Marks & Spencer has been fined £1 million at Bournemouth Crown Court today after being found guilty of breaching health and safety laws governing the use of asbestos in 2006.

The retailer and three of its contractors were judged to have failed to take proper precautions with materials containing asbestos, lapses which the court said put staff, construction workers and the public at risk of exposure.

M&S was found guilty of the breaches – which took place during the refurbishment of its store on Broad Street in Reading between May and November 2006 – in July this year and today ordered to pay the fine, as well as £600,000 in costs.

It was sentenced today under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Two contractors to have worked on the same site - Styles & Wood and PA Realisations – were also fined, as was a third company, Willmott Dixon Construction, for similar breaches during works on the M&S store on Commercial Road in Bournemouth in February 2007.

An M&S spokesperson said:  “We are very disappointed with the result of this case, as we believe that we have always acted responsibly and with a safety first attitude.

“The health and safety of our employees, customers and contractors is of the upmost importance to us. We hope to continue to work closely with the HSE in the future to ensure that strict regulations and safety standards relating to asbestos are maintained.”