What investigation has been undertaken into his Department's performance in handling asbestos claims associated with British Shipbuilders.
The day-to-day handling of such claims is undertaken by the solicitors Eversheds. The Department's internal audit partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers, undertook a high level review and made a number of recommendations, but overall was complimentary about Eversheds' handling.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that answer, but she will be aware that many of the people who have been exposed to asbestos while working for British Shipbuilders have developed mesothelioma cancer, which means a very short lifespan. Will she therefore ensure that any delays that have been identified are removed so that claims can be settled quickly? She will also be aware that the Department for Work and Pensions has introduced a fast-track system. Will she ensure that her Department works within the framework of that fast-track system to ensure that mesothelioma sufferers are paid the money before they die?
First, I congratulate my hon. Friend on his consistent hard work over a long time in the House on behalf of mesothelioma victims. I will take note of his wise words, and we will ensure that claims are settled quickly. When preparing for this morning, I found that there was some slowness last year because of a lack of proper information regarding the settlement of claims. He is right to draw attention to the fact that mesothelioma victims tend to have the prospect of a short future life, so it is crucial that we act quickly. We will examine the DWP fast-tracking scheme to determine whether we can learn anything from it.