HM Revenue & Customs has been told to get on top of the delays holding up those claiming compensation from their employers’ insurers.
Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the Treasury select committee, has written to the chief executive of HMRC asking for his strategy on how he will reduce the delays.
The problem has been caused by those seeking access to older records of work histories, held on microfiche which can only be accessed on readers at HMRC’s Newcastle base.
This makes the task of accessing these records laborious and means it now takes 14 months for a claimant to receive a copy of their work history.
Mr Tyrie said: “HMRC needs to reduce these delays. Those who suffer from life-threatening diseases, such as asbestosis, deserve at least that.”
He added HMRC should be more transparent about how it prioritises claims and the barriers that have led to the current delay.
Mr Tyrie said HMRC should supply its overall strategy and timetable for reducing the delay, and the specifications of the microfiche readers, including their model and manufacturer.
In order to claim compensation from former employers or their insurers, victims of occupational diseases need a full record of their employment history, including a work history produced by HMRC providing the name of their employer in any given tax year, going back decades.
But HMRC chief executive Jon Thompson said the microfiche machines are now operating far beyond their envisaged lifespan and when they break down they are difficult to repair as parts are not easy to find.
The problem is exacerbated by the fact many victims, particularly in the construction industry, will have been employed by many different employers over the course of their careers.
Living mesothelioma victims have their cases prioritised by HMRC.