More than 3,000 people marched last Saturday to protest against the treatment of asbestos victims, following the collapse of the insurer Chester Street.

One thousand protesters marched through Clydebank, Scotland, the asbestos black spot of the UK, where rates of the disease are around ten times the British average.

Another 2,000 Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union members marched to QBE International's offices in Melbourne, while Australian building workers downed tools in

Chester Street sold Iron Trades Insurance, its biggest asset, to QBE for £175m in 1999 before going into provisional liquidation this January.

Furious asbestos victims and their families, who learned recently from liquidators Pricewaterhousecoopers that they will receive virtually no compensation, have questioned the sale and the part played by the Financial Services Authority.

The company's affairs are being investigated by the provisional liquidator. But the rally, organised by the Clydebank Asbestos Group, called for a full public inquiry, government intervention in the case and full compensation for victims.

The Secretary of State for Scotland, Helen Liddell, sent a message of support in which she promised that the government would face up to its responsibilities.

“The government is making it clear to the insurance industry that they cannot just walk away from this matter,” Liddell said.

“The industry cannot stand by and let individuals suffer.”

Clydebank MP Tony Worthington said he had met two women at the rally whose husbands had died from asbestosis that week.

“It's a very hot issue here, and it needs to become one all over the UK,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has been in talks with the Treasury, Worthington and solicitor Frank Maguire, whose firm, Thompsons, represents more than 2,000 asbestos victims.

Both the ABI and the Treasury said they were unable to comment on the nature of the discussions.