HC Deb 26 May 1938 vol 336 cc1376-8
35. Mr. E. Smith

asked the Home Secretary whether he has given consideration to the correspondence dealing with silicosis sent to him by the hon. Member for Stoke; and is it proposed to take any action?

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)

The hon. Member has forwarded to my right hon. Friend two letters. One relates to the case of a workman who has been twice examined by the medical board. The board were satisfied on both occasions that he was not suffering from silicosis. The board is composed of experts with unique experience in the diagnosis of silicosis, and their decision is final. The other letter relates to alumina dust, which is being increasingly used as a substitute for flint dust, with a view to reducing the risk of silicosis. I am sending to the hon. Member a report by a committee of the Medical Research Council on this question.

36. Mr. Smith

asked the Home Secretary whether he is satisfied with the statistics in Command Paper 5722, pages 12, 13, and 26, with particular reference to silicosis; whether he is satisfied with the medical boards; if not, what changes are contemplated; and whether it is his intention to reconsider the question of liability and appeal?

Mr. Lloyd

The number of cases is necessarily a matter of serious concern, and emphasises the necessity for taking all possible preventive measures. Much has been and is being done in this direction, and I am glad to note that, in several industries where stringent precautions have been adopted over a long period of years, there is now a marked reduction in the number of new cases. It is also to be borne in mind that the disease usually develops very slowly, and that many of the cases now occurring are the result of conditions existing before the necessary precautions were introduced. The medical board system appears to be working satisfactorily, and no material change is in contemplation.

Mr. Smith

Does the Under-Secretary remember that he and the present Chancellor of the Exchequer were responsible for building up the hopes of many of us in the Debates on the Factory Bill; and may I ask what steps are being taken to implement the promises given in those Debates?

Mr. Lloyd

I think the hon. Gentleman is thinking of an undertaking that we gave to consider any suggestions with regard to particular processes in the pottery industry. I understand that certain information is being considered, with a view to possible extension of the scheme to some additional processes.

50. Mr. Hopkin

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that, up to the end of 1937, 66 per cent. of the deaths due to silicosis in the South Wales coalfield, 65½ per cent. of the totally disabled, and 70 per cent. of the partially disabled cases, occurred in the anthracite coal districts; and, in view of this, what is the reason for the delay in issuing Mark IV respirators; and what immediate steps he proposes to take to deal with this problem?

Mr. Lloyd

My right hon. Friend is fully alive to the importance of having supplies of such respirators available at an early date, and he is glad to learn that various difficulties which arose as to materials and otherwise have been overcome, and that the arrangements for supplying the manufacturers with requirements for production are now well advanced.

Mr. James Griffiths

Will the hon. Gentleman consider trying these respirators experimentally in one colliery first; and will he bear in mind the fact that various medical men in this country are of opinion that the use of these respirators ought to be carefully checked?

Mr. Lloyd

I am aware that the question is a very important one. For years it was impossible to make a respirator which was capable of resisting silica dust, but the matter was taken up by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and the respirator authorities, and they are now fully satisfied that a solution has been achieved.

Mr. Grenfell

Does not all the information available point to the fact that the real remedy lies, not in respirators, but in the suppression of dust?

Mr. Lloyd

The prevention of silicosis is a matter for the Mines Department.