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Mesothelioma Sufferers (Access to Justice)

Volume 532: debated on Tuesday 13 September 2011

6. What recent representations he has received from people with mesothelioma and mesothelioma support groups on the potential implications of his proposed reforms to legal aid. (71311)

Legal aid for personal injury claims was abolished by the previous Administration in 1999, so I take the hon. Gentleman to be referring to the proposed reforms to civil litigation funding and costs, and will answer on that basis. I have received several letters from MPs and others about the potential impact on mesothelioma sufferers. The Government’s package of reforms includes a number of measures to help claimants. We believe that valid claims will still be brought under the new regime but will be resolved at more proportionate cost.

Mesothelioma victims are often in the last year of their life by the time they are diagnosed and many are already too ill to seek redress. The proposals to prevent their being able to recover afterwards from the insurance premiums will mean a big up-front cost for many people. Derbyshire asbestos support team is very concerned that they and their families will miss out on access to justice because of these proposals. What can the Minister do to ensure that those people, who are very ill and who do not have trivial claims, have access to justice?

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. We recognise that reducing the time from diagnosis of the disease to settlement of the claim without the need for litigation would be preferable. Proposals to introduce a scheme that will incorporate a fixed time scale and cost each stage of the claim so that only the most complex cases reach litigation are being considered.