§ (1) The Secretary of State may by scheme provide for the payment of compensation by the employers of workmen in any specified industry or process or group of industries or processes involving exposure to silica dust—
- (a) who are certified in such manner as may be prescribed by the scheme to have suffered death or total disablement from the disease known as fibroid phthisis or silicosis of the lungs (in this Act referred to as silicosis) or from that disease accompanied by tuberculosis; or
- (b) who, though not totally disabled, are found on medical examination to be suffering from silicosis, or from silicosis accompanied by tuberculosis, to such a degree as to make it dangerous to continue work in the industry or process, and are for that reason suspended from employment:
§ Mr. ELLIS DAVIES
I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
This Bill received its Second Reading only on Friday last, and there has really not been an opportunity to put down Amendments. I myself wished to put down an Amendment. I think the Government are dealing rather unfairly with us, because they attempted to do the same thing with the Juries Bill, which they put down to-day for the Committee stage, with no opportunity for putting down Amendments, and it was only at the last moment that my right hon. Friend agreed to postpone it. I think the Government are treating us rather badly in this matter.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Brace)
I hope my hon. Friend will not press his Motion. The Bill is very largely an agreed Bill, and if my hon. Friend had been here on Friday he would have heard me explaining that it is an agreed Bill among employers and workpeople in the chief industries where men develop silicosis, which is a well-defined disease. It was a subject matter inquired into by a Committee, and after a great deal of investigation and negotiations we have at last agreed upon a scheme under which we think we shall be able to establish compensation for these poor people suffering from the disease. Therefore I hope my hon. Friend will not prevent the Bill going through Committee to-night.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I do not gather that the appeal is made by my hon. Friend because the Bill is a bad Bill. The point is the rights of the Members of this House. My hon. Friend told me he had a manuscript Amendment which he had not had time to put in print. The Bill could go through to-morrow, I presume. As I understand my hon. Friend, it is not that he wishes to go contrary to the Government, but it is the right of Members of this House that after they have seen a Bill they should be able to put down Amendments on the Paper. As far as I am concerned, I am in favour of the Bill and would probably support the Government against my hon. Friend, but when he says it is a question which affects his constituents that is rather a different matter.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I hope the opposition to this Bill will not be pushed any further, but at the same time I wish to say to the representative of the Government that it is no good coming to the House and saying 853 a Bill has been agreed by some people outside and that, therefore, Members of this House are to be deprived of all opportunity of proper discussion. That is not the way to get Bills quickly through the House. Members have a right to consider this Bill Clause by Clause and to move Amendments, no matter what agreement has been reached in any other quarter, but I hope the hon. Member will not object to the Bill going through now, because it is a good Bill in itself and will do a great service to a number of men.
§ Mr. WATT
I desire to support my hon. Friend in proposing to report Progress. My hon. Friend does not in any way object to the Bill, but is desirous of extending the Bill to other diseases beside silicosis. My main objection to the action of the Government is that, having passed Second Beading only on Friday afternoon, and Members not having had an opportunity of putting Amendments which they have in view on the Paper, the House should now be asked to take not only the Committee stage, but the Third Reading. Generally the principle of passing the Second Reading one day and going on to the Committee stage and the Third Reading on the next day is a bad one and ought not to be encouraged. And as my hon. Friend approves of the measure, and desires to extend it to other diseases, that is a point which the House ought to have the opportunity of considering, and of seeing the Amendments on the Paper.
§ Question "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and negatived.
§ Mr. ELLIS DAVIES
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the words "involving exposure to silica dust."
The right hon. Gentleman rather suggested that I was unaware that this Bill was intended to help workmen. This is one of the things I took up ten years ago in this House. Ten years ago there was appointed by the Home Office a Committee to deal with industrial diseases, and one of the diseases that Committee reported upon and recommended should form the subject of compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Act was fibroid phthisis. The object of my Amendment is that it shall in future afford workmen the rights of the Workmen's Compensation Act. Instead of adopting the Report of the Committee, 854 which was a general one, and dealt with fibroid phthisis in whatever trade or industry, the Bill is limited to cases arising out of silica dust. I do not know exactly what silica, means. I consulted the "Encyclopædia Britannica," but am sorry to say that I am not very much the wiser, and I should be very much interested to learn from the right hon. Gentleman what he means by silica. The "Encyclopaedia Britannica" refers to a gritty sandstone. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman means to confine this Bill merely to fibroid phthisis arising out of working in sandstone. This Bill in its present form, and with the words which I propose to leave out, is confined to fibroid phthisis arising out of silica dust, and I want to know to what it applies and what men it will affect. The Committee to which I have referred reported that fibroid phthisis arises out of silica dust and affected slate-quarrymen and workers in slate mines. They recommended that compensation should only be paid to those people who contracted the disease, whether in the factory or the quarry. The Bill limits it to those who apparently are only working with silica. The result of my Amendment would be, not the immediate inclusion for these workmen, but power would be given to the Home Office, if they so desire, to include other workers by proposing a scheme. It would be absurd that no workman should come within the scope of the Bill in these later Clauses.
§ Mr. BRACE
I was very nearly tempted to rise to a point of Order as to whether my hon. Friend was in order in moving this Amendment. I think, however, that it would be better to have it explained, and there is really no difference of opinion, it seems to me, between us. If the workmen he has in mind are engaged in the way he says, and they develop-fibroid phthisis or silicosis then they will come within this Bill, and they will receive compensation. It applies to working on sandstone and other silicosis stone and tin mines in Cornwall, and to certain manufacturing processes as stated in the Bill. It will, therefore, be seen that a very extensive provision is made. If the men do not suffer from silicosis, then they do not come within the provisions of this Bill. I cannot accept any extension of the Bill beyond what I have provided in the Bill now before the House.
§ Mr. DAVIES
My right hon. Friend is really trying to evade the issue. The point I made was that ten years ago a committee was appointed by the Home Office and it reported that fibroid phthisis, with which this Bill intends to deal, was a general disease amongst workmen and was found in the circumstances narrated. I was responsible for putting forward the medical evidence. All I am asking is that the recommendations of that committee should be carried out. We failed then to get it included, as it was said not to be germane to the Workmen's Compensation Act. Here we have a representative of Labour in the Government introducing the Bill and instead of making it of general application he views it as a case arising only out of silica. He wrongly suggests that he is in agreement with me.
§ Mr. WATT
I regret that the right hon. Gentleman has not seen his way to accept the Amendment. The Committee recommended that this fibroid phthisis should be dealt with, but at that time it was not considered wise or suitable to bring in a measure dealing with this complaint. Now we have a Bill where it is being dealt with, and in this measure the right hon. Gentleman thinks it proper to deal with it in a limited form, and to confine it only to workmen who are engaged in working silica or British sandstone. My hon. Friend desires that his constituents engaged in the slate trade and who get fibroid phthisis should be included in this measure, as recommended by a Committee of this House. This disease arises from the working of slate quarries, and I am surprised that the Home Office cannot see its way to accept the Amendment. Certainly, if fibroid phthisis is to be dealt with it should be dealt with thoroughly, and not only workers in British sandstone be given compensation for it, but workers also in the slate quarries represented by my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
It is difficult for Members to give an opinion upon this matter, because it is admittedly a technical matter; but it is important to know whether a large number of workers will still be left out, and will have no claim to compensation, even if they do contract fibroid phthisis. That is the real issue. The only workers who contract the disease as a result of exposure to silica dust will be included in 856 this Bill, but there are many who will contract this industrial disease who are not included in the Bill. I hope that the hon. Gentleman has not come down to the House from the meeting where an agreement has been come to with his hands tied so that he is unable to consider Amendments put forward by Members of the House of Commons. That is an undesirable position to get into. While we are anxious that the matter should be pressed forward, and that not a moment should be lost in placing this Bill on the Statute Book, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider the Amendments brought forward by Members of Parliament, and will look into the points raised by them.
§ Mr. BRACE
I agree with what the hon. Member has said, but I cannot disguise from myself the fact that it is only with difficulty that my Department has found itself in a position to come to this House with a Bill of this kind. It has taken more than a year of negotiation with employers and workmen who are engaged in this highly dangerous industry, and while, of course, I am anxious to meet my hon. Friend, I feel myself in the position that I have now almost got a start in dealing with this great problem, and if I find from inquiry that the most dangerous part of this industry is brought in and I once get a scheme of compensation laid down for it, the question of extending it will be much more easily dealt with. But I cannot at present extend it. I am most anxious to have a start made, and I hope the Committee will not lend itself to this kind of opposition, which is delaying the bringing into many homes something they have been waiting for so many years.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I would like to ask if we can know the estimated number of workers who will come under the scope of the Bill, and the additional number that would be brought in under the Amendment? If the Amendment is trivial, that would be one thing, but if it meant a great deal more it might be very serious.
§ Mr. WING
I hope we shall not press the Minister on this point. This Bill is an extension of a very great advantage in relation to compensation, and I know from my experience in approaching the Home Office on other matters that there are many other industries left out. I think the Minister has put up a definite scheme, 857 and I hope we shall assist him to build up a foundation far including many other industries which would still be left out of the Bill, even if the Amendment were adopted.
§ Mr. DAVIES
The right hon. Gentleman said he had been in consultation with many deputations, but he did not say he had communicated with the quarry owners. I want to know if he has had any communication with them. My complaint is that this question was brought to the attention of the Home Office ten years ago and has been brought to their notice repeatedly since. Medical evidence was brought up from North Wales which proved that fibroid phthisis affected workers in slate mines and quarries, and a committee reported that the workers in slate quarries were people in regard to whom the owners could reasonably pay compensation. As a matter of fact, there was no reference to the Commission on this question. It was never dealt with nor reported upon, with the result that the slate quarry-men are neither within the Workmen's Compensation Act nor are they given the protection now being extended by special rules to the workhouses. Whenever an attempt has been made to induce the Home Office to extend this proposal to the quarries in North Wales, the Home Office have always turned a deaf ear to it. I ask the right hon. Gentleman not to include the quarrymen at once, but to take the power to do so. The words I propose to leave out are words of limitation. The right hon. Gentleman has rather suggested that I am fighting on the other side, but I am really trying to extend the operation of the Bill. I assure the hon. Member opposite that if these workmen are not now included in this particular Bill we shall appeal in vain to the representatives of the Home Office to introduce another Bill. The hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) raised an interesting question, and he desired to know—
§ It being Eleven of the Clock, the DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again to-morrow (Tuesday).