Plaid reveal real disgrace of UK Labour’s coalfield legacy 25.1.11

Plaid Cymru has attacked UK Labour’s treatment of ailing former coal miners after the revelation that over 211 in the north of Wales died while awaiting compensation for chest disease. 

Llyr Huws Gruffydd, Plaid Assembly candidate for the North Wales Region, said that parliamentary questions had revealed the full picture for the first time: 

“Thousands of miners in the UK died before they saw a penny from the compensation which should have gone to them, and in the constituencies of the north of Wales, 211 lost their lives before receiving the recompense that was due to them. 

“They were awarded the money, despite Labour’s attempts to stop it, because they contracted this awful disease, in many cases after spending a working lifetime underground in conditions which are difficult for many of us to contemplate. 

“It is a disgrace that miners and their widows were made to fight for this money from a Labour government in London, a government whose party claims to stand up for the working class.  After a hard working life, these miners had not only to endure ill health, but also to eke out their remaining funds, waiting for money that would have made a big difference to them.” 

Department of Energy and Climate Change figures detail how many former miners did not live to receive their compensation from the UK Government under the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) scheme. 

Across the UK a total of 17,895 former miners died before their COPD claim was paid. This included 82 in the Clwyd South constituency, 58 in Wrexham and 27 in the Vale of Clwyd. 

Compensation payments were delayed by legal wrangles when the former Labour UK Government opposed the bid for compensation by the mining trades union, NACODS. 8,311 claims took more than ten years to settle. 

After the Labour Government lost their case against the union in the High Court in January 1998 – less than 12 months after Tony Blair entered number 10 Downing Street – poor administration and insufficient resources in the claims handling department meant further delays in paying out money. 

A report published in 2007 by the National Audit Office into the COPD scheme and the Vibration White Finger scheme concluded: “The Department might have been able to deliver the schemes more quickly and more cost effectively had it been better prepared at the time of the Court rulings and more particularly in the period of transition of responsibility from the Corporation. 

“The Department produced limited strategic oversight or forward planning on how it would handle any resulting liability and insufficient resource was allocated to the task.  This lack of preparation was to make the Department’s task significantly more difficult to administer, require substantial effort to put right, and cause frustration and upset to some claimants.” 

Plaid’s Clwyd South candidate Mabon ap Gwynfor said: 

“This money was due to the miners to help alleviate the suffering caused by the terrible illnesses contracted from working in the coal mines. The miners of the Denbighshire Coalfields suffered for their toil, and it is shameful the way that these proud men and their families have been abandoned by the then Labour government in Westminster.

“82 miners and their families in Clwyd South were denied what was rightfully theirs because Labour in Government opposed the payments of compensation to the miners. They fought the initial claim, and after losing they did everything possible to obstruct the payments. This is how a Labour government in London treated the very people that got them into power in the first place.

“They abandoned our communities many years ago, and this is just more proof of how they turned their backs on our old mining communities.”

diwedd / end

Nodiadau / Notes:

1. A table showing the number of claimants to the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease scheme by parliamentary constituency is attached. 

2. Details of the number of claimants to the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease scheme by nation can be found here:

 3. Details of the average value of the awards made can be found here:

 4. Details of the average time taken to settle claims can be found here:

 5. Details of how much the £715 million scheme has cost the public purse to administer can be found here:

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