HC Deb 18 February 1932 vol 261 cc1799-801

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will take the necessary steps to prevent any medical referee or medical assessor being appointed under the Workmen's Compensation Act where such medical referee or medical assessor is acting from time to time in his professional capacity on behalf of the employers, indemnity companies, or workmen's trade union?

The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir Herbert Samuel)

It is a condition of the appointment of a medical referee that he shall hold no regular employment either on the employers' or on the workers' side, and the medical referees are enjoined that in their private practice they should, as far as possible, avoid cases which may come before them in their official capacity. It has not been considered necessary or practicable to impose more stringent restrictions, but if the hon. Member has some individual case in mind, and will send me particulars, I shall be glad to make any necessary inquiry.


Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that it happens in practice and that private consultants are called upon to act as referees?


They cannot be called upon to act as referees in any case in which they have previously been engaged in the course of their private practice.


Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that although the said referee or assessor may not be called upon in a specific case to act as referee he receives fees for other cases from an indemnity company or association, and to that extent creates grave suspicion in the mind of injured workpeople?


If more stringent rules were applied it is the opinion of the Department that it might be very difficult in particular areas, and especially with regard to cases in which specialists have to be employed, to obtain men of the requisite standing to act as referees at all.


Has the right hon. Gentleman considered the setting up of a Central Board of Referees who would be strictly impartial towards either employers or employés?


They may not be available for the districts, but I will consider the hon. Member's suggestion.


Will not the right hon. Gentleman consider, when appointing a medical referee, taking into account the individual qualifications of such medical gentlemen without taking into account any outside appointments that they may happen to hold?


Individual qualifications are taken primarily into consideration, but among those qualifications a reputation for impartiality must be taken into account.

29. Mr. TINKER

asked the Home Secretary if he is aware that, owing to the increased use of explosives and other causes in coal mines, carbonic oxide gas is generated which causes incapacity and, in some cases, death; and will he consider placing this among the scheduled diseases under the Workmen's Compensation Act?


As the answer is long, I propose to circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.


Are inquiries being made?


Perhaps the hon. Member had better await the reply, which is rather a long one and which goes into the matter fully.

Following is the answer:

This question is not a new one and has been examined more than once. In particular, a proposal to schedule poisoning by this gas was considered and rejected by the Industrial Diseases Committee of 1907, on evidence that the effects of such poisoning are invariably sudden and therefore in the nature of accidents, and already covered as such by the Act. The question whether all cases are so covered has, however, been recently referred for further examination to the Industrial Diseases Committee, now sitting under the chairmanship of Sir Humphry Rolleston, and if the hon. Member is aware of any cases showing the need for an extension of the schedule, I would suggest that he should send full particulars to the Secretary of the Committee at the Home Office.