Page last updated at 23:43 GMT, Monday, 27 April 2009 00:43 UK

Call to speed workplace damages

Scene of building explosion
Concern was raised over a "delay" in damages following Stockline

Proposed new laws that aim to speed up compensation pay-outs to the victims of accidents in the workplace are being published at the Scottish Parliament.

Labour MSP Bill Butler said his member's bill would standardise the assumed living expenses of victims in wrongful death cases.

He said this would mean certain cases not having to go through the courts, cutting stress for families.

Ministers are looking at the proposals, drawn up by the Law Commission.

Mr Butler's proposals came on Workers' Memorial Day, as the STUC called for increased enforcement of health and safety legislation.

The Glasgow Anniesland MSP explained the current arrangement, where courts must assess how much of a victim's income went on living expenses if a damages award is made, could lead to wrangling over their spending habits.

We know compensation is not at the forefront of families' minds, but it is important they get what they need in order to continue their lives
Ian Tasker
STUC

He added that cases where the family members of a victim claimed damages also often involved intrusive legal debate in the courtroom.

Mr Butler said his bill would avoid distress for the victims and expense for employers, by cutting out unnecessary litigation.

"I hope all MSPs will support these reforms," he said.

"Labour has always put the needs of victims first and these sensible proposals need to be implemented urgently."

Mr Butler said standardising payments would remove the need for cases to go to court in instances where liability had been admitted, while benefitting the taxpayer by reducing the level of cash going on legal aid.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill told parliament last week there was a general acceptance that damages laws needed updating.

He said ministers had to carefully consider whether the proposals would fit precisely into the legislative framework.

STUC Assistant General Secretary Ian Tasker welcomed the bill.

He said: "We know compensation is not at the forefront of families' minds, but it is important they get what they need in order to continue their lives and they receive it promptly."

Mr Tasker said the recent award of damages in relation to the Stockline factory blast in Glasgow, which killed nine people in 2004, was a "terrible delay".



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