Thompsons Solicitors along with trade unions and asbestos support groups have been calling for a very long time for an insurance fund of last resort to protect all injured workers and their families. Thompsons welcome this announcement as a small step forward for some mesothelioma victims but have criticised the scheme because it does not go anywhere near far enough and will leave many mesothelioma victims who were diagnosed before the announcement and all victims of other types of asbestos disease and other industrial injuries unable to qualify for compensation from the scheme.

Who can claim compensation from the scheme?

The scheme is to compensate people who have developed mesothelioma due to exposure to asbestos at work when the employer no longer exists and the employer’s insurance company cannot be traced. Full details of the scheme will be published at a later date.

The scheme will only apply to people diagnosed with mesothelioma on or after 25 July 2012. Anyone diagnosed before this date will not be eligible.

The scheme also only covers people diagnosed with mesothelioma and excludes all other asbestos related illnesses such as asbestosis, pleural thickening and asbestos-related lung cancer, even though they are disabling and can be fatal.

Tom Jones, partner at Thompson Solicitors, said: "While we welcome any initiative to provide compensation for mesothelioma sufferers who cannot trace the liability insurers of their former employers, the government's announcement is a sop to the insurance industry.

"By limiting the scheme to mesothelioma, 50% of asbestos victims - those with asbestosis, pleural thickening and asbestos-related lung cancer - will remain uncompensated.

"The government's friends in the insurance industry are once again reaping the rewards of their donations to the Tory party while innocent victims are short-changed."