The government today backtracked on the precise interpretation of the Diffuse Mesothelioma Scheme levy on the insurance industry that provides compensation for mesothelioma victims where employers liability insurance policies cannot be found.
Following the lower than anticipated take up level under the Scheme, the government yesterday announced that future claims under the Scheme would be paid at 100% of the average compensation level received by mesothelioma victims generally, an uplift from the previous 80% figure. In a debate in the House of Commons on the Scheme today, the DWP Minister, Mark Harper claimed it was not possible for those who have already been paid the 80% under the Scheme to receive a backdated payment to provide them with 100% compensation. The Minister claimed this was standard practice in government that backdated payments are not made. This is frankly laughable as the Scheme has been underway for less than a year with only a few hundred claims under it so far, so there would in reality be no administrative burden making such back dated payments problematic. In the debate it was pointed out that claimants under the Scheme have their social security payments that are linked to them having mesothelioma clawed back at the rate of 100% when they receive a compensation payment under the Scheme, and as such for those who had received an 80% payment this was a great injustice. The Minister made no comment on this point.
The Minister claimed the levy on insurers was a ‘Cap and not a target’. The levy according to the government during the Parliamentary debate on the Mesothelioma Act that brought in the Scheme last year, was to be fixed at 3% of the gross written premiums for employers liability insurance. This was a figure accepted by the insurance industry in their deal with the government that would fund the Scheme and would not lead to them passing on the costs to employers via increased premiums. The government made clear at the time of the debate on the Mesothelioma Act that 3% was 3% and was a fixed figure. Now the government in an outrageous example of unethical backtracking, have sought to claim that the 3% figure was a cap and not a target figure, so in essence meaning that if payments under the Scheme fall short of the cap figure of 3% of gross written premiums, the insurance industry will only be required to pay the level of compensation necessary to fund the Scheme and not the full 3% figure that the government originally claimed would be paid.
Today’s debate brought by Labour MP, Steve Rotheram, also sought to question the Minister on the issue of research funding, which it is argued should at least in part be paid for by the levy on insurers, and is now clearly affordable under the original 3% levy interpetation. Unfortunately the set time for the debate ended without any meaningful research funding answers being provided by the Government Minister, Mark Harper.