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Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment

Committee for Finance and Personnel

Damages (Asbestos-Related Conditions) Bill

Written Submission from Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment

Clerk 
Committee for Finance and Personnel 
Room 419 
Parliament Buildings 
BELFAST 
BT4 3XX

15 February 2011

DRAFT DAMAGES (ASBESTOS RELATED CONDITIONS) (NORTHERN IRELAND) BILL 2010

  1. The Chair’s letter of 7 January 2011 refers.
  2. As you will appreciate DETI are not in a position to comment on the details of the proposed Bill as our Minister was part of the Executive decision that agreed to the introduction of the Bill into the Assembly. I should at the outset say that DETI has sympathy with any person who has developed pleural plaques as a result of negligent exposure to asbestos in the course of their employment.
  3. DETI believes it is likely that a majority of the exposure to asbestos in Northern Ireland occurred in the Harland and Wolff shipyards in Belfast pre-privatisation. As the publically owned company’s insurers went into liquidation, the cost of compensation for such claims is mainly funded by this department. Therefore a key issue for this Department is ensuring that there would be adequate additional budget cover within DETI going forward.
  4. The Committee should note that DETI support for the Bill has always been on the basis that the Executive agree to make available additional budget cover for the full cost of claims for pleural plaques that could fall to DETI.
  5. DETI has earmarked £32m for asbestos related liabilities out of its overall Draft Budget allocation, of which £12 million relates to potential additional costs associated with pleural plaques. In reality however any budgetary requirement can only be an estimate and actuarial reviews will be required across this and future Budget periods.
  6. The key issues for DETI in the period from 2011-15 are therefore:
    • what is the near term profile of any actual budgetary requirement. Should this be greater than the Draft Budget allocation of £32 million then further bids for pleural plaques would be required; and
    • the need to fund pleural plaques liabilities lessens the funding available to allocate to core DETI business areas within the overall Draft Budget envelope should additional funding not be available.
  7. The Department recognises that funding what would be a new statutory requirement would put additional strain on the DETI budget and the NI Block. As DETI officials indicated in their evidence session on the Draft Budget, DETI will of course be seeking to make a case for additional funding for mainstream activities should any additional funding become available between Draft and Final Budget.
David McCune 
DETI Assembly Liaison Officer

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