The Recovery of Medical Costs for Asbestos Diseases (Wales) Bill has been passed by the Welsh Assembly. The Bill allows the NHS to recover costs of treating victims of asbestos related diseases from negligent employers or insurers.
According to the Bill’s proponent, Labour AM Mick Antoniw, the new law could raise up to £1million for the Welsh NHS every year, and could be used to give more support to asbestos victims and their families by way of employing additional cancer nurses and counsellors, and providing funding for additional research into the cause and treatment of asbestos disease.
The Bill was passed by Assembly Members by 38-10, with the Conservatives voting against. Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar said that he was ‘fully behind’ the principle of the Bill, but voted against it because of its limited scope. The Bill is limited to asbestos related diseases and some argue that the Bill should have been extended to other industrial diseases.
However, the insurance industry says that the Bill goes beyond the Welsh Assembly’s powers and the Welsh Government’s law officer, Counsel General Theodore Huckle QC, has referred the Bill to the Supreme Court, and asked them to decide whether the Welsh Assembly has the power to pass the legislation. The Supreme Court is due to hear the matter in February 2014.