Specialist UK-wide asbestos lawyers, Thompsons, has welcomed the Government's announcement that it will be extending state benefits to more mesothelioma victims and paying them faster.

Following an announcement by Secretary of State for Work and Pensions John Hutton said everyone with mesothelioma will be able to claim the payment, currently running at an average of £17,000 per person.

It will mean previously excluded groups like the self employed, family members exposed to asbestos on workers overalls, and those who lived near an asbestos factory and were exposed to the deadly fibres will be able to qualify for the state benefit.

Mr Hutton has promised the new rules will be in place by 2008.

Head of Asbestos Policy

Thompsons Solicitors, head of asbestos policy, Ian Mcfall said: "These radical proposals will make a vast difference to the lives of those families who were not previously eligible. This is a bold and very welcome move.

"It brings an end to the windfall payments received by insurers since 1999 to 2007. They were able to deduct state benefit payments from claimant's awards but did not repay that sum to the Government. During this time the insurers have seen a saving of £14m.

"It is therefore disappointing that on the back of this positive announcement the insurance industry has responded by suggesting that insurance premiums will have to go up. This is nonsense."