Mesothelioma Lump Sum Payments (Conditions and Amounts) (Amendment) Regulations 2021

Wednesday 10th February 2021

(8 months, 2 weeks ago)

Grand Committee

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Department for Work and Pensions

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

Baroness Stedman-Scott Portrait Baroness Stedman-Scott
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That the Grand Committee do consider the Mesothelioma Lump Sum Payments (Conditions and Amounts) (Amendment) Regulations 2021.

Baroness Stedman-Scott Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Stedman-Scott) (Con)
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My Lords, in moving these regulations, I will also speak to the Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers’ Compensation) (Payment of Claims) (Amendment) Regulations 2021. I am required to confirm to the Committee that these provisions are compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. I am happy to do so. These statutory instruments will increase the value of lump sum awards payable under the Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers’ Compensation) Act 1979 and the diffuse mesothelioma scheme, which was established by the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008.

These two schemes stand apart from the main social security benefits uprating procedure. However, through these statutory instruments, we will increase the amounts payable by the September 2020 consumer price index of 0.5%. This is the same rate that is being applied to the industrial injuries disablement benefit and other disability benefits under the main social security uprating provisions. These new amounts will be paid to those who satisfy all the conditions of entitlement, for the first time, on or after 1 April 2021.

The Government recognise that people suffering from diseases as a result of exposure to asbestos or one of a number of other listed agents may be unable to bring a successful claim for civil damages in relation to their disease. This is mainly due to the long latency period of their condition, but they can still claim compensation through these schemes. These schemes also aim, where possible, to ensure that sufferers receive compensation in their lifetime while they themselves can still benefit from it, without first having to await the outcome of civil litigation.

Although improvements in health and safety procedures have restricted the use of asbestos and provided a safer environment for its handling, the legacy of its widespread use is still with us. That is why we are ensuring that financial compensation from these schemes is available to those affected.

I will briefly summarise the specific purpose of the two compensation schemes. The Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers’ Compensation) Act 1979—for simplicity, I will refer to this as the 1979 Act scheme—provides a lump sum compensation payment to individuals who have one of five dust-related respiratory diseases covered by the scheme, who are unable to claim damages from employers because they have gone out of business and who have not brought any action against another party for damages. The five diseases covered by the 1979 Act scheme are diffuse mesothelioma, bilateral diffuse pleural thickening, pneumoconiosis, byssinosis and primary carcinoma of the lung if accompanied by asbestosis or bilateral diffuse pleural thickening.

The 2008 mesothelioma lump sum payments scheme, which I will refer to as the 2008 scheme, was introduced to provide compensation to people who contracted diffuse mesothelioma but were unable to claim compensation under the 1979 Act because, for example, they were self-employed or their exposure to asbestos was not due to their work. The 2008 scheme allows payments to be made quickly to people with diffuse mesothelioma at their time of greatest need. Under each scheme, a claim can be made by a dependant if the person with the disease has died before being able to make a claim.

The rates payable under the 1979 Act scheme are based on the level of the disablement assessment and age of the sufferer when the disease is diagnosed. The highest amounts are paid to those diagnosed at an early age and with the highest level of disablement. All payments for diffuse mesothelioma under the 1979 Act scheme are automatically made at the 100% disablement rate, the highest rate of payment, reflecting the serious nature of the disease. Similarly, all payments for this condition under the 2008 scheme are made at the 100% disablement rate and based on age, with the highest payments going to the youngest people with the disease. In the last full year for which data is available—April 2019 to March 2020—3,220 awards were paid under the 1979 Act, totalling £42.7 million, and 450 people received payments under the 2008 Act, totalling £9.7m million. Overall, 3,670 awards were made across both schemes in 2019-20 and expenditure was £52.4 million.

I am keen to address the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on sufferers of pneumoconiosis and mesothelioma. While this uprating debate is an annual event, this has been a far from normal year. We took the difficult decision at the outset of the pandemic to temporarily suspend all face-to-face health and disability assessments, including for the industrial injuries disablement benefit, to protect the health of claimants and staff. We have continued to process industrial injuries disablement claims for those individuals with terminal illnesses. Therefore, throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and the suspension of face-to-face interviews, service centres have continued to pay the D3, mesothelioma, D8, lung cancer with asbestosis, and D8a, lung cancer in the absence of asbestosis cases, for workers’ compensation.

In addition, since November 2020, we have been assessing claims for D1, pneumoconiosis, including silicosis and asbestosis, and D9, unilateral or bilateral diffuse pleural thickening, prescribed diseases, so that claimants can start to receive the payments they deserve. While we expect the number of people diagnosed with mesothelioma to begin to fall in the coming years, the Government are well aware that there will still be many people who develop this and other respiratory diseases. That is why we are committed to working with our agencies and arm’s-length bodies to improve the lives of those with respiratory diseases.

The Covid-19 pandemic has presented major challenges for all healthcare systems. The NHS has published a cancer service recovery plan, which has been developed with the Cancer Recovery Taskforce. The plan aims to prioritise long-term plan commitments, which identified respiratory disease as a clinical priority and will support recovery, including the delivery of targeted lung health checks. We know that research is crucial in the fight against cancers such as mesothelioma. That is why the Department of Health and Social Care invests £1 billion per year in health research through the National Institute for Health Research.

I am aware that people suffering from occupational lung diseases are likely to be at higher risk of complications resulting from Covid-19, at what continues to be a distressing time for sufferers of the diseases that we are discussing today. The Department of Health and Social Care is following advice from independent experts on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation on which groups of people to prioritise for Covid-19 vaccines. They advise that the immediate priority should be to prevent deaths and protect health and care staff, with old age deemed the single biggest factor in determining mortality. The JCVI has decided that it is safe for people with long-term conditions and that people who are high-risk should be prioritised to get the vaccine first.

Returning to these important regulations, I am sure we all agree that, while no amount of money can ever compensate individuals and families for the suffering and loss caused by diffuse mesothelioma and the other dust-related diseases covered by the 1979 Act scheme, those who have them rightly deserve the financial compensation that these schemes can offer. I commend the increase of the payment scales for these schemes and ask approval to implement them. I beg to move.

Lord Blunkett Portrait Lord Blunkett (Lab)
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My Lords, I chose to join the Grand Committee for the consideration of these regulations this afternoon in part because of the experience of friends and family members older than myself who have suffered from mesothelioma and pneumoconiosis. I also pay tribute to those who campaigned so hard for the 1979 Act and those who campaigned for the changes in 2008, including the deputy leader of Sheffield City Council, Councillor Terry Fox, who was president of the National Association of Colliery Overmen, Deputies and Shotfirers and led a very successful campaign leading up to the 2008 changes.

I really respect the Minister and appreciate her explanation of what has taken place and the Government’s reaction in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic. As she said at the end of her contribution, it is hard to get across to people who have not met anyone who has suffered from mesothelioma or pneumoconiosis just what a tragedy it is for the individual and their family, and the debilitating impact that these diseases have on the longevity, mobility and life chances of those suffering. It was not simply something that happened in the coal and steel industries. I remember, as a young man, that with Turner and Newall in Leeds, it took great campaigners, media appreciation and investigation to bring about change. That was also true of the Sheffield occupational health project, which today works in GP surgeries and does a first-rate job on a shoestring to ensure that it can work with primary care to help those who have those diseases. As the Minister spelled out, it also helps those unable to identify their specific employment as the cause, mainly because the workplace no longer exists, but for whom it is absolutely clear that their illness was associated with employment and that those living around that employment have been affected. That was why the 2008 change came in.

I am sorry that we did not build in automatic uprating in 1979 and 2008, but I am very glad that the Government have, like previous Governments, taken this on board. It is appreciated on behalf of all those currently suffering and those still being identified that the Government, despite disagreements elsewhere over welfare payments, have recognised the enormity of what people are suffering and stepped up to the plate.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD) [V]
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, and his reminder of just what a battle the miners had for proper compensation for pneumoconiosis.

Like many people speaking today, I suspect, I have a personal link. My sister, Betty, died of mesothelioma about 15 years ago. It is interesting what a pernicious disease it was. She died in her mid-70s, but one suggestion was that she might have contracted the disease when she left school and went to work in the local ICI, spinning fireproof clothing with cotton and asbestos woven into it. It was freely admitted that the disease might have an incubation period of 50 years. It is a pernicious disease and a cruel one.

I welcome what the Minister has announced today to the effect that notice has been taken of the impact of Covid. Of course, that is a respiratory disease, and one hopes that the understanding of how it could impact on people who are already in the early stages of pneumoconiosis suggests that they should have priority in terms of vaccination.

The 2008 Act was a great step forward, and Parliament can also take credit that there have been nudges since to remove some of the bureaucracy that was left in place so that people get action quicker and more effectively. However, I know from the time when I was a Minister the interest of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, who is not with us today—he is probably doing good somewhere else. Last year he reminded us that 5% to 10% of mesothelioma victims survive for fewer than five years and that we have the highest rate of disease anywhere in the world. So this is not a job done. However, so far as this order is concerned and in terms of the Minister taking responsibility for it, I think there is general confidence that in the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman-Scott, we have someone who will ask the right questions and demand the right action.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes Portrait Baroness Gardner of Parkes (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I wish to voice my support for the Government in the financial assistance they continue to offer people who have been diagnosed with these terrible diseases. I appreciate that no amount of money can compensate for these life-debilitating diseases, which often lie on the lungs or in the body for years before detection. However, it can help them and their families. Given the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, particularly on the lives and the longevity of those with these diseases, could the Government look at whether there is anything more they can offer to them, be it additional funding, priority vaccines or some other new developments?

Lord Wigley Portrait Lord Wigley (PC) [V]
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My Lords, while I welcome the mesothelioma order, I speak primarily to the pneumoconiosis order, which, as some colleagues may well remember, is close to my heart after the struggle we had between 1974—my first full year as an MP—and 1979 to get the 1979 Act on to the statute book. It was of huge significance for me and my constituency, in which were located many of the slate quarries, working in which had caused many constituents to suffer from silicosis and pneumoconiosis. The Act covered many other industries in which dust caused industrial lung diseases. I also had the Turner and Newall Ferodo factory in Caernarfon—and the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, referred to the Turner and Newall dimension.

As time is limited, I will ask three brief questions. First, of the cases in which payments have been made in the past 12 months, how many arose from the slate quarrying industry? I realise that it would now be a small minority for two reasons: the scale of the industry has decreased, and many sufferers have either died or have already received benefits. Secondly, can the Minister give any indication as to how many applications have been turned down in the past year, and in those cases, what the main factors were leading to that refusal? Thirdly, and finally, on mesothelioma, can the Minister, who has referred to the impact of Covid on these schemes and referred specifically to lung health checks, please give some clarification as to whether the work of the rapid access clinics, which are vital for early identification of the disease, has been negatively impacted by coronavirus? The Minister has mentioned that time is of the essence. Indeed, it is a vital consideration. I realise that the noble Baroness may not have answers readily at hand, so if necessary, perhaps she could write to me on these matters and put a copy in the Library.

Lord McKenzie of Luton Portrait Lord McKenzie of Luton (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, as usual, this annual debate on the uprating of mesothelioma and pneumoconiosis regs invokes passionate memories of our industrial heritage and a different time for health and safety. The long latency of these diseases, which others have referred to, means that it can be many years before an individual is aware that they have been infected and, given that the main cause of exposure to mesothelioma is asbestos, its continuing presence in so much of our built environment, such as schools in particular, makes it a risk to be managed not only now but well into the future.

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 are the HSE’s latest offering to help with that, which is to be commended. It is clear that these regs before us today should be supported. It is of regret, however, that it has not been seen fit to narrow or eliminate the gap between compensation paid to sufferers and to dependants. It was originally the intention that this gap be eliminated once resources allowed. It is understood that the 2008 Act payments were to be funded from recoveries from civil compensation arrangements. Can the Minister therefore let us know what the current position is on this and how close we are to closing that gap?

The 2014 payment scheme grew out of concerns that it was proving difficult for individuals to access entitlement to compensation under employers’ liability insurance arrangements; the tracing of policies was difficult and may have been frustrated in part by the industry. Can the Minister tell us what headroom there is in these arrangements? The Minister will recall that the scheme was funded by a levy of 3% on the gross written premiums of the industry. What data does the DWP have on the aggregate amounts of claims for lump sum compensation for mesothelioma, which come under three headings: the 2014 Act, these regulations we are considering to date, and employers’ liability insurance payments?

We have acknowledged in the past the medical research going on with the support of the insurance industry in particular, encouraged by Members of your Lordships’ House. If you look at the scientific and medical advances and endeavours in recent times, perhaps there is hope for sufferers of these diseases as well.

Lord Bradshaw Portrait Lord Bradshaw (LD) [V]
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I first came across mesothelioma in the early 1970s when I was a railway manager in Liverpool. We used to stuff the boilers of locomotives full of asbestos, and of course it became widely known how lethal that was. I pay tribute to the huge efforts that have been made by the trade union movement to bring this matter to prominence. The trade unions often do not get a very good hearing in this House from various quarters, but this is a circumstance in which membership of a trade union is essential, when something like this comes across the horizon.

Could the Minister give us some idea of how many new cases are coming to light and whether there is any knowledge of which industries these come from? It would be comforting to know that this is one of the things which is getting better rather than worse.

Baroness Whitaker Portrait Baroness Whitaker (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, as a former civil servant, I had responsibility for compensation for industrial illness schemes. Updating the regulations is to be welcomed but I have two questions for the Minister. I agree with my noble friend Lord McKenzie about the unfairness for dependants.

My questions concern the 2008 mesothelioma regulations. First, Regulation 4(1) stipulates that the claimant’s exposure must have been in the UK. There used to be a considerable amount of asbestos on board ships, where mesothelioma—as my noble friend Lord McKenzie said, it has a long latency period—was contracted by many claimants. Can the Minister confirm that personnel at sea on UK ships outside territorial waters are in the UK for the purpose of the regulations?

Secondly, do the tables in the schedule take account of up-to-date increases in the average age of mortality when computing the relative amounts per age of the complainant? In that context, these sad deaths, usually caused in the ordinary routine of earning a living, are all the more premature and might merit larger sums.

Lord Desai Portrait Lord Desai (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I declare an interest as the chairman of a company set up by a private company to pay compensation for asbestos-related problems. This is all very familiar territory. I will make only a small point because everybody else has said some good stuff.

I wonder how this compensation compares to legal decisions against private companies sued for asbestosis. I have been doing this compensation thing for about 15 years. It was on my suggestion that the company was set up by a big construction company that made asbestos. I have been following the numbers. At some stage, it might be useful to look at the legal decisions made by the courts—noble Lords will know that there have been changes to Scottish decisions and so on—which would enlighten us in revising our regulations. I just want to put that suggestion forward. If the Minister wants, I can get the data from our company, which was set up under Law Debenture. That is my suggestion.

Baroness Janke Portrait Baroness Janke (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for her introduction to the regulations on uprating benefits for sufferers of mesothelioma and other dust-related diseases. Like other noble Lords, I am pleased to support these regulations. I join them in paying tribute to the campaigners who continue to battle for more resources to fight this and other fatal lung diseases.

I want to mention in particular the British Lung Foundation, which not only campaigns for more research and awareness but provides support for sufferers and their families. It seems that, once diagnosed, many lung diseases are beyond treatment and sufferers are left with a very short time to live. I support the remarks made by noble Lords about equal treatment for families, which gives sufferers confidence that their families will not suffer unduly once they are no longer with them.

I must say, I was very much unaware of the ravages of lung disease. I became aware of it only when someone I know contracted it and subsequently died. Looking into the subject, I was shocked to learn that, far from being diseases of the past, which I thought they were, they are alarmingly on the increase; indeed, the UK leads the world in the number of deaths from mesothelioma.

As I understand it, these diseases, known to be caused by dust and asbestos in particular, are the result of working conditions. However, many sufferers are completely unaware of where they may have contracted their fatal condition. As noble Lords have said, there is still plenty of asbestos around, particularly in public buildings such as schools.

Certainly, much needs to be done to support work in this area, so I was pleased to hear the Minister talk about the millions that the Government are putting into research—occupational research in particular—but more research into the causes of these killer diseases is absolutely vital. The number of deaths from lung disease amounts to 20% of all deaths, yet research funding lags a long way behind that for other, better-known illnesses. The Health and Safety Executive estimates that occupational lung disease results in around 12,000 deaths a year, yet funding for this important agency has been cut repeatedly over the years. In addition to safe working conditions, monitoring needs to be provided in high-risk occupations such as construction, cleaning, baking and other artisan professions.

I ask the Minister to use her powers and influence to seek a more realistic level of support for research from the Government, and I support noble Lords’ request that the support for families be reviewed in future. Having said that, I certainly add my support to the regulations.

Baroness Sherlock Portrait Baroness Sherlock (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing these regulations and the noble Lords who have spoken.

It is great to see some of the faithful stalwarts of previous debates back again this year, albeit on Zoom rather than in the Room this time. My noble friend Lord McKenzie has a long commitment in this area. Once again, the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, rightly raised the incidence of silicosis and pneumoconiosis among slate quarrymen—something raised in previous years by my noble friend Lord Jones. It is strange to be debating this without the noble Lord, Lord Alton; I am not sure that it is strictly legal. Most years, we have him here, speaking up for the victims of these awful diseases and advocating powerfully for the work of the British Lung Foundation. However, the medium has in no way diminished the passion and power of noble Lords’ speeches, even if it has curtailed their length a little.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Blunkett for talking about the impact on miners; to the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, for talking about those who made railway boilers; and to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, for telling us about his sister, Betty. It is heartbreaking to think of her working away for ICI, making fireproof clothing and having no idea that those awful seeds being planted would lie dormant for decades, only to bloom so awfully. I hope that we will never reach a point where we talk about these matters without pausing to think of those whose lives were cut short by these awful diseases and those who lost spouses, parents or friends. I pay tribute to the trade unions, charities and all those who have campaigned for this compensation.

Obviously, we support these regulations and are glad to see that, once again, the compensation in both schemes is being raised in line with the CPI, by 0.5%. Is it definitely the intention that this will happen every year from now on?

One of the issues raised by my noble friends Lord McKenzie and Lady Whitaker is the lack of parity between the levels of compensation being offered to sufferers and their dependants. It would be helpful if the Minister could remind us of the Government’s rationale for this distinction. Also, as has been mentioned previously, what assessment have the Government made of the impact of that disparity on women, who are more often the dependants? What is the latest estimate of the cost of providing equal payments?

Last year, the issue of medical research and investment in it was raised much more than this. I wonder what is happening, given the pressure on charity funding in the pandemic. Does the Minister know what is happening to charitable funding that goes into research? In the past, contributions have been made by some insurers. Can the Minister tell us what she knows of how that funding may be going?

In last year’s debate on the uprating regulations, a number of noble Lords asked for information about funding and the data held on the prevalence of mesothelioma, and my noble friend Lord McKenzie asked about progress on employer liability tracing. The Minister agreed to write once she had gathered that information, but I have not been able to find such a letter among the deposited papers, and the House of Lords Library was not able to trace it either. Can the Minister confirm that she did write? If so, will she place a copy in the Library, and would she confirm that all such future letters will be deposited for the record?

Finally, as my noble friend Lord McKenzie said so clearly, these dust-related diseases are a reflection of our industrial past and the carelessness with which too many employers approached health and safety. If we are to avoid future scandals, we need a strong Health and Safety Executive—a point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Janke. But the HSE’s funding has been cut significantly since this Government came to power, and recent increases to fund the extra work caused by Brexit have not begun to make up for that. Can the Minister tell us how confident she is that the HSE is sufficiently well resourced both to manage the risks to employees in the current pandemic and to be alert to the health risks of the future, so that nobody else will be put through the next generation’s equivalent of the horrors we have been talking about today? I look forward to her reply.

Baroness Stedman-Scott Portrait Baroness Stedman-Scott (Con)
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My Lords, I thank everybody for their helpful contributions to this debate. The Government recognise that these two schemes form an important part of the support available to people with dust-related diseases such as pneumoconiosis, byssinosis, diffuse mesothelioma, bilateral diffuse pleural thickening and primary carcinoma of the lung. I hope to address all the points raised but, as always, if I run out of time, I will certainly write to noble Lords.

First, to pick up on the point the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, just raised about a letter, this came up in the office this week. My officials looked into it, and it seems that we did not write the letter as promised. That is being rectified at the moment, and I can assure the noble Baroness that it will be placed in the Library, as all other letters will be.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, for his contribution, and for paying tribute to the campaigners and eloquently telling us about the impact of these terrible diseases. Unless we have actually seen them, they are very difficult to appreciate. I add my thanks to all the health professionals for their support to people who require their help on this matter.

Moving to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, there is nothing I can say in relation to his dear sister. It is not a job done; we are on the case and we will keep it on the agenda. I say to all noble Lords that, on this matter and any other, my door is open to speak to them.

The noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, raised the point that dependants are mostly women, and asked whether I have considered the equality issues by not equalising payments and about an impact assessment. The intention of this scheme was to compensate those who contracted diseases as a result of their working environment. Historically, those who worked in hazardous environments tended to be men, and this reflects the current gender balance of claims. Nevertheless, the 2008 Act compensates people regardless of whether they contracted their disease through work, and this recognises the indiscriminate nature of mesothelioma. We have not conducted an impact assessment on the uprating of the lump sum schemes, but the noble Baroness raised a very valid point which I will certainly take back to the department.

The noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, asked why the uprating of the lump sum schemes has not been placed on a statutory footing. Each year, since 2004, Ministers have agreed that payments under the lump sum scheme can be uprated in line with inflation. Making this legally binding is extremely unlikely to make any actual monetary difference to those who benefit from these payments.

The noble Baroness, Lady Janke, and other noble Lords raised the point about government support and mesothelioma. This is absolutely critical in the fight against cancer, which is why the Department of Health and Social Care invests £1 billion a year in health research through the National Institute of Health Research. For several years, we have been working actively to stimulate an increase in the level of mesothelioma research activity from a low base. This includes a formal research priority setting exercise, a National Cancer Research Institute workshop and a specific call for research proposals through the National Institute of Health Research.

My noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes asked whether we could offer more support. I will take this away and write to the noble Baroness to see if there is anything we can do.

The noble Lord, Lord Wigley, raised the point of payments made in the past 12 months and how many of those arose from the slate quarrying industry. My responses may be disappointing, but the information is not published or readily available, and it would require analysis of multiple datasets for the 1979 scheme. In the quarter ending March 2020, there were a total of 210 industrial injury prescribed disease first assessments in the mining and quarrying industry, which were accepted and payable. The noble Lord asked how many applications had been turned down and what the main factor was in these cases. Again, the information is not published or readily available, and it would require some intensive analysis of multiple datasets. Information on industrial industry first diagnosed prescribed diseases all assessments by standard industry classification is published in the industrial industries disablement benefit quarterly statistics. If the noble Lord needs any help in accessing those, I ask him to please let me know.

The noble Lord, Lord Wigley, also asked, in relation to mesothelioma, whether I can give some clarification on whether the rapid access clinics, which are so important to secure the vital early identification of the disease and thereby facilitate payment, have been negatively impacted by Covid-19. It is imperative that people get tested and that cancer patients continue to receive the treatment they need. Overall, cancer treatment services have been maintained throughout the pandemic. Between March and November last year, 203,000 people started treatment for cancer, and 95% of them did so within 31 days of a decision to treat.

In terms of the levy mentioned, it was £33.3 million for 2019-20 and £28.9 million for 2020-21. The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, raised the point of equalising dependence payments for those made to people who have the disease. Again, the main intention of the scheme is to provide financial support to people living with certain diseases and to help them to deal with the issues the illness brings. It is right that funding is targeted where it is needed most, and around 90% of payments made under both schemes are paid to those who actually have the disease covered by these schemes. The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, asked why we do not use money from recoveries towards the equalisation of dependence payments. The combined cost of the 1979 Act and 2008 Act scheme payments outweigh the money received from compensation recovery, so there is, of course, an overall cost to the Government.

The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, raised a number of points. The first was what the latest projections are of when diffuse mesothelioma deaths in Britain will peak. There is always a degree of uncertainty in predicting future disease incidence, but the annually published data from the Health and Safety Executive show that annual mesothelioma deaths have been broadly similar over the last seven years. Before that, annual deaths had been rising.

In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, seafarers count as being in the UK. I will write to her with further information on that point.

On the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Desai, about how this compensation compares to legal decisions, I will certainly take him up on his offer. I will be in contact to do that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, asked whether we will publish a breakdown of people with mesothelioma by age and occupation. Data on the incidence of mesothelioma was published on the Health and Safety Executive website. It can be found on the health and safety at work statistics page under the subheading of ill health. The breakdown is available by age, occupation and geographical location. Again, if the noble Baroness has any difficulty in accessing this, I hope that she will let me know.

The noble Lord, Lord Desai, made a point about anybody being worse off as a result of making a civil claim. The amounts paid under the 1979 Act were originally set at a lower rate than the usual amounts paid in damages in civil cases. It is therefore unlikely that the amount paid under the 1979 Act scheme or the 2008 Act scheme would be more than the damages received through a civil claim.

The noble Baroness, Lady Janke, and others mentioned research; I have dealt with that.

On the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, about the Health and Safety Executive having sufficient resources, I will go back to the Employment Minister, who has direct responsibility for this, and double-check before I answer. I will write to her.

I thank noble Lords for the way in which they have entered into this debate. This is a terrible disease with terrible consequences. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, I hope that we will never debate this, as we do on an annual basis, without being moved by the impact of these diseases.

I commend the uprating of the payment scales for these schemes and ask approval to implement the regulations.

Motion agreed.