HC Deb 06 July 1911 vol 27 cc1327-8

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware that it is becoming common for medical referees under the Workmen's Compensation Act to accept fees from and to appear as witnesses for insurance companies in cases arising in the courts to which such referees are attached; whether his attention has been drawn to a case at Gloucester, on the 20th of May last, where the judge stated that, although it was a case which he naturally would have referred to a medical referee of the court, he could not do so because the referee had given evidence, and there being no power to appoint another referee he would have to act as doctor himself; and whether he can take any steps to prevent a recurrence of such incidents and secure a more impartial standing on the part of the medical referees?


The Home Office regulations forbid medical referees from acting for the employer or insurance company in any case in which the workman is receiving a weekly payment for compensation or which is otherwise likely to come before them as referees; and I believe these instructions are generally observed. In the Gloucester case, I find on inquiry that the workman was sent to the medical referee under a mistaken impression on the part of the applicant's solicitor that Stroud was outside his district. I will consider whether an additional referee should be appointed; but it is in the power of the judge in such a case to call in a medical referee from an adjoining district.


Has the right hon. Gentleman considered the question of the appointment of medical referees to devote the whole of their time to the duties, and may I ask whether he will make such appointments in accordance with the promise made by Lord Gladstone when he was Home Secretary?


I have not had the opportunity of studying the Reports of my predecessor, but I will take steps to look into the matter if the hon. Gentleman will put a question on the Paper.