As an attendee of the Department for Work and Pensions meeting recently, I should like to say that the attitude taken by the ABI representative was deeply disappointing.
His only concern appeared to be a loss of revenue to the insurance industry from the claw back of payments made from government funds to sufferers of mesothelioma under the compensation recovery system.
These payments have been an undeserved windfall for the industry ever since the courts decided the case of Ballantine v Newalls Insulation. It is only right that they be repaid to the state so that funds are available to other sufferers who cannot sue for compensation.
It was also proposed at the meeting that a national database of employers' liability (EL) insurers be set up. The ABI's response was that it would be too expensive to set up. At the same time the ABI representative indicated that the ABI search system did not cover all insurers of asbestos policies, yet advocated this scheme as the alternative to a national database of EL policies.
Surely, it would be appropriate for the insurance industry to support the creation of a database if the ABI search system does not reach all insurers, so that an unfair burden would not fall on ABI members?
Also the £14m windfall payments since 1979, or the savings made since Rothwell v ICI was decided, or funds such as the £4bn which Norwich Union identified as being available for distribution to shareholders are more than enough to cover the costs of a database.
Or are funds only available for projects to prevent/slow down the payment of damages to mesothelioma sufferers, such as the money spent on Fairchild and Barker, and the current dispute on the trigger for EL polices?
Is it not time for a positive response from everyone involved, be it government , lawyers , the courts or insurers, to ensure speedy and fair compensation for victims of mesothelioma?
That was the objective of the meeting yesterday and a number of positive results were achieved. Please report them as well as the compensation recovery changes.
Patrick Walsh, Partner – PI, Pannone