Commons justice committee slams decision to impose fees on claimants 'maladroit and unsatisfactory' as campaigns accuse government of love-in with insurers
Asbestos campaigners have welcomed a scathing report by a parliamentary committee condemning the government’s plans to reform mesothelioma legal claims.
The proposed measures would impose the burden of legal costs on sufferers of the fatal asbestos-related disease who were seeking justice through the courts.
The measures were originally incorporated in the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Laspo).
Sections 44 and 46 of the Act impose legal costs on people taking personal injury cases.
Due to concerns about the adverse effects this could have on claimant mesothelioma sufferers, such cases were exempted until a review had taken place.
The review was carried out in 2013 but the Commons justice committee described it as “maladroit and unsatisfactory” and called on the government to start again.
It also criticised the government for concluding a one-sided discussion agenda with the Association of British Insurers (ABI) which they kept from claimants.
The committee said they appear to have “had no intention of supplying us with this document as part of our inquiry.”
Asbestos support groups yesterday welcomed the committee’s report and backed its call for the government to halt the changes until a proper review has been conducted.
Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum vice-chairman Doug Jewell, who gave evidence to the committee, said: “We welcome the justice committee report which calls for a proper review as required by S48 Laspo.
“We said all along that the government review is a sham and is not the review that Parliament, or claimants, expected.
“The government must now respect the wishes of Parliament and satisfy the expectations of mesothelioma sufferers and their families that a fair review will be conducted.”
Construction union Ucatt general secretary Steve Murphy, whose members are among the most likely to come into contact with deadly asbestos fibres, said: “The justice committee’s findings should be welcomed by anyone who believes in fairness for asbestos victims. The government has been caught in bed with the insurance industry.
“The government’s proposals were the latest in a long line of policies where they have backed the insurance industry against the victims of asbestos, whose health has been damaged through no fault of their own.”