A first reading of an amendment to the provision of a funding levy as part of the Mesothelioma Bill 2014, took place on the 17th July in the House of Lords, with a general debate on all aspects of the Bill to be announced.

When the Bill was passed in January, it was much criticised for limiting mesothelioma compensation eligibility to 75 per cent of a claim and to only those victims diagnosed with the condition after 25th July 2012. Sufferers of other types of asbestosis disease were excluded from eligibility to apply, and a further worrying omission was the “sustainable future funding” component, which would levy a research contribution from the insurance industry.

Insufficient funding

Concern over the lack of provision for funding was significant enough among MPs across the House to prompt a signed letter, which emphasised the importance of increasing mesothelioma research. Former LibDem MP for Liverpool Edge Hill, Lord Alton pointed out that “while researchers have no shortage of ideas towards finding a cure, there was not enough funding”, adding “small sums would make a huge difference to the future of mesothelioma research in the UK and could potentially lead to cures, which would save tens of thousands of lives.”

The British Lung Foundation (BLF) have also expressed their concern that provision of £350 million for the compensation scheme passed under the Mesothelioma Bill, which came into force in July would be insufficient. The BLF warn that as confirmed mesothelioma cases continue, the real amount needed for compensation would need to be £11 billion. The organisation further points to funding for research as the real key to reducing suffering for mesothelioma patients.

Inclusion of research supplement

The proposed amendment specifically refers to the insertion of a clause which, “must provide for the levy to include a research supplement … as percentage of the amount set for the purpose specified … and “may not exceed 1 per cent of that amount.”

In addition, the amendment also requires that:

“Before making regulations in respect of the research supplement, the Secretary of State must consult-

(a) insurers
(b) medical charities and research foundations
(c) other persons or bodies who the Secretary of State thinks are likely to be interested.”

Undoubtedly, the passage of the Mesothelioma Bill amendment through both the upper and lower houses will be watched by those concerned over the impact that asbestos-related disease continues to exert over people’s lives, some thirty years after the first asbestos ban was introduced.

Rise in mesothelioma fatality

In recent years, technological advances and clinical techniques have made significant leaps forward in our asbestos awareness and understanding of genetic influence and cell/ protein behaviour, yet the cure for the fatal disease has yet to be found.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) say more than 22,470 deaths were reported in the UK in the first ten years of the 21st century, rising by 16.5 per cent from 1,967 deaths in 2010 to 2,291 deaths in 2011. At least 4,700 asbestos disease related deaths continue to be recorded every year, and around 28,500 deaths are expected over the next ten years at least.