The government’s Mesothelioma Bill will exclude hundreds of people, many from this region, with the fatal asbestos-related cancer and leave others short-changed, GMB union organiser Michael Blench, chair of the TUC Northern Asbestos Support & Campaign Group, has warned.

The Bill, which had its second reading in Parliament this week, establishes a scheme of last resort for untraced employers’ liability insurance claims. But instead of providing protection for all industrial disease victims as unions had called for, it limits support to mesothelioma only, imposes an arbitrary eligibility cut-off date of 25 July 2012 and is expected only to pay only 70% of average compensation.

This means that hundreds of people diagnosed before that date unable to trace their employer’s liability insurer will lose out altogether and others will see average compensation cut by 30 per cent.

The TUC group is calling for the Bill to be amended

The TUC group is calling for the Bill to be amended so that the scheme’s commencement date is put back to 2010 when the last government consulted on introducing a scheme.

And it wants the Bill to ensure that the amount of compensation paid to mesothelioma sufferers is 100%, not the 70% intended by the government.

Michael Blench, Group Chair said: “The government has received a fair bit of praise in the North East media since it published the Mesothelioma Bill. It’s understandable that those diagnosed with this terrible disease, and the loved ones of those who have died, would welcome any initiative aimed at helping victims to recover compensation. Particularly those who have experienced first the devastation of the disease and then being told that they cannot recover compensation because the employer’s insurer could not be traced.

“But it’s important to look at the detail of the Bill and to see that it is not the act of benevolence it has been portrayed as. The government delayed announcing the scheme for over two years after the consultation ended while it worked on a deal with the insurance industry which would protect it from having to pay compensation in full. That delay means hundreds of people will be excluded. And there is no excuse for the scheme paying less than 100% compensation. The victims should not be short changed because the insurers lost or destroyed their policies.”

Ian McFall, head of asbestos litigation at Thompsons Solicitors said “Unless the Bill is improved to provide better protection and full compensation for victims and their families it will let insurers off the hook for losing or destroying the policies they profited from for decades.”