The debate over an insurance industry funded pool to cover long-tail industrial disease claims is set to be ignited following the House of Lords controversial ruling in the landmark Barker case.

Insurance Times has learned that insurers are looking at resurrecting the case for a compensation pool to cover industrial diseases such as mesothelioma.

David Williams, AXA claims director, said now was a good time to push for a separate disease pool. "[Following Barker] there is potentially a gap in the compen-sation sufferers would be expecting".

The Law Lords ruled in Barker that mesothelioma victims had to claim compensation victims from all the employers that wrongfully exposed them to asbestos, prompting fears victims could be deprived of compensation if an employer had gone bust or could not be traced.

Williams said: "A separate pool would bring greater confidence to the entire employers' liability market and be better for claimants, rather than a lengthy search to find employers and insurers, establish liability, and issue a cheque - often after the sufferer has died."

A long-tail disease pool was argued for several years ago when employers' liability premiums were spiralling. But at the time the government was not convinced of the need for reform.

But this week the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, John Hutton, said he wanted to work with the insurance industry to speed up the settlement of asbestos claims.

"It's important the process for claiming compensation does not add to the distress of individuals and their families," he said.

It is thought this intervention was prompted by the Barker ruling.

The ABI said a disease pool could be back on the agenda. Justin Jacobs, head of liability, motor and pricing at the ABI, indicated the body would discuss a pool as part of its wider discussions on compensation reform.

Peter Elliott, marketing manager for St Paul Travelers, said: "This is an idea worthy of further exploration although the practicalities of setting up and managing such a scheme could be daunting. If the ABI gives its approval we would be keen to join the discussion."