Second Reading of Mesothelioma Bill

In previous articles we have advised about the Mesothelioma Bill. On 2nd December, the Bill had it’s second reading in the House of Commons.

The Mesothelioma Bill is a Bill to “establish a diffuse mesothelioma payments scheme and make related provision, and to make provision about the resolution of certain insurance disputes”. In more simple terms, the Bill looks to provide an avenue of compensation in cases where former employers and/or insurers cannot be traced.

The Minister of State, Department for Work & Pensions, Mike Penning, introduced the second reading stating that “working people should have proper protection from personal injury or disease arising as a result of their work. When the principle is breached through negligence or a breach of statutory duty, it is obviously right that that person should be compensated by their employer or their employer’s insurer”. He went on to highlight the difficulties in mesothelioma cases where the lengthy latency period of the asbestos cancer, together with poor record keeping by insurance companies mean that often, civil compensation claims cannot be pursued.

Labour MP, John Healey, pointed out that a similar scheme was in the pipeline in 2010 under Labour’s rule but nothing came of it under the new Government regime. Mike Penning responded stating that those proposals would not have been passed “without huge cost to the taxpayer or to people being insured today”. The new Bill hopes to “correct the market failure that everyone accepts there has been in respect of mesothelioma cases”.

Despite recognising its failings, the insurance industry has failed to put forward a scheme of its own to compensate mesothelioma victims. Current, previous and run-off insurance companies have been unable to agree a voluntary levy to support a compensation scheme and have requested legislation to impose such a levy.

There are around 28,500 deaths expected due to mesothelioma between July 2012 and March 2024 (when the scheme is expected to end). Current estimate of the scheme state that it is likely to be worth around £350million. It was highlighted by Mr Kevan Jones, Labour MP, that Lloyds of London’s profits last year were £2.7billion so paying a share of £350million is a drop in the ocean for the insurance companies.

The scheme intends to operate on a fixed tariff according to the age of the sufferer, with roughly 75% of the average civil damages being paid. This has been raised from 70% in previous readings of the Bill. A levy of 3% of gross written premiums has been agreed by the insurance industry and it is hoped that this will allow for a higher percentage of average civil damages to be paid over the 10 year period the scheme is expected to be in operation.

Mike Penning ended the second reading of the Bill by stating “I welcome the Bill, but it could be and must be improved. The families of those who have suffered and died as a result of this dreadful disease must be better compensated, and, we need a scheme that is affordable and in which these people can have confidence”.

If the Bill is passed, the first payments could be made by July 2014 with diffuse mesothelioma sufferers diagnosed on or after 25th July 2013 being eligible to apply to the scheme. This being the date when the scheme was first announced.

WhatsMyAsbestosClaimWorth welcomes an improved Bill. Although no amount of money can compensate for the pain and suffering caused by mesothelioma, having a proper scheme in place to allow those unable to pursue civil claims to obtain a comparable amounts to those with civil claims, will bring much comfort and peace of mind to sufferers and those that they sadly leave behind.

We will keep you updated on the progress of the Mesothelioma Bill.