MARKS and Spencer has been fined £1m for putting members of the public, staff and construction works at risk of asbestos exposure during a facelift at its Reading store.

The supermarket was also ordered to pay £600,000 costs on Tuesday, having been found guilty at an earlier hearing in a case brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) over the 2006 revamp of the Broad Street shop.

Bournemouth Crown Court heard contractors had to work overnight in enclosures on the shop floor area with the aim of completing small areas of asbestos removal before the store opened to the public each day. Judge Christopher Harvey Clark QC criticised the company for putting profits before planning asbestos removal.

HSE's Richard Boland said: "This outcome should act as a wake-up call that any refurbishment programmes involving asbestos-containing materials must be properly resourced, both in terms of time and money - no matter what."

The HSE alleged M&S failed to ensure work complied with minimum legal standards and produced its own guidance on removing the deadly fibres, which the contractors failed to follow properly.

Specialist asbestos removal firm PA Realisations - found guilty in July - was fined £200 for failing to reduce to a minimum the spread of asbestos to the shop floor. Witnesses said areas cleaned by the company were re-contaminated by air moving through the void between ceiling tiles and the floor above, and by poor work standards.

The principal contractor, Styles and Wood, admitted it should not have permitted a method of asbestos removal which did not allow for adequate sealing of the ceiling void, resulting in risks to workers, and was fined £100,000 with £40,000 costs.

At the same court on Tuesday construction firm Willmott Dixon, which is seeking leave to appeal against conviction, was fined £50,000 with £75,000 for similar breaches at an M&S store in Bournemouth.

A statement released by M&S 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 utmost importance to us."