HC Deb 04 February 1944 vol 396 cc1541-5

Where a disabled person is certified by a medical officer appointed by the Minister as being unfit for full-time work because of his disablement and where such disabled person by working part-time only will be paid part-time wages, the Minister may make arrangements with any other person for the payment to the disabled person of such sum as will be the difference between the part-time wage and the wage which would have been ordinarily payable for full-time work—[Mr. Messer.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Messer (Tottenham, South)

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The Clause does not give me all that I should like, but it has been found difficult to get a form of words which will get somewhere near what I want, without going outside the terms of the Bill. I realise the possibility of some people being denied the opportunity of employment, because the terms of the employment and their physical condition, will prevent them earning sufficient to enable them to live. There will be many cases of people who cannot be introduced into a factory or workshop for a full day's work right away. There are types of cases in which it is obviously in the interest of the patient that he should do only a few hours' work. There are tuberculosis cases, cases of men who have spent not weeks or months, but years in sanatoria and whatever sort of rehabilitation treatment they may be given, they must be introduced into industry gradually. Unless there is some provision whereby the part-time wages that they earn can be made up approximately to a full wage, they will not be able to take advantage of the provisions of the Bill.

There is a third type, the workmen's compensation case, in which men or women have been certified as fit for light work. They may be able to work for a few hours a day but, if they do, they will run the risk of losing their compensation and will not earn enough to provide a substitute for it. I should like to get the Minister to co-operate in this matter with other Government Departments, because the principle has already been conceded and it is recognised that a man can earn some money each day without being disqualified from unemployment insurance. Under the recent tuberculosis scheme of the Ministry of Health, which had for its object attracting potential patients into treatment, the Ministry proposed to give to a married man 39s. a week, with the provision that if he undertook part-time work a third of that 39s. would not be paid. That makes it possible for the type of tuberculosis patient that comes within the Government scheme to get something in addition to his wages. The tuberculosis case which does not come within the scheme, the asthmatic case or the gastric ulcer case—people who can only do light work—will not be so treated.

I want to see the Bill a success. In order that it should be a success, I want to attract the largest number of people who can take advantage of it. I am of opinion that it would be in the interest, not merely of those concerned but of the community, to let people work rather than live on income derived without work. It is in the interests of the self-respect of the man himself that he should be permitted to render some service for what he is getting. We are hoping to bring blind people within the rehabilitation scheme. We realise that, no matter what training some blind people may have, it is impossible for them to earn enough to keep themselves. Therefore, under schemes prepared by county councils and county borough councils, there is a fund for augmentation of income by which a blind person can get a grant, to make up what he earns to an amount which will keep him. If he is unemployable, he can draw a grant which is sufficient to keep him. I do not want to deter anybody from working. I would prefer that, instead of choosing the unemployable grant, a person should choose to work for a period, provided that the amount that he earns is augmented so that it will be enough to keep him.

Mr. Tinker (Leigh)

I beg to second the Motion.

On broad lines, I agree with my hon. Friend that a man who is disabled through infirmity or accident, if he can get part-time work, should not have at the back of his mind the idea that he will get no other help. There should be some fund, or some means by which an addition can be made to his part-time earnings. I would utter a word of warning with regard to what my hon. Friend said about workmen's compensation. A man draws workmen's compensation because he is injured at his employment, and I hope that the employer will be regarded as fully liable to meet his needs. Apart from such cases, there are thousands of men who could do some light work and might be held back from doing it because the earnings would not be very much. If something could be added to their earnings it would encourage them to take such work.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Tomlinson)

I am sure that every Member is in sympathy with the object of this proposed new Clause, and we agree on the desirability of what my hon. Friend is seeking. I am in that position, but I do not think that the Clause can find a place in this Bill. The very illustrations which my hon. Friend used, show how impossible it would be to deal with a particular type of disabled persons who come on to the register or who are regarded as disabled when it comes to a question of their employment. Everybody realises the necessity for full maintenance, but the question whether maintenance can be based on an arrangement which is made when an individual is taken into work for a period is not a matter for a Bill of this kind. There is nothing in the Bill which prevents the Minister—it is done now in certain circumstances—coming to an arrangement, whereby an individual receives an addition to his earnings because he is disabled. Somebody during the Committee stage referred to the arrangement that was made for varying amounts of wages under the Trade Boards Act because of disability. There are people working in the City to-day under those conditions, and I have seen them within the last few weeks. The fact that this is not a Measure either of social insurance or of general social legislation prevents us putting in a Clause of this kind.

Reference has been made to payments made by the Ministry of Health in tuberculosis cases and the possibility of such payments being regarded as part payments towards maintenance. That is a question which will have to be looked into in the light of experience. Although we are in full sympathy with my hon. Friend's object, and I hope that it will be possible to achieve it, I do not think it can be done by putting the new Clause into this Bill. My hon. Friend who seconded the Motion, referred to workmen's compensation. The object of the Bill is so to rehabilitate and resettle a man who is injured at work that he will not need to take into consideration what he is receiving in compensation, but will be able to receive full Wages in addition to the compensation. Not only would the new Clause cut across the Bill, but it would be impossible, in this Measure, to achieve the object it sets out to achieve. I hope that my hon. Friend will withdraw his new Clause, realising that the object we have in mind is to do what he desires.

Mr. Messer

If the Parliamentary Secretary says that he is in sympathy with my object, I can ask for nothing more, because I believe that if he and the Minister are sympathetic, they will find a way to meet what I think is a legitimate point. On that understanding, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.