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Miners' Compensation for Bronchitis and Emphysema

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The arrangements to pay compensation are now getting fully under way. The handling arrangement, agreed last September with solicitors acting for the claimants, sets out procedures aimed to settle all 100,000 plus respiratory disease claims within two to three years.

Based on the initial spirometry test, we have offered 6,500 expedited payments, of which 1,500 have been accepted and 1,500 rejected. We are awaiting responses from solicitors on the remainder. In the meantime interim payments are being made wherever possible. To date, we have paid over £50 million in damages to ex-miners and their families.

For the full medical assessment process 17 centres have been established and it is aimed to have set up a further eight by the end of March. The first full assessments are now being completed and we aim to have in place the capacity to complete 2,500 assessments per month by the end of March. The extent to which these can run at capacity will depend on the speed with which solicitors send in completed claims questionnaires and mandates and the speed with which records can be collected from GPs and hospitals.

The Government remain determined to pay money to deserving miners and their families as quickly as possible, but we need the co-operation of all involved parties to achieve that aim.

The monitoring group has been very helpful. There have been three very useful meetings with it and a fourth is scheduled for the end of March. In the meantime, group members have been holding discussions with the Government's agents and

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contractors as well as firms of solicitors in an attempt to identify problems with the system and ways in which the process can be speeded up.

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What arrangements have been made and what financial support has been provided or is planned in regard to administrative and legal costs relating to the claims for compensation of former mineworkers suffering from bronchitis or emphysema or their dependants; and whether it is expected that their legal advisers will take a significant share of any payments awarded under this scheme.[HL1220]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The Government, in agreement with solicitors representing the claimants, are paying fixed costs, as set out in the claims handling agreement, plus reasonable disbursements, to all solicitors in respect of successful claimants. The Government have also agreed to pay certain costs relating to client care for all claims, including those that are unsuccessful. In addition, the Government will be paying for the costs of lung tests, medical consultations and the collection of records for every claimant who chooses to have his claim assessed, regardless of the outcome.

Solicitors are not prohibted from charging a success fee. It is entirely a matter for the individual solicitors whether they choose to charge on this basis and we understand that some firms are doing so, while others have chosen not to. However, we would hope that they would take account of the Govenment's agreement to meet certain costs for unsuccessful claims. We have always made it clear that our primary concern is to see that miners are properly compensated for the injuries that they have suffered and we would hope that solicitors who represent them would share the same aim.

Radiocommunications Agency: Issue of Telecom Licences

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the recent decision of the Radiocommunications Agency to delay issuing new telecom licences for microwave technology is consistent with the Chancellor of the Exchequer's determination to reduce the cost of access to the Internet.[HL1272]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The Radiocom-munications Agency consulted on whether to delay the issue of new licences for one frequency band to take account of the imminent consultation on another related frequency band. However, noting the stated preference of the respondees, the Radiocommunications Agency has decided not to delay the licensing procedure.

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Minority Ethnic Communities: Health Department Strategy

Baroness Uddin asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What strategies the Department of Health has in place to meet the needs of minority ethnic communities generally; what proportion are focused on meeting the needs of religious and faith communities; and, of those, what proportion are focused on Muslim communities.[HL1386]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Department of Health's strategy for meeting the needs of minority ethnic communities is to mainstream race equality issues into all aspects of its work, including policy development, NHS and social care service delivery and workforce issues. This approach was set out in The Race Equality Agenda of the Department of Health, published in January, and copies have been placed in the Library. Staff will be equipped with the skills they need to develop and deliver services which meet the cultural, religious and linguistic needs of local black and minority ethnic populations.

Income Support

Baroness Barker asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What would be the capital limits for income support if they had been uprated annually since introduction by (a) prices, (b) earnings and (c) the higher of prices earnings; how much it would cost to uprate them to these levels; and how many more people aged 60 or over would become eligible for income support.[HL1226]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): The information is in the table.

April 2000 Value of Income Support Capital Limits, Caseload and Expenditure Changes if Uprated since Date Introduced

Uprated byLower/Child's (£'s)Higher (£'s)Extra Caseload (000's)Increased costs (£ million)
Prices4,70111,3821520
Earnings5,72812,7983045
Best(1)5,81712,9983050

Notes:

(i) Prices are rounded to the nearest pound, caseloads to the nearest 5,000 and expenditure to the nearest £5 million. The caseload increases are by number of claims rather than total numbers of people affected. The results are shown for uprating by prices, earnings and the best of either for every year since introduction until April 2000.

(ii) For income-related benefits the ROSSI index (retail prices Index less rent, local taxes and mortgage Interest payments) as published by the Office of National Statistics.

(iii) Average Earnings Index Whole Economy (Non Seasonally Adjusted) as published by the Office of National Statistics.

(1) The RPI has been used as the basis for increasing benefits to produce a better off comparison of prices or earnings.


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Baroness Barker asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What would be the cost if the capital limit for income support for people aged 60 or over was increased from a lower limit of £3,000 and an upper limit of £8,000 to one limit of (a) £16,000, (b) £20,000, (c) £40,000 and (d) £50,000; and how many more people aged 60 or over would become eligible for income support at these levels.[HL1227]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The information is in the table.

Limit (£000)Floaters on to IS (000's)Total IS Costs (£ millions)Total IRB cost (£ millions)
165590240
2070110310
40105160495
50115175535

Note:

Caseloads are rounded to the nearest 5,000, and expenditure to the nearest £5 million. The floaters-on are by number of claims rather than total numbers of people affected. The floaters on excludes residential care and nursing homes and residential allowance cases. Totals may differ due to rounding.


Disability Living Allowance

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the total amount by which entitlement to disability living allowance went unclaimed by disabled people due to low take-up in the latest year for which figures are available; and what percentage of anticipated total expenditure on the allowance went unclaimed.[HL 1263]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Estimates based on the 1996-97 Family Resources Survey suggested that take up of disability living allowance (DLA) at that time ranged from 30 to 50 per cent for the care component and from 50 to 70 per cent for the mobility component. While it is reasonable to assume that it is normally less severely disabled people, likely to receive smaller awards, who do not claim, it is not possible to estimate reliably the total additional expenditure which would occur if everyone with a potential entitlement to DLA were to make a successful claim. It follows that, although actual expenditure on DLA in 1998-99 was about 7 per cent below the 1998 Budget forecast, this shortfall cannot be related to the amount of potentially unclaimed benefit.


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