GREEDY solicitors have been condemned by MPs for taking up to £8,000 of the compensation paid to sick or crippled former miners.

Fifty nine MPs - including several from the North East - have signed a parliamentary motion attacking their "dishonesty" and demanding that the cash be repaid.

The MPs have also called on the Law Society to intervene by telling the solicitors they are "undermining their professional reputation".

Thousands of former North-East miners have lodged claims with the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) for injuries suffered during their working lives.

Among the crippling conditions they suffer from are vibration white finger, a disabling hand condition caused by working with hand-held tools, as well as lung diseases chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Solicitors have been advertising for ex-miners to pursue claims, sometimes demanding a non-refundable registration fee.

Some have gone further, by pocketing a proportion of the compensation eventually received - amounting to as much as £8,000 in some cases.

Labour MPs John Cummings, who represents Easington, and City of Durham MP Gerry Steinberg are among MPs who have signed the parliamentary motion.

It points out that the solicitors' entire legal costs are met by the DTI, which means they are, in effect, being paid twice.

Demanding a slice of the compensation received is not illegal, which means that all MPs have been able to do is advise former miners to switch solicitors.

The motion says the MPs are "appalled to learn of the widespread deceitful practice operated by some firms of solicitors dealing with claims for former miners".

It calls on the Law Society to "advise members that the dishonest practice is undermining their professional reputation and any such deductions must be repaid in full".

Peter Hain, the Leader of the Commons, who represents a constituency in South Wales, said some firms of solicitors were already "making millions" from the compensation scheme.

He said: "These companies are raking it in. It is already a very lucrative business for solicitors and, if this is happening, it has to be clamped down on."