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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.
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.
Today I announce that we are committing, subject to legislative approval, to ensure that everyone with mesotheliomairrespective of their employment historycan 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.
Continuing payments from the 1979 Act to all those who currently receive payments; these will remain at existing levels.
Introducing a compensation recovery process so that payments under the 1979 Act are recovered if a civil compensation claim is subsequently successful, in order to prevent double provision and continue with the policy line that the "polluter pays".
Introducing compensation payments similar to those from the 1979 Act to those people who do not currently receive payments from the 1979 Act. These will initially be at a rate commensurate with what can be afforded out of projected compensation recovery amounts.
Increasing these latter amounts to match those paid to others under the 1979 Act as funds allow.
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.
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.