75. Mr. Graham White
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether any recent consideration has been given to the position of sailors of the Merchant Service, who, leaving the pool for reason of sickness, are solely dependent on national health benefit, with the result that, in some cases, there is inconvenience and in others hardship to the dependants?
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport (Mr. Noel-Baker)
In 1941 the National Maritime Board decided that as from 1st January,. 1942, officers and seamen of the Merchant Navy who fell sick and were left in overseas ports, should continue to be paid by their employers. Since that date, such officers and seamen have continued to-receive their basic wages and their differential money while they are abroad. Payments are made for periods up to, but not exceeding, twelve weeks. Officers who are sick and away from duty in the United Kingdom receive their pool pay for periods up to eight weeks. Seamen who are sick in the united Kingdom are entitled to sickness benefit under the National Health Insurance Acts. If an officer or man suffers from an organic disease which is attributable to a normal risk of seafaring life, and if this risk has been substantially increased by war conditions, he may be granted a disability allowance by the Ministry of Pensions under the provisions of the Pensions (Mercantile Marine) Act, 1942.
Having regard to the fact that National Health Insurance benefit is quite inadequate to meet the needs of dependants of sailors and that there is no 2267 machinery for putting them m touch with other possible sources of help, will the hon. Gentleman look into this matter again?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
The National Union of Seamen, of course, negotiated the agreement. I will look into the point which the hon. Member mentions.
§ Captain Godfrey Nicholson
Many seamen are having to apply for public assistance through causes which are frequently due to their war service, and who do not qualify for a pension. Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware there is a great feeling of dissatisfaction about this?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I hope that most of the cases in the latter category of which the hon. and gallant Member speaks are dealt with by the Act passed this year. If he will give me any specific cases of seamen drawing public assistance, I will look into the matter.