Monday, August 25, 2008

Asbestos compensation delays criticised by MP's family

Unjust delays in the payment of compensation for asbestos victims have been criticised by colleagues andf family of the late John MacDougall.

Such delays are enough to make one think the Government is waiting for people to die off so they don’t need to pay any compensation .. and tie up deceased's estates for years over whether such compensation is to be paid after death …

The Herald reports :

MP’s family criticises delay in compensation for asbestos-linked illnesses

DOUGLAS FRASER, Scottish Political Editor August 25 2008

The compensation delays for people facing painful deaths from asbestos-linked diseases have been strongly criticised by those close to John MacDougall, the Glenrothes MP who died while suing the government over his illness.

The Labour MP fell victim earlier this month to mesothelioma, a painful and incurable condition that slowly stops the lungs or heart from functioning. While his death quickly moved on to a debate about his party's risk of losing the seat to the SNP in a by-election, the circumstances still have the capacity to embarrass UK ministers.

Mr MacDougall claimed he contracted the disease while employed in Rosyth naval dockyard. As a teenager, he worked next to men stripping old asbestos insulation from pipes and replacing it with a new coating. This was before it was clear how dangerous even a particle of the material can be if it is breathed in.

At the time, the Rosyth base was owned by the Ministry of Defence, which is why Mr MacDougall was suing the government for compensation, and his widow and family are to pursue the case. His long-time friend and constituency researcher, Scott Brady, was scathing about the delays, while lawyers wrangle over proof of whether the Rosyth was the only place the MP could have ingested asbestos.

That is standard procedure in compensation cases, but it means cases are typically drawn out much longer than the time the victims of mesothelioma have left to live.

Mr Brady said: "It's fundamentally wrong that a court can take longer than the median survival time to come up with a compensation figure. This is an appalling disease. There is no cure. You have no idea the pain that man went through, particularly in the last nine months. A quick resolution would be easier on the family."

A statement from the MoD said: "We have every sympathy with John MacDougall's family. In this case, as in all others, the Ministry of Defence considers claims for compensation on the basis of legal liability. Where there is a proven legal liability to pay compensation, we do so."

Efforts have already been made to improve the compensation process, including the promise that courts will speed their procedures. The law was changed at Holyrood to end the choice previously faced by victims of mesothelioma between a compensation pay-out while they were alive and a bigger sum for their family after their death.

Today, at Holyrood, a legislative effort gets under way to help those who face workplace hazards with employers' criminal liability. SNP back bencher Bill Wilson is sponsoring a bill on the subject and will launch it for public consultation.

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