HC Deb 16 September 2004 vol 424 cc1446-7
7. John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab)

How many solicitors have sought remuneration for additional health tests for clients under the coal miners' compensation scheme for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and vibration white finger; and for how many individuals.␣[189176]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Nigel Griffiths)

It is not possible to provide a breakdown, but the House will want to know that the Department pays for the independent medical assessment process and there should be no need for claimants to incur further expenditure by undergoing additional health tests.

John Mann

That excellent and precise answer knocks on the head the myth that solicitors perpetuate to justify double-charging miners. Is not it time for miners and their widows to be paid the full 100 per cent. of their compensation? Can the Government help by holding back the cheques for those solicitors who refuse to pay 100 per cent. of the money, in exactly the same way as some solicitors have been holding back cheques for their clients to try to rake off extra money from the most generous scheme in the world?

Nigel Griffiths

My hon. Friend makes a good point and I am sure that 8,823 of his constituents in Bassetlaw are grateful for the help that he has given them in securing payments that total £52 million. We are in discussions with the Law Society and I was grateful to my hon. Friend for attending a meeting with that organisation. I shall ensure that the points he makes are registered with it.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con)

Does the Minister accept that we are all disturbed by reports about the way in which some solicitors seem to have had their noses in the trough in the case of the compensation that we are considering? We all want to ensure that as much money as possible goes to those who deserve the compensation. Is it possible to have a review of how the compensation package has been administered and how much money has gone to solicitors so that, in future, we can ensure that, if there are other similar compensation cases, solicitors come at the bottom of the league and the people who deserve the compensation go to the very top?

Nigel Griffiths

I have already put the information that the hon. Gentleman requests in the public domain.

Jeff Ennis (Barnsley, East and Mexborough) (Lab)

Can my hon. Friend update hon. Members about progress on trying to establish a minimum compensation figure for miners who suffer from chronic bronchitis and emphysema and financing it by using the inflation-updated solicitors' fees that the Department is currently paying out?

Nigel Griffiths

My hon. Friend made powerful representations in a recent Adjournment debate. He knows that discussions are currently taking place. Mr. Justice Turner is aware of his excellent contribution. Again, I stress that we want to do more to ensure that we build on the £72 million that has been paid out to miners—12,000 of them in my hon. Friends constituency—and rectify remaining injustices. I undertake to keep him and the House informed of the results of deliberations.