The prime minister has announced that the government hopes to introduce new law to overturn the recent decision of the House of Lords on the amount of compensation payable to victims of the deadly asbestos cancer mesothelioma.
At the GMB union congress in Blackpool, Tony Blair responded to union calls for the government to change the law to give mesothelioma sufferers and their families full compensation.
Families of workers who contracted cancer after working with asbestos vowed to fight for a change in the law after the House of Lords ruled in May that employer liability for compensation should be restricted.
The Lords upheld three test appeals in which it was argued that damages awards should be limited in cases where the employee in question had worked for several employers, none of which could be specifically blamed for the onset of the disease. The decision could save employers millions of pounds in compensation payouts.
Blair told delegates at the conference: “I regret that [House of Lords] judgment. I’m looking at the moment to see the best opportunity for us to change it. If we can change it, we will. I hope to announce something on this in a couple of weeks.”
Ian McFall, head of asbestos litigation at Thompsons Solicitors, which represented one of the families in the House of Lords, said mesothelioma sufferers and their families needed swift and decisive action to restore the law to what it was before the House of Lords decision.
“Until that happens many more deserving families will face receiving less than their full entitlement to compensation,” he said.
Mesothelioma is a cancer that affects more than 1,800 people in the UK each year, with the number of fatalities expected to rise for at least the next 10 years. The majority of people diagnosed with mesothelioma developed the conditions following exposure to asbestos during the course of their working life.