VICTIMS of an asbestos-related illness were given fresh hope of compensation yesterday.

A Bill to overturn a Law Lords ruling denying payouts to sufferers from pleural plaques – a scarring of the lungs, that can trigger mesothelioma and lung cancer – cleared the Commons.

But ministers made it clear they stood ready to block the Damages (Asbestos-Related Conditions) Bill in the House of Lords, if necessary.

They have argued that only five per cent of pleural plaques sufferers develop asbestos-related diseases and that changing the law would open the floodgates to other compensation claims worth billions.

It is 15 months since the Government signalled it would not overturn the 2007 ruling, however, it has not confirmed the decision after Labour MPs reacted with outrage.

Yesterday, Justice Minister Bridget Prentice apologised to MPs after admitting a final decision was no closer, adding: “That is very frustrating for everyone concerned.”

As a result, ministers had little choice but to allow the backbench Bill to pass to the Lords. It was given a third reading by 51 votes to zero.

But the Bill has less than four weeks to clear the Lords and Ms Prentice admitted that ministers would step in to prevent it reaching the statute book if necessary.

Under the Government’s proposals, only the existing 6,500 pleural plaques sufferers would receive “no fault” payouts of up to £5,000, funded by the taxpayer, rather than insurance companies.

Future victims would receive no damages until a serious disease developed, by which time an employer or insurance company may have disappeared, making it harder to prove liability.