Justice for the Miners: THEY NEED THAT MONEY NOW; Falklands hero Weston backs Mirror campaign.
He blasted the Government for the way it has stalled compensation pay-outs to the pitmen suffering deadly dust disease.
Here he gives reporter Nick Servini a moving account of his experiences with the miners he grew up with in the South Wales valleys.
I HAVE spent the majority of life among the Welsh mining community.
I have relatives and friends who have been miners.
I have seen with my own eyes the anxiety, hardship and misery due to ill health many ex-miners suffer as a result of the long years spent underground providing the coal this country relied on for much of its energy.
You only have to walk to the shops, or stand in the queue at the post office and you can soon tell which men have spent time down the pits.
The colour of their skin, the blue scars, the wheezing chests.
My own uncle suffered horribly in his remaining years, as a result of the thick black dust which lined his lungs.
When the people of this country elect our Government, we do so in the belief they act for us. They are our representatives, our agents to carry out our wishes and protect us.
We believe injustices will be dealt with and action taken to put things right.
So why then, through successive Governments, is the issue of compensation due to the miners with lung disease still dragging along?
This Government's delaying tactics are, in my opinion, just as bad as the last Government's efforts to totally to ignore the problem.
I don't care which Government happens to be in power, or which Government has failed to meet the ex-miners' expectations.
But I am sick and tired over our political parties making promises they quickly forget once they get into power. These ex-miners don't care about the internal squabbles and inter- departmental rangling that go es on.
They just want the compensation they truly deserve.
For God's sake they need it now. Not next year, nor the year after.
Many of these 70, 80, and 90-year-olds are Bevan boys, many more were, in fact, conscripted into the pits during the wars.
This country owes as much to these miners as we do to the soldiers who fought.
The suffering they have endured and continue to endure is heartbreaking.. not just for them but for the families who have to watch as their loved ones struggle just to breathe.
Many they have no quality of life. But the compensation will at least go someway towards relieving them of some of the stress of living.
What I cannot and will not understand is why these claims are taking so long to be adjudicated.
For years our Governments, pit owners and managers have known about the diseases that affect the miners.
Why then should they still wait years for what they are entitled to?
As you read this, the waiting men are dying.
The paltry interim payments are an insult to these men who toiled and laboured in the misery and confines of the pits. A more substantial amount is the least that should be offered.
I truly believe the highlighting of this neglect is long overdue, and any further delay in taking care of the suffering miners is a gross injustice to the efforts and sacrifices they have made.
I also have experience of the long windedness and absurdity of the benefits red-tape system.
Seventeen years ago I was disabled in the Sir Galahad bombings in the Falklands. My injuries are visible and obvious.
They have been catalogued and examined by the best in the medical profession, yet I am still asked to appear before a medical board every few years. Why? My physical injuries will never change.
The same lack of understanding is evident in the treatment of the miners.
Why, when these miners have already had their primary examinations and referrals, are they still expected to travel to meet their boards ?
Their conditions like mine are never going to improve.
It is ridiculous to expect them to wait any longer than they have already for what is morally theirs.
I believe it is a matter of honour for us to ensure the payments due to them are speeded up and substantial.
The Welsh people owe much of its heritage to the miners.
Welsh mining villages are not just about black faces and tin hats with lamps. They're about culture and history.
The foundations of our lives were built in the small mining communities.
This is not a media ploy to sell more papers, but a humanitarian plea from the heart for these people.
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|Publication:||The Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Sep 6, 1999|
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