Bill is ‘unfair’ to some victims nof asbestos

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EAST Antrim MP Sammy Wilson has criticised a Bill which means some victims of asbestos exposure will lose compensation.

Last week saw the final stage of the Westminster Bill which will provide compensation for people who contracted Mesothelioma because of exposure to asbestos, but had to date been denied compensation because their employers had gone out of business, or their insurance could not be traced.

Mr Wilson said hundreds of people in Northern Ireland had the disease which “ends in a terrible death”.

He added: “Many have been compensated, but a large number were denied compensation because their employer no longer exists and insurance records could not be traced.

“This Bill, which applies across UK will set up a fund financed by a levy on the insurance companies and £47m from the Government.

While welcoming the legislation, the DUP representative said it was unacceptable that these victims would only get on average 75 per cent of the compensation they were entitled to, despite the fact that the insurance industry had collected premiums to cover full payment.

“Secondly,” he added, “over 50 per cent of those affected by exposure to asbestos would not be covered by this Bill and only those who lodged a claim after July, 2012 would be eligible.

“The insurance industry has been let off lightly by the Government, which seems to have given into their bullying. I know the pressure which this industry can apply, having experienced the same when bringing forward legislation to compensate those who had pleural plaques during my time as Finance Minister.

“In that case the insurance industry also threatened court challenges, but backed down.

“It is a pity on this issue the minister has blinked first, leaving many who suffer from this terrible disease which inevitably ends their lives in a terrible way, without cover.”

DUP-backed amendments to raise compensation levels and extend the time period to cover claims from 2010 were defeated.

Mr Wilson commented: “Whilst this Bill is flawed, it does improve the lot of many, especially in the greater Belfast area, who up to this point have had no hope of any compensation.”