Senior asbestos lawyers warned that the ABI's mesothelioma compensation scheme will not stop claims against employers.

Davies Arnold Cooper partner Fiona Gill and senior legal manager Geoff Meyer said the Legal Services Commission, formerly the Legal Aid Board, would help asbestos victims bring new cases if the scheme went ahead in its present form.

Gill said the scheme was offering claimants around £50,000, which the commission would see as significantly less than could be obtained through the courts.

"You don't see many claims of less than £100,000 these days," she said.

The ABI's scheme proposes mesothelioma sufferers sign away their legal rights against culpable employers, but Meyer said it was dangerous to attempt to do so.

"It's fairly difficult to oust the jurisdiction of the courts, the courts will not take kindly to that," he said.

Gill said she supported attempts to set up a scheme, but that the ABI needed to guarantee how quickly it would process claims and how long it would run.

The confidential scheme was revealed in a war of words over the Fairchild, Fox and Matthews cases earlier this week.

The House of Lords was due to hear the cases earlier this week, following a controversial Court of Appeal decision in December that was widely seen to benefit insurers and rob claimants of compensation.

However on Monday the claimants' lawyers accused insurers of attempting to derail the House of Lords' hearing by offering the compensation scheme, full settlements and legal costs.

In the event, Mrs Fox rejected her £115,000 settlement and the House of Lords decided it would hear the cases next month but an ABI spokesman said the scheme would be kept on the backburner.

An ABI document "A Confidential Summary of Attributes of An ABI-led Voluntary Scheme for Work-Related Mesothelioma Claims" revealed claimants under the scheme would get less money to reflect "early payment, simplified procedure and the elimination or reduction of litigation risk".

Arguments on contributory negligence would still pertain and the last-exposing insurer would handle the claim.

"Insolvent insurers will not be included in this scheme unless FSCS (Financial Services Compensation Scheme) can be authorised to take part (position not yet clear)," the document said.

The ABI spokesman said in an official statement on Tuesday: "This was a genuine attempt by insurers to speed up the payment of compensation and to avoid lengthy litigation."

However, John Pickering of John Pickering & Partners, which acts for Fox and Matthews, said Mrs Fox refused the settlement because she was mindful of the hundreds of other claimants who would suffer.