The Government has rejected calls by personal injury lawyers to introduce a national employer's liability register to help solicitors find the insurers of clients who have developed industrial illnesses.
Instead, the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) has yielded to the insurance lobby by deciding that a new insurance industry code of practice is the best way forward.
Personal injury lawyers have constant problems trying to locate the insurers of factories whose workers have developed industrial injuries decades after the factories have closed.
When the DETR pledged to tackle the problem, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (Apil) lobbied for a national register, but the insurance industry said it would be too expensive to maintain.
Last month, environment minister Alan Meale sided with the insurers, saying the Government wanted to draw up a new code of practice requiring the insurance industry to help solicitors identify their clients' insurers.
Meale also announced new regulations requiring employers to keep insurance records for 40 years, and increased the minimum level of insurance cover from £2m to £5m.
Until now, companies have been required to insure employees – but not to keep their insurance records.
Apil president Ian Walker condemned the plans as “disappointing and inadequate”, and pledged to continue the campaign for a register.
He said: “A system in which every business keeps its own certificates simply won't work properly because businesses go bust and certificates are lost. A central register would be quick, simple and effective.”