Oliver Heald, shadow secretary of state for constitutional affairs

Leading Tory Oliver Heald threw his weight behind the ABI's Care and Compensation initiative arguing that the personal injury compensation system is in serious need of reform.

He said: "Not only is the current system highly complex, it is adversarial and time-consuming. It is very expensive. And all too often, it encourages weak claims to the detriment of legitimate claims."

He went on the campaign trail saying the system needs to be fair and work in the interests of legitimate claimants.

"The ABI's proposals aim to encourage the early resolution of claims before they reach the courts. This must be right. By settling claims early - and providing early rehabilitation where appropriate - we can avoid the lengthy and costly process of litigation," said Heald.

He highlighted how he believed common ground now extends across all parties.

"The government has talked of replacing the compensation culture with a 'culture of common sense'. I welcome this. If we are to improve the system, we must all work together."

But he warned that the government's Compensation Bill currently before parliament should not be considered a "silver bullet".

Heald said the two objectives of this legislation - to clarify the law of negligence and regulate claims management companies - are worthy of support and the reason why the Conservative Party has taken a constructive and positive approach to the Bill.

"We are working with the government to make the Bill as effective as it can be," said Heald.

But he added: "We would be wrong to see the Bill as some kind of silver bullet. Stephen Haddrill [of the ABI] was absolutely right when he described the Bill as modest. It makes some limited reforms.

"But - and again I echo what Stephen has said - the basic fact is that the problems identified by the ABI report will only be solved through far-reaching, comprehensive reform."

He called for more to be done to prevent unscrupulous claims farmers from exploiting the vulnerable, misleading the public, and making exaggerated claims.

But Heald was critical of the government's role in the recent Barker v Corus case which resulted from cases brought by the government.

"Some have questioned why the government was arguing for an outcome in that case, which it now finds so unpalatable. It is probably an example of where more 'joined-up government' was needed."

And he added: "The problem with simply reversing the Barker judgment, and doing no more, is that it does nothing to speed up compensation, to make things less adversarial or to give access to justice to those who cannot trace their employer or his insurer."

But he said that his party will go along with the government's decision to reverse the court decision.

"But this is not enough. The principles should be that victims of mesothelioma should be able to receive quick payment of compensation, and it should be dealt with out of court, if possible."

The disease is often dormant for 40 years, but then acts very aggressively, often leading to death in under two years. "Speed of pay-out is therefore of the essence once diagnosis has occurred," said Heald.

It is also often difficult to trace the employer or insurer after so many years. "These issues will become even more important as time goes on, because I am told that these cases will not reach their peak until 2020," said Heald.

The ABI has proposed the creation of a new independent body to assess and pay claims quickly, including to those having difficulties tracing an employer or insurer. This independent body would then recover the costs from all those liable.

"I believe that this idea is worthy of the government's immediate attention."