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Compensation: Mining

Volume 471: debated on Thursday 31 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what plans he has to recompense miners for the mishandling of their compensation claims as set out in the Legal Services Complaints Commissioner's report entitled Investigation into the Handling of Coal Health Compensation Schemes Complaints by the Legal Complaints Service and Solicitors Regulation Authority dated 15th January 2008. (183605)

The responsibility for dealing with complaints about solicitors is a matter for the Law Society, as the legal profession is currently self-regulating. However, I am aware of Members continued interest regarding claims under the Coal Health Compensation Scheme and I am particularly grateful to colleagues who have assisted, working with the Law Society's Legal Complaints Services to resolve outstanding issues and raise awareness. The Government believe that it is important that miners who complain to the Law Society about their claims under the Coal Health Compensation Scheme get the level of service and compensation that they deserve. The Government have sought regular updates from the Law Society to ensure that progress is being made in continually improving the service, and are awaiting a detailed response from the Law Society to the Legal Services Complaints Commissioners' Special Report.

It is our understanding that 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 million to miners and this figure is expected to rise as more investigations are completed. The Legal Complaints Service has received 2,884 complaints to date, of which 2,038 have been closed. This has resulted in excess of £700,000 being recovered for former miners or their relatives.

The Government have legislated in the Legal Services Act 2007 to create an independent Office for Legal Complaints, which will remove complaints handling from the legal professional bodies it will also enable approved regulators to deal more effectively with cases of widespread wrongdoing in the future.