Asbestos campaigners condemn new law

Asbestos campaigners condemn new law

A victim’s group has condemned new legislation aimed at helping those whose relatives have died because of exposure to asbestos.

The Mesothelioma Bill has been described as an “insult” to thousands who have died because it will leave many bereaved families with little or no compensation. The Bill, which will feature in the Queen’s Speech, was originally proposed by the Labour government and was put in place to force the insurance industry to pay victims whose employers’ policies could not be found.

However, critics argue that the legislation has been so watered down that it is worthless to many of those bereaved. The scheme was intended to apply to all those with fatal asbestos-related conditions, but the new bill will only apply to mesothelioma, instantly excluding about half of all cases. In addition only those who have been diagnosed after July 2012 will be eligible for compensation.

The new government scheme is to be compulsory for all employers’ liability insurers and will pay a flat rate calculated as 70% of the average payout. The changes have come about as a result of extensive lobbying from the insurance industry. Lord Freud, the minister responsible at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), met insurers 14 times between October 2010 and September 2012 but met victims’ groups just twice.

Tony Whitston, chairman of the Asbestos Victims Support Group, said that insurers had negotiated the cheapest deal possible with victims having paid the price in lost compensation through insurers’ failures to keep records. He said it was time that victims got the justice they deserved.

Exposure to asbestos is the biggest killer in the workplace, resulting in over 4,000 deaths every year, a figure which keeps rising though it is expected to peak by 2016. Hundreds of sufferers a year do not receive compensation because insurance documents from their employer have been lost. A spokesman for the DWP said that the mesothelioma support scheme would end injustices and would be in place “for 3,000 people over the next 10 years as we face a peak in cases”.