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I remind the Committee that with this we are discussing the following:
‘(f) save as provided in (g) below, the application is made within three years of being first diagnosed, and
(g) for those persons first diagnosed on or after 25 July 2012, but before this Act comes into force, the three year time limit in section 2(1)(f) shall commence on the date this Act is brought into force.’.
Amendment 5, in clause 3, page 2, line 35, after subsection (d) insert—
‘(e) save as provided in (f) below, the application is made within three years of the death of the person with the disease, and
(f) for those persons who died on or after 25 July 2012, but before this Act comes into force, the three year time limit in section 3(1)(e) shall commence on the date this Act is brought into force.’.
Amendment 11, in clause 18, page 10, line 45, leave out subsection (3) and insert—
‘(3) In specifying circumstances in which a person is, or is not to be treated as, eligible to bring an action for the purposes of section 2(1)(d), or section 3(1)(c), the scheme shall ensure consistency with the definition of eligibility in section 2 and section 3.’.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
‘and includes a successor in title to any such employer’.
Amendment 18, in clause 3, page 2, line 48, at end insert
“‘insurer” includes any entity which has succeeded to the liabilities of the insurer with whom a relevant employer maintained employers’ liability insurance at the time of a person’s exposure to asbestos;’.
These amendments ought to be entirely uncontroversial. I hope that the Minister, even if he feels that he has to have a write round in due course, although it is difficult to see what the purpose of that would be, will indicate today that they are likely to be accepted on Report. Each amendment is concerned with the same issue, which is the fact that clauses 2 and 3 do not contain a definition of “insurer” at all or a definition of “employer” that is sufficiently broad for the purposes that the Bill is designed to deal with.
Amendments 14 and 18 propose inserting a definition of “insurer” so that an insurer will include
“any entity which has succeeded to the liabilities of the insurer with whom a relevant employer maintained employers’ liability insurance at the time of a person’s exposure to asbestos”.
The amendments are important if the Bill is to work. Insurance companies are from time to time sold, and successor companies may or may not fall within the definition of “insurer” in the Bill as drafted. It would be a good thing, in my respectful submission to the Committee, to make that clear beyond doubt.
Insurers, as the Minister no doubt knows, periodically review the books of business that they are writing and they sometimes effect transfers of those books of business under part VII of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. As the Bill stands, there would be a good argument that an insurer that had succeeded by that mechanism to the liabilities of an insurer that had afforded employers liability insurance to a relevant employer within the definition in the Bill would not be caught. That would plainly be a lacuna in the Bill, and therefore the definition plainly needs to be inserted in clauses 2 and 3.
I can deal equally briefly with amendment 15, which would amend the definition of “employer”, by observing that, again, it is designed to put the matter beyond doubt, because a relevant employer ought, of course, to include any entity that has succeeded to the liabilities of a negligent relevant employer who cannot be traced but who would be liable to a claimant suffering from mesothelioma for the purposes of the scheme.
All three amendments are drafting amendments, and all of them are, without question, not only desirable but necessary. Given that, although I will withdraw them—with the leave of the Committee—if the Minister will not accept them today, I hope that he can indicate to the Committee that he will, in due course, come back to them on Report and that they will be moved as Government amendments.
I thank my hon. and learned Friend for the tone in which he moved his amendment. We will look carefully at these amendments as we go forward. One of my concerns, particularly as this is a fund of last resort, is that we in no way put more onerous restrictions on those who we want to benefit from the fund, after they have already been through quite an exhaustive process and not found their employer or their employer’s insurer.
I am pleased that my hon. and learned Friend has indicated that he will withdraw the amendment. I do not believe at this stage that I will be able to support them, but I will look carefully at them again on Report.
I am now rather more uncertain than I was when the hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham moved his amendments. Is it his intention in amendment 14 to deal with the point about reinsurance? He is shaking his head, so I see that that is not his intention. In that case, why were the points that he has picked up, which he says are intended just to clarify the Bill, not picked up in the other place when the Bill was discussed there or by the public servants who are there to assist the Minister with the drafting of legislation? Why does the Minister not have in front of him a comprehensive set of statements that explain either why the amendments are not needed or that they touch on reasonable points and that he will take the arguments on board and return to these matters on Report? Surely, the answer to these points must be either one or the other.
To clarify matters for the right hon. Gentleman and for my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham, I do not think—it is set out in front of me—that these amendments would bring anything new to the Bill, but I do not want just to reject out of hand their comments and proposals, which were not suggested in the other place or during our drafting of the Bill. I do not want to be rude and reject them out of hand. On the basis of what I have in front of me, no, I cannot support the amendments, but I will generously—I hope—and in the right tone look at the proposals as we go forward.
I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne East for what I think is his support and to the Minister for his comments. However, I have to say to the Minister that it does not matter whether the issues that the amendments address were or were not raised in the other place, and it does not matter whether or not his officials or, indeed, those who are responsible for the drafting of the Bill have overlooked these issues.
We will come to another drafting error in a moment, which is absolutely plain to see, but both points need to be addressed in the Bill either by the mechanism that I have suggested or by one that the Government prefer. If they are not addressed, the Bill will be defective for the purposes for which it is brought before the House. However, on the basis of what the Minister has said and taking it in good faith that the matter will be looked at—I am happy to meet his officials—I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.