A HAMPSHIRE MP said he was “saddened” after Labour plans to strengthen the Mesothelioma Bill failed.

The Bill creates a last resort compensation scheme for those who became sick through work but are unable to trace their employer or their employer’s insurer.

It will have huge significance for people living in Southampton particularly, which has been a hotbed for the disease due to the high numbers of docks and rail workers in the city.

Successful applicants will now receive 75 per cent of the average compensation of claimants of the same age who have pursued civil compensation claims.

But Labour had supported increasing the payment to 80 per cent and extending the eligibility cut-off date from July 2012 to February 2010.

But Itchen MP John Denham welcomed the impact the legislation will have for victims.

He said: “This still represents years of campaigning alongside colleagues, victims’ groups and trade unions and could at last offer at least some justice to victims of this appalling disease.

“The victims deserve a generous payout from the insurance industry which until now has failed to meet its responsibilities.”

Mr Denham added: “The Tory-led government seems content to put the interests of big business first and plans to force victims to pay a high penalty because, through no fault of their own, they are unable to trace their previous employers or insurers. I wanted to ensure that this Bill doesn’t fall short, and voted for an amendment to remove this penalty and increase the payment given to victims.”

As well as historic links with the docks and railworks in Southampton that have resulted in hundreds of mesothelioma deaths, the Daily Echo has previously reported how the disease is now spreading through other industries, with Marion Potts thought to be one of the first Hampshire teachers to succumb.

Mrs Potts, former head of English at Hardley School in Holbury – now the New Forest Academy – and Romsey School, died last June and an inquest found the most likely cause was exposure while at school, with coroner Keith Wiseman labelling the issue a “major concern”.

Hundreds of Hampshire schools still contain the substance, although it is being managed by staff and the county council.