HAMPSHIRE families whose relatives die after asbestos exposure will be denied compensation after a Government U-turn condemned as a “disgrace”.

The Queen’s Speech promised a Mesothelioma Bill to provide payouts to sufferers unable to trace the employer who exposed them to the deadly dust.

The move has long been demanded in areas such as Southampton, which – because of its docks and the use of asbestos in ships – is a known blackspot for asbestos deaths.

But a trade union immediately warned a £335m fund fell far short of what was originally promised, because: l Only victims of mesothelioma, a cancer of the lung lining, will be helped – not people dying from other asbestos-related conditions l Only those diagnosed after July 2012 will receive payouts – denying help to huge numbers of older cases.

l Payouts will be only 70 per cent of the average compensation levels for asbestos, because of a complicated banding system.

Steve Murphy, general secretary of UCATT, said: “Deaths from asbestos are entirely preventable. For decades, Governments and employers knew the risks but chose to do nothing.

“It is disgraceful that even now they are trying wherever possible to deny workers compensation.”

Nearly 2,400 people, mostly men, die from mesothelioma every year – of which 300 do not have an insurer, or that insurer cannot be traced.

A ‘standardised mortality ratio’ (SMR) is used to identify blackspots, where a figure of 100 would be the expected number of deaths, given the age of the population.

The figures are far, far higher in Southampton (282), Eastleigh (253), Gosport (240) and Fareham (208) – and even in Winchester (139), New Forest (133) and Test Valley (130).

A proposal for a £400m fund – mainly funded by insurers – was put forward by Labour, but progress ground to a halt after the Coalition came to power.