Thousands of terminally ill workers will die before getting the compensation they deserve because of delays to a new law aimed at addressing the problem, a legal expert has said.
The "disgraceful" wait for the legislation being implemented, which will see insurance companies benefit while victims suffer, has been blamed on a lack of funds by the Ministry of Justice.
In 2010 the law was changed to make it easier for ex-employees to sue for damages but it has not been brought into force, and a report says it will not come into effect until next year at the earliest.
Almost 5,000 people a year die from asbestos-related diseases and compensation expert Chris Shaw, a Newcastle-based solicitor, said: "It's disgraceful because they are terminally sick and they need that money.
"Insurance companies are the only ones profiting from the delay."
The Third Party (Rights Against Insurers) Act was passed in 2010 to make it easier for claimants to sue if their former employers have gone out of business.
Asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma can take 30 to 40 years to develop, by which time many firms have ceased trading.
The new law will make it possible for people to claim from the defunct companies' insurance companies, cutting down the time taken to litigate.
But a recent report by the Ministry of Justice has said "implementation of the Act has been delayed by work on other priorities".
Mr Shaw said: "It's a terrible state of affairs, and the government needs to rethink its decision. Tragically, many of these people do not have the luxury of being able to wait.
"The whole point of changing the law was to make it easier for people to get justice before they passed away."
Nick Starling, director of general insurance at the Association of British Insurers said: "The ABI firmly supports the Third Party (Rights Against Insurers) Act and has consistently said so in its responses to Government consultations.
"Insurers are committed to paying claims as quickly as possible and there is no benefit to them in having this legislation delayed."
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "We want to cut down red tape and speed up the legal process so those with genuine asbestos-related illnesses can obtain compensation quicker without unnecessary barriers.
"We are working to find the best solution to ensure this happens."