The government has been overloaded with freedom of information (FoI) requests made by solicitors acting for former coal miners ahead of the first coordinated negligence action for alleged under-settlement of government compensation claims.

In a letter to coalfield communities MPs, seen by the Gazette, junior energy minister David Kidney says that the volume of FoI requests for claim files and other information submitted to the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is so high that the department is not meeting its statutory 20-day deadline for responding.

The letter, sent at the end of January, also reveals that John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw, who is coordinating the action, has asked Kidney for ‘assurances about the extent of [the DECC’s] co-operation with these cases.’

Mann told the Gazette this week that more than one legal adviser is being investigated before the case is lodged with the court.

Mann alleges that the miners bringing the action received less compensation than they were due because their original solicitors and claims handlers failed to lodge claims for a potentially lucrative type of damages.

He alleges that thousands of former miners across the UK are collectively owed hundreds of millions of pounds for under-settled claims – far more than they are owed for fees that some legal advisers inappropriately deducted from compensation awards.

Both Mann and David Anderson, Labour MP for Blaydon, have called for the DECC to conduct a full investigation into under-­settlement, but the department has so far declined to do so.