The introduction of the Mesothelioma Bill, announced at the official opening of Parliament earlier this month and due to come into force July 2104, has immediately stirred up a vocal response to the limitations imposed by the scheme.

According to the TUC Northern Asbestos Support and Campaign Group, “hundreds of people” will be excluded, many of whom are asbestosis disease sufferers living in former asbestos-using regions of the north of England.

Fund of last resort

The purpose of the Mesothelioma Bill is to provide a mesothelioma compensation scheme of “last resort” for those victims of asbestos exposure who have been unable to trace former employers or their insurers. Any sufferer who has been diagnosed with the fatal, incurable mesothelioma cancer from 25 July 2012 will now be eligible to make a mesothelioma claim.

However, TUC group, the GMB – whose members are drawn from manual workers in local government, including schools and healthcare, retail, distribution and utilities – is already calling for the Bill to be amended.

Reduced compensation

The GMB claim that not only will those who were diagnosed with mesothelioma before the 25 July 2012 cut-off date be excluded from the scheme but also average payments are expected to be cut to around 70 per cent. In other words, a reduction of 30 per cent to original compensation amounts.

It is strongly felt that the introduction of the scheme, which was delayed for over two years following a government consultation, was formulated to protect the insurance industry from having to pay full compensation. Although asbestosis symptoms are known to only appear after a period of between 15 to 50 years after initial exposure, those identified as suffering with mesothelioma may only survive for another 6 – 12 months following a confirmed diagnosis.

Fatalities in the North East

It was in January 2010, the Government proposed to introduce a £400million “fund of last resort”, by creating an Employers’ Liability Tracing Bureau, largely funded by the insurance industry. The aim was to provide finance assistance to former employees and their asbestosis lawyers to help trace former company employers whose workplaces had exposed them to asbestos. At the time, around 6,000 families of asbestosis disease victims had been seeking compensation for over five years.

From 1985 – when the first asbestos ban was introduced – up until 2005, it was estimated that 100,000 workers had already died across the asbestos-using industries of the North-East. In 2011, Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefits reported there was 725 newly assessed cases of asbestosis and in 2012, there was an estimated 2,000 asbestos related lung cancer deaths, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).