My Lords, progress has been too slow on the medical assessment programme. Helen Liddell, the energy Minister, announced last week an increase in the number of centres and records scanning teams. The DTI is also working to streamline the programme and cut down on the number of records required. We also announced last week that increased amounts are being offered as expedited payments to thousands of miners. In addition, some claimants not previously eligible for expedited offers will now be entitled, without undergoing further tests.
We had a constructive meeting with the claimants' solicitors last week and reached broad agreement on the proposals. There are detailed points to be worked through, but the DTI hopes to make around 16,000 offers, totalling around £90 million, before Christmas. That is in addition to the nearly 25,000 individual payments made to claimants to date, which total over £73 million.