Mesothelioma is a form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. It is a long-tail disease – which means people exposed to asbestos decades ago are only now discovering the consequences of their employers’ ignorance or negligence.
With people moving in and out of jobs in the industry, and widespread misplacement of insurance and employment records, many sufferers (approximately one in every eight) are unable to trace their employer or insurer to lodge a complaint.
Therefore, I welcomed some new regulations this week that provide for the Secretary of State to establish a long-overdue scheme for mesothelioma victims and their families - who, for decades, have been denied access to the compensation they deserve. This new law originates from a consultation launched by the last government in February 2010. It follows a long history of Labour interventions to secure justice for mesothelioma sufferers.
In 1969, the Employers Liability Act, required employers to insure against liability for injury or disease to their employees arising out of their employment. The Pneumoconiosis Act in 1979 provided lump sum compensation payments to people suffering from certain dust-related diseases or, if they have died, their dependents, where a claim for damages is not possible because the employer is no longer in business. In 2008, the Mesothelioma Payments Scheme provided lump sum payments for people suffering from diffuse mesothelioma, who are unable to claim compensation from other sources - such as women who washed their husbands’ contaminated clothes, or the self-employed.
This new law provides a legislative framework to make payments to people with the disease who are unable to trace their employer or their Employer’s Liability insurer.
The Scheme will be industry-funded by a levy on currently active insurers in the UK Employers’ Liability market. Insurers have said that provided this levy does not exceed 3% of Gross Written Premiums, they will prevent this additional cost from being passed onto business.
The Scheme is intended as a fund of last resort. Claimants who are unable to trace their employer or their employer’s insurer can apply to the fund. I’m especially pleased that, after all-party pressure, successful applicants will receive 80% of the average compensation of claimants of the same age who have pursued successful civil compensation claims.
I hope that claims can now be progressed and settled quickly.