Eyebrows and questions have been raised over the past few days over the legitimacy of a document, which seems to bring to light evidence of a secret deal between the Justice Minister Lord Faulks and the Association of British Insurers (ABI) over the proposed terms of the, now active, Mesothelioma Scheme.
The Justice Minister, Lord Faulks, has been forced to deny claims that an agreement, whereby the Government removed the exemption from LASPO for Mesothelioma Claims, in exchange for an agreement from the insurers to fund the scheme, was made in secret.
This comes after Labour MP, John McDonnell, presented the Justice Select Committee with a copy of a document, which seems to show the existence of a ‘heads of agreement” between the government and the ABI which the committee were not told about and that the insurance industry, later, tried to withdraw.
The question being raised by McDonnell now is whether or not it really could just be a ‘pure coincidence’ that, as he described it, “quite a range” of the demands found on the document, were later implemented by the Government.
Supporting his Labour colleague, Andy McDonald explained how that under the deal suggested, the government would be rewarded for agreeing to remove the exemption for mesothelioma claims from LASPO, with the insurance industry’s agreement to fund the special scheme for Mesothelioma victims.
Questioned about the alleged ‘secret deal’, Lord Faulks went on the defensive, revealing that he was not a minister at the time and therefore had no dealings with the document.
He stated: “If one looks at the government’s response, they don’t actually agree with all the industry required. I haven’t seen anything to suggest that any inappropriate bargaining was involved.
“This was a discussion with the industry, not a conventional contractual relationship between two commercial parties with interests, which they are trying to compromise by way of an agreement.”
Lord Faulk went on to describe the ‘heads of agreement’ as a bullet pointed list, that although ‘slightly unusual’, only represented what the parties had agreed on.
The Mesothelioma Act scheme is due to make its first payments in the not too distant future, despite a judicial review hearing at the end of next month, to challenge the consultation exercise that was carried out by the Government before the scheme was announced.
One thing is for sure the revelations of this document has not done anything to install confidence that no secret deal was cut and will add further fuel to the fire for those parties, such as the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), who are still fighting to get the terms of the agreement improved