In 2010 the previous Labour government proposed setting up an Employers Liability Insurance Bureau (ELIB) to ensure compensation for all asbestos victims with a fatal condition who could not trace their employers’ insurer.
The plan was that all companies offering employers’ insurance would be obliged to pay a premium into ELIB and then if a victim’s employer had not insured them or the insurer could not be traced, compensation would still be paid.
However, yesterday’s Queen’s Speech announced a Mesothelioma Bill, where only victims of the incurable disease mesothelioma (a cancer affecting the lining of the lungs) will receive compensation.
The government said that the Bill would enable around 3,500 mesothelioma victims across the UK, who are unable to claim compensation because they cannot trace a liable employer or employers’ liability insurer, to receive approximately £355m in the first 10 years.
However, Ucatt has pointed out that victims of asbestos-related lung cancer and other fatal conditions who cannot trace their insurer will not be covered by the legislation. And only mesothelioma victims diagnosed after July 2012 will receive compensation.
Ucatt also pointed out that the two year delay between Labour opening the consultation on ELIB and the current coalition government going ahead with the proposals mean that hundreds of mesothelioma victims and their families would receive no compensation.
Ucatt general secretary Steve Murphy said: “Deaths from asbestos are entirely preventable. For decades Governments and employers knew the risks but chose to do nothing. It is disgraceful that even now they are trying wherever possible to deny workers compensation.”
The ELIB scheme will not assess individual cases but will offer banded payments based solely on the age of the victim. The victim will receive 70% of the average compensation pay-out for an asbestos victim of a similar age. The pay-out will not take into account any dependants the victim may have.
Ucatt has also discovered evidence of heavy lobbying by the insurance industry on the issue.
The Association of British Insurers and major insurers such as Aviva, Zurich Insurance and Royal Sun Alliance met Lord Freud, the minister responsible for the scheme, on 14 occasions between October 2010 and September 2012.
Mr Murphy added: “This watered down scheme which denies compensation to many victims and slashes compensation to those who qualify, demonstrates that the Conservatives are in the pocket of the insurance industry.”