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Asbestos compensation loophole to be closed

21 June 2006

The legal ruling which potentially limited compensation for victims of asbestos-related cancer if responsibility cannot be attached to a single employer may soon be avoided in Scotland.

Last month the House of Lords in an English appeal ruled that the amount payable by each employer should be limited by their degree of responsibility for the total exposure. The Lord Chancellor is proposing to have the law changed in England and Wales. In Scotland, the Scottish Executive is expected to announce plans for a similar motion tomorrow.

The Executive could bring in a bill of its own, or adopt the English measure through a Sewel motion.

Mesothelioma, an incurable cancer affecting the lining of the lungs which is related to asbestos exposure, is thought to affect about 2,000 former Clyde shipyard workers.

Solicitor Frank McGuire, who represents asbestos sufferers in Scotland, said he was confident that the Executive would move to close the loophole, as MSPs had overwhelmingly supported Labour MSP Des McNulty's motion condemning the law lords' judgment.

A member's bill put forward by Mr McNulty proposes to remedy another legal difficulty affecting asbestos-related cases, which results in victims having to choose between accepting a smaller sum in compensation while still alive, or allowing their families the possibility of obtaining a larger sum after they have died.