Leading industrial disease law firm, Thompsons Solicitors, welcomes the conclusions of the Justice Select Committee which lambasts the government’s handling of a review affecting victims of asbestos-related cancer, mesothelioma.
The Committee of MPs has today (01 August 2014) published a report criticising a government review which ended the exemption for mesothelioma sufferers from paying legal costs associated with mesothelioma claims.
When The Legal Aid, Sentencing & Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) was introduced in April 2013, Parliament exempted mesothelioma claims from the Act's requirement that claimants pay legal costs and called on the Government to conduct a review and publish a report on the likely effect of the LASPO Act on mesothelioma claimants.
In December 2013, The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) announced its decision to end the LASPO exemption from mesothelioma claims, and in March 2014 published a report containing a cost benefit analysis seeking to justify that decision. The Justice Select Committee set up an inquiry to scrutinise the review.
The Committee castigated the government’s approach, with Chairman Sir Alan Beith MP branding the process as “unsatisfactory on a number of levels”. The report found that the government review had not been conducted “in a thorough and even handed way” and described the “shoehorning” of part of the review into a wider consultation on the claims process as “maladroit”.
The Committee has recommended that when sufficient time has elapsed for the effects of the LASPO changes to be assessed, the government should conduct a further review by way of consultation informed by an updated cost-benefit analysis.
In response to evidence given at the Committee hearing by Thompsons’ ‘Head of Asbestos Litigation, Ian McFall, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) admitted that they had struck a confidential agreement with government about mesothelioma in July 2012. The Committee was critical of government policy having been shaped by this agreement with insurers which was neither open nor transparent.
Commenting on the Justice Select Committee report McFall said:
“The recommendation that government undertake a proper, timely and evidence based review is the right way forward and will be welcomed by mesothelioma sufferers and support groups. The Committee’s inquiry has shown, as we believed, that the government’s review was flawed from its inception and was influenced unduly and covertly by the insurance industry.
“The government must avoid repeating the same error of judgment by rushing into another premature and inept review. Instead it should, as the Committee recommends, allow sufficient time to elapse - I would say another 3 or 4 years - before conducting a proper, transparent and thorough review when adequate evidence is available to assess the likely effect of LASPO on mesothelioma claims. The victims and their families deserve nothing less.”
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