Victims of asbestos-related cancer who can not trace a liable employer will be able to apply for compensation worth an average of £115,000 within months, the Government has announced.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said around 3,500 victims of mesothelioma will be covered by a £350 million package following the passing of a Bill by MPs this week.
Ministers said the move would bring hope to former workers in heavy industries such as shipbuilding, who struggled to find an employer or insurer to sue for damages because firms become insolvent or records went missing.
Around 900 people will receive compensation this year, and 300 every year after that until 2024, under the package, which the DWP said was funded by insurance firms.
Work and Pensions Minister Mike Penning said: "This represents a major breakthrough for the many victims of this terrible disease, who have been failed by successive governments and the insurance industry for decades. It will end an injustice that has left many tragic victims and their families high and dry.
"The aggressive and terminal nature of this disease, coupled by the fact we're approaching a peak in cases in the coming years, made it all the more important to have got this legislation passed."
"However the Government has bowed to sustained lobbying form the multi-billion pound insurance industry. Victims of other fatal conditions such as asbestos-related lung cancer and asbestosis will still be denied a penny of compensation and even those victims who are eligible will only get three quarters of what they should have been entitled to."
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "While we welcome this fund, only some victims of illness at work that should benefit will be able to claim, and the amount they will get will be less than justice would demand.
"If the Government was serious about helping victims of occupational ill-health, it would offer 100% compensation to all victims of an occupational illness, rather than partial compensation for asbestos victims only.
"Unions will continue to push for full justice for the thousands of people who fall ill or develop a disease at work."
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