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The Government has agreed to exempt mesothelioma sufferers from controversial ‘no-win, no-fee’ compensation reforms currently going through Parliament until a report into their impact has been published.
The Jackson reforms – which will prevent lawyers claiming ‘success fees’ from losing parties, but instead entitle them to retrieve up to 25 per cent of the compensation from their client – are contained within the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, and are due to come into operation in April next year.
Debating the Bill yesterday (24 April), Justice minister Jonathan Djanogly informed the House of Commons that the Government would delay bringing in the changes in respect of mesothelioma sufferers. “Rather,” he explained, “we will implement the clauses in respect of those claims at a later date, once we are satisfied on the way forward for those who are unable to trace their employer’s insurer.”
The amendment will also see the Lord Chancellor carry out a review of the likely impact of the changes in relation to mesothelioma cases, and publish a report before the new rules are implemented.
Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan welcomed the move. He said: “Someone suffering from this horrible disease is not making up their cancer to make a quick buck; they cannot possibly be part of the ‘compensation culture’.
“Mesothelioma is virtually incurable. This disease is inflicted on the hard-working – those who have spent their lives contributing to Britain’s economy in heavy industry and in manufacturing.”
However, he urged the Government to ensure that the Lord Chancellor’s review be “based on proper evidence”, and consider the impact on victims’ damages and access to justice.
Conservative MP Tracey Crouch also applauded the Government’s decision, saying: “Without the amendment, the practical implications of the law, as drafted for victims of mesothelioma, would have been hugely damaging. . . The amendment rightly exempts mesothelioma from the overall package of reforms in the Bill, but it should be considered the beginning, not the end, of the discussion.
“If ever there was an opportunity to kick-start progress on speeding up compensation payments to victims, it is now.”
Jonathan Djanogly also assured MPs that the Government is committed to helping sufferers who cannot trace their employer’s insurer, and expects to make an announcement before Parliament’s summer recess.