Asbestos NHS treatment cost recovery bill is voted into law

Lung scan showing cancer Insurers have claimed legislation would not benefit asbestos sufferers or the NHS

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A bill to recover the costs of treating Welsh asbestos patients from businesses or insurers has been passed by assembly members.

It is estimated the new law could raise up to £1m a year for the Welsh NHS.

The bill's sponsor, Labour AM Mick Antoniw, said it would help people whose lives had been blighted by "this terrible disease".

The insurance industry has raised concerns, questioning whether the move is within the assembly's powers.

Before becoming an assembly member, Mr Antoniw was a solicitor at the legal firm which has acted for many asbestos victims and their families.

Speaking before the bill was passed, he said: "It is only right that medical costs incurred by the NHS should be recovered from those who caused the disease and used to give more support to asbestos victims and their families - for example, a cancer nurse costs £50,000 per annum.

"We could employ an additional 20 cancer nurses or a mixture of cancer nurses and counsellors or additional research into the cause and treatment of asbestos disease.

"It is my belief this new Welsh law can make a significant improvement to the quality of life of those whose life is blighted by this terrible disease."

Last December assembly Presiding Officer Rosemary Butler certified that the bill was within the institution's powers, but admitted it was a "finely balanced" decision on some aspects of the legislation.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) wrote to her and the secretary of state for Wales with a number of what it called "serious concerns" about the bill's lawfulness.

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