MP hits back at new ‘despicable’ rule change

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A South Yorkshire MP is calling on the government to reverse a rule change that makes it harder for former miners, and their relatives, to claim compensation for potentially fatal lung disease.

Barnsley East MP Michael Dugher is helping spearhead a campaign for an urgent rethink from ministers, amid fears that ex-miners and their families could be ‘cheated’ out of a vital cash lifeline.

Thousands of miners contracted pneumoconiosis - also known as miner’s lung or black lung - after breathing in coal dust at work. Under the 1974 Coal Workers Pneumoconiosis Scheme, ex-miners, as well as their widows or family members, are able to claim for compensation for their illnesses.

But Mr Dugher has warned that a change in the rules for making compensation claims could affect thousands of families of ex-miners in Barnsley and across South Yorkshire.

The Department for Work and Pensions, which administers the scheme, has ruled that the relatives of deceased miners will be forced to include a Grant of Probate with any compensation claim.

The change will make claiming compensation harder because families are likely to have to pay for solicitors or legal advice to get the Grant of Probate – a legal document which proves they have the right to deal with the deceased miner’s assets and administer their estate.

Mr Dugher has thrown his support behind a House of Commons motion calling for a U-turn on the rule change, amid fears that it is a move to cut the cash paid out under the compensation scheme.

Mr Dugher said: “These changes look like a cynical attempt by the government to to make it harder to make a claim. Thousands of miners have been afflicted by this terrible disease through no fault of their own, simply because they were doing an already difficult and dangerous job.

“This is a despicable attack on those who are suffering the impact of a terminal illness and the rules should be reversed immediately.”