Personal Injury News

Surface mine workers 'abandoned over compensation'

Former mine workers made ill by coal dust have been abandoned by a Government compensation scheme because they never worked underground, a Labour MP says.

Kevan Jones is accusing ministers of going back on assurances surface workers such as blacksmiths would be included among victims eligible to apply.

The MP for Durham North says the Government deservs full credit for helping ex-miners with respiratory disease - who have already received £785 million in payouts.

But he warns the goodwill the process has built in former mining communities will be lost unless urgent action is taken to address the other victims.

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

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

He quoted a Department of Trade and Industry 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".

The minute made clear that the rules applied to people who had "only" worked on the surface- with the word even being highlighted in bold, he said.

But 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, he added.

"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."

Story filed: 19:27 Thursday 16th October 2003




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