Tracey Crouch MP On Her Victory For Mesothelioma Victims

Posted: 25/04/2012 15:53 Updated: 25/04/2012 16:23

Tracey Crouch
Tracey Crouch Is An Unusual Tory MP To Rebel Against The Government Whip

The Conservative MP Tracey Crouch - who secured a government U-turn on access to no-win no fee agreements for victims of mesothelioma - has told HuffPost that she will keeping a close eye on ministers, ahead of a review by the Department for Work and Pensions on compensation for those exposed to the disease through handling asbestos.

Cases of mesothelioma - an incurable form of cancer which often affects the lungs of those previously exposed to asbestos - are rising in Britain, because it takes decades to develop in the human body. Most of those currently blighted by the disease were exposed to asbestos in the 1960s and 1970s, before it was unknown that it could cause mesothelioma.

As part of the Legal Aid reform Bill currently stuck in parliament, ministers had wanted to prevent lawyers acting on behalf of mesothelioma victims from claiming a "success fee" from the companies and local authorities who are paying out compensation.

Tracey Crouch - normally a loyal Tory MP - rebelled against the government in recent Commons votes. She argued the changes would mean victims would spend their final months of life trying to find lawyers who would charge the lowest fees, because the option of a "no-win, no fee" agreement would be closed to them.

On Tuesday night the government backed down, agreeing that no-win arrangements could stay, pending a wider review of mesothelioma compensation by Iain Duncan Smith's department.

"This is a huge victory for victims for mesothelioma, both current and future victims, because it will protect victims compensation from lawyers," she told HuffPost on Wednesday.

Telling us she hopes the U-turn will mean the changes will now never come in, she explained why she felt she had no choice but to defy the government.

"My constituency of Medway in Kent is a meso hotspot, because of its shipbuilding and industrial past. There are lot of sufferers of meso in the area, it felt only right that I take a stand on this," she says.

"I expect the House of Lords to accept the government amendment today, and we'll wait to see what the terms of reference for the review are, its reporting schedule and how it will be deal with by parliamentary scrutiny.

"We've accepted this amendment in good faith, and it's now very important for the government to deliver on a programme of reform to protect compensation payouts for mesothelioma victims."

The average compensation payout to a mesothelioma victim is about £65,000 in Britain - "Completely different to America where there are massive payouts," Crouch adds.

"Lots of people appear have to been confused. This is not about legal aid, even though it's in the Legal Aid Bill, it's about no-win, no fee. That's what made the exemption incredibly important, because you can't fraudulently claim for meso. It's not like a whiplash claim, which is what the reforms are supposed to be clamping down on, the fraudulent ones at least."

"The problem with meso is there is no palliative care, because it is incurable. It is incredibly difficult to treat. Depending on where you're based, you have better treatment programmes in other places. In Medway we have great nurses dedicated to mesothelioma victims."

Crouch also wants to get the message out that the disease often strikes at random. "There's a lady in Kent I met, she got it from the overalls of her busband. You'd think because her husband was dealing with asbestos all the time, if anyone was going to get meso it would be him. Actually she got it from cleaning his overalls."

She warns that cases of mesothelioma haven't yet reached a peak. "It's expected in the next decade or so. I always think it's 2016, but I think it might be even later than that. But the peak is definitely yet to come, and that's why government reforms are incredibly important on this. From diagnosis to death is incredibly quick, and we need to make sure that victims get compensated very quickly, so when they do pass away, they know their families have security."

The Legal Aid Bill is likely to clear parliament either later today or on Thursday, now most of the amendments from the House of Lords have either been rejected by ministers of compromised on.

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