Government to give £400 million compensation to miners for ill health

The Government has given the go-ahead for a final award of £400 million in compensation payments for ex-miners and their widows for health problems brought about through working in British Coal mines since 1954.

Following a Court ruling in 1998, at the end of a seven year legal case, in which British Coal was found to be liable for lung diseases and vibration white finger (VWF), the Government and the miners’ legal representatives have worked out the compensation package. The money is being shared between two schemes covering the two health problems, with widows of ex-miners receiving £30 million from the package, and is intended to pay for damage to health, loss of earnings and care costs.

Although the Court decided that certain levels of dust in deep mines are unavoidable, British Coal was responsible for levels that were higher than this, termed ‘guilty dust’, which has resulting in miners suffering from chronic bronchitis and emphysema, a Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) spokesman told edie.

With regards to lung diseases in particular, the level of compensation will vary with each case, said the spokesman, depending on the type of mine that a worker was employed in, and on the length of time. With 130,000 claims so far for compensation for lung diseases, and £114 million paid out already, the DTI does not yet know what proportion of miners have developed these illnesses.

“The coal health compensation scheme is the biggest compensation scheme in legal history, and reaching agreement on pensions was the last piece of the legal puzzle,” said energy Minister Peter Hain. “We have finally swept away the last major hurdle and can crack on with making full and final offers.”

“We cannot make things better overnight, but I will work tirelessly to get money in the pockets of miners and widows as soon as possible,” Hain added. “They are entitled to their justice and dignity, and the Government is determined to deliver it.”

Those who feel that they may have a valid claim for compensation for lung diseases caused by coal dust, or who wish to check the progress of their claim, are encouraged to call the Government’s helpline, on 0800 0282 138.

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