Damages (Asbestos-Related Conditions) Bill

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 2:18 pm on 24th April 2009.

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Photo of David Hanson David Hanson The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice 2:18 pm, 24th April 2009

My hon. Friend brings me to a point that is worth putting on record. There are concerns, some of which were recognised by the hon. Members for Epping Forest and for Lichfield. The Government have concerns about some aspects of the Bill, and those concerns will have to be explored if it proceeds to Committee. For example, the Bill does not interact with law on Northern Ireland. There are different limitations and different legislation available in Northern Ireland, and clause 3 does not reflect that. Clause 2 extends the Bill to asbestosis and asbestos-related pleural thickening; those conditions were not included in the consultation, and we need to consider carefully whether they should be included in any legislation.

Having said all that, although we have reservations that need to be explored, I am happy to allow the Bill to be read a Second time today, if the House so wishes. I am happy for those issues, and the issues raised by the hon. Member for Epping Forest, to be explored in Committee. Undoubtedly, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon will be aware, there will come a time when we respond to our consultation. Hopefully, that will be within relatively short order. We will look at the consultation response in light of the progress in Committee. I cannot say today whether ultimately we will support all the details of my hon. Friend's Bill, but if the House wishes the Bill to proceed, we certainly will not today force a situation in which it cannot do so.

I thank hon. Members for their contributions, and thank my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon for introducing the Bill. It deals with a serious issue that affects people who have had injuries and illnesses that have damaged their lives in considerable ways. It is up to the House to reflect that in a proper and effective way. If the House wishes the Bill to proceed to Committee, I know that full consideration will be given to all the issues raised, not just by me as the Minister speaking on behalf of my colleagues, but by all Members of the House. I thank my hon. Friend for the opportunity to discuss the issues today.

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