Mesothelioma victims across Medway who have been unable to get compensation because insurers or previous employers cannot be traced can now make a claim under a new government scheme.
Ministers approved plans this week to set up a fund which entitles them to 75% of a fixed sum.
While it is not the full amount they may have received had they got the relevant paperwork to take cases to court, it has been welcomed as a long-awaited breakthrough.
Tracey Crouch, MP for Chatham and Aylesford
But Chatham MP Tracey Crouch, a campaigner for justice for mesothelioma sufferers and their loved ones, believes the legislation does not go far enough.
Ms Crouch was among those backing an amendment to increase the amount to 80%, narrowly defeated in the House of Commons on Tuesday.
She said: “I am pleased that many victims will secure some sort of compensation for a disease they simply got by going to work.
“It is a welcome bill, but I remain disappointed that it is not as good as it could and should have been if we are to provide fair and reasonable justice for the victims of mesothelioma.
“Although it is a good day for the victims of mesothelioma, it could have been a great day.”
Tim Robinson, former landlord of The Barge in Gillingham, contracted mesothelioma after working on nuclear submarine refits in Chatham Dockyard.
The 63-year-old father-of-three, who was diagnosed about two years ago, said: “I was lucky because the Ministry of Defence said ‘hands up’ without a squabble.
Terminally ill Tim Robinson
"But the trouble is the illness lies dormant for many years and it’s quite common for companies to go out of business and insurers cannot be tracked down.
"This is a fantastic first step in the right direction which recognises this dreadful illness. But I do think the government needs to go further.
“It is not just a life-destroying illness but a soul-destroying one. There are things I can’t do now that I could do a year ago.
The Association of Personal injury lawyers said the system was “watered-down justice”.
President Matthew Stockwell said: “It is bad enough that victims are exposed to deadly asbestos just by turning up for work, then forced to use this scheme because insurance records are no longer around.
“Now they are to be penalised by losing a quarter of what the courts determine is fair redress. This is not the justice these people deserve.”