GMB Welcome Belated Movement To Compensate Mesothelioma Victims But Say Bill Does Not Go Far Enough
DWP is attempting to put a positive spin on a very sad and incomplete compensation scheme says GMB.
GMB commented on Mesothelioma Bill, which now goes for Royal Assent following it passing final stages in Parliament last week, and on the attempt by the Department for Work and Pensions to put a positive spin on the outcome the Bill by claiming some victims would receive £115,000 in compensation by the summer. See notes to editors 6 for copy of DWP press statement.
John McClean, GMB National Health and Safety Officer, said: " While we recognise the belated movement on behalf of victims this Bill does not go far enough in two main areas.
First the amount only represents 75% of the potential compensation that the victims should receive. Second those who will be entitled to this limited amount will only qualify from July 2012 when this administration began what was effectively a second consultation, following the first instigated by the Labour government in February 2010. Why potentially more than 600 victims should arbitrarily lose out due to ministerial edict is positively immoral.
During a full and frank debate on the Bill on Tuesday 7th January a number of MPs from all sides of the House spoke passionately on behalf of their constituents who had suffered from mesothelioma but the moral argument failed to sway a government heavily influenced by the insurance industry. Victims support groups, GMB and other trade unions, and asbestos activists across the UK also raised their voices for justice for the victims but it fell against the industry's interests.
As Labour MP Nick Brown said during the debate "the insurance industry took 100% of the premiums and those who end up 100% dead will only receive 75% compensation- the victims are not to blame and should not have the compensation cut".
The DWP is attempting to put a positive spin on a very sad and incomplete compensation scheme.”
For more information please contact John McClean GMB 07710 631 329 or Dan Shears 07918 767781
Notes to editors
1 Approximately 2,500 people die from mesothelioma every year in the UK. The numbers are not predicted to fall before 2017 at the earliest.
2 Mesothelioma occurs following exposure to the deadly asbestos fibres which are still present in many buildings.
3 By not using the original consultation date on the compensation for those who could not trace employers liability insurance it is estimated that over 600 victims , and their families will not receive compensation.
4 Compensation of 100% would always have been difficult to achieve, and while the government moved from an original position of 70% it was not prepared to even move towards the comprehensive position of 80% as finally proposed by the Opposition.
5 In terms of research funding mesothelioma is the Cinderella in relation to other major cancers. Bowel cancer research gets £22 million, breast cancer research gets £41 million and leukaemia research £32 million. Mesothelioma in contrast receives just £1.4 million.
6 press statement by DWP dated 10th January 2014.
Asbestos victims could be awarded £115,000 by the summer
Victims of the fatal asbestos-induced cancer mesothelioma who can't trace a liable employer or an employers' liability insurer will now be able to apply for compensation packages worth £115,000 within months, after MPs passed a bill brought by the Government.
Around 3,500 victims of the aggressive cancer or their families will be able to claim on average £115,000, including £7,000 to cover legal expenses, as part of a £350m package. But some people who are younger could get significantly more.
The bill - which is now going for Royal Assent - brings hope for those working in heavy industries like shipbuilding, where asbestos was in widespread use before being banned completely in 1999.
Mesothelioma, which often takes 40-50 years to present symptoms after exposure to asbestos, has resulted in over 300 people every year struggling to find a relevant party to sue for damages, because companies become insolvent or insurance records go missing.
Work and Pensions Minister, Mike Penning said: "This represents a major breakthrough for the many victims of this terrible disease - who have been failed by successive governments and the insurance industry for decades. It will end an injustice that has left many tragic victims and their families high and dry.
"The aggressive and terminal nature of this disease, coupled by the fact we're approaching a peak in cases in the coming years, made it all the more important to have got this legislation passed."
The new package of support - funded by insurance firms - will pay nearly 900 eligible people in 2014 and 300 every year after that, until 2024. Victims or their dependents (where the sufferer has died), will receive substantially higher payments than the statutory schemes currently operated by Government. On average, a successful applicant will receive a sum of £115,000 before benefit recovery.
Subject to primary legislation, the proposals will make it compulsory for all active employers' liability insurers to fund a scheme to pay eligible people who contracted the disease at work, but who cannot trace a party to sue. It's hoped that payments can be made from July 2014.
On the passing of former Northern Ireland and Home Office minister Paul Goggins MP, DWP Ministers Lord Freud and Mike Penning said:
"Paul was utterly committed to helping the victims of the fatal asbestos-induced cancer mesothelioma.
"We would like to pay tribute to his tireless cross-party collaboration on the Mesothelioma Bill which was passed yesterday. He will be sadly missed."
Notes to Editors:
1. On top of the payments applicants will receive from the scheme, the scheme will pay £7,000 towards legal fees. The applicant will be paid this amount directly with their scheme payment, not to lawyers. The scheme has been designed to accept direct applications from applicants, to enable people to apply without the aid of a solicitor. In these cases, the individual would retain the £7,000 in legal fees.
2. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of internal organs, such as the lungs, and almost always arises from exposure to asbestos. Life expectancy from diagnosis is 8-9 months on average.
3. The long time that mesothelioma takes to develop - sometimes 40-50 years after exposure before symptoms appear - means that some workers were negligently exposed to asbestos at work but their employers are no longer in existence to make a claim against. Insurance records from the time are also often incomplete.
4. The new scheme will pay those who develop diffuse mesothelioma as a result of negligent exposure to asbestos at work and are unable to claim compensation because they cannot trace a liable employer or employers' liability insurer. The scheme applies to people diagnosed with mesothelioma from 25 July 2012.
5. In April 2011, the ABI voluntarily established the Employers' Liability Tracing Office (ELTO) - an electronic database of employers' liability insurance policies to which 99% of employers liability insurers' provide data. Membership of ELTO will become compulsory for all insurers, including companies who have provided employers' liability insurance in the past to ensure that where there is a liable insurer, they pay the claim.
6. Asbestos prohibition laws in the United Kingdom were first introduced in the mid-1980s. In 1985, the UK banned the import and use of both blue (crocidolite) and brown (amosite) asbestos. This rule was replaced in 1992 with a law that also banned some uses of white (chrysotile) asbestos - traditionally considered less lethal than the other forms of the mineral. In 1999, the government decided, with no exceptions, to ban the use and import of chrysotile asbestos.
7. Other asbestos-related laws passed during the 1990s stipulated that work on any asbestos insulation products (removal, etc.) may only be carried out by a licensed asbestos professional. Asbestos-at-work regulations have set maximum exposure limits and require that all asbestos be identified and managed properly. Regulations also require that employees at risk for asbestos exposure be trained in asbestos safety precautions.
8. DWP currently operate two schemes to make payments to people who contract mesothelioma:
A) The Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers' Compensation) Act 1979 provides lump sum payments to workers with certain dust related diseases (including Mesothelioma), whose employer or insurer cannot be traced. On average these payments are £18k for Mesothelioma claims.
B) Part 4 of the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008 provides lump sum compensation for all Mesothelioma sufferers, regardless as to whether the disease was caused through exposure to asbestos in employment or not. These payments are £20K on average.