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British Coal Compensation

Volume 690: debated on Tuesday 13 March 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Department for Trade and Industry and its solicitors, Nabarro Nathanson, have lodged any formal complaints with the Law Society against solicitors in the British Coal respiratory disease litigation since 1 January 2004; if so, what is the name of each such solicitor; when each complaint was made; what was the nature of the complaint; and what was the outcome of each complaint. [HL2513]

Complaints to the Law Society are confidential, and it would be inappropriate for me to divulge this information. When individual cases are referred to the department they are considered and, if appropriate, passed to the Law Society.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have made an assessment of the reason why the Solicitors Regulation Authority remains unable to state the number of cases in the British Coal litigation sold to solicitors by either claims farmers or trade unions. [HL2514]

The Solicitors Regulation Authority has collected data from firms of solicitors which it has investigated. However, it is reliant on being informed of these practices; therefore, it is unlikely that an accurate total could ever be calculated.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have made an assessment of the reasons why neither the Solicitors Regulation Authority nor its predecessors have conducted an audit to establish the number of solicitors operating in the British Coal litigation with financial ties to claims farmers or trade unions; and whether such an audit is now necessary for consumer protection. [HL2516]

No such assessment has been made. Going forward, consumer protection in this area has been enhanced by the Compensation Act 2006.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have assessed the cases of those retired miners who successfully pursued industrial deafness claims against the former British Coal Corporation and who have had the compensation, awarded to them by the Department for Trade and Industry, withheld by their solicitors by reference to the case of Myatt and Others (Petitioners) v National Coal Board (Respondents); and what action is proposed to provide redress for these miners, particularly with regard to the intervening report issued by the Legal Services Ombudsman. [HL2517]

Following the decision in Myatt, all outstanding noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) costs claims have been reviewed. In many cases the department has compromised the claimants’ solicitors’ costs, which should have removed any impediment to the claimants receiving their damages. However in other cases the department has concluded that there remains an issue as to the reasonableness of the costs being claimed. Those cases are being progressed through the courts in the usual way.

Where a claimant has had his costs settled but has had moneys withheld by his solicitor, and he is dissatisfied with his solicitor’s conduct, he should either seek independent legal advice or refer the matter to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will respond to requests made of the Department for Trade and Industry by the Board of the Legal Complaints Service seeking disclosure of contact details in respect of past claimants in the British Coal vibration white finger litigation, British Coal respiratory disease litigation and British Coal industrial disease litigation; or whether they will instruct the department's claims handlers, Capita, to relay communications from the Law Society to such claimants. [HL2518]

The department and the Legal Complaints Service (LCS) are working together to find the best way to publicise the work that the LCS is undertaking on this issue. However, the Data Protection Act prevents the department passing claimants' details to the LCS.