Lords scrutinises Mesothelioma Bill

23 July 2013

The Mesothelioma Bill completed third reading, the final chance to amend the bill, in the House of Lords, yesterday (Monday 22 July).

Discussions began with government confirmation that the administrator of the compensation scheme due to be established as a result of the bill will be selected through an open-tender route.

Members of the Lords also considered the need to support scientific research. Whilst an increase in funding is not guaranteed within the bill, Lords welcomed an increased emphasis on finding new ways to combat the disease.

Following agreement by both Houses on the text of the bill, the Mesothelioma Bill received royal assent on 30 January. 

Mesothelioma Bill report stage: Wednesday 17 July

Lords considered an amendment calling for a one per cent levy to raise funds to support research into the causes and treatments of mesothelioma. The proposal went to a vote, with 192 for and 199 against, so the change was not made.

Another amendment seeking to bring forward the start date for eligibility for compensation payments to those diagnosed after 10 February 2010, rather than 25 July 2012, also went to a vote. Members voted 152 for and 187 against, and the change was not made.

The final vote covered compensation payments to those diagnosed with diffuse mesothelioma who are eligible under the scheme. An amendment to ensure this group should receive no less than 100 per cent of the average actual damages recovered in mesothelioma cases did not succeed as 119 members voted for and 153 against.

The Mesothelioma Bill now moves to third reading - the final chance to check and 'tidy up' the bill. A date is yet to be scheduled.

Mesothelioma Bill grand committee stage

5 June (day one)

10 June (day two)

The Mesothelioma Bill spent two days in grand committee in the Moses Room. The process is almost identical to committee stage taken in the chamber as members carry out a detailed line by line examination of the separate parts (clauses and schedules) of a bill.

Starting from the front of the bill, members work through to the end. Any member of the Lords can take part. The single exception is that votes do not take place in a grand committee. Any issues requiring a vote must be resolved when the bill returns to the main chamber for report stage.

Mesothelioma Bill second reading: Monday 20 May

Lord Freud (Conservative), parliamentary under-secretary of state for the Department of Work and Pensions, opened the debate outlining the government's reasons for introducing the bill - to provide compensation for sufferers of mesothelioma by setting up a lump-sum payment scheme funded by insurers. He explained that the disease is caused by exposure to asbestos, there is a long delay between exposure and developing the disease (often 40 to 50 years) and it is nearly always fatal. This, and inconsistent insurance records, has meant that sufferers have struggled to trace an employer or insurer to pursue a compensation claim.

Lord McKenzie of Luton (Labour) expressed the opposition's strong support for the principles of the bill but had concerns about the low level of compensation, the coverage (not all asbestos-related diseases are covered), the July 2012 cut-off date and the insurance industry running the scheme.

Broad support also came from the Liberal Democrat benches. Lord German (Liberal Democrat) set out areas where he felt the debate would turn to at later stages: Parliament's monitoring of the scheme, the issues that informed the July 2012 start date, the payment level and legal issues such as the evidence required to make claims.

These areas of concern were repeated by other participants in the debate, which included members with friends or relations who had suffered and died from the disease.

Mesothelioma Bill summary

The bill will establish a mesothelioma payments scheme, and establish guidance about the resolution of certain insurance disputes for those affected by mesothelioma.

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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