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Volume 979: debated on Tuesday 19 February 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he intends to take any action to allow the compensation for the pre-1970 widows, under the coal industry pneumoconiosis compensation scheme, to be improved.

Yes. I have been aware for some time of the problems caused by the flat-rate compensation arrangements for these widows, official records for whom do not now exist. I am glad to say that the Government have decided to ease these problems by providing finance, as suggested by the National Union of Mineworkers with the support of the National Association of Colliery Overmen Deputies and Shotfirers and the British Association of Colliery Management, to enable the minimum compensation under the coal industry Pneumoconiosis Compensation Scheme to be increased to £600. The cost of the modification to the compensation arrangements will be a once for all payment to the National Coal Board not exceeding £7 million in 1980–81. The payment will, of course, be subject to parliamentary authority and provision will be taken for the payment in the 1980–81 Main Estimates.