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

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:25 pm on 21st March 2007.

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Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative 3:25 pm, 21st March 2007

I declare a technical interest, in that I am the beneficiary of an insurance company pension. I am sure that this is the first time that anyone in the Parliament has declared an interest on an issue that is more likely to cost them money rather than ensure that they gain money over the years. As I have said before, I intend to make the most of my pension, which is a privilege that is not granted to the sufferers of mesothelioma.

The bill is a good piece of legislation. I am the last to wallow in self-satisfaction or—as the minister can, no doubt, confirm—to offer congratulations to the Executive, but I think that the bill reflects well on the Parliament.

When John Swinburne spoke about his experiences—I was grateful to him for reminding me that there is someone in this chamber who was working before I was born—he highlighted the issues that were relevant in previous years. There was a complete lack of health and safety and a cavalier approach was taken to issues that were a threat to health. I do not accept that that was born of any particular malevolence; I think that it was born out of ignorance—people simply did not know. However, as a result of that ignorance, at least two generations have suffered.

The bill seeks to ease the predicament of those who suffer from this condition. They and their families must have faced the ultimate in dilemmas. The ability to choose the direction in which to go was, in many ways, constrained by the economic circumstances of that family. The bill will prevent that cruel dilemma from arising.

There is not much more that needs to be said. Congratulations go to the campaigners, in the first instance, because they made their case in a moderate, persuasive and reasoned manner, assisted by high-quality legal representation. Congratulations must also go to the Executive. Let us acknowledge its success. It would be churlish and quite unjust were we on this side of the chamber not to allow the Executive this moment of praise.

As other members have said, the bill reflects well on the Parliament, which has dealt with this matter thoroughly and expeditiously and with a degree of sympathy, which we all have for those who find themselves in the situation with which the bill is concerned. The legislation is, indeed, a justification for the existence of the Parliament. Everyone can take credit for the way in which the matter has been dealt with and will, today, be disposed of.