Clause 5 — Applications and procedure

Mesothelioma Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 5:00 pm on 7th January 2014.

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Photo of Kate Green Kate Green Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) 5:00 pm, 7th January 2014

I beg to move amendment 10, page 3, line 32, at end add—

‘(3) Clause 18(2)(a) of the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005 is amended as follows—

After sub-paragraph (ii) there is inserted—

(a)

(i) is made to representatives of persons preparing an application to the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme or being assisted by that scheme to bring a claim under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976, and/or the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934.”.’.

I apologise to the House for what will prove to be a rather technical and nerdy amendment. To reassure the Minister and the House before we start—[Interruption.]

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. Will Members please leave the Chamber quietly so that we can complete the business before the knife at 6 o’clock?

Photo of Kate Green Kate Green Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

I reassure the Minister and the House that it is not my intention to press the amendment to a vote. I hope that he will be able to offer me at least some indication of the way forward as a result of the concerns I am about to raise.

The amendment was discussed in Committee on 12 December and relates to the fact that HMRC has now decided that a High Court order will be needed in order for it to release the employment records of deceased customers and protect employers’ confidentiality. Clearly mesothelioma sufferers coming to the diffuse mesothelioma payments scheme will need to have employment records to demonstrate their prima facie case that an employers’ liability policy of insurance existed.

Under the Data Protection Act, disclosure about employers to customers while still living is permitted because that would be part of their personal information. But this cannot apply once the customer is deceased. It might then be possible to look to the Commissioner of Revenue and Customs Act 2005 to enable access to employment records but this does not appear to offer circumstances in which HMRC is prepared to release the records without a High Court order, as HMRC confirmed in a letter to the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers on 2 December last year.

Clearly this is a worry in relation to the diffuse mesothelioma payments scheme because it will be very burdensome for families to get such a court order—burdensome and potentially costly. We must recognise that the need to do so will be quite frequent because victims die so quickly after diagnosis. The Data Protection Act exemption that is available to customers while still living will in many cases not be available.

When we discussed the matter in Committee before Christmas, I asked the Minister what consideration had been given to the impact of the changed interpretation on mesothelioma victims. I asked what consultation had been carried out and how the change in interpretation could be reconciled with the Ministry of Justice’s aim to speed up the process of claims. I emphasise of course that this is an issue not just for those coming through the diffuse mesothelioma payments scheme, but for anyone pursuing civil claims in relation to the scheme.

Since our debate in Committee I have learned that the concerns that I raised are shared more widely. Coroners, in particular, are becoming very anxious. I am sure that the Minister will be aware that in the Liverpool coroners court the other day, the coroner required HMRC to produce the employment records of a Mr Roger Carmichael. HMRC, relying on its new interpretation of the law, declined to provide those records and to appear before the coroner. I understand that the ruling is now being challenged in a judicial review. Clearly, with the matter proceeding through the courts, both the Minister and I are going to have to be careful in what we say about that case—indeed, I do not intend to say anything about it.

What is clear, however, is that the situation is just a mess—a mess that will bear adversely on mesothelioma sufferers and one that we need to sort out. It is potentially a costly mess for the Government if, for example, coroners needed to be funded to make applications to the High

Court for the release of employment records. It is potentially a mess because it could be a breach of the Government’s obligations under the European convention on human rights, particularly in respect of people’s ability to exercise their article 2 rights, which would apply to mesothelioma claims. It is a confused mess when it comes to coroners’ matters as to whether the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005 or the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 prevails on disclosure—a mess that I imagine would be a subject of the judicial review. In any event, if we are speedily to introduce the diffuse mesothelioma payment scheme, it is a mess that we—and, I am sure, the Minister—will want to see speedily sorted out.

This mess has arisen not because the law has changed, but because HMRC’s interpretation of the law has recently changed. Of course we understand and I accept that if HMRC receives legal advice saying that it should act differently from how it has worked previously, it cannot casually disregard it, but there is clearly an urgent need to clarify the exact position. The judicial review to which I referred might not adequately clarify the position for mesothelioma sufferers and their dependants coming into this scheme because, as I say, it might make a ruling only on mesothelioma matters before the coroner—not necessarily or likely to be applicable to accessing this scheme.

I know that the Minister recognised this concern when I raised it in Committee and he said that he was anxious to see it resolved, but reluctant to do it in this Bill because of his wariness around ping-pong. While I am, frankly, doubtful whether this would be a major stumbling-block if we had to ping this back to their lordships, who I think would be pretty happy to see an amendment put through simply and straightforwardly to address the particular problem, I understand that the Minister, in conjunction with his colleagues in other Departments, is now looking for another legislative vehicle.

That is certainly welcome, but I have to ask the Minister whether he is going to find that legislative vehicle quickly enough for it to be available before the diffuse mesothelioma payment scheme comes into effect? He has repeatedly stressed that this scheme needs to be up and running by the summer of 2014, which does not leave a lot of time to find a suitable legislative vehicle to sort out the problem and ensure that it is dealt with robustly so that the scheme can properly be the beneficiary of such sorting out. I am thus extremely anxious that the Minister might find himself in some difficulty if his colleagues cannot oblige him with a handy, urgent and useful Bill.

The Minister might like to think about accepting this amendment. It is intended to help what he says he wants to happen, which is to get the scheme up and running, operational and effective as quickly as possible. It is not a contentious amendment; it is not one about which there is going to be any dispute either here or in the other place in respect of what it is designed to achieve. The amendment is narrowly drafted to relate specifically to those seeking employment records in relation to accessing the scheme that this Bill covers. If the Minister is unable to accept my amendment, I hope he will be able to assure me at least that the matter will be sorted out in good time before the scheme comes into operation this summer. I hope he will explain how he thinks that will happen. We do not want warm words alone; we need specifics. Time to sort this out is becoming urgent.

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

I thank the shadow Minister for tabling the amendment and for setting out her position early when she said that she would not press the amendment to a vote. She is quite right, and I reiterate the point I made in Committee: I do not think this is the right Bill for addressing that important issue. I agree that the change in HMRC’s interpretation of the existing law—as opposed to a change in the law itself—is a massive issue, but fortunately there is time for us to deal with it between now and July. I have been meeting Justice Ministers to discuss the matter. As I am sure the House will understand, the Ministry of Justice does not want the courts to be clogged up with people asking for court orders in order to obtain their employment records, and I am sure that that was not the intention when the legislation was enacted.

Our priority—apart from publishing the regulations, which we hope to do tomorrow—is to address this matter. I will meet a Justice Minister, and we will find a vehicle to simplify the way in which the employment records are obtained for those who are making claims on the mesothelioma fund, so that we can do exactly what it says on the tin. What we have wanted to do all along is secure a speedy resolution for those who need access to the fund because they have no other recourse, and it is imperative for the House and Ministers to ensure that that happens. I hope the hon. Lady accepts that we are working very hard, and are also asking for legal opinions on whether we can take some action between now and the passing of the Bill.

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

I understand that that is possible. It could also be dealt with through a deregulation Bill. In any event, we will find the necessary vehicle. As I have said, the Ministry of Justice does not want the courts to be clogged up with requests for court orders, and the matter will be resolved.

Photo of Kate Green Kate Green Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

I am grateful to the Minister, I am also grateful to Sir Edward Leigh for his helpful intervention about the possibility of secondary legislation. Perhaps the Minister could discuss with his colleagues and with the Government’s legal advisers whether the regulations under the Bill—which I expect to complete its passage later this evening—could be used as a vehicle for the change. Although more substantial Bills such as the Deregulation Bill may make some progress between now and July, we have not observed legislation proceeding all that speedily under this Government, particularly given the notorious requirement for a legislative “pause” while Ministers go off and rethink from time to time. Obviously, if the Minister has to use colleagues’ primary legislation to deliver his intent, he will be careful to select a Bill that would pose no such risk.

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

Just to have a little bit of fun with the hon. Lady, let me point out that, having first been accused of trying to rush the Bill through, I am now being criticised for the fact that the Government are slowing down legislation. One cannot win, can one?

Photo of Kate Green Kate Green Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

It must be tough being the Minister. I am sure that all our sympathies go out to the hon. Gentleman.

As I have said, I do not intend to press the amendment to a vote. The judicial review may give us some indication of the interpretation of the current legislation, which would be helpful, and I think that we should wait for that. I know that the Minister fully appreciates the urgency with which my amendment seeks to drive the process, and I hope that I can work with him to find and expedite the most suitable vehicle. If that turns out to be regulations under the Bill, we will stand ready to help him to ensure that they are passed.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Third Reading

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions 5:48 pm, 7th January 2014

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

It is an honour and a privilege to be the Minister who has taken the Bill through the House so speedily, with the help of Her Majesty’s Opposition and many other Members. Let me explain why the Bill is necessary. It will provide a fund of last resort for those who suffer from mesothelioma as a result of asbestos poisoning, and for their loved ones. As was pointed out earlier by Mr Brown, it has been on Ministers’
desks for an awfully long time. It is not perfect—I accept that it is not perfect—but it will, I hope, do what it says on the tin and get compensation to those who so greatly need it.

I want to pay tribute to those who have helped get this Bill where it is, in particular the civil servants in the Box this evening—my Bill manager, Lee Eplett, Rose Willis, Fiona Walshe and Jenny Vass—the Bill Committee joint-Chairs, Mr Howarth and my hon. Friend Philip Davies, and the Government Whip, my hon. Friend Claire Perry, for their assistance in expediting the Bill’s passage. We had three days—six sessions—for the Bill Committee if we needed them. I think everybody who served on the Committee will accept that we discussed it at length yet we still had time to spare. That is exactly what should happen with a Bill; no one should come out and say, “We haven’t discussed it at length.” We will be finishing slightly ahead of schedule this evening as well. I hope the tone with which the Bill has been addressed during its progress through the House, with the assistance of Her Majesty’s Opposition, will be continued, and I pay tribute to Kate Green for the way in which she has worked with me and my officials so that, should the Bill get its Third Reading, we can send it off to Her Majesty for Royal Assent, get the regulations down, and get compensation paid to those who so desperately need it, hopefully by July. I commend the Bill to the House.

Photo of Kate Green Kate Green Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) 5:51 pm, 7th January 2014

The Opposition welcome this opportunity to put a scheme into law that will provide a measure of payment to victims of what we are all agreed is a most horrific and terrible disease. I pay tribute to Ministers in this Government and past Governments who have worked over many years to bring us to the point we reach today, and also to Members of all parties who have been so determined to fight for the best possible deal for victims of this terrible disease. May I also place on record my thanks to campaigners who have been actively and determinedly lobbying for many years for justice for victims, including trade union campaigners and especially the victim support groups around the country who I know have been in contact with many of us about the very complex and technical details of this Bill? I also want to echo the Minister’s thanks to his officials, who have been extremely helpful, in this Chamber and the other place, and to both Opposition and Government spokespeople, in ensuring that we all have a full understanding of the often complex and technical analysis of the likely consequences of different scenarios, which we sought to test as we considered the Bill.

The Minister said a few moments ago that the Bill is not perfect and we concur. We are pleased to have made the progress we have, but we regret that there have been some missed opportunities which many of us feel did not need to be missed. There was scope to have gone at least a little further than we have managed tonight. The Bill could be so much better than it is and, in the House of Lords, in Committee, on Second Reading and again this afternoon and this evening, Members on both sides of the House have highlighted its deficiencies and have suggested very constructive, practical—and affordable, where cost implications have been involved—ways to remedy them. It is disappointing that the Minister has felt under such pressure from the deal that has been done with the industry that he has been unable to accept any of the amendments, which I think have been brought forward in a very constructive manner. I think the Minister himself said that that has been the spirit in which we have sought to make the changes we have advanced.

However, we welcome the promise that the regulations that we will shortly be studying will provide for a review of the operation and effects of the scheme in four years’ time. We are determined to see that provision appearing in the regulations, and Members across the House will be equally anxious in four years’ time to hold Ministers to a full, meaningful and effective review that genuinely addresses the operation and consequences of the scheme and the potential for its expansion and extension.

It is a matter of concern that we are passing legislation today that we already think will need improvement in four years’ time. I hold the rather old-fashioned view that we ought to try to get legislation right first time, and it is a shame that we already know that Parliament will want to come back to certain areas of this legislation after four years. Mention has been made repeatedly during the passage of the Bill of the areas involved. They include: eligibility; access to the scheme; the cost of running and administering the scheme; the processes surrounding the scheme; the funding of research into the treatment and cure for mesothelioma; and, of course, the generosity of the scheme. There is a clear need for us to make progress in the development of each of those areas, and I believe that the Bill should have been used to ensure that progress.

On the question of generosity, it is widely agreed that there is no moral case whatever for sufferers to receive a payout of less than 100%. Even if we accept that there is a constraint on 100% payouts that is dictated by affordability—the industry has suggested that that affordability is restricted to an amount set at 3% of gross written premium—I suggest that that figure is laughably small in the context of a multi-billion pound industry that has been collecting premiums and avoiding payouts for decades. There should have been some scope for pushing the industry for more.

Regrettably, the amendments to introduce an earlier start date, to increase the level of payouts and, crucially, to protect the 3% levy were all rejected by the House. The Minister was reluctant to accept them, and the House did not vote for them. Those amendments would have meant: more money for victims; more victims benefiting; the possibility of more asbestos-related diseases being covered; more funding for research; and the inclusion of the self-employed and those who are currently forced to access less generous schemes.

On research, the Government’s response, as articulated by Lord Howe in the House of Lords, has been welcome as far as it goes. We very much hope that it will bear fruit in bringing forward more, better-funded and more fully developed research proposals. However, we really cannot overlook the moral responsibility of everyone involved in the sorry history of asbestos exposure to invest now in the best quality research that we can possibly promote to tackle this horrible disease. It was pointed out earlier that our obligation is not just to sufferers who are experiencing and dying of the disease now, and not just to sufferers in the UK. Developing economies mean that exposure rates around the world will rise for many years to come. Good research programmes and proposals exist, and more will come forward. Ministers have given a welcome indication of what they intend to do to galvanise and support such proposals, but we will want to keep a close watch on the practical consequences and effects of the guarantees that have been given. Unless they turn into properly funded, meaningful research programmes, I fear that we will have heard little more than warm words.

We very much look forward to seeing the draft regulations, which the Minister has indicated will be available tomorrow. I hope that will give us the opportunity to see some of the details of how the scheme will be run, which remain to be teased out, even after our debates. We particularly wish to scrutinise the detailed operation of the scheme, because we know that the insurance industry hopes to create a vehicle that can bid to administer the scheme. Understandably, there is a certain amount of suspicion among victims’ groups about the industry, which has so wronged them over so many decades, now becoming the vehicle responsible for operating the scheme that is to give victims some level of financial satisfaction.

I have to say that the representatives of the Association of British Insurers who have discussed the Bill and the scheme with me have given me an encouraging impression of how committed they are to operating an effective and well-run scheme that will get funds moving swiftly to victims. However, as I am sure the Minister will expect, it is not enough that we have a scheme run wholly in the interests of victims; the scheme must also be seen to be run in that way. That requires a tendering process that is entirely transparent. It requires transparency about the costs of running the scheme and who is recouping what payments for running the scheme, including details on a range of costs and fees that we are still unclear about: the legal fees, the arbitration costs, and the set-up and running costs. Those simply must not deplete resources that ought to be available to make payouts to victims. I hope that when the regulations are introduced, much more financial and operational detail will be given about the running of the scheme.

I am pleased that the Minister is working with colleagues in other Departments to sort out some difficulties that lie outwith his control but which, none the less, threaten either to derail or to have adverse impact on this scheme. He said that he was working collaboratively with colleagues—I hope he will be a little more assertive than that. We urgently need a resolution to the difficulties created for us by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs’ new interpretation of disclosure rules in relation to employment records. I hope, too, that he will continue in dialogue with the Ministry of Justice about the baffling correlation it makes between the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 provisions on mesothelioma and this scheme, which is, of course, designed entirely for victims who cannot access civil justice through the courts.

Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Shadow Minister (Justice)

Has my hon. Friend had a response yet to the request in the letter she wrote to the Justice Secretary, which I believe was brought up in the Justice questions before last, about exactly this point? If so, will she enlighten us as to what the connection is between that Act and this Bill?

Photo of Kate Green Kate Green Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

I am pleased to tell my hon. Friend that I have had a response. In fairness to the Justice Secretary, I should say that a response was received before Christmas. Clearly, he took note of the debates that were happening in our Committee, and the Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, Mike Penning was extremely helpful in expediting a response to a query that I had first raised in Justice questions on 11 November. I would be lying, however, if I said that I could now answer my hon. Friend’s substantive question as to what that connection is. It is not for me to put words into the mouths of Ministers or to suggest what Ministers think the connection is, but let me roughly paraphrase the letter. It said, “We think the two are connected because we are going to do them at the same time.” If I am doing wrong to the Minister’s colleagues in the Ministry of Justice, I am sure that they will want to make it clear how I am being unfair to them—

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I have given the hon. Lady quite a lot of latitude in respect of her comments about a parliamentary question, but I would like her to return now, however tempting the question is from Mr Slaughter, to the Third Reading and what is in this Bill.

Photo of Kate Green Kate Green Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

I am grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

The scheme that we will pass into law tonight is a start, but it is far from being all we can do for the victims of mesothelioma. I am glad that Parliament will keep close oversight of the scheme via the mechanism of the four-year report. That must be an opportunity for the fullest and most open scrutiny and should be taken as a genuine effort to develop and expand the scheme. As debate on the Bill has proceeded, it has been quite clear that it is the strong will of parliamentarians in both Houses and across all parties to secure justice for sufferers of this appalling disease, which was so often contracted by people who simply went out to work to earn a living to support their families, and yet in so doing were put under terrible threat. Today we have made a start in securing some justice for those victims, but there is much more for us to do. We can, we must and—as it is the mood of Parliament—we will do better for victims than we have been able to do to date.

Photo of Tracey Crouch Tracey Crouch Conservative, Chatham and Aylesford 6:05 pm, 7th January 2014

I am pleased that we have reached Third Reading of this Bill. It is a welcome Bill, but I remain disappointed that it is not as good as it could and should have been if we were to provide fair and reasonable justice to the victims of mesothelioma. I recognise the constraints that the Minister was under as a consequence of the negotiations that were made before the Bill entered this Chamber. Although it is a good day for the victims of mesothelioma, it could have been a great day for them had some of the amendments that were tabled on Report been listened to.

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

Let me place it on the record—I think I did this earlier—that my hon. Friend could not have done more for her constituents during the progression of this Bill through the House. I paid tribute to her earlier on, and I do so again now.

Photo of Tracey Crouch Tracey Crouch Conservative, Chatham and Aylesford

I am grateful to the Minister for his comments. My constituency has high levels of mesothelioma because of its dockyard history and the heavy industries that surround the Medway towns. Earlier, John Woodcock expressed concern that I might be poacher turned gamekeeper as a consequence of my time in the insurance industry before coming to this place and trying to secure better compensation for mesothelioma victims. My bosses from my previous life know that I was strong campaigner for mesothelioma victims. Indeed I was proud of the efforts that I took during my time in the insurance industry to try to improve access to compensation. It just so happens that I was also elected to a constituency that has high levels of mesothelioma.

I am pleased that we had a debate today, but, as I have said, I remain slightly disappointed that nothing has happened to the Bill since it received its Second Reading. I see that as a failure in the way that Parliament works. Although I pay tribute to the Minister’s officials, who have worked incredibly hard and been generous with their time, it is a shame that the Bill that was prepared before our debate in Parliament is exactly the same now despite the fact that there is a strong will on both sides of the House to improve the legislation.

Let me pay tribute, as I did on Second Reading, to Lord Freud. He had a difficult time in getting the insurance industry to the table. I notice from the list of meetings that he met with the industry many times. Although he has had fewer meetings with the asbestos working group, it has had access to civil servants. He has done a good job, and would, I think, share the Minister’s view that this is not a perfect Bill. In a perfect world, he would have liked much better legislation.

None the less, both Ministers, my hon. Friend Mike Penning and Lord Freud, are quite right when they say that this legislation would not have happened had it not been for this Government, and I welcome that. I remember the negotiations that took place with the previous Government and it is quite right for the Ministers to say that they are proud of where they have got to. Mesothelioma victims will be better off as they will have access to some compensation but, as I have said, I still think that the Bill is flawed.

I also want to pay tribute to my hon. and learned Friend Stephen Phillips, who did a fantastic job in Committee of raising many of the issues I would have liked to have raised personally. He brought to the debate understanding of the issues of mesothelioma and the concerns of the victims. Having met victims, he understands how awful the disease is, that it is a fatal disease that can be contracted only through exposure to asbestos and that victims will, unfortunately, die an incredibly painful death. He did a fantastic job of bringing forward many of the points I would have liked to have made.

I also want again to pay tribute to Paul Goggins. He and I have worked on this issue for many months and years and it seems strange to stand up in this Chamber and discuss mesothelioma without his being in the House. I hope that he recognises that those of us who have tabled amendments and spoken in the debate have done so partly on his behalf. He has been a sound campaigner on the issue for many years. He is a decent man and all he wants to do is to try to improve the compensation for victims of this dreadful disease.

I look forward to the publication of the regulations and welcome the fact that there will be a review of the legislation. Like Kate Green, I rather innocently and possibly even naively believe that we should be making legislation that does not need to be reviewed in four years’ time and that it could be better scrutinised and considered in this place and in the other place before it passes into law. We are where we are, however, so I congratulate the Minister on getting the Bill through the House on time. I am pleased that many victims will secure some sort of compensation for a disease that they got simply by going to work.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights) 6:12 pm, 7th January 2014

I, too, put on record my thanks to the shadow Minister, Kate Green, for the way in which she made her argument today on an issue that is close to all our hearts. I also thank the Minister. We know him as an individual, but we also know the work that he has done. His responses to our questions today would suggest that he might have wished to have seen something better but had to settle for a wee bit less than what we had hoped for.

Many passionate speeches have been made on behalf of individuals and families. They stick in my mind most of all because they come from knowledge and living with people who have had the disease. I have been an elected representative for almost 30 years as a councillor and an Assembly Member in Northern Ireland, and now I am privileged to be the Member of Parliament for Strangford. I have met a lot of people over the years who have had mesothelioma and serious health problems. I have helped some of those people with their disability living allowance and their incapacity benefit, as it was, or employment and support allowance, as it is now. I have seen those people deteriorate healthwise. I have known them personally and it was never easy to watch that marked deterioration in their health over a period of time.

My colleague, my hon. Friend Sammy Wilson, wearing his other hat as Finance Minister in Northern Ireland, introduced legislation to deal with compensation and in doing so brought about equality and fairness for sufferers. Today, we have contributed to a Bill that might not go as far as we would like, as Tracey Crouch and the shadow Minister have said, but which goes a long way towards addressing the issues of those sufferers and those people. For that reason, we should take some credit for delivering that for our constituents.

I would have loved more pressure to be put on the insurance companies, as was suggested in the previous debate, and the percentage of compensation is not what I wished to see. However, this is a big step as regards people out there being able to see that this House can deliver such legislation, and in an urgent fashion. The Minister said that his imperative was urgently to produce legislation that could deliver, and that is clearly what he has tried to do. We want fairness for these sufferers to enable them to have some quality of life in their lifetime, however short it might be. I always think of the families, in particular, who watched their loved one deteriorate markedly in a very short period. This Bill takes a massive step in the right direction for all of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Photo of Andrew Percy Andrew Percy Conservative, Brigg and Goole 6:15 pm, 7th January 2014

It is a pleasure to follow Jim Shannon. I am also pleased to speak so soon after my hon. Friend Tracey Crouch, who has done a fantastic job in highlighting this issue and fighting for her constituents, not just on this Bill but on the Bill that became the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, when we had a rebellion in this House which, I am proud to say, led to changes in the other place as well. I was happy to be part of that.

This is a big issue for my constituents and for those of my neighbour, Nic Dakin, who is on the Opposition Front Bench as a Whip today and so cannot speak. We have a mix of industries across our region, including the steelworks, which are largely in his constituency but also in mine. We have a shipbuilding past, particularly in Goole, and I have in my constituency a number of former coalminers and a lot of power station workers who, even today, are affected by this.

Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Shadow Minister (Justice)

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman about the debate on LASPO in which Government Members played a strong part, as did Members in the other place. It is regrettable, though, that the Government are not going ahead with any changes to the provisions in LASPO, as was announced just before Christmas.

Photo of Andrew Percy Andrew Percy Conservative, Brigg and Goole

Indeed. My hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford just whispered to me that new clause 3, tabled in the name of Paul Goggins, who obviously, very sadly, cannot be here, would have progressed that matter as part of this Bill.

I will comment more on my unhappiness with some aspects in a moment, but I was regaling the House on the importance of this issue for constituents in my area, several of whom have been to see me. They do not just come from the traditional industries. Very sadly, a lady who is a former schoolteacher recently came to see me who has the difficulty of having worked for a number of different education authorities and suffers from this terrible disease. It is very sad when we meet these individuals because, as hon. Members have said, a diagnosis of this disease is a death sentence. That should not be forgotten in any of our debates, and I do not think it has been.

I am proud that the Government have introduced this Bill. Members in all parts of the House recognise that we now have a scheme that will provide for hundreds of people who otherwise would not have been provided for, and that is certainly progress. I am a little saddened that some of the debate turned into an attack on insurance companies, although I understand that there is legitimate cause for concern about the behaviour of some of them. I voted for the 80% compensation amendment because I felt that the extra £6,000 was significant and deliverable, and, like other Members, I could see no reason why insurance companies would walk away from such a deal. That £6,000 would have made a very significant difference to people in my constituency who suffer from this disease and who often live in some of the poorest areas.

I pay tribute to the Government for introducing this Bill and getting the scheme in place. I am sad that the Bill is not as good as some of us would have liked it to be, and I hope that that will be considered when it is reviewed. Kate Green said that we would rather not pass legislation and then have to review it, but would rather it were perfect from the start. I suspect that there are very few pieces of legislation where that is the case, and this will clearly not be one of them.

I just want briefly to say, on behalf of my constituents who will benefit from this Bill, how pleased I am that something is in place. It may not be exactly what we wanted—some of us have tried to make it better and I am sorry we have not succeeded in doing so—but the scheme is to be welcomed and I hope we can all now support the Bill. I hope there will not be a Division, but if there is I shall be more than happy to support the Bill.

Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Shadow Minister (Justice) 6:20 pm, 7th January 2014

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this Third Reading debate. I have not taken part in the Bill’s previous stages, but I have followed it very closely and I will confine my comments to one specific point. It was raised in Committee on 13 December and was the subject of new clause 3, which was not selected for debate on Report.

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. I am sorry to say to the hon. Gentleman that this is the Third Reading debate. It is not a debate about amendments that were not selected or a Second Reading debate. The Third Reading debate is about the Bill as it now exists. I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman will be out of order if he tries to make a speech that goes beyond the contents of the Bill as it appears now before the House. The hon. Gentleman is experienced in this House and I know that he will stick closely to that.

Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Shadow Minister (Justice)

I will indeed, Madam Deputy Speaker. I referred to new clause 3 simply because it was tabled by my right hon. Friend Paul Goggins. I was present when the Minister paid tribute to him earlier and I just wanted to add my voice to that, because my right hon. Friend has been of great assistance to me on this issue elsewhere. I think he would have wanted to address the issue.

If the shadow Minister, my hon. Friend Kate Green, was right to say in her response to my earlier intervention that the Bill no longer gives recourse to the matters dealt with under sections 44 and 46 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, it would be helpful if the Government could make that clear. The Bill has received qualified support from Members on both sides of the House and it would be helpful if those outstanding matters could be satisfactorily addressed.

There is an outstanding consultation or review to be had; the Government have not been clear about exactly what it will be. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East raised matters of serious concern. There has not been a proper consultation so far with regard to LASPO. Andrew Percy has just alluded to the fact that when the issue was debated in both Houses there was a very strong feeling that mesothelioma should be exempt, but that is not being honoured by the Government.

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman will sit down. I spoke to him very gently earlier. He has been in this House a long time and we all hold the right hon. Gentleman to whom he is referring in the very highest regard, but, frankly, the hon. Gentleman is now drifting considerably from this Bill and I now want him to refer only to the Bill or to conclude his remarks. I do not want him to refer to justice or other things; I want him to refer to this Bill and its contents.

Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Shadow Minister (Justice)

I am grateful for that guidance, Madam Deputy Speaker. I have made the point that I wanted to make. I simply say to the Minister that, as this Bill stands on Third Reading, it would be helpful if the outstanding matters connected with mesothelioma could be dealt with properly and the Bill was not used as a way of occluding them.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, with an amendment.