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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

Asbestos – London Delays (Again) On Providing a Formal Position on Pleural Plaques Compensatio

Contrary to prior statements, Lord Chancellor Jack Straw of the Ministry of Justice said yesterday in Parliament that the government’s formal follow up on the pleural plaques consultation will be provided “after” the summer recess. He indicated the response will include steps aimed at improving tracking of records that will assist plaintiffs, which are records regarding employment locations and employer insurance. He also intimated plans to have the UK lead the way on asbestos-related medical research. Specifically, he said:

Jack Straw (Lord Chancellor, Ministry of Justice; Blackburn, Labour) On 30 June, the Government published to the House two reports on the medical aspects of pleural plaques, one from the chief medical officer’s expert adviser and a second from the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council. The Government will give further consideration to the issue of compensation for people diagnosed with pleural plaques before publishing a final response after the recess.

In addition, we are actively considering measures to make the United Kingdom a global leader in research on the alleviation, prevention and cure of asbestos-related diseases, and to help speed up compensation claims for those who develop serious asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma. The latter includes examination of the process for tracking and tracing employment and insurance records, as well as looking into the support given to individuals who are unable to trace such records.” (emphasis added) Further discussion was as follows, or read it online here at the website of “They Work for You.”

Stephen Hepburn (Jarrow, Labour)

Will the Secretary of State assure us today that pleural plaques sufferers will not be treated any differently in terms of compensation regardless of whether they lodged their claim prior to the 2007 Law Lords judgment or after it and of whether live in Scotland, England, Wales or Northern Ireland?

Jack Straw (Lord Chancellor, Ministry of Justice; Blackburn, Labour)

As I said, we are giving active consideration to that. I understand my hon. Friend’s concern, but we have to make our own decisions in this jurisdiction. I am sure that, in turn, my hon. Friend will wish to pay very careful attention to the conclusions of the expert appointed by the chief medical officer and to IIAC; they came to unanimous conclusions, including those backed by the three trade union representatives.

Nigel Dodds (Belfast North, DUP)

Following on from the Scottish Government‘s decision to legislate in this area, did the Secretary of State note the recommendation of the relevant Department in the Northern Ireland Assembly that there should be a change in legislation to allow those with pleural plaques to sue in the courts and get compensation? Also, following on from what Mr. Hepburn said, whereas the regions of devolved government will have taken action to redress this terrible injustice to those who suffer from pleural plaques, will it not be perverse if the only area where people cannot claim is England and Wales?

Jack Straw (Lord Chancellor, Ministry of Justice; Blackburn, Labour) As I said, or implied, in answer to my hon. Friend, it is the essence of devolution that different decisions can be made. It would be very curious indeed if the result of devolution was that each jurisdiction had to follow the decisions of the other. We are seeking to consider the evidence very carefully, and I commend the evidence of the chief medical officer’s expert’s report and IIAC to all hon. Members, whichever constituency they represent.

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