Companies that negligently exposed their employees to asbestos and their insurers are now trying to dodge liabilities, according to MPs.

At a House of Commons adjournment debate on

16 January, MPs demanded action against commercial clients and their insurance providers.

They claimed the companies were "spivs" and "crooks", who were using bankruptcy to avoid paying compensation.

John Battle MP said Turner & Newall, once the UK's biggest company involved with asbestos, was a classic example of the companies' "unscrupulous" actions.

"Games are being played in the world of insurance," Battle said.

"We're in murky waters when we consider Turner & Newall's insurance cover.

"It now claims to be self-insured, [but] I have a copy of the general report and background to the proposals of the joint administrators.

"The company went to the administrators and asked `please make us bankrupt' even though it is trading,getting millions of contracts each week and making millions of pounds."

Tony Lloyd MP added that the "real concern is that many crooks are involved, some of them in high places in the insurance and other companies".

Mike Hancock MP said: "The directors of those companies are nothing short of corporate spivs, as they've given people no support, no protection under the law and little or no opportunity to get decent compensation."