Cautious welcome by unions for Mesothelioma Bill


The UK's biggest teaching union has cautiously welcomed government plans for legislation which will improve compensation conditions for mesothelioma sufferers.

Asbestos Related Disease

The Mesothelioma Bill, which was announced in parliament as part of the Queen's Speech, will establish a new payment scheme for people who contracted the fatal asbestos-related disease in the workplace.

Intended to assist those whose employer or employers' liability insurance company cannot be traced, the proposed rules are expected to hasten the resolution of some insurance disputes.

The NASUWT, Britain's principal teachers' union, said the initiative is a long-overdue signal of intent.

"This announcement is welcome in that it is at least a sign that historic exposure to asbestos is at last being taken seriously," said NASUWT General Secretary Chris Keates.

"But we should also be remembering that buildings, and in particular many school buildings, still contain asbestos and leave pupils and those that teach and otherwise work with them at risk of contracting this terrible disease.

"Steps need to be taken to obviate this risk for the future through a programme of asbestos removal from schools and other public buildings."

Under the terms of the Bill, some 3,500 UK mesothelioma victims who cannot claim damages due to inability to find a liable employer or employers' liability insurer will be entitled to payments of around £355m in the first 10 years.

The Bill will rectify an insurance market anomaly in which insurers kept no proper records of Employers' Liability insurance when asbestos exposures were occurring. The new legislation will also see the establishment of an insurers-funded financial scheme to support mesothelioma sufferers.

These compulsory insurers' payments will be added to the £200m compensation already paid each year by the insurance industry.

All who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma after 25 July 2012 will be entitled to make a claim. A Technical Committee will also be set up to arbitrate on disputes as to whether particular employers were insured at the time of claimants' asbestos exposure – decisions which will be binding.

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