SUPREME Court judges were accused yesterday of protecting “negligent” bosses by crushing Welsh plans to make them pay for the care of workers suffering “devastating” industrial diseases.
A Bill by Labour AM Mick Antoniw would have forced firms to compensate the NHS for the cost of treating people who contract asbestos-related diseases, such as mesothelioma.
It was scuppered at the last legal stage though by judges, who upheld a challenge by the Association of British Insurers.
Solicitors Thompsons asbestos law expert Ian McFall issued an indignant response to Monday’s controversial ruling.
“It should be negligent employers — the polluters — who failed to make working conditions safe and their insurers who should meet this financial burden,” he said.
According to the judges the law would have infringed on the insurers’ property rights under the European Convention on Human Rights and would have been outside the powers of the Welsh government.
But Mr McFall, who has 20 years’ experience of fighting mesothelioma cases, defended the Bill as sound and just.
“For the court to protect rich and powerful insurers, who make huge profits, pay out billions of pounds to shareholders and are a good friend to the Conservative Party, by using human rights law that the Tories have condemned and ridiculed as meddling from Europe is bitterly ironic,” he said.
“The wider costs to society of diagnosing and treating asbestos illnesses should be displaced from the NHS onto the negligent employers who caused the disease and paid for by their insurers.”