HC Deb 05 November 1943 vol 393 cc1005-9

Amendment made:

In page 5, line 30, at the end, insert: Provided that a child who,—

  1. (i) has attained the age of fifteen years; and
  2. (ii) was, when he attained that age, a child receiving full-time instruction in a school,
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."—[Mr. Peake.]

Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended, considered.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

Mr. Ellis Smith

We have been acting under instructions to-day, in accordance with trade union democracy, to facilitate the passage of this Bill, and my hon. Friends have loyally abided by that decision. I was to make a few observations on the Bill on behalf of the people I am connected with, but another hon. Member, in accordance with his usual practice, took advantage of Clause 1 in order to make the observations himself. On behalf of our party and the movement outside, I want to say that we welcome the improvements which are contained in this Bill. The trade union movement and those who until recently were acting in local areas, like my hon. Friends the Members for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) and Wigan (Mr. Foster), in particular welcome these relative improvements. At the same time the Home Secretary in particular and the Government in general will be aware of the righteous indignation arising from the experiences of my hon. Friends, to which expression was given during the early part of the Committee stage, and it was in answer to that that the Home Secretary said that the Government were considering the position and had decided as soon as possible to introduce a comprehensive Measure. We hope it will be treated as a matter of urgency, because although we accept this Bill, it does not deal with fundamental grievances that arise out of injuries received in industry, and I would remind the House that as a result of the developments of industry more and more of our people are suffering from industial diseases.

The whole House joined a few weeks ago in pressing the Government to bring about big improvements in the administration of the Ministry of Pensions. It was an example of what can be done when the House correctly reflects the feeling of the country, and just as improvements were brought about in the payments to men and women who have served in the Armed Forces, so we believe there ought to be similar improvements in the payments and conditions of those who are our industrial soldiers and have suffered injury in their employment. I represent an area which probably has suffered more as a result of industrial diseases than any other area in this country, and it is on behalf of the people there that I am asking that the introduction of this comprehensive Measure should be regarded as a matter of urgency. Meanwhile, we welcome the relative improvements brought about by this Bill, and hope the Third Reading will be agreed to, and that it will be sent to another place as soon as possible in order that our people may get the benefits.

Mr. Tom Brown

I want to put a point of view similar to that of the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith). I hope that the placid atmosphere to-day will also prevail during the discussions when the comprehensive Bill comes forward. One thing I should like to say is that I hope that tire comprehensive legislation of which we have had a vision to-day will cover those workmen who were injured prior to Jane, 1924. There are a tremendous number in the coalfields who were injured from 1906 to 1924.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Charles Williams)

This is the Third Reading of the Bill, and we can discuss only the Bill itself. I do not want to be hard on the hon. Member, but I would ask him not to develop a point which is really outside the scope of the Third Reading.

Mr. Brown

I bow to your Ruling, and I will reserve my remarks for a later period.

Mr. Tinker

Now that we have reached the Third Reading, I should like to say that it has been a hard battle and that we have said many hard things, but it must be remembered that we come from the mining industry and that ours is a hard life. As miners' agents we have had experience of accidents, and when these Measures come before the House we have in our minds what we have gone through and all the accidents we have had to encounter. That vision lies before us, and it makes us warm and heated in our endeavours to do something for our people. The right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary will appreciate this, because he is a coal-owner and he knows our feelings. The other night he handled a very difficult situation in a very able manner, cleared off the opposition in a very decent way and got out of the difficulty very well. I did not want to lose this Bill, although I did want to secure better conditions for our people, and if we have not got all we desired, still there will be a big improvement in the lot of our people. Our demands were made in order that those who are preparing the comprehensive Measure should know what our feelings are, because there will be a bonnier fight altogether if we do not then get some of the things which we have advocated during the discussion on this Bill. I welcome the Third Reading.

Mr. Foster

There will be thousands of workmen who will welcome the increased benefits given by this Bill, but there will also be thousands of workmen who will be disappointed. I regret that we were not able to secure some of the Amendments put down by myself and other hon. Members which were designed so to improve the Bill that some of the bottom dogs might share in this £4,000,000. Having said that I would like to pay my tribute to the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary for the courtesy they have shown to me in the Debate. I have refrained from entering upon any personalities. I always think that if a Member has to build up his case by attacking individuals he has a very poor case indeed. His case should rest upon the facts and the arguments which he can put forward.

Mr. Hogg

I wish to say a few words from this side of the House. The hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith), in his Second Reading speech, expressed himself as apprehensive about the future. I hope that, whatever else may have occurred, these discussions will have shown that a very great advance is now possible with a Measure which would be quite uncontroversial and receive no kind of opposition from this side of the House. A second thing I should like to say is that if a comprehensive Measure is contemplated to deal with workmen's compensation as distinct from general social insurance, I hope it will take a look at some of the general features of employers' liability generally, because there are certain other things which require to be done.

Mr. Peake

I am obliged to my hon. Friends in all quarters of the House for facilitating the passage of this Bill into law to-day. This is the third Measure of workmen's compensation since the war with which I have had the good or ill fortune to be associated, and the result of those three Measures has been, I think, a considerable advance in the benefits which injured people obtain. Broadly speaking, the result of the three Measures is that the total payments of compensation will be 75 per cent. higher than before the war and that the increase will be spread more according to the needs of individuals than they were under the old flat rate system. Many of my hon. Friends opposite have knowledge and practical experience of workmen's compensation, and for this reason I always listen to what they say with interest, because I hope, like my right hon. Friend, to be associated with a comprehensive Measure which will take the place of the present antiquated system. If, therefore, I can gather the general sense of the House with a view to seeing how far agreement exists, it is a matter of great interest to me in my work upon the new system.

A certain amount of heat came into our Debate last week on this matter. I quite understand how that occurs. It is not easy to discuss these matters in a dispassionate way, especially as so many hon. Members opposite have seen injured victims carried out of the pit or factory. I was also formerly associated with the mining industry. I know something of its problems. I have been round the hospitals and seen men, young men, who will never work again, with such injuries as a fractured spine. I can assure my hon. Friends opposite that my sympathy with those cases is as great as theirs. I am sure that if we can discuss a new scheme in a dispassionate atmosphere, such as we have had in the House to-day, we can frame something which will be of lasting benefit to the unfortunate victims of industrial accidents.

Question, "That the Bill be now read the Third Time," put, and agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.