A Government scheme to help workers with terminal cancer must be subject to robust independent scrutiny, lawyers have warned ahead of a House of Lords debate today (Wednesday).
The Mesothelioma Bill, currently going through Parliament, will create a special scheme to help some workers with the fatal lung cancer mesothelioma to claim damages to which they are entitled, but which they cannot currently receive because their former employers’ insurance details cannot be found.
The scheme is to be funded by a levy on insurance companies, but it has emerged during parliamentary debate that an insurer-led body could be appointed to run the scheme. And that, say lawyers, could generate a serious conflict of interest, with the dying worker caught in the middle.
“This scheme has much to commend it,” said Karl Tonks from the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL). “But where is the independence if an insurance body is appointed to run the scheme, and insurers are also funding it? Where is the protection for the victim?
“The scheme is to be established by the Secretary of State but this does not guarantee long-term consistent, impartial oversight of its day-to-day business,” he went on. “If the decision is made to allow insurers to run the scheme, a new body must be established to review its work and to ensure it is operating fairly and in the best interests of the victim. The review body can then report to the Secretary of State who should then report to Parliament on an annual basis.”