HC Deb 09 November 1939 vol 353 cc391-3
17. Mr. James Griffiths

asked the Home Secretary whether it is proposed to review the present scale of payments under the Workmen's Compensation Act in relation to the increase of the cost of living; and whether it is his intention to take such steps as were taken during the last war to make war payments additional to the existing payments under the Act?

20. Mr. Whiteley

asked the Home Secretary whether he is now in a position to say if the Royal Commission on Workmen's Compensation are to resume their duties; and whether it is the intention of the Government to bring forward a Bill to increase compensation payments immediately?

22. Mr. R. J. Taylor

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware of the prevailing distress caused by the inadequate payments for workmen's compensation; and whether he is prepared to relieve this distress by increasing the existing payments?

25. Mr. Gordon Macdonald

asked the Home Secretary whether he can now state the result of the informal discussions on the question of an increase in the rates of workmen's compensation?

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir John Anderson)

Progress has been made with the informal consultations on this subject. It has not yet been possible for the Government to complete their review of the position in the light of these consultations, but I hope to be able to make a decision known very shortly.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that there is a very widespread demand for an immediate increase in workmen's compensation, and will he do his best to expedite a decision?

Sir J. Anderson

I have been doing my utmost to expedite consultation.

18. Mr. David Adams

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to a recent legal decision by the court of appeal that if a workman accepted any payment under the Workmen's Compensation Act he thereby debarred himself from the right to take further action at common law; and whether he will make a statement as to the practical effect which this decision is expected to have upon workmen's compensation?

Sir J. Anderson

There have been a number of decided cases as to the circumstances in which a workman should be held to have made a concluded election between the two classes of remedy open to him, namely, proceedings under the Workmen's Compensation Act or proceedings under the general law: and I am advised that the effect of the recent decisions is that the acceptance by a workman of payments under the Workmen's Compensation Act must be treated as evidence of a concluded election debarring him from the right to take alternative action under the general law. The questions raised by these decisions are bound up with the general question of the relationship between workmen's compensation and damages under the general law, and I could not undertake to deal with this large subject within the scope of a reply to a Parliamentary question.

Mr. Adams

As we are likely to have a new Workmen's Compensation Bill at, we hope, not a remote period, will the Minister take particular note of injustices of this sort which fall under this part of the Act on the workmen and do not fall in similar circumstances on the employing classes?

Sir J. Anderson

I have made note, and my answer implies that the problem raised is a very large one.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Is the Minister prepared to consider a suggestion that where a man in ignorance accepts workmen's compensation, and he afterwards seeks advice of his union, he will be able to reconsider the matter and take action accordingly?

Sir J. Anderson

I am sure there will be opportunity for consultation on such a point as that.

Mr. Garro Jones

While not expecting the right hon. Gentleman to go into the matter at length now, will he state that he recognises the injustice to a man who has a claim under the Workmen's Compensation Act and a claim under the common law for compensation, where the latter may be ten times or more as great as the claim under the Workmen's Compensation Act, that by ignorance of the law he should be prejudiced, perhaps, to the amount of thousands of pounds? Will the right hon. Gentleman take that matter into consideration in his next legislative proposals?

Sir J. Anderson

I think the House will recognise that these claims are of a very speculative character. The point is not being lost sight of.