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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 April 2007, 09:01 GMT 10:01 UK
Miners' compensation 'exploited'
Mine
Many former miners suffer from work-related illnesses
A scheme for sick miners in England and Wales has been exploited by a few unscrupulous solicitors, a report says.

The fund was meant to distribute 3.4bn compensation to 760,000 former British Coal workers many who had suffered serious injuries.

But Lord Lofthouse, a Labour peer, says at least two law firms have made 100m from the scheme, while miners have had their pay-outs reduced by legal fees.

His report on compensation is being handed to the prime minister later.

'Dreadful disease'

I haven't worked all these years to fill the pockets of greedy solicitors
Lord Lofthouse

Lord Lofthouse, an ex-miner, will argue that money should be paid back, which he says is rightfully the miners' and that the Law Society failed to properly investigate miners' complaints against solicitors taking the fees.

He told BBC News: "It's immoral, when men have worked down the mine all their life, they're suffering from this dreadful disease, when the government's been generous.

"I've spent a lot of time over this last 30 years, I presented five bills in the House of Commons on this subject. I haven't worked all these years to fill the pockets of greedy solicitors."

The BBC's Stephen Blears said the process of double charging - taking legal fees from the government and then milking individual's compensation payouts - has been common.

Peter Williamson, chair of the Solicitors Regulation Authority, said the profession's reputation had been "seriously damaged" by the row.

He added: "I'm ashamed that solicitors whose costs are being met by the government should do such a thing.

"Solicitors are supposed to put their clients' interests first, and that is a fundamental, professional principle."

Many former miners have suffered from injuries such as chronic lung disease.

Ian Lavery, chairman of the National Union of Mineworkers, said solicitors who had double-charged miners had put future compensation schemes in jeopardy.




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SEE ALSO
Payout solicitor is highest paid
10 Apr 07 |  South Yorkshire
Payouts to sick miners pass 3bn
07 Mar 06 |  South Yorkshire
MP backs pit compensation fight
07 Feb 06 |  England
Solicitors urged to refund miners
16 Dec 05 |  Nottinghamshire
Miners' fund fraud probe launched
28 Jun 05 |  South Yorkshire
Pit compensation changes demanded
25 Mar 05 |  Nottinghamshire

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