John to support asbestos sufferers in Commons vote

Labour’s John Denham will be voting to exempt asbestos sufferers as part of the controversial Legal Aid, currently making its way through Parliament.

Tonight Mr Denham will be voting in favour of two Lords amendments to the Legal Aid Bill, which make clear that asbestos sufferers are not part of the ‘compensation culture’ which the Bill claims to tackle.  Mr Denham believes these victims should not be subject to changes that purport to deal with ‘whiplash fraud’.

Since being elected a Member of Parliament twenty years ago, Mr Denham has worked very closely with local organisations and constituents regarding the issue of asbestos sufferers.  Tonight Mr Denham will continue to support sufferers in his constituency who will be hugely affected by the Tory-led Government’s proposed legislation.

The Bill’s central mechanism is to force victims (winning claimant) to pay their costs out of their damages instead of, as normally happens, the wrongdoer (losing defendant) paying the cost of bringing the claim.

This puts paid to centuries of tradition that the damages awarded in a case should put a person back to the position they were in before the harm was caused (restitutio in integrum). In some kinds of cases, victims might be left with a bill to pay.

As an example, in a mesothelioma case, a cancer caused by asbestos exposure that kills on average in 18 months, the general damages would be circa £65,000. The victim’s lawyer will now be able to take up to 25%. And their After-the-Event (ATE) insurer, who insures the claimant in case his action fails, will take an unlimited sum for the premium. Because insurance companies fight mesothelioma cases to the end, often trying to elongate the case until the victim dies, and thus they are risky, the cost of insurance can be huge.

The Government has refused to reduce “base rates” for lawyers, which would be the obvious way to stop inflated lawyer costs.  Instead they are going after victims’ damages. Therefore, the beneficiary of all this are the defendants and their insurers. They will have significantly reduced liabilities if they lose.

Mr Denham said:

There are many people in my constituency, such as ex-servicemen, who in their lifetime have been exposed to asbestos.  In recent years I have had a frequent dialogue with constituents on this issue, to help them and to help ensure that our children are not exposed to similar risks.  Tonight the Tory-led Government have the chance to stand up for asbestos sufferers, but I understand they will not.  I’ll be voting to support amendments to a hugely flawed and controversial Bill”.

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