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Tuesday, 13 March, 2001, 16:12 GMT
Minister pledges action on miners' claims
Miners graphic
Many Scots miners are still awaiting compensation
The UK Government has given a commitment to speed up compensation payments for former miners in Scotland suffering from health problems.

Official figures show that of more than 16,500 claims lodged on behalf of Scottish miners, fewer than 3,000 have so far been settled.

In a Commons debate on Tuesday, led by Tom Clarke, the Labour MP for Coatbridge and Chryston, ministers faced calls to do more.

Energy Minister Peter Hain, who is responsible for the scheme, said the backlog of claims will be cleared twice as quickly in the next three months, at a rate of 1,000 a week.

Peter Hain
Peter Hain: "Mammoth task"
Mr Hain said payments have been delayed by accuracy checks but the contractor, Healthcall, has now "engaged extra resources" to speed up the process.

This action "will result in twice as many claims being processed to clear the backlog - that's up to 1,000 a week for the next 12 weeks".

The minister also pledged to end the "unacceptable" situation of elderly and retired miners waiting behind their younger, fitter colleagues for assessment.

He said: "For my part, I'll ensure that the elderly and most injured are seen first, although that had not been happening.

"We are also prioritising widows who are claiming on behalf of their late husbands."

But Mr Hain said processing the compensation claims was a "mammoth task" made more difficult by the "complex" legal proceedings started under the last Tory government.

"This is the biggest personal injury claim ever in Britain - and possibly in the world," he said.

Tom Clarke
Tom Clarke sought assurances in the Commons
"With fresh claims coming in all the time, there could be well over 150,000 claims to settle. About 1,000 a week are still being received."

But Mr Clarke said: "We are not simply referring to statistics, we're talking about people."

He told MPs how his own father had died of pneumoconiosis, a lung disease suffered by many former miners, aged 53.

He added: "Justice delayed is justice denied."

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See also:

22 Apr 00 | Scotland
MP demands quicker payout for miners
26 Mar 99 | Medical notes
Miners' lung disease
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