MINISTERS have been accused of deceiving Hampshire asbestos victims with fatal lung cancer, after dealing them a second heavy blow.

Mesothelioma sufferers face losing up to 25 per cent of their damages payments to their lawyers under changes brought through Parliament.

Alan Whitehead, pictured, the Southampton Test MP, condemned the prospect of sufferers having compensation “snatched away” in legal costs.

The Labour MP also protested that the Government had, last April, pledged to carry out a proper review before allowing compensation to be stripped out for court bills.

The so-called “review” was simply a single, complicated question wrapped up in a separate consultation – with no proper study of the impact of the change, he said.

Mr Whitehead said: “The Government indicated that people with mesothelioma – including many in my constituency – would not have a substantial part of their award snatched away “Now this is exactly what will happen. It was clearly not a proper consultation and, not surprisingly, it has come to its pre-determined conclusion.

“People in this terrible situation deserve the peace of mind and the certainty that was promised when the legislation was first suggested.”

Nearly 2,400 people, mostly men, die from mesothelioma every year, usually within 18 months of diagnosis.

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

Asbestos was used as insulation in ships, exposing workers during fitting out and ship breaking. Carpenters, joiners, plumbers and heating engineers are also at particular risk.

The latest row comes just weeks after the Government was accused of caving in to the insurance industry, to limit payouts to other victims of the deadly disease.

Around 3,000 people unable to trace the employer who exposed them to asbestos dust will, finally, receive compensation from a £350m package.

But Labour MPs condemned the decision to limit those payouts to 75 per cent of average compensation levels, under a deal struck with insurance companies.

Furthermore, only sufferers affected after July 2012 will be helped and there is no agreement to fund a research centre into the causes of mesothelioma.