Rights of Relatives to Damages (Mesothelioma) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:21 pm on 21st March 2007.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mike Pringle Mike Pringle Liberal Democrat 3:21 pm, 21st March 2007

The Deputy Minister for Justice set out all the essential details of the bill, so I will not go over them again. She made an extremely good point about an issue that has emerged as a result of the bill—that of needing just one court action. People will need to go to court only once. That is extremely good news, for which I am sure that all those involved will be grateful.

I agree with Kenny MacAskill about the many businesses that have acted in an unacceptable way on the issue. John Swinburne has given some illustrations of that. I gave an example when I spoke about the classic case of June Hancock. She fought for years against Turner & Newall Ltd to get her compensation, and finally won. She had to go to at least one, if not two, appeals. She did not have the big money and the lawyers that Turner & Newall had.

I agree with a good point that Margaret Mitchell made about legislation, although it perhaps does not relate particularly to the Rights of Relatives to Damages (Mesothelioma) (Scotland) Bill. Since I became an MSP, I have thought that we try to get through too much legislation and that we need to give more thought to those bills that we put through the Scottish Parliament. However, the bill before us is an example of good legislation.

Mary Mulligan covered the question of retrospection. That did not occur to us at the beginning of our discussions, but we quickly agreed that mesothelioma is an example of retrospection being a good idea. The Executive responded to that point quickly, and the Justice 1 Committee was grateful for that.

Shona Robison outlined a case that clearly illustrated what was wrong before, why the bill is essential and why the action that we are taking will make things much better for sufferers in the future. I gave the example of how much money June Hancock got in 1995. Frances Curran made a good point about compensation, to which we will need to return in the future. I tend to agree—I am not sure that the levels of compensation that people are getting are adequate.

Pauline McNeill described the bill as a very simple one, and so it is. However, it is also very important. Eleanor Scott spoke about what we can say during the election campaign when people tell us that the Parliament does not make a difference—we hear that all the time. I agree with Eleanor Scott that we can tell people about the bill, which is a good example of how the Scottish Parliament has made a real difference.

I was fascinated by John Swinburne's description of snowball fights; I never thought that people could have snowball fights without snow, but we heard about an example of just that. Why did people not know about the dangers? The research that I conducted on Google showed clearly that, as far back as 1896—the century before last—people knew about the dangers.