Ex-miners still waiting for compensation

The government’s compensation scheme for coal miners suffering poor health cost more than £1 in administration for every £2 paid out, it has emerged.

MPs reveal the findings in the public accounts committee’s report on the coal health compensation scheme, begun by the then-Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in 1998.

Since courts ruled the government was responsible for the personal injury liabilities of the British Coal Corporation in the same year it has received over 750,000 claims from former miners.

Today’s report found nearly 130,000 of these remain outstanding, despite the fact many claimants are elderly, ill and “anxious to receive their compensation”.

Some have died while waiting for the government to process their claims, it adds.

The government hopes to clear the backlog by February 2009 but has come under attack from MPs.

They say the DTI should have spent more time considering how to implement the scheme and that weak negotiations with solicitors has led to “significant costs”.

Committee chairman Edward Leigh said he was pleased former miners suffering from work-related disease and hand injuries had received payments.

“The department seriously mismanaged, however, the early stages of the implementation of the two schemes,” he added.

“Its attempt to implement the schemes swiftly, combined with its underestimation of how many claims would be made and how complex some would be, resulted in many claimants having to wait a very long time for the compensation they were owed.”

A spokesperson from the DTI’s successor department, the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), said the government would pay out £4.1 billion to sick miners and their families by the time the final claims are settled.

“Improvements have been made, particularly from the early stages of the scheme including the fast-track system to ensure miners and their families get their compensation paid quicker,” the spokesperson said.

“We continually seek further improvements and we will be giving a fully considered response to all the PAC’s conclusions and recommendations.”