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Clause 21 - Short title

Mesothelioma Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 12th December 2013.

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Photo of Stephen Phillips Stephen Phillips Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham 3:00 pm, 12th December 2013

I beg to move amendment 53, in clause 21, page 11, line 19, leave out ‘Mesothelioma Act 2013’ and insert

‘Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme Act 2013’.

The amendment, as much as anything else, affords an opportunity to end the Committee where we began it. The Bill has been long sought by sufferers of mesothelioma who have no recourse against an employer or insurer of the employer who cannot be found. The diagnosis that sufferers have received is possibly about the most distressing thing that could occur to anyone. To be clear, it is a diagnosis of death, as I said when I moved the first amendment in my name. It is a diagnosis of death in very unpleasant circumstances, as the hon. Member for Wansbeck said in Committee—he is absolutely right. It is also a diagnosis of death as a result of having done nothing more than go to work.

The Bill, although very welcome, does not cure mesothelioma or do away with what a diagnosis of mesothelioma means for those who are in receipt of it. I therefore venture to suggest to the Committee that it is slightly misleading in due course to describe the Bill—once it has completed its stages, if it does—as the Mesothelioma Act 2014. It will not be the Mesothelioma Act, because it does not deal with mesothelioma—it does not cure it  or cure the hurt that this most awful of diseases causes. All it will do is to provide a scheme of last resort to enable those who receive a diagnosis of mesothelioma to seek some form of redress for the fact that they were negligently exposed to a carcinogen to which they should not have been exposed and which has led to such serious consequences for them and their families. For that reason, if for no other, I suggest to the Minister that the proposed short title is misleading. It would be much more sensible if, instead of being called the Mesothelioma Act 2014, the Bill in due course became the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme Act 2014.

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

I echo the sentiments expressed by my hon. and learned Friend. He is absolutely right that the Bill, which we hope will become an Act quite soon so that the compensation can paid out of the fund to those who have suffered so much, and to their dependants, has been long awaited. That is not a criticism of any party—the process was started under the previous Administration and we are here today. I understand the sentiment expressed by my hon. and learned Friend, but it is a short title. It does what it says on the tin and that is what the intention was. It was not supposed to be a slight on anyone at all—we just wanted a short title that described the Bill as best we could.

The short title has come through the House of Lords to us, and I know that it is right and proper for the Committee to examine it, but I think it should stand. I fully understand my hon. and learned Friend’s comments, but I hope he will understand that the Bill was named in good faith and that no slight was intended at all. I hope that the naming of the Bill is exactly what we need.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: 1, in clause 21, page 11, line 20, leave out subsection (2).—(Mike Penning.)

Clause 21, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.