asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they will take steps to raise the awareness of retired miners, their widows and families who pursued claims under the British Coal respiratory disease litigation and the British Coal white finger litigation of their right to seek redress and repayment against those solicitors who charged them success fees, administration fees, or otherwise facilitated the deduction of fees from their compensation to pay to their parties.
I fully agree that anyone who has money taken inappropriately from compensation should be aware of their ability to seek redress. The department provides advice to this effect on its coal health website (www.dti.gov.uk/coalhealth/01.htm). It will also be covered in the next edition of the Compensation for Miners newsletter, which will be issued shortly. There has already been considerable coverage in regional newspapers in the coal areas.
The department has worked closely with the Law Society on the issue. The society has been taking action on individual cases over the past two years and has recently written to all solicitors involved in the coal health compensation schemes urging those who have not already refunded fees deducted from compensation to do so. The department has issued a statement supporting the Law Society's stance. The department has also made it clear that solicitors' costs associated with the schemes are covered by the department so claimants should not expect to have to make any such payments.
The issue of the legality of deductions from compensation to go into union fees is currently before the courts.