HC Deb 29 November 1928 vol 223 cc582-4
27. Mr. JOHN

asked the Home Secretary whether in view of the increase in the number of colliery companies who are unable to meet their liabilities under the Workmen's Compensation Act, he will introduce a Bill making it compulsory on all employers to insure with an insurance company against workmen's compensation risk?


asked the Home Secretary what is the total number of colliery companies who have covered their workmen by insurance for the purposes of the Workmen's Compensation Acts; and, in view of the fact that many collieries have gone into liquidation in recent years without having been so insured, with the result that thousands of miners incapacitated by accidents in the mines have been deprived of their compensation benefits, he will make such insurance obligatory?


The total number of colliery owners insured with insurance companies or mutual indemnity associations was, according to the last returns, 1,607. I have no information which would bear out the suggestion that thousands of miners have been deprived of their benefits through collieries going into liquidation, but undoubtedly there have been cases recently where compensation has been lost through this cause, and the position is one which calls for and will receive most careful and sympathetic consideration. More than this it is impossible for me to say at the present time. Amending legislation on the lines suggested by the hon. Members would involve a far-reaching change in the law.


Does not the right hon. Gentleman think the seriousness of the situation, in view of the large number of colliery companies that have gone into bankruptcy recently in South Wales, warrants immediate action being taken by his Department in order to protect injured miners, in view of the anxiety and suffering and starvation endured by them?


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is a common practice among colliery companies to insure for fatal accidents and leave themselves uninsured for non-fatal accidents? Is it not conceivable that the number quoted by the right hon. Gentleman may in many cases be companies that are covered for fatal accidents only and are not covered for non-fatal?


I think that is not the case. I have not the figures on the subject, but I will obtain them for my hon. Friend. In reply to the first supplementary question, I agree that there is a grave difficulty, but to impose insurance of the kind suggested means a very great alteration in the law, and it might be extended to other cases. It needs very careful consideration before that is done. I am afraid I cannot promise a Bill on the subject this Session.

Lieut. - Colonel Sir FREDERICK HALL

Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that when responsibility is placed upon employers by Parliament steps should be taken to see that proper precautions are taken for the benefit of employés?


My hon. and gallant Friend realises that in particular colliery districts an enormous proportion of colliery companies are insured in mutual associations and not in insurance companies at all. One cannot take exception to that and one has to consider very carefully before making the change proposed. I do not think the number given by the hon. Member is correct. I do not think it is many thousands, but I know there are cases. I have not yet completed my inquiries as to how many cases are affected in the manner suggested.

Lieut.-Colonel WATTS-MORGAN

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in several of these cases the companies have allowed their contributions to lapse and their workmen are unprotected and lose their compensation?


I agree in certain cases that is so.


Will the right hon. Gentleman consider that an even imperfect Bill on the subject would be non-controversial and would be supported by all sides of the House?


If that is the prospect it is pleasing to the Minister. I will consider the matter.

29. Mr. JOHN

asked the Home Secretary whether he will provide statistics showing, with reference to the colliery companies in South Wales that have gone into voluntary liquidation or bankruptcy during the last two years, the number who had not insured with an insurance company or a mutual indemnity company against workmen's compensation risk, and the number of workmen who are deprived of their right to compensation as a consequence?


I regret that I have no complete statistics, but steps are being taken to collect such information as may be available.

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