British Coal Compensation

House of Lords written question – answered on 21st April 2008.

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Photo of Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract Labour

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action they have taken following the reports by the Legal Services Ombudsman in respect of retired miners, their widows and families in the British Coal litigation; and whether they are satisfied with the performance of the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Legal Complaints Service.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Justice, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

The Government are pleased to note the improvements that the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and the Legal Complaints Service (LCS) have made in dealing with complaints. However, they recognise that still more can be done. The Government are pleased to note that, following a request from the LSCC, the Law Society's 2008-09 plan includes a target related to the handling of miners' cases.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has authorised investigations into 60 firms of solicitors; 20 firms have been referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal and the SRA has won the first three disciplinary cases heard there. To date, solicitors have refunded over £3.6 million to miners. This figure is expected to rise as more investigations are completed.

It is also our understanding that the Legal Complaints Service has received 3,383 complaints to date, of which 2,538 have been closed. Of the 2,538 closed matters, 162 were upheld and 1,139 were conciliated. The remainder were closed due to reasons such as the customer resolving the matter with the solicitor without LCS assistance, the complaint being outside the LCS jurisdiction—ie, the complaint was against a union—or the customer not responding.

Both the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform will continue to work with the LCS, the LSCC, the Legal Services Ombudsman (LSO), coalfield MPs and other bodies to ensure that all claimants under the coal health scheme understand their rights to redress through the LCS where deductions have been made wrongfully from their compensation awards.

In January 2008 Bridget Prentice and Malcolm Wicks met representatives of the LCS and SRA, Kevin Barron MP and Lord Lofthouse to discuss the outcomes and way forward from the Rother Valley initiative.

The Government plan to provide details of claimants under the Coal Health Compensation Scheme to enable the Law Society further to raise awareness among retired miners following the success of the Rother Valley pilot. This will be on a phased basis over the next 12 months.

In January 2008 Bridget Prentice and Malcolm Wicks met representatives of the LCS and SRA, Kevin Barron MP and Lord Lofthouse to discuss the outcomes and way forward from the Rother Valley initiative.

The Government plan to provide details of claimants under the Coal Health Compensation Scheme to enable the Law Society further to raise awareness among retired miners following the success of the Rother Valley pilot. This will be on a phased basis over the next 12 months.

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