HC Deb 21 June 1918 vol 107 cc684-6

Order for Second Reading read.


I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

This is a Bill to provide compensation for workmen suffering from a disease known as fibroid phthisis. The disease is a lung disease developed among workmen engaged in certain industries such as ganister mining and silica brickmaking. The question of extending the Workmen's Compensation Act to these workmen was considered by the Industrial Diseases Committee in 1907, but they were unable to recommend its inclusion in that Act partly because of its slow development and partly because of the difficulty of following its early stages. We have been able to remove the latter difficulty, or at any rate substantially to modify it, as a result of medical research and improved methods of diagnosis. The difficulties due to the slow growth of the disease we propose to overcome by establishing a general compensation fund for the whole of any industry dealt with by the Bill, to which employers will be required to subscribe and from which all claims for compensation will be paid. The burden will thus be distributed over the trade, and no question of apportioning liability among different employers will arise.

The Bill is dual in its character. It is intended as a precautionary measure as well as a scheme of compensation, and it accordingly provides for the suspension from employment in the industry of workmen who may be found on medical examination to be suffering from the disease to a degree rendering it dangerous for them to continue that work. In such cases if the committee which will be set up decide that they are suffering from this disease as a result of following their occupation they will receive compensation. In this effort of prevention the Home Office are issuing further Regulations under the Mines Act and Factory Acts for the ganister industry, and the settlement of the claims will be by a joint committee representative of employers and workmen with an independent chairman. A scheme on these lines has already been worked out for the ganister industry. I have had a series of conferences both with employers and workmen. To deal with this disease in its dual aspect, precautionary and compensatory, is a pressing necessity, and is such that it has met with, if not full, a large measure of assent. Through a long period of negotiations we have overcome difficulties that have prevented for years such a scheme being put into operation. In such circumstances I venture to ask the House to treat it as a war measure, and as a very pressing measure. With a view to getting it through as early as possible, I hope the House will give me the Second Reading now.


I would like to ask for information as to whether the two classes affected by this measure are agreed that it should be passed, or whether there is any strong difference of opinion between employers and workmen? If they are agreed, there is a great deal to be said for passing such an exceptional measure.


I should like to compliment the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Brace) on the introduction of this Bill, because it seems to have been introduced with the full consent of employers and employés which, to my mind, is an expression of the new spirit which is actuating the Government in relation to other matters. Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that this is merely a war measure, that there is a limitation to the period of the War, or that it is a continuous measure? If so, I have much pleasure in supporting it.


I ask the House to treat it as a war measure because owing to war work the disease has reached an acute stage in a number of individual cases, and in that sense it is a war measure. We hope that as the result of the Regulations which we shall be able to get accepted by the employers as issued by the Home Office we shall eradicate the disease altogether, but so long as it lasts it is intended that men who suffer from it shall get compensation. I am not quite able to say it is a fully agreed measure. There are certain individual employers who would rather not be brought in and we may have to negotiate further, but broadly speaking this is an agreed measure between employers and workmen.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Monday next.—[Mr. Brace.]