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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 June 2006, 05:43 GMT 06:43 UK
New law in asbestos cancer claims
Lung x-ray
Asbestos can cause mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs
The UK Government is to introduce a new law to make it easier for sufferers of asbestos-related cancer to claim full compensation, BBC Wales has learned.

In May, Law Lords ruled that damages should be limited in cases where several employers are involved.

The decision was based on three test cases, including Sylvia Barker from Flintshire, whose husband died in 1996.

It is thought details of a stand-alone bill will be unveiled on Monday, to undo the effect of the ruling.

Speaking at the GMB annual conference on Monday, Tony Blair said he "regretted the judgement", and gave a personal promise to look for a way of overturning it.

Unless this law is changed back, many more victims will die without seeing any compensation in their lifetime
James Thompson, solicitor

It was thought that other compensation legislation going through parliament could have been altered to achieve that.

But now BBC Wales understands that a stand-alone bill will be introduced - details are to be unveiled on Monday.

It followed a personal pledge made by Tony Blair to Rhondda MP Chris Bryant at a private meeting with a group of MPs at Downing Street.

About 1,900 people die every year from mesothelioma, a form of cancer which affects the lining around the lungs, in the UK.

The ruling forced sufferers and their families claiming compensation to track down every employer, a task that could prove impossible for some.

If the judgement is reversed, it could make it easier and quicker for sufferers and their families to claim compensation.

Sylvia Barker from Holywell was awarded 152,000 in the high court in 2003 for the death of her husband, Vernon, at the age of 57.

Because Mr Barker worked for more than one employer - none of whom can be blamed specifically for his illness - the Lords' ruling meant the final payout could have been a fraction of the original figure.

He died from mesothelioma after "heavy" exposure to asbestos while he was employed at Shotton Steelworks as well as for another company and for short periods during 20 years of self-employment.

"Unjust"

Mrs Barker's solicitor, James Thompson said: "My view was that it (the ruling) was a totally unjust decision, without any basis in fairness or justice.

"What it will mean is that they (claimants) will have a better chance of their claims being completed within their own life time," he explained.

"Unless this law is changed back, many more victims will die without seeing any compensation in their lifetime."

Mr Thompson said so far his client had not received "a penny" of the compensation, and if the ruling is reversed, she will be able to receive the full amount.

He said Mrs Barker welcomes the news "as a chink of light at the end of the tunnel".




SEE ALSO
Blair 'to change' asbestos ruling
13 Jun 06 |  UK Politics
Widow's asbestos ruling 'dismay'
03 May 06 |  North East Wales
Widows wait for asbestos verdict
03 May 06 |  England

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