The Government has published a new Bill to assist mesothelioma victims in line with recommendations made by Thompsons Solicitors.

The Child Maintenance Bill, published earlier this month, paves the way for changes put forward by specialist claimant lawyers, Thompsons, to relax the eligibility criteria for entitlement to State Benefits for mesothelioma victims.

Thompsons made the recommendations last November in its response to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) consultation on Improving Mesothelioma Claims Handling.

The law firm said it was an injustice that current rules meant people exposed to asbestos dust outside the workplace were excluded from entitlement to payment of certain State funded benefits.

Earlier this year Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, John Hutton MP, announced that everyone with mesothelioma, including previously excluded groups like the self employed and family members exposed to asbestos on workers overalls, would soon be able to claim an up-front lump sum payment.

Now the Government has confirmed it will make this change in Part 4 of the recently published Child Maintenance Bill, which is set to become law in 2008.

Head of Asbestos Policy

Thompsons Solicitors, head of asbestos policy, Ian McFall said: "We see hundreds of tragic cases each year for mesothelioma victims and their families.

"We have highlighted to the Government a number of areas where we believe improvements could be made to the system to provide fairer and faster compensation to sufferers and their families.

"This is one important area where Thompsons has called for changes which would benefit asbestos victims. We welcome this new Bill which will make a real difference to the lives of people who were not previously eligible to claim. This is a bold and very welcome move."

In May the Department for Constitutional Affairs launched a consultation on the Law on Damages after Thompsons highlighted an injustice in the way compensation for bereavement is paid to mesothelioma victims’ families in the UK.

Thompsons' Justice for Asbestos Families campaign revealed that families in England and Wales are receiving tens of thousands of pounds less in compensation than their Scottish counterparts.

Mr McFall added: "The Law on Damages consultation gives Thompsons an opportunity to express our views about how bereavement payments should be improved.

"We are calling for the law to be changed in England and Wales to give family members the right to act against a sense of grievous injustice."