Energy minister Peter Hain today gave the green light to a£400m deal to compensate up to100,000 former miners for the smaller pensions they received when their working lives were cut short by pit-related illnesses.
Widows of ex-miners are expected to receive£30m of the package, as a result of the agreement struck between claimants' solicitors and the minister.
The government's coal health compensation scheme awards payments by assessing factors including damage to health, loss of earnings and care costs. The lack of agreement on pension compensation had meant that in a majority of cases only interim rather than final payments could be made.
Today's announcement means that all of the outstanding legal issues affecting the scheme have now been resolved and thousands of ex-miners and widows can look forward to full and final offers.
The government and miners' solicitors have now agreed a method for calculating pensions and will work together on making full and final offers as soon as possible.
Announcing the agreement Peter Hain said: 'The coal health compensation scheme is the biggest compensation scheme in legal history, and reaching agreement on pensions was the last piece of the legal puzzle. We have finally swept away the last major hurdle and can crack on with making full and final offers.
'I am grateful to the claimants' solicitors for their co-operation and will be working closely with them to take this progress forward.
'There have been too many delays in the past with people not seeing the money they deserve quickly enough. We are driving forward improvements all the time and are working on a range of practical ideas to get things moving.
'We cannot make things better overnight, but I will work tirelessly to get money in the pockets of miners and widows as soon as possible. They are entitled to their justice and dignity, and the Government is determined to deliver it.'
1. DTI is running two major compensation scheme for miners suffering from lung diseases and the vibration related disease - Vibration White Finger (VWF).
2. The schemes were negotiated between DTI and representatives of miners' solicitors following court judgements in1997/98 which found British Coal liable for the injuries. There are so far over 250,000 claims under both Schemes.
3.£114m has been paid out in lung diseases and£220m has been paid out in vibration relation diseases. Every day£1m is being paid out on both schemes.
4. Those who feel they may have a valid claim for compensation for lung diseases caused by coal dust, or who wish to check the progress of their claim may call the Government's helpline: 0800 0282 138