Royal & SunAlliance (R&SA) and asbestos lawyers are locked in a war of words over the failed asbestos manufacturer Turner & Newall.

Asbestos specialist Frank Maguire, of Thompsons solicitors in Glasgow, said from 1972 to 1977 Royal Insurance provided Turner & Newall with the certificates of insurance needed to comply with the Employers' Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1972.

However, he said the insurer, now part of R&SA, attempted to exclude asbestosis liability from the cover, although this contravened the Act.

Maguire said he was now recovering the insurance documents to establish whether R&SA could be held liable, regardless of the exclusion.

An R&SA spokesman said it was "wholly wrong" to suggest Royal Insurance or R&SA "acted unlawfully or in any way improperly" in the case.

He said the requirements of the Act were clear, even 30 years after the events occurred.

"The position is that a single policy need not provide all aspects of employers' liability (EL) cover," the spokesman said.

"While the Act prohibits certain policy conditions, it doesn't prohibit an exclusion of the type contained in this policy, nor is it a requirement of the Act to detail policy conditions or exclusions on an employer's liability certificate.

"We excluded the asbestos-related industry as it was a risk we weren't willing to underwrite for Turner & Newall and this was well known to them."

In 1998, Turner & Newall Group's US owner Federal Mogul put the group into administration. The group included Turner & Newall and its associated company Newalls Insulation.

Maguire said the group's collapse meant all asbestos-related compensation claims came to an abrupt stop because the company said it had self-insured the risk.