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Miners' Compensation

Mr. Cummings: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what proportion of the money paid out in industrial injuries compensation to former coal miners in the Easington constituency relating to chronic bronchitis and emphysema has been taken back by the compensation recovery scheme. [28351]

Mr. Wilson: There are 4,763 claims registered for compensation for respiratory disease in the constituency of Easington, to date. 1,227 interim payments have been made and 288 claims have been settled in full. £6.0 million has been paid in damages in this area.

Compensation recovery legislation ensures that personal injury victims are not compensated twice for the same loss—once by the state and once by the compensator. So far, £82,635.82 has been paid to the Compensation Recovery Unit by the Department of Trade and Industry in respect of claims from Easington. None of this has been reclaimed from claimants' awards.

Mr. Bryant: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much the Government have paid in lawyers' fees in respect of miners' compensation in (a) England, (b) Wales and (c) Scotland since 1997. [28492]

Mr. Wilson: Since the Department assumed responsibility for British Coal's liabilities in January 1998, payments to solicitors, excluding trial costs, and disbursements total £64.2 million in England, £16.8 million in Wales and £6.3 million in Scotland.

Mr. Woodward: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many former miners in (a) St. Helens, South, (b) Merseyside and (c) England who have submitted compensation claims for (a) vibration white finger and (b) respiratory diseases have attended a medical assessment. [28701]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 21 January 2002]: In the time given, the Department is unable to provide a breakdown of claimants in St. Helens, South and Merseyside who have attended medical assessment. However, former miners with respiratory disease in these areas will be advised to go to centres at Wigan, Wrexham

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and Manchester. Former miners with vibration white finger, VWF, will be advised to go to the centre at Manchester.

The number of former miners who have undergone medical assessments at the centres mentioned is as follows:

Number of former miners who have been medically assessed

Centre locationNumber
Respiratory disease
Wigan923
Wrexham237
Manchester403
England total16,841
Vibration white finger, VWF
Manchester2,318
England total59,628

Note:

In addition, 23,508 claims by the estates of former miners have also been assessed. It is not possible to break down these figures by region.


Mr. Woodward: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the average waiting time for former miners for a medical assessment appointment is in (a) St. Helens, South, (b) Merseyside and (c) England in connection with a claim for (i) vibration white finger and (ii) respiratory diseases. [28702]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 21 January 2002]: In relation to vibration white finger, VWF, the occupation group must first be identified before medical assessment can be made. The time from confirmation of occupation group to MAP appointment is as follows:

RegionTime to MAP as defined (days)
(a) St. Helens, South38
(b) Merseyside40
(c) England67

Before a claimant can attend an appointment to undergo the Medical Assessment Process, MAP, for compensation for respiratory disease, the recovery of the claimant's medical records must first be completed. Appointments are then made, with the most elderly and ill claimants receiving priority. Low priority claimants will not have an appointment booked if a higher priority claimant is available. In the time given, the Department is unable to provide an average timescale for the time from completion of records recovery to MAP appointment for England, but, given the comparatively small numbers of claims in these areas, a breakdown for St. Helens, South and Merseyside has been possible and is given in the table. The claims have been split into two categories for purpose of analysis:

MerseysideSt. Helens, South
Category 1 claimants(23)
Number of claimants430186
Average waiting time (days)6366
Category 2 claimants(24)
Number of claimants165
Average waiting time (days)3839

(23) Claims which have been assessed

(24) Claims which are un-assessed but with a future booked appointment


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John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry which solicitors are charging both the client and the Government for their services in dealing with the claims from miners suffering from respiratory diseases and vibration white finger. [29381]

Mr. Wilson: Solicitors are under strict professional and legal duties to inform their clients of the basis on which work is carried out, including the fee structure (Solicitors' Practice Rules 1990 and Solicitors' Costs Information and Client Care Code 1999). The Department has no sight of, or influence over, terms and conditions that claimants enter into with solicitors. It is the Department's view that, because it is covering solicitors' costs, the claimants should not be asked to make any payment towards costs.

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what advice is being given to ex-miners about Government's payments to solicitors for each miner's compensation claim. [29391]

Mr. Wilson: Solicitors are under strict professional and legal duties to inform their clients of the basis on which work is carried out, including the fee structure (Solicitors' Practice Rules 1990 and Solicitors' Costs Information and Client Care Code 1999). The mining unions are also well aware that the Department covers solicitors' costs and will no doubt advise their members accordingly. The Department has made public on many occasions that claimants should not have to make a payment towards solicitors costs.

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry which 12 solicitors handle the largest number of compensation claims for miners suffering from respiratory disorders and vibration white finger. [29382]

Mr. Wilson: The 12 firms dealing with the largest numbers of respiratory disease and vibration white finger claims listed alphabetically are:













These solicitors and their contact details are listed on the Department's website at www.dti.gov.uk/coalhealth.

24 Jan 2002 : Column 1063W

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what statutory requirement there is for (a) claims handling companies and (b) solicitors to advise clients that the Government have an agreed handling fee for miners' compensation claims. [29359]

Mr. Wilson: Claims handling companies are unregulated and are not subject to the same duties as solicitors. Solicitors are under strict professional and legal duties to inform their clients of the basis on which work is carried out, including the fee structure (Solicitors; practice Rules 1990 and Solicitors; Costs Information and Client Care Code 1999). This would include the liability of any other party, in this case the Department, to meet the claimants' costs.

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many solicitors are dealing with miners' compensation claims for respiratory diseases and vibration white finger. [29383]

Mr. Wilson: In relation to respiratory disease, there are approximately 270 firms dealing with compensation claims and about 210 firms processing vibration white finger claims. These are listed with contact details on the Department's website at www.dti.gov.uk/coalhealth.

Miners' Pension Fund

Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what proportion of former miners who were working in Staffordshire in the 1980s lost their jobs but were not entitled payments from the pension fund. [29401]

Mr. Wilson: None. All former British Coal miners when reaching pensionable age, whether dismissed or not, are entitled to the pension benefits they have accrued whilst in employment.

I announced on 11 December that certain miners dismissed during the 1984–85 strike, would receive an enhancement to their pension in recognition of the years of further service they lost as a result of British Coal's decision not to re-employ them.


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