Government must go further for mesothelioma sufferers

An MP has welcomed plans to compensate mesothelioma sufferers, but said the government needs to go further.

Mesothelioma is a form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, and the Mesothelioma Bill will set up a payment scheme for those unable to trace their employer or employer’s insurer.

Speaking in Parliament during the Bill’s second reading this week, John Healey MP said: “Almost all the concessions the industry sought during the consultation have been conceded by the government.

“This is now a scheme that shows the government have not stood up to the interests of the big insurance industries.”

The Wentworth and Dearne MP said the scheme needed to be “simple, smooth, speedy and more generous.”

Afterwards, he said: “This is a disease that is closely linked to construction and heavy industry in areas like ours, and I want its victims and their families fairly and rapidly compensated.

“It is a dreadful, crippling disease which is devastating for victims and their loved ones.

“I’ve heard it described once by a widow in South Yorkshire as watching her husband ‘die a little bit more each day’.

“It’s a disease that rears its head only many years after any exposure to asbestos but then it inflicts great pain and kills quickly, with sufferers surviving only nine months on average after diagnosis.

“Insurers have long made profits on the untraced insurance they sold, and more profited again from paying no compensation in the past. So it is high time for them to pay up to almost 6,000 mesothelioma sufferers who’ve been exposed to asbestos but who’ve been denied justice.”

The Mesothelioma Bill originates from a consultation launched by Labour in February 2010 and follows a long history of Labour interventions to secure justice for mesothelioma sufferers.

Labour wants the Bill to go through quickly, to help sufferers, but is fighting to strengthen it.

Their key concerns are:

• The level of compensation is set far lower than that attainable when a claimant can trace their insurer

• The exclusion of other asbestos-related diseases

• The decision to set a cut-off date two years from the launch of Labour’s consultation, denying compensatory justice to the more than 700 people who have died in this time, and

• The claw-back of benefits at 100% , when payments are set at only 75% of average civil compensation