My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (John Hutton) has made the following Statement.
On 16 May I announced that my department and the Association of British Insurers (ABI), the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), and the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) had agreed to work together to identify urgently ways in which we can speed the settlement of claims for those suffering from mesothelioma. I said that I would report on progress before Parliament rises for the Summer Recess.
More stakeholders have also been involved in this work, such as the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) and we have kept other interested parties informed.
Since then, the Government have introduced amendments to the Compensation Bill to reverse the effects of the Law Lords’ ruling on Barker v Corus. This would have caused delays in resolving claims and made it more difficult for mesothelioma sufferers to recover full compensation. We are changing the law to make it easier for them to get full compensation as quickly as possible.
These new provisions would also enable certain changes to be made to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, which should considerably speed up payment of claims to mesothelioma victims and produce a fair outcome for insurers.
Today I announce interim measures to speed up current claims handling for mesothelioma sufferers. I am also confirming that we will put in place a long-term solution. This work will start now and I will provide a further update on progress in the autumn. We are committed to having a full dialogue and we will invite comments from all interested parties.
Looking forward, we have identified a number of interim measures that can be implemented relatively quickly and will speed up the settlement of claims across the UK:
our partners are developing a Standard Claim Letter that should be in place by October;
we are drafting a leaflet for those diagnosed with mesothelioma to explain the help available to them and where to find it;
in July, the DWP will clarify with claims handlers best practice for ensuring priority for industrial injuries disablement benefits for those with mesothelioma;
also in July, the DWP will work with Revenue and Customs to address tracing employer records more quickly;
to support the code of practice for tracing employers' liability compulsory insurance (ELCI) policies, the ABI will introduce a phone inquiries helpline in the autumn and will issue guidance on how to get the best out of the code;
we will review the code of practice for tracing ELCI policies to ensure that the code is comprehensive and has the confidence of users;
the ABI will spread best practice within the wider insurance industry with a claims handling best practice guide; and
partners will consider further public awareness activity to encourage claimants to use qualified, experienced legal practitioners when making a claim.
We will continue to work with our partners to ensure that these short-term outcomes are delivered quickly as we develop options for future change.