Monday, May 15, 2006

I Was A Miner In Times Of Austerity

Billy's austere socialist paradise

The miners' compensation scheme is costing taxpayers £7.5bn. Quite right too- we were the ones who voted for the politicians whose hare-brained romantic socialism led them to nationalise this dangerous dirty disgrace in the first place, and whose gutlessness then had them propping it up with public money for years after it should have been chopped.

Unfortuantely, as we've blogged before, it turns out that most of the money is actually going to lawyers rather than the sick miners it was meant to help:

"THOUSANDS of miners with chronic chest disease have been paid less than £100 in compensation under a programme that earned their solicitors 20 times as much per case. Newly released details of the £7.5 billion scheme, the largest in the world, expose the way in which public money has benefited law firms far more generously than pitmen and their families. One family, whose father died after spending almost half a century underground, were offered only £7.13. Yet the law firm that handled their claim has earned £41 million."

Dealing with the claims of the 3,949 miners who each received less than £100 cost the taxpayer £15.3 million, of which less than £400,000 went to the claimants. Thirteen law firms have been paid more than £10 million each for their work. Thompsons, a firm of solicitors with a close relationship to the National Union of Mineworkers, has received £83.7 million from the public purse, while Doncaster-based Beresfords, linked to the Union of Democratic Mineworkers (UDM), has been paid £66.7 million."

Is this really what St Billy of Bragg had in mind when he penned his famous hymnal of support for the pit bruvvers?

"Call up the craftsmen
Bring me the draughtsmen
Build me a path from cradle to grave
And I'll give my consent
To any government
That does not deny a man a living wage."

Or indeed compensation for pneumoconiosis.

The trouble is, Bill old mate, romantic twaddle like "cradle to grave", or "social justice for all", may have sold you a few records, and bought you a lovely Victorian mansion looking out over Lyme Bay, but in the real world it just don't work. What happens in the real world is that you get stuffed by a whole load of unintended consequences- greedy lawyers, bureaucratic gridlock, Swiss bank accounts, or- as in this case- plain old administrative incompetence:

"Under the terms of an agreement signed in 1999 by the claimants’ lawyers and the Department of Trade and Industry, the legal costs paid to a solicitor after each claim is settled — on average £2,125 — are entirely unaffected by the size of the compensation award."

We should feel very sorry for our sick ex-miners. They are the victims not just of past political bungling, but also of the present day public procurement incompetence that costs us all billions every year (eg see this blog).


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