Unite The Union, the UK's largest trade union believe that workers exposed to asbestos have been let down by the House of Lords, who have ended compensation for the asbestos related condition pleural plaques.

The Law Lords rejected an appeal by the union against an earlier ruling by the Court of Appeal in January 2006.

The decision removes an established right to compensation, which had existed for 20 years, for pleural plaques which are in almost every case caused by workers being exposed to asbestos due to negligence of their employers.

Pleural plaques is associated with an increased risk of developing fatal conditions like mesothelioma or asbestosis. Diagnosis of pleural plaques often leads to extreme distress for the victims, as they fear they may develop fatal asbestos related diseases which can often lead to a slow and painful death.

Many sufferers with pleural plaques tell of the worry and uncertainty it can cause, knowing that one day they may develop into devastating mesothelioma, a cancer for which there is no cure.

Today's decision comes after a four day hearing in June.

It means thousands of people diagnosed with pleural plaques across the UK will no longer be entitled to compensation. It also means massive savings for the insurers of companies who knowingly exposed their employees to asbestos in the workplace.

Unite Joint General Secretary, Derek Simpson said:

"This is a harsh decision which will affect thousands of people with pleural plaques now and in the future."

"The judgment will disadvantage many of our members who have been exposed to asbestos in their work by denying them the right to sue their former employers for developing pleural plaques. Unite will continue to fight to re-coup damages for those people who have developed mesothelioma and other asbestos related conditions."

Ian McFall, head of asbestos policy at Thompsons Solicitors who ran the case on behalf of Unite, added:

"This decision is very disappointing for the thousands of people who are living with the worry of knowing that their lungs have been scarred by asbestos. They will be baffled and offended that the House of Lords has decided that pleural plaques is not worthy of any compensation."