§ 12.12 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
I beg to move,That this House welcomes the intention of His Majesty's Government, declared in the White Paper presented to Parliament, to replace the existing system of workmen's compensation by a new scheme of Industrial Injury Insurance.This Debate, and the Debate of last week on Part I of the social insurance proposals of the Government, follow upon an earlier Debate on the Beveridge Report that took place quite a considerable time ago. It was my duty to wind up that Debate on behalf of the Government in somewhat exciting circumstances, followed by a Division, and I ventured then, and in some subsequent public speeches, to be reasonably optimistic as to the implementation of the proposals in that Report. Naturally it is a source of great pleasure to me that both Part I and Part II of the White Paper have, as I think the House agrees, substantially upheld the proposals in the Beveridge Report. In certain respects there are departures from that Report, and to these changes and modifications I will refer. But in the modifications and changes in workmen's compensation that we propose as compared with the present law and the proposals embodied in the Beveridge Report I am optimistic enough to hope—I cannot do more—that I will carry with me not only the House in general but in particular my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir W. Beveridge), to my debt to whom I will refer later.
In the big Debate some time ago I said there was usually considerable argument about workmen's compensation. Being fairly new to the subject, after having handled two Bills I had soon learned that workmen's compensation was an exciting subject. As I said then, it is complex and difficult, as I think the House recognises, and no Members more than many of my hon. 1388 Friends opposite who have had so much experience in connection with it. I did indicate that it would be wise to be cautious about it. Even at that time, as I made clear in the course of the Debate, from my own short experience of the Home Office in relation to this vast subject, I personally felt convinced that big changes would be necessary, but before getting down to the job of modernising the system, I hoped for some help and guidance from the House in the course of that three-day Debate.
As it turned out, the Debate, possibly inevitably, centred largely upon the social insurance proposals in general and, in fact, little or nothing was said about the workmen's compensation aspect of the subject at all. I deduced from that, perhaps rather boldly, that the Government was given a free hand to conduct its researches in relation to workmen's compensation, and the Government's proposals are now before the country and the House in the shape of Part II of the White Paper on the whole subject of social insurance. It is, of course, only part of the social insurance proposals but it is a big and important part. As indicating the magnitude of the problem as it affects our fellow citizens, last year nearly 2,000 persons actually lost their lives in factories and mines alone, and in addition nearly half a million more were injured. That is a measure of the casualty list of industry, and an indication of the importance of the subject to the great numbers of our fellow countrymen and women who are following industrial employments.
I think I am justified in making the claim that whatever may be said about details, even important details, the proposals embodied in the White Paper now before the House constitute a revolutionary advance in the whole structure of workmen's compensation administration. Part II is in one sense more revolutionary than Part I of the social insurance proposals. The social insurance proposals in Part I embody very important proposals which rationalise, extend, reorganise and improve the existing arrangements. But the industrial injury insurance proposals set out to substitute an entirely new principle for the principle upon which workmen's compensation has been based during the half-century since 1897, when it began. Under the 1897 1389 Workmen's 'Compensation Act, responsibility for the casualties of industry was placed upon the employer. In its day even this was revolutionary, for the 19th century had seen little legislation of this character, and certainly none of the social insurance legislation which the present century has seen, markedly beginning with the Liberal Government of 1906.
One revolutionary feature of the 1897 Act was that it imposed a liability upon the employer to pay compensation, quite independently of whether there had been negligence, not only on the part of the employer or of anyone employed by him, but also on that of the workman himself, even including wilful negligence, in the case of death or serious and permanent disablement. The scheme of 1897 preceded compulsory insurance, which came later, and it was natural at that time to place the liability on the employer, especially as neither Parliament nor Government had, up to that time, had experience of modern social legislation administration. In this connection I have a theory—it can be no more than a theory—that the placing of the liability directly on the employer was perhaps largely fortuitous. That impression is somewhat borne out by a contribution made to an earlier. Debate by Mr. Joseph Chamberlain. In the course of a very interesting and, if I may say so, very enlightened speech—at any rate for that time—on the Second reading of Mr. Asquith's Employers' Liability Bill on the 20th February, 1893, Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, who was advocating compensation for all cases except where the workman himself was negligent, said this:In dealing with compensation, I should be inclined to treat the employer merely as a convenient channel through which the compensation should be paid.He thought that employers would insure to cover the cost and that, since all a workman would have to do would be to prove that he had not been negligent, you would get rid of litigation. But it seems from Mr. Chamberlain's observation that he was not suggesting the employer for any particular economic motive, or even to encourage him to be careful about accidents. Rather, in his own words it was merely that he proposed to treat the employeras a convenient channel through which the compensation should be paid.1390 However, the position was not so simple as Mr. Chamberlain at that time thought. As my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed said in the course of his Report, the existing systemwas based on a wrong principle, and has been dominated by a wrong outlook.I absolutely agree with what my hon. Friend said. First of all, a social question so important as the welfare of the workman and his family, should not be, in my judgment, a matter of argument between him and his employer, with litigation as the machinery for resolving disputes between them. Secondly, a system under which the responsibility for paying compensation is placed on an individual is necessarily complicated, and the already complicated Statute law has inevitably been overlaid by a substantial and complete complex body of case law. In the third place, the fact that every increase in benefit had to come out of the pockets of employers could not fail to retard progress, or to affect adversely the relations between employers and workmen. Fourthly, such a system could not be properly related to the other social insurance services and, what is most important, the vital problem of rehabilitation—which will be all the more important if we achieve full employment—under the old system could not be satisfactorily solved.
Improvements have of course, been made in the 1897 Act. There have been extensions over other fields of industry. The benefits have been substantially increased over the years as compared with what they were in the beginning, but the principle that I have indicated has stood throughout. During the war the process of improvement has been carried even further. My right hon. Friend the present Chancellor of the Exchequer supported by the present Financial Secretary to the Treasury, to both of whom I would pay my tribute—it is curious how these combinations recur in the course of Parliamentary history—brought in legislation in 1940 which made improvements in the provision for workmen's compensation. Again I, in association with my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary when he was at the Home Office, brought in legislation later which made further improvements and further extensions in the range of possible beneficiaries. These improvements in war time legislation taken together have meant a substantial move 1391 along the road, and they must be related to the White Paper proposals, to which, indirectly, they have made their contribution.
It may be well to summarise the wartime improvements. The pre-war maximum that could be paid for workmen's compensation was 30s. a week. That 30s. maximum has during the war been supplemented, so that the present position is that a single man gets 35s. as compared with 30s. before the war, whether married or single; the married man gets 40s.; after 13 weeks the single man gets 40s. and the married man gets 50s. and, a provision which did not exist at all before the war, there is a payment of 5s. in respect of each child. The proportion of compensation to average weekly earnings has been raised from 50 per cent. to two-thirds and, where there are children's allowances, the maximum has been raised to seven-eighths. We also introduced increases in fatal cases. Another change was that the income limit for non-manual workers was raised to £420 from £350.
I am very happy indeed as Home Secretary to have been associated, in conjunction with my predecessor and with my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, with these appreciable war-time improvements. However, as I have said in the House in answer to criticisms of these proposals, what was wanted really was a radical and fundamental recasting of the whole structure and the whole system. I do not deny that the old system served the country well in its time, but its reform, nevertheless, is overdue. Fundamentally, it is Victorian in its conception; it is out of keeping with modern ideas, and this is particularly true having regard to the developments of social insurance which have taken place during the present century. The old structure has been improved. It has been patched up by the war-time legislation and other legislation; it has had repairs, but now it needs to be pulled down and rebuilt on modern lines.
Indeed recognition that all was not well was shown before the war when the Royal Commission on Workmen's Compensation was appointed in December, 1938. In this connection I should like to pay my tribute to Sir Hector Hetherington and all his colleagues on that Royal Commission. They got so far with their 1392 investigations and they heard a fair amount of evidence, but then the inquiry of my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed came along and it was clear that we had to examine the problem as a Government, with the result that that Royal Commission have never finished their jab. Nevertheless, they have made their contribution and I am grateful to them for their work. Their natural disappointment at being unable to complete their tack is appreciated, but the evidence that they collected was none the less relevant and useful in the building up of the present White Paper scheme. And so also was the investigation carried out by my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed. It has made a material contribution. A number of his proposals survive in the White Paper, and although various modifications of some importance have been introduced, I should indeed be ungenerous were I not to express my grateful thanks to my hon. Friend for the contribution he has made to the unravelling of the problem.
In Part II of the White Paper, the Government have provided. Parliament and the country with their plans for the new structure. I want to make it clear that they are not final. The whole idea of a White Paper it that it should not be final; it is a basis far discusssion and debate, and we shall have criticisms, suggestions, additional proposals, and proposals for alterations, and I can only say for myself—and I am sure for my colleagues—that we shall not be unwilling to consider any criticisms and suggestions that may be made. I would only ask of the critics that they should enter into the matter in the right spirit and, on their side, make criticisms and suggestions in a helpful way. We, on our side, will try not to be unhelpful in the way we receive them. As I have said, the White Paper has been issued for the purpose of discussion and consideration in Parliament and the country, and by the many organisations who are vitally concerned. All we ask to-day is that the House should endorse the main provisions, and particularly the main principles upon which the proposals in the White Paper are based.
In addition to those of whom I have already spoken as contributing to this scheme, I would refer to the insurance companies and the employers, who have 1393 made their contribution, and the Trades Union Congress, who for many years have made proposals and criticisms in this field—and it was right that they should—mentioning in particular the helpful liaison work between them and my hon. Friends in Parliament, and my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith), and the present chairman of the Trades Union Congress, my hon. Friend the Member for North Southwark (Mr. Isaacs). All have made their contribution, and it would be only right and proper that I should pay a particular tribute to my right hon. Friend the present Financial Secretary to the Treasury for his work at the Home Office in connection with workmen's compensation. The policy was mine; these fundamental changes of principle were what I directed and what I wanted, and with the co-operation and support of my colleagues in the Government I now submit them to the House. But my right hon. Friend, then Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Home Office, was exceedingly helpful. He is very expert on the subject, and probably the only man in this House able to answer adequately some of my hon. Friends opposite. That is why I have him here to-day. I always believe in the best advocates. He has been exceedingly helpful, enlightened and progressive. When I began to discuss these things with him I wondered how my right hon. Friend—as a Conservative and also having regard to his industrial origins—and I would get on together. Let me say again that on this subject he has really been most helpful and progressive, and I indeed owe a debt of gratitude to him. I would say the same of the able and very competent officers who deal with workmen's compensation at the Home Office. They have been dealing with this sad, rather dreary and technical subject for many years, and they threw themselves wholeheartedly into the task of reconstruction.
The main and truly revolutionary feature of the new scheme is that, for the first time, it transfers to the community as a whole the responsibility for the casualties of industry, and I think and hope that the House will agree that it is right that the responsibility for the casualties of industry should rest broadly and firmly upon the community as a whole. It is a complete change of con- 1394 ception, and workmen's compensation under its new title of "industrial injury insurance" will become, for the first time a social service administered for the community by the new Ministry of Social Insurance if the Bill now before the House is, in due course, passed. May I say that I will be sorry to lose this subject from the Home Office. It has been there a long time and as I think all sides of the House will agree good work has been done by the Home Office. It has not been an unpleasant Department with which to negotiate on the subject, and I have another reason for regretting the change. I am very anxious that the Home Office shall always keep some social problems within its compass and shall not be limited to problems relating to police and prisons. If the Home Office becomes purely a prison and police department, detached from the wider social problems of our times, it will be bad for it, and bad for the administration of justice in this country. We must never let the British Home Office become a Continental Ministry of the Interior.
Other changes flow from the central change of principle which I have mentioned. Workmen's compensation is now to become part of the general social insurance structure, though it will be a separate scheme with higher benefits than those provided for under Part r. We rejected the proposal in the Beveridge Report for a special levy on the hazardous industries for two reasons, and I hope that, on reflection, they may commend themselves to my hon. Friend. First of all, the more I thought about it, the more I came to the conclusion that it was wrong to put an additional, special burden on the hazardous industries. Some of them, including mining, are not easy industries, and to place an additional burden on them would be wrong. After considering representations from the industries and from my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power, and other Ministers concerned, I came to the conclusion, as I have said, that it would be wrong to place a special burden on them. They are hazardous because of the nature of the industry, and not necessarily because of the particular carelessness of the people engaged in them. Secondly, I thought it right to have a complete pooling of risks, and that is why we have widened the scope of the 1395 people covered. The scheme is comprehensive; it applies to everybody over school-leaving age working under a con-contract of service or apprenticeship, and that should be remembered in relation to the financial basis of the scheme. It will provide sources of income which are much wider, and cover many more people, than before. That will improve the financial basis of the scheme.
It may be said that a number of people, including quite well-paid people, in non-manual employment, are never likely to claim under the scheme, and it may be that it is exceedingly unlikely that they will. But once we establish the principle that this should be a communal matter, is it not right that the financing of the compensation of those unfortunate enough to have accidents in the course of their employment should be widely spread? If people are to contribute who are very unlikely to benefit, well, it is very lucky for them that they are unlikely to benefit, and I am sure they will not mind contributing to help the unlucky people in other industries, some of which are exceedingly dangerous from the point of view of industrial accidents. Therefore, we start from the principle of contributions from everybody with a contract of service. The next principle is that there shall be flat rate benefits with supplements for family responsibilities. That is a departure from the Report of my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed who proposed to base industrial pensions on earnings. I was in two difficulties about this proposal. I have had the cases on both sides put to me and I admit the force of the arguments for his scheme. One case in point is that of, for example, the compositor, particularly if he is a linotype or monotype operator, who loses a finger and may no longer be able to do his job. It is a nasty thing to lose a finger, but, in the ordinary way, not serious. What am I going to do for him? A second case is that of an engine driver, a highly skilled and fairly well-paid worker, who may lose an eye, and to whom the railway company says, "You cannot drive a train any more, and you must do something else on the railway at a lower rate of pay."
I admit that these are difficult cases, but, of course, there is nothing in the proposals to prevent voluntary supple- 1396 mentary schemes of insurance being elaborated within the industries themselves, and on their own responsibility, if they so desire. But I did consider whether, while getting away from the evils of the system of relating compensation to earnings I could graduate the soldiers of industry into privates and sergeants, lower ranked commissioned officers and so on, perhaps, even up to general and field-marshal. I came to the conclusion that I could not. Administratively such a scheme would not stand up. I could not see how it could be worked. Either the grading had to be based upon the man's earnings, which are liable to change, or on his status in industry which, again, is liable to fluctuations. So I came to the conclusion that administratively it would not stand up, and, after examination, I put it aside.
The other question was whether we should go on relating compensation to the assumed estimated loss of earning power. Of all the difficult points in the administration of the existing Acts, this business of deciding, first, what the man was earning or what he might reasonably earn and, secondly, how his earning powers were affected, was the most difficult of all. If a miner loses an eye, for example, is his earning power affected? I understand from my hon. Friends from the mining industry that there have been cases in which it was held that the miner did not lose his earning power when he lost an eye. I can follow the legal argument. The poor chap has lost an eye, but his earning power has not suffered and it is just too bad if he does not get compensation. Moreover, there is the question of deciding what the man's earnings were, and I remember that, in a Debate on one of the Bills that I introduced, the argument was advanced that the basis of earnings upon which compensation had been paid was no longer realistic.
Then there is the problem of the man's future earnings. How are they to be computed? I would say that there has been more argument, more meticulous, and sometimes unhappy, discussion about the basis of estimating the loss of earning power than about anything else in connection with workmen's compensation. The more I saw of the working of the scheme, and the more I listened to Parliamentary Debates on the subject, the more I came to the conclusion that 1397 we should get rid of this method. I have no doubt that my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards), in the course of some of his eloquent and exciting speeches, may have made his contribution to my coming to that conclusion. I express my gratitude to him now, although I did not at the time, for a very understandable reason. I came to the conclusion that it must go, and that we must find a new basis. That new basis is that, if a workman, in the course of his industrial activity, loses an arm, a leg or an eye, or suffers some identifiable personal physical loss, a value should be put on what he has lost, for itself and of itself. Once it is permanently established that he has had that loss he must go on getting his industrial injury payment whatever his future earnings or economic position may be. He is being paid for a physical loss, and not exclusively for loss of earning power although it helps in that respect if there be such a loss. This big and fundamental change is one which I regard as essential to the whole of the proposals in this White Paper.
The next thing is how are claims to be paid? Up to now claims have been made on the employer or the insurance company and arguments have ensued. It is true that the arguments have often been pleasantly conducted, and that between the employers or the insurance company and the trade union officers a high proportion of claims have been amicably settled with good sense and good feeling on both sides. But they could, however, only be settled in the light of the ultimate remedy where there were disputes—an action in the courts, legal arguments and proceedings. I do not want the workman's position to be that he should have to claim from his employer or the employer's insurance company and that he should have to have an argument with them. I want him to have certain social rights conferred upon him because of his injury. I want him to go to a public office to state his claim, and I want the officer at that office not to regard the workman as somebody with whom he must contend and whom he must resist. I want the officer's attitude to be that he is called upon to adminster the law and regulations fairly. I want him, therefore, to give the workman all the help he can, and also freely to meet the arguments of the trade union officer and help him in any way that may be desirable.
1398 There should be a transformation in the whole relationship. We must get rid of the old standards and the old state of mind under which, in the last resort, litigation between the workman and the employer was always in the background. I think it is well that that should go. Claims will, therefore, be paid by officers of a Government Department—the proposed Ministry of Social Insurance. They will be settled administratively; there will be an end to the wrangles and disputes which were inevitable where the compensation of one individual came out of the pocket of another. These are big changes. Compensation will be based on the degree of disablement, instead of the estimated loss of earning capacity. I believe that this is the only method that is compatible with social insurance principles. It will remove a fruitful source of dispute on the extent to which earning capacity is impaired, and a workman will be encouraged to co-operate fully in the restoration of his health and earning capacity without fear that because of his restoration to health and earning capacity his compensation will come down. That will help us to get the cordial co-operation of the workman in his rehabilitation.
We considered the lump sum payment. I think it would be the general view of those who are experienced in this matter that there were many evils connected with the lump sum payment. First, there was the bargaining as to what should be the amount and, secondly, there was the question of what the person concerned would do with the lump sum when he got it. In some cases the, lump sum payment successfully put him on his feet in a little business, but there were many other cases in which, for example, people put the money into a business and failed, and a few cases in which they had a merry time until the money was gone. The lump sum payment was not only compensation for the workman; it was also compensation for his wife and family, and they had an interest in it. From all points of view, therefore, I think that the lump sum should go, and that the industrial injury pension should succeed it, except in the case of very small payments where, as a matter of administration, it is best and convenient to get the case out of the way.
Each of these things represents a substantial advance. Cumulatively this 1399 scheme represents a revolution. I do not need to go into the proposals in detail, and the House would not wish me to do so. Moreover, they are to be found in the White Paper. My right hon. friend the Financial Secretary will wind up the Debate, and my hon. and learned friend the Solicitor-General has kindly agreed to intervene in the Debate, either to-day or to-morrow, according to what is convenient, to deal with any points that come up and particularly to accord some reasonable degree of protection for myself against possible offensives from Members who are well versed in the legal aspects of the matter, and whose points of view will, no doubt, be heard. But it will help the House, I think, if I draw attention to the salient points which I have not already mentioned.
As to scope, the scheme will apply to personal injuries arising out of, and in the course of, employment, and to specified industrial diseases. I know that "arising out of and in the course of" has been subject to much criticism and to much legal argument. It has tended to expand as the years have gone on, and for that the courts and the lawyers can claim some credit. We considered whether we could get another definition, without prejudice or bias, but we could not, although any proposals that are put forward will be considered. The classical case is that of the workman who, if he has an accident within the factory gates, gets a certain benefit while if he slips on the kerb outside the gates, he gets a lower benefit. But you must have a line of demarcation somewhere. A similar point is whether the workman should be covered on his way to and from work. I follow that, so long as he goes straight to his work and straight back. But we are led into complications in relation to Part I of the proposals and, quite frankly, we have not found a better definition. I hope the new tribunals will not be less catholic-minded than the courts have been about the interpretation of the words. Conceivably, they may be more catholic-minded. In respect of diseases it is proposed to adhere generally to the present principles.
As regards finance, there will be a central fund from which all benefits and administrative charges will be paid. This fund will be maintained by weekly contributions of 3d. per man and 2d. per 1400 woman, from both employer and workman collected by stamp. Ordinarily, it will be the same stamp as that under Part I, and there will be an Exchequer contribution of one-sixth of the total cost. The rate of contribution for juveniles will be a half. We shall wish to have the collaboration of industry in the development and administration of the scheme. I have always thought, while I had been handling this matter at the Home Office, that the system of ad hoc consultations with employers and insurance companies and representatives of trade unions left much to be desired, and that if we could get a continuous review of the subject by a representative body it would be a good thing. Even if this White Paper had not been brought forward I should have proposed the setting up of an advisory council. It is proposed here that an advisory council should be set up, with equal representation for employers and employees, just as there are equal contributions. Similarly, there will be equal representation on the local appeal tribunals. In the first place, claims will be dealt with administratively by a pensions officer and, secondly, there will be a right of appeal to a local appeal tribunal, to which the pensions officer himself will also be able to refer cases. There will also be a further right of appeal on questions of law, or other questions which may be prescribed to a commissioner with legal qualifications, whose decision will be final.
The next important question is that of benefits. These are at a higher rate than those proposed under Part I of the social insurance scheme. One justification for that is history. Workmen's compensation has always had special treatment. If the workman is injured in the course of his employment he should, I think—because the nation needs him for its economic well-being—be entitled to more consideration than the ordinary citizen who has bad luck in the ordinary course of affairs.
§ Mr. Morrison
I see that my hon. Friend does not agree, and wants me to expound that. Well, I should have thought that the case was clear. It is essential that the workman should work and that he should go to his factory or place of employment. It is essential because the 1401 nation must live. For instance, coal must be produced, and mining is a dangerous occupation, and I should have thought that if you asked workpeople to face these special risks they should be entitled to special consideration from the community.
§ Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)
Does not my right hon. Friend realise that the great majority of disputes in connection with workmen's compensation arise from the question whether the man is within the law or not? Surely, he must have been advised that at least 99 per cent. of the cases heard in the courts have turned on this question of entitlement?
§ Mr. Morrison
I am told that my hon. Friend is quite wrong in his belief. However, there will be an opportunity for him to put his point of view later. As I have just said, the benefits will be at a higher rate. My hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, in his Report, recommended that they should be the same for 13 weeks, which would have covered some 90 per cent. of the cases. Disablement cases will be dealt with at flat rates, with allowances for family commitments. First of all, there will be an industrial injury allowance for an initial period while the workman is incapacitated and at the end of 13 weeks, or when the case is determined, that will be replaced by an industrial pension where disablement is likely to be permanent or prolonged. That will be supplemented if the pensioner is unemployable. That is a new proposal. In both cases allowances will be given for family responsibilities, both in respect of the wife and the children. Where no wife's allowance is payable there will be provision for an equivalent allowance for one adult dependant, as under the general scheme, and that will be a new feature of workmen's compensation benefit. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Wholly dependent?"] I think it is wholly or mainly; however, the point will be dealt with later. Where the injured workman needs constant attendance on account of the injury, an additional allowance up to 20s. a week will be provided. That is new.
§ Mr. Harry Thorneycroft (Manchester, Clayton)
In regard to pension rates, if an injured workman becomes unemployable he receives 10s. extra. That applies whatever may be the degree of disablement. If an injured workman whose degree of disability is less than 100 per 1402 cent., establishes his right to the 10s., is his pension rate raised to 100 per cent.?
§ Mr. Morrison
No, I should not think so. You might have a case where it is difficult to establish the 100 per cent. basis but where, nevertheless, the man is unemployable. I should not like to commit myself on the point. The case might be brought up for reassessment and reconsideration, but I should not like to commit myself to the statement that it would be automatic in both cases.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
At present, under the Workmen's Compensation Acts, if it can be proved that a man is unemployable he is entitled to full compensation.
§ Mr. Morrison
We are bringing in a new factor, the factor of unemployability, and it would be unwise for me to commit myself to the view that this new concession is to determine the decision on something else, though I appreciate the relevance of the point.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards (Caerphilly)
If a workmen has a 90 per cent. disability pension and becomes unemployable, if you give him 10s. you are giving him more than 100 per cent. Is that the intention?
§ Mr. Morrison
Whatever the assessment of the degree of injury is, that will stand. If, in addition, he proves unemployability, he will get the 10s. in addition.
§ Mr. Morrison
Yes. In a good many cases where a workman is adjudged to be 100 per cent. incapacitated in fact he does work and earns wages. I am hoping that in the future that may increase. So it is not entirely a new principle. My hon. Friend has got this admission out of me. He is surprised that it is as good as it is, but I am glad that he should have it. The above allowances will be unaffected by subsequent earnings. Let the workmen go on earning. In administering a scheme of social insurance you have to be very careful about discouraging people from earning. We are encouraging people to earn, and we do not penalise the workman if he can find employment, whatever his compensation benefit may be. This is an important advance. Even where disablement is assessed at 100 per cent. I am told by 1403 the Ministry of Pensions that they find under their schemes that a considerable proportion of people are capable of earning wages, and in fact do so.
The commutation of pensions by a lump sum settlement will not be allowed. The industrial pensions, which will be assessed by a medical board, will be based on the degree of disablement resulting from the injury. The injured person will be compared with a normally healthy person of the same age and sex. That is an important improvement on the existing scheme. In cases of minor disablement there will be provision for a final settlement by a gratuity or temporary allowance at a special rate with or without a final gratuity. In fatal cases we substitute a pension for the lump sum payment. At the start widows and children will have temporary benefit as provided for under Part I of the social insurance scheme. Afterwards there will be a pension of 30s. a week for widows of 50 and over, and under 50 if they have dependent children or are otherwise incapable of self-support. There will be 20s. for widows under 50 without dependent children unless they are incapable of self support.
§ Mr. Buchanan (Glasgow, Gorbals)
A widow of 25 or 26 will have a pension of 20s. if she can prove that her husband was killed as the result of his work. If he dies from some other cause, she gets nothing.
§ Mr. Morrison
She would come under the other scheme. There are good reasons why in the case of industrial injury we should be rather on the generous side, and I am not ashamed of that. There will be 12s. for an orphan and 7s. 6d. for the first child. Other children, of course, are covered by the family allowance proposals. There will also be provision for dependent parents and, where there is no pension for the widow, for one adult dependent member of the household. It is impossible to apply these proposals to past cases. We must start afresh with the new scheme, and we have come to the conclusion that the right course is to leave the liability in past cases on the employer in accordance with the existing Acts. I wish we could have done otherwise but it is impossible. The Temporary Increases Act, 1943, will be continued in 1404 force subject to any appropriate adjustment in respect of family allowances. In addition, in past cases a workman who is deemed to be unemployable as the result of an injury will be able to claim from the fund a personal supplement to the existing weekly payment of 10s. This will apply irrespective of the date of the injury. A point on which there has been some misapprehension is whether the scheme prejudices the right of the workmen to take common law proceedings. The scheme does not alter the workman's common law rights at all. There is a committee sitting under Sir Walter Monckton which is examining the whole complex problem of alternative remedies.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr)
Will my right hon. Friend state the terms of reference to the Committee?
§ Mr. Morrison
They are described in the White Paper and they ought to be clear, but my right hon. Friend will inform the House about that later on. There may be criticisms of detail but I think there is likely to be little dispute about the main principles of the scheme.
I may be asked whether in these new circumstances employers will be more negligent about the prevention of accidents. I think that employers as a whole have enormously improved over the last 50 years or so in respect of their efforts to prevent industrial accidents, and a great deal has been done by associations of one sort and another. The trade unions have played their part, and they are much more powerful now in watching these matters. I agree that there must be a particular effort to see that there is no slacking in this respect, but there is no need to apprehend any danger from this point of view. There will probably be criticism of the scales of benefit, particularly the 35s. a week allowance in the first 13 weeks for a single man. Judging by previous Debates, and what I have heard, we may hear about this.
I should have liked to go higher, but there has to be some relationship between these benefits and those under Part I. If we are not careful we shall have Part I 1405 and Part II chasing each other around. There has to be some relationship between the two. Naturally I should like to go higher but there must be some actuarial basis. Benefits must be related to contributions, and the Government could not increase these benefits without throwing out of gear the whole scale of benefits provided in the scheme and upsetting the relationship with the social insurance benefits. If the single workman's rate in the first 13 weeks is put up from 35s., this must have an effect on all the other benefits paid, unless we are to create an anomaly at the bottom. Thirty-five shillings happens, too, to be the rate for civilian war injuries, and I have not found it easy to make a case for a higher rate for industrial casualties. The scheme is an insurance scheme, and the 35s. rate can be regarded as not ungenerous for an insurance scheme for the interim period before the workman returns to work or qualifies for a pension. In any case after the 13 weeks the 35s. will go up to 40s.
I think I have now been over the ground covered by the White Paper. We have sought to review the whole history of workmen's compensation and to utilise all the practice and experience which the Home Office, employers, trade unions and others have acquired in bringing the system up to date. We believe that the Government's proposals represent a material advance in the organisation of workmen's compensation. That, I think, will be generally agreed, whatever else may be said. We shall welcome the contributions of hon. Members to the Debate, their views will be taken fully into account, and there will, of course, be discussions with outside interests of all sorts who must be heard and whose views will also be considered. I earnestly trust that at the end of the Parliamentary Debate and of the discussions outside it may he possible to introduce a Measure which will bring about great, far-reaching and beneficial changes in this important field of social administration.
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in view of the fact that he has mentioned rehabilitation and the way in which it is integrated with the whole question, it would not be desirable to have a representative of the Ministry of Health present on the Front Bench? The whole matter depends upon rehabilitation.
§ Mr. Morrison
I think that is a matter for the Ministry of Labour rather than the Ministry of Health, and I will see what can be arranged.
§ 1.16 p.m.
§ Mr. David Grenfell (Gower)
I feel that I ought to congratulate the Home Secretary on his very comprehensive statement, which enabled him to cover almost every point that arises in the series of changes proposed in this White Paper. He not only managed to give a full explanation of the various points, but managed to pass compliments to his Department, and to other people who had been engaged in the preparation of this scheme, and also to the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir W. Beveridge) for the contribution that he has made to this part of the social insurance scheme which the right hon. Gentleman now wholeheartedly recommends to the House. I am glad that the Home Secretary has invited Members who have criticisms to make to make them freely, and I hope they will avail themselves of the opportunity so that, when the scheme leaves the House, it will carry the imprint of the House of Commons on it and not merely the impression of people outside the House who have made their contributions in good faith towards a solution of this large problem of guaranteeing social security to our people. This is all a very important part of social security.
When I heard the Minister refer to the pre-1897 conditions, it occurred to me that I should say something about my first connection with this important problem. I began to work underground 51 years ago, when there was no workmen's compensation, and no liability on the part of anybody to pay compensation in respect of workmen who lost their lives or their health, or who were maimed or disabled in the course of their employment. I remember hearing the promises that were made in those days. These were then political questions which reached to the depths of the coal pits, and were talked about in the mining villages and in places where people foregathered to discuss their common problems. I remember, too, the names of the leaders in politics who were prominent on those questions. The great Mr. Gladstone was very present in the minds of the people in those areas, and there was Mr. Asquith, who made two attempts to change the law in regard 1407 to employers' liability, but found that neither would work satisfactorily. Then there was Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, who has been quoted by the Minister to-day, and who was quoted on many occasions in political discussions in my early teens. In his Radical days he was a political hero in my family, and I remember the great expectations that we had then. We lived in "Bleak House" in those days in regard to social security, and we had "Great Expectations" from Parliament.
I remember that one of the most promising things that came over the horizon into the gloomy recesses of the mines and the places associated with mining were the promises of Joseph Chamberlain, who held the view that the employers should have some measure of responsibility for the losses occasioned to men injured in their employment. I would trespass on time unduly if I recalled the time which I knew so well, when, as a boy, my mind received impressions, which have never been eradicated and never will be, of men injured in the course of their employment by my side and of the tragic scenes I witnessed. I remember men being maimed and carried out of the mine when there was no liability on the employers even to provide a stretcher. There was no ambulance service, and I remember the corteges that went from the far end of the mine, from the workings to the shaft bottom, and how, for miles from the pit-head, sometimes from one valley to another, the men carried their injured comrades. I took part in many of those processions. I sympathise with the Home Secretary in having to deal with this problem, for he does not know it well enough, even yet. Nor does his right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary. Neither of them knows this problem as it must be known, if full justice is to be done.
I remember the first Compensation Act of 1897. In those days the average wage of the industrial population was well below £2 a week, and the compensation provided was 20s. a week for the totally incapacitated person. It was the first recognition by employers and society of the people who produced the national wealth. That 20s. would be continued for the whole of a man's life if he was totally and permanently incapacitated. There was a scale of partial disablement payment, which was based on the same prin- 1408 ciple as for total disablement, which was that the workman would not lose more than half of his earnings or of the difference between his pre-accident and post-accident earnings. I remember men who were injured living on 20S. a week for many years. That scale did not change between 1898 and 1917, when, owing to the increase in the cost of living or the inflation of the currency, the benefit was raised to 25s. In 1919 it was raised to 35s. Then a shabby thing happened. In 1925 it was cut down again to 30s., the Government taking advantage of a temporary tendency to deflation to reduce the compensation nearly to the 1917 level. It was then felt to be vastly inferior to the 20s. of the original Act.
In the 45 years that have passed since that Act the pound has ceased to be a golden coin. Following the Boer War there was a partial inflation of 16 per cent. The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed will remember the discussions we had then. Then came the great war and a vast inflation, which we have now embodied in our current regulations for all these purposes, so that 100 per cent. increase on 1914, is now deemed to be the standard. There has been yet further inflation. You cannot get a war without inflation and without whittling down the value of money. After three wars and 45 years of progress, the value of money has declined from the 20s. of the original pound of 1898 to somewhere between 6s. and 6s. 9d. at the present time. The purchasing power of money has declined to one-third of the purchasing power of 1898, and the 20s. a week compensation of 1898 was equal in purchasing power to £3 to-day. If we are not to be retrograde and if we are to build up social security, why should we fix a level lower than that of 45 years ago? When we discuss this point the first thing that occurs to me is the problem of adequacy. Why should we make all these preparations; why should we rally to our aid all the various interests of this country; why should we discard so much of what is old, and substitute so much of what is new if, at the end of it all, the injured workman, whether his period of incapacity is short or long, is to be worse off than he was at the beginning of the century?
I would like to say a word about the right of the injured workman to a higher 1409 rate than anybody else. I was very fortunate in my career in the mines. During my 23 years' work there I had pride in my capacity to take the most dangerous jobs, as many men had, and I have gone through all these mining occupations without suffering incapacity. I have had many benefits of all kinds, but only two weeks' sickness and injury benefit during the whole time. My father worked 42 years in the mines and was then killed. I do not think he received any compensation throughout his life. My mother had to depend on the compensation paid to her on the loss of a good man, a man of whom the nation could be proud. For the remainder of her days she had only £300 compensation. The benefits for injury and death have never been good enough. In this White Paper if a woman is left a widow under 50, she may get 20s. a week until she reaches 50, when she can get a higher level. That means that if she goes on living in the house which she shared with her husband, for which they had to pay more than 20s. rent, she will not get, under these proposals, even the rent of her house.
It is not an accident that more men are killed in the mines than in any other industry. Next in order of risk and danger are the docks, and the next the railways. With hardly more than 5 per cent. of the insured employable persons working in the mines, the mines have at least one-third of all the industrial accidents and one-half of the fatal accidents. It is not right to ask men to go to work in those conditions without the prospect of higher compensation. Why did Parliament deal with workmen's compensation at all? If men wish to take the risk, and if they have a pride in their skill and capacity to overcome the dangers, we have no right to give them only the same compensation allowances as those paid to anybody who may have been careless and heedless and has played no part in building up national life and dies at the same stage of life as a man who has spent 25 years' in hard work underground. I do not think that that is arguable. I hope that this House will finally satisfy itself on this point by saying that the person who has been injured in the course of his employment, and the dependants of those killed while following their dangerous occupations in the mine or on the dockside, should not suffer for the whole of their lives thereafter in consequence.
1410 We start there. I would say something else. We are not getting in the present proposals the equivalent of the benefits we obtained in the first Workmen's Compensation Act, 1898. We are going back, and if we go back much farther we shall, at this rate, meet ourselves coming back one of these days. It is a great misuse of Debate in this House unless we say these things plainly. The compensation proposed is not related to the actual wages. The average wage for this country has gone up from something under £2,45 years ago, to more than £5 at the present time. Why have the wages gone up? Because of inflation, which the workman cannot control, and against which he must defend himself by his trade union organisation, which asks for more wages to meet the increased cost of living. The cost of living goes up through no fault of the workman. He is compensated by being given larger wages. When the workman ceases to work, the cost of living goes up round him like a wall, and he feels himself getting lower and lower in the circle of his circumstances, and he actually has to get less compensation, because no award will be possible, under the scheme, to grant additions to meet the increased cost of living.
We are now at the apex of inflation—are we? Suppose inflation goes higher, and we fix the rates now; what shall we do then? Shall we raise the benefits because the cost of living has gone up? That is a problem for Ministers on the Front Bench, and a question for them to answer. Is it proposed in their scheme that scales of benefits can be raised five years from now, if the cost of living has gone up 20 or 30 per cent.? I do not know, but I cannot be easy about this scheme. I do not think the White Paper proposals meet the case at all. We have to recast not only the figures but many of our ideas relating to this matter, before we take the responsibility of cramping down the standard of living for large numbers of our people in the years that lie ahead.
I have given the best years of my life to the mining industry, with which I am in consequence very familiar. I will never get such years again to give to anything. I remember people saying, back in 1898: "We cannot give more than £1 a week, and that will cost 3d. per ton." That was the argument, and newspapers, chambers of commerce and owners' representatives all said that the industry could not afford the benefits proposed in the original Act. 1411 From 1898 to this date, 6,000,000 men have been injured in the mines of this country. Sometimes men have been injured two or three times. More than 50,000 lives have been lost, of comrades, relatives and friends, whom we knew so well. Their dependants have been impoverished, while many of the 6,000,000 have been injured and disabled for varying periods, during which they could not get a proper scale of benefits, because that might cost 3d. per ton. Perhaps the House will be surprised to know that over the whole of this period the employers are assumed to have paid workmen's compensation at an average rate of a fraction under 3d. a ton.
The employers said they could not pay 3d. a ton. Here is another point I want to raise. The employer said, "I pay this," but who does pay this contribution? I would say that it is he who works and produces, whether it is coal, machinery, or food. It is production that pays the cost of insurance and of compensation. Although the employers say that they pay the 3d., when we came to negotiate with the employers a new system of apportioning wages we found that the owners always put the 3d. a ton for workmen's compensation as an item of cost and we had to acknowledge it. We found, from 1921 onwards, that although the owners nominally paid the cost of compensation, we had to pay even the lawyers and doctors employed by the owners. In that 3d. a ton was included not only compensation paid to men for personal injuries but payments to dependants of those who were killed and all the owners' costs even when opposing workmen's claims.
I never believe in using this House to inculcate class division or class hatred, but those are facts. In the whole of the period the compensation, which was to cost too much because it stood at a figure of 3d. per ton in the balance sheet, was paid, but never a word was said, even during the most lean years, about the 6d. a ton paid to a handful of royalty owners. Over the whole industry, more than £6,000,000 per annum was collected from owners over the whole industry, upon an average output of 240,000,000 tons a year. The time came when this House thought it was not good to go on paying royalties at that rate and decided that it should stop. What did this House do? In the full light of its knowledge of the details 1412 and the incidence of ownership upon working costs, this House took the burden largely away from the industry and paid, to 4,000 landowners, compensation in a lump sum of £64,500,000 and very little was said about it.
One cannot determine who has paid the cost here and who has paid the cost there, but certainly the workman who produces coal or who works in a dangerous and hazardous trade, has made his full contribution, and I resent the idea that the workman is to be asked for the first time to make a contribution in addition to the State contribution. I do not think there is a case for putting this heavier burden upon the men employed in the industry until there is at least a corresponding increase in benefits for those men. On the other hand, we are facing the prospect of paying him lower benefits.
I know many hon. Friends want to speak on this matter, and therefore I do not want to talk for too long, but I want the House to look at this matter fairly and squarely. If anybody believes that a substitution of legal processes by an ad hoc tribunal will solve the problems in this direction I must say that I gravely dissent from them. I warn the House against discarding the present arrangements. The House of Lords, sitting as a judicial organisation, as Law Lords, has played a very important part in the determination of those arrangements and of the point of difference that must arise in the administration of a service of this kind. I say without hesitation that in the 45 years from 1898 to this day, 90 per cent. of the verdicts and the findings of the House of Lords have been in the workmen's favour. The House of Lords has safeguarded the benefits, and made them more easily accessible and available; now it is proposed to take all that away. I know it is a dangerous thing to say in advance, but I want the Home Office to be very much on their guard against over-simplification in this matter.
Let me summarise what I am trying to say. The first point I want to make is that I want to remove the 13 weeks' disqualification, so that the workman will get his full benefit from the first week. Secondly, I want a rate of payment to the person regarded as temporarily disabled to be fixed at no less than the figure given in the White Paper, subject to a 1413 condition that his total receipts in compensation shall not be less than two-thirds of his weekly earnings, ascertained on the average of three years. I take into account children's allowances because, by and large, they make up nearly the other one-third, in large families. I want the family of the workman who is injured to live just as well during his injury as when he is at work. Thanks to the great effort of the hon. Member for the English Universities (Miss Rath-bone) we have to pay the workman an allowance for his children. The large family whose father is in employment will get additional income because of the addition of children's allowances. I want the person who has been injured to have the full advantage of children's allowances and to have, for himself, his wife and the first child, at least two-thirds of the average earnings within three years.
I want another thing. I want a real, definite entity to be set up. I do not know how the responsibility will be shared between the various Departments or how long it will take to build up a body to be responsible not only for compensation and for accidents, but for the prevention of accidents. Knowing the mining industry as I do, I say it is possible to cut down enormously the number of people injured or killed in the industry. A high proportion of people will suffer from silicosis and nystagmus. I remember the horror that nystagmus brought to the people in the industry. In those days we were working with a safety lamp showing one quarter of a candle power, but today we have lights which are 10 times as strong, and nystagmus is on the decline. I want lives and health to be saved by the efforts of a body appointed specially for that purpose. I want attention to dust conditions and the development of industrial hygiene in all industries.
My fourth point is that I want a medical service to be provided for the injured workman, whatever neglect may lie elsewhere on the part of the person himself or of those with whom he lives. When the workman is injured and becomes in-capacitated he should be taken to a hospital and treatment should follow of the right kind. My fifth point is that I want special industries to be set up under the auspices of the State where certain operations can be carried on by disabled men, to a far greater degree than is to be found in ordinary industries. Those five points 1414 will make a contribution to the kind of general picture we have to work out for the mining industry in the future. The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed is here. I will pay my tribute to him. I have known him, not in the flesh, for nearly 40 years. I know what good work he has done. I know what an impetus his Report has given to thought upon these problems. I know how much can be done if we harness that impetus. I thank him for what he has done, and I hope that his purpose and his plan will be promoted by what this House does on this subject.
§ 1.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Colegate (The Wrekin)
I should like to re-echo the words of the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) and express the very great feeling of gratitude I have towards the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir W. Beveridge), for having brought up this question in such a form that there was no option for any Government but to legislate upon the Report which he produced. I welcome very much indeed the Government's White Paper on this subject. It is possible to take a different point of view, and when this matter first came forward I, with many other people, went very carefully into this matter. I had the opportunity of discussing the matter in a small informal committee, on which the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) gave us the benefit of a great deal of his excellent advice and experience.
§ Mr. Colegate
Just a small subcommittee of the Social Services Committee. It was a very good thing, and I am quite sure the hon. Member would wish to promote such social services committees, which do a great deal of useful preliminary work, before we debate these matters in this House. One of the main reasons why I have come down on the side of the Government scheme is that I think that it will help to promote the smooth working of industry. The accusations which could be brought against employers in connection with disputes about workmen's injuries were undoubtedly a source of friction. The fact that the vast majority of the employers contracted out, as it were, by the use of the insurance company was an advantage to the workpeople in many ways, because it provided a more secure financial back- 1415 ground, in the case of smaller and weaker firms, to ensure that compensation should be paid. None the less it led to a worsening of the relations between employers and workpeople, for this reason; whereas, and I am glad to say that this is so, the relations between employers and work-people in this country are on the whole very pleasant, and whereas in many cases which I might call hard cases, but which are not necessarily covered by the law, the employer would be perfectly willing to pay a reasonable compensation, whether it be called ex gratia or not does not matter, he would be prevented by the terms of his contract with the insurance company from so doing. This was so because the insurance company had to protect their funds and had to provide benefits for which premiums had been paid on a certain ascertained scale. Therefore, the insurance companies were bound, by their very conditions of existence, to adhere strictly to the law. Therefore, they disputed in the name of particular employers cases which those employers themselves would not have disputed at all. That is an inevitable result of insurance against workmen's compensation. It led at times to accusations which were ill-founded but which were very natural, and which most of the workpeople would certainly have taken to be evidence of lack of generosity on the part of the employers.
Under this scheme that will be done away with. The decision will no longer rest with the employer, or with an agent of the employer, to dispute a case. It will be decided by a national authority. In my opinion that will be of very great advantage to the smooth working of industry. Not only that, but the change is in keeping with the changed mentality that now prevails. A great many years ago, when this matter was started, there was a tremendous amount of argument and a great concentration of interest on whose fault an accident was. The question of fault was very much in evidence in the Victorian era. People had a great deal of regard to moral considerations, instead of thinking, as we do now, more about how the situation can best be remedied, and the man rehabilitated and got back to work, which I venture to think is to us of infinitely more importance than the question of through whose fault the accident arose. That is an indication of the change that has come over the scene. That, again, 1416 is clearly helped by this new scheme, for the question of fault is no longer in evidence, the question of the amount to be paid is not to be disputed between employers or their agents and workpeople, and we can get on with the work of caring for the dependants and rehabilitating the man in the case if industrial injury.
While I heartily welcome this scheme I have very considerable doubts on the question of benefit, and I want to approach that question from a point of view which was dealt with very largely by the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed in his Report, but which has not been discussed, except in a couple of sentences in the Debate last week, that is the question of rent allowances. Every scheme of this kind throughout the whole world provides for a varying rent allowance according to the rent paid by the injured party. That matter has been discussed extremely ably by the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed as one of three main special problems. I am surprised we have not heard more about it in this Debate. The whole question of benefit rate ought to be discussed, and in my opinion it ought to be related to some extent to the question of rent. In paragraphs 193 to 206 of the Beveridge Report it is very carefully and ably discussed, as one might expect, but curiously enough the provisional decision, and the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed admits it is only a provisional decision, is against a rent allowance, though I think any fair-minded person reading that Report would say that the arguments given are really in favour of some rent allowance.
Before I deal with that I wish to make a further point. When the Beveridge Report was written the housing situation, as I shall show in a few minutes, was nothing like so serious as it is to-day. The facts and figures in the Report are mainly based on the figures for rent given for the years 1937 and 1938 in the Board of Trade Report, and in Mr. Rowntree's Report on York in 1936. It is no use thinking that the rent situation for many working-class people to-day is anything like what it was in 1936. Let me run over the figures briefly. I will not detain the House for long, but this very important question has not been discussed to any extent so far. In the Report of the hon. Member the figure taken is 10s. to 12s. a week. Various averages are given. Mr. Rowntree's 1417 figures are slightly under 10s. I am quite willing to take 10s. or 12s, for the moment, but the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed points out that rent is a form of expenditure which even in normal times does not allow of very quick methods of adjustment, and not only that but when earnings are interrupted that is the one thing one cannot postpone, and cannot make any economy on in one's ordinary living expenses.
When one is unemployed and has not got as much money as usual one starts to make all sorts of economies. For a short period it is possible to make remarkable economies without serious interference with the standard of subsistence by postponing expenditure on clothing and things like that. But rent has to be paid. This is a very serious difficulty; especially as at present one cannot get alternative accommodation. It has been difficult for some years Ito do that, but it is very much more difficult to-day. This question of rent bears to a large extent upon the question of subsistence. The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed says:If benefit is to be related to needs, the case for adjusting it, if possible, to the actual rent paid, is very strong.I take that as a very strong argument indeed for what I am going to urge, namely, that some additional rent allowance should be paid, at any rate during a certain period. I come next to this argument; I will not go through them all, but the hon. Member raised this argument. He said:Questions are raised as to whether rents above the average represent the wishes or the necessities of those who pay them.If there was an ample supply of houses or even a slight margin, the rent paid would undoubtedly in most respects represent the wishes of the person concerned. If there was an ample supply of houses at 10s. or 12s. a week, and someone chooses to pay 15s. or £1 a week because they prefer a larger house, or wish to have a garden, it is up to them to do so, and they can have no complaint. My point is that that is not the position at the present time. The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed saw that, but his conclusions were that provisionally he was against a rent allowance for this reason:The real remedy is a concentrated housing drive.1418 That is all very well. I think that a concentrated housing drive is wanted. Everyone in the House is pressing for that, but it will not deal with the present rent situation.
Let me give one or two instances. I give them because they come, not from London, not from a great industrial city, but East Shropshire. The position in a place like East Shropshire to-day is very largely conditioned by the position in London. Very large numbers of work-people have left London at the Government's request, partly for evacuation reasons, partly because industry had to be dispersed throughout the country, and it was necessary to house workpeople in different parts of the country other than those in which they were ordinarily accustomed to live. What is the position? In one case a man, his wife and child came to Shropshire, having been evacuated from London. They found it desperately difficult to get accommodation but at last got accommodation, with food, at £3 3s. a week. They can pay that at the moment because the man is, I understand, earning rather over £7 a week.
It may be said, "That is all very well; when that war work is closed down, the man will go back to London and pay his 15s. a week, or whatever the amount is." But he cannot do that. Will anyone tell me that at any time within the next five years a man will be able to come into London from the country, and find a house at 15s. a week? Not merely is the situation extremely bad in London, but that situation there has fixed rents all over the country at an extraordinarily high level, and the people will be powerless to do anything about it for some years. Let us take the case of a man paying 30s. a week—not £3 3s. I have scores of such cases in my constituency. What are they to do if they meet with industrial injury, and get the scale of benefit which is laid down here? They will not have enough to feed themselves.
The Minister Designate of Social Security alluded to this question. He said, "There is, of course, the Assistance Board." That is true; but if the whole rent situation is going to render nugatory a large part of the benefits under this scheme, why make those people go through the annoying business of having to appeal to the Assistance Board? Why not give a rent allowance now? I sug- 1419 gest that this scheme should be provisional for five years; at the end of that time we shall see whether the housing situation has improved. I suggest, secondly, that the rent allowance should be based on a proportion of the increase of rent over what we may take as the standard rent. Suppose we take the standard rent at 12s., and a man is actually paying 24s. I suggest that two-thirds of that excess of 12s., or some such proportion, should be paid, as a matter of right, in order that anybody who is landed in this difficulty should have, as a right, some reasonable contribution towards the extraordinary rent situation in which he finds himself. That, as the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir W. Beveridge) points out, would be a considerable advance towards making the rate given a reasonable subsistence rate, because it would get over the rent difficulty. Of course, I am talking of special circumstances.
People may say, "Why five years?" Is there anyone who thinks that within five years of the date of the commencement of this Act houses will be freely available at reasonable rents? I doubt it. We have an enormous building programme in front of us; and I do not want to exaggerate, but I think that hundreds of thousands of people will find themselves let in for high rents for houses which they agreed to take temporarily, when they were getting high earnings, but which they were unable to leave when their high earnings disappeared, because there were no vacant houses. I appeal to the Government to try to make some sort of addition in the way of a partial contribution towards high rents. It may be said, "Why bother? If there is any hardship, the people will go to the Assistance Board." But we know that a great many people do not like going to the Assistance Board. We were told by the Government that one of the advantages of this scheme was that it would avoid people having to go to the Assistance Board in a great many cases. Do not let all these people be distressed by this question of rent. Let us tell them now that, in addition to the scheme, there will be, during the first five years, or any period after that which may be fixed by this House, an allowance to compensate people who are placed in the position of having to pay exceptionally high rents, 1420 and who are unable to find alternative accommodation at a more reasonable rate. If that is done, it will give, for hundreds of thousands of people, the finishing touch to what is on the whole a very fine scheme. There is an old saying "Do not spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar ": do not spoil this scheme by failing to face the fact that there will be very serious difficulties about rent. Let us bring in a scheme now which will not only attack the problem of want, but which will reduce the anxiety of hundreds of thousands of people who should benefit under the scheme.
§ 2.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)
It is not my intention to follow the arguments advanced by the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Colegate), particularly in his advocacy of rent allowances. It has been admitted by the Home Secretary that the whole scheme is complicated and confusing, and if we begin to introduce rent allowances into the subject of compensation the confusion will become worse confounded. In the Debate last week the Government were given some very perplexing advice. The hon. Member for Chislehurst (Sir W. Smithers) advised them not to embark upon the march towards social reform. If I may say so, in passing, his was the most reactionary speech I have heard for a very long time. Then we had a speech from the hon. Member for Faversham (Sir A. Maitland) advising the Government, if they did embark on the march towards social reform, not to rush it. Then the hon. Member for the English Universities (Miss Rath-bone) said, "Be quick on the job, and get moving." Then there was the advice given by the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. G. White), who said that the Government had adopted the words of Robert Louis Stevenson, that it was "better to travel hopefully than to arrive." I was perplexed about how to reconcile the advice given by those four hon. Members. On the contents of this White Paper, if I may be permitted to give advice, in a very humble way, to the Government, my advice is, "March on; keep a bright look-out forward; and good luck to you." Those are the words of Charles Dickens. But, as we march on to a better state of affairs for the injured workman, we must be extremely careful that we do not leave any wounded 1421 by the wayside. We must face up to our obligations to those who have carried on industry for over a century. We shall have to play our part nobly and well in assisting to keep the wheels of industry moving.
Part II of the White Paper is now before the House. We have to see to what extent we can bring out of that White Paper greater benefits to our injured workmen than they have been given hitherto. It is true that the White Paper has novel features, and introduces new principles. The first new principle is the removal of employers' liability, under the existing Workmen's Compensation Acts. That is a very desirable thing, which we have been advocating for a very long time. The second principle is a direct contributory scheme. It is a matter of argument whether it should be a contributory scheme, and I have an open mind on the question; but, so long as we claim higher benefits for our men, we must apply our minds to the machinery which will be necessary. The third principle is that the scheme fixes the scale of benefits without regard to earnings. It would have been a good thing if that principle had been in existence when we were passing through the industrial storm between 1918 and 1926, when our men were on the rock bottom of earning capacity. The fourth principle is the assessment of industrial compensation without regard to the disabled man's pre-accident occupation. That is a very desirable principle, if correctly applied. The fifth principle is to abolish the heavy litigation costs which have characterised workmen's compensation cases. I have always held the view that the injured workman has been in the hands of two professions: the legal profession and the medical profession. I am glad to see the dawn of a new day, when these heavy litigation costs are coming to an end.
This White Paper is an admission by the Government that the workmen's compensation laws are out of date and require overhauling. That was said by the Home Secretary, in his opening speech. We welcome that admission, and we welcome the desire of the Government, which is shown in the White Paper and which I hope will be shown in subsequent legislation. I hope that the Government will pay due regard to the many suggestions which will be made from these benches, 1422 particularly those made from the standpoint of the mining industry. The Home Secretary said, and I believe he was serious, that there were many hon. Members on these benches who were experts on matters of compensation. Our expert knowledge has been obtained largely as a result of having so many thousands of cases to deal with, and it is in the light of that experience that, when legislation comes before this House, we shall be able to put points of view which will assist the Home Secretary in his desire to assemble, once and for all, a compensation law which will stand the test of time.
It is true to say that we are living in very momentous and eventful days, days when the social conscience of every individual should be awakened to a keen sense of responsibility. I was delighted to hear the Home Secretary say that, on broad principles, every man and every woman in the community should play their part towards the compensation to be paid to the injured workers. Let us remember, also, to-day and in the days which lie ahead, the fact that the way we act will either mould or mar the destiny of the rising generation. Let us remember, in our approach to this very important question, that individual responsibility is the corner-stone of democracy, and that if, by our actions, we dislodge that corner-stone, then the edifice of democracy will tumble down.
Perhaps I may be pardoned if I dwell for a moment on the importance of compensation of mine workers. Having spent at least 35 years of my time in the mines—I cannot go as far as the hon. Member for Gower (Mc. Grenfell)—and having had five or six years' practical, day-to-day experience in dealing with compensation cases, I hope hon. Members will excuse this reference. It is not that I want the mining industry to be singled out, but anyone so interested and engrossed in an industry does embark upon some references to it. One of the most burning grievances in the mining industry is the question of the payment and treatment of injured workmen. I hope I shall not be misunderstood when I make this statement. Compensation to the mine workers is almost as important as weekly wages. It is a remarkable and undeniable fact that, on the average, every man working in the mining industry is compensatable for accident every five years. We have a 1423 tragically large number of men disabled for life, and, year after year, our pits bear witness, amongst their workers, to the need for great reforms in the existing compensation law, which has been bad from every angle. I challenge hon. Members opposite, or hon. Members on this side of the House, to point me to a single case or piece of legislation which has given to the injured workman what he has been justly entitled to receive. The rates of compensation, right from the commencement, have been extremely low. The injured workmen have to go through a period of legal wrangling and successive examinations by insurance companies and their doctors, which, in my opinion, is not calculated to bring an injured workman back to health.
It is not my intention to weary the House with figures over many years of the mining industry. This ground has been amply covered by the hon. Member for Gower, but I want to remind this House that accidents in the mines are not diminishing. This may be due to war strain and to other factors, but the fact is that they are increasing. In 1939, there were 134,855 men injured in the mines, causing absence from work for a period of over three days. In the same year there were 783 miners killed. In 1941 there were 159,370 injured miners, and 925 miners killed. In 1942 there were 166,639 miners injured, and 877 miners killed. The Home Secretary, when he referred to the casualties of industry, alluded to the 2,000 men and women killed in industry during the last year. I want to submit that almost half the number of those killed were in the mining industry. I cannot leave this matter without making some reference to the colossal inroads which industrial diseases are having upon the personnel of the mines. Silicosis, pneumoconiosis, dermatitis, and that terrible disease known as miners' nystagmus—all these are factors which we must keep before our eyes in our consideration of the legislation which, I hope, will follow this White Paper.
I want to suggest to the Home Secretary and his Department that the rates now offered are far too low. That is the first point. Can we expect a man who mow may be receiving £5 a week, and who sustains an accident, to fall back from the standard of £5 to the standard of 35s.? Is that conducive to assisting that man's 1424 recovery? My next point—and if the Department do not deal with it in the forthcoming legislation, they will hear more about it—is that I could never understand why the first 13 weeks for an injured man should be on a lesser rate of compensation than the following weeks. There is no logic about it. I recall the time when I met with an accident and had a broken limb in the pit. I had to "play" three weeks before I could get one week's compensation. I could never understand it, but it was the law of the land. For three weeks, I had to exist on 13s., which was the rate of compensation in those days. I had to "play" three weeks before I could get a week's compensation, so that I had to live for two weeks on the air. The 13 weeks business, in my judgment, will not stand the application of logic, and it is about time the Home Office made up their minds that, when a man is injured, compensation should be payable as and from the day of the accident.
My second point is that the single man, with dependant's allowance, is to receive 43s. 9d. for the first 13 weeks. Almost throughout the whole of the suggested scale of benefits in the 'terms of the White Paper, there is before us this 13 weeks. May I appeal to the Home Office, and to those responsible for this White Paper, to get out of their minds this business of 13 weeks, or even three days, and to lay down that, if a man has had the misfortune to suffer an accident—and terrible some of them are—that man is entitled to a decent standard of life from the day of the accident onwards?
I want to put two questions to the Under-Secretary. In the course of his speech, the Home Secretary expressed his regret that it had not been found possible to incorporate in the White Paper what are known to us in the mining industry as the pre-1924 cases. I have been obsessed with the position of these men for a long number of years, and I want to appeal to the Home Secretary, even at this stage, to see whether it is not possible to bring them in. The right hon. Gentleman did say that they would be entitled to the 10s. pension. I ask the Under-Secretary: Will the injured pre-1924 man get the 10s., irrespective of age, of income and of means of income? A further question is: Will the injured workman get the 10s. without serving a qualifying period of 13 weeks? These are two very important 1425 questions which relate to the pre-1924 cases.
In conclusion, I hope that, as the days go by and legislation is presented to this House, we shall not have any animosity or bickering, but that the Home Office will respond to the pleas from this side of the House in order to obtain better conditions for our injured workmen. I think the concluding paragraph of the Foreword to this White Paper sums up what is the right atmosphere. It says:The new plan will avoid the main weaknesses and difficulties of the existing system. The Government believe that it will remove workmen's compensation from the atmosphere of controversy and conflict with which it has been surrounded and will establish it for the future on a happier—I like the word "happier"——and sounder foundation.Then the Government makes this declaration:It is their intention if the scheme commends itself to Parliament, to introduce and pass the necessary legislation as soon as practicable with a view to bringing it into operation at the same time as the general scheme of social insurance.That is a remarkable conclusion to a very important Foreword, and I hope that, as we have in the past been tinkering with the business, we shall now go forward, and in the words of Dickens, "Keep a bright look-out forward, and good luck to you."
§ 2.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (Oxford)
This House is commonly indulgent to those who have the misfortune not to agree with the opinion of the majority and feel it their duty to explain fully and frankly the difficulties which they feel. Hitherto the speeches in this Debate have come from hon. Members who, upon the whole, have welcomed this scheme and who agree in the main with the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary that this is a revolutionary advance. I regret to have to say it—for it would have been a great joy to me to welcome a scheme of this kind—but I have come to the conclusion that this is not an advance at all. It is a false step, and I do beg of hon. Members, before finally tying themselves to the scheme, to consider the grounds upon which I hold that conviction. I wish to say, since I have been privileged to speak from these benches 1426 so early in the Debate, that I speak for no one except myself. It is not, as far as I know, the view of my party or of the committee of which I am chairman. It is simply my conviction that this scheme represents a false step from which it will be impossible to step back.
To some extent I am fortified by the arguments which have come from the opposite side of the House. I refer in particular to the eloquent speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) and to the speech of the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) to which we have listened with very much pleasure and attention. They both seemed to realise that there is something wrong with this scheme, that they are not getting enough from it. But what they do not see is, that it is the principle of the scheme which makes the benefits insufficiently good. As long as the principle is accepted, the improvements for which they ask are incapable of being given. I want to say too, that I shall rely only on argument. There will be no adverse vote; there will be no obstruction or opposition. If my reasons prove inadequate and unpersuasive, no one will be more pleased than I, but if, on the other hand, hon. Members do think that there is something in it, I beg of them and of the Government to think again before pressing on with this scheme. I am wholly at one with those who maintain that the pre-war system of workmen's compensation was obsolete and had been obsolete for many years. There are many features of our law which give legitimate pride to lovers of their country. This was not one of them. Broadly speaking, in 1939 we were behind almost every other civilised country in the world. Nearly every civilised country in the world gave to the injured workman two-thirds of his pre-accident earnings, with, at any rate, a very generous maximum. We, almost alone, gave one-half and, almost alone, imposed a maximum of 30s. which, in comparison with other countries, was less than generous. In addition to that, other countries gave medical benefit, medical appliances and rehabilitation services, none of which was available under the terms of our scheme. For these reasons, I would welcome a change which really marked an advance upon what must necessarily be regarded as out-of-date and obsolete. 1427 I only ask: Is this a real advance; is it a step in the right direction? And I come straightaway to the core of the matter, which is, benefits. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, in introducing the White Paper, prided the Government upon the principle of administration which they had adopted, and other hon. Members have commended him for it. But I submit to the House this proposition. If it can be proved that this much-praised principle is responsible for the benefits being too low and that another principle will give better benefits, then the principle of the White Paper must go, and the benefits must be increased. What are the benefits proposed by the Government's White Paper? A workman who is 100 per cent. incapacitated is to receive not a proportion of his earnings, but 40s. a week. I am aware that should he be married before the accident, although not if he marries after the accident, he is entitled to a wife's allowance; that if he has a first child born before the accident, but not if he has a first child born after the accident, he is entitled to 7s. 6d. a week. I am also aware that, if in addition to being 100 per cent, incapacitated he is also unemployable, he gets an additional 10s. a week and he is allowed to marry and have a first child after the accident and thereby gain the benefits for them. But one is apt to fogged by these intricacies and complications. I, therefore, treat with the basic compensation of 40s. a week for a man, not married at the time of the accident who is 100 per cent. incapacitated. Is that an adequate compensation for a man?
I beg the House to consider that we are not dealing here with a temporary incapacity, like sickness, from which a man necessarily may be expected to recover and be able to work again. We are not dealing with a universal affliction like old age against which, in a period of full employment, he might be expected to make some provision in addition to that provided by the social scheme. We are dealing with a casualty—a thing which might happen to any one of us at any moment of our lives and which might prevent us from earning a living from that moment onwards, for 30 or 40 years to the end of our lives. Is 40s. enough for an unmarried man who suffers that disability? Nobody has really suggested that it is. What is the wage level going to be after 1428 the war? I am not talking now of what the hon. Member for Gower referred to as inflation, but assuming that it is perhaps £6 a week for a skilled man and £4 a week for an unskilled man, that would not be a very unfair distribution of wealth. If anything, it would err on the conservative side. What sort of compensation is £2 for a skilled labourer earning £6 a week? I submit to the House that, if this scheme is carried through, it will pauper se the injured skilled worker for a generation to come. And why should it be carried through? Compare the benefits which are now proposed under this magnificent principle of the Government with those which might be given under another scheme. Are they better or are they worse? Other civilised countries have related benefits to earnings—two-thirds of earnings, £4 for a £6 a week man. That is what other countries do. Almost every other civilised country, except certain States in the United States, Italy and Japan. It is two-thirds of earnings there. My hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Colegate) referred to a report which some of us have written. It is not a report coming from the Left. It is a report backed by some of the most responsible employers in this House. That proposes benefits which, rather to my surprise, without an upper limit, would have given to the injured workman two-thirds of his earnings, plus certain of his social insurance benefits, which is much more than is provided by the present scheme.
I am aware that we shall be told that there is a marked analogy between this and the scheme for war pensions, but there is this difference. What was the floor in the system of war pensions, becomes the ceiling for the casualties of industry. Forty shillings a week was the basic compensation for a private soldier but this rises step by step according to his pay and rank. It is not to be so in industry. That principle is now to be abandoned, and why? Because they desire to exclude the courts, and, I submit, for no other reason at all. Hon. Members opposite have asked for an increase of benefits under the present scheme. That is the very request, which I venture to predict will prove impossible. Some small adjustment may be made but it will prove impossible to grant an increase on a generous enough 1429 scale. By tying the administration of workmen's compensation to the administration of social insurance the Government have attached a millstone round the neck of the injured skilled workman which will prevent him from getting adequate benefit for a generation to come. Why? If a man loses both his legs, it does not very much alter his needs whether he lost his legs in an accident underground in a mine, or bicycling for his employer on an errand, or going on a pleasure trip to Llandudno. He has lost his legs. He cannot walk. He needs the same rehabilitation and the same medical benefit. He attends the same hospital. He is just as poor.
It may be true—and I am presently going to say it must politically be true—that the workman injured at his work shall receive a higher rate of compensation, but as long as he draws his compensation entirely from the same source as that other man, his compensation level is going to be depressed by the existing level of social insurance. As long as it is true that the man who has lost his legs in some other way, or suffered say, from infantile paralysis instead of silicosis and is thereby rendered incapacitated from work, receives 20s. a week or thereabouts as benefit you cannot greatly increase the benefit of the injured workman. For that reason when I hear hon. Members opposite ask for more than £2 a week for compensation, my heart goes out in sympathy with them, but I am bound to point out that, as long as the basic principle of the White Paper is accepted, they are certain to be refused. The only way in which you can relate compensation to earnings, which is what I believe human society all over the world has demanded for the injured workman, is to make the source from which the injured workman draws his compensation a different source from social insurance.
For that reason some of us proposed what was called, I believe, originally by the Home Office a "double-decker" scheme, under which the injured workman would receive from the State the full amount of the ordinary social insurance benefit the same as any other injured person would do; but in addition to that, he would be able to look to his employer for a sufficient sum to give him two-thirds of his pre-accident earnings. That was, broadly speaking, the suggestion. This scheme was referred to in the White Paper, 1430 and explicitly rejected for reasons which I submit to the House were wholly inadequate. The first reason suggested was that the scheme proposed by certain of my hon. Friends and myself involved the principle, described as vicious, that there would be in these compensation cases a continuity of the arguments between the man and his employer. I agree that that is an undesirable factor in these cases. It was for that reason we provided that without question that sickness benefit should be paid in any case and at once with the social insurance benefits of wife's allowance and children's allowance. But, let me remind the House of the principle to which I referred at the beginning. If it can be shown that, under the scheme proposed, better benefits are payable than are payable under the Government scheme, that is the principle of administration which the House ought to accept.
There was a second reason referred to in the White Paper why the "double-decker" scheme should be rejected. It was said that it involved a double kind of administration—first the State administration for the sickness benefits, and then administration by the employer and the insurance company for the workmen's compensation. Well, that is just, and true as well. But look what the present scheme does. Nobody suggests that this 40s. is adequate. I think it was the Home Secretary, this afternoon, who said, "Well, if for certain purposes it is not adequate, the workman can insure himself, he can rely on individual insurance." In other words, although it is not explicitly admitted, the Government really throw upon the workman exactly the same double administration which they reject themselves by giving him an inadequate basis of compensation. The only difference between the Government's proposal and the "double-decker" scheme was that in the case of the Government's proposal the protection is wholly unorganised and unprotected by any legal right whereas in the "double-decker" scheme the obligation is thrown upon the employer to insure and to pay the workman.
I leave that for another aspect of the case—the means of assessing incapacity. Under the existing law it is undoubtedly difficult to assess incapacity. It requires a difficult technical investigation in which witnesses are called and examination and cross-examination takes place. Therefore, the Government propose to abolish that 1431 system and to propose another whereby a doctor can just scribble out his certificate, and say what percentage of incapacity is to be granted. What does that mean in actual human terms? It means this. Supposing a barrister's clerk loses a hand, he can go on being a barrister's clerk. But supposing a miner loses his left hand—or anybody who uses a two-handed instrument of any sort—he cannot go on being a miner. Under the existing law, the judge takes cognisance of that fact but, under the White Paper, that will not be so. The doctor will take his pen, he will write "Loss of one hand, 20 per cent." Twenty per cent. of 40s. One-fifth of 40s. for a miner who loses his hand under the White Paper scheme. Why? What is the motive behind this? I am bound to admit, in fairness, that in view of what the Home Secretary said to-day he may perhaps get another 10s. if he is proved to be wholly unemployable, but what is behind it? Behind is simply and solely the desire to get rid of the courts.
I know that here I am on dangerous ground. I am a professional advocate, and it will therefore be said against me that I have an interest in diverting disputes into the courts. I have tried to empty my mind of any prejudice of that kind; whether I have succeeded or not, it is entirely for other people to say. However, I do say this, that if the object of excluding the courts is really to reduce the number of legitimate disputes, that is a fine and proper object to have; but if the effect, and if the intention, is to give people fewer rights, that is not quite so good. If the effect, and if the intention, is to get over some rather difficult and complicated phase of reality by imposing a totally artificial and wrong rule-of-thumb, that again is not so good, and if the fact be that in order to do justice you require a judicial inquiry, it is a poor kind of justice which tries to do it in a hole and corner fashion merely by means of administrative decision.
That leads me to my last criticism of the scheme, the system of administration. I believe it to be true that there is one canon of honour, to which all professions unswervingly adhere—the same man cannot advise two parties with divergent interests. However honest or sincere he may be he cannot serve two masters. Under this scheme, in place of the trade 1432 union perhaps, or in place perhaps of some scheme which we hope will be introduced by the Rushcliffe Committee, the person advising the subject is primarily a State official who is also advising the Treasury at the same time. Now he may, as the Home Secretary said, welcome the applicant into his office; he may ask him to sit down, give him a cigarette, behave to him with every kind of sympathy and courtesy, but behind that facade of perfectly genuine civility will lurk the reality that at the same time this man is advising and protecting the Treasury and advising and protecting the subject, and this is not a satisfactory method of administration. I believe that nothing will cure defects of that kind. From this little man—no doubt an excellent citizen in other respects—appeal is to lie to a tribunal composed of two laymen and a lawyer, presumably with a procedure which is simplified in order to avoid expense. From that tribunal, instead of the court of appeal with its open justice—and may I say that I was deeply impressed with what the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) said about the courts of appeal in this country and the House of Lords—there is to be a commissioner with legal qualifications who will give decisions, presumably without argument and without assigning full or definite reasons, but at any rate without a judicial hearing in the true sense.
For these reasons, I have come to the conclusion that this scheme is irremediably faulty. I want to say, frankly, that there will be, on my part, no further opposition at all. It would not be seemly for me to try to hold up anything which either the great trade unions or the great bodies of employers agreed in saying was a desirable scheme, but I do beg that before they commit themselves to it, attention should be paid to these considerations. I should rejoice if I were wrong. I wish my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary every success in the prosecution of this scheme if I should prove to be wrong. But although I should be very glad to think that I am wrong, not one word which has been said to-day, either from the Government Bench or from any other source, has convinced me that my criticisms lack foundation.
§ 2.55 P.m.
§ Sir William Beveridge (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
I hope that the House will not 1433 think it presumptuous of me to make another speech within so short a time of my maiden speech. I should not be doing so if it were not that this report which I laid as a baby on the doorstep of His Majesty's Government two years ago appears, in the invigorating air of Whitehall, to have become a twin, for, having discussed Part I last time, we are discussing Part II to-day. It is true that the twin is rather a Siamese twin; I shall do my best to make it rather more Siamese and less of a twin, and I hope that many other hon. Members will try to bring about a greater co-ordination between Part II and Part I. I shall have a few criticisms to make upon the Government plan later, but those will be minor criticisms. I should like—and I think I can speak for all the Members of my Party—to give cordial support to all the main principles of the Government White Paper, including those principles which differ from what is proposed in my Report, and including even the principle which has been attacked so vigorously by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg). May I, before I proceed with a discussion of those principles, also associate myself with the gratitude expressed by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to the Royal Commission on Workmen's Compensation, to whose unfinished labours both he and I, as chairman of the Interdepartmental Committee on Social Insurance, owe so much?
What are the main principles of the White Paper? There are really five. The first is the form of the provision made for industrial injury. The Government propose that this provision in future should be a social service in place of resting on the individual liability of the employer, with ensuing insurance and litigation. I do not think I need say anything of the reasons for that principle. As far as I am concerned, they are all set out in paragraphs 79 to 80 of my Report, and they have been endorsed in the White Paper.
The second principle is the principle of placing the cost of this service not simply on the employer but adopting the tripartite scheme of contribution which applies to all other forms of social insurance. That is necessary, I suggest, if you want to take the administration of the scheme away from the employers; you cannot in that case leave the whole 1434 cost upon them. It is also necessary if you want to pool the cost of industrial injury, either wholly or largely between the industries. Since industries depend upon one another, it may be reasonable that the banking industry, or any other safe industry, should contribute to the cost of accidents in the mines. But there is no reason in the world why the banker only and not the banker's clerk as well should contribute, for the banker's clerk is as dependent as the banker upon the prosperity of his industry, which again is dependent upon mining. That is the answer which I would give to the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell). I think if you want pooling of risks between different industries, you must accept the contributory principle, and not leave the burden wholly upon the employer.
The third main principle of the Government plan is that of giving more for stoppage of industrial earnings through accident than for interruption through other causes, whether sickness or unemployment. Some people say that is unjustified, that a man's needs are just the same if he has sprained his wrist just outside the factory, as if he did it just inside the factory. There is something in that, but I suggest it does not really dispose of the need for a higher benefit for industrial injury. If I may again refer to my Report, the reasons are set out in full there, in paragraph 81. The essential reason is that the incidence of industrial injury varies greatly from one industry to another, and that if you want people voluntarily to go into a dangerous industry, you must make special provision for them.
§ Mr. Buchanan
Why not differentiate, then, between one dangerous industry and another industry that is not nearly so dangerous? Why not give a greater benefit in one case than the other? For instance, you put mining, for benefit purposes, on the same basis as another trade which might involve very little danger.
§ Sir W. Beveridge
I think the only answer is that this is an imperfect world, in which the perfect logic of my hon. Friend cannot be applied to all cases. I think you must give inducement to people to go into dangerous industry, not by giving higher wages, but by giving more money when a man is injured. Remember, it will be in the more dangerous industries 1435 in which a man is more likely to be injured. If you give him more money when he is injured, then I do think you give him the right attraction, the right justification for taking a dangerous job.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I wonder whether the hon. Member seriously thinks that by providing 5s. or 10s. a week for a miner when he is injured, you are going to attract more miners to the industry?
§ Sir W. Beveridge
I say that much better benefits should be given for industrial injury than for other interruption of earnings. I say much better benefits, however, not for a man who just sprains his wrist and is laid up for a matter of three or four weeks, but for the man who is killed by an accident, or who suffers permanent disablement. Although I believe you ought to give higher benefits for industrial injury than for other forms of interruption of earnings, I am very doubtful whether you ought to give it for short interruptions. I do not see that there is very much difference between the man who has got a slight injury in the factory from which he is certainly going to recover in three or four weeks—from which he is just waiting to recover—and the person who has been injured outside the factory. Why should he get more money during that interval than the person injured outside? I want to keep all the money I can for the cases that really need it. I hope my hon. Friends will agree that it is important not to give money where it is not needed, so that you may keep the maximum possible for the really dreadful cases of permanent disablement or of death.
I come now to the fourth principle, which is that of a flat rate of benefit, without reference to wages. In my Report, I suggested that that should apply to cases of injury of under 13 weeks, and that in all the other cases there should be benefit related to wages. Actually, about go per cent. of all cases last less than 13 weeks, so that you may say that I propose that in 90 per cent. of the cases there should be a flat rate of benefit, whereas the Government are now proposing that there should 1436 be a flat rate in 100 per cent. of the cases. That is all the difference, on that point, between what the Government propose and what is in my Report. I am prepared to accept the Government's proposal on this, subject to the introduction of the consideration of the subsistence level and the cost of living. I am quite certain that is necessary, and I hope before I have finished that I will have given them very strong reasons indeed—drawn from the discussion of Part II—for reconsidering their attitude as expressed last week on Part I towards relating benefit to the cost of living.
What is the reason for fixing this flat rate without reference to wages? If you are going to have benefits varying with wages in a contributory scheme, then you must, necessarily, go in for the complications of having different rates of contributions for different classes of the community. If, more than that, you are going in for pooling contributions with much higher rates of benefit accorded to the people who have high wages, then you are going to get into the position of people with low wages in one industry paying high contributions in order to provide benefits for the people of much larger wages than themselves in some other industry. I do not believe, as a matter of equity, that you can combine a compulsory contributory scheme with varying rates of benefits according to wages.
We come now to the fifth principle, which is entirely new and not in my Report. It is the giving of benefit for physical disability without reference to loss of earnings. That is a very new and a very important principle. On page 16 of the White Paper the Government say it is proposedto give benefit according to the degree of disablement due to the injury in the same way as is done under war pensions schemes, namely, through an assessment by a Medical Board of the condition of the workman resulting from the injury compared with the condition of a normal healthy person of the same age and sex.That is an entirely new principle applied to workmen's compensation. It presents, obviously, very considerable administrative and practical difficulties. It makes everything rest ultimately on the decision of a medical board as to the degree of physical disablement. Often, particularly in cases of industrial disease, assessment in that way will be very difficult. But I very much hope it will be found to 1437 be practical because I am sure, if it is practicable, it is the right principle. It is the best, if not the only way of so adjusting the financial provision for industrial injury as to givé the injured workman what he needs most. What does the workman who is injured in industry need? He needs two things. First, restoration to health and earning power and, secondly, compensation in so far as he cannot be restored. I want to put these two things in that order, restoration first, and compensation for failure to restore second. Restoration is primary, and the greatest condemnation of the existing system is that though it has been in being for nearly 50 years it has done practically nothing for restoration and rehabilitation. That is its final condemnation. But compensation has hitherto been based upon inability to earn, and so long as compensation is so based it is a discouragement to earn. It is a discouragement therefore to return to earning power. Restoration depends ultimately upon the co-operation of the workman himself, and upon avoiding a Government system of compensation which makes him sub-consciously afraid of earning more lest thereby it cuts down his claim upon the employer.
The way to encourage the injured man to overcome his disabilities is to make him feel that however much he recovers or earns that will not affect the compensation for his injury. You cannot avoid reducing his compensation if and when he begins to earn again if you regard his compensation as being for the loss of earning. This new Government plan gets right away from that to basing compensation on assessment of medical disability. I hope this new principle of the Government will, in fact, be found to be completely practicable, and that it can be applied so that we can get away from any system which reduces the compensation a man gets when he is earning more because he has recovered his earning power. That is why I describe this new idea of the Government as an admirable one, and one which I hope will be found practicable. It is not in my own Report at all. I can only say that I wish I had thought of it.
Let me refer for a moment to what was said by the hon. Member for Oxford. There is not, I suggest, any necessary conflict between this particular principle and any scale of benefits. You can adopt 1438 this principle, and instead of writing 60s. you can write 80s. or 100s., or any number of shillings you like, into your scale. There is no conflict there, but once you begin to make your basic scale of benefit relate to previous earnings, you cannot avoid making the continuance of benefit depend upon what the previous earnings were, or what future earnings will be.
§ Mr. Hogg
I would like to understand what the hon. Member is saying, as he is making a criticism of what I said. I understand that the Government's proposal is to pay 40s. for 100 per cent. incapacity. Does it not follow from that that if there is 20 per cent. incapacity what will be paid will be 20 per cent. of 40s.?
§ Sir W. Beveridge
My suggestion is that having decided that your benefits for other forms of interruption of earnings should always be adequate for subsistence you should make your benefits for industrial injury at least 50 per cent. higher. That is the kind of principle that I should like to see adopted. I mean by that cases of serious industrial injury, because I am coming to the question of short-term injury in a moment. I do not want to say much about the actual scale of benefits. Whether you say 60s., 70s. or 80s. depends upon what the contributions are to be, how high you can put the contribution and whether you can get the money. As the hon. Member for Oxford has mentioned 40s. I would remind him that under the scale of the Government, the actual benefit for a man with a wife and three children would be something like £4 a week, and would be more than that if the Government adopted an adequate scale of children's allowances. Now may I come to some of my doubts about the details of the Government scheme. Although I have disagreed with the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) as to the necessity for making benefits identical for all these forms of interruption of earnings, I hope he will agree with me—
§ Sir W. Beveridge
Well, everything has to be done for the first time. However, I hope my hon. Friend will agree that there is no need to differentiate between benefits rates in the cases of short-term disability. Instead of spending industrial injury contributions on higher benefits for slight accidents, I want to keep the money that otherwise I would spend on such cases for those who really need itgfor those who are permanently incapacitated or killed by industrial accidents.
The second point of criticism I want to make of the Government's scheme is the anomalous treatment of family responsibilities as between Part I and Part II. I call attention to the following figures. Assume that two men have sprained their wrists so that they cannot work. One has slipped down outside the factory and the other has slipped down inside. The single man who has slipped down outside the factory will get 24s., whereas if he has slipped down inside he will get 35s. Supposing the man had been wise enough to be married before his accident. The man who has slipped down inside the factory, will have 16s. for his wife, while the man who has slipped down outside will get 8s. 9d. I cannot understand that. Supposing the man has been even more thoughtful, and has had his first child. The man who has slipped down outside will get 5s. for that child, and the man who has slipped down inside will get 7s. 6d. What is the sense of these varying figures? I have no idea who is responsible for them, but I suspect that the origin of them is undue respect for the supposed vested interest of the single man who hitherto, if his wages were high enough, has been able to get 35s. for industrial injury in place of the 24s. proposed for sickness.
§ Mr. Grenfell
My hon. Friend seems to ignore the fact that even the unmarried person who has an accident, cannot pay his board for the first week unless he has his own resources.
§ Sir W. Beveridge
If you canot pay your board for the first week on 24s. when disabled by an accident inside the factory, no more can you pay your board if you are disabled by sickness or by an accident outside the factory. My proposal is a subsistence benefit for every- 1440 body whatever the cause that has stopped him from earning. But I do not see why a single man should get much more than subsistence for a short-term injury in one particular case. I am thinking only of future accidents, not of those who have been injured in the past and are already on compensation.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
Does not the hon. Member's argument apply equally to the position at the end of the thirteenth week?
§ Sir W. Beveridge
Not at all. I have already argued that for prolonged industrial injury, for people who are permanently thrown out of work, there is a case for more than subsistence benefit, as part of the conditions of their employment.
§ Mr. Edwards
But the man who has slipped down inside the factory is, at the end of the thirteenth week, in the same anomalous position as the man who has slipped down inside the factory. Is not that so?
§ Sir W. Beveridge
I have tried to argue that there is a case for making better provision for serious industrial injury than for other forms of interruption of earning and I believe that will commend itself to the sentiments of most people. There are also other surprising anomalies in the treatment of family responsibilities under the two Parts of the Government proposals. Under Part I, as I understand it, a man gets an. allowance for his wife whenever he marries if she is dependent on him. The unemployed man, if he marries, will get an allowance if his wife is dependent upon him. If the man is on sick benefit and marries, he will get an allowance; if he did not get an allowance for his wife, he would not have enough to live on.
But under Part II a man must have married before the accident to get any allowance for his wife. I do not see why. At any rate, there is an anomaly which I should like the Government to explain. I suggest that they should reconsider both the rates of benefit and the family allowances in order to remove anomalies and, by cutting down on the short cases, and not giving the single man more than he really needs should make more money available for the needs of those who are incapacitated permanently. The hon. 1441 Member for Gower continually referred, not to the man who is out of work for three weeks with a sprained wrist but to the man who is killed or permanently incapacitated. What we do about the short cases is comparatively unimportant. We want a really good scheme for those whose lives or earning power are wholly destroyed.
I am still a little sorry that the Government should have rejected my proposal for a levy on dangerous trades because, although it is true that accidents happen in dangerous industries because they are dangerous, it is not true that you cannot, by taking care, reduce accidents, and it is not true that the taking of care does not cost money. If you remove from employers all financial incentive to care, and all financial reward for care, you are in the position that you are continually urging them to spend money on being careful when they can get nothing back of what they spend. [Interruption.] It is true that the main incentive to care must be through factory inspection but, if I were a factory inspector, I should feel myself on stronger ground in urging employers to take precautions if I could argue that if they did not do so they would have to pay more for accidents. The actual proposition in my Report was that part of the cost—not the whole of it—should be raised by a levy on dangerous industries, that there should be statutory associations of employers and workpeople in each dangerous industry and that the Minister of Social Security should say to the statutory association of a particular industry, "Your industry as a whole must pay an extra levy of £500,000 or £1,000,000. You can collect it from employers as you like," and I hope they would collect it on a system having regard to the care taken by the individual employer. [AN HON. MEMBER: "By what test?"] By their own test. [Interruption.] My proposition was to leave self-government in the matter to the statutory association of employers and workpeople in each industry. Possibly also the levy might be a way of reconciling the desire of the hon. Member for Oxford for a "double-decker" scheme with the plans of the Government as they stand. I do not believe in a double-decker scheme in which the top deck consists of the liability of individual em- 1442 ployers, but I hope that the Government will explore the possibility of a "double-decker" scheme with a lower deck of flat benefits provided by uniform contributions and an upper deck for higher industrial pensions provided by a levy on dangerous industries. I regret therefore the disappearance of my levy proposal and I rather hope the Government may be led to reconsider it as a way of meeting not only my criticisms but those of some others.
Let me conclude with two final points linking this Debate with that of last week on Part 1. First, to me the idea underlying the most novel proposal of Part II, that is to say the idea of giving a rate of benefit which is not related to or reduced by the actual earnings of the workman, is diametrically opposed to the philosophy of Part 1 in rejecting subsistense benefit and assuming a continuance on a large scale of assistance under means test. Every time you say that what a man gets from a common fund is to be reduced by taking into account his means, whether earned or saved, you discourage individual initiative. In Part II the Government see this and base their scheme—with its novel fifth principle—upon it. In Part I they ignore it and plan for a large scale continuance of assistance under means test.
Second, the substitution of fixed money rates for a percentage of wages is desirable in itself but it is indefensible unless the purchasing power of money is reasonably maintained. I hope the Government will stick to this flat rate of benefit irrespective of previous earnings, but they cannot do that unless they are prepared to relate their rates of benefit to the cost of living, and that ultimately means taking responsibility for stabilising a reasonable cost of living. Under the present system, with compensation related to wages, you get an automatic adjustment of the compensation to the cost of living. If the cost of living goes up, wages go up, or it may possibly be that because wages have gone up the cost of living goes up. At any rate, they follow each other. Therefore, the present system of Workmen's Compensation benefits, making them a percentage of wages, does automatically for this particular benefit what I want to see done for all benefits. I hope the Government, driven by the 1443 logic of what they want for Part II, will decide to fix a subsistence level related to cost of living for all the other benefits and will provide for industrial injury, at any rate for the long and serious cases, benefits which are at least 50 per cent. above subsistence level.
§ 3.29 P.m.
§ Mr. Francis Watt (Edinburgh, Central)
In the course of his speech the Home Secretary invited criticism, and he has certainly had plenty of it. The one feature which has emerged from what has been said today is that all Members are anxious to make as good a job as possible of the new Bill when it comes along. I feel, as I think every other Member does, that the existing workmen's compensation legislation is not satisfactory, and it would be a poor look-out if we could not improve upon it. I want to make a few remarks, first, on the subject of benefits, and, second, on the matter of administration. I think that we can all agree that in benefits the White Paper is a big improvement on the previous state of affairs. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg), I feel that, if it were possible, it would be better that benefits should be graded according to the workman's earnings. One can visualise that if there is a flat rate all round the highly paid workman who is injured will be forced, perhaps permanently, into a lower standard of living. That is something we should try to avoid. Whether it is a double-decker or any other kind of scheme, so long as it works equitably we should find a method of grading compensation according to earnings. The Government will, of course, say that under the present scheme everybody pays an equal contribution and, therefore, everybody should obtain the same benefit. If that is stated it is unanswerable, but, nevertheless, the Government should consider a change in this matter.
On the matter of administration, I am, like my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, a practising advocate and have acted many times in workmen's compensation for both the workman and the employer. I remember acting for a number of years for a solicitor who did a lot of work for a small trade union which had no funds, and when it came to arbitration and one had to employ doctors and wit- 1444 nesses, the workman was in a position of extreme difficulty. An hon. Member opposite made reference to the workman hitherto being in the hands of the doctors and lawyers. I can only say, looking back to those days, that so far as the lawyers and particularly the doctors were concerned, the workman was in good hands. Many a doctor gave up an afternoon and charged nothing for his services. If it had not been for the public spirit of these men workmen's compensation would not have worked as smoothly as it did. I am glad that the new scheme will do away with those difficulties and that the workman will not any longer be placed in that invidious position.
There are one or two points that one would like to know regarding administration. When a workman makes his claim he goes before the pensions officer. I wonder whether that officer will have any legal qualifications. What kind of man will he be? The questions will still remain whether the workman met with an accident and whether the accident arose out of and in the course of his employment. These are partly questions of law and partly questions of fact, and the second one certainly involves law. I do not think an ordinary civil servant would be a suitable person to hold such an office. It has to be remembered that, although the employer has dropped out of the matter, the parties are the workman on the one hand and the State on the other, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford pointed out, this pension officer will be in a peculiar position. While he is supposed to welcome the workman forward and hear his claim he has the additional duty of watching the funds of the State and seeing that unwarranted claims are not passed. So that he has the most singular task of having to make up his mind whether he will withhold money from people who are virtually his clients, and also withhold it from another set of people whom in a sense he also represents. I do not know how he is going to conduct his investigations, whether he will hear any evidence or make any record of what he does, because, after he has finished, the workman, if he loses, can go to a tribunal.
The tribunal is to have a legal president, but again we do not know how it will function. Is the tribunal to call evidence? The White Paper does not suggest that it should have any such powers. What docu- 1445 ments are to be put before the tribunal? Will the workman get a fair hearing? I put these points in all seriousness because we know that there has been a good deal of trouble in the case of wounded and disabled soldiers who have appealed against decisions of the Ministry of Pensions. We know the intense agitation there was to get some sort of independent tribunal to review those decisions. I am anxious, if this scheme is to be a success, that the local appeal tribunal should be a body with ample powers and facilities for thoroughly investigating a case and that it will not be bound by some sort of ex parte investigations by the pensions officer. The last appellate court is the most extraordinary one. It consists of one man, which is anomalous to say the least, and he is not a judge of the High Court, but a commissioner appointed by the Government. That is an entirely wrong principle. If we are going to have independence in the local appeal tribunal, we should preserve independence in the court of last instance. It is the last resort of the workman and it should be beyond question independent.
I feel that this complete exclusion of the courts of the realm, which have stood the workman in good stead in the past, is greatly to be deplored. I have had a long experience before the courts, and I can say, as I am sure will my colleagues in this House, that they have always given sympathetic hearings in these cases. At the present moment they are discharging their duties admirably and fairly, and I cannot understand why Government Departments invariably try to exclude the courts of the realm. It looks as if there is something they are frightened of and as if they are trying to keep everybody within their own preserves and limit the right of the subject to appeal. In this instance we are dealing with the workman who has met with an injury and who wants the fullest facilities for airing his grievance and having his case put before the people who have to decide it. The administration of the scheme will be completely unsatisfactory unless in some way access to the ordinary courts of the country and proper representation by skilled professional men are given to the workman should he desire them.
§ 3.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Isaacs (Southwark, North)
The hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. Watt) mentioned that many a doctor had 1446 charged nothing for helping an injured workman. I wish he would give me the addresses of some of them. I know many a doctor who will come to court if he gets a thumping big fee, and I know that the doctor on the other side gets a thumping big fee too, and that, if the workman loses, he has to pay both of them. Another point he made was that men learned and skilled in the law, whose services on our side we freely and gratefully acknowledge, should be available to the workman before the tribunals. There are, however, many trade union officials skilled in workmen's compensation who could do that job, but the lawyers' trade union will not let him.
§ Mr. Isaacs
And we know it. I feel that if the industrial commissioner has assessors sitting with him and he can collect evidence that will be presented to him by those who are skilled in the industrial side as well as the legal side, the workman will get at least as good a service as he has had previously. The hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg), whose sincerity in what he said we do not doubt for a moment, warned us of the possibility of taking a false step. That warning is worth taking notice of. There are several steps to be taken in this scheme. One of them may or may not be false and I would like to look at it for a moment.
Let me refer first to one thing which the Home Secretary said in his opening speech when he took up something which I said upon a previous occasion. I said then that workmen's compensation was a very patched-up garment, more patch than garment, and asked whether we could not have a new garment. Now we have a new garment, but it is rather like the lady's garment that was said to be not quite long enough to cover the subject but short enough to be interesting. That is the condition of these proposals. It is a step which may or may not be false; but we believe it is not false at all to make an end of the insurance companies. I want to quote one or two experiences I have had with insurance companies which are typical. I have been handling compensation business for 30 years in the printing industry. If there ever was a row between a trade union acting for the workman and an insurance company we could always count on the employer coming down on the trade union side and fighting the insurance company with us, and that was a 1447 very great help. First, the insurance companies were making a profit out of compensation, and they did not mind how they made it. I have one or two illustrations of their tricks. Here is a postcard, sent out not with a covering letter, but usually as a postcard. This one says:Date as postmark. Workmen's Compensation Act. You are hereby requested to submit yourself for examination to Dr. [...] with respect to your reported absence from work. Important: if you are unable to travel, or should you have resumed work, it will not be necessary for you to attend, but please advise Doctor at once. Bring this card with you.It does not say: "Your employer desires the examination." It does not say: "We, the insurance company, acting on behalf of your employer, want the examination." The card is dished. out as a matter of course. The card was sent out by one of our employers' mutual associations, although they knew that the trade union had given notice and although they were in possession of a letter that the union was acting for the man concerned. If the man did not go, at the week-end the employer would say to him: "I can't pay you. The insurance company tells me not to, because you didn't turn up for medical examination." If we rang up the employer and told him that he was responsible in law for paying the man his money, the money was usually paid.
My next illustration shows where the 'insurance company has gone a little further. Here is a somewhat crude sheet of notepaper, with a badge on top. It was sent out to a man living in Feltham, Middlesex, and was dated 30th December, not "date as postmark." It says:You are hereby requested to present yourself for medical examination to Dr. at Coldharbour Lane, Hayes, on Friday, 31st inst., at 10.30 o'clock. Please accept this as a notice under and in terms of the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1925.Agent for your employer.P.S. We have written to the employer for time off, and your travelling expenses will be paid at the surgery.This man got his letter on the Friday morning, when he had already left home to go to work. The employer had already told him to get the time off. Prompt notice was sent to his employer to stop the man's money, because he had not turned up for examination. Those are only two examples of the experiences we 1448 have had of the methods of insurance companies. They send men round to see what the injured workmen are doing, and sometimes they dangle money in front of a man and their agent says: "Take this £10 straight away." The man signs for it. If he has no union behind him he will have sold himself for £10. If he has a union, the insurance company will denounce their agent and will say: "We have told that man off. He has no right to do any such thing. We will put the case back." How often has a bitterness crept into one's heart in dealing with an insurance company like that, and has sometimes bubbled over against the employer.
I happen to be able to cite quite another kind of instance. There is a very large group of newspaper owners with organisations in London and in the provinces who have said: "We have finished with insurance companies," and are handling the compensation insurance business themselves. We have got away in this case from insurance companies and from litigation, and the result is such a spirit of trust and confidence by both sides that it does not matter which side produces a medical certificate, the other side accepts it. Another result is that we get better settlements with no expense and no bitterness. If that will be the consequences of the Government's scheme we are prepared to take that step. We say that it will not be a false step but one that is worth taking.
I would now like to supplement a plea that has been made about the rates of benefit. They are not good enough. The Government must give us something better, and I hope to show that it is reasonable to ask for something better. For many years the great trade union movement, through their annual conferences and congresses, in association with their political party, have argued that an injured workman should get a minimum of 75 per cent. of his wages to maintain him while incapacitated. We are not going to try to wreck this scheme now by pressing for the last ounce, but we ask for something materially better than is proposed. The compensation that has been paid all through the years has been provided not by employers, but out of industry. No employer has suffered a penny reduction in his profits and no shareholder has lost a penny of his divi- 1449 dends because of the cost of the insurance premiums. The cost has been put on to the consumers, who have paid all along.
In the present case, a very splendid present will be made to the employers if I may judge from the Government's own figures. The White Paper says that up to now compensation has annually cost somewhere about £17,000,000, and it is expected that the new scheme will cost about £20,000,000 a year. It is proposed to collect from the workers about £8⅓ millions; they never paid anything before. It is proposed to collect a further £8⅓ millions from the employers. In other words, these proposal will hand back to the employers somewhere about £9,000,000. We know that the State is going to pay its percentage, but we suggest that that is not quite fair. I speak with a certain amount of confidence that employers generally throughout the country will be willing to meet a higher burden, spread over industry, if that will relieve bad feeling. We will not go so far as to suggest a definite figure for this purpose, but we ask that the Government should reconsider the matter with a view to a substantial advance on the amount that they propose.
The next very difficult question, which has been mentioned by several other Members, is with regard to invalidity pensions. I could not altogether follow the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Berwick - upon - Tweed (Sir W. Beveridge), as it seemed very involved. On this matter, the White Paper says:irrespective of earning capacity.The Home Secretary mentioned the case of a linotype operator losing a finger. Consider such cases as an engine driver losing an eye or a bricklayer losing the thumb from his left hand. There are many cases like that, and they are completely incapacitated. Let us imagine that the ceiling falls down in the composing room of a printing office, and that one compositor receives an injury as a result of which he loses his leg below the knee, while another loses the top joints of two fingers. The man who loses his leg will get a pension based upon the medical assessment of the percentage of his injury.
He can go back to work; he can have either a peg leg or an artificial leg, or use a stool, whereas in the case of the 1450 fellow who has lost the top of two fingers, I ask anyone who knows about the printing industry, what is the good of a "comp." with the top of two fingers gone? He is finished. A highly skilled trade in which seven years of apprenticeship have been served, and technical education undertaken, is thrown away. Really the Government must do something in such cases. The words the Government use are:in association with another person of the same age or sex.Is it impossible to add "or industrial status," or words to that effect, so that when the medical gentleman with, I hope, assessors sitting with him, considers the extent of the incapacity of that man, he must look beyond the top of these two fingers to what they mean and what they do for the man? We suggest there will be a really serious hardship if it is to be said, "Look at the man, see how much he has had chopped off and knock him down by a shilling."
Take the engine-driver who has lost an eye and is no longer able to drive an engine. He goes back to another job at a lower rate and gets half the difference between his old rate and the new one. If the loss of eye is to be assessed at 20 per cent.—
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Peake)
The hon. Member will find that the loss of an eye under the war pensions scheme is assessed a great deal higher than 20 per cent.
§ Mr. Isaacs
Whatever it is, my point is that the skilled engine-driver of an express train who has served many years and loses his sight when a piece of coal blows out, would not be so well off on a percentage basis like this as under the old scheme. We know that in these things we are asked to take the scheme by and large. Some will be better off, and some worse off. No one will envy the man who is better off, and it will be poor consolation to the man who is worse off.
Not only are all employers who have not previously paid going to do so, but all their workers will pay, so that the man in the risky industry can say, "Not only am I paying 3d. a week to help towards paying my compensation, but my pal who works in the shop over the road, who will never have an industrial injury, is also paying 3d." We suggest 1451 that an increase of the employers' contribution from 3d. to 6d. would still leave them with a substantial saving as a whole, would not be an unreasonable burden on industry, and would provide the means to give this extra benefit and extra assessment—of taking into consideration the words "earning capacity." Call it anything you like so long as something is given for loss of earning capacity.
The only other matter to which I wish to refer has been referred to by other hon. Members. It is this final court of appeal, the decision of this final arbitrator. Do not let him sit alone. We are sick and tired of the industrial referee under the old Act. He sat alone and had more power than the House of Lords. He gave an absolutely irrevocable decision, and some of us who knew the man concerned by the decision, and who knew his condition before the injury, and knew his job, were all profoundly dissatisfied. If that general dissatisfaction gets abroad among the workers faith in the scheme will disappear altogether, and we are hoping that when the scheme is brought forward there will be provision for others to sit with the final arbitrator to give that final decision.
§ The Solicitor-General (Major Sir David Maxwell Fyfe)
Did the hon. Member mean the medical referee under the Workmen's Compensation Act? He did not mean the umpire under unemployment insurance, he meant the medical referee, when he had power to decide? I want to be sure that that is his point.
§ Mr. Isaacs
I was referring to the medical referee under the Workmen's Compensation Act who sat alone and gave a final decision. We suggest that the final arbitrator should be the chairman of a Board of three. There are one or two minor points. We feel that although it might be argued that a lot of small book-keeping accounts would be necessary, payment should commence from the first day instead of after three waiting days. It is generally a week or so before the arrangements are made to pay the money, and that three days would mean quite a good deal. It is half a week's wages. I wish the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) had been right when he said that the average wage of an unskilled labourer was £4 a week, and of a skilled workman £6 a week. Even 1452 in the printing industry, with which I am proud to be associated, there are still some parts of this country where not much more than £3 a week represents existing wages—
§ Mr. Isaacs
Hope springs eternal in the human breast, but it is the "bees and honey" in the "sky-rocket" that matter. We ask for the abolition of the three waiting days. One other thing for which we ask; although I think it is implied in the document it will be much more satisfactory if a member of the Government, in replying, would make it clear that in all these cases a man, from the beginning, right from going before the assessor or pensions officer, has the right to be accompanied by his own chosen representative, whether a trade union official or a member of the legal profession. This scheme, it should be remembered, is to cover the managing director as well as the sweeper-up downstairs, and the managing director might not have an appropriate trade union to which he could belong, or rather, there might not be a trade union willing to accept him. We want the full right to have the advice and assistance of the gentlemen of the legal profession if we wish to use them. Can we take them with us, or our trade union officials? Has a workman the right to say, "I want someone with me to help and advise me on this matter"?
I revert to the first point of a false step or a bad one. Subject to our claim for better benefits we accept the contributory basis, because it will give us the right to have a say in this matter. I think the employers will say "You have an equal voice for your threepence with us for our sixpence." We shall not go into a conference with an inferiority complex because we are paying 3d. and they are paying 6d. We never had that inferiority complex when we paid nothing and they paid all. In conclusion, we think there has been introduced the basis of a new principle that will remove the old bad feeling, not only between the workman and the insurance company, but between the workman and his employer, and between employers and insurance companies. We welcome the scheme, and when we see the whole plan we hope it 1453 will be a little more atractive than it is at the present time.
§ 3.59 P.m.
§ Mr. Higgs (Birmingham, West)
In common with most Members of this House I support social reform, but I am afraid I do not support this White Paper to any great extent. I must inform the House that I am an interested party, because I am a director of a mutual insurance company, not for what I get out of it. No doubt the House is aware that mutual assurance companies are responsible for 50 per cent. or more of workmen's compensation. Some of us who are interested in industry and insurance see this problem from both sides. The remarks that I have to make will particularly apply to industry apart from mining. I cannot refrain from saying a few words about what the hon. Member for North Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) said. He suggests that if we get rid of insurance companies, all will be well. Is he perfectly satisfied with all Government Departments? Is he satisfied with the rulings of the Minister of Pensions? Is he not aware that there will be difficulties of a different character if and when the Government take over workmen's compensation?
§ Mr. Isaacs
I have not yet had sufficient experience of those Departments or of this new scheme to give an opinion on that; but I have had sufficient experience of the insurance companies, especially the mutual, to give an opinion about them.
§ Mr. Higgs
I shall be glad if the hon. Member will tell me of any difficulty he has had with my company. He read two documents. One document arrived on a Friday, and the man had to see the insurance company on the Friday. He did not say what action the company took because the man did not see them on that day; he assumed the action of the insurance company. He referred to the employers considering the expense of an increase in insurance. If workmen were compensated to the extent of 100 per cent. of their earnings, it would not cost the employer 1 per cent. of his wages bill. At present I am under the impression that workmen's compensation costs somewhere between one quarter and half of 1 per cent. of the wages bill. Some industries pay considerably more and I know industries that pay as little as one-eighth of one per cent. The argu 1454 ment has never been brought forward by employers that they could not afford to pay for compensation in full—I am not advocating it, but it could be done. I consider this White Paper to be change for change's sake. The question of eliminating competition has not been referred to; but when one company is competing against another for an employer's insurance, those companies have to work as efficiently as they can, not by paying low rates of compensation, but by having efficient organisation. Competition contributes to efficiency. When the State takes over workmen's compensation we shall lose that efficiency, to a very great extent.
The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir W. Beveridge) is not likely to say that all is well when he is asked to present a report to the Government. He referred to the contentious and costly methods of settling disputes, and to difficulties of demarcation between industrial and non-industrial cases. Because the State is about to take the matter over, will problems of that description be eliminated? He refers to the necessity for provision to be made for lump-sum settlements. Whether the State takes it over or it remains in the hands of private enterprise, that problem can be easily settled. Will all be well when the State takes it over, if the principles of this White Paper are applied? I suggest that the authors of this White Paper, in general, have never had any practical experience in connection with workmen's compensation. I note that in one paragraph they say that the number of cases subject to litigation is small. Is the House conscious that only 14 cases in 1,000 are subject to litigation? Is it suggested that, when the State takes over, the dissatisfaction of those 14 cases in 1,000 will be eliminated? On page 12, the White Paper says:The result is that the heaviest liability falls on the hazardous employments, which include certain important industries such as mining and shipping, which have to face foreign competition.The authors had forgotten that when they arrived at page 18, and used these words:Moreover, the whole charge in respect of industrial compensation is, and under the new scheme will continue to be, a comparatively small item in relation to wages and other costs of production.Then, why suggest that the cost of insurance is going to be detrimental to the 1455 heavier and overseas trades? The Chancellor of the Exchequer is contributing. That is subsidy from public funds, subsidy from the employer and the employee, to the extent of —2,000,000 or £3,000,000. The relation of industrial pensions to earnings has been referred to by the majority of speakers, but generally in terms of a man who has lost a leg or who has had permanent injury. What is the position of a man earning £4 a week and that of a man earning £8 a week? If the compensation is satisfactory to the £4-a-week man, it is not satisfactory to the £8-a-week man. How is he to adjust his mode of living for the period of his injury to the relatively small income? It is exceedingly unsatisfactory. I am not disputing that it is very difficult at present to arrive at the right figure based on wages: I know the difficulties, but they will be infinitely greater if we adopt the proposals of this White Paper. Let me refer to the special levy on employers in hazardous industries. The White Paper says that the Government are not satisfied that merit rating based on the risks in particular industries would encourage employers to take measures to prevent accidents. But it has proved to be effective. If the insurance rate is altered on any particular company, the alteration is invariably brought to the notice of the directors, and inquiries are made. I have known many cases, in my own firm and in other firms, where the rates have been altered, investigations have been made into the cause of the increased rates, and protection devices applied. That will disappear if the ideas contained in this White Paper are put into an Act. There is no suggestion in the White Paper that advantage should be taken of existing organisations, and the knowledge and experience they have gained in 50 years. Are we to throw it all down the drain?
§ Mr. Higgs
If advantage is taken of this White Paper and it becomes law, I suggest that that inside knowledge will not be used. I do not agree with a woman being compensated at the same rate as a man. Either the men are not getting enough, or the women are getting too much. One of the most important lines in this document is:Assuming that the rates of wages are about 25 per cent. in excess of the level of 1938.1456 It is well-known that wages to-day are of the order of 70 per cent. to 100 per cent. higher than 1938. After the last war we had a National Debt of something like £8,000,000,000. It looks as if we shall have a National Debt of something like £30,000,000,000 after this war, and as long at that debt increases and as long as our Budgets are not balanced, wages will increase. If they are now up 75 per cent. to 100 per cent. over pre-war days, is it not quite safe to assume that that is likely to be the permanent figure after the war? The whole White Paper is based on the assumption of an increase in wages of 25 per cent., which is ridiculous. The Government do not intend to take any precautions at all for the prevention of accidents. At least one or two insurance companies have an organisation from which they send inspectors to give advice to the assured after serious accidents have occurred, and it is to be hoped that the Government may follow the same example.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
May I put this to my hon. Friend? He is talking about indemnity societies. Do they not send word to employers that they are not to employ certain men after they have been hurt? Will the Government do that?
§ Mr. Higgs
With regard to the rates, the improvement is only 8½ per cent. under 13 weeks, and 4½ per cent. in cases over 13 weeks, and I say there is no material improvement. There will be no opposition from the employers if improved compensation is given considerably in advance of that which the law permits at the present moment. We have got a fixed rate of contribution suggested, with a fluctuating currency, which, again, will make any legislation ineffective in a few. years' time. The present cost of a domestic servant to the employer is 2s. 6d. per annum, including common law. If this White Paper becomes law, the new scheme will cost the employer 8s. 8d. per 1457 annum, in addition to the same amount to be paid by the worker. Common law has not been included. That is just one experience if this White Paper becomes law.
There is just one other remark I wish to make, and that is that my hon. Friends opposite are probably very familiar with "The New Dawn," and I hope they have read an article recently published in this paper which cannot say a good word for the White Paper. This paper is the official organ of the National Union of Distributive and Allied Workers, and when papers of this description have nothing good to say for the White Paper, and when it is supposed to be a paper in favour of the workers, then I think it is a mistake that we should continue to bring before the House legislation based upon that particular document.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Oliver (Ilkeston)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Higgs) appears to be the only hon. Member who has spoken to-day who is satisfied with the existing workmen's compensation, and, although I think it is quite true that there are criticisms which could be levelled against the White Paper, I think the points made by my hon. Friend do not appear to be among the contentious matters which will interest, generally, the people who are affected by any subsequent Statute. One thing has evolved and that is that there appears to be no regret that the insurance companies are at long last to take, their departure from workmen's compensation and that the whole scheme is to be transferred to a social security scheme which will give a right to injured workmen to receive benefits. I do not think there is any difficulty about that, because employers themselves are quite satisfied that the time has arrived when a change should be made, and I appreciate that the employer himself will be very delighted, in view of the fact that employers to-day who have been spending approximately £17,000,000 in respect of this liability will be relieved for a lesser figure approximating to something like £8,000,000. There will be general unanimity among workmen and employers that the old scheme should go and that something new should take its place.
The hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) said that he spoke for himself in the sug- 1458 gestions which he made. I was very much in sympathy with much that he had to say. because I believe that, until there is an alteration in the basis of the assessment in the White Paper, some of the gravest injustices will be done. I cannot dissociate the granting of pensions from the nature of the occupation in which the workman sustained his injury and the remuneration which he obtains for his employment. The hon. Member for North Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) expressed the point in regard to the compositor who had lost the tips of his fingers. Assuming, for example, that the loss of the tips of the fingers was assessed at 20 per cent., the injured workman would receive, under the existing scales of the Ministry of Pensions, a sum of 8s. per week. For a man who has lost his earning power, that would, indeed, be a great hardship, if his compensation had to be fixed on that figure, and, as the scheme is at present before the House, I beg to say that, until we hear something from the Home Secretary that more generous provisions are to be made, the compensation for the loss of the tips of his fingers in the case of a compositor will not represent the compensation he ought to have. That is a very much worse position than the position to-day.
It is necessary that some alteration should be made to make the workmen's compensation approximate more to the loss a man sustains. I had in my own experience one day last week a case where a workman's hand was cut across the back, which deprived him of the use of his fingers. The other hand was also similarly affected. He told me that his left hand had been affected by a war injury in the last war for which he received 8s. per week pension, that being 20 per cent. disability. If the man had been a miner, engineer, compositor or following any occupation which required the use of both hands he would have been totally incapacitated for the particular job and would have been compelled to seek employment in some other industry. That position cannot be the last word in a matter of this kind. The hon. Member for Oxford was right when he said that the basis of assessment stands on the medical assessment, as we understand it, of this White Paper and the whole scheme requires re-investigation. It must be stepped up but I doubt whether we can step it up unless we change the basis from the one contemplated in the 1459 White Paper to one that is different.
All the speakers from this side of the House have complained about the smallness of the compensation. The figures are so small that, if the proposals were placed before many trade union branches and members were told that, in the event of meeting with certain accidents, they would receive the amount contemplated in the White Paper, I am sure the trades unions would be instructed to oppose the whole thing. I am not unmindful that there are injuries for which pensions are given and that the injured man can go and earn as much money as he earned before the accident. In London that frequently happens, because there is a wide field of diversified industries. Men with one eye or one arm or one leg can get positions as lift attendants, messengers and jobs of that kind, but in the normal provincial towns if a man is incapacitated from following the industry in which he was trained, there is not the diversified type of industry in which a man with 100 per cent. pension could get a job and earn the same amount of money. Once a man is incapacitated from following the job in which he has been trained he goes down the social scale and must take up whatever job he can possibly obtain. I am sure that it will not fall on deaf ears when I ask the Home Secretary to have another look at this matter in the hope of making some improvement in the scheme.
There is one other aspect of the matter about which I would like to say a few words. I observe that the highly contentious words "arising out of and in the course of his employment" will be retained in the new scheme and also that ćompensation will not be allowed when injury is attributable to serious and wilful misconduct of the workman. These are two highly controversial and contentious reasons, and while one must realise that this is a contributory and social scheme and the profit motive will have been removed altogether, there must come occasions when the pensions officer will say, "This accident did not arise out of or in the course of the man's employment." The man is then entitled to go before the tribunal, consisting of a legal gentleman, and two lay persons, one representing the employer and the other the worker. We do not know very much about the procedure of the tribunal and whether the work- 1460 man will be entitled to be accompanied by someone who can state the case for him, or whether he will be precluded from having any assistance from anyone who knows anything about the subject.
The issues are highly contentious and when the pensions officer rejects a claim, it will not be because he wants to save money but because he will thoroughly believe that the injured workman's claim does not come within the four corners of the scheme. It is necessary, therefore, that the tribunal should be of the highest possible kind to hear and determine whether the workman comes within or without the scheme. It ought to be a much more important body than appears to be visualised in the White Paper. There is a further appeal, in the event of the workman not being satisfied, to an industrial injury insurance commissioner. Will there be an opportunity for the workman's case to be presented to the industrial injury insurance commissioner? Will the hearing be open and in public and will the commissioner give a decision and the grounds of his decision, so that it may be known, instead of the matter being discussed and determined behind closed doors, with the industrial commissioner saying, "Yes" or "No" without any explanation whatever?
Furthermore, it will be interesting to know whether the reasons, if any, will be tabulated, so that they might be some guidance—as case law is some guidance to-day—for decisions which might have to be taken in the future. In replying, will my right hon. Friend say whether the workman will be entitled to be legally represented before the tribunal? I say that because I realise the great importance to the workman that he should not find himself at a disadvantage, if decisions have been reached which exclude him from this scheme. I believe some further information should be given before a final conclusion is reached.
When those two points are dealt with, I think it will be generally agreed that this can be made into a good scheme. There is every element in the White Paper to make it a good scheme. At the moment, it is unsatisfactory because it fails to explain many of the points which appear on the surface. Last but not least, the benefits offered and the method whereby those benefits will be ascertained are in my view unsatisfactory, and after the Debate I hope the Home Secretary 1461 will take all these points into consideration so that, when the Bill is introduced, we may have a degree of unanimity.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Marlowe (Brighton)
This proposal of the Government has really been attacked on one basis, namely, that the rates of benefit are inadequate. It has also been attacked by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) on' a somewhat different basis, but I think I shall show the House that he came back to inadequacy of benefits. I want to put before the House the view that that is not a proper way to approach these proposals at all, and I suggest to hon. Members opposite that they should not damage the proposals by attacking them on that score. It is, if I may suggest it, an unstatesmanlike way of approaching the matter. The rates of benefit as they stand at the moment are quite an unimportant part of these proposals. I assure hon. Members opposite that nobody is more anxious than I am that the rates of benefit should be materially stepped up, but I believe the way to do that is to get the basic scheme through first. It would be deplorable if we were to condemn the scheme merely on the ancillary aspect of it, that is to say the question of rates of benefit.
The proper way, I think, to approach this White Paper is to consider the two basic principles involved. The first is the change-over, so that this shall be a liability of the State rather than of the employer. I support that first fundamental principle wholeheartedly. I think it deserves our support, and I believe it to be important for us to achieve this. Nothing could be more deplorable than the bad relations which have been created between employer and workman on account of the employer's liability. It has very often been a most unreal fight, the real contestants not being the workman and his employer at all, but very often the trade union on the one hand, and the insurance company on the other—quite unreal fighting, and yet bad blood is caused between the workman and the employer. I think that does damage to industry.
Whether the result of these proposals will be to cause disaffection between the workman and the State is difficult to know, but one can only hope that if the rates of benefit are made adequate, that 1462 will not happen. I am glad that the hon. Member for Oxford has returned to his place because my view is that his condemnation of these proposals was fallacious. He attacked the whole scheme, but based his argument on the rates of benefit which, he said, went to the core of the matter. He argued that so long as the rates of benefit were as they are, then the principle must be unsound. I do not accept that argument. It seems to me that the principle and the rates of benefit can be divorced from one another, and my hope is that we shall be able to establish the basic principle of making the liability that of the State, and then we shall be able to turn our attention to increasing the rates of benefit.
The other basic change put forward is the payment of a flat rate of benefit. On that aspect of the matter, while I am in agreement with the principle, I understand that this discussion is afforded so that we may make suggestions to the Government for improving their proposals, and I do not believe that this particular proposal is not capable of improvement. I accept, as I say, the principle, but the Government must remember that they have prayed in aid the parallel of war casualties, and they have based their principle on the assumption that all war pensions are at a fiat rate. Of course that is not true in effect, because the war pension is based on the rank which the soldier holds at the time he incurs his injury. It is not therefore true to say that there is any analogy between the. two at all. This matter is dealt with on page 16 of the White Paper, in the last paragraph of which the Government have said that they have explored the possibility of the benefit varying according to compartments of earning, and the objections to dealing with it in that way are set out.
I can see that there are administrative difficulties in taking wide ranges of compartments, but I do not believe it is impossible to have a fairly limited range of compartments. To take a rough example, I believe it would be possible for every workman who normally earns, say, £4 a week to be put in category A; that any workman who had, say, for six months or more been paid between £4 and £6 a week to be put in category B; and any workman who had earned, say, 1463 for six months or more over £6 a week to be put in category C. I suggest something of that kind, which would keep the matter within fairly narrow limits, would not become administratively out of hand, but yet would enable a situation to be created in which a man who had earned very good wages at one time, and had then been injured, would not be placed when he came to be paid compensation on precisely the same level as the man who had earned very low wages.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman indicate to the House how the average rate of earnings would be calculated under his proposal to arrive at the £4, £6, and so on?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Marlowe
I do not think it would be very difficult, I am only putting forward a broad principle and I am not attempting to deal with the matter in detail. I believe it would be possible—though obviously you could not do it if a man earned £10 one week, and £2 the next week. There would be difficulties there. That is why I suggest that a man should be certified by his employer to have continuously earned, say, £6 a week over a period of six months or so. He should then be put in a higher category. I would add, in answer to my hon. Friend, that once in that category the man would remain in it permanently. That would get over any question of alterations in his rates of wages. Once a man had reached a certain wage level, he should thereafter be regarded as a man capable of earning that wage.
§ Sir Ernest Shepperson (Leominster)
If a man is in the lower category, would my hon. and gallant Friend agree that he and his employer should pay a lower contribution?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Marlowe
That would be a matter for consideration. I have no doubt that the man who would be in a higher category would probably be prepared to pay a little extra for it.
§ Mr. Tinker (Leigh)
The difficulty in the past has been that where a skilled workman has not been able to get a good average wage, his compensation has been based on what he has been getting. Under what the hon. and gallant Member is now proposing, the same anomaly would prevail.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Marlowe
I am assuming that conditions in the post-war world will not be as unfavourable to workmen as they have been in the past. However, I only put out that idea for consideration. It retains the principle which the Government have put forward in their proposals, and yet allows some elasticity without introducing administrative difficulties. There are one or two other matters in the White Paper I wish to deal with. I want to refer, first, to the payment of the lump sum. I entirely agree with the abolition of this, in the normal fatal cases—
§ Lieut.-Colonel Marlowe
I was coming to the case where weekly payments are commuted by the payment of a lump sum. The Government proposals are to abolish that altogether. I agree, again, in principle. I think they have been a bad thing, and have led to a great deal more trouble than they were worth and a great deal of unhappiness for many people. Nevertheless, I hope the Government will not shut the door completely. I believe it would be possible to keep open the principle in cases which were considered appropriate. There must be cases in which receipt of a lump sum would make all the difference between an injured workman being able to set up in business of his own, and not being able to get a livelihood of any kind. Of course, I know it is a dangerous thing, because people put money into businesses which they think are good, but which turn out to be unprofitable.
I, therefore, suggest that redemption of the weekly compensation by a lump sum payment should be permitted only under the guidance of the officer responsible. It should be his responsibility to examine the business, and to be sure that before the payment was redeemed in this way the workman was having proper advice, and not putting his money into something which would result in his losing it in a few weeks. I think it would be possible for the officer concerned with the administration to act as a welfare officer to a workman in this regard, and be able to 1465 give him the necessary advice in order to ensure that, if a lump sum were paid, it would not be lost in a hazardous undertaking within a short time. I put that forward, because I think it would be unfortunate if it were made absolutely impossible for anyone to set up in business by redeeming his weekly compensation.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford on the question of ousting the jurisdiction of the courts. I accept the view that this matter is best dealt with by the local appeal tribunal, and I am content with the appeal which is also set up in the White Paper. But I believe it is necessary that decisions should, eventually, be canalised into a common channel, otherwise there will be divergent opinions all over the country. There will be no established principles, no precedents, to which a tribunal can turn to see what is a governing principle, and I think it would be of benefit to get uniformity in this matter. It would be disastrous if one principle were adopted in one part of the country, and another principle in another part of the country. I am always reluctant to oust the jurisdiction of the courts in any way, and prevent any man, in the final resort, being able to go to the courts. I do not believe there would be a great number of final appeals. The number of appeals at the moment does not represent a great proportion of the number of arbitrations which take place in the county courts, and I believe it would be possible to obtain that final jurisdiction in the courts for these two purposes, so that there would be no possibility of injustice in the end.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
Is it not obvious that one case going to appeal could decide hundreds of other cases, that might go to arbitration, via the county courts? That has been our difficulty.
§ Lieut-Colonel Marlowe
I accept that; it seems to be a good argument for keeping on the courts. I am not attacking the principles set out in the White Paper, because I do not think that county court arbitration has been a great success. I prefer the methods now proposed, but I would like to see some final safeguard so that a workman might be able to go to the courts in the last resort, if necessary.
I would particularly like the Solicitor-General to tell me whether any provision 1466 is made for interim payment immediately, between the happening of the accident and the decision of the person responsible for dealing with it. I have not been able to find, in the limited time at my disposal, any reference in the White Paper to payments of this kind. As my right hon. and learned Friend knows, under the present system it often happens that whether liability ultimately falls on the workman or not, and whether the insurance company is going to indemnify him in the end, the injured workman is paid right away. There is no reference to that in the White Paper. As this scheme is mainly to be administered by civil servants, it would ill become me to animadvert upon them in any way, but I have known civil servants take a long time to deal with some questions. It is not helpful to an injured workman to be told that the matter will be dealt with in due course. What he wants is his weekly money. I hope that interim payments will be made, and that they will not be recoverable where it ultimately transpires that there is no liability for compensation. It is necessary, for the difficult time following an accident, to be covered.
I want to ask the Government—as a general proposition when dealing with matters of this kind rather than in relation to this White Paper—to refrain from using the expression, "contribution from the Exchequer." It would be much plainer to everybody concerned if it were made clear that this is a general contribution from the taxpayer, because such an expression only perpetuates the false idea that there is a Treasury chest in Whitehall, into which people can dip when they want money. It would be much better to point out that the balance of contributions is to be met by the general body of taxpayers. I do not claim to be expert in mathematics, but on my calculation, the balance required, after payment of contributions by the employer and workman, works out at about twopence per week from each individual taxpayer who is not in the scheme at all. We are only too glad to pay it but it would he as well to say so rather than to say that there is some benevolence coming from the Exchequer when what is coming comes from the general body of taxpayers.
There is also missing from the White Paper any reference to what is known as a declaration of liability under the existing 1467 scheme. I believe that there is room for such a thing and that it is quite a salutary procedure. It may be that a man may not get compensation at the time, but he may incur an injury which will subsequently entitle him to compensation and it is as well for him to have that protection of a declaration of liability against future contingencies. The Bill, when it comes, may make it plain that it is unnecessary, but at the moment I am not entirely satisfied as to that and, if it is necessary, I hope it will be borne in mind.
It is, I think, quite wrong to condemn these proposals on the question of the rates of benefit. That will get us nowhere. I am not satisfied with the rates of benefit—I do not suppose any of us are—but the really important part of the scheme is the change-over from that atmosphere which has created bad feeling between employer and workman in the past to an entirely different principle. That is the first thing one has to consider, whether one accepts it or not. If one wants to achieve that purpose, as most of us do, it would be a fatal mistake to wreck the whole scheme on the question of the rates of benefit. I think the House will be well advised to accept these proposals, recognising that they are capable of improvement. Let us put before ourselves this choice. The old scheme has many defects. The new scheme has also many defects. I have come to the conclusion that, in a matter of this kind, it is impossible to achieve perfection, but we have to make the choice whether we shall have the old scheme with its defects, or the new scheme with its defects. I come down on the side of the new scheme, with the reminder that, once we have got it, we shall have to be very vigilant to see that the Government lose no time in increasing the benefits.
§ 4.54 P.m.
§ Mr. Foster (Wigan)
Any criticisms that may come from this side, of any of the details of the scheme, are made not because we desire to destroy it, but because we want to improve it. None of us would be prepared to wreck it if we do not succeed in getting our own way on details. I welcome the scheme, having had many years' experience of the present compensation law, and I believe it will be a tremendous improvement upon the present position. It is a big step forward and those responsible for its authorship, 1468 whether the Ministers or the Department, ought to be given credit for bringing it forward. The history of workmen's compensation since the Act of 1897 has been one of continued struggle and strife between the workmen on the one hand, and the employers and the insurance companies on the other. The employer has done everything possible to save his costs by reducing the amount of the compensation that he has to pay, because the cost of compensation is an item in his costs of production. He may be able to pass it on in the price of the commodity that he produces, but there are many industries in which he is not able to do so. The injured workman has been the victim throughout all those years. He has been harassed and driven from pillar to post by doctors and lawyers engaged by the employers and insurance companies, who have taken advantage of any flaw in the Compensation Acts to deprive the workman of his compensation.
The insurance companies have been the worst sinners in this respect. They have made millions out of this form of insurance, and have been worse than the employers in hunting and pursuing the injured workman in various ways. The workman has been harassed so much that eventually he has become "fed up" and has been driven to accept a small sum by way of compensation (or lump sum settlement) in order to get rid of the employer and the insurance company and to become a free man again, able to seek such employment as he may be able to get. He has been bewildered by the forces arrayed against him. His future has been no concern of the employers, the doctors, the lawyers and the insurance companies. All they have been concerned about is trying to save the cost of compensation and to avoid payment.
The Acts which have been passed since 1897, instead of simplifying the position, have made it more confusing and complicated and have resulted in a spate of actions in the court. The weaknesses in the present compensation law can be summarised in this way. First there is the basis of entitlement in respect to injury by accident arising out of the employment. Those words are not wide enough in their scope to entitle the' workman to compensation in thousands of cases in which he is justly entitled to it because his condition has either been caused or 1469 aggravated by the conditions of his employment. The weekly payments are inadequate. There is no provision whatever for any liability on the employer to provide medical and surgical treatment. The workman has been left to obtain it in the best way he can, either by becoming a contributor to a voluntary hospital or through his own panel doctor, or in some other way, or become crippled for life. Again, there is no provision in the present Workmen's Compensation Acts for the rehabilitation of the workman. As an hon. Member on the other side said, that is a very important aspect of this question. I live in a village where a bankruptcy took place in 1931 which left 156 workmen suffering from multifarious injuries, and one can see them to-day walking about the streets, most of them crippled for life. If there had been a proper system of rehabilitation many could have been restored to their original physical condition and most of them could have been made much better. There is no provision for the resettlement of the workmen in industry after rehabilitation. All these factors are important and are related to each other, and unless we can in a compensation or health scheme provide for all of them, we shall not have solved the problem of the injured workman because all these factors are contributions to his recovery and his return to employment.
§ Mr. Bowles
Does not my hon. Friend, therefore, agree that the first of the points he has referred to depends on the question of entitlement?
§ Mr. Foster
I do not agree with the assumption that my hon. Friend makes. I intend to say a word or two on the words "arising out of and in the course of the employment." I welcome the scheme because it is a big step forward and will go a long way towards resolving many of the troubles, difficulties and friction which have existed in the past. I accept the scheme, not because it is perfect, for it is not perfect, but because it lays down a general structure which can be improved upon and will have its foundations on to-day and not on 50 or 60 years ago.
I would like now to deal with the question of entitlement to compensation, which is covered in paragraph 33 of the White Paper. The Government say that they propose to retain the words 1470 "by injury arising out of and in the course of employment." They say that they have given consideration to many other suggestions, but they cannot find any better words. Although there have been a large number of cases which have arisen in the courts out of the interpretation of these words, I do not want to deal with the matter from that angle. There have also been thousands of cases in the county courts and the House of Lords arising out of the interpretation of many other sections of the Compensation Acts. I do not think that there is any other Act of Parliament that bristles with more difficulties. Nearly all the so Sections of the 1925 Act are contentious, and thousands of cases have been taken in the courts on the interpretation of one or another of them.
I want to ask the Minister whether he has looked at the basis of entitlement in the Royal Warrant for War Pensions. Hon. Members will remember the Debate that took place on the basis of entitlement for war pensions and how we got an improvement as a result. I suggest that if we had in a Workmen's Compensation Bill the words that are in the Royal Warrant setting out the basis for soldiers' pensions, there would be less difficulty. I will not say there would be no difficulty, because there will be some difficulty whatever words are used. But if we could have the same basis of entitlement for workmen's compensation that soldiers have for war pensions, it would remove a great deal of trouble. The entitlement in the Royal Warrant lays down the principle which governs the payment of war pensions not only for injury due to war service, but for injury which is aggravated by war service, and also for any condition which may have been aggravated by war service. The Royal Warrant states that the disablement or death of a soldier shall be accepted as due to war service provided it is certified that(a) the disablement is due to a wound, injury or disease which (i) is attributable to war service; or (ii) existed before or arose during war service and has been and remains aggravated thereby; or (b) the death was due to or hastened by (i) a wound, injury or disease which was attributable to war service; or (ii) the aggravation by war service of a wound, injury or disease which existed before or arose during war service.Thousands of cases arise in the mining industry. I refer to that industry for no other reason than that it is a hazardous 1471 industry, with conditions that do not apply in any other industry owing to the fact that the men are working in the bowels of the earth extracting coal from the strata. There are thousands of cases of men who have to play off work owing to rheumatics, boils, colds, arthritis and all sorts of troubles which can be attributed to the conditions in which they work.
There are any number of men in the pits to-day who are working in water and in conditions where the ventilation is such, due to heat and other things, that a man is not getting the oxygen that he requires to put out his full vigour. He is working in a bad atmosphere. He may be kneeling in water, or having to lie down with his buttocks in water, or to haul coal in water. Because of those conditions, it is easy to have a number of men suffering from rheumatics. The same thing applies to men who are suffering from arthritis due to having to kneel in water. There are different kinds of these troubles. I could name other conditions which are brought about by the nature of a man's work. In some cases a man was suffering from some ailment before he was employed in a particular seam or mine, and the ailment has been aggravated by the conditions under which he has since been working. If such a man had joined the Army or had been conscripted for the Army, and had had a touch of arthritis in his knee before, and, as a result of war service or training, perhaps in Burma or some other country where conditions are very bad, the arthritis was aggravated by conditions there, he would be entitled to pension, under the entitlement to war pension. Why should not that principle apply to men working in the pits or in industry, if the conditions of their employment have caused or aggravated a disability?
I do not want to drive that point any further. I had not intended to speak for so long, but I do ask the hon. Gentleman to look again at the basis of entitlement in the Royal Warrant, to see whether he can agree to something being done, perhaps not just in the words I have suggested, but to apply the principle of the same interpretation for the purposes of paying compensation. I end as I began. I do not believe that the mere fact of paying benefits for injury will be a solution of the compensation problem. I 1472 believe that we shall have to find a proper basis of entitlement, that there will have to be adequate benefits and that there must be proper medical and surgical treatment. There must also be a proper scheme of rehabilitation. I am glad to say that we have commenced a scheme of this kind in the mining industry. It is doing great work. Last, and not least, once we have rehabilitated an injured workman, we must see to it that employment is provided which is suitable for him. If we can do those things, I believe that we shall have done a great job for the injured workmen.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lancaster (Fylde)
I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Foster) on the very helpful contribution he has made to the Debate. Earlier in the day my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) said that he approached this matter with considerable diffidence, in view of the fact that he was opposing in great measure the Government's White Paper. I approach it in no less diffident a manner because I realise that I am confronted from the opposite benches by hon. Members who have had a long and wide experience of matters connected with the old compensation law. On this side, I realise, are hon. Members with legal experience of an equal nature. I would like, for a few moments, to deal with this matter as an employer of labour, anxious to see the best results from the money which it is proposed to lay out in this scheme. I should like to say straight away that I welcome the White Paper and the two principles that industrial insurance should be taken out of the hands of the employers and dealt with by the State and that there should be fiat-rate benefits, at any rate in the first instance.
I have detected a slight degree of variation in regard to what is assumed to be the employers' attitude in this matter. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) suggested that employers were not concerned with the question of insurance, because that was passed on to the consumer, while the hon. Member for Wigan said that employers were very concerned about it and had, in the past, beaten down the workmen. Whether either hon. Member is precisely accurate in what he said I will not now attempt 1473 to decide, but I suggest that the real interest of the employer has always been, and will always be, not the question of payment of indemnity to an injured workman, but the fact that a good workman has been lost to his work. Our whole attitude must be to get that workman back to his work at the earliest possible moment. In that connection I would Stress the importance of the scheme of rehabilitation which the hon. Member for Wigan spoke of towards the end of his speech. If rehabilitation is to be valuable and satisfactory it must as far as possible be linked not only to individual industries but connected with training of a type which is not dissimilar to the work of the main industry with which it is linked.
Might I, in his connection, instance coal mining? It is obvious that all men injured in the course of their work in the mines cannot return to work in that industry. It should be possible to connect with the particular rehabilitation scheme to which miners will go something in the nature of light engineering for which the great mass of skilled, and even unskilled, miners may in the course of time be trained. Rehabilitation seems to me to afford an opportunity of recognising at the earliest moment the necessity of some differentiation in compensation paid to different types of labour. I agree that in the first instance, during the period of industrial injury allowance, it can be argued, and I think justified, that two men receiving precisely the same injury and suffering, anyhow in the first instance, the same degree of pain, worry and discomfort, can reasonably be compensated similarly, because that should tend to do away with the extremely anomalous position which has too often occurred in this connection in the past. I equally believe that at the earliest reasonable moment a man's degree of skill should be recognised and that, quite apart from his disability pension, it should be possible to work out some scheme whereby, during his rehabilitation, when we must assume he is undertaking training commensurate with his pre-accident ability, allowances could be paid to him which have regard to his ability.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Tomlinson)
May I interrupt the hon. and gallant Member a moment to say that that is already in operation, and that where an 1474 individual has been injured in the mine or in any other industrial undertaking, and has been rehabilitated, he is sent to a training centre, and gets at the present time allowances and dependants' allowances during training, in addition to what he is getting in the way of compensation.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lancaster
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman, but that does not quite deal with the point I am trying to make. What I am trying to suggest is that there should be maintained at that rehabilitation centre that differentiation between different types of skill. Surely a scheme could be evolved whereby a man undertaking training at that rehabilitation centre could be paid an allowance commensurate with the training he is undertaking. I am not doubting that allowances are paid, but they do not have regard to the varying degree of skill of the men undertaking that training. Where the anomaly arises at the present time is that a skilled man, after a period of loss of work due to an injury, finds his standard of living being depressed below that of the unskilled worker. I make this suggestion with a view to being helpful in regard to a matter which is most important, that is, the review at the earliest reasonable moment of the differentiation between various types of skilled employment.
One other aspect with which I should like to deal is the desirability of linking with this scheme, so far as is possible, a medical service at the mine or in the factory. I believe quite a number of accidents and a good deal of industrial disease, and indeed a certain amount of absenteeism, could be obviated if a man who arrived at his work feeling rather off colour, or indeed who was commencing the symptoms of some industrial disease, was able to have the advantage of being able to apply for medical advice at once, and if the medical organisation was in a position to advise the management, either that day or in the next few days on the employment of that man to make reasonable suggestions for his employment on some lighter work or some alternative work. If we could inaugurate a scheme of that nature it would tend to cut down both the number of accidents and also the proneness to industrial disease.
§ Colonel Greenwell (The Hartlepools)
Has not such a scheme, with works' doctors, been introduced during the war under the aegis of the Ministry of Labour? 1475 It has in large areas in connection with one industry with which I am concerned.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lancaster
I desire universal application for something which has already been started in different parts of the country. I am advising its universal application as a means of helping the general purposes of this White Paper.
That really is the sum and substance of what I wish to say. I welcome this White Paper. I think it has its defects, and I think it can be improved upon, but the principles to which I have referred, and which have been referred to in greater detail by other hon. Members, particularly the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir W. Beveridge), are sound principles, and if in course of time we can improve both the scale of these allowances and benefits and rates, and introduce some scheme such as that to which I have referred, whereby differentiation can be resumed at the earliest reasonable moment, I feel that it holds out every prospect of being to the general advantage of workpeople and the community as a whole.
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen (Glasgow, Camlachie)
I think that with the exception of the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) every Member who has taken part in the Debate has welcomed the scheme. I have heard practically everything that has been said in the Debate, and I have noticed that while all the other Members welcomed the scheme they had about as little to say for it as had the hon. Member for Oxford when they really got down to its consideration. There has been very general criticism of its defects. I would go a little further than anyone else in criticism, and in objecting to the scheme, because I think it is a gross imposition on the working people of the country that they should have this charge imposed upon them to provide for accidents which may happen to them when they are being exploited in the workshop for private profit. I think it is well that that should be said.
I recognise that hon. Members above the Gangway are inclined to accept this scheme because of dissatisfaction with the Workmen's Compensation Act, under which the workers have suffered for so many years. I fully sympathise with that. 1476 Quite evidently if the Government are to get on with this scheme it will be largely because of the fact that the working-people of the country are so discontented with the treatment they have had in the past with regard to workmen's compensation. I very much doubt, if this scheme becomes a Statute, and is put into operation, whether working people will be very much better off than they are under the present scheme. I notice that there is great satisfaction in the fact that, as was stated by the hon. and gallant Member for Brighton. (Lieut.-Colonel Marlowe), the liability is being taken over by the Government. What is being taken over by the Government is not the liability, but the administration of a scheme in which the workers, as well as the employers, have to contribute the largest proportion of the money that will be necessary for working the scheme.
Then for the carrying out of this scheme we go to the Ministry of Pensions. I have been in this House since 1922–with the exception of a short period from 1931 to 1935 after the hysteria of 1931–and in all the years I have been here Members of all parties have been fighting battles with the Ministry of Pensions in every district of the country. Go where you like, and in almost any street you will find records of the administration of the Ministry of Pensions, working on the procedure that is now outlined for the treatment of the people who will become industrial accident cases in the years to come.
I admit that there is great need for a radical change in the present system: I have joined with hon. Members above the Gangway, year in and year out, in pressing for the reform of the Workmen's Compensation Acts; but I do not think we are getting anything like what we desire in Part II of this scheme of social insurance. It is the old story, so far as the workers are concerned, of feeding the dog on its own tail. I agree with the hon. Member for Oxford in many of his criticisms. The allowances are utterly inadequate. The hon. Member for North Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) takes the case of his compositors, and everybody says, "We will take the scheme, but in the future we will make it something different. If the Government administer this, we shall get something good for the workers in the sweet by-and-by." But, in the 1477 meantime, the workers will not be satisfied with the treatment that they get when they are injured, while being exploited for profit. The approach is all wrong.
I have never been able to see why a person should be called upon to suffer financial loss, in addition to all the suffering and pain that he endures for months or years, because he has been the victim of an injury for which he is not himself responsible but which arises out of, and in the course of, his employment. To my mind, the only sound basis of compensation is that the injured person should receive full pay while unable to continue his employment. To that, I would add only this qualification. Supposing a man loses a leg or an eye, he should not only get full pay, but also an allowance for the additional expense that he and his family have to meet. Instead of having his income cut down, he should have it increased. That is the only moral basis. I would also say that if the country takes over the responsibility of providing for people who suffer accident in the factories and workshops, should not the country obtain a bigger proportion of the dividends that are earned in the factories and workshops?
During the Home Secretary's speech I questioned him, courteously I hope, and he answered my intervention courteously. I asked him to expand his doctrine that the person who is injured while at work should get a bigger payment than the person who is out of employment. Anxious to win the support of the House, he took the case of the worker who has to endure probably the hardest conditions of any of our industries, the miner. He said that one would not say that the miner who has been hurt in an accident in the pit should not get more than somebody gets under Part 1 of this scheme. But, apart from the additional payments which have to be met during the sickness of the miner, the political philosophy of Members above the Gangway and of my own party is that all should be treated alike.
That is part of the basic Socialist philosophy, which, I thought, was the philosophy of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary. I know it is not the philosophy of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury; he has shown a very different philosophy in dealing with various questions relating to workmen's compensation, during all the years in which I 1478 have battled in the House with him about them. But what I have indicated is the philosophy for which we have fought, year in and year out. John Smith, who is getting benefit under Part 1 because he is unemployed, is getting that benefit because he is out of work throught no fault of his own. If he is out of work through his own fault, he does not get the benefit for so many weeks. He is out of work because society is not able to provide him with employment. Why should he be penalised? Why should a man who has had an accident have to make this additional contribution, when he was not responsible for the accident? I hope the Government will think again in regard to this question of the form of workmen's compensation.
There is another point. I notice that the hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Oliver), who has, I think, a good deal of experience in connection with workmen's compensation, is a little worried about the words in the Act "arising out of, and in the course of, employment." Other hon. Members also are worried about this. I propose to make my confession, as did the hon. Member for Oxford, that I, too, am a professional advocate, though I have not had so much experience of workmen's compensation as with certain other branches of the law. But I have sufficient experience to know something about the number of cases which have arisen in connection with the interpretation of those words. I remember that, a little after I was called to the Bar, I went to look up something in connection with advising in a case, and I was horrified at the amount of work one had to undertake. I think the idea in the minds of hon. Members in the House, and probably also in the minds of members of the Government, is that we will make this change-over, and then we are going to be free from all that sort of thing.
What is the position? The Government have decided to retain those words. If those words are retained, the insurance officer having to deal with the case has to get down and say "Does this arise out of, and in the course of, employment?" He has to look up the case of So-and-so v. So-and-so, and see whether it comes under this heading or that. It will be obvious that this insurance officer has to be a very highly skilled lawyer if he is to have knowledge of all 1479 those cases. I wonder if the Government would not have saved themselves a lot of trouble if they had decided to accept the suggestion of the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Foster) to drop those words and avoid reference to the decisions come to on them. Then, probably, under a new procedure, it would not be possible for the same body of case law to grow up around the new phrase. I do not know that it will be an advantage to a person who has an accident. I am doubtful, because I do not like the machinery at all. It is a cross between the procedure of the Ministry of Pensions and that of the Ministry of Labour. I think the industrial commissioner has to act more like the umpire under the Ministry of Labour —the final court of appeal. As regards those decisions on points of law in connection with these unemployed men, I have come to the opinion—from a legal point of view, and even from the point of view of safeguarding the interests of the working people—that the decisions fall a long way short of the decisions of the House of Lords or even of the Court of Session.
Some hon. Members have had different experiences from mine, and I would not be the least dogmatic, but at the same time I cannot see how the new scheme is to work with the industrial officer having to carry all the burden of these hundreds of cases that have been decided in the past in connection with workmen's compensation and arising out of these words. That interpretation will be the interpretation he has to follow. He cannot give a new interpretation. I put it to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury and to the Solicitor-General that they will probably be wise to think again about retaining those words. If this scheme becomes an Act of Parliament, people will be called upon to pay these contributions who have never before paid for workmen's compensation, and, if they find their fellows, who have been injured in factory or workshop, suffering the same kind of treatment that disabled soldiers and sailors have suffered from the Ministry of Pensions, the working classes will turn and rend us. After all the workers have once more contributed in the days of the agony of the country, in this great war surely they are worthy of something better than this. Surely they are worthy of real social security; but they do not 1480 get it by this scheme put before us in the White Paper.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Craik Henderson (Leeds, North-East)
I must disclose to the House that I am a director of an insurance company, a small proportion of whose business is in workmen's compensation, but I think the House will realise that what I have to say is made without any regard to that. This White Paper is one of a series and one begins to wonder exactly what are the objects of these White Papers and what attention is paid to them. The Home Secretary held out a very flattering picture of what happens after a Debate, following a White Paper, and indicated that the Government would study very anxiously anything said in the House. I think that is, perhaps, looking a little on the bright side, and that it has not been altogether our experience in the past. I think sometimes that the Government feel it is a good thing to provide an opportunitiy for a Debate which does not do the Government any harm, and allows the House to work off steam. We have had, I think, a very knowledgeable Debate so far. I think the speeches have been characterised, on every side, by hon. Members trying to work out the best solution they can. I do not think anyone would pretend that the existing Workmen's Compensation Act is at all satisfactory. It is an Act which, as is admitted on all sides, requires amendment.
There is one point with which I want to deal before I come to some of the other matters mentioned to-day: it is a point which I think no one has mentioned so far. I would like to say something about common law liability. This is a very important right and a Committee is now considering the matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir W. Beveridge) in his Report makes a suggestion against which I, personally, want to enter the strongest protest as I think it is unfair to the workmen. He said, in paragraph 260:But if the alternative remedy proves … to be available, he should not in the end get more from the two sources together than he would have got from one alone.Supposing a man is injured and the injury arises out of and in the course of his employment and he also has his common law remedy for some negligence on the 1481 part of the employer which caused the accident; he would be entitled normally to his compensation under Part II of the scheme, but he would also be entitled to proceed against the employer for damages in respect of the negligence. My hon. Friend suggests that if he has both remedies he should be limited to receiving the larger one only. I think that is rather unfair. The workman has contributed his share of the Social Insurance Scheme to the extent of five-twelfths. Two-twelfths have been contributed by the State and five-twelfths by the employers. It is right that when the employer is called upon to pay under the common law remedy he should be entitled to deduct the value of his contributions to the social insurance. The State might be entitled to get another two-twelfths back from that sum. I am convincd that the workman, however, ought not to have five-twelfths of the value of the social insurance claim deducted from his common law compensation. I think that where a workman succeeds at common law seven-twelfths only and not the whole of the value of his social insurance claims should be deducted. I do not think that because you set up a contributory scheme you should thereby take away from the workman another right which he has had for so long. I wanted to make that point because I think it has not been made so far.
Another point on which there seems to be general agreement in the House, is in regard to lump sum payments. No doubt there have been some cases where lump sum payments have been to the advantage of the worker, but the evidence is clear that, in the majority of cases, it is a dangerous procedure, and I think the Government will have the full approval of the House in deciding to withdraw lump sum payments. The point which I was going to make, and which has been made so very much more brilliantly by my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) is how to relate compensation to earning capacity with regard to the tribunals, and the handing over of the administration to the Government. My hon. Friend opposite also had doubts whether this is going to usher in such a marvellous new world, because of the fact that it is being handed over to a Government Department. It probably will go through in that way, and I hope it will be a success, but there is a great deal of delusion, which some of our hon. Friend 1482 shave done their best to clear away, in imagining from the speech of the Home Secretary that everything now was going to be beautifully simple. The injured man goes to the officer; he is given an easy chair and handed a cigar, and he goes away with the payment in his pocket and the promise of a pension and everything is beautiful in the garden. But the officer who, as far as one knows, will have no particular knowledge, is faced right away with the question that, unless you make the scheme apply to the whole community, there must be some rule laid down to say who is entitled and who is not.
§ Mr. Henderson
That is not the solution of the White Paper, and I am dealing with what is in the White Paper. I think my hon. Friend will agree that, as long as it is on this basis, there must be a rule laid down, and whether it is arising "out of and in the course of employment," or some other words, you have to apply legal rules to this question. You will have the same difficulty as you had in the past. Very difficult questions may arise, You go first before an officer and then before a tribunal, presided over by a chairman, with some legal knowledge. There will be local tribunals all over the place and unless there is some co-ordinating body, such as an appeal court, you will have great differences of decision between the tribunals. I look with considerable anxiety upon this proposal. It may be worth while trying the tribunal as a court of first instance but there must be an appeal to a court of law. It is in the interest of the workman that the final decision should not be in the hands of a nominee of the Minister, but in the hands of an impartial and unbiased court. I hope that the Solicitor-General, when he replies, will give a little more information about the local tribunals. I have read carefully paragraph 36 but it does not lay down exactly the qualifications of the representatives of the employers and employees. Is the chairman to be a whole-time man? I would also like to know a little more as to procedure before the tribunal.
The biggest problem under the White Paper arises with regard to the rule laid down in 29 (ii) as follows:The Government have come to the conclusion that the only satisfactory solution is 1483 to abandon the principle of awarding compensation in respect of loss of earning capacity, and to adopt two completely new features for the assessment of industrial pensions. These features are:(a) To provide, in accordance with the general accepted principle of social insurance, uniform flat rates of pension without regard to pre-accident earnings, but taking account of family responsibilities.That seems to me a most confused subparagraph. I quite agree that family responsibilities should be taken into account, but in this White Paper the Government solemnly say, in the one sub-paragraph, that according to usual principles of social insurance, uniform rates should apply, and then. immediately they proceed to depart from it by bringing in family responsibilities. It is quite right that family responsibilities should be brought in but something more must be brought in as well.
On all sides of the House the view has been expressed that it is completely unfair to the workman to have no regard to the skill of a particular workman or to what he has been able to earn in the past. It would be quite unfair in the case of the two men working side by side, one of whom has been earning £10 and the other £4, to give them the same compensation. There is an injustice, say what you like, to the man who has been making good wages, who is a craftsman and has served an apprenticeship. He deserves something more in compensation than the man who has not taken the same trouble, and I am sure it will cause great indignation if nothing is done to recognise that. There is the point made by so many hon. Members that, if you do. not relate compensation to earning capacity, there will be tremendous hardships. Many examples have been given but I will take a simple one, the commissionaire and the man who has to use two hands to a machine. If the commissionaire loses an arm, his earning capacity probably is not affected in the slightest, but the other man may be unable to earn at all in the future. Some way must be found to meet this difficulty.
I am sure we will welcome this White Paper as an honest attempt by the Government to improve workmen's compensation—there are differences about benefits and so on—but I would say to the Government, in view of the speeches 1484 which have been made to-day, that there are two points at least, apart from benefits, to which they should apply their minds anew. One is to give a right of appeal to a court of law, and the second is in some way or another to relate compensation for injury to the loss of earning capacity.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Moelwyn Hughes (Carmarthen)
I would remind the House that the system we are seeking to displace, if we adopt the proposals in the White Paper, is one which was devised with the intention of being simple to understand and easy to apply. Statements to that effect were made at the time of the introduction of both the first and second Workmen's Compensation Measures. The earlier Bills were specifically drafted with that object in view, and the administration contemplated was a simple form of friendly arbitration. What has evolved out of that can be ascertained by reference to the standard book on the subject which runs to over 1,400 pages and contains references to 3,400 decided cases. When I remind hon. Members that these are almost all decisions involving judgments in the Divisional Court of two, in the Court of Appeal of three, and in the House of Lords of five learned judges, the House will appreciate that there are in the neighbourhood of 10,000 speeches delivered from the Bench of this country available and effective in the Law Reports to-day, in order to elucidate our system of workmen's compensation.
That system is complicated. It is also costly. From the figures given in the White Paper for the pre-war period, it appears that the cost of its administration was somewhere in the neighbourhood of £3,000,000. I do not know how that figure is to be properly divided up, but I have been told that the proportion which may be allocated to the legal profession and to legal costs, is of the order of £1,000,000 per annum. The system is also dilatory, as everyone who has been engaged in testing workmen's compensation cases very well knows. That is, in itself, a sufficient criticism, but there is the further point that the existing system is based on the principle of ascertaining rights by conflict, by a fight between the insurance company and the trade union. They do not fight as such, of course; they do not appear, they are not even mentioned. The lay figures which move are, 1485 in fact, the employer and the workman, and it is not conducive to the best relations in industry that workmen and employers should fight this matter out in a court of law.
I heard with some amazement the queer praise for insurance companies that came from the hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Higgs). He seemed to imply that competition among insurance companies led to the best of service in the administration of workmen's compensation. The only competition that these mutual insurance companies understand is competition for business, and the business will go to the company that offers the lowest premium, and the concern that offers the lowest premium can only afford to do so by paying the least possible number of claims. If the hon. Member was right, then insurance companies ought to be going around with placards saying, "We charge no more than the firm next door but we pay far higher claims."
The other condemnation—and this I will not develop because it has been mentioned by many others—is, to my mind, fundamental. The present system is completely unrelated to rehabilitation. Indeed, I go further. The present system stands against rehabilitation. There is nothing that retards a man's recovery more than waiting in uncertainty about how his rights are going to be worked out. Indeed, when it comes to deciding that right as between varied degrees of incapacity, the man is faced with the prospect that if it can once be demonstrated that he could swing his leg a little further last week than the week before, he will be deprived of a few shillings' compensation. Nothing could militate more against the result we all desire.
This is going to be replaced, not, I suggest to the House, as the Home Secretary said, by an advance, but by something entirely new. It is a new system and I welcome it as such. I regret that the new system means taking this work away from the courts of law, and I can base my regrets, not on the ground that the legal profession is going to lose a certain amount of practice, but on the same grounds as those on which the Home Secretary expressed regret for losing it from the Home Office. I think it a pity that courts of law will be deprived of the work of adjudicating upon a matter 1486 which comes so close to the social life of the community as compensation for injury. But the proposed system is better than the one which it is to supersede.
The Home Secretary threw bouquets to his predecessors, to his colleagues, to the the Royal Commission, and to his officials, and I noticed an expectant look on the face of the Solicitor-General, not in his personal capacity, but as representing the legal profession. My hon. and learned Friend sat expectant but when all the distributions had finished not so much as a petal fell upon his brow. I am sorry that the legal profession, which, after all, in the general administration of workmen's compensation under the existing law, knows more than anybody, has not had a greater share in shaping a better system. I would assure the Home Secretary—and I am sure I shall be borne out in this by the Solicitor-General — that there is a great body of informed and enlightened opinion on the Bench, at the Bar, and among solicitors, which has, for a long time, been in favour of a much better system of workmen's compensation than that which we have to-day. I welcome the scheme because it does, as the White Paper says, bring rehabilitation to the forefront. Paragraph 36 says:It will be the concern of the Ministry to see that the workman receives any medical treatment or course of training appropriate to his case.That is one of the most important aspects of this matter, an aspect which the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) did not mention at all in the course of his attack on the White Paper. This fundamental provision, that it is the duty of the Ministry to see that proper medical attention, treatment and rehabilitation is given to the man, is—
§ Mr. Hughes
Under this scheme we are taking the claim to the industrial pensions officer. That removes the conflict of the past. I know that this officer has the 1487 duty of seeing that there is no extravagance in connection with the funds, but surely the applicant going to the pensions officer is in an entirely different position from the same person seeking compensation from a mutual insurance company. After all, he will be advised and instructed, and there is no need for this pensions officer to be a first-class lawyer, because there is provision in the White Paper to enable him to refer any case he desires to the appeal tribunal. If he is in doubt at all—and he will have fairly elaborate instructions—he can refer it to the tribunal. You can have the human sympathetic touch, quite apart from those arid qualities which one usually associates with a vast knowledge of the law. No phrase has given rise to more litigation than the phrase, arising out of and in the course of his employment." No doubt the draftsman who first drafted it, flattered himself that it was the most comprehensive phrase he could devise, but hundreds of cases have turned on those few words. You do not carry all that burden into this administration. The sum and substance of it can be set out in a pamphlet which will be a good deal smaller than the White Paper we have to-day. These will be instructions to the pensions officer, and he can administer them simply, straight away.
§ Mr. Bowles
My hon. and learned Friend started his speech by saying that there had been simple and friendly arbitration before county court judges with a further right of appeal. Is he assuming that the new appeal tribunal will not get into the same kind of mess?
§ Mr. Hughes
Certainly it will not get into any such mess. I commend to my hon. Friend the study of the administration of the Unemployment Insurance Fund.
§ Mr. Buchanan
Is he aware that umpires have quoted thousands of decisions on workmen's compensation?
§ Mr. Hughes
It appears that I am in direct conflict with some of my hon. Friends on these Benches, but I was for some time the chairman of a court of referees, and I happen to know something about the system of umpires and the decisions given and published.
§ Mr. Hughes
A selection of those which contain any guidance to a court of referees are published in very understandable form. They are available to all courts of referees. I know persons who are still chairmen of courts of referees, who have never made any complaint about any difficulty in understanding or complying with the rules laid down by the umpire and published for their benefit. You have not got, in this administration, anything approaching the complications of workmen's compensation law.
§ Mr. Hughes
The system suggested in the White Paper will lead to a greater simplification, and not to the complications which we have now. In addition, there will be power by regulation to vary and summarise these conditions. They can be collected, put into a regulation, and clearly understood. That is a much simpler system than litigation and perpetual appeal.
I want to say a word on the question of the relation of compensation to wages. I will not deal with amounts, but we have had the curious combination of the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) and the hon. Member for Oxford in this matter. They have both joined in condemning a system whereby compensation is unrelated to wages. The hon. Member for Oxford quoted special cases, as did the hon. Member for Camlachie. So did my hon. Friend the Member for North Southwark (Mr. Isaacs). But they are special cases. There are many miners who have lost a leg. I can take hon. Members to a woodworking shop where you will find that four out of five of the men at work have lost fingers, or parts of their hands. But every one of them is working at the same job as before the accident, and not one is getting a penny of compensation. These exceptional cases mentioned as special pleading bear no relation to the actual total benefit that would be obtained by working people under the system advocated in the White Paper. It is not a question of physical disability alone. It is the loss of amenities. The woodworker who has lost the forefinger of his right hand is still as good a woodworker as he was before. [HON. MEMBERS: No."] To my certain knowledge there are any number suffering from that disability who are 1489 earning the same wages that they did before, and have kept their jobs for many years. But a man may be fond of cricket, and now he cannot bowl; or he may have played the violin, and is no longer able to do so. This loss of amenities ought to be compensated for. Although some special cases are likely to get less than they otherwise would, working people as a whole will get more compensation under this system than by a system related to wages. Therefore, I welcome its introduction.
Turning to administration, I should like to urge upon the Minister to consider the constitution of the appeal tribunals. In order that it may have the respect that such a tribunal should have, it should be presided over by an independent, full-time chairman, appointed by and removable by the Lord Chancellor and not the Department. I know the criticisms directed against the courts of referees and pension appeal tribunals that exist now. I suggest that the Government should make the position of chairman of an appeal tribunal a more responsible job than either. I think they ought not to consider anything less, putting it on a cash basis, than making it a four-figure job. If that is regarded as being extravagant, the functions of the appeal tribunal can very well be married to those of other tribunals, such as courts of referees and pensions tribunals. The suggestion that a tribunal of this kind is a hole-and-corner method of administering workmen's compensation, passes my comprehension. What is there hole-and-corner about a responsible legal chairman, with two assessors?
§ Mr. Hughes
Justice can be applied in courts of referees, and in pensions appeal tribunals, as well as in the ordinary courts of law. From that appeal tribunal there is to be a final appeal to a commissioner. I suggest that his position should be even more responsible than that of the chairman of the appeal tribunal. If the system is to command respect, he should be of a status approaching that of a High Court judge. I agree that he should not sit alone. He should be assisted by appropriate assessors. After all, in our judicial system we start off by going before one judge, in the Court of Appeal you have three, and if you go to the House of Lords you have five. I am not suggest- 1490 ing that we should be tied to these figures but the supreme court of appeal for this system ought to be assisted by some others sitting with him. For these reasons I welcome the scheme suggested in the White Paper.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Sexton (Barnard Castle)
After listening to the Debate and hearing all the arguments for and against these proposals, I find myself in a quandary. Workmen's compensation has always been a bone of contention and I find now that the bone has been left to me. We have had all the experts, including the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir W. Beveridge); he and various legal Members have been chewing the bone, and now they have thrown it to me. The question of workmen's compensation has always been a burning one among the workers of the country. When I entered the House in 1935, there used to be ballots for Private Members' Bills, and many Members tried to bring in Bills dealing with workmen's compensation. Sometimes they succeeded in the draw, and Bills were introduced, but none of them reached the Statute Book.
The White Paper itself shows how complicated the situation is, under the present system, and how it has grown up from 1897 to the present time. It is not an easy question to tackle, and we are glad that the Government have produced this White Paper, not because we all believe in the principles enunciated in it, not because we believe that this is the final word to be said, but because, in the words of the Motion, the existing system is to be replaced by a new one. That is leaving it open. I take it that what has been said in the Debate will influence the Government to some extent when they introduce the legislation. No pledge is being given by the Government or by anybody else that the terms of the White Paper will be the terms of the Bill to be introduced, and we look forward to the Bill showing some relation to the Debate on the White Paper.
We are now introducing a new scheme and it will be based on a new principle. What we shall have to do is to try and weave a new Workmen's Compensation Act into the equally new fabric of a comprehensive social security system. That is the problem with which we are faced, and it will be a very difficult one, needing all the energy and intelligence of this 1491 House. We are to set out a workmen's compensation scheme, not isolated, but woven into a greater and more comprehensive scheme of social insurance. Because it is a new scheme based on new principles, we need not be afraid of it. We must consider carefully whether the new methods will be an improvement on the old. Where they are an improvement, they should be adopted, and where they are not, they should be rejected. Up to 50 years ago nothing was done for the injured worker. All through those 50 years there has been growing a social conscience that something must be done for him. We have reached the stage when we are going to make a State scheme combined with a general social insurance scheme. There is need for more awakening in the social conscience even yet. In the early days of workmen's compensation the cases were few compared with the numbers now.
Figures have been given to-day, and I would like to repeat them. Take the mining industry. I have in my division thousands of miners, who will be interested to know whether I have taken part in this Debate. In 1942 there were 837 miners killed and 158,445 injured and disabled for more than three days. These are appalling figures. The last Report of the Inspector of Factories shows that for the same year, 1,363 persons were killed in the factories and non-fatal but reportable accidents numbered 313,267. That makes a total—I will not say a grand total, for it cannot be described as that—of 2,200 killed and 471,712 injured. What a procession, what a colossal parade. What a tragedy. We cannot realise it. That is not the whole picture, however, for there are the dependants who are also victims of accidents and death. As many more can be added, so that we get nearly 1,000,000 persons affected by accidents in 1942. We are inclined, when we deal with such large numbers and when they are so far from the House of Commons, to treat them impersonally as figures. We want to introduce what some people call "sob stuff" into this matter. It is necessary sometimes, when we are considering social reforms, to bear in mind the sobs and tears that are represented in the tragedy of workmen's accidents.
We want to consider the human aspect more. To do that I want to imagine that 1492 there is an injured person at the Bar of the House. If one were there, we would be able to deal with him as a person, and say to him, if these figures in the White Paper stand, "You have earned £5 a week. You have been injured and you cannot work. Accident has reduced your earning capacity. An Act of Parliament will now accentuate the position and rub it in, by saying that you shall have 35s. per week." It is sometimes said that, prior to these proposals, the workers did not make any contribution, but the workers have always made a contribution. Under the old workmen's compensation arrangements they contributed in mutilation and disfigurement and, financially, in an, indirect way, by loss of wages. They have always paid their contribution and they have paid a bigger contribution than anybody else.
So I ask, Is this House of Commons going to be so callous and hard-hearted as to say to a man who has been earning £5 a week, if he has a wife and no children: "You have to live on 43s. 9d, a week, for both of you, which means a trifle over a guinea each, far so many weeks. Then it may rise to the magnificent sum of 50s."? The benefits are totally inadequate. When the Bill comes to be introduced, it will be the work of Members in all parts of the House who have at heart the workers, their accidents and the tragedy of their homes, to see that those rates are considerably increased.
I notice in the White Paper that the Government have a very pretty phrase. They emphasise that the basis of benefits should be:for whatever he has lost in health and strength, and the power to enjoy life.There is a pretty phrase, "the power to enjoy life." Think again of the man and his wife standing at the Bar of the court of justice here, and of our saying to them: "We are giving you 43s. 9d. per week. You may have all the enjoyment of life you can possibly get out of it." What can they get out of it? Not a bare means of subsistence. I know that the Government have rejected the idea of subsistence, but in this case they have not done so. In the last resort the couple can always go to the Assistance Board, have the means test and get subsistence in that ignoble and degrading way. No, this House must see to it that the mathematicians and the lawyers not only have their say but that they must never be allowed 1493 to forget that there is a human problem at the basis of these proposals, and a human tragedy which has to be viewed from a human point of view.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
I welcome the White Paper, not on account of the details, subject to criticism, but because it is a turning away from the old system of workmen's compensation associated with litigation and the insurance societies, to which my hon. Friend the Member for North Southwark (Mr. G. Isaacs) made scathing reference. The old, existing system of providing for the payment of compensation through the insurance societies has led to abuses which I do not think are sufficiently known to Members of this House or to the general public. It is a bad system. It is a niggardly system. One who, like myself as a doctor, has worked in connection with these workmen's compensation insurances cases and workers' insurance societies, knows that the object of the insurance society is to pay the least possible amount of money to the insured, and that it results very frequently in very serious injustice. There are, certainly, companies who actually employ doctors for the purpose, we can only say, of bullying their clients into accepting payments which are unfair.
I was interested when my hon. Friend was speaking about a society and giving certain evidence of its activities. I knew those postcards. I had for a short time to send them out myself. I was one of the doctors employed by the organisation, and I was expected to make the people who came to consult me return to work at the earliest possible date before they were, in my opinion, really fit to do so, and to accept lump sum compensation when, in point of fact, it was not the right thing for them to do so. Quite naturally, I fell out after a very short experience of this company, and we parted company. I have been told they have improved since that time. My hon. Friend the Member for North Southwark hardly agrees that that is the case. Some of these companies are really scandalous institutions, and I am extremely glad to know they are to be put out of business because of this scheme. If it was only for that I should rejoice that this scheme has been brought in.
I shall not deal to-night with the rates of benefit to be paid. I will leave that question to my trade union colleagues on 1494 this side of the House, because they know from intimate personal experience the details of large ranges of occupations, and they will know how to criticise and how to amend this scheme when, in the form of a Bill, it comes before the House. But I do beg the House to look a little beyond that, because this White Paper, when it is implemented in a Bill, will enable us to look on this whole question of industrial insurance from an entirely new point of view. It will not any longer be primarily a question of paying people money and arguing about whether it is to be much or little. It will be a question of seeing that the man or woman can as early as possible be made fit, and then. by rehabilitation, return as far as possible, and it is possible in a large proportion of cases, to the full functioning of their arms or legs—in fact to exactly the condition they were in before the accident took place. I believe that a great deal more can be done by medical treatment and rehabilitation than is known even by my hon. Friends on this side of the House who are themselves trade unionists experienced in these cases.
To those who wish to pursue the matter further and see how much can be done, I would suggest that some of them go to see, as I have recently done, the Emergency Medical Service hospitals, where medical treatment and rehabilitation are carried out for the Army. It is really a revelation of what can be done. It is not only the percentage of cures, in the ordinary sense of the word, from wounds that is very high indeed, but the percentage of people returned to 100 per cent. capacity of what they were pre-injury is great. I took the opportunity during the Parliamentary Recess to spend about a fortnight touring round the country seeing a very large number of hospitals. I will not weary the House by describing all the things I saw. I merely state that because what I am now saying is based on that very recent experience of what is going on at the present time. What can be done is first-class. What is being done is first-class, but I must warn the House that at Lite present time there is more talk about the value of rehabilitation, and more interest expressed in rehabilitation as an idea, than in fact there is rehabilitation being applied, outside military establishments. I will not go into details about the Army and the Air Force and other institutions, but I will 1495 go so far as to say that if it had not been for the improved medical treatent and the improved rehabilitation that we have got in our Army medical service and in the medical services of the other Forces, it would not have been possible for us to fight this war to a successful conclusion, as we are doing. It has meant an enormous reinforcement of our Forces. It will be just as important after the war for us to have those who are wounded in industry rehabilitated, in order that they may carry on and contribute to production.
I make this point, not merely to stress the medical aspect of this problem—because we have heard a great deal of the legal aspect—but because I believe that in the Bill to implement these workmen's compensation proposals of the Government's social insurance scheme, there should be a Clause giving the workman, or the workwoman, a definite right to medical treatment and rehabilitation. That will make a great difference. Speaking as one who has actually done work of this kind, and speaking from recent Army experience also, I know that there are not sufficient medical and rehabilitation institutions in the country to deal with the industrial situation. We have heard something of the very excellent place at Mansfield, and there are one or two other places, but they are very few indeed. We need more of them. We cannot carry out the excellent intentions of this White Paper without improved arrangements for medical treatment and especially for rehabilitation. Let me again say that rehabilitation is not a thing that can be turned on with a tap, not a thing that can be mass-produced, not a thing that only means doing exercises for the arm or the leg. It is a question of the whole mind and the whole body. The patient has to be put into the right frame of mind.
I recently had the opportunity of seeing a place called The Derwen, at the village of Gobowen in Shropshire. It is under the charge of Dr. Rhaiadr Jones, who is the adviser on rehabilitation to the Ministry of Health. In that place there were something like 400 officers and men, doing all kinds of different work which interested them—weaving, making ties, repairing and making boots, metal work, and all 1496 kinds of things. There was an extremely happy atmosphere in that place. That institution, of which I have spoken to the various Ministries concerned, should be taken as a pattern. It is doing extremely successful work for the soldiers and airmen who are there. I stayed there for two days, and visited all the parts of the institution frequently, and I never saw any people there who were not happy the whole time. It is not often that is the case in a hospital. I mention this, not for the purpose of paying a tribute to the institution, but in order that the advice of Doctor Rhaiadr Jones may be taken by the Government, and that they may establish big-scale rehabilitation services in this country. If there is in this Bill a right to rehabilitation and to medical treatment, and the Government take measures to set up a rehabilitation service on a big scale, we shall not only get a workmen's compensation scheme, which will be an excellent thing in itself, but we shall open a new chapter in industrial rehabilitation in this country.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Tinker (Leigh)
What I want to say I can say in 10 minutes. With the general scheme itself, I agree. I think it is a big step forward to improve workmen's compensation. It falls short of many things that I would like to see, but, in matters like this, it would be unwise to condemn a scheme which has so much in it. While giving our agreement to it, however, we want to point out many of its defects. I have listened carefully to practically all the speeches made. We have had both the lawyers and the doctors on the job, but the best part of all is the contribution from workmen who have been through accidents themselves and know what is taking place. Those are the people to whom the House of Commons ought to pay close attention. It is the knowledge we have of the actual work in the mines and factories that we can bring to the service of this House, and, in giving any help we can in that direction, to try to alleviate the sufferings of men and women who meet with accidents, we are doing our duty and a good job of work.
The hon. Members for Wigan (Mr. Foster) and Ince (Mr. T. Brown) have given a graphic picture of what takes place in the mines in Lancashire. I want 1497 to impress upon the House the need of trying to give something higher by way of compensation awards, when the Bill comes before the House, than is now contained in the White Paper. I think the present rate is too low. If we are not bringing in what I call the "letting-up" on the rise in the cost of living, we ought to make it a decent standard now, though I agree that if the Government, by some means or other could keep prices stable, that would be the best thing. If they cannot do that, then at least while discussing this White Paper, I want them to bear in mind that we are not satisfied with the amounts offered as payments for accidents.
I want to put forward a point on behalf of the workmen. Hitherto they have never paid directly for workmen's compensation. It has never come out of the earnings of the workmen, but we should not lose sight of the point that they have paid to it by other ways. Take the conciliation boards and the wages agreements, particularly in regard to the item of costs, other than wages. Indirectly, they have paid for it in the past; in fact, the worker always pays for everything, though it does not come directly out of the wages packet. Now this does come out of the wages packet, and the workmen will ask us whether they are not to get something better from this scheme than they did under the other.
This is to be a contributory scheme, and the Government should recognise that the men will first ask themselves "What are we getting that is better than we got before?" Unless we can satisfy them on that point they will look upon this proposal, great as it is, as unsatisfactory. The fund will be maintained by weekly contributions of employers and workmen, with a contribution from the Exchequer. I could never understand why the whole of this payment did not come directly from the Exchequer. In the past it has been said that the employer, having to pay for the compensation, took very great care against accidents and looked after safety methods. We are now taking the matter from the employer. The safety methods will be looked after by the State, and the general feeling that prevails is that we should put the whole of the cost on the community through the Exchequer. Men in industry, wherever they are employed, are creating wealth for the community, 1498 and all the cost of that ought to come directly from the Exchequer. It could be got by the Income Tax method. That has not been done up to the present time, and we have been led away by the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir W. Beveridge) who set up this insurance scheme, and we have not been able to get away from it.
§ Sir W. Beveridge
I did not invent social insurance. That was done by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George).
§ Mr. Tinker
The hon. Member will excuse me when I tell him that my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) put it into his hands, to get this scheme going, and the hon. Member set about it on an insurance basis. He got the trade unions to say that they would accept it, and since that time we have not been able to get away from it. I am told that we had some kind of agreement with the hon. Member and we cannot get away from it. We told him that we would agree to the insurance basis. It has been followed step by step, and I want to tell him that he is the villain of the piece. I do not mean that in an offensive sense. The hon. Member has done a great work in this matter, and I want to give him credit for it. If he had got away from the insurance basis he would have been more welcome in the House of Commons. I can never understand, in times like these, when we recognise that this is a social problem, why the whole matter cannot be dealt with directly by the State.
We on these Benches will support the White Paper. We are agreed on that because we see good in it, but in supporting it we are hoping that the Government Benches will not be deaf to our appeal on many points which we shall put forward. If they will say when the final reckoning comes that they are convinced by our arguments that some increased compensation ought to be paid, I believe that the scheme will be acclaimed throughout the country. I hope that they will weigh that up and carry with them the good wishes of our side for a successful scheme.
Ordered:That the Debate be now adjourned."— [Mr. Beechman.]Debate to be resumed To-morrow.