Lord Freud, the minister responsible for steering the Mesothelioma Bill through Parliament, was given a hard time by peers yesterday (Wednesday) when the Bill was debated in Grand Committee.
There was heated debate about what is perceived to be an arbitrary start date for the scheme of 25 July 2012, and lack of sympathy for the minister’s view that an earlier start date would cost a huge amount for the insurers who are to fund the scheme. Lord Howarth of Newport said “for decades, they coined money. They made a very great deal of money, particularly in insuring against long-latency diseases, because they did not have to pay out for such a long period”.
Peers also argued robustly for the extension of the scheme to self-employed workers and to people who were in the same household as someone exposed to asbestos. There was also argument about proposals to restrict payments to an average of 70 per cent of normal civil awards as an incentive for people to trace their former employers’ insurers. Baroness Donaghy remarked “if we are talking about incentivisation, I would argue for 130 per cent instead of 70 per cent because that might make some people try a little harder to find the paperwork.”
This was the Bill’s first day in Grand Committee, where there was no voting on amendments. The second day will be on Monday, 10 June.