Considered in Grand Committee
That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers’ Compensation) (Payment of Claims) (Amendment) Regulations 2012.
Relevant document: 41st Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend, Lord Freud, I will also speak to the draft Mesothelioma Lump Sum Payments (Conditions and Amounts) (Amendment) Regulations 2012.
It is a requirement that I confirm to the Committee that these provisions are compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, and I am happy to do so. The purpose of these two regulations is to increase the amounts of lump sum compensation paid under the Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers' Compensation) Act 1979, and the 2008 mesothelioma scheme set up by the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008. The increased amounts will be paid to those who first satisfy the conditions of entitlement on or after 1 April 2012.
The earlier drafts of these regulations contained an error in one of the rates in the dependant tables. Had the error not been corrected, it would have meant that certain dependants could have received more than a sufferer in a very small number of cases. That cannot be right and so action was taken immediately the error was identified to withdraw the earlier regulations and correct that error.
Both schemes stand apart from the main social security benefits uprating procedure and there is no legislative requirement to make annual increases in the amounts payable under these two schemes. However, in recent years, increases to the amounts paid have been made in line with the rate of inflation, and the amounts payable for 2012 are being increased by the same rate that is being applied to social security benefits —that is, uprated by CPI—of 5.2 per cent.
Both schemes fulfil an important role in providing compensation where no civil action can be taken against an employer, the person responsible for the exposure to asbestos or one of the other listed agents. They also ensure that sufferers receive compensation while they can still benefit from it.
Noble Lords will know that improved health and safety procedures—
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
Noble Lords will know that improved health and safety procedures have now both restricted the use of asbestos and provided a safer environment for its handling. However, we are all aware of the legacy created by the common use of asbestos before its effects on people’s health were fully understood. The Government are confronting the results of that common practice by ensuring that financial compensation is available to those affected. Indeed, that is why both of these schemes were introduced.
It might help noble Lords if I briefly summarised the specific purpose of each scheme. The Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers Compensation) Act 1979, which for simplicity of pronunciation I shall abbreviate to the “1979 Act”, provides a lump sum compensation payment to those who suffer from one of the five dust-related respiratory diseases covered by the scheme and who are unable to claim damages from employers after they have gone out of business. In outline, the diseases covered are diffuse mesothelioma, bilateral diffuse pleural thickening, pneumoconiosis, byssinosis and primary carcinoma of the lung, if accompanied by asbestosis or bilateral diffuse pleural thickening. A claim can be made by a dependant if the sufferer has died before being able to make a claim.
A person who is injured or contracts an industrial disease as a result of their work may sue the employer for damages. However, the diseases covered by the 1979 Act are known as long-latency diseases as they take a long time to develop and may not be diagnosed for a very long time after exposure to the dust that caused the illness. This is particularly so for the asbestos-related diseases within the scheme, such as primary carcinoma of the lung or mesothelioma. In some cases, it may take up to 40 years between the original exposure and the linked disease. Given that length of time, noble Lords will not find it surprising that by the time diagnosis is made, the employer responsible may no longer exist. As a result, sufferers and their dependants can find it very difficult to undertake a successful civil action to obtain compensation and the 1979 Act was introduced to help such people.
The mesothelioma lump sum payments scheme was introduced under the last Government in 2008 to provide compensation to people who contracted mesothelioma but were unable to claim compensation under the 1979 Act because their exposure to asbestos was not due to their work or because the asbestos exposure was simply unidentified. Noble Lords may recall the case of the unfortunate woman who contracted mesothelioma from washing her husband’s work clothes. The 2008 scheme means that payments can be made urgently to mesothelioma sufferers at their time of greatest need. If a sufferer dies before making a claim, a 2008 scheme payment can be made to a dependent.
The annual incidence of mesothelioma continues to increase. There are currently over 2,300 deaths from the disease in men and women each year. When other asbestos-related deaths—mainly lung cancer and asbestosis—are added, it is likely that there are now over 4,000 asbestos-related deaths in total each year. While it is always difficult to forecast exact peaks, the latest available information suggests that mesothelioma deaths in men will continue to increase to a peak of around 2,100 deaths in 2016. It is more difficult to predict when deaths in women will peak but it is likely that this will occur after the peak in men, albeit at a lower level.
Payment levels under the 1979 Act scheme are based on the level of the disablement assessment and the age of the sufferer at the time that the disease is diagnosed. The highest amounts are paid to those who have been diagnosed at an early age and with the highest level of disablement. Under the 2008 scheme, as well as under the 1979 Act, all mesothelioma disablement assessments are made at the 100 per cent rate. This means that for someone suffering from mesothelioma the amount of payment under both schemes will vary only according to the age of the person at the time of diagnosis.
Over 50 per cent of claims under the 1979 Act are made in respect of mesothelioma, a particularly unpleasant and fatal disease, caused almost exclusively by exposure to asbestos. Those diagnosed with mesothelioma usually have a short life expectancy, generally between 12 and 18 months. It is common that the sufferer is severely disabled very soon after diagnosis. I am sure we all agree that no amount of money can ever compensate sufferers or their families for the damage caused by these diseases, but it is right that they receive financial compensation, and as quickly as possible. These regulations help ensure that the level of government compensation provided by both schemes maintains its value. I commend the increase of the payment scales to noble Lords and ask approval to implement them.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for his careful explanation of these two orders. There are one or two questions that I would like to put to him. First, he says that there is no statutory obligation to continue uprating these payments at the level that they have been in the past. I wonder what guarantee there is that, in the future, the percentage upratings that we are looking at now will continue to be maintained. If there is not any statutory obligation, how can the victims of these awful diseases come to the expectation that they will not be left in the lurch if there is some financial emergency and that, as with many other poor and vulnerable people, they will not be made to contribute some of the miserable pittance that they are awarded towards the repayment of the deficit that we all know is constantly in the Government’s mind?
My noble friend pointed to the legacy of these frightful diseases, which may continue to emerge for 40 years after the sufferer has first been in contact with the substance concerned, whether it be industrial dust or, in the case of mesothelioma, asbestos. Have the Government formed any estimate of the total cost of dealing with these diseases in terms of the compensation that will become available over the long tail that we expect to develop in the future? I was pleased to note from his speech that this peak will be reached for men in 2016, and for women a little bit later, but we know that thereafter sufferers will continue to emerge and some 60,000 of them are expected to be discovered at some point in the future.
My noble friend Lord Alton had hoped to have taken part in this debate but he had to leave for another meeting. He asked me to put to my noble friend that on 29 February our noble friend Lord McNally, answering a Question, said that:
“The Department for Work and Pensions has undertaken various initiatives to make it easier for claimants to trace their employers’ insurers. Discussions are being held with stakeholders to determine what more can be done for sufferers”.—[Official Report, 29/2/12; col. 1294.]
I appreciate that this is not directly concerned with the two orders but I would be grateful if my noble friend could elaborate on that and give the Grand Committee more information about what the Government now think can be done for sufferers and, in particular, how it can be made easier for them to trace their employers’ insurers.
As my noble friend has explained, under the 2008 scheme for victims of mesothelioma, compensation is payable to any person who contracts this disease without the need to establish a connection with any particular employer, or indeed any history of employment, as in the case he mentioned of the wife who contracted the disease through washing her husband’s overalls. This applies to anybody, whether or not they worked in an asbestos-related environment.
However, in the case of pneumoconiosis or silicosis, there is no compensation payable for the self-employed; for example, those who worked in the construction industry, where self-employment was very common in previous years. Perhaps my noble friend could say what it would cost to extend those same provisions to the victims of pneumoconiosis and silicosis so that they would be able to claim whether or not they could satisfy the Government that their disease was employment-related. I would be most grateful if my noble friend could deal with those questions.
My Lords, I will briefly intervene in this debate. I am thinking back to 1979, when the original legislation went through, and the number of different groups of workers, including slate quarrymen from my own constituency, who were failing to get compensation through action against ex-employers for the reason that, as the Minister mentioned, many of them had gone out of existence and there needed to be some safety net.
In a recent Question on the Floor of the House, I raised the issue of people who are suffering from diseases similar to pneumoconiosis that are endemic in slate quarrying, such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema, which have been recognised as an industrial disease associated with pneumoconiosis for coal miners but not for slate quarrymen. I realise that the diseases defined by the 1979 Act are five and that they are specific, but the ones additional to pneumoconiosis were brought in because they were associated with and arising from the work that was undertaken. I would be very grateful if this issue could be pursued further because, although I have had a reply from the noble Lord, Lord Freud, who gave the reason that I have outlined, the trade unions involved still feel that there is a group of workers, albeit a very small one, which is missing out by the way in which these matters are being interpreted.
I touch on the mesothelioma dimension. As the 2008 scheme tries to gain compensation recovery following the payments out, it would be interesting to know what the Government’s line is with regard to the possibility of the legal aid legislation that is going through now having a direct and negative effect on this. The numbers of people that we are talking about are some 2,000, 3,000 or perhaps even 4,000 a year, and over the next 30 years some 40,000 people may have claims. So it is very important that there is some transparency in this and, therefore, I hope that the Minister will be in a position to give some indication of the thinking on that matter.
I support the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Wigley. I thank the Minister for his patient and dignified introduction and acknowledge the work of my noble friend on the Front Bench, who had a splendid record of caring about these matters when for a number of years he was a Minister. I know that he was well served by his Civil Service team, some of whom are present today.
These regulations have their origins in the social, economic, industrial and political history of Britain, and they are of very specific interest to the people of Wales. I do not think that we can ever let these regulations just go through, although one wholeheartedly supports the proposals promulgated today by the Minister. We should acknowledge what the regulations reflect; much of our industrial and economic history, and the consequences of that history, is considerable. My noble friend Lady Golding is present in this Committee, and I draw attention if I may to the biography of her distinguished father, who was a miner and government Minister as well as a man of south Wales of huge stature. In his biography there is a great deal of detail, which presages what the Minister proposes and which we most happily accept. My noble friend knows in great detail the south Wales coal-field—what is left of it—what it meant and what happened there.
From my own experience in north Wales, as late as 1970 there were 12 collieries, which disappeared very quickly. But there was a considerable mining industry in much of Wales, north, south and in the west as well as the east. We should never forget the contributions made by the coal industry to prosperity and provision generally for the majority of the people in the nation.
The estate where I grew up was on a levelled-out coal tip, and such ragamuffins as lived on that estate would go out to play in the fields and, perhaps once a year, find a new shaft that related to the old mines. To find out how deep the shaft was you would heave a brick in it and count how many seconds before the splash. That is the culture, background and origin of the regulations, and the mother of Parliaments should never forget whence they came. And so it is relevant for Members to come to your Lordships’ committee and make a few points. With regard to the quarrymen—and I was glad to hear the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Wigley—I would like to mention particularly some names, because these regulations have their beginnings in the work of Lord Cledwyn Hughes, Lord Harold Walker, Sir Elwyn Jones, who lived in Anglesey, and Mr Tom Jones, who was a Transport and General Workers’ Union official, and is still about. Also, the then Welsh Office in the late 1970s was heavily involved in bringing about an introduction of some redress for quarrymen. It is the case that the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, and his compatriot, the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, were also involved.
The Government of the day was led by James Callaghan. I had the honour to serve in it, and having mentioned some distinguished names with regard to measures for the quarrymen, I had a small part in the origins of help for the quarrymen. In so far as I have mentioned names, there is parliamentary history of a kind, rooted in a culture and an industry in Wales.
May I say to the Minister—because he is more than a good sport—that if he was not too busy one weekend or one day, he might visit a quarry in north-west Wales, in Blaenau Ffestiniog, called Llechwedd? It is currently a museum of a kind, but if a Minister, or a noble Lord, or a noble Baroness, were to step into Llechwedd, and just listen and feel in the dark and the damp again, they would be struck about the need for these regulations. That particular quarry required the poor workman to bring his own candles to illuminate his slaving away. In that quarry you see how the prospect of injury was ever present.
Again, as a witness to the very warp and woof of what the regulations refer to, it is a very powerful reflection of what was ordinary work for thousands of people not that long ago. To give further verisimilitude to what I propose is the fact that there was a strike in the mid-1980s. I had the duty—perhaps honour—to address those 50 to 55 men in this industrial dispute. It was winter time and there was snow on the ground. It was in Blaenau Ffestiniog, which is a windswept, rainy place, of great beauty when the sun shines, but it needs the sun. Here I saw the end, almost, of a great industry. The industry at its height sent its product all over the world, and many of London’s roofs are covered with slate from the north Wales quarries.
We need to consider the humanity here. The last dying kick, perhaps, was that strike; the industry now is small but specialised—it is expert, and it is managing.
With regard to asbestosis, Lord Walker—Harold Walker—who was in your Lordships’ House for some years, was Minister of State in the Department of Employment. He drew me aside, knowing my interest in working for the quarrymen, and told me of the tragedy at Hebden Bridge. Harold Walker, as he then was in the Commons, had been a craftsman in a previous life. These poor workers—this is a health and safety point—made snowballs of this terrifying blue asbestos. It was not known about—that is what they did. It was quite right of the Minister to indicate the various lists and to make his own personal statement of some dignity and caring. When these regulations come forward year by year, I do not think that we should just receive them. We should acknowledge what they truly mean.
We owe so much to the miners and the quarrymen, and as the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, suggested, we need to do all we can to help out those few who are still missing out. I thank the Minister for his remarks.
I speak as somebody who lost a stepfather and a sister-in-law to these diseases, but mainly I speak because I produced a report on fatalities in the construction industry for the previous Government. Although my remit was to look closely at fatalities on site, I also saw the figures for disease and the figures that the noble Lord mentioned. At that stage, I think there were something like 4,500 deaths a year from lung-related diseases. This is a silent killer of the most horrendous proportions. The noble Lord indicated the lack of future for so many.
My concern is that the profile should be higher. What work is the Health and Safety Executive doing to improve that profile? Is any more research being done? I know that technically I am probably out of order on these regulations but, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said, this is extremely important. Silicosis is going to come up further down the track. Every worker you see in London carving up the corner of a pavement and not using a water spray or wearing a mask over his face may well be dead in 15 years’ time. It does not take as long—it does not take 40 years. We could do an awful lot more. I know that these regulations are about people who have already contracted these fatal diseases, but we should try to raise their profile and to do more to prevent them because some of these killers are still there. It not a question of them peaking in 2016. Some other industrial diseases are coming along, and I do not believe that sufficient work is being done on them.
I have a question, and I understand if the Minister does not have the answer immediately. Could some inquiries be made about what work is being done by the Health and Safety Executive and about what can be done to improve these diseases’ profile and their prevention?
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley. I know he has stepped into the breach at fairly short notice because the noble Lord, Lord Freud, is unwell. We send our best wishes to him. I thank noble Lords who have contributed, particularly my noble friend Lord Jones. He is absolutely right; we should not see these orders each year just as a technical uprating. They are a chance to reflect on their history and what they mean. My noble friend, together with the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, were, in my noble friend’s terms, participants in and witnesses to what went on in those communities. People of my generation, brought up in the relative safety of the south-east, only read about it and listened to it. It is a good opportunity to remind ourselves what we owe to those mining and quarrying communities.
As the Minister said, there is no statutory obligation to uprate these compensation amounts so I would say that a CPI uprating—so far as it goes—is welcome. Had the noble Lord, Lord Freud, been in post, we might have engendered a bit of a debate about the difference between RPI and CPI and which is the more robust statistic. I will, however, forgo that on this occasion. I am sure that the Minister will be grateful for that. We aligned the payments under the 2008 Act with the 1979 Act a couple of years ago; they were not aligned when they were introduced. That was one aspiration. There was another aspiration to narrow the gap between the amounts due to claimants and the amounts due to dependants. I should be grateful if the Minister could tell us whether that is still an aspiration of the Government.
As we have heard, the concept is that the 2008 scheme was to be funded out of compensation recoveries—compensation from civil cases. Therefore, can we have an update on the levels of recovery; what percentage of 2008 scheme payments are covered by this; and what the estimate over the CSR period is? I follow the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, on the question that he posed on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Alton—and, indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Wigley—about how this works with changes that have been made to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill. My understanding—I have not followed the intricacies of that Bill in great detail—is that there are government concerns about conditional fee arrangements being exploited, and that 25 per cent of success fees will, in future, be met out of the compensation payments. I think that is the proposition.
Therefore, my question to the Minister is: what will be the impact on the compensation recovery arrangements that help to fund the 2008 scheme if there will be that reduction in compensation recoveries? Presumably that will impact, at some stage, on the levels of compensation that will be due under the 2008 scheme. Indeed, it depends on the relationship between the overall compensation in individual cases and the level of compensation under the 2008 Act scheme, but it adds a challenge for the Government. Why should they go down that path in these circumstances as, in a sense, they risk taking the hit on these deductions themselves? I should be grateful if the Minister would give us a read across to what is happening in that legislation and what it means for compensation levels going forward.
I hope that the Minister gave us the projected numbers and what was going to happen in the upcoming years. We have discussed progress on the Employers’ Liability Tracing Office—the ELTO—before, which I think was, again, the point being pursued by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. We know that the noble Lord, Lord Freud, has previously, expressly taken a direct interest in that. The FSA consultation proposes that the ELTO cover all employer liability policies—entered into, renewed or for which claims were made—on or after 1 November 1999. However, the FSA policy statement requires only the recording of new policies— I think from April 2012. Therefore, what is the progress on back-filling the pursuit of those policies to 1999? Clearly, people’s ability to trace those policies is particularly important. We know the challenges posed, as the Minister and others have expressed, by long latency of the conditions with which we are faced.
I also ask the Minister whether any progress has been made on ELI, which will be the insurance bureau of last resort—a parallel to the Motor Insurance Bureau—so that when policies could not be traced there would be a collective compensation pot. There was a consultation document on that in, I think, the first quarter of 2010. I sought an update on progress before and would be grateful if the Minister could let us know the current position.
My noble friend Lady Donaghy talked in particular about her work in looking at the construction sector, and the importance of and the debt we owe to the Health and Safety Executive. We are at the moment in a rather ironic situation where the Government are consulting on asbestos regulations because the Commission has challenged the status quo about whether that was an effective translation of what it required. We have a Government now, thankfully I think, supporting the previous Government’s position on this. We usually hear that the EU is all about gold-plating and the UK Government follows suit.
I also take the opportunity to ask about the HSE’s resources. In particular what is happening on the proposed charging regime for the field operations directive, which was an integral part of its funding arrangements for the current CSR period? We are, as I say, indebted to the HSE for the tremendous work it does. My noble friend Lord Jones made the point that 20 years ago people did not realise that asbestos was dangerous. They played with it. It was a source of amusement. The research, work and preventive stuff that the HSE does is a route to making sure that history does not repeat itself, although we are still living, as are those tens of thousands of people the noble Lord referred to, with the challenges of the past.
Finally, given that these orders are all about the risks that workers and their families take, and the terrible suffering that comes from these conditions, can I just put it in the context of what is now International Workers’ Memorial Day? It was officially recognised a couple of years ago but has been marked in one way or another for many years. Can the Minister give us an update on what the Government are proposing to do to mark and acknowledge that day? Perhaps in closing I can remind him of the slogan that goes with that:
“Remember the dead and fight for the living”.
Perhaps I can start by thanking all noble Lords who have participated in this brief debate for the sensitive way in which they have done it. As we have discussed, we are talking about some very terrible diseases and these things need to be approached in this way.
A large number of questions have been asked. Let me see how many of them I can tackle now. If I cannot, I hope noble Lords will forgive me if I write afterwards. My noble friend Lord Avebury pointed out that there was no statutory obligation to maintain the level of payments and asked what the Government’s position was. I think the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, also referred to that. The Government have no plans to make any changes to these two schemes. We review them regularly to ensure they remain well targeted and we will continue to consider uprating as appropriate.
My noble friend asked what is being done to support people who need to trace employers’ liability insurance. I appreciate that the Government’s response to the consultation is taking longer to publish than many had hoped. However, the issues raised are complex and we remain in active discussions with all the stakeholders to make sure we get this right. We are still carefully considering all the issues and we will bring forward our proposals in due course.
My noble friend asked whether there was a long-term estimate of the cost over what he described as the “long tail”. We have not estimated the cost to the Government of these two schemes over the long tail. If I can find anything out from my noble friend, I will write to him, but I am not aware that we have made estimates. He asked about the possibility of extending the 1979 Act where diseases cannot be traced back to employers. I have to inform the Committee that there are no plans to extend the coverage of the 1979 Act to those whose disease was not covered by their employment. The 2008 scheme covers those people who contracted mesothelioma outside work, but mesothelioma is a special case because of the very short life expectancy of sufferers.
My noble friend referred to what can be done to make it easier to trace insurers specifically. The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, referred to that as well. The Employers’ Liability Tracing Office has replaced the previous, voluntary, employers’ liability code of practice tracing service, which was in place from 1999 and helped around 20,000 claimants to trace their employers’ liability insurer to pursue a claim. The ELTO service has been introduced by the insurance industry to make it easier to search for employers’ liability policies using a central database containing all new and renewed employers’ liability insurance policies from April 2011, policies from before that date that have new claims made against them, and policies that were identified through the previous tracing service.
The noble Lord, Lord Wigley, asked whether the schemes should be enlarged to encompass diseases not covered by the 1979 scheme. We will listen to any evidence and views about other diseases and jobs that interested parties think should be covered by the 1979 scheme.
The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, asked about the position on addressing the difference between the sufferers’ and dependants’ rates. The Government think it is right that available resources are targeted principally on sufferers of the disease. However, the Government also recognise the plight of dependants and that suffering is not limited only to first-hand sufferers. Two years ago, dependants’ amounts were increased by up to £5,000, which meant that for some dependants there is now no difference between the amounts paid. We continue to review these schemes regularly to ensure that they remain well targeted.
Could I ask the noble Lord a question put to him earlier? As he knows, there is still a large gap between the payments to living victims of mesothelioma and those made to their estates after they have died. For example, the payment to a sufferer aged 67 is £17,416, while the payment to his dependants if he dies at that age is only £7,915. There is still an enormous gap between these two figures. There was a commitment by the previous Government to reduce and, over a period, to eliminate this differential. Could my noble friend say whether it is the Government’s policy to continue with that diminution of the gap and, if so, whether there is any date by which they hope the process will be completed?
My Lords, as I have made clear, there is an issue about the availability of resources. We think it is very important that they are targeted principally on sufferers of the disease, but we recognise the plight of dependants. That is why, under the previous Government, dependants’ amounts were increased by up to £5,000. If I can add to that from my notes I will do so, but I will possibly do so in writing, if I may.
When I came to the points of the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, I meant to thank him for his good wishes to my noble friend Lord Freud. I will send on his message. Closely allied to that is my thanks to him for letting me off the hook on a debate about CPI and RPI.
He also asked about progress on the employers’ liability insurance bureau. We understand the urgency of the situation. After all avenues have been exhausted, injured people are still unable to find an insurer to claim against. We are continuing to work hard to see what can be done for them, but I am not in a position to go further than that today.
The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, asked about compensation recoveries forecast over the CSR period. We estimate compensation recoveries for 2012-13 as being in the region of £21.8 million. That is for both schemes. I will write with further information if I can find it.
Can the noble Lord tell me what the total estimated projected cost for the 2008 compensation scheme is for the same year? I am just trying to identify the gap between recoveries and the amount.
I may be able to come to that in a moment. The noble Lord asked about the HSE charging regime. Unfortunately, I am not able to answer him now but I will write with that information. He asked about our plans for Workers’ Memorial Day. Ministers are considering what official action would be appropriate for 2012. However, the focus of the day, as I understand has always been the case, should be on local events organised by individuals and organisations to commemorate those who have died, been injured or made ill through their work.
If the Minister could make a positive statement that the memorial day is a good day, that would help enormously. When I was the Member of Parliament for West Dunbartonshire, we had that event for four or five years. It is important that a message on that goes out from the Government. Also, given the Scottish experience, will the Minister consider what has happened in the Scottish Parliament regarding relatives so that the sufferers do not have the iniquitous choice of having to take their case through court or die before their relatives can get compensation? Further, can the Minister ensure that the court cases are speeded up? There was a huge problem in Scotland until the Lord President acceded to the request to have a designated judge for these cases who would become familiar with the procedures and speed them through the courts, thereby having a more humane way of compensating for this terrible disease.
I thank the noble Lord for that intervention. I agree with him and I should like it to go on the record that I think it is a good thing that such a day is marked in an appropriate way. As regards his comments about what is going on in Scotland, perhaps I may take them back to the department. That is a helpful suggestion and I thank him for it.
The noble Lords, Lord McKenzie and Lord Wigley, referred to the legal aid Bill and a perceived conflict between the two situations. General damages for things such as pain, suffering and loss of amenity will be increased by 10 per cent. The success fee that the lawyer can charge will be capped at 25 per cent of the claimant’s damages, excluding any damages referable to future care or future losses. This will help to protect the claimant’s damages, as well as any recoveries that the Government might make. Further to that, abolishing the recoverability of success fees and “after the event” insurance premium is the most important element of the reform package for civil litigation and represents a fundamental change to conditional fee agreements. This change will mean that claimants have an interest in the costs being incurred on their behalf, and it will introduce proportion and fairness to the current conditional fee arrangement regime. I appreciate that this is a sensitive area and we will be considering its effect.
I am sorry to press the noble Lord but this is something which is quite current given that there is going to be a debate tomorrow on the Bill. Have I correctly understood what the noble Lord has said? Do the Government recognise that these proposals mean that the compensation of recoveries is going to be reduced by the effect of these fees, or are the fees otherwise going to have to be met out of the 2008 compensation?
I shall have to get back to the noble Lord on that. I appreciate that we are on a rather tight timetable and will do what I can. He asked about the cost of both schemes for next year and I can give him a figure of £53.1 million.
Perhaps the noble Lord will split that for me between the two schemes.
It is distinctly possible but I am not sure that I can do it now. The noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, asked what can be done to improve the public profile of these diseases and she made an important point. Building on the success of the hidden killer campaign, which targeted trades people who are the group of workers most at risk from exposure to asbestos, the HSE continues to warn against the dangers of all types of asbestos, working in partnership with unions, industry, suppliers, training providers and victim support groups. A recent example is the training pledge whereby organisations providing asbestos awareness training volunteered to supply more than 13,500 hours of free training for trades people who may come across asbestos in their day-to-day work. The noble Baroness is right. We are still discovering asbestos today.
The HSE is currently considering options for a further campaign along the lines of hidden killer. However, that will depend on the availability of funding, and decisions on what such a campaign might entail have yet to be made. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Jones, for his contribution, which brought the whole matter to life for me and helped us to see how terrible these diseases are.
As regards splitting the figure as required by the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, under the 2008 scheme the figure is £9.2 million, and under the 1979 scheme the figure is £43.9 million.
Does that mean that the recovery levels are double the 2008 compensation payment allowance?
I shall have to write but will do so as quickly as I can. As regards any other questions raised by noble Lords, I will write what is becoming an expanding letter. I thank all noble Lords who have participated. As I hope I have emphasised, the Government recognise that these two schemes perform an important role. I commend the uprating of the payment scales and ask for the approval of noble Lords to implement them.