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Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract: My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, perhaps I can ask a question.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, perhaps I can come to the noble Lord's point, which was that we could possibly go back to the judge and the claimants' solicitors group. I am not certain that we could do that, but I shall make certain that the issue is reviewed again and we see whether there is a way in which those records, with the judge's permission, may be used to deal with that situation. I cannot say more on that at this stage. I believe the question has been raised but I shall make certain it is raised again.

A number of specific points were raised by my noble friend Lord Prys-Davies. I have the answers here but perhaps I can write to him because I am running out of time. Also, in answer to my noble friend Lord Hardy of Wath, the judge was quite clear that smoking causes emphysema and it had to be taken into account in evaluating the amount of compensation due.

Perhaps I can deal with the final question of the solicitors' fees. As the Government have previously stated, our aim is to make sure that all claimants receive the full compensation to which they are entitled. We are therefore extremely angry that we continue to hear of claimants whose solicitors are

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taking a cut out of their client's compensation. As your Lordships will be aware, we agreed a scale of fixed costs, plus reasonable disbursements to be paid to solicitors in respect of all successful cases. We are also paying some solicitors' costs in respect of some unsuccessful claims. In addition we are paying for the lung testing, the records collection and the consultation with the specialist and do not intend to recover any of those costs where a claim is unsuccessful, as would be the normal entitlement of a defendant. Therefore, in the vast majority of successful cases, we anticipate that we shall be meeting most, if not all, of the solicitors' costs.

Lord Elton: My Lords, we are indebted to the noble Lord for all this information on an important matter. But the noble Lord is now 30 per cent over time. I understand that he has 12 minutes. I draw his attention to that fact.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I wanted to make some of these points because this is an enormously important subject. Let me conclude by saying that we will do everything we can to make certain that those making claims for respiratory disease or vibration white finger receive fair compensation as soon as possible. But we will be prepared to listen to any proposal from your Lordships or anyone else that may help to improve this difficult and complex process.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, I raced through my speech in order to ensure that he had plenty of time to reply--it was good that he was able to give so much information--but he made an incorrect comment.

I said that by 1992 the Industrial Injuries Advisory Committee had concluded that chronic bronchitis and emphysema was disabling. The Conservative government of the day accepted that report on a no-fault basis. Forty-five thousand applications were received, of which 10,000 were successful before the criteria were changed in April 1997. I gave credit to the present Government for changing the provisions but the Minister suggested that my government had done nothing. That is not correct; we accepted the report. As a result of the no-fault claims, so many claims began that our government brought forward the eight test cases. In fairness, and for the record, I want to mention that to the Minister.

        House adjourned at twenty-six minutes past nine o'clock.


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