Justice secretary Kenneth Clarke today made a surprise U-turn to postpone Jackson reforms for mesothelioma cases.
The issue has been the most controversial aspect of part two of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders bill, with the Lords voting for a second time on Monday to oppose the government. Clarke today tabled an amendment in the House of Commons postponing LASPO reforms for all claims relating to mesothelioma cases.
The postponement will allow time for a review of the likely effect of the reforms. The Ministry of Justice will report on the review’s conclusions.
The amendment means that in mesothelioma cases, after-the-event insurance and success fees are likely to remain recoverable from losing defendants after April 2013, the date when Jackson reforms are due to be implemented. The amendment is a surprise climbdown from the government, which as recently as the Lords debate on Monday was arguing that cases could not be differentiated.
Justice minister Lord McNally told the House of Lords mesothelioma cases could not be treated differently to other types of serious illness, but the government lost by nine votes.
Labour claimed the move as a victory. Sadiq Khan, shadow justice secretary, said that people suffering from mesothelioma ‘have worked hard contributing to the British economy in heavy industry and manufacturing. To call them part of the "compensation culture" is an insult.’
He said the opposition still had questions on the last-minute review. ‘We need assurances it will be truly independent and not just a whitewash. We also need confidence there’ll be sufficient time allowed to see how the [Jackson] changes brought about impact on other successful claimants before rolling them out for mesothelioma sufferers.’