The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee has welcomed measures to ensure that people diagnosed with pleural plaques will continue to be able to claim damages. Publishing its report this morning, the committee recommended support for the Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) (Scotland) Bill. However, the committee also expressed concern about the potential financial implications of the bill and questioned the adequacy of its Financial Memorandum.
Committee Convener Bill Aitken MSP said: "Given that people with pleural plaques have been negligently exposed to asbestos and given that for the last twenty years they have been awarded damages, it is appropriate that damages should continue to be awarded.
"However, the committee is concerned that the figures provided by the Scottish Government in the Financial Memorandum might not accurately reflect the full costs of the bill. Equally worrying to the committee is the potential impact on the Scottish budget if UK Government departments, such as the Ministry of Defence, pass their liability onto the Scottish Government.
"It is essential that these specific matters are resolved prior to the bill being approved by the Parliament as a whole at Stage 3.”
The Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) (Scotland) Bill was introduced in the Scottish Parliament on 23 June 2008 and referred to the Justice Committee. The Justice Committee received written and oral evidence from a number of sources all of which can be found on the Committee web page: Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) (Scotland) Bill Homepage
The Stage 1 debate on the Bill is scheduled to take place in November.
The stages of a bill
The parliamentary process of a bill depends on the type of bill, but usually consists of three stages:
Stage 1: The appropriate parliamentary committee(s) takes evidence on the bill and produces a report on the bill’s general principles. A meeting of the Parliament then considers the report and debates whether to agree to the bill's general principles. If the Parliament agrees, the bill goes on to Stage 2. If the Parliament does not agree, the bill falls.
Stage 2: The bill is considered in detail, by a committee or, occasionally, by a Committee of the Whole Parliament. Changes, known as amendments to the bill, can be made at this stage.
Stage 3: The bill is again considered at a meeting of the Parliament. Further amendments can be made and the Parliament then debates and decides whether to pass the bill in its final form.
Once a bill has been passed, there is a four-week period during which it may be challenged by the Law Officers if they believe that it is outside the law-making powers of the Scottish Parliament. If it is not challenged, it is then submitted by the Presiding Officer to the Queen for royal assent.
On receiving royal assent, a bill becomes an Act of the Scottish Parliament. Some Acts, or sections of an Act, come into force as soon as royal assent is granted. However, the Scottish Government often sets a date or dates on which the Act, or parts of it, will come into force.