The Mesothelioma Bill – which would exclude patients who were diagnosed with mesothelioma before 2012 and those who suffer with other asbestosis conditions – was given a third and final reading in Parliament on Tuesday 7th January.

Following the debate, the Bill will now pass into law on July 2014, enabling around 3,500 previously excluded sufferers to receive mesothelioma compensation totalling £355m in the first ten years of the scheme. Any individual who has been diagnosed with the fatal, incurable asbestos-related cancer from 25 July 2012 will now be eligible to make a mesothelioma claim.

Previously, the government was accused of not going far enough in addressing the needs of all asbestos exposure victims as the Mesothelioma Bill does not provide any legislation for helping individuals with asbestos-related lung cancer and other asbestosis diseases who have been unable to trace their insurers.

There is also a real concern that final payouts are likely to be only 75 per cent of the average compensation levels because the scheme is to be funded through a levy on insurers active in the employers’ liability market who will bear the cost of the scheme.

Increased payments defeated

At the third reading, amendments on a levy for mesothelioma research and increasing the compensation payment to 80 per cent were defeated.

One of the key aims is to speed up the process whereby victims, who often pass away before a long running dispute with former employers / and or insurers over whether an insurance policy was in place at the time of the original exposure to asbestos was resolved.

Under the Employers’ Liability insurance policy legislation will also require insurers to maintain a detailed record of incidents of asbestos exposure.

One of the MPs present at the Bill’s third reading was Department of Works and Pension Minister, Mike Penning who raised a key point that the scheme only relates to “employee liability” in cases where the insurer cannot be found.

Employee but not public liability

The scheme does not cover “public liability”, which is intended to protect those affected by health and safety issues in places such as the many schools and colleges, which are regularly found to contain significant quantities of asbestos and more worryingly, where asbestos risk public liability insurance is generally unavailable.

Following on from this point and the failure of the third reading to secure a levy for more research, Sarah Wollaston, Conservative MP for Totnes warned of a “wasted opportunity … as the disease posed a risk to children in schools…”

The incidence rate of mesothelioma in the UK has been steadily rising in the UK with a four-fold increase just in the last thirty years (Office of National Statistics). According to the Health and Safety Executive there are at least 4,700 asbestos disease related deaths recorded every year, and around 28,500 deaths are expected between July 2012 and March 2024, the duration of the proposed scheme.