All eyes will now be on MPs in the House of Commons as the much debated Mesothelioma Bill passed through the House of Lords yesterday with some improvement.
Campaigners for the industrial disease will be hoping that MPs will carry on the improvements further and allow for more sufferers of the asbestos cancer to get the compensation they have been deprived from by the bad practice of their former employers and/or their insurance companies.
The third hearing took place yesterday at Westminster and there was positive news as it was confirmed by Lord Freud that the percentage of damages a successful claimant under the Bill could claim had been increased from 70% to 75%.
Obviously campaigners from within the personal injury industry and more importantly the victims themselves would have liked this to have been increased to 100% but the progress has been welcomed.
The focus of the Bill will now turn to the House of Commons where, after summer recess, MPs will debate whether or not to improve it further. Yesterday Lords discussed the need for a research levy in order to help fight the disease in the future and even find a cure.
One of the other major points for discussion will be the eligibility date for Mesothelioma victims to qualify to make a claim under the bill. As it stands a mesothelioma claim can only be made if the victim has been diagnosed on or after the 25th July 2012 but this of course will exclude thousands of sufferers who were diagnosed before this date which is unfair and some would argue inhumane considering the nature of the illness.
After yesterday’s passing of the Bill, Lord Howarth (Labour) who although welcoming the improvements of the Bill, made a plea to the House of Commons saying: “I hope that Members of the House of Commons will take the view that a legal case by the employers against minor improvements of this kind to the Bill would be very weak indeed, given that they have accepted the principle that there ought to be a scheme of this kind which they should fund.
“My noble friend Lord McKenzie of Luton has demonstrated that the costs of such improvements would be affordable, and I do not believe that the employer’s liability insurers would be so shameless as to go to court to try to prevent these modest further improvements and further advance of justice for Mesothelioma victims.”
The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), who have backed the campaign to improve the Bill, simply tweeted yesterday:
Government should re-think Mesothelioma Bill during recess. 75% of compensation is better, but is still not enough.
Members of @UKHouseofLords have worked hard on the Mesothelioma Bill. It is now down to MPs to improve it further.
It is clear in most circles that whereas most people are happy that improvements have been agreed to and made, there is still a long way to go before all parties will agree that the Mesothelioma Bill will present victims of the disease with the right level of justice and compensation. Let’s hope the trend of progress can continue in the House of Commons and further beneficial amendments can be made after the Summer Recess.
1. Wikipedia; Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Leon_Panetta_given_tour_of_the_House_of_Lords_(2).jpg