Amendment proposed [27th October]; In page 2, line 10, after "child," to insert:—
whether born before or after the accident."—[Mr. Ness Edwards.]
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ Mr. Tinker (Leigh)
We left off the Debate on this matter for the purpose of enabling the Under-Secretary of State to report to the Home Secretary on the discussion which had taken place. I gathered from his remarks that he was sympathetic to what we had said but that he had not the power to come to any decision without consulting his Chief. There was a little argument about suspending operations, because some of our people thought that we might have won had the Question gone to a Division, but I myself was not so sure of that. If I had been I should have favoured a Division. On the other hand, I thought it was a question to be examined by the Home Secretary to see whether it was possible to give the concession. We are asking for all children, whether born before or after the accident, to be included in the benefit of workmen's compensation. Our argument is that when a child is to be brought into the world the father who is injured while following his employment ought not to be penalised because there is an extra child coming. On the other hand, it might be said that the child ought not to come, but that raises the moral issue, and one does not want to suppress what are called the proper operations of man, and 975 not only that, it should be a State responsibility. It is said that, owing to the war and other things, we want to build up our man-power for the future, and every child brought into the world is an asset. The arguments that might be put against the merits of the case of the workman injured in regard to his family and the question of State responsibility are that it is not the employer's responsibility, that it is not right that he should have to undertake an added burden, and that it would be unfair to ask him to do so. The whole of the cost of the proceedings comes out of the workman first of all. The employer cannot carry on his work unless he is getting output from his workmen. What is called the premium that insures compensation claims being paid comes out of the assets of the industry. From all points of view, I think we are entitled to this concession.
I gather that the argument against it may be that this is an innovation in England, that it has never been attempted before, but in a Bill of this kind we believe that it is right and proper that there should be no objection to making a step forward in the cause of justice and equity. I want to give the Home Secretary my assurance that we do not intend to take anything to a Division to-day. We want the Bill, but we make a plea to him that on matters of this kind, when we put sound arguments before him, he may meet us on those lines.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
I very much appreciate the conciliatory spirit in which my hon. Friend has put his point of view on this Amendment. I assure him that I shall respond with no less courtesy than that which he extended to me. My right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary reported to me fully on the discussion which took place on this Amendment before the Committee reported Progress last week, and gave me a very full account. Moreover, I read the whole of the Debate particularly as, unfortunately, I was not able to be present. Along with the Under-Secretary and officers of the Department, I have given the matter very careful consideration. There are two difficulties about the proposal. There is no precedent for it except to the extent, which I ought in all fairness to say, that it is the case that in the instance of a dis- 976 abled ex-Service man, if he is adjudged by the competent authority to be a person who is totally unemployable, the future child—the child of future conception and birth—is brought into account. That is the only case where this principle has been adopted, and consequently, if we were to bring it into this Bill on the basis of the Amendment, which brings all the further children into credit, we should have brought into the Bill an innovation which has very sharp repercussions on a wide variety of other provisions for children's allowances of one sort or another. The Government feel that it is very difficult to deal with in this Bill without full and further consideration. The other point is that this Bill, on the present structure of the whole workmen's compensation administration, is by its very nature perhaps the least attractive kind of structure and legal instrument with which to try this experiment. The whole doctrine of workmen's compensation comes from the doctrine of employers' liability. Far be it from me to deny my hon. Friend's doctrine, that labour is the source of all wealth and that ultimately everything, including the employer's contribution, must come from it. I am not sure that that doctrine would be approved in all quarters of the Committee, but it is not for me to dispute that doctrine with my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker). That can be done otherwise. Nevertheless, as a matter of form and of accountancy, all these payments come out of contributions, as things are, that are made either direct by the employers or by the employers through premiums paid to insurance organisations.
This is not a social service structure at all. It is a structure based on employers' liability, and all these things in the end cannot be settled as we settle them by social service administration, administratively. Ultimately it depends upon legal sanction and arguments in the court. Therefore it appears to the Government that it would not be wise to make this Amendment in this Bill on this type of legislation. I will, however, in considering the long-term Measure, give fair and not unsympathetic consideration to the points that have been raised. But there are two ways by which it may be possible to give consideration in long-term legislation; the workmen's compensation aspect of which I hope will be legislation of the social service 977 variety instead of the employers' liability variety. The second point is that the Government in the Beveridge Debate—the Committee will agree with me—committed themselves in principle to children's allowances. I do not want to go over that ground, and I should be out of Order in doing so, but the Government were very forthcoming in the declaration they made about children's allowances. If and when we get children's allowances, which I personally hope we shall, all these problems will automatically be solved in another way as a question of social service provision. I suggest to the Committee that there are real administrative difficulties about the Government accepting this doctrine in this Bill and that owing to the nature of the Bill and to its structure it would be wiser to leave this matter for consideration either in connection with the longer term Workmen's Compensation Bill, which I very much hope to introduce, or in connection with children's allowances, which will give us a complete solution of all these borderline cases as to what children should come in and what children should not. In these circumstances I hope my hon. Friends will see their way not to press the Amendment.
§ Mr. Graham White (Birkenhead, East)
As the right hon. Gentleman has said, the Government were very forthcoming in the matter of family allowances during the Beveridge Debate, and for my part I sincerely hope that the reasonable offer he has made will be accepted. The matter of obtaining concessions and improvements in our social services piecemeal has in the past been the cause of the haphazard and anomalous state of these services, and it is on the lines of dealing with these matters comprehensively and in a well ordered framework that we must proceed. That is the proper way to bring them about. This Amendment appeals to the sense of justice of everybody, but I am sure the Committee will welcome the statement made by the Home Secretary that the matter will receive attention in a properly ordered framework.
§ Mr. Colegate (The Wrekin)
I have great sympathy with my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) in this matter. There is a widespread feeling throughout industry, and especially the 978 heavy industries, that workmen's compensation is on a very unsatisfactory basis and that very considerable amendments would have to be made to the law if it was to be amended and extended satisfactorily from the basis on which it has rested during the last 20 or 30 years. I welcome very much the Home Secretary's indication that this Bill is only to be a temporary stopgap. It would, as I understand it, be in operation for no more than a year or two at the outside, and to a very large extent it will be replaced by a wide scheme of services in connection with injury and death in industry. This, I think, will meet the point which has been raised to-day and on previous occasions. It is generally felt throughout industry that there must be a complete and comprehensive change of policy in order that the whole situation may be satisfactorily met.
§ Mr. Tinker
After hearing the frank statement of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ The Chairman
Only the Mover of the Amendment can withdraw it. The Amendment will have to be negatived.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Peake)
I beg to move, in page 2, line 11, at the end, to insert:Provided that a child who,—This Amendment illustrates very well what my right hon. Friend has been saying on the question of there being a suitable precedent and the difficulty of placing, in a workmen's compensation scheme, a greater burden upon those who have to pay the compensation than the State itself is prepared to undertake towards the persons to whom it has a duty. In 1940 we had a long discussion on the question of extending the age up to which a child's allowance could be drawn where the child was undergoing whole-time education. At 979 that time we felt unable to extend the age beyond 15, because the scheme recently introduced by the Government for compensating persons injured by enemy action did not provide for the payment of the allowance beyond the age of 15. That scheme has been amended since 1940, and, consequently, we are now able to introduce into the workmen's compensation scheme a corresponding provision. As hon. Members will see, it will enable a child's allowance to be drawn up to the age of 16, or even beyond where the child is undergoing full-time education. The precise words are:
shall be treated for the purposes of paragraph (c) of this subsection as if he did not attain that age until the date on which he ceases to be a child receiving full-time instruction as aforesaid or the thirty-first day of July next following the day on which he attains the age of sixteen years, whichever is the earlier date.
- (i) has attained the age of fifteen years, and
- (ii) was, when he attained that age, a child receiving full-time instruction in a school,… until the date on which he ceases to be a child receiving full time instruction … or the thirty-first day of July next following the day on which he attains the age of sixteen years …I think that meets the point raised by hon. Members opposite on an earlier Amendment and will give general satisfaction.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ The Chairman
I think it will probably be for the convenience of the Committee if the next two Amendments on the Order Paper are discussed together.
§ Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)
I beg to move, in page 2, line 24, to leave out "two-thirds," and to insert "seven-eighths".
On the Second Reading of the Bill which took place on 21st October my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith), in a very eloquent and moving speech, painted a very distressing and harrowing picture of the colossal casualty list in the mining industry. Later in the Debate reference was made to the alarming casualty lists in factories and mills. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke said that in 1942 over 120,000 miners were injured, and it is to help these cases that this Amendment and the following Amendment on the Order Paper, on page 2, line 28, to leave out "two-thirds" and to insert "seven-eighths," have been put down. Let us try for the purposes of clarity to convert these fractions into terms of pounds, shillings and pence. Take a surface worker in the mining industry who gets the wage of £4 6s. 6d.—that is, provided he works every week for a full week and works every week during the year. That becomes the basic figure which will determine the full or partial compensation to be paid. On the two-thirds 980 suggested in the Bill, he will get a maximum compensation of £2 17s. 8d., provided he has the family to warrant the supplementary allowances; but if we substituted seven-eighths for two-thirds it would give a maximum of £3 15s. 10d. That is a difference of 18s. 2d. I know there are profound humanitarian feelings in the heart of the Home Secretary in particular, and he will appreciate that when men are injured, and some of these men are injured very severely, they are in need of the maximum amount of income to help them to get the restoratives required in their injured state. It may be that the Under-Secretary will, in his reply, speak of the increased cost of substituting seven-eighths for two-thirds. In the mining industry, of which I speak with particular knowledge, the cost of compensation is treated as a cost other than wages, and therefore the miners in some districts would pay 87 per cent. of the total extra cost and in other districts 85 per cent.; but the miners would not be disturbed if they were assured that it would bring sustenance and comfort to their injured fellow workmen.
As my final word, let me assure the right hon. Gentleman and the Under-Secretary that we shall never rest satisfied until the recommendation of the Holman-Gregory Report of 1920 with regard to full compensation is adopted. That Report recommended that the injured workman should be paid full wages during whatever period he might be off work, whether a long period or a short period. That principle has been adopted in many other walks of life, and I am delighted to learn from the right hon. Gentleman that when he brings forward his comprehensive Measure in the near future all this tinkering with workmen's compensation will come to an end. A feeling is sometimes manifested in this House that we are unmindful of the concessions which have already been given by the Home Office. We are not unmindful of the concessions given by this Bill, but we say that we are entitled, when the opportunity presents itself, to put forward our point of view in our efforts to bring about desirable changes in the very complicated and confusing legislation dealing with workmen's compensation, which has been a bugbear for many years and still is. I beg the Under-Secretary to give consideration to the Amendment.
§ Mr. Foster (Wigan)
I should like to support the arguments put forward by the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) to show the effect of the two-thirds limit upon cases that existed before the beginning of the war. The two-thirds limit introduces a new principle. It was not embodied in the Act of 1940, where the limit of seven-eighths applies to all cases, and I should like the Under-Secretary to explain why the two-thirds maximum has now been introduced. The two-thirds limit will deprive hundreds if not thousands of men who were injured before the war of any increases at all, and in many other cases they will receive only part increases. Take the case of a single man who is at present receiving 35s. If we take that 35s. as being two-thirds of his pre-accident average weekly earnings., then any workman who was earning less than £2 12s. 6d. will not get even the 35s. If his pre-accident average weekly earnings were under £3 he will receive only a part of the 5s., even after the first. 13 weeks. In the Bill it is proposed to give 5s. after the first 13 weeks, which would raise the money to £2, but to get that £2 his pre-war average weekly earnings must have been £3. The position is worse in the case of a married man without children. Assume that his pre-accident average weekly earnings were £3, which would be the minimum to enable him to get the maximum compensation of £2, which is two-thirds of £3. At present he will be having 35s. compensation. It is proposed to give him in the first 13 weeks another 5s. for his wife. That brings him immediately up to his two-thirds figure. The next proposal is that after the 13 weeks he shall have another 10s., but he will not get that 10s., because he is already up to his two-thirds. It will be obvious that there will be many cases where the married man will be deprived in the first place of the full increase of 5s., and many thousands of cases in which married men will never receive any part of the 10s. after the first 13 weeks.
I do not know whether all the implications following from the introduction of this two-thirds limit have been fully gone into by the Home Office and whether they have noted these anomalies. If they have done so I am rather surprised that they introduced the two-thirds limit. In the cases I have mentioned it will be a very serious matter indeed. I should like to 982 point out that the Bill will cover all cases from the year 1925 onwards, including those which occurred in the years when employment was slack, particularly in the mining industry. They will be affected in spite of the arrangements made for an automatic review of cases in order that the figure of the pre-accident average weekly earnings may be increased by the amount of war increases in wages granted since. We shall have cases in which a man who was injured during that period of slack employment is deprived of an increase in compensation while his pal, who may Jive next door or whom he meets in the pub or the club, and who was fortunate enough to be hurt at a time when employment was pretty regular, will get an increase. Such cases are bound to create a feeling of unfairness. I think the Home Secretary will appreciate the feelings of the injured workman in those circumstances when he is not going to get any benefit from the Bill.
What the Bill means in effect is that the single man, if he is to receive even the 5s. after the first 13 weeks, must have £3 average weekly earnings, otherwise he will get less. In the case of the married man without children, if he is to get the 10s. after the first 13 weeks, he must have an average weekly wage of £3 15s. If he has less than that, he will not get the full 10s. I suggest that it is grossly unfair both to the single man and to the married man, and I hope something can be done to remove the two-thirds and apply the seven-eighths as it was in the Act of 1940. That would go a long way to remove the anomalies which will arise as a result of the two-thirds principle.
§ Mr. Peake
This is a very complicated matter, as hon. Members opposite are aware, and one has to do a great deal of mathematics out loud if one is to deal with individual cases. I would explain to my hon. Friends how the need for an overriding maximum arises from the method we have adopted of giving a flat-rate supplement to workmen's compensation payments rather than raising the maximum in relation to the pre-accident earnings. It was the general wish of the workers' representatives that we should give an increase by way of a flat-rate supplement rather than by raising the ceiling under the 1925 Act. The result is that you still have the old ceiling of 305. a week under that Act, and to that are 983 added flat-rate supplements of varying amounts, which, in the case of a married man disabled for a long period, may be as much as 20s, a week. The result of that is that there is clearly a necessity for an overriding maximum, unless we are prepared to have cases where the compensation exceeds the pre-accident earnings. I think hon. Members recognise that, because the Amendment is to remove the two-thirds and to insert seven-eighths. I think there is agreement in the Committee that some overriding maximum is required.
I would explain that there already is a seven-eighths overriding maximum where there are children, and children's allowances are drawn. It is only where there are no children's allowances that the two-thirds overriding maximum applies. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment was under a complete misapprehension in the case which he cited on that point. He told us of a miner earning £4 6s. 6d. a week whose compensation, under the seven-eighths rule, might have been £3 15s, a week and under the two-thirds rule would be only £2 17s. 8d.
§ Mr. Peake
Yes, I was going to point out that in order to attain to either of those figures he would have to have children. The maximum that a married man can get without children is 50s. Where children exist, the seven-eighths maximum already applies. In the case which the hon. Member cited, if the man had a sufficient number of children—and it is perfectly true that he would have to have six or seven children to arrive at that figure—he could draw up to 70s. or nearly 80s. a week. It is only where there are no children that the two-thirds overriding maximum operates. The reason for that—and I apoligise for referring to it, as I am afraid it may aggravate hon. Members opposite—is that it is one of the recommendations of the Report of Sir William Beveridge. He suggested that the present compensation system should be swept away and that in long-term cases there should be two-thirds of pre-accident earnings with a maximum of 60s. That is really the only reason why this figure appears in the Bill. We do not want there to be cases where men, under 984 the existing system, may get more than two-thirds their earnings without any children and then, if we should adopt this part of the Beveridge scheme, they should suffer a reduction in weekly payments. That is the only reason that it appears in the Bill.
We have put in a proviso in order to make sure that, as the result of the two-thirds overriding maximum where there are no children, nobody suffers on what they are getting under the old Act. It is extremely complicated. Under the old Act, a very low-wage earner may be getting 75 per cent. of his pre-accident earnings. The addition of any flat-rate supplement such as was given in 1940 to that figure has already brought him up to seven-eighths of his pre-accident earnings. Where that situation exists, that man's position is safeguarded, and there will be no reduction of rate. That will apply to future as well as to old cases. There is a proviso in the Clause that no man's rate under the overriding maximum of two-thirds shall be less than it was under the Act of 1940.
§ Mr. Tom Brown
We are somewhat disturbed about how this two-thirds business has come into the picture at all, and I would like to ask whether the Government have been guided to some extent by the evidence submitted to the Holman-Gregory Commission.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke)
I want to raise what may appear to be a small point but which, in its application and administration, is very serious. The Bill is based upon the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1925, Section 10 of which determines the method of calculating the compensation to be paid weekly. That is determined by the average weekly earnings during the 12 months period prior to the accident. We are becoming more and more concerned about the overhead charges in industry, which are bound to have a very serious effect. With the introduction of the pay- 985 as-you-go system, they will increase, and more calculations will have to be made by the clerical staffs and by the Department responsible for the fixing of wages. We shall find the same applying more and more to workmen's compensation.
Just let me as briefly as possible give a concrete case. In the engineering industry, for example, I should think there is a more complicated method of determining wages than in any other industry. There are about four tables for overtime and week-end work. In addition to that, there is a complicated method of determining piecework earnings, and when a man or woman receives an injury in the engineering industry it means that a great deal of time has to be put in by the clerical staff in determining the pre-accident average weekly earnings. The Under-Secretary some time ago gave an undertaking in the House that consideration would be given to this and that he would try to arrange for the employers and the trade unions to meet together along with the representatives of the Home Office in order to see whether they could simplify this method of determining the pre-accident average weekly earnings. We think that although this is only a temporary Measure, the temporary period may extend over a comparatively long time. Therefore in view of the concern on this point which found expression in all parts of the House in regard to this question and the amount of work that has to be put in by the clerical staff, could we get the members of the various interests together to see whether we can get a more simplified method of determining the pre-accident average weekly earnings?
I never believe in making suggestions unless I have a constructive proposal to make. In the situation we are in surely the average weekly earnings of the people employed in a particular department ought to be sufficient to determine a man's pre-accident earnings instead of going into all these individual cases and making a calculation based upon the earnings of a particular individual. Therefore, first of all I would like to ask whether the Under-Secretary has carried out that promise which he made, if he did make it; and also whether he will give further consideration to the view I have put forward in order that we may try to arrive at agreement on the matter I have mentioned.
§ Mr. Tinker
I wish to make a few general comments, because there have been many heartburnings at the way in which this matter is dealt with and what this Clause contains. Our fight was on the 13 weeks condition. We felt strongly on that, because we did not and we cannot understand why an injured workman should be deprived of any benefit for any period at all. For the first 13 weeks he is not to have any advantage under this Measure. It is very unfair, and this House is agreeing for the first time in its history to a form of legislation which hits a certain section of the community very hard indeed. One cannot allow the Clause to go without protest, in the hope that this provision may be eliminated in any future legislation. Had this matter been left to a free vote, there is not the slightest question but that this Bill would have been defeated. We are in a difficult position. There have been understandings outside, and I do not want to get away from them, because when any legislation of this nature is brought forward, there will have to be negotiations outside to see whether some measure of agreement can be reached. I am not one of those who say that that cannot take place, but when that form of understanding is something which cuts right across the true principle that should be applied, we have the right to protest.
I think the Committee displayed itself very well on the Committee stage. Some 20 speeches were made, 17 of which from all sides of the House were in favour of amending the 13 weeks provision. The Government men of course stood by it, and there were two, one from our side who had been in the negotiations, and another, who also supported that point of view, but the overwhelming opinion of the Committee was that had there been a free vote, it would have gone against the Government. If it had done so, the Bill would have been lost. That is a difficult position to place us in. If I may make reference to the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton), he sat listening to the Debate and was stirred in the true Parliamentary sense to make this remark:The mere fact that there is no ordinary Opposition, that the House is almost united in support of the Government, should not cause the Government—and this would apply to the Prime Minister—to take action which is plainly against the wishes of everyone in 987 the Chamber and which can only be carried by the votes of those outside."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th October, 1943; col. 239, Vol. 393.]He meant to say those who were not listening to the Debate. That is true. Those who were present in the Chamber and who listened to the arguments put forward in support of the Amendment were almost united in saying that this Amendment that we put forward ought to be adopted by the Government. What the Noble Lord meant by "those outside" were those Members who were in the other places but who would crowd into the Division Lobby. I am not making any attack; I have done it myself. I have been summoned to a Division when I have not been in the Chamber and have said to my Whip, "Which way shall I vote?" but anyone listening to the arguments put forward on this proposed Amendment to Clause 1 would have been bound to say that this legislation was taking a wrong step. We are not going to vote against this, but we are bound to register our protest in the hope that what we are saying may have some bearing on future legislation.
§ Major Lyons (Leicester, East)
I merely want, if I may, to endorse the views that have been expressed by the hon. Gentleman opposite on this novelty in legislation. For myself I hope that the temporary period to be covered by this Bill will be made as short as possible and that as soon as possible in the future a comprehensive and consolidating Measure will be introduced. May I make one further protest on the present Clause? By its limitation on income it continues the provision whereby the standard of life of the injured man during the period of his compensation under the Bill is automatically reduced because of the injury. There can never be any justification to say to an injured man, who after all is an industrial casualty, "When you get your compensation it will be at such a rate, that it is less than the rate of your pre-accident earnings."
I have raised this issue before in Workmen's Compensation Debates and I am absolutely of the view that a man who has fallen by the way as an industrial casualty should not necessarily have a lower income than before. We all know that in other cases of compensation addi- 988 tional provision is made and recognised by the court for special food and nourishment, extra items that the man wants when he is sick but may not need when he is well. Not only is there here no provision for that, but this Bill maintains the limit to the amount he may receive from all additions so that he gets less than his income before the accident. That means to say, in fact, that because of the accident his standard of life is depressed, and this automatically depresses the standard of life of his household. There is no justification for that. It is quite indefensible. I hope when this temporary Measure comes to an end—and I trust its period will be short—that that will end for all time and that the House of Commons will not accept finally any provision which imposes upon these households a depressed standard of life through no fault of the wage-earner. I utter my word of protest on this matter and hope that we shall not have long to wait for appropriate legislation when that provision will have gone for all time.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (Oxford)
I hope the Committee will forgive me if I express a genuine intellectual difficulty which I feel and which has not been fully set at rest by such speeches as we have heard. This is a temporary Measure. It has embodied a principle which is referred to in a Report of which a good deal has been spoken. The difficulty in relating the temporary Measure to the future permanent Measure is that raised by the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker). The permanent Measure is not to be confined to this matter of workmen's compensation. One of the aims will be to introduce a health benefit based on subsistence. The difficulty will be to correlate that with an accident benefit based on earnings. Let us, for example, take two men, who fall on a banana skin in the street, with serious consequences. One is carrying a note to his employer, while the other is not—he is just out for a walk. The one who is not carrying a note to his employer will get the health benefit based on a flat subsistence rate. The other is working for his employer, and is, therefore, given a different benefit based on earnings. It is terribly difficult to know how those two men, who, in exactly similar circumstances, have received the same injury, should have their two benefits correlated. Sir William Beveridge's solution was that 989 both should receive the same rate for 13 weeks. That was not done out of any desire to depress the standard of living of the man who happened to be carrying a note to his employer, but because of the difficulty of correlating the rates for two men, in the same walk of life, who have received the same injury. I am not sure that Sir William Beveridge's solution is the ideal one, but it is not inspired by anything like inhumane motives. I have yet to see the perfect solution of this fundamental problem. Therefore, although I am in general sympathy with the object of the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), I cannot express my own feelings towards this Clause, as the hon. Member did, in the form of a protest.
§ Mr. Shinwell (Seaham)
This is our final opportunity of recording a quite legitimate protest against the discrimination shown in this Bill as between the single man and the married man. It is not the intention of hon. Members on this side to divide, but it would be quite wrong for the Committee to suppose that we are happy about this discrimination. I appreciate the substantial efforts which the Home Secretary has made to introduce improvements in this very small Measure. We are grateful for them, and the men concerned will be grateful, but the discrimination is undoubtedly inconsistent with trade union practice and principle. It has always been held in the trade union movement that there should be no discrimination in respect of compensation, and particularly as regards wage rates between single and married men. It is now accepted, almost univerally, that the rate of pay should be equalised, not only as between single and married men but as between the sexes—the rate for the job should be paid. It is difficult to understand why there should be discrimination in respect of compensation.
It would be most inappropriate at this stage to enter into the controversy which characterised the earlier stages of our discussion. We are told that there is no advantage in indulging in recriminations, and certainly no advantage is to be gained from attacking my right hon. Friend or the Under Secretary. But I express the view of my hon. Friends and of a number of hon. Members opposite when I say that, having accepted this Measure, we expect of my right hon. Friend a very 990 early and substantial approach to comprehensive legislation affecting workmen's compensation. I am certain that my right hon. Friend will be fair enough to agree that this question of extended workmen's compensation legislation is no new proposal. It has been before this House for the last quarter of a century. Although occasionally we have had driblets of legislation, on a very small scale, there has been no substantial improvement gained. It may be that my right hon. Friend is awaiting the full consideration that is now being given to the Beveridge Report proposals. The sooner we have those proposals embodied in legislation, perhaps in an improved form, the better for all of us: the better for the security of the people of this country and the better for our peace of mind, because undoubtedly security—and workmen's compensation enters very largely into the question of security—is a matter which concerns everybody. Whether my right hon. Friend is awaiting such legislation or whether he proposes to come forward with an independent Workmen's Compensation Bill, on a much improved scale, one cannot say, but before long we may have to press my right hon. Friend or some other appropriate Minister to produce such legislation.
There has been a good deal of heat engendered in these discussions. I do not see myself why there should have been: it has been quite a straightforward up and down case; and my right hon. Friend cannot say that I engendered any heat. I did suggest in the course of a speech that my right hon. Friend was a pastmaster in the art of intimidation, but that is quite a pleasant observation—much more pleasant, I might say, than many of the observations which my right hon. Friend occasionally addresses to me. We need not make a song and dance about that; we understand each other quite well. So far as I am concerned there is no desire to engender any heat into the discussion now, when we have reached a late stage in the consideration of this Measure. We are very anxious to obtain some benefits for the people concerned. That is the prime consideration of hon. Members on this side. I will be quite frank, and say that we could not afford to lose this Bill, insubstantial as it is. It would be quite improper if we threw away even modified legislation which would put into the 991 pockets of injured men a few more shillings per week. My right hon. Friend knew that we were in that position. Much as we dislike this discrimination between single and married men, we accept the Bill for what it is worth, in the hope that substantial legislation on workmen's compensation will soon be forthcoming.
§ Mr. Peake
I think that before we part with this Clause I ought to reply briefly to the points which have been raised. My hon. Friend the Member for Stake (Mr. Ellis Smith) asked about the undertaking given Last January to examine further the question of the method of calculating pre-accident earnings. I dealt with that matter in my winding-up speech in the Debate on the Second Reading, which is reported in Hansard of 21st October, col. 1607, Vol. 392. Shortly, the position is that we did examine this question with representatives of the Trades Union Congress on several occasions. We examined it with members of the British Employers' Confederation and also at joint meetings of the two bodies. Our examination showed us that the problem was much more difficult than we had at first envisaged, and convinced me that, in regard to our long-term scheme, we must try to arrive at some simpler method of calculating compensation. The present system is infinitely complex. It is so complex that I do not think one working-man in a thousand can possibly understand how his compensation is calculated. It will be a great advantage if, in regard to the long-term scheme, we can arrive at something which is at any rate comprehensible, and that is all we shall endeavour to do. I appreciate what the hon. Member said in that regard and the large measure of agreement which it seemed to command in the Committee.
The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) deplored what he called the discrimination in this Bill against the single man. I quite agree that when one is making any improvement in benefit rates it is very nice, if one possibly can, to do something for everybody and to do the most for those whose need is greatest. It has been the sad fact that in this Bill, in view of the recommendations of the report to which I have referred already, we have felt unable to do anything for the single man. But now that the Bill is to go on the Statute Book, hon. Members will want to put the best light they can upon its provisions in their constituencies. I would 992 therefore point out to them that they can say, with truth, that long-term cases will benefit, that old cases will benefit whether they are cases of single people or married people, because the single man's benefit in the long-term case, is improved from a maximum of 35s. to 40s. In the second place, in the industry with which compensation is so largely concerned, the mining industry, we are informed that a very high proportion of the men are married men. It has been estimated by the people whose duty it is to advise us upon these matters, that the percentage of married men in the mining industry may be as high as 70. If that be the case, it is clear that the mining industry is going to get a large share of the benefits conferred by the Bill. Hon. Members, I think, might be able to point out to some of their constituents who complained that nothing was being done in the Bill for the single man in the short-term case, that the single man has a remedy in his own hands, because he can go and get married.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Do I understand from what my right hon. Friend has just said that if an injured single man is in receipt of 35s. a week and decides to marry, then immediately he is married he will receive 40s.?
§ Mr. Peake
No, I fear my hon. Friend his misunderstood me. I was suggesting that it might be pointed out that the precaution of marriage might precede the accident. My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) rendered a service in drawing the attention of the Committee to the historical and political consequences of treating industrial disability, as we have done in this country, on a wholly different footing from the treatment of disability arising from other causes. That is bound to have a profound significance in the drawing-up of any long-term scheme dealing with cases of industrial disability, and I hope that hon. Members will read what my hon. Friend said, in order that they may apply their minds to this great difficulty, which Sir William Beveridge did not wholly succeed in overcoming, of reconciling the historical treatment of industrial accidents with its inclusion in a comprehensive scheme of social insurance.
It would be invidious on my part to compare the charming tone of the remarks made to-day by the hon. Member 993 for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) with the tone of his remarks of two or three days ago. At any rate, his attitude towards the Bill seems to be a little more friendly to-day than it was when we previously discussed this Measure. I can only say that as regards the wife's allowance, it has been generally accepted on behalf of the working-class movement by the Compensation Committee of the Trades Union Congress, and although the employers argued, as does my hon. Friend, that it is not a proper subject for inclusion in a workmen's compensation scheme, my own view is that by bringing in the wife's allowance, we have been able to confer benefits upon the married man which we should not have been able to do, had we compelled ourselves to treat the single man and the married man on exactly the same basis. In conclusion on this Clause, may I say that if we can approach the discussion of the long-term scheme—which my right hon. Friend and I are most anxious to introduce and to get placed on the Statute Book—in the more temperate atmosphere in which we have discussed this Bill this morning, I am sure we shall be able to co-operate in building up something very good for the future.
§ Major Lyons
Before my right hon. Friend leaves this Clause, could he tell the Committee whether, in approaching that long-term scheme, the Department will give consideration to the question of doing away with all the limitations which compel compensation to be less than the pre-accident rate of earnings?
§ Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.