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We will therefore establish a working group composed of claimant solicitors, trade unions, insurers, the judiciary, and civil servants to examine litigation practices and procedures for compensation claims relating to mesothelioma, and identify options for streamlining them in order to reduce the time taken to conclude cases. In particular the working group will consider:

We also intend to consider changes to the substantive law to:

In addition, in November 2009 we introduced the Third Parties (Rights against Insurers) Bill into Parliament under a new procedure for Law Commission Bills. The Bill will enable claims against insolvent employers to be brought direct against the employer's insurer. This will simplify court procedures and remove the need for dissolved companies to be restored to the register of companies. The Bill is expected to become law in this Parliament.

Further to these initiatives we are also taking action to deal with the problem of people who develop a serious asbestos-related disease but are unable to obtain full compensation because they cannot trace the employer's insurer.

This problem has been recognised for some time, and since 1999 the Association of British Insurers (ABI) and the Lloyds Market Association have committed to a voluntary code of practice for tracing EL insurance policies. However, while the tracing service has led to some improvements, there are still many individuals who are left without help-3,210 of them in 2008.

That situation is clearly unsatisfactory and the Government are therefore consulting on two proposals to improve matters.

We believe that an essential first step is the creation of a UK-wide Employers' Liability Tracing Office (ELTO) to manage an electronic database of EL policies and to operate the existing tracing service. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has agreed to drive forward this work to help claimants and their representatives, informed by the outcome of the consultation. The new office will initially be launched on a voluntary basis but we would ultimately like it to be a requirement on all insurers to publish relevant policy details on the ELTO.

The ELTO will initially be populated with existing trace data but new and renewed policies will be included shortly afterwards. One of the issues explored in the consultation is the extent to which historic insurance records can be added to the database.

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We have every expectation that the ELTO will deliver significant results, creating a database of records that will help many thousands of people trace policies and receive compensation in the future.

However, even with an ELTO there will be some people, especially those who suffer from long-tail diseases like mesothelioma, who are unable to trace their insurance records and thus are denied full compensation. The Government therefore propose to establish an Employers' Liability Insurance Bureau (ELIB) providing a compensation fund of last resort for individuals across the UK who are unable to trace EL insurance records.

The consultation, published on 10 February, examines what an ELIB should cover, the impact of an ELIB on insurers and employers, how much should be paid by way of compensation, limitations on claiming from the ELIB, and what more can be done to ensure that employers who are legally obliged to obtain ELCI do so. The Government will consider fully the responses to the consultation before determining next steps towards the introduction of an ELIB.

A mandatory ELTO and an ELIB should, in time, provide a comprehensive framework for supporting people who develop a serious asbestos-related disease. However, in recognition of the need for action now, the Government are taking a series of steps to increase the upfront payments that are currently made to mesothelioma sufferers and their dependants.

The Government will increase payments made under the Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers' Compensation) Act 1979 by 1.5 per cent., even though the retail prices index showed negative growth. In addition, we will increase payments made due to mesothelioma under the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008 so that they equal payments made under the Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers' Compensation) Act 1979.

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is also amending regulations to increase payments to all dependants under the 1979 Act and the 2008 Act by up to £5,000, so that their awards are closer to those paid to sufferers. All of these increases will come into effect on 1 April 2010.

The fact that the UK has one of the highest rates of death from mesothelioma in the world is a legacy of our industrial heritage and the part that asbestos played in it. Just as the UK was a global leader in the asbestos industry, we must now become a global leader in research into asbestos-related disease.

We have received strong representations from clinicians, asbestos support groups and trade unions-as well as from Members on all sides of this House-for the creation of a national centre for asbestos-related disease, a collaborative network of funded researchers whose core purpose would be to advance medical research into the prevention, cure and alleviation of asbestos-related disease-primarily mesothelioma.

There is now widespread recognition, including within the medical research community, that while there has been considerable investment into cancer research generally, not enough has been focused on the study of cancers of the lung, including mesothelioma. Yet mesothelioma is now the 12th most common cancer killer in men and the cancer of most rapidly increasing incidence in women.

We are determined to expand research in this area. The Secretary of State for Health has therefore asked Department of Health officials to consider and advise
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on how best to create a world-leading network of medical research practitioners for asbestos related disease. The Department will involve my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. Clapham), Dr. John Edwards and others with a special interest this review.

Based on their recommendations and on advice from National Cancer Research Institute about research priorities, we will set out how Government will support an increase in research investment in this area. In addition, we are very pleased to announce that the insurance industry will be contributing £3 million towards research into asbestos-related disease.

The Government believe that these measures will be of real and significant benefit to people diagnosed with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.


Final Policy on Prosecuting Cases of Encouraging and Assisting Suicide

The Solicitor-General (Vera Baird): My right hon. Friend the Attorney-General has made the following written ministerial statement:

In September last year, and following the House of Lords judgment in Purdy v. DPP, the Director of Public Prosecutions issued his interim policy setting out the particular public interest factors he would take account of when deciding whether to give consent to the prosecution of a person for the offence of aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring (assisting) another to commit or attempt to commit suicide. At the same time he announced the start of a consultation process on the issue.

Having considered over 4,500 responses to that consultation process the Director has issued today his final policy, together with the summary of the responses. Copies of each have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

It should be emphasised that the policy does not change the law but responds to the House of Lords judgment in Purdy v. DPP in which the House of Lords considered that in the special case of assisted suicide the Director should issue such a policy. This policy should be read in conjunction with the code for Crown prosecutors which will continue to apply to all cases.

Additionally, following a similar public consultation process, the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland has issued today guidelines in respect of cases arising in Northern Ireland. Copies of these guidelines have also been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.


Bus, Coach and Tram Passenger Champion

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mr. Sadiq Khan): The Local Transport Act 2008 enables the Secretary of State to confer additional functions, through secondary legislation, on the Rail Passengers'
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Council, the statutory rail passenger watchdog known as Passenger Focus, in relation to buses, coaches and trams.

The Government are announcing that the Passengers' Council (Non-Railways Functions) Order 2010 comes into force today. The order extends the council's remit so as to give bus, coach and tram passengers in England outside London statutory representation for the first time. It also changes the statutory name of the Rail Passengers' Council to the Passengers' Council, although it will continue to be known as Passenger Focus.

Work and Pensions

Exportability of Disability Benefits

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Jonathan Shaw): In October 2007 the European Court of Justice decided that disability living allowance (care component), attendance allowance and carer's allowance ("disability benefits") should be classified as sickness benefits under Regulation EC 1408/71. Consequently, the benefits are exportable in certain circumstances. Before this judgment disability benefits were not exportable and as a result people who had been receiving these benefits lost entitlement when they moved abroad.

The Government accepted that the disability benefits referred to above are exportable to customers living in the European economic area (EEA) and Switzerland provided certain conditions are met. This includes a requirement that customers making a new claim have been in the UK for 26 out of the past 52 weeks.

After careful consideration we have decided to take a different approach on cases where people lost entitlement to a disability benefit when they moved to another EEA state or Switzerland before 18 October 2007 (the date of the judgment in case C-299/05, Commission v. Parliament) but no earlier than 8 March 2001 (the date of the judgment in case C-215/99, Jauch v. Pensionsversicherungsanstalt der Arbeiter).

We accept that these people will have been in the UK for 26 out of the previous 52 weeks when they left the UK. We will therefore no longer require that they should satisfy this condition at the date they seek reinstatement, providing they continued to meet the other relevant domestic and EU law eligibility requirements throughout the period their claim was disallowed. Payment will be considered from 18 October 2007.

Once full details are available, the Pension, Disability and Carers Service will start to contact those people who have already applied for reinstatement to check if they are able to have their benefit reinstated.

The Department will take action to publicise this different approach and has placed information on the Government's official website, Directgov; http://www. The disability benefits pages on the site will be updated as more information becomes available.

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Lump Sum Mesothelioma Sufferers

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Yvette Cooper): I am pleased to inform the House that, from April 2010, a series of increases will be made to lump sum payments paid to individuals suffering from mesothelioma and certain other qualifying diseases under the Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers' Compensation) Act 1979 and the 2008 mesothelioma scheme. Together, these schemes mean that all people suffering from mesothelioma can receive lump sum awards from the Government quickly after diagnosis, in addition to weekly state benefits.

There is no requirement on Government to uprate payments under the schemes, but we have previously committed to increasing payments in line with those to state benefits. We have laid regulations to increase payments under the 1979 Act by 1.5 per cent. from 1 April this year, despite the negative growth in the retail price index. This will increase the value of such payouts to these very vulnerable people.

I can announce also that we are increasing the level of payments made through the 2008 mesothelioma scheme to bring them up to those under the 1979 Act.

The 2008 scheme was introduced to provide up-front financial support to those people who previously were not eligible for help from the Government's other compensation schemes. The scheme is funded by compensation recovery-compensation recovered from individuals who are successful in a civil damages claim but who have already received a payment under the 1979 Act or 2008 scheme. When we started the scheme in 2008 we set awards at a level consistent with the amount of recoveries we expected to make; a lower rate than the 1979 Act. We made it clear, however, that we intended to bring 2008 scheme payments to the same level as those under the 1979 Act at the earliest opportunity. Our expectation was that we would be able to do this in the scheme's third year of operation.

I am pleased to inform the House that we are able to honour our promise sooner than expected and will be increasing payments to 1979 Act levels from April 2010, only 18 months after the 2008 scheme started. This means that those receiving a lump sum payment for mesothelioma will receive the same amount whether they were exposed to asbestos at work or exposed elsewhere, such as through washing their partner's clothes or by living close to an asbestos factory.

Finally, I am announcing an increase in the level of payments made to most dependants under both the 1979 Act and the 2008 scheme.

We recognise that the terrible effects of mesothelioma are not limited to the sufferer and that their families also have to cope with the effect of the disease on their loved one, witnessing their pain, suffering and ultimately their death. While we do acknowledge this by making payments to the family of someone who dies of mesothelioma and other dust-related diseases-such as pneumoconiosis, byssinosis and silicosis-these payments have been paid at a much lower rate than those to

sufferers during life. We listened to the arguments put forward by stakeholders and hon. Members, who feel that this situation is unfair to dependants and can put
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added stress on sufferers and families at already extremely difficult times. We made a commitment to look at reducing the difference in payment to sufferers and dependants as funds became available.

We are now able to do this, and from April the majority of dependants receiving awards under the 1979 Act and 2008 scheme will receive a £5,000 increase. Those who already receive close to the amount paid to the sufferer will receive a proportionate amount, bringing their award up to the level of that paid to the sufferer in life.

These changes all take effect from April 2010.

Right to Control (Trailblazer Sites)

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Yvette Cooper): The Right to Control aims to provide disabled adults with more choice and control over the support they need to live their lives, and how they receive that support. It allows them to select whether they receive funding direct, support from a service provider, or a mixture of both.

To understand how the Right to Control can be best implemented we plan to test this approach within a small number of trailblazer sites. On 8 December 2009, we published a prospectus inviting interested authorities to be at the forefront of this innovative approach and apply to become a trailblazer site.

We have selected eight sites that have provided us with quality proposals. These sites will also provide a good geographical balance between rural and urban communities as well as a mixture of different types of authorities.

The trailblazing authorities are:

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