The e-petition calling on the government to fund research into asbestos related diseases has reached 2500 signatures. There is still plenty of time for the petition so please do add your signature.
Money is beginning to find its way into mesothelioma research projects in the UK but as Lord Alton recently pointed out at the Merseyside Asbestos Victims Support Group (MAVSG) Annual Conference in Liverpool, there is no guarantee that funding will not disappear as quickly as it arrives. Mesothelioma research projects are in open competition for funding with all other medical research projects, so with the pot of money fixed, many worthy projects miss out. Lord Alton is planning to again seek to raise an amendment to the Mesothelioma Act that would introduce a levy on the Mesothelioma Act Scheme to ensure sustainable long term research funds are available for mesothelioma research. The Labour Party have also stated that they would seek to introduce a statutory basis for research funding if they are elected to government in May. Both Lord Alton’s and the Labour Party proposal’s would involve the insurance industry funding part if not all of the research. James Dalton, the head of the ABI, who whilst also presenting at the MASVG Conference, made some extremely caustic remarks about the role of what he saw as claimant lawyers feathering their own nests leading to hugely increased civil litigation costs, and he made clear that for him the bottom line will be what would be the cost to insurers of any levy. Anything considered unacceptable to them is likely to be met with a legal challenge. Speaking to me at Liverpool, Dalton actually claimed that the savings to government from the Mesothelioma Act scheme have now risen from just over £50 million to £70 million. Whether this new number is truly accurate is open to question, but it is clear that the ABI will play hardball on the research issue.