charged at a much higher rate of interest than standard purchases.
While the average credit card interest rate is around 17%, a typical cash withdrawal of £500, for example, is charged at more than 26%.
What's more, as the interest accrues from the date of the transaction, rather than the next payment date, costs will mount up even if you clear your balance in full with your next payment.
Supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda often run promotions under which you can, for example, get three products for the price of two.
However, it is only worth taking advantage of these deals if you will actually use the products. Otherwise, you are simply buying for the sake of it, which is a waste of your hard-earned cash.
Buy a train ticket at the station on the day of travel and the price is likely to give you a shock - especially if you are travelling a long distance at a busy time of day.
However, you can cut the cost of train travel by 50% or more by going online and making the purchase beforehand - especially if you book 12 weeks in advance, which is when the cheapest tickets are on sale.
Other ways to reduce the price you pay include avoiding peak times and taking advantage of so-called carnet tickets, which allow you to buy, for example, 12 journeys for the price of 10.
Most High Street banks offer packaged accounts that come with monthly fees ranging from £6.50 up to as much as £40, with a typical account charging about £15 per month.
Various benefits, such as travel insurance and mobile phone insurance, are offered in return for this fee. But whether or not it is worth paying for them depends on your individual circumstances.