Association of Personal Injuries – Torrent of protest after HMRC policy change on work histories

"APIL has written to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) in the strongest terms about an overnight change in policy which will cause substantial delays in many mesothelioma claims.

The APIL office has been inundated with complaints from members who have discovered that from this week, a request for the employment history of a deceased person may only be released to the person’s representatives on receipt of a court order.

According to staff at HMRC’s Longbenton office, the reason for this change of policy is ‘because the records are stored in accordance with the Data Protection Act’.  APIL has pointed out that the Data Protection Act 1988 does not apply to the deceased: the rights to privacy attaching to the data pass to the personal representatives upon death and they can give consent for the records to be released.

There appears to have been no consultation with those likely to be affected by this abrupt change of policy. Had such consultation taken place, it would have become evident that the policy change will cause substantial delays, incur additional costs and create other problems, all of which are outlined in APIL’s letter.

HMRC has also been reminded of the Government’s recent consultation on speeding up the claims process for mesothelioma sufferers, warning that this latest policy change is completely at odds with the Government’s objectives outlined there.

We have called for this policy change to be reversed as quickly as possible, particularly in relation to applications by solicitors for relatives and/or estates dealing with victims of mesothelioma and other asbestos related diseases."

James Walsh, Partner and Head of the Asbestos Litigation Team comments “This is another example of lack of consultation with those affected by the asbestos disease of mesothelioma.  If the HMRC policy stands it will inevitably result in delays and increased costs in dealing with this claims which is something we are all trying to avoid."

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