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Clause 14

Orders and regulations

Amendments made: No. 15, page 9, line 8, at end insert—

‘(6) The first order made under section 5 may not be made unless a draft has been laid before, and approved by resolution of, each House of Parliament.

(6A) An order under section 5 which has the effect of removing or restricting an exemption from section 3(1) may not be made unless a draft has been laid before, and approved by resolution of, each House of Parliament.’.

No. 16, page 9, line 9 , leave out ‘an’ and insert ‘any other’— [Simon Hughes.]

Clause 3

Provision of regulated claims management services

Amendment made: No. 11, page 2, line 38, at end insert—

‘(5) The Secretary of State may by order provide that a claim for a specified benefit shall be treated as a claim for the purposes of this Part.

(6) The Secretary of State may specify a benefit under subsection (5) only if it appears to him to be a United Kingdom social security benefit designed to provide compensation for industrial injury.’ .—[Bridget Prentice.]

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Clause 14

Orders and Regulations

Amendment made: No. 12, page 8, line 44, at end insert—

‘(3A) An order under section 3(5) may not be made unless a draft has been laid before, and approved by resolution of, each House of Parliament.’. .—[Bridget Prentice.]

Clause 15


Amendments made: No. 7, page 9, line 16, leave out ‘section 1’ and insert ‘sections 1, 2 and [Mesothelioma: damages]’.

No. 8, page 9, line 22, at end insert—

‘(3) Section [Mesothelioma: damages] shall be treated as having always had effect.

(4) But the section shall have no effect in relation to—

(a) a claim which is settled before 3rd May 2006 (whether or not legal proceedings in relation to the claim have been instituted), or

(b) legal proceedings which are determined before that date.

(5) Where a claim is settled on or after that date and before the date on which this Act is passed, a party to the settlement may apply to a relevant court to have the settlement varied; and—

(a) a court is a relevant court for that purpose if it had, or would have had, jurisdiction to determine the claim by way of legal proceedings,

(b) an application shall be brought as an application in, or by way of, proceedings on the claim, and

(c) a court to which an application is made shall vary the settlement to such extent (if any) as appears appropriate to reflect the effect of section [Mesothelioma: damages].

(6) Where legal proceedings are determined on or after that date and before the date on which this Act is passed, a party to the proceedings may apply to the court to vary the determination; and—

(a) “the court” means the court which determined the proceedings,

(b) the application shall be treated as an application in the proceedings, and

(c) the court shall vary the determination to such extent (if any) as appears appropriate to reflect the effect of section [Mesothelioma: damages].’. .—[Bridget Prentice.]

Clause 16


Amendment made: No. 9, page 9, line 24, at end insert—

‘(2) But section [Mesothelioma: damages] (and section 15(3) to (6)) shall extend to—

(a) England and Wales,

(b) Scotland, and

(c) Northern Ireland.’. .—[Bridget Prentice.]


Amendment made: No. 10, in title, line 2, after ‘duty;’, insert

‘to make provision about damages for mesothelioma;’.— [Bridget Prentice.]

Order for Third Reading read.

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9.15 pm

Bridget Prentice: I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

As the House knows, the Bill is part of a much wider set of initiatives that have been taken across Government. We are determined to tackle practices that can stop normal activities taking place because people fear litigation or have become risk averse. We want to stop people being encouraged to bring frivolous or speculative claims for compensation. The provisions of the Bill help us to do that.

Clause 1 will provide reassurance to the many people and organisations anxious about possible litigation, such as those in the voluntary sector, about how the law works. It will serve a valuable purpose in improving awareness of this aspect of the law and in ensuring that normal activities are not prevented because of the fear of litigation and excessively risk-averse behaviour. I want to confirm for the avoidance of any doubt that clause 1 is not intended to change the law in relation to statutory duties that are not expressed in terms of a duty of care, and which thus do not depend on whether the employer should have taken particular steps to meet a standard of care.

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con): Conscious of the fact that Hansard is now usable by lawyers in a court, can the Minister confirm what she implicitly confirmed in Committee but has never said explicitly—that the court should take account of the clause where an activity is organised by a voluntary organisation or is perhaps a sporting or educational activity? The clause uses the word “may” because desirable activities can be wide-ranging. Should not the court take account of the clause where an activity is in a core area such as that which the Minister described?

Bridget Prentice: I can confirm to the hon. Gentleman that the court would be expected to take into account all the issues surrounding the activity. As I explained in notes that I sent to hon. Members, one of the reasons why we used the word “may” rather than the word “shall” is that all the different matters that the court must take into account should have equal status.

Clause 2 will provide reassurance on how the law works and encourage the giving of apologies and offers of treatment and redress without reducing the protection which is currently available to claimants.

Lembit Öpik: The Minister will recall that in Committee we had a fairly extensive debate about whether we should change clause 2 so that instead of referring to

it would have referred to, “An apology, an offer of, or provision of, treatment or other redress”. At the time, I had the impression that she was going to accept that amendment on Report, yet the Government did not table it, nor was the matter discussed during the proceedings that we have just completed. Why did the Government take that decision? Can the Minister assure people who, for example, offer treatment in a situation where an accident victim is incapacitated that they will not automatically leave themselves open to some kind of litigation?

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Bridget Prentice: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman and sorry that we did not reach that part of the debate. In Committee, he cited the example of a car accident in which one of the people involved is unconscious and the other person is a doctor, and asked whether the doctor should not do what he can to look after the injured person. I considered that carefully in discussions with officials, parliamentary counsel and others and those discussions confirmed that that area is sufficiently covered by section 5 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, which will come into effect next April. It provides that if a person acts in connection with the care or treatment of a person who lacks capacity in respect of the matter in question and it is in his or her best interest for that treatment to take place, the person providing the care or treatment does not incur any liability that he would not have incurred if the injured person had been able to consent. That does not prevent a claim from being made if the person has been negligent in providing the care or treatment, but in respect of the provision of that care or treatment, it is sufficiently covered under section 5 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005. I hope that that sufficiently reassures the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik).

Lembit Öpik: I am grateful to the Minister and pleased that she has researched the matter. She knows that a number of organisations, including St. John Ambulance, are very concerned about the issue. For the avoidance of doubt, is she saying that the forthcoming implementation of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 will provide a degree of protection to individuals who offer some form of medical assistance to individuals who are too incapacitated formally to give their assent and that the risk of litigation when carrying out an act in good faith, which is believed to be in the best interests of the patient, will be minimised?

Bridget Prentice: I can confidently give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that the Mental Capacity Act 2005 will cover people in those circumstances—and rightly so.

Regarding part 2, all Members who contributed to our debates have been unanimous in their support for the regulation of claims management services. The Bill sets out a framework for such regulation and I hope that our debates on Second Reading, in Committee and again today have clarified a number of outstanding concerns. I am pleased to report that we now have a Bill that will deal appropriately with the inappropriate practices of some claims companies.

I have explained that the definition of claims management services is wide in order to avoid loopholes, but it will be targeted only at sectors with the greatest risk of consumer detriment. Those sectors will be brought into the regulatory net—and, of course, removed, if appropriate—by the order of the Secretary of State, subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, as agreed this evening. We published a draft order last week, seeking views on the sectors that we propose should be included, such as personal injury, housing disrepair, employment, criminal injuries compensation and claims for the mis-selling of financial products.

I am pleased that hon. Members agreed to the Government amendments, which will allow us to bring claims management services in respect of industrial
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injuries disablement benefit within the regulatory net. That represents a minor but none the less important addition to the Bill that will help to ensure that consumers do not suffer at the hands of claims management companies.

Mr. Hollobone: Does the Minister appreciate that companies with a good reputation in this field, such as the National Accident Helpline based in my Kettering constituency, genuinely welcome this part of Bill? In common with the Government and the Opposition, they want disreputable claims management companies to go out of business, but it is important to acknowledge that there is a legitimate need for claims management companies that provide a good service for people.

Bridget Prentice: I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman has been assiduous in his support for the company in his constituency, which sent me a letter asking for clarification on a number of issues. I am very happy to provide it and I will shortly reply to those points. I commend the hon. Gentleman’s work in looking after the company in his constituency.

Lembit Öpik: This will be my third and final intervention in the entire debate on the Bill. I am grateful for the Minister’s response to the issues I raised about the thresholds for regulation in respect of small companies. Sadly, I was not in my place, but I followed the debate from elsewhere. I am not asking the Minister to make any specific commitments, but my constituent, Graham Owen, raised a point that probably applies to many companies that consequentially end up doing work of the type that the Minister described. I hope that she will enter into a dialogue with some of the smaller companies to see what is reasonable and what will help them to stay in business without compromising the intent of the Bill.

Bridget Prentice: I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we will take into account the position of the smaller companies, so that the decision is a balanced one.

The new provisions on mesothelioma that we have added today will make a real difference to the claimants and their families who are suffering as a result of that horrible disease. This is one of those times in Parliament when Members in all parts of the House can be justly proud of the fact that we have made serious changes to a Bill that will directly affect people in a positive way. Politicians sometimes get a bad reputation—often through their own fault—but on this occasion I am pleased that Members in all parts of the House have been supportive in ensuring that these amendments have been added to the Bill, and I am proud that they have been included. We will continue to work with others on this area. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions will shortly bring other matters relating to it before the House, and we will ensure that the victims obtain their compensation as quickly and as easily as possible.

I thank colleagues in all parts of the House for the constructive spirit in which they have debated the Bill. There are a number of hon. Friends to whom thanks are due, but I hope that they will not mind if I say that I thank in particular my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. Clapham), who has worked assiduously on this issue. I am pleased that we
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have gone some way towards realising his demands on behalf of the victims of this terrible disease. I also thank both Chairmen of the Standing Committee and all its members, and Members from all parts of the House who have contributed to what has been a thorough and useful examination of this important Bill. I thank in particular the hon. Members for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) and for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes), as well as the other Members who have made a valuable contribution to our debate.

I also thank the organisations that have helped us to put the Bill together, such as the Association of British Insurers, the TUC, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, the various voluntary and other organisations that have been helpful, and of course my right hon. and noble Friend Baroness Ashton, in whose name this Bill stands. I also thank the officials and parliamentary counsel, who deserve a particular vote of gratitude from the House for having been able, in the end, to get the mesothelioma amendments together in such a way that they were acceptable, so that we could debate them today, and so that we can make them law before the end of this parliamentary Session.

I commend the Bill to the House.

9.27 pm

Mr. Heald: The Bill has been improved during in its passage through Parliament. I join in the thanks to the two Chairmen of the Committee, and I also thank the Minister, who has been courteous and has responded on many points, the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes), who spoke for the Liberal Democrats, and all the Members who have taken part in deliberations on the Bill. Perhaps I should also thank the usual channels for ensuring that we kept in order and got through what we had to get through in Committee.

We are pleased with the amendment obtained by my noble Friend Lord Hunt which adds clause 2 to the Bill. It allows offers of treatment, rehabilitation and apologies without admissions of liability. That builds on the principles that the Association of British Insurers and the Citizens Advice Bureaux set out in their initiative, “Care and Compensation”. That should mean that there will in the future be more focus on early settlement of claims and treatment to get victims healthy and back to work as soon as is practicable.

We are pleased that the Government have been able to listen to pleas to help the victims of mesothelioma, and with the Minister’s assurance that that will be underpinned with rules of court and that she will do what she can with her colleagues to speed that through. The lack of joined-up government on the case of Barker v. Corus was clearly unfortunate and I shall revert to the matter of how much money was spent. Matters were pursued in the wrong way.

However, in Committee, we supported clause 1, which restates the law of negligence. I hope that it will be possible to follow up the impetus that the amended clause 1 will give with some advertisement of exactly what the law of negligence means and an attempt to educate some of the public authorities—scouts, guides and others who take part in the desirable activities that we have spent much time discussing.

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Landowners, occupiers and leisure park owners had hoped for some further discussion of what clause 1 means for them, because there has been a reasonably sensible and robust attitude to occupiers’ liability in the courts. They therefore hoped for some assurance from the Under-Secretary that clause 1 will not change that and that they will not be subject to further cost and burdens in dealing with an unpredictable liability. Much land has natural features and it should not be necessary to erect signs, fences and unsightly and expensive clutter around them. It was hoped that we would hold a little more debate about that to ensure that the law is not being changed. The Under-Secretary’s general comments suggest that it is not.

We hope that the voluntary code for unions will work, despite our reservations. We will watch closely to ensure that it does—the Under-Secretary need not worry about that. We still believe that it is a pity that the regulator will not be an established regulator such as the Financial Services Authority. However, the Government could reassure us by announcing the appointment of a senior figure, with knowledge of that world, to work with a major trading standards office. There has been speculation that someone of the calibre of Mr. Mark Boleat may be available for the role. That would be most welcome. When can we expect the announcement? Have I missed it?

Overall, the Bill has some useful provisions to help tackle the perceived compensation culture. It is a modest measure—and there is a big agenda to tackle—but it is greatly improved.

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