Damages (Asbestos-Related Conditions) Bill

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 1:32 pm on 24th April 2009.

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Photo of Andrew Dismore Andrew Dismore Labour, Hendon 1:32 pm, 24th April 2009

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention, and I very much agree with what he has said. He has been a redoubtable campaigner on this issue for many years, ever since the court cases. I am pleased to see him and hope that he will support my Bill.

My Bill tries to build on what has happened in Scotland, where people are ahead of the game. The Scottish Parliament has passed its own legislation to restore the position in law to where it was before the cases in the Court of Appeal and House of Lords. That Bill is simply awaiting Royal Assent and has completed all the other stages.

My Bill is modest. All it seeks to do is turn back the law to what we all thought it was prior to the decisions in the courts. Any scheme case would, of course, cost the taxpayer. However, turning the law back to where it was would mean that the insurers, which were on risk at the time, would meet the liability rather than getting the windfall of having collected the premiums without having to pay out on the risk.

The Bill is tightly drawn—it is not the thin end of the wedge, and it will not open the floodgates to any form of parallel litigation for other illnesses or injuries; it relates purely and simply to pleural plaques. It maintains the basic principles of negligence or breach of statutory duty as the test for liability. The burden of proof that the claim exists and should be upheld is still on the claimant. The Bill provides for a suspension of the limitation period from the date of the House of Lords decision until the coming into force of the Bill. That is only fair, but it would not affect any cases that were already settled or decided in the courts. The Bill also leaves out Scotland, where, as I have said, a decision to legislate has already been made.

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