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Last Updated: Friday, 17 October, 2003, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK
Coal dust victims 'missing out'
Mineworkers have already received a total of 785m in payouts
Former mine workers made ill by coal dust have been abandoned by a compensation scheme because they never worked underground, a Labour MP has claimed.

Kevan Jones, the MP for Durham North said thousands of surface workers had been let down by the government.

He accused ministers of going back on assurances that the workers - such as blacksmiths - would be included among victims eligible to apply.

And despite giving the government "full credit" for helping ex-miners with respiratory disease, he warned the goodwill was in danger of being lost.

He urged urgent action was taken to address the victims who had so far not benefited from 785m in payouts.

Dust levels

Trade Minister Stephen Timms said there was no blanket ban on claims from surface workers but there was no medical evidence to back them.

Mr Jones, opening a short Commons debate, said the original agreement - which resulted from a High Court action brought by former miners - clearly included surface workers.

He quoted a Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) minute placed before Parliament in July 2000 which said: "The DTI proposes to accept that British Coal did not fully meet its responsibilities towards certain categories of workers in dusty jobs on the surface".

Mr Jones said that since then, the DTI had decided that levels of dust on the surface were too low to cause a debilitating lung problem even after a working lifetime's exposure.

'Illogical' rules

He said: "This is a very different stance.

"Many surface workers... have medical evidence to confirm they are suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease but despite this the DTI has now issue a blanket denial of liability.

"Many surface workers continue to suffer, some have died, often living next door to other former employees of British Coal who have been rightly compensated for their disability-finding it hard to understand why they have not been treated the same."

He criticised "illogical" rules that said surface workers could apply if they had spent five years or more underground.

Mr Jones added: "A surface worker could easily have accumulated a far greater total dust exposure over 30 years than a man who worked underground for five and then transferred to surface work for 15 years."

Miners welcome compensation deal
06 Oct 03  |  Nottinghamshire

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