Asbestos bill overruled by Supreme Court
The Supreme Court has overruled a bill that would have meant employers and their insurers would have supplied the costs of NHS treatment for asbestos sufferers.
The welsh assembly proposed the Asbestos (Recovery of Medical Costs) bill which would have raised £1 million a year for the Welsh NHS for treatment costs. The bill was proposed by Labour backbencher Mick Antoniw.
On Monday 9th February, the judges ruled that the bill was outside the remit of the Assembly relating to its role in the organisation and funding of the NHS.
“The charges provided for by the Bill are to be imposed on compensators and insurers rather than patients and lack any direct or close connection with the provision of Welsh NHS services”.
The ruling also noted that the law stating that companies would have to contribute to the retrospective cost of the NHS care “interfered with the firm’s right to peaceful enjoyment of their possessions”.
Mr Antoniw noted his disappointment with the ruling
“I am gutted that the Supreme Court have found in favour of insurance company interests by a majority of three to two and my heart goes out to the victims and families of asbestos disease who stood to benefit.
“The decision places unacceptable restrictions on the ability of the Welsh Government to act in cases such as this and undermines devolution.
“This decision exposes the weaknesses of the existing devolution settlement and any further settlement must be based on giving the Assembly the same powers as Scotland.
“We will now have to study the judgement carefully and look at ways that it might be brought back to the Assembly in another form.”
The Association of British Insurers, noted
“The Welsh Bill would have seen increased insurance premiums for Welsh businesses but no extra compensation for mesothelioma sufferers”
“The insurance industry remains committed to doing all it can to help the victims of this terrible disease and would be happy to work constructively with the Welsh Government on this issue, as it does on other public policy”.
Many campaign groups have noted their disappointment of the ruling. With the NHS already struggling with budget cuts and staff numbers the costs accrued through the bill would have helped provide better treatment for the sufferers of asbestosis and mesothelioma. The campaign groups also detailed that it would seem logical to chase the insurers or employers for the cost of the treatment as they are the ones responsible for the exposure and therefore the condition.
 “Supreme Court overrules Wales asbestos bill”, Nathan Briant, South Wales Argus, http://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/gwentnews/11781128.Supreme_Court_overrules_Wales_asbestos_bill/
 “Insurers won’t have to foot NHS bill for asbestos patients in Wales, Supreme Court rules”, Marion Dakers, The Telegraph, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/insurance/11400966/Insurers-wont-have-to-foot-NHS-bill-for-asbestos-patients-in-Wales-Supreme-Court-rules.html
 “Asbestos NHS costs laws overruled by Supreme Court”, BBC News, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-31173309
 “Wales’ bid to force employers to pay for asbestos-related healthcare is blocked by the Supreme Court”, David Deans, Wales Online, http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/wales-bid-force-employers-pay-8605931