Written evidence submitted by Dr Alan Mckenna to the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill
1. I would like to thank the Select Committee for the opportunity of commenting on the Armed Forces Bill.
2. My name is Dr Alan Mckenna, and I am a campaigner on issues relating to asbestos.
3. In providing this evidence I am not representing any individual or body.
4. In 2016 the government introduced a lump sum compensation payment scheme for those military veterans who were exposed to asbestos before 1987, and who subsequently contracted the disease mesothelioma.
5. The scheme only related to those contracting mesothelioma, not other asbestos related diseases.
6. In light of the Armed Forces Covenant this failure to include in the scheme all asbestos related conditions is arguably unfair and discriminatory.
7. I would argue that with the consideration of the Bill by the Select Committee this is an opportunity to right this discriminatory wrong, with the seeking for inclusion within the Bill of a provision that the compensation scheme should cover all asbestos diseases caused by exposure to asbestos prior to 1987.
8. I have over the last few years lobbied a number of MP’s on the issue, and also contacted former and existing Ministers, including Mr Mercer. Sir Mike Penning was kind enough to lend his support, writing to Mr Mercer on several occasions.
9. Mr Mercer rejected the possibility of including other asbestos caused conditions within the scheme. In a letter to Sir Mike Penning dated 28th January 2020, Mr Mercer stated:
‘I am fully satisfied that the MOD policy regarding the payment of a lump sum for Diffuse Mesothelioma under the WPS reflects the wider Government position. The MOD will reconsider its policy should the Government position change and other illnesses are included in the Mesothelioma Act 2014.’
10. Arguably this stated government ‘policy’ is based upon a flawed interpretation of the position between civilians and veterans. The Diffuse Mesothelioma Payments scheme under the 2014 Act came about because some mesothelioma claimants were unable to claim against their former employer because they were no longer in existence, and no insurance policy could be identified from which damages might be paid. The situation regarding the veterans is entirely different, with Crown Immunity up until 1987 being the issue.
11. Morally it cannot be right that for example in a situation where two veterans were similarly exposed to asbestos during their service before 1987, and they both subsequently contract different asbestos diseases only one is entitled to the lump sum payment but not the other.
12. I have kept this evidence statement brief, but if the Committee requires any clarifications or additional details I would be happy to provide them. Thank you.
22 March 2021
Written evidence submitted to the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill