Bid to increase compensation for asbestos victims fails in Commons

Commons failure

Commons failure

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Parliamentary Correspondent

A BID to increase compensation for asbestos victims with a fatal lung cancer failed in the Commons, amid Labour anger.

The Government survived revolts by a small number of Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs who protested over weaknesses in the Mesothelioma Bill.

The rebels, voting with Labour, failed in attempts to:

  •  Boost payouts to 80 per cent of the average compensation levels for asbestos – rather than 75 per cent, the deal struck with insurance companies.
  • Give compensation to sufferers diagnosed after February 2010 – rather than merely those struck down after July 2012
  • Extend a levy on the insurance industry to pay for research into the deadly disease and its causes.

The legislation is designed to compensate victims of mesothelioma who have been unable to trace the employer who exposed them to the deadly asbestos dust.

Ministers have vowed to “end an injustice that has left many tragic victims and their families high and dry”, with a £350m package to help 3,000 people.

But Labour has accused ministers of caving in to insurance firms – many of which have made huge donations to the Conservative Party.

Nearly 2,400 people, mostly men, die from mesothelioma every year – of which 300 do not have an insurer, or that insurer cannot be traced.

Asbestos was used in shipbuilding, construction and the automotive industry, exposing workers. Carpenters, joiners, plumbers and heating engineers are at particular risk.

The latest figures lay bare the terrible toll on North-East men (105 deaths per million people) compared with the national average (65).

Furthermore, at least 1,500 people die every year nationwide from other asbestos-linked conditions – a figure that could reach 7,500, with better diagnosis, it is argued.

Nick Brown, the Newcastle East MP, attempted to ensure full payouts, saying: “Compensation should be 100 per cent of what is due.

“Victims, within a few months, are going to be 100 per cent dead, so 100 per cent compensation does not seem unreasonable.”

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