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Law firm alerts colliers about claims; COMPENSATION: Solicitors flooded with callers seeking information about government scheme.

Byline: RHODRI EVANS

SOLICITORS have been flooded with calls from ex-miners across Wales since launching an advertising campaign urging them to seek compensation for health problems caused by working in pits.

More than 1,000 former pit workers have contacted law firm Thompsons in recent weeks asking for information about the Government's compensation scheme for chest and other diseases.

Thompsons launched the advertising campaign in England and Wales last month to alert former miners, their widows and their families to their rights to claim compensation.

The firm warned that the deadline for claims under the chronic emphysema and bronchitis compensation scheme for miners would not be open-ended and that anyone who was a miner, or whose husband or father was a miner after 1954, should lodge a claim as soon as possible.

The majority of people who have contacted the firm are from Wales, South Yorkshire and Lancashire.

They are joined by further claimants from the former mining areas of the Midlands and Kent, where Thompsons is launching the advertising campaign next week.

Tom Jones, a partner at Thompsons, said it was encouraging that the advertising campaign was reaching so many people, but it was "alarming" that the Government's message to them to claim without delay did not seem to have been totally effective.

"The Government committed a huge pre-election spend on publicising the miners' compensation scheme and on speeding up payments to miners and their families.

"We have to question whether the Government is getting its message across if there are still so many people not registered for the scheme." he said.

"Given that the time period for registering claims is not open-ended maybe the Government should look again at how it is communicating with the former mining communities.

"Former miners and their families have suffered enough, without also losing out on the compensation due to them."

The whole issue of miners' compensation has been a controversial one.

In January 1998 mining union Nacods won a High Court battle to force the Government to compensate former miners suffering from lung diseases as a result of their work. Many have been left with chronic lung problems after breathing in coal dust during their working lives.

Hundreds of millions of pounds have been paid out in compensation but there are still thousands of former miners in Wales whose claims have yet to be settled.

The testing procedure run by the Government's agency Healthcall has been criticised for the rate at which it has been dealing with the 27,000 compensation claims made by Welsh miners.

When Neath MP Peter Hain was made energy minister he said speeding up the compensation for miners was his main task. He gave the sickest miners a higher priority to try to ensure they were compensated during their lifetimes.

In May this year he promised faster compensation and said that by October the Government envisaged paying out pounds 70m to miners.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Sep 3, 2001
Words:485
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