HC Deb 29 March 1993 vol 222 cc76-7W
Mr. Pickles

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when he will announce his response to the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council's recommendations on chronic bronchitis and emphysema in coal miners; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Lilley

We have considered the Council's report on chronic bronchitis and emphysema in coal miners and metal production workers very carefully and have accepted the recommendation that these diseases should be prescribed as industrial diseases in relation to underground coal miners. Regulations will be laid to give effect to this from 13 September 1993.

Under normal circumstances benefit claims in respect of industrial diseases can take several months to investigate, and in this case we anticipate very large numbers of claims from miners and ex-miners. We estimate that the number of claims dealt with over the next year or so under the industrial injuries scheme could be almost doubled.

We are concerned to ensure that claims are dealt with as quickly as possible and that unacceptable backlogs and delays do not arise. We consider that this can best be achieved by a two-stage take-on of claims. The regulations will provide for claims from older miners and ex-miners to be taken first, from 13 September 1993, and for claims from other miners and ex-miners from 1 March 1994. We are devising arrangements that will ensure that seriously ill miners and ex-miners will be able to submit a claim in the first period regardless of age. Payments will be backdated to 13 September 1993, if people claim at the appropriate time and satisfy the usual conditions for the award of benefit, so that no one will lose benefit as a result of the phased take-on. Precise details of how the take-on claims will be handled will be well publicised before implementation.