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The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Dr. Stephen Ladyman): Currently, UK law permits employers or principals to remunerate seafarers differently on grounds of nationality, if they applied for their employment or were engaged for it outside Great Britain. The European Commission has asked the Government to investigate the legality of this practice under European Law.

A consultation on section 9 of the Race Relations Act 1976, has today been launched. Copies of the consultation document have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Work and Pensions

Mesothelioma Claims

The Minister for Employment and Welfare Reform (Mr. Jim Murphy): On 20 July 2006, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (John Hutton) announced interim measures to speed up current claims handling for mesothelioma sufferers. He also confirmed that we would put in place a long-term solution.

We committed to having a full dialogue and invited comments from all interested parties. Initial views were sought on ideas for improving support for those with mesothelioma, both by improving the systems for dealing with these claims, and the better focusing of Government support. This process has been very constructive, with many thoughtful responses and helpful ongoing dialogue.

13 Mar 2007 : Column 12WS

A Summary of Responses to that consultation was published on 1 March and is available at

We know that nearly all mesotheliomas occur as a result of occupational or environmental exposure to asbestos—a legacy of our country's industrial past.

Today I announce that we are committing, subject to legislative approval, to ensure that everyone with mesothelioma—irrespective of their employment history—can claim a payment as those under the Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers' Compensation) Act 1979 ("the 1979 Act"). This will mean that once mesothelioma is diagnosed, every sufferer should have early access to a substantial payment, normally within six weeks of diagnosis, providing a claim is made immediately.

We intend to achieve this by:

We are holding a Mesothelioma Summit today to begin to make these changes a reality.

We are also continuing the essential work that is ongoing to speed up the full compensation payments due to many sufferers and their families through the civil claims process, and I am confident that this, too, is already leading to improvements for sufferers. Furthermore, we will look at the state benefit scheme so that the claims process is streamlined to provide an improved service to our customers.

We will continue to work with our partners to ensure that these outcomes are delivered as soon as possible.

Maritime Labour Convention

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. James Plaskitt): The 94th (Maritime) Session of the International Labour Conference 2006 adopted a new Convention - Maritime Labour Convention.

I have today published and laid a White Paper entitled International Labour Conference, Proposed action on a Convention adopted at the 94th (Maritime) Session of the International Labour Conference 2006.

Copies of the White Paper will be available from the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.

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