HC Deb 18 June 1925 vol 185 cc804-6
8. Mr. J. BAKER

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention had been drawn to a letter from a medical referee under the Workmen's Compensation Acts, which appeared in the "Morning Post "of 5th June, 1925; whether officers who are paid by the Ministry are allowed to express, in the public Press, opinions contrary to the Acts which they are administering; and whether medical referees are governed by the ordinary rules governing the Civil Service, which prohibit officials from communicating to the Press on matters connected with their employment?


I have seen the letter. Medical referees are not civil servants but private practitioners paid by fees for their services in connection with applications for compensation. No rules have been laid down as to communications by them to the Press on subjects connected with the Acts, but I am sure that the referees generally appreciate the responsibility in this matter entailed by their special position.


Is it desirable to retain this gentleman on the list?


I should think so. I see no reason why he should not be retained.

9. Mr. BAKER

also asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been drawn to a reserved judgment by his Honour Judge Ruegg, K.C., at Stoke County Court, on Wednesday, 3rd June, regarding the powers under the Workmen's Compensation Act of a medical referee; whether, seeing that it has been decided that a medical referee under the Act has authority to decide not only whether or no the man is suffering from the disability, but also whether or no he is fit for employment, he will consider the desirability of taking such action as may be necessary to limit the powers of the medical referee merely to deciding the question of the disability from which a man is suffering; and whether he will consider granting compensation to Frederick Burndred, who was, at the time of his examination by the certifying surgeon, suffering from miner's nystagmus and is thereby disabled from obtaining employment?


This case was one under the industrial diseases Section of the Act of 1906, and by that Section the question whether a worker is disabled by an industrial disease from earning full wages at his ordinary work has to be determined by the certifying surgeon in the first instance, and, on appeal, by the medical referee. The suggestion in the question would involve a complete change in the present system, which has been in force for nearly 20 years, and has on the whole worked well, and would apparently leave the question whether or not the worker was disabled by his disease to be fought out in the Courts. I do not consider such a change is either necessary or desirable. In reply to the last part of the question, I have no power under the Act to grant compensation. This can only be done by the Courts.