I read with dismay the distorted view of the insurance industry's role at the recent, and very successful, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Mesothelioma Summit that Patrick Walsh portrayed in his letter (Letters, 22 March).
The ABI, and its members, have been working closely with the DWP, not just in the run-up to the summit, but over the past year, to ensure that we are doing all we can to help claimants suffering from mesothelioma receive compensation as quickly and easily as is possible. The Pensions Secretary, John Hutton, stated that he was pleased with this pro-active approach, which has already achieved a great deal.
As I stated at the summit, the industry is committed to ensuring that insurers pay fair compensation quickly where liability can be established. Much of the work we have undertaken over the past year has been in partnership with the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, and together we have drafted a pre-action protocol, which would ensure that an early interim payment is made to claimants.
There are still some issues to resolve, but ABI members are already working to the spirit of the protocol to ensure that they are doing all they can for current claimants.
It is completely wrong to assert that my only concern was the clawback of payments from government funds. The point I made was that insurers are under pressure from parts of government to ensure premiums are kept low for businesses, but at the same time other costs, traditionally paid by the state, are being shifted on to insurers. This will, inevitably, mean a rise in premiums at some point, as insurers will be paying out more money.
Setting up an employers' liability (EL) database would not trace a single extra historic policy. The ABI runs a successful EL tracing code, into which we are putting extra resource to ensure that all policies which can be found, are found.
Our members trace quickly and effectively. Setting up a database would be a costly and lengthy distraction, and would do nothing to address the issue of lost records, or those insureds which wrote EL business historically but are not ABI members. Again, this was the point I made at the summit, which Patrick ignores.
Finally, I would like to point out, not for the first time, that the insurance industry did not initiate the Barker case.
Barker was a government-run appeal.
Nick Starling, Director of general insurance, ABI