Courts overrule Asbestos NHS costs laws

The Supreme Court was asked to settle the matter of whether or not a firm in Wales, whose staff are treated for asbestos-related illnesses, were to be required to reimburse the NHS. This came after the insurance industry challenged the assembly’s right to pass legislation on the issue in 2013.

The Supreme Court agreed with insurers who claimed an assembly law passed in 2013 was outside its competence.

The court said Welsh ministers had no right to impose charges to fund the NHS, and insurers should not be given extra liabilities for asbestos exposure which long pre-dated the bill.  Firms in Wales whose staff are treated for asbestos-related illnesses will not be required to reimburse the NHS.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) welcomed the judgement.  A spokesman said;

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.”

Pontypridd AM Mick Antoniw, who first proposed the bill, said he was “gutted” at the ruling, having projected that the measure could have raised £1m a year for the NHS in Wales.

The bill had been referred to the Supreme Court by the Welsh government’s Counsel General Theodore Huckle after objections from the insurance industry.  The Welsh government said it would give “careful consideration to this judgment”.

Presiding Officer Dame Rosemary Butler called for “greater clarity” so everyone understood what laws the assembly could pass.