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Test MP Alan Whitehead speaks out over government bill
5:00am Wednesday 4th December 2013 in News
VICTIMS of asbestos exposure have been betrayed after the Government caved in to the insurance industry, a Southampton MP has protested.
Test MP Alan Whitehead, pictured, attacked weaknesses in the Mesothelioma Bill, warning it would fail to deliver promised payouts to many sufferers and their families.
The legislation is designed to compensate victims of mesothelioma who have been unable to trace the employer who exposed them to the deadly asbestos dust.
Ministers have vowed to “end an injustice that has left many tragic victims and their families high and dry”, with a £350m package to help 3,000 people.
But Labour is protesting that the Bill falls woefully short in three key areas: l Payouts will be only 75 per cent of the average compensation levels for asbestos, after a deal struck with insurance companies.
l Only those diagnosed after July 2012 will receive payouts – denying help to huge numbers of older cases dating back decades l Only victims of mesothelioma will be helped – not people dead, or dying, from other asbestos-related conditions.
Mr Whitehead said: “This Tory-led Government seems set on favouring insurance providers’ needs over those of claimants.
“It is disgraceful that, under this scheme, the level of compensation is set far lower than that attainable when a claimant can trace their insurer.
“The Bill also sets 2012 as the cut-off date for claimants. This could mean that Southampton residents that have died from this awful disease since 2012 will be denied justice.
“I also don’t see any moral reason why this Bill should be limited to mesothelioma – why shouldn’t sufferers of other asbestos-related diseases be able to get redress?”
Nearly 2,400 people, mostly men, die from mesothelioma every year – of which 300 do not have an insurer, or that insurer cannot be traced.
Only last week the Daily Echo revealed that Hampshire teacher Jane Potts had died aged 63 after inhaling asbestos dust while working in the classroom.
Southampton is a notorious ‘hotspot’ because asbestos was used as insulation in ships, exposing workers during fitting out and ship breaking.
A ‘standardised mortality ratio’ (SMR) is used to identify blackspots, where a figure of 100 would be the expected number of deaths, given the age of the population.
Furthermore, at least 1,500 people die every year nationwide from other asbestos-linked conditions – a figure that could reach 7,500, with better diagnosis, it is argued.
Labour MPs will attempt to force changes to the legislation, as it goes through its various stages in the Commons.
But Mike Penning, the disabilities minister, warned against holding up a vital Bill, saying: “It can probably be amended, but it must not be delayed.”
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