Miners’ firms strike back at DTI over £2.4bn costs

The under-fire law firms representing sick miners in the British Coal compensation fiasco have accused the Government of hypocrisy after its costs topped £2bn.

The Lawyer can reveal that costs for the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) are expected to reach £2.4bn once the compensation scheme ends. More than 185,000 claims are still waiting to be processed.

The Government’s defence of the 780,000 sick miners’ cases means taxpayers forked out more than £1bn in addition to that paid out to the claimants’ solicitors, which has spiralled to over £1bn.

A partner at one of the firms representing the miners said the DTI’s costs “warrants a serious explanation” and that “the DTI’s inquiry into our actions is seriously duplicitous considering the amount of taxpayers’ money it’s wasting”.

The DTI, which took over liability from British Coal when it folded in the 1990s, said the vast sums include costs such as medical examinations in addition to legal expenses, which is why its figures are so high.

Figures released by the DTI show that, for each respiratory case, Capita and its predecessors received an average of £3,500 in costs, while for vibration white finger (VWF) this figure was £2,600. Capita is currently handling the claims, having taken over from Aon in 2004.

With 434,000 respiratory and 140,000 VWF claims settled, it means £2bn has been paid out. And with 176,000 respiratory and 30,000 VWF cases still outstanding, the DTI could be looking at paying out £400m more.

Nabarro, the DTI’s litigation firm, has so far made £35m from the world’s largest-ever compensation scheme.

All of Nabarro’s costs have been amassed from court work rather then through handling the individual claims, which were given to outsourcing companies.