Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [8th November],
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."—[Mr. Herbert Morrison.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ 12.5 p.m.
§ The Solicitor-General (Major Sir David Maxwell Fyfe)
For seven hours yesterday the House was engaged in its traditional task of harmonising what is thought to be good for the people of this country, with what they want, and what they will stand. I hope the House will permit me to say that I have never known an occasion when such a wealth of first-hand information on the problem facing it was placed before a Government. If I may be allowed to take one example from the county and the coalfield I know best, I should like to refer to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown), whose force, eloquence and kindly wisdom captured us all, and showed most clearly to the House the problems of his own industry. It might, therefore, be useful if I commenced by summarising the points on which there was almost complete agreement with regard to this scheme, and with regard to the desirability for departing from the traditional procedure of the last 50 years, and then to deal with some half-dozen points on which there was general questioning, and about which difficulty was felt.
The points which I have selected—and I hope to be able to pick up points made by my hon. Friends in all quarters of the House—were, first, the question of why there should be a difference between an industrial injury and any other injury; second, that the rate of compensation should be without reference to the loss of earning power; third, that the removal from the courts is justified; fourth, that our system of administration proposed in the White Paper, is fair and practicable; fifth, that the retention of the words, "arising out of and in the course of," is necessary, and, sixth, some aspects of the 1556 amount of compensation. I think it will be convenient for the House to have these heads in mind, and I hope I shall be able to consider all the points that were raised by my hon. Friends and then, quite shortly, to summarise the reasons for the change. I think the first and foremost reason, which was put by my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Colegate) and supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Ince and many others, is that the old Workmen's Compensation Acts led to a worsening of relations between employers and employed, because the insurers were bound to adhere to the letter of the law. Henceforward, the disputes will no longer be between workmen and employer. I think it was considered right in all our views that the matter should cease to be the employer's liability, and if I may add a footnote to that, it is peculiarly inappropriate that it should be the employer's liability when one considers industrial diseases. There you have the gradual onset and the recurrence of the disease, and if it is the employer's liability, not only is the result going to be difficult in administration, but it will be difficult for the man who has the disease, to get a job under the present system. The positive corollory of that is to make it a matter of social insurance. Again, I think the vast majority of us agree that that is the proper form. This involves meeting the cost from the tripartite fund, explained yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir W. Beveridge). That is to say, we have a pooling system based on the identity of the interests of industries, an identity which is equally applicable to employers and employed. That removes the doubt of complete security of payment of compensation, which all of us have seen in our individual experience in many cases, and it also removes the difficulty of the workman who has not got trade union support. I have seen many hundreds of these cases in the past.
The next point on which there is general agreement is the complete removal of the lump sum payment from all except the smallest and most trumpery cases, where it is a matter of only a few pounds and, lastly, there is the absence from the present set-up of any provisions for medical and post-medical rehabilitation. We are all agreed that that must be changed, and in this scheme we have, on the one hand not only grants for maintenance in hospitals, 1557 treatment and constant attendance, but the medical treatment and rehabilitation of the injured workman, and the post-hospital rehabilitation and training, will be provided as part of the general medical and post-hospital rehabilitation services organised by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour. There will, in addition to that, be a duty on the Ministry of Social Insurance to co-ordinate these activities with the activities of that Department, to assure free information, and to see that the most efficient and best services of rehabilitation and training are obtained. As I say, on these points I think the House will agree. He would be a bold man who would attack the desirability of the changes that we have made.
But it is only right, after what we heard yesterday, that one should meet the various difficulties which were present in the minds of hon. Members. One of them was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), who wanted to know why there should be a difference between an industrial accident and an ordinary accident—why it should make a difference if a man falls and injures himself inside a factory gate, instead of just outside it? There are three reasons, as I see it, for that. First, whatever changes are made, it is difficult entirely to disregard the historical background. For nearly 50 years before these other services came in, the special needs of the workers in industry have been recognised. Secondly, a man who is disabled during the course of his employment has been disabled while working under orders, and it is our whole basis that there must be a causal connection between the employment and the injury. In these circumstances he is entitled to special terms. Thirdly, I agree with the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed that if we are to continue recruitment, especially for the more hazardous industries, in which accidents largely occur, then we must give special terms to them. These are the reasons which have influenced my mind, and I ask for their consideration—I do not ask for their immediate acceptance—by my hon. Friends and those who take a different view.
So I pass to another point that gained considerable attention yesterday, that the rate of compensation should be without 1558 reference to the loss of earning capacity. It is an attractive argument that is put against us on this point. My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) put it in a graphic sentence—"Forty shillings is inadequate for a worker who was earning £6." My hon. Friend the Member for North Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) illustrated it by cases which are particularly within his knowledge. I agree on that point with the answer that was made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. M. Hughes). Looking at the matter by and large, these are the exceptional cases. That argument ignores the fact of the greater total amount devoted to compensation and coming to compensation. Although my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford did not ignore it, he certainly did not stress the better position which does obtain in so many cases where there are children and special circumstances such as unemployability.
I should like the House to consider the particular arguments used against the relation of compensation to earning power. Most of us who are here to-day, have spent great portions of our lives dealing with the administration of workmen's compensation, and I want those arguments considered as practical arguments and to see whether the experience of my hon. Friends agrees with mine. If it does not, I will be very pleased to hear the points of difference. I have always found that the calculation of earnings is, in itself, overwhelmingly difficult. The calculation based on a period is not representative, because it produces the result that one man has compensation based on a period when wages were good, and going up, and therefore his compensation is exaggerated, while another man has it based on a bad period and his compensation is depressed. I do not know what my hon. Friends found when they have had to administer this matter between men inside their unions, but I have always thought it was a very difficult situation, and one which needed to be changed. It might be said: "Take a hypothetical basis of earnings." I have always found—whether or not my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) agrees—that when we walk into the realm of hypothesis, it generally means that we descend at once to guess-work, and again there is injustice and dissatisfaction. Then it is suggested: "Take a standard rate." 1559 I answer—again I want to be corrected if I am wrong—that a standard rate does not exist in industry. We cannot find it, and when we consider all the hundreds and thousands of cases we have dealt with of partial incapacity we must ask ourselves how many disputes, differences and difficulties has this system caused?
Those are the arguments on the practical difficulties; but I would remind the House of the far more serious question of light work. We have all seen light work used as a method of stopping compensation, and that is completely wrong. It offends us all and, worst of all it destroys the real thing that work can do, which is to restore and rehabilitate. I suggest that it is a real point that if we want to make light work truly restorative, we ought to abandon this system, as these proposals suggest. The Government's proposals eliminate the idea of deciding how far a workman has recovered his earning capacity; they eliminate the grievance that an increase in earning capacity results in an automatic reduction in pension. How many of us have seen the great mental harm that that has caused to our friends and clients in the past. The proposals also remove the suspicion I have mentioned that the workman is being pressed to undertake unsuitable work so that his compensation can be reduced, with the effect that he hesitates about rehabilitation and his speedy recovery is retarded. Our system, again, meets, to some extent at least, the complaint that there is no compensation for mutiliation, and disfigurement, except in strict relation to earning capacity and it gives the workman a right to his pension whatever work he may do. That is really a valuable right because we have seen, as during the war, how extraordinarily adaptable people can become.
I want to face the general results, because I think it is right—and my hon. Friends who are not entirely with me will agree that it is right—that these points should be put publicly and firmly before the House. We say that it is impossible to reconcile what I have called "compartmental compensation" with flat rates of contribution. We say, again, that it is difficult to find any uniform grades that are recognised, and we make the point, which I have made before, that although the Government system is not so favour- 1560 able to higher paid workmen, in the great majority of cases and in the amount coming into the fund and available for disposition, it is more favourable. I ask my hon. Friends to consider what was said by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary yesterday, that in a number of cases, if we postulate that we are dealing with the higher-paid workman, there is a field of private insurance where he can make provision for his special difficulties. I do not myself see how the things are mutually exclusive, and I suggest that my right hon. Friend's proposition might be further considered.
§ Mr. Buchanan (Glasgow, Gorbals)
I wish the hon. and learned Gentleman would face the question of how the workman could manage to do that. How can he pay this contribution, and his contribution to his union, and then pay for voluntary insurance out of an ordinary wage?
§ The Solicitor-General
I think my hon. Friend shows by his very words that he has not got my point. He said "out Of an ordinary wage." I was dealing only with the special position of those who get high wages. I was contemplating a wage of £7 to £10 a week, which was the sort of case that was put to me yesterday. I would be the last to pretend to the experience of my hon. Friend, but I have had considerable experience of working conditions in Lancashire and North Wales, and some experience with regard to the industries of South Wales, and I should think that if a man were getting between £6 and £10 a week he could pay his trade union subscription, his 4s. 10d. and his 3d. whatever it is, it would come to somewhere about 6s. 6d. a week. A figure of 6s. 6d. would cover it completely, and out of £6 to £10 a week, it would not be impossible for him to make some private provision. It is certainly contrary to my experience that it is impossible to do so, but as I say, I would be the last to put my experience against that of my hon. Friend. I simply ask him to consider that possibility.
§ Mr. George Griffiths (Hemsworth)
In the mining industry in Yorkshire the maximum for everybody working on the surface is £4 10s. a week.
§ The Solicitor-General
My hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) will appreciate that the man who 1561 has been getting about £4 in wages, will be getting a pension of 40s., with whatever additions there may be for wife and children and unemployability, and getting that irrespective of whatever other work he can do. Again I ask hon. Members to take their own experience into account. I find in my experience that there is an extraordinary amount of adaptability—to the extent that men can do some work; it may be much less important work and much less pleasant, but the British workman has an amazing power or finding some work to do, and with his pension he will, in the case quoted by the hon. Member, be better off under the scheme than he would be under compensation related to his earning capacity.
The other point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford was with regard to his own "double-decker" system. He frankly admitted that that re-introduced the principle of dispute between the workman and the employer. He admitted there would have to be double administration. He said in answer to that point that it was no more difficult than the suggestion of my right hon. Friend for private insurance. I respectfully, but very strongly disagree with him on that point, and I submit that, having got rid, with general agreement, of contention and dispute with employers, to go back to it for this purpose, or even for the purpose of giving additional insurance based upon earnings, would be retrograde and undoing a great deal of the good which we think this scheme will bring about.
The next point, which I want to deal with very briefly, is the question of the removal from the courts. The House expects, and I hope gets, complete frankness from me. This system was the training of my own young manhood. The county courts of Liverpool, Wigan, Leeds and Wrexham not only taught me my trade, but gave me an insight into the problems on which I am venturing to address the House to-day. Say What you like about it, but the men who worked the system, my friends and colleagues of 20 years ago, were men Who brought to it not only knowledge of the law, but truth and common sense, which is more than knowledge. I could give examples, and so could anyone in any quarter of the House, of compensation solicitors whose names were household words over 1562 wide industrial areas, of counsel whose pride was their knowledge of the industry with which the case was concerned, and of judges who thought gravely over the economic results of their administration—just as gravely as they did over the law applicable to the case. Therefore, I would be the last to dismiss that work with a light word.
I confess to the House that for a long time I thought that the system did work well, and I have, as my hon. Friends will remember, defended it in this House and elsewhere. But I have considered the situation in the light of our general social outlook and the social insurance proposals put before us, and I have changed my mind. I would like to give to the House the reasons—again quite shortly—which have induced me to take this view, and I would ask my hon. Friends who differ from me to consider whether they are not reasons of weight. The main reason is that I am convinced that the present system is not good for the relations between employers and employed. Secondly, I have been convinced of the litigation bogy. I do believe that it does frighten certain workmen, and especially those who have not a trade union, from pursuing their claims. Thirdly, I accept this position: The Trades Union Congress and the Miners' Federation—I mention them specially because of the high proportion of accidents in the mining industry—have said that the removal of the litigious aspect is one of the most important facets of the new scheme, and I think it would be wrong and illogical when one is trying to find a new scheme to deal with injured workmen, to disregard the views put forward by the leading bodies representing workmen in the country. I hope and it is our expectation, that the tribunals will operate in the same friendly atmosphere as the joint committees in Durham and West Cumberland, and while I firmly adhere to the view that settlement by litigation is appropriate when the matter at issue is somebody's civil rights, I think that it is inappropriate when the question is the administration of a social security scheme.
We have now achieved the domestic forum, which was the ideal of the Attorney-General who moved the first Bill. The Holman-Gregory Committee made a similar recommendation. We 1563 have adopted the system of committees representing employers and employed, with a legal chairman, for dealing with industrial disease, and I am told that these committees have worked well. I am just as stiff-necked as my fellows, and it takes just as much to make me change my mind, but I think that anyone who views fairly these considerations which I put before the House ought to come to the same conclusion as I have come, and to suggest that the removal from the courts is justifiable.
§ Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman satisfied that the sort of arbitrations that have occurred and still occur in the courts of referees throughout the country are always just and equitable to the persons who appear before them, which is what is being suggested in the White Paper? Is it not perfectly apparent that they will develop under this new scheme of arbitration all kinds of precedents and case law which will have to be collected at some central source, and made available to everybody, if uniformity of administration is to be established?
§ The Solicitor-General
I am very much obliged to my hon. Friend for raising that question. The point to which I was just passing, will, I think, answer it. My proposition is that the system of administration proposed in the White Paper is fair and practicable. I will consider his point because the origin of the system is, as he indicated, the Unemployment Insurance Act, but I would like the House to consider with me what has actually happened, and then make up their minds whether they think justice will be achieved, and whether there will be coordination of decisions which, I agree, is a point we must bring about, and we must have the best system for bringing it about.
Let us look at what actually happens. First we deal with the pensions officer. My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford said he would be in an equivocal position, that he would be serving two masters. I do not agree. He is there to see that the scheme is properly worked out and that compensation is paid in accordance with it. With a social insurance scheme he is not in the same position as a claims manager of an insurance company who has to protect its assets. We 1564 cannot blame him; his whole future depends on the way he settles his claims.
§ Mr. Buchanan
Would my hon. and learned Friend look at unemployment insurance and see how the insurance officer looks at the number of claims he is going to grant, and the effect on the fund?
§ The Solicitor-General
I am going to consider that. It is an analogy and we have to make up our minds about it, but I think most hon. Members will agree that there is a great difference between the insurance officer and the claims manager. That is my first point. Governments may come and go. There may be an economic blizzard, and then comes a different "slant" from the man above—that is a possibility, I agree; but we must approach a new departure and a new scheme with the idea that the people who administer it will try to do their best and make the scheme good, and interpret it in the spirit we are trying to put into it today. Therefore, I do not agree—
§ The Solicitor-General
If my hon. Friend can find a piece of machinery which will eliminate entirely human motives, then my view of his intelligence will be even greater than it is now. I say the inspiration of the pensions officer should be in the region that we want, and that it is not an impossibility to consider that he will be able to give the assistance, and at the same time to do his duty with regard to claims. The procedure which we have in mind, is that the workman notifies him of the accident; there is confirmation from the employer, and the workman will send the certificate of the doctor who has examined him for the injury. It is possible that there might be a dispute about whether the injury was caused by the accident or natural causes—that is the sort of possibility that one envisages—and then there would be an appeal to the local appeal tribunal, or the pensions officer can refer it to the appeals tribunal, and for that sort of appeal the tribunal would be strengthened by having additional medical members as assessors. That is the position, and I think we ought to contemplate the possibility of getting pensions officers of the kind who can do that work.
§ Mr. E. J. Williams (Ogmore)
I think the hon. and learned Gentleman will agree, 1565 and most Members too, that the cause of most of the friction has been the fact that the onus of proof was always placed on the injured workman. Do I understand that the onus of proof will now be placed upon the State?
§ The Solicitor-General
At that stage I had not thought that onus came into it very much, because it is so purely administrative that the real test is what view the insurance officer takes of all the facts. It is not like coming into court and proving a proposition. If there is notification of an accident with confirmation from the employer, and the medical report, I cannot imagine a pensions officer deciding it on that strict ground, but I think it is a valuable point and I would like my hon. Friend, to whom I am obliged for raising it, to leave it with me with the assurance that when we come to draft we shall bear it in mind. It is always a valuable point, because I know that sometimes what is regarded as the plainest case rests on the question of onus.
Then we come to the local appeal tribunal. It has a chairman with legal qualifications, a representative of the workmen, a representative of the employers, with the medical addition which I have mentioned. Again I will leave the House to draw their own conclusions on how the courts of referees have worked under the Employment Insurance Act. I had the pleasure of being cross-examined on this point by my hon. Friend the Member for North Southwark some years ago when he was on the proper side of the gun, and I was on the wrong side of it. I gathered that there was, among the trade union representatives, as a whole, satisfaction with this as a form of procedure. That was the point of view that was put forward to the Royal Commission very strongly by the Miners' Federation, and I confess that that has weighed with me, because they had, unfortunately, the very serious grounds for knowing whether it would work or not. But let me take the main point. The main objection to the county court has been the litigious and legally misty atmosphere. That has been said time and again. My hon. Friend will remember as I do the Debates we both attended before the war because we usually spoke in them. It is hoped that we shall get rid of that litigious atmosphere, that unwarranted atmosphere, by the appeals tribunals.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr)
Can the hon. and learned Gentleman tell us whether at the time the scheme becomes law the present workmen's compensation law will be repealed or will become null and void? Will the Ministry of Social Security issue instructions both to the pensions officer and to the appeals tribunal as well as to the Commissioner, or lay down a set of clear principles which shall be used in the decision of all cases that may arise, or will it fall back upon those doubtful precedents which have been laid down in workmen's compensation law? An answer to these questions will satisfy many of us who are very dissatisfied now.
§ The Solicitor-General
The position of the new scheme is that it applies prospectively. It does not apply to past cases. That is the answer to the hon. Member's first point. With regard to the second, I cannot obviously bind the ultimate views which will be expressed in the Act, but I agree with the view put forward yesterday by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen that it should be possible to give clear directions to the tribunals as to how they are to approach it. I am not by-passing the point on the question "arising out of and in the course of." I am going to deal with that separately. I am now dealing with the machinery, but, while accepting the retention of "arising out of and in the course of," that is, accepting the causal connection of the employment and the accident, I think I could get out clear working instructions which will cover the vast majority of cases. I cannot, and I do not believe anyone on earth can, cover every borderline case. We have all tried it and found that a line must be drawn somewhere, and over that line there may be a hard case but, on general marching orders, I think it can be done.
§ Mr. McEntee (Walthamstow, West)
Will all these directions be available to Members of Parliament, or will there be as many secret issues as there are at present?
§ The Solicitor-General
The question of publication is a matter for the legislation. The House generally, when it gives rule-making powers, insists on publication. It must be a matter of drafting. I do not think I could at this stage commit the Government on that. My hon. Friend the Member for North-East Leeds (Mr. Craik Henderson) asked about the medi- 1567 cal question. I have dealt with the preliminary medical questions which will arise. When one comes to the change from allowance to pension, the question of disability goes to a medical board, whose decision is appealable to the local appeal tribunal, differently constituted, with the same chairman but with medical instead of ordinary members. I should like to deal with the question which was troubling the hon. Member for Nuneaton yesterday about the likely types of cases which will come to the tribunal. My experience in the 11 years in which I was constantly in county courts was that the vast majority of cases concerned medical issues, such as the question of recovery. The Accident Officers' Association said before the Royal Commission that out of 758 cases 465 concerned questions of recovery and the like and only 100 were matters of entitlement in the sense of problems like "arising out of and in the course of." There was the Section 19 procedure in which the question whether the disability was due to the accident was one of the matters referred to the Medical referee, whose decision was final. That is one of the points that the Trades Union Congress put to the Royal Commission, and also one of the points that I myself put. Therefore, I think our procedure will be a considerable improvement in getting rid of that one-man decision, which has not been popular. That is the general set-up.
In regard to the Question put by the hon. Members for Gorbals and Ebbw Vale, bearing in mind our experience under the Unemployment Insurance Acts with the courts of referees, "Is that tribunal likely to work as a tribunal of first instance?" my view has been largely formed by the desire of the Trades Union Congress and the Miners' Federation to get away from the litigious atmosphere. I think this tribunal could introduce an informal procedure. I should very much welcome the views of those who choose to give them on the question of representation. My natural inclination is that a man should have all the assistance that he wants, though I realise the argument against it—the reproduction of the litigious atmosphere. Our minds are open on the point until we have heard the views of hon. Members.
I come to the next stage, which deals with co-ordination; there is an appeal on 1568 matters of law to the Industrial Injury Insurance Commissioner. The hon. Member for North Southwark said he did not like the one man set-up. I would ask him to note this difference, that this is not an appeal on a question of fact, as in the case of the medical referee under Section 19. There a man was sent to the medical referee and it was one doctor's view. It left an uncomfortable feeling that a different view might have been obtained from another doctor. This is an appeal on law to a man who will be of high legal calibre and who will have deputies sitting with him. My right hon. Friend will consider very carefully the suggestion as to assessors, but I would ask hon. Members to consider whether, on a point of law, when he has deputies whom he can consult, there is really the same objection. The other objection that is made is quite a different one, that one ought to have an appeal to the courts. Again, on this basis which we are trying to work out, of avoiding a litigious and contentious atmosphere, do we really avoid it if we can go to the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords? I have always been as keen on winning a case in the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords as before a judge of first instance, but most people have that attitude towards it. One must remember the high proportion of workmen who are not trade unionists and have not the assistance of a trade union, and without a trade union I should have thought it virtually impossible for them to go to the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords. That is my own difficulty on it. I now face again the question, will you get sufficient co-ordination?
§ Mr. Stephen (Glasgow, Camlachie)
I notice that there is a proposal to have a deputy. I suggest to the hon. and learned Gentleman that he should allow, at least, an appeal from decisions of the deputy to the three Commissioners themselves. It does not happen in connection with unemployment insurance.
§ The Solicitor-General
I will certainly consider that point. We have to consider the question of co-ordination. I am told that they are satisfied in the Ministry of Labour with the co-ordination of decisions of the courts of referees. [Interruption.] That is a very appropriate comment, but what else can one do? What I am more impressed with is that 1569 after 20 odd years of working there is general satisfaction with the working of the court of referees, and it has been taken as a model by the Trades Union Congress and the Miners' Federation. It is the only system which can prevent a litigious atmosphere and I ask hon. Members to give it a chance. We will consider all the suggestions that have been made for its improvement and, if it does not work out, we will reconsider it.
§ Mr. Moelwyn Hughes (Carmarthen)
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman propose to say nothing about the suggestion that I made, as to the chairman of appeal tribunals?
§ The Solicitor-General
All I can say in the time at my disposal is that I was personally very impressed by my hon. Friend's argument. I think that we want to get competence, efficiency and sympathy with the people—
§ The Solicitor-General
I do not accept that, but I will not pursue it. I will carefully consider what my hon. and learned Friend said when we come to the drafting. May I, in deference to my hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen), detain the House on the question of "arising out of and in the course of"? In my opinion, some such words are necessary. Even the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. Foster) to use the words "attributable to or aggravated by" still raises the question of causation. We have to have some words that raise the question of cause or connection between the employment and the injury. These words have been well defined by decisions. May I give one example of how they have been extended and canalised in their extended form? One of the last cases I did before the war was that of a miner who had heart disease and who, walking up an incline in the pit at the end of his shift, dropped dead. I think that my hon. and learned Friends will agree that 25 years ago his representatives would not have recovered, but in 1937—
§ The Solicitor-General
In my time, before the war, they recovered because the physical change inside the man caused by his work, was considered to be an accident arising out of his employment. I take that as an example of the stage to which we have got, and the House will agree that the position has changed in favour of the workman. Whatever form of words is taken, it is impossible to avoid the difficulty of applying them to the border line case. That has got to be so. The words have to express the causal connection. Therefore, I suggest that we should keep the words that we know and which have been extended in that way.
There is one point on which I hope the House will not expect me to tie the Government, but on which I, personally, have the greatest sympathy. That is the case of transport. We want to consider that very carefully. There was the case of Hewitson and the St. Helens Colliery Company in which a workman was offered transport but was not bound to take it. I have always disliked that case, but my opinion is only one, and it is a point which we will have to consider. I have tried to deal with what is the minds of every one who is interested, in this matter, and I do not propose to deal with the complicated differences in the quantum of compensation, because my right hon. Friend if desired will deal with that later.
I would like to deal with one or two points which have a legal flavour with regard to the quantum and composition of compensation. My hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin raised the question of rent allowance. I must say that the arguments against it put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Ince, on grounds of complication, seem to me very appealing. I would also remind the House that my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, in considering this matter, said that here we had not only the problem of basis of equal contribution, but we had the fact that there was a variety of tastes between different people, and, because of that variety, it might well be argued that this was a voluntary matter and a question for voluntary insurance. I agree that there are strong arguments in favour of the rent allowance, and my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin advanced them, but, on the whole, I submit that the arguments to the contrary are such as to 1571 compel us not to take that point into account.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ince raised two points. Why, he asked, should there be a difference between the allowance and the pension. We are not binding ourslves to the 13 weeks, but his point, broadly, was, why should there be any difference in the first period? The basis is the civilian injuries scheme and the optimistic view that a man's condition is relatively easier in the first period. There is also the point, which was developed yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed. I see my hon. Friend's attitude, but this is a well-accepted procedure, which has been tried in other regards. My hon. Friend's other point was whether the pre-1924 cases got the 10s. for unemployability, irrespective of age or injury without waiting for the 13 weeks. I think they will. That is my view of the scheme. My hon. Friend the Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Oliver) dealt with the difficulty of those who were receiving pensions getting other work in the provinces owing to the lesser number of industries. I hope that this is really a matter for consideration in another connection, though, if we get better allocation of industry, we have, on the other hand, certainly gained greater adaptability during the war, and I hope that the difference which exists between London and the provinces will be lessened.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brighton (Lieut.-Colonel Marlowe) raised a question of interim payment. The proposal under the scheme is that the first payment will be at the end of ten days. In the meantime, pending a decision, the workmen will get a payment at the rate of sickness benefit to which he will be entitled under Part I. That seems to remove the chance of real difficulty and of being left absolutely short, but if my hon. Friends have any improvement to suggest, the Government will be pleased to consider it. My hon. Friend the Member for North-East Leeds asked whether a workman who pursued his remedy at common law and succeeded should not also get his 3d. a week back and get the benefit of his five-twelfths contribution. The whole question is being considered by the Committee of which Sir Walter Monckton is chairman, as mentioned in paragraph 52 1572 of the White Paper. It is entirely without prejudice to what that committee suggests, but it seems to me that if some one goes to common law, he then gets damages on the basis of full reparation for his injury. Of course, money can never compensate for an injury, but that is the basis. As near as money can be calculated it gives compensation for the injury. If a person has full financial compensation, he should not, in my opinion, be in a better position than the ordinary workman who has paid his contributions and never had an acident at all. The contributions do not seem to come into it, because the man has full financial compensation for the injury so far as the law can give it. Therefore, I disagree with my hon. Friend on that point.
I am very conscious of the time I have taken in addressing the House, but I have made an attempt to deal with the points that were made yesterday, which I found of absorbing interest. The whole matter is one which I have lived with all my working life, and I hope that, after a full examination, the House will feel that we are doing something to remove a sore from the industrial body and to put workmen who are injured in the continual battle of industry in a position in which they will not only receive a reasonable contribution for the injuries they have suffered, but be able to look forward to rehabilitation, training and fitness with greater hope and with greater strength of mind and heart than they have ever had before.
§ 1.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)
I think, in order to be on the safe side, that I should explain that when my Parliamentary duties permit, I do, on occasion, give certain advice of a legal nature on matters of workmen's compensation. We all congratulate the Solicitor-General on his wide and sympathetic survey of the Debate yesterday, and I only hope that the right hon. Gentleman who is to reply later will be able to give as assuring a speech in winding-up as was that of the Solicitor-General. I find myself, perhaps, in a minority of one in the House in that I do not agree with this distinction between workmen's compensation—
§ Mr. Bowles
It is, then, a minority of three. I believe that a large number of people in the House accept the position that you must have invidious distinctions between treatments depending upon the ability of a man to prove that his incapacity arises in a certain way and in the course of certain walks of life. I would put this proposition to the Government. Where a man is unable to work, whether it is because he is too old, or because he has been injured, or because he has had an accident arising out of his employment, or an accident arising in the course of his employment, or an accident arising out of and in the course of his employment, or because he is ill, or because there is no employment for him in the district, he should be treated in exactly the same way as an industrial casualty. If he were so treated, all the difficulties that my hon. and learned Friend has been trying to face this morning would disappear. In national health insurance all that is necessary is for a man to produce a doctor's certificate that he is unable to work, and on that he gets his national health insurance benefit. When it comes to workmen's compensation cases, there is almost always a fight. I interrupted the Home Secretary yesterday to suggest that something like 99 per cent. of the cases arose on the question of entitlement. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hughes) said yesterday that in a book I have here, of no fewer than 1,400 pages—Willis's—there are references to 3,400 reported cases. These are the only cases that went to the Court of Appeal or the House of Lords. These are leading cases which established a new principle, and for that number to arise out of an Act of 50 to 60 Sections seems to me to be completely ludicrous.
The Solicitor-General has referred to the number of cases that are heard year by year in the county courts, and he tried to draw a distinction between cases relating to a man's condition and involving the question of whether he has ceased to have an industrial injury and is therefore no longer entitled to workmen's compensation, and the cases in which a man is entitled to go on receiving compensation, because he is still suffering from an indus- 1574 trial injury. For the life of me—and I notice that the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir W. Beveridge) and the Home Secretary have gone out of the Chamber—I cannot see why the Solicitor-General should try to justify the proposition that a man, because he has been injured in his work, should receive the higher compensation. The Solicitor-General said that anybody who challenged his argument would be a bold man. His first reason was that he could not disregard history. I do not know what that means. I know that it is very difficult for a lawyer to disregard history, but it is easy for a legislative Assembly to do so. It can do so with the greatest possible ease. The Solicitor-General then said that there must be some causal connection. In the old days, when the employer paid the compensation, one could say it was necessary to have a causal connection between the order given by the employer and the injury of the workman. His third reason was that special consideration had to be given to the hazardous occupation. Surely that is not true. I do not see that argument.
§ The Solicitor-General
My second point was that the injury would be sustained when the man was under orders, and that brings in the special position. The third point referred to hazardous industries.
§ Mr. Bowles
The whole question is whether the three or four shillings extra of workmen's compensation would encourage people to go into those industries.
§ Mr. Bowles
I cannot see any logic in those arguments. I would like to give, by way of illustration, two cases which came to my notice when I was in my constituency recently. One was of a miner—a shotsman, I think is the right word to use in Warwickshire—who, in 1936, was conscious of the fact that he had got a little piece of coal or dust, or perhaps of shot, in his eye. He did not do anything about it. The employer was notified, but the man did not stop work. He went on seeing through the other eye, and he did not know that he was going blind in one eye. He claimed no compensation and did not stop work. In 1575 1939, he got the same kind of thing in the other eye. He received compensation for a little while, but now I find that a large number of doctors in Birmingham all agree that this man, who has had to be taken to hospital in Birmingham by his wife at least 86 times, sometimes in the black-out, is suffering because of a predisposition to blindness. He is receiving no compensation, because the blindness is not regarded as arising from his occupation.
The other case is that of a man employed by a certain factory in Coventry from 1919 onwards. At the beginning of the war he was given orders to unload machinery at this factory. Such machinery generally arrives covered with oil. Although the man was perfectly fit when he began, within three or four weeks of starting this job, being soaked in oil, he got dermatitis. They stopped him, and he acted as a cloakroom attendant for a little while. Then he went back to the job and again got dermatitis. Why people go back I do not know. Perhaps it is the attraction of higher wages. I have the certificate of the medical referee that it is the same dermatitis as the man had in 1939 or 1941, whenever it was. I must not mention these cases in too much detail, because I have not quite made up my mind what I am going to do with them. Now the doctors have managed to show that the dermatitis was caused in some other way. When the man came to see me, his whole arm was bound up down to his fingernails. He has been working for 16 or 18 years in the same factory. When he went into the part of the factory where he had to unload the machinery covered in oil, he twice got dermatitis, yet he is having the greatest difficulty—or perhaps it may be impossible—to get doctors to certify that the dermatitis was caused by his employment, and not by some predisposition to dermatitis.
I am aware of the argument used by the Government that if the man met with his accident in a way arising out of and in the course of his employment, he should get compensation; if he did not, then he goes on to White Paper No. 1 and gets the miserable benefits to which the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) referred yesterday. There are hundreds of cases in the country, like those mentioned yesterday, of men who are anxious 1576 to go back to work, and not only in order, as the Home Secretary said, that the nation should keep its factories going. Where on earth are the logic and the consistency in this matter? I say quite frankly that there is a subtle reason for this which I shall try to explain in a little while.
I interrupted the Home Secretary yesterday to say that 99 per cent. of the cases were questions of entitlement. The two cases mentioned were questions of entitlement. The law cases are questions of interpretation. The number of cases on what "accident" means is quite fantastic. Murder is an accident, if it happens to you. There are 152 pages of this book devoted to Section 1 of the Workmen's Compensation Act and 700 pages devoted to the Act of 1925. My hon. Friends who are lawyers will know that the book is full of half-sentences and that there are two or three cases on every line of the book. It is no use saying that those cases are anything but legal decisions based upon the findings of doctors. I have had the pleasure of being present on occasions when, before a trade union meeting starts, the branch secretary, say of the A.E.U., has handed a cheque to a member in respect of compensation. It has meant that here, at least, the trade union had managed to secure for an ordinary member his proper rights. What an appalling commentary on the present situation. Why have we all these questions of how the accident arose, and whether it is personal injury by accident arising out of and in the course of employment? Why cannot we just say: "Is this man able to work?" If not find out whether he is unfit, or too old, or had an accident, or let the local employment exchange give a certificate that there is no work for him in the district.
Judges are giving poor regard to the amount of compensation that is paid. As the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) said, it is now becoming more and more popular for solicitors to take action at common law where a workman who is injured can get general damages for his pain and suffering. Hon. Members who are in the junior branch of the profession know quite well what they put in the statements of claim on such occasions. The courts are awarding substantial sums by way of damages, and are becoming more and more ready to find 1577 that an employer has been negligent. I am sure that the Solicitor-General knows perfectly well that that is the case. It is a commentary on his own profession that here, side by side and for exactly the same accident, if you take one action the man gets a miserable 35s. a week and if you take another action he may get £700, £2,000 or £5,000. I do not understand it at all. There must be some reason for it.
Why cannot society afford to raise the benefits which are proposed in the White Paper? I find that the increased cost of the Government proposals will be £224,000,000. It is important to find out who pays that money. My case is that the workers are paying for their own social insurance. Hardly anything comes from the richer classes. The workers find, by increased contributions, no less than £109,000,000, which means that half the additional cost of the scheme will fall on the workers. The employers' contribution amounts to £35,000,000; who pays that money? We all know that it is easy for a body of employers, even including coalowners, to get together and pass their contributions on to the consumer. Since the great mass of the workers are also consumers, and the great mass of the consumers are also workers, the workers are, again, paying pretty well the whole of that £35,000,000. When I say "workers," I mean people getting £500 a year or less. The Solicitor-General referred to people getting from £7 to £10 a week, which is about £500.
There remains £78,000,000 which has to be found by the Exchequer. One would think that by this time some of the richer people would have to dig their hands in their pockets, but that is not so. What happens is this. In 1938–these are the latest figures I have been able to get—the total tax revenue was £888,000,000, of which £371,000,000 was raised in indirect taxation. In other words, 40 per cent. of the total revenue was found by taxes which increased the prices of goods consumed very largely by the poor people of this country. Therefore, again the workers were caught. About 60 per cent. of the taxpayers' contribution is left. At last it seemed to me that the rich might be called on for this very small contribution, but they managed to dodge it again somehow. The Minister-Designate of Social Insurance stated in the recent Debate that of the remaining 60 per cent. one-third was 1578 found from incomes of less than £500 a year in present conditions of taxation. That actually shows who is paying Part I of the whole social insurance scheme.
If the House will bear with me for a moment I would like to point out that in 1938, the total amount of our social insurance expenditure, including that for workmen's compensation, was £320,000,000. At that time, it was estimated that the national income was £4,600,000,000. It will be seen that social insurance expenditure amounted to about 7 per cent. of the national income. Now when the national income has risen to £8,000,000,000, partly due to the rise in prices we find that the cost of social insurance comes to 8 per cent. I say quite frankly that even if it was the desire of the Government to raise the ordinary benefits under Part I of the social insurance scheme even to the miserable level of workmen's compensation that would still be paid by the workers on the basis of what has gone before. Therefore the time has come—I state it from these benches—to challenge the Government to "soak the rich" a bit more, instead of the people who produce the wealth, people getting £500 or under a year. We demand from these benches that instead of so much money being paid into lawyers' pockets year after year in workmen's compensation cases, we should unify the system, and not be led away by shallow arguments like those used by the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed as well as by the Home Secretary and the Solicitor-General. Those who sit on these benches and who have given this matter quite a lot of thought demand that in future we should go elsewhere for the rest of the cost of social insurance, if not social security. I have a very shrewd idea where we have to go, it is, to the supporters, very largely, of the majority in this House.
§ 1.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Erskine-Hill (Edinburgh, North)
This House is always at its best when there are cross-currents of opinion within the parties, and when those of experience, and many hon. Members opposite have had great experience in this matter, can speak from their hearts what they believe to be true. The speech to which we have just listened I found somewhat difficult to follow because at first it looked as though the hon. Member was making the point that we ought to do away with the test 1579 "arising out of and in the course of the employment." As the speech developed it was apparently an attempt to put everyone injured in the same position as a worker would be under this scheme. Then the hon. Member gave us an interesting argument about how difficult it was to "soak the rich" in these matters. If the hon. Member will consider his own argument he will have to admit that if, in fact—as he says inevitably happens—poorer people have to pay, too much of a burden would be put on the people if any such expensive device as he suggests were adopted.
I want to raise an interesting point mentioned by one or two speakers, particularly the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg), dealing with the question of comparative advantages of a flat rate benefit, as against a rate dependent on the workman's previous earnings. I take the view that the Government are entirely right on this point. I think it is of very great importance to have a clear-cut right, which is understood by all. Under the old system, no doubt a sum was worked out which depended on a workman's previous earnings, but in every case there was a ceiling beyond which he could not go, and if one looks at the White Paper and the Appendix at the end of it, it is clear for all to see that the actual flat rate which the Government are suggesting is more than the workman would get under the maximum ceiling of the Workmen's Compensation Act. In the circumstances, I think a great deal can be said, from the point of view of the welfare of the workman himself, for having a rate he can fully understand, and for there being no anxiety about what he is to get. It simply depends upon a percentage, according to his injury, on the flat rate. I think that is a system which can be well defended. When the Home Secretary was asked what happened in the case of those earning large wages, he gave a reply with which, for once at any rate, I entirely agreed—that where people were getting high wages they should, in the interests of their family, insure themselves. I can see every advantage in having what after all, if one looks at the past, is a generous rate, which is a flat rate, anything over and above that being paid by the workman concerned having insured himself.
§ Mr. Moelwyn Hughes
Would the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that facilities for this voluntary higher insurance should be tendered to the workmen as a part of this scheme?
§ Mr. Erskine-Hill
I intended to deal with that point. What I think we should ensure is that, where a workman is trying to insure for his family over and above this benefit, the terms are reasonable. The suggestion I intended to make was that the Government should approve certain rates by insurance companies as reasonable, and if the workman cared to select any other insurance company, which did not give the rates accepted as fair by the Government, he should do that at his own peril. I think all the disadvantages of the flat rate are got over when one realises that it is within the capacity of the workman who is earning larger wages to insure, particularly if the Government can see to it that the terms on which he insures are approved as reasonable and proper terms. I think the Government should be most careful in the method they adopt to see that there is a fair and reasonable way in which the workman can insure himself. That, I think, gets over the main difficulty.
I am sorry that Sir Arnold Wilson, who took such a great part in this House and outside in this matter, is not here to have the satisfaction of knowing that many of the foundations he laid have been built on by the Government in this scheme. Where I do agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford is on the method by which issues which are raised under this scheme should be decided. For myself I cannot understand the connection he finds between the point which I have just been arguing about—the rate of benefits—and the particular form of court to decide the merits of each case. There are bound to be questions of the utmost importance to the workman, in which I can see every advantage in having an impartial tribunal. I think that the King's courts are better tribunals than Ministers' tribunals. There is a tendency to constitute far too many Ministerial tribunals. Particularly is it important to have the King's court, an impartial tribunal with no interests at all in the matter, to try cases fairly for the workman, when one recognises that now the State has taken the place of the employer and that the State is one party 1581 to the litigation against the workman's claim.
What is wanted, and what this House should insist upon, is a complete and impartial court, not composed necessarily of a division of opinion between workers and employers with an independent chairman, but one which is quite impartial about the whole business, which can weigh the evidence that is put before it. If the present system of the workman putting his claim before the arbitrator first and going on to the courts is thought to be unsatisfactory, there are ways in which expenses could be reduced. In Scotland the arbitrator is always the sheriff. There can be greater simplicity in the proceedings—I use that word instead of informality, because informality may lead to much greater litigation—which would result in a much cheaper and better way of proceeding.
The point I wish to emphasise to the House is that if we allow courts to be set up by the Minister to deal with these cases, we shall be jeopardising to some extent the absolutely essential rights of the workman. Whatever may be the position as regards these courts, and I know there have been a great many criticisms of delay and uncertainty and the large numbers of cases which the hon. Gentleman opposite mentioned, I wonder if he really regards those cases as being so very numerous when one takes into account the enormous number of cases that have to be dealt with. Some cases no doubt have been taken which it would have been better not to have taken, but I think there is every advantage in knowing that one case governs a lot of cases. Case law establishes clearly to those operating the scheme, and the workman himself, what the law is on a particular matter. That is a very considerable advantage.
§ Mr. Bowles
In roughly 42 years we have had 4,200 reported cases under an Act of something like 50 Sections; these are reported cases taken as far as the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords, and the Court of Session as well. It is art appalling total.
§ Mr. Erskine-Hill
I draw the hon. Member's further attention to this: A great many of the cases have not arisen out of the Act at all, but out of Orders which have been made since the Act was 1582 brought into force, and Amendments which have taken place in the Act from time to time. The Act of 1897 was materially altered in 1906 and 1923, and these, with other alterations, were incorporated in the codifying Act of 1925. They all make changes which raise questions which the courts have to decide As regards the actual words "injury by accident arising out of and in the course of employment," I am not particularly wedded to those words. I think they might be improved upon but whatever words are used, their meaning must be ascertained, and I think there will undoubtedly be a certain number of questions which are most important for the workman and which should be decided by the courts of law. Certainly if the initial stages are left in the hands of this Committee or another Committee which is set up by the Minister then I think it becomes even more important that any appeal from that Committee should not be decided by just a single person, who has been appointed by the Crown and who may have more or less qualifications for the job. No doubt the Crown is advised by the Minister immediately concerned. So much is going to depend, for the workman, on the particular man who is chosen, that for his sake, I would infinitely rather have the appeal to the courts, as at present. After all the Minister himself is going to consult the courts on questions of insurability and liability and I am convinced the workman's interest would be best served by having an appeal to the courts of the land.
I wish to say one word about lump sum payments, because I feel the Government have taken a great and proper step in doing away with lump sum agreements. All my experience has gone to show that where anything has gone wrong after a lump sum agreement has been reached, there is bitterness in the mind of the workman, because he feels that he has had a raw deal. It is inevitable that where there are many accidents, and where there is a source of infection lying dormant and later breaking out, there would be countless cases where a lump sum settlement would prove to be entirely unfair and unjust. The hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Foster) was inclined yesterday to blame the insurance companies for taking too hard a part against the workmen. I want to say to hon. Members opposite that the insurance 1583 companies, in enabling the smaller type of employer to carry out his duties to his workmen in the way of insurance, have played a most important part, when the State itself was not willing to undertake the responsibility.
§ Mr. Erskine-Hill
Hon. Members opposite have had, in many ways, much nearer personal experience of these cases than I have had, but I have acted in a number of such cases, sometimes for the workman and sometimes for the employer. I can remember two cases—and, in particular, one in the House of Lords, where I personally conducted a test case which was going to have the effect of governing a great many other cases. In that case as in the other I found it very easy to persuade my clients, who were a mutual insurance company, when it became apparent that judgment was going against the man, to make a very generous ex gratia payment to the man, because it seemed hard on the individual whose case was being taken, when the law had been interpreted in one way for a long time, that he should suffer. It is only fair that that should be said to this House, when such harsh criticisms have been made against insurance companies.
There are in the mutual insurance companies and in other insurance companies a large number of worthy people who have given faithful service to their employers. I hope that the Government will make it their responsibility to see that when those insurance companies, mutual and otherwise, are done away with, those employees shall be absorbed into the general scheme. I support the Government scheme because I think it will make for a better relationship between employers and their workmen. I support it because I think that the certainty established by the scheme will make it easier for the workman to get out of that complex which so often has retarded his recovery and delayed the time when he would be able to work again.
I find it much more easy on this occasion than on many occasions recently to say that the Government have my wholehearted support. If they will bear in mind what I regard as the vital matter, in the workmen's own interests, of having impartial tribunals, where the work- 1584 man can produce his certificate, or whatever other evidence he has, before an impartial court, I shall be able to give my wholehearted approval to the scheme. It would be a dangerous situation if developments along the line of national insurance were to bring into being a State medical service, under which it would be difficult or impossible for the workman to get a decision which would not have been influenced by those in control above, if, in fact, he had to go to a Minister's court, set up by the Minister, where, no doubt, rough justice would be done, but where he would not have the same assurance of fair play. If the Government will consider these factors, they will have my entire support, and I will support in every way every action which is taken to improve the lot, as I really believe, of the workmen of this country.
§ 1.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards (Caerphilly)
This Debate has been conducted in a more or less philosophical atmosphere so far. During the time I have been in the House we have had a number of Debates on workmen's compensation. Each of them has been exciting, and many have been bitter. I do not think anyone would charge me with having been unduly complimentary to the Government over their proposals for workmen's compensation in the past. But one thing which is outstanding in this Debate is that the old system of workmen's compensation stands condemned root and branch. Everybody in the House so far has condemned it completely. It is true that the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) rather retracted a little in what he said yesterday, but in one part of his speech he said that it must go altogether, and reinforcing myself with the little blue pamphlet which has been issued. I find there also a wholesale condemnation of the present workmen's compensation system. This gives a chance of looking, for the first time, at workmen's compensation in an objective way.
Here is a new start. We are to have an entirely new type of structure. I hope that criticisms from this side will not be resented. I hope, further, that the new structure will be essentially the work of the House of Commons. I have no objection at all to adequate consultations taking place outside this House, but nothing that is done outside should limit our contribution to the erection of a new 1585 structure. If we can approach the new structure in a constructive spirit, in my view, we can get a system of compensation, or industrial injury benefit, in this country arising out of the proposals in this White Paper, that will lead the world, and of which we can be proud. I have never complimented the Home Secretary on the workmen's compensation system in the past. He has had what little lash I can give with my tongue. On this occasion, I congratulate him on ending the old and giving the House an opportunity of building anew. It has been obvious that there is certain common ground among us all. It is common to all of us to believe that it is in the best interests of the nation and of the injured workman that he should be restored to full bodily vigour as soon as possible. That is desirable in the interests of the nation; it is desirable in the interests of the employer; and it is desirable in the interests of the workman. I do not want to enter into the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) as to the right of an injured workman to a higher rate of compensation than is received by the person injured outside industry. The hon. Member for Oxford trotted out the case of the man who breaks his leg by falling off a bicycle on his way to work, and of the other person who does so on the way to Llandudno. Later, he seemed to recant, but in the little book he said that he accepted the Beveridge conclusions, and that there is a case for giving the injured workman a higher rate than is given to the sick person or anybody else. On that there is common ground.
If we are to get this desired result, three conditions must be fulfilled. The first is that there must be adequate maintenance for an injured workman and his family while he is injured. The second is that he must have the best medical attention that is available. The third—and it is not the least important—is that there must not be in the mind of the injured workman the fear that highly-paid insurance managers, supported by highly-paid doctors and highly-paid lawyers, are waiting round the corner to twist him out of his rights. That is very important in dealing with the injured workman. I hope that I shall have the support of the House on these three tests that must be applied to any structure that we may 1586 erect. In my view, this scheme of the Government, on its administration side, passes the third test.
I have heard all this talk to-day about county courts and the impartiality of the judges' courts. For ten years I went to a number of county courts in South Wales every month. I do not want to generalise from one court, but at one court to which I went we used to meet in the lawyers' room before the court started. We always arranged to have four cases at each court. We knew that we should win two of the four and lose two; and we would have a sweep on which two we would win and which two we would lose. Invariably, the two that we expected to win we lost, and the two that we expected to lose we won. I am not enamoured of the county courts. I know the terrible effect on a man of feeling that he has got a wrong decision, and the difficulty of taking cases to higher courts. How many times my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and I have sat in the miners' executive to decide whether or not we could afford to take a case to the High Court or to the House of Lords. The end of the law court will be welcomed in every mining valley in South Wales. At last we can get justice. It may not be panoply justice, but it will be justice which it will be easy to obtain, from people who live in the area and who know the industrial conditions of the area.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) does not like this new system. My hon. Friend's experience in the court of referees led him to think that this new structure, according to the description given by the Solicitor-General, is a replica of the court of referees arrangement. Let me say this. I have attended a very substantial number of courts of referees in my life. I have attended nearly as many county courts. If I have to make a choice to get justice for a workman, give me a court of referees.
§ Mr. Edwards
I do not think that meets my point. What my hon. Friend wants is to go back to the county courts.
§ Mr. Edwards
In this matter, there can be two alternatives. One is a court of law, and the other is the administrative court set up by the scheme. The hon. Gentleman criticising the claims officer under this scheme, said yesterday that this man cannot be impartial. He will be a dozen times more impartial than the colliery clerk, who is paid to see that the workman does not get more than his legal right, and who very often gets promotion because the costs of the colliery are very much lower than they would otherwise be. I think my hon. Friend is wrong in assuming that the workman will get better advice from the insurance manager than he does from the national service officer. At least, he will not be cheated by the national service officer, and too often he was by the insurance manager.
How does this scheme face the situation? I think it passes two tests. First, the fear of being legally robbed is taken out of the mind of the worker. I think that, in the general scheme for rehabilitation proposed in the White Paper, questions of adequate medical attention are also raised. Now we come to the third ground of adequacy. I am very enamoured of the scheme, but I do not think the Home Office has played square with us in demanding the price that we have to pay. The present compensation cost, the pre-war cost, is estimated to be £17,000,000.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Peake)
My hon. Friend said "prewar cost," but I imagine he is thinking of the cost at the present time, with the war addition.
§ Mr. Edwards
I am much obliged. Of this £17,000,000, which is now borne entirely by the employers, £8,500,000 is to be taken over as a workmen's liability. The workmen are being asked to pay 3d. a week. They are being asked to save the employers £8,500,000 a year. With 1588 the cost of administration of this scheme, employers in this country are going to save somewhere about £10,000,000 a year. Who is to supply that money? The State and the workers. I say that is wrong. I say it is a retrograde step that, in a great scheme of social reform of this sort advantage should be taken of the situation, to make a present of £10,000,000 to the employers of Britain, mainly provided out of the pockets of the contributors. That is my main criticism of this scheme on its general finances.
When we are considering the question of adequacy under an insurance scheme, adequacy has to be related to the contributions. I appreciate all that, but why chuck away £10,000,000 that you already have? We shall make the most violent criticism of this side of this new scheme. There is inadequacy in this new scheme for the injured workmen because the employers have been saved £10,000,000. If that £10,000,000 had been kept in the pool, and if there had been added to it the £8,500,000 of the workers' contributions, these rates of benefit could be raised by one-third. They might even have exceeded the rates demanded by the hon. Member for Oxford. I think that much of my hon. Friend's argument yesterday dealt with adequacy, and that that was the real burden of his argument. There are one or two things that I want to put to my hon. Friend. He was in favour of abolishing workmen's compensation. Let us see how much he was in favour of abolishing. The first thing he wanted to retain was the law court—the most pernicious element attaching to workmen's compensation. The next thing was that he wanted to keep workmen's compensation as a contractual obligation, between the employer and the employed.
§ Mr. Hogg indicated assent.
§ Mr. Edwards
But the present principle of workmen's compensation relates to loss of earning capacity and he wants retention of that. My hon. Friend went one step further and suggested subsidising the employers in his proposed structure by letting them have counted off their liability the workmen's national health 1589 insurance rates. I am following my hon. Friend's pamphlet and his speech. My hon. Friend went even this far: that, if a workman's national health insurance, and his allowances, and two-thirds of his earnings less insurance, exceed his pre-accident average, he would reduce the amount the employer had to pay by the excess. Then my hon. Friend went on to say that there should be no ceiling. But why does the "baby blue book" carry a ceiling? This product of the "Blue Seven" says, on page 23:It should be possible to apply a ceiling"—
§ Mr. Edwards
Shall we see whether it is recommended or not? It states:It should be possible to apply a ceiling, and it is important to remember that, in many cases, a man's needs and expenses are actually greater when incapacitated than when he is fit and able to work.But that is not the end of it. My hon. Friend suggested that, if a man is going to get more than he did when working, there should be a reduction of the employer's contribution at the expense of the social fund. However, all I want to say on this question of adequacy is that my mind goes back to last November. What is 40s. to a man earning £6? My hon. Friend said that yesterday. Does he remember that, when he wanted to get 40s. for a workman under the last Act, he made an outburst by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) as an excuse to vote against it?
§ Mr. Hogg indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Edwards
I do not want to misrepresent my hon. Friend, who made an effective speech yesterday on general principles. I want to deal with this matter in a fair way. The gravamen of his case was that workmen's compensation ought to be tied to earnings; that, in fact, compensation should be so 1590 related to earning capacity as to give the highly-paid man something which bore some relation to his earnings. I take the view that we have to make a choice. The hon. Gentleman also referred to an injured miner who had lost his hand, and who, under the Government scheme, will get 8s. a week as a pension for life. In 1925, 1926 and 1927, I should have been glad to get 2s. for a man like that.
We have to decide whether there shall be compensation for loss of earning capacity, irrespective of injury or need, or compensation for injury, irrespective of earning capacity. Those are the two principles—compensation either for loss of earnings or for injury. I do not think there can he any choice in this matter. My hon. Friend who represents North Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) has quite rightly seized upon the case of a man who loses the tips of his fingers. Let me give one classic case. The man, whose appearance was a nightmare, because he had a great gash across his head, was at a colliery in Wigan. He dare not go about the street in the daytime without pulling his cap over his eyes. He did not lose any earning capacity, but this miner will get no compensation. While you want to see that your man who has lost the tips of his fingers is compensated, you will cast into outer darkness thousands of men of this type. My hon. Friend says that is over-stating it. Let me give another example. My own brother worked in a pit until nine months ago. He sustained an injury and was fully incapacitated for something like five months. He was given notice that he was fit for light work. His own doctor agreed to light, sedentary work. He was in receipt of compensation, but he will never be able to work underground again, as the muscles of his heart have collapsed. Last week, he went to work, and he will earn more money at Glascoed in a sitting-down job than he earned in the pit. Away go his compensation and his rights.
Take the man in the mining industry, whose pre-accident average was determined when we had short working time and when wages were low. Take the men who lost legs, who lost hands or the sight of their eyes, but who have become fit for light employment. Wages have gone up, work has become more regular, and post-accident earnings are greater than the 1591 pre-accident earnings, while the liability of the employer has departed for ever. We had the case yesterday of the engine driver with one eye, but the miner who loses an eye is always sent back to work. There is no compensation. The engine driver who loses a leg gets no compensation, because he can still drive his engine, even without his leg. Where is it to stop? Are all these men to be thrust out, in order that we may catch the man who loses the tip of his finger?
§ Mr. Isaacs (Southwark, North)
I am sure that my hon. Friend must have unconsciously misunderstood me. We want all this to remain, but we wish too, consideration to be shown to the effect of the man's injury.
§ Mr. Edwards
I accept that completely. I admit that there is a case, but what I do not admit is that compensation as a principle must be related to loss and incapacity. That is my case. I am sure that my hon. Friend and I are in agreement. I would ask the hon. Member for Oxford to consider our industrial experience in this matter. He would do a grave injustice to a very substantial number of injured workmen by abandoning the principle that is now contained in the White Paper. I admit all that can be said about the small border-line cases but I hope the tribunals to be set up will be able to take that into account, instead of having a fixed schedule that has no relation at all to industrial experience as contained in the war pensions scheme. I congratulate the Government on having got rid of the medical referee.
§ Mr. Edwards
In my opinion, he has gone. It is not clear that the certifying surgeon has gone but it is clear that the medical referee—as such—has gone, the one man. Now the decision is to be a decision of two doctors sitting with a chairman, and a workmen's representative is to have the right to go there and argue the case before them. That, surely, is something superior to sending the man round as we do now. A man can go down to Cardiff in the morning and be rejected, but if he goes in the afternoon, when the old man is in a better temper, he is all right. This White Paper does many things for us, but on the question of adequacy I am not satisfied.
1592 I was very interested in the speech made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir W. Beveridge) yesterday, but I thought he was embarrassed in what he had to say. It must be difficult to argue for a proper subsistence wage, when 35s. is offered instead of 24s., but why have the Government inherited this lucky number of the hon. Gentleman— "13." What is the reason for 13 weeks at the lower rate? Is there any historic condition for it? It does not go further back than the Beveridge Report. Is there any equity in it? Must a man be half-starved for the first 13 weeks in order to enable more to be given afterwards and at the same time £10,000,000 to he given to the employers in this country? It is admitted on all sides that under the family allowance scheme the 5s. is to be a contribution. Why, then, is 5s. only provided when maintenance has to be the test in the case of the injured workman? That is less than the present unemployment assistance scale. There is no excuse, with all the money that is now available in the workmen's compensation pool, for these wretched rates.
The miners are very anxious to have this scheme and are very anxious for the change. On matters of detail, we are prepared to be very compromising, but I ask the Government not to exploit our desire to get a better system by forcing these rotten rates upon our working people. The Home Office has done a great job of work. Do not spoil it. The Home Secretary has ended the old order We now have to have the new order built. It may be something of which we can all be proud and to which the injured workman can turn with confidence. I beg this House to improve this White Paper, and give it a fair chance to establish the reputation of this country throughout the world.
§ 2.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller (Daventry)
I am one of those who do not agree with the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) that the old Workmen's Compensation Act should be condemned root and branch, but I am one of those who, generally speaking, welcome the proposals in the White Paper. One of the chief criticisms in the past has been the conflict of interests very often between the employers and the insurance companies, as to how a workman should be treated, 1593 and I am glad that under the new proposals, that conflict will disappear. It must be within the experience of many of us that, where an employer, perhaps, wishes to admit the case where liability could not be strictly established, or where it may be in his interest to do so, he has not been able to do so because of the insurance company with whom he is insured. One has experienced in some cases good treatment by the insurance company and in some cases bad. I am very glad that that conflict will drop out of the picture.
I am also extremely glad that all these questions of lump sum settlements will go for good. I had an instance brought to my attention recently, in the small village where I am now living, of an agricultural worker who lost an eye while working. There was no doubt at all about the accident "arising out of and in the course of his employment." He had to employ a solicitor to put forward his claim. He had not the advantage of being a member of a trade union. What happened? There was a serious risk of his losing the sight of the other eye. If he did not lose the sight of the other eye, he could go on being an agricultural worker. He did not lose the sight of the other eye and went back to work, and there was no question of any further compensation being paid to him at that time. The insurance company then offered him £60 or £70 in satisfaction of any possible claim he might have and a contribution to his costs. I advised him that it would not be in his best interests to accept that and should press for a declaration of liability. He pressed for that, and ultimately, after considerable correspondence, it was granted to him. They acceded to it but they said, "You would not accept our offer of settlement, so we will no longer contribute to the costs you have incurred." I am glad that sort of meanness of attitude will cease to exist when this proposal is put into effect. That is one good thing which this will do.
I do not go all the way with the hon. Member for Caerphilly in his condemnation of the courts. I think that a lot of that which is referred to as hostility to litigation has been due in the past to the fact that you have had on the other side the insurance companies and their representatives. I do not believe myself that, if you went back to the courts now under this new plan, you would have the same 1594 bitterness of feeling and the same hostility as you had in the past. Therefore, I am not at one with him in his condemnation of that part of the insurance proposition. I am glad, also, that the burden of the increased risks of those who are engaged in the hazardous industries shall be borne by the community at large. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Birmingham, West (Mr. Higgs), who spoke yesterday deprecating that. We all benefit from the efforts of those engaged in these industries and we should share in the insurance of the risks that they have to run. A chief and radical change of this White Paper is that it really ceases to be workmen's compensation and becomes an insurance scheme. I cannot for one moment agree to the proposal that one workman, because he is drawing a higher rate of wages should get higher compensation than another workman paying precisely the same contribution. That seems to me to be quite untenable and as this is an insurance scheme, I am in favour of equal benefits for the same contribution. Therefore, I am in favour of the flat rate which is put forward, but that does not mean that there should not be an opportunity for a higher remunerated workman to secure for himself increased benefits. There is not the conflict between the flat rate and the increased benefits the hon. Member for Caerphilly indicated. I think you can combine both.
The White Paper appears to be modelled on the war pensions scheme, and I am sorry that in the course of those many tributes which the Horne Secretary paid yesterday he did not find time to pay tribute to the Minister of Pensions and the Parliamentary Secretary in respect of his scheme. The war pensions scheme, I would remind the House, while proceeding on very much the same lines as the White Paper, does have regard to earnings. You cannot group, I agree, civilians into ranks, but there is no reason why you should treat every workman as a private in industry. I would like to see the Government add on to the White Paper a Government scheme whereby a highly-paid worker could voluntarily insure for an increased benefit. That might mean—I do not know—that an increased contribution would have to be made by the employer in respect of it, but I cannot believe it to be beyond the ingenuity of man and beyond the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir W Beveridge) 1595 to devise some scheme for alleviating the loss that a man who has been earning high wages will suffer, and is bound to suffer, if he suddenly meets with an accident. It is most important that that should be done and I hope that the Government will give the closest possible consideration to that branch of this matter before the Bill is introduced.
I want to come to the question of whether we should have these local appeal tribunals or still have recourse to the courts. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Caerphilly thought that human frailties would cease to exist if you had these appeal tribunals with a number of individuals. He referred to a county court judge, to a referee and a doctor, but human frailties are bound to exist in any court you set up. We want to get the fairest and most impartial court possible. I rather doubt—and I say this with some trepidation—whether the local appeal tribunal as outlined in the White Paper will be the fairest court. It is going to have representatives of workpeople upon it and employers, and it may be that that to some extent cancels itself out. But suppose the injured applicant is a trade unionist, and there are three members of a trade union on that court, they are bound to be affected by natural sympathy towards him. I think that is irresistible. If I were brought before a police court, and I found half a dozen of my friends sitting on the bench, I should be much more optimistic of my chances —perhaps wrongly—
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I am not endeavouring to speak on this point as a representative of my trade union at all, but to get the best possible tribunal, and it seems to me, taking the converse position, that if you have a non-trade unionist applying before such a tribunal, there 1596 may be an unconscious or conscious prejudice against him. I would much prefer to see this question as to whether the accident arose out of or in the course of employment remain in the courts, because I do not believe that under this new White Paper you will get the same amount of legalistic manoeuvres as you had in the old days with litigation between the workman and the insurance companies.
The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) referred at great length to the number of cases of workmen's compensation. I believe that the number of cases was decreasing very considerably in the years before the war, and I believe that workmen's compensation, as a whole, was being pretty well cleared up. This seems to me to throw the whole thing open again. You may change your wording, you may have decisions in different tribunals in different parts of the country, you may have a new code of law growing up very fast which will take a lot of untangling and, bearing in mind that the only real issue which is likely to arise in the future is whether the accident "arose out of or in the course of employment," and bearing in mind the judicial interpretations already given to that phrase, I feel that there is a lot to be said in the interests of the workman in maintaining that, and I hope the Government will give full consideration to that matter.
There is one other question I would like answered. Workmen's compensation payments at present are not liable to tax. Persons who are in receipt of disablement pensions under the war pensions scheme do not pay tax on those pensions. Are the amounts to be paid under this White Paper to be included for tax purposes, or are they to be treated as tax free?
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
They will have to be taken into account or left out of account, and we ought to know what is the proposal with regard to that. I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) that we want to raise the general level. I think there should be a flat rate and regard should be had, by an optional insurance scheme, to the increased earnings. If you increase the flat rate now you will, in some cases, be making it more profitable for a man 1597 if he is not working. At the present moment an agricultural worker earning 65s. a week with a wife and one child will, if 100 per cent. disabled, get 67s. 6d. Therefore you have to be careful to keep your wage rates and your insurance benefits in line.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
.You must keep them in line. Otherwise you might tempt people to put forward frivolous claims in the hope that they would get benefits which, to a considerable extent, will come out of the pockets of their fellow workers.
§ 2.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Buchanan (Glasgow, Gorbals)
I have not intervened unduly, and I thought I should have got in much earlier, but I am glad to rise now, because I have been attacked by the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards), who not only had the presumption to argue against me, but actually started to say what I was going to say before I said it. I have also been criticised by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor-General, who, if I may say so, made an extremely competent speech, in contrast to the Home Secretary, who spent half his time flattering people. I do not want to hear from the Home Secretary about his Under-Secretary. When he comes here, I want him to explain the Measure and not to flatter the hon. Member for Caerphilly in the hope that the hon. Member will support him later on. One of the worst forms of seduction in this House is the flattery of one Member by another. I wish the hon. Member for Caerphilly had stayed so that I might have had the courtesy of a hearing from him. I was going to say that his speech was not altogether relevant to the issue we are discussing. Anybody could get up and attack workmen's compensation; the general scheme could be riddled from end to end. But we are not discussing that to day. What we are discussing, and I wish people would recognise it, are the new proposals of the Government. I would also say to the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Moelwyn Hughes) that before he makes speeches in the House he ought to think about the effect of his speeches. He criti- 1598 cised the woodworking trades. I am the chairman of the union of a not unimportant woodworking trade. He started to say that because you lost fingers, you could still do your work. When we go to the next workmen's compensation case, that speech of his will be quoted against us in the settlement of that case. I wish he would think of that.
I remember going to settle my own case of workmen's compensation when I lost a finger, and I remember the chap saying to me, "It is off your right hand, so you should get less than you would get if it were off your left hand." I succeeded in getting £25 at that time. May I say one word in passing? I shall certainly be the only hon. Member to say this in the House of Commons. Everybody has condemned lump sum payments. The Chancellor of the Exchequer to-day talked about lump sum payments which are accruing to workmen as credits for Income Tax. It is dangerous to argue that workmen cannot be trusted with lump sums. That is why I asked the Chancellor to-day if the credits would be repaid in lump sums, because if you cannot trust a man with lump sum payments because he cannot spend them rightly, then you cannot trust him with rebates of Income Tax. I know something about the lump sum and its waste but I will not take the view that working class people cannot spend a lump sum payment with as much care and skill as any other section of the population. I do not want to hear that my class is not as capable of handling money as other classes. I utter that warning because I think there has been a good deal of exaggeration talked about lump sum payments.
Let me come to the two or three points in which I am interested. One is the criticism of the courts. I have been in this House many years—for a man who is not too old yet, possibly too many years—but I have never thought I would almost see the red, white, and blue flags out, in cheering admiration for courts of referees. I thought I would see many a change—indeed I have changed myself—but I never thought I should see that Courts of referees to-day are not bad, but why are they not bad? I ask hon. Members to consider their history.
May I say a word in passing, however, in fairness to the county court judges? 1599 I am sitting on a committee on rent control. I hope the Government will never put me on another one, for it consumes time as no other body I have been on. The property-owners there are criticising the county court judges for being too kind to tenants, and they want the matter taken from the county court and put into another court so that evictions can take place more quickly. Is that a bad thing for our side? Does that show the county court judges unsympathetic, mean, and wrong? The worst anti-social decision which rocked our party and the strong Baldwin Government in 1929 was a decision not given by the courts, not given by this House of Commons, but given by the same kind of tribunal, on the question of "genuinely seeking work." What is fairer than to say that a man who is not genuine should not get benefit? Is there anything wrong in it? I took the view of the hon. Member for Caerphilly that this court would be a humane court, that it would not have the approach of the lawyers and the county court judges, that it would be kind and tolerant. I did not oppose it, because I took that view. What happened at Rotherham in Yorkshire? An innocent man put a test case and appealed against a "not genuinely seeking work" decision and he was turned down.
Let me give the House an example of the kind of thing they do in these courts of referees. They used to bring their innocent victim in front of them and ask, "Where were you looking for work on Monday?" The fellow would say, "John Brown's." "Where on Monday afternoon?" "Fairfield's." "Where on Tuesday?" "Harland and Wolff's." And so on. Then the chairman would ask again, "Where were you on Monday?" The poor fellow would forget and say "Weirs" on Monday instead of Wednesday, and the court would say he was not genuine. That is the kind of thing of which I am told to be proud. I used to run a class in Gorbals because I could "tell the story" much better than the poor prospective victims. So bad did the position become that Miss Margaret Bondfield, to her credit—and I say that as, possibly, one of her severest critics—tried to correct it by appointing another body called an advisory committee, which advised her to keep the cases going before that court.
1600 We are told about the kindly insurance officer. I do not think he is either bad or good; I do not judge him in that way; I judge him by the way he has to work. What did insurance officers do then? They drew on another Section of the Act, of which I have no knowledge, and which referred to a man as being in "not normally insurable employment." In 12 months the cases under that head had increased almost 20 times. I am told that these new courts of referees will be fine and grand. The truth is that I do not like them, and that I do not like the ordinary courts; I hate them all. I have worked with them all. I have fought the county courts, but I do say that on the whole, if the Act was properly framed, I would prefer the judge. I want to say that frankly to my hon. Friends. They may not agree, but I back my statement with the experience I have had of acting for non-unionists as well as unionists.
I do not think we can afford to leave the non-unionists out of consideration. We ought to try to bring them within the union fold, but I cannot bring a man into the fold by repressive action. The curious thing is about the law that the higher you go, the better chance you have of fairness. You have always to judge, in dealing with these cases, not whether the man is a trade unionist or not, or whether he is a Catholic, Protestant or Jew. You have to deal with the case on the basis that a man has been injured. I know that mining districts are very different from mine. In my division there are 50,000 to 60,000 voters, and you could put them all into a small car park. What has happened? A lawyer asks a few questions, and never once is there a Pressman present. Here, may I say that one of the most valuable correctives in court proceedings is publicity. There is never a member of the public present. The hon. Member for Caerphilly asked what is my alternative. I say that so long as you leave in the words, "arising out of and in the course of his employment," there is no solution. We have to find other words to take their place. It is not the courts that are to blame; we are responsible for finding other words. The Solicitor-General said he thought he could find other words, but I have not yet met a lawyer who could not make the same claim.
The fact is that we have to make clear beyond a shadow of doubt, to any type 1601 of court, what are the intentions of Parliament. Courts of referees and county courts vary. I am not anxious to get a decision in my favour, because there is a good court of referees in Caerphilly and a rotten one in Glasgow. I want justice for everybody. Of course, the system of doctors is a bad thing. Once, in the West of Scotland, out of five doctors, one had passed 80 per cent. of his cases and another had passed only 15 per cent. Is the substitution of one doctor by two going to make things better? I seem to have spent a wasted life in arguing for lost cause—
§ Mr. Buchanan
I am disillusioned now. What is revolutionary about putting in courts of referees? They have been working for a long time. I have had experience before another kind of court—appeals in connection with old age and widows' pensions, where you have arbitration usually by an advocate who is not a solicitor and who is frequently a King's Counsel. Here I want to say in passing that to a King's Counsel named McClure, we in Scotland owe a debt of gratitude for his human and decent administration in the early days of widows' pensions appeals. What is the difference between accident and accident? I am a pattern-maker and our trade has not a great accident list, but only a few months ago, in a good firm, a man met with an accident to his finger. He was a decent man. He did not report the accident on the Saturday morning but by the evening his finger looked worse and he was attended by doctors until, on the Monday night, his hand had to be amputated. The court said, "It cannot be proved that the accident arose out of his employment." Frankly, we could not prove it, although we spent a lot of money on the case, because we had not one witness to corroborate the man's evidence. All we knew was that the man had lost his hand.
What about this sort of case? A man of 45 or 55 is a moulder, working in sand day in and day out, making his castings. His legs become twisted with rheumatism and, of course, it cannot be established that this arose out of his employment, because it has been going on for 40 years. Then the man dies and because it cannot 1602 be proved that his death was due to his employment his widow gets only Part I benefit. But a man 26 years of age, in the same foundry, is hit and killed by the crane and his wife, who is also 26, gets £1 per week for the rest of her life. Can anybody defend that? What does it matter to me, or the widow who has three children, whether the husband is killed while cycling to his work or is killed, say, at the coalface? What does it matter whether he is a printer, pattern maker, miner or railway clerk? The facts are that he leaves a wife and children, and that all ought to be treated on the same level. Cases under Part I and Part II should be treated alike. Who can tell where the dividing line is in such a complex community as ours? The whole thing is interwoven. We ought to set up decent social standards. I want rehabilitation not only for the miner who has been hurt, but also for the stonemason with tuberculosis, who has no workmen's compensation. I want it for all. Let us do the thing in a big and new way.
§ 3.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) at the beginning of his speech referred to a Parliamentary compliment as the most seductive form of flattery. I hope he will not think I am indulging in that when I say that I enjoyed his speech enormously. When he speaks he brings in a breath of fresh air, and I thank him for it. We have listened to experts, lawyers, miners' representatives, and to former miners. I cannot claim to be an expert, but some few years ago I did have the honour and privilege of sitting in this House as the Member for Morpeth representing miners, and I would tell my honourable opponent the present Member that that is the greatest privilege I have ever had in my life. I hope he appreciates that privilege now.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor (Morpeth)
I do not think it necessary for the hon. Member to ask me whether I realise the privilege. I am among people whom I have lived with all my life.
§ Mr. Nicholson
When I was the Member for Morpeth, I had the chance of doing something for compensation legislation. The impression left on my mind in those four years was that workmen's 1603 compensation questions are the most frequent source of irritation, friction and suffering in the whole mining industry. I have always looked forward to the day when I should have the chance again of pleading the cause of the injured workman in this House. After that experience I should be wrong and foolish if I failed to recognise the great advantages that the proposed Measure must bring to the mining industry. It must bring a lessening of friction, an easing of hardship, and an easing of financial stringency also. But surely it is easy to do that when more money is put into the pool. It is easy to do that when we levy money from every single worker in the country largely for the mining industry. Do not let us make any mistake about it; this is mainly a mining problem. As I have said, I am not going to deny the benefits. I am not going to deny the great attractiveness of simplicity and comprehensiveness—of taking it out of the atmosphere of litigation. I am not going to do that.
But in spite of recognising the advantages, I feel in my heart that there is something very wrong indeed with this scheme. I feel that the attractions are meretricious and that though it is a broad and easy road to cut through all the difficulties, I feel also that it is a road from which, sooner or later, we shall be forced to retrace our steps. It seems to me that there are two great principles of social insurance which are mutually incompatible. The principle that we have adopted in this country, that of the flat rate, has many of the advantages of simplicity. Against that there is the principle adopted in almost every other civilised country, the principle of a rate adjusted according to the previous standard of living of the recipient, whether he is an injured man, an unemployed man or a sick man. I prefer the Continental system, for I think that we are not doing enough in this House if our aim is restricted to seeing that there shall be no actual want or starvation. I should like to see us set a higher target which would involve the minimum of hardship. That would mean grading both the contribution and the benefit according to a man's standard of life. We must have one scheme or the other. We are doomed to failure if we try to get the best of both worlds at the same time. My main reason for criticising this present White 1604 Paper is because that is what it attempts to do.
A very good case may be made out for a flat rate, and a very good case may be made out for a differential rate for injured workmen, but I contend there is no case made out for trying to do both through the same system of social insurance. In fact I claim that industrial injury is not a fit subject for social insurance. With the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) I am in complete agreement, and also with the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen). I do not see why any workman should have to pay an insurance subscription for injuries caused solely by his employment. If anyone comes as far as that with me, I contend they have knocked the bottom out of the present system.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
The hon. Member is assuming that the workers have got to pay now. I am suggesting that the miners for the last 20 years have had to pay more.
§ Mr. Nicholson
I do not think it is a very valid point because, even if I admit it, it still contributes to my case. My case is that the cost of injury in an industry should be borne by that industry and should be passed on to the consumer by way of the price of the commodity. All that this present scheme will mean is that all the other workers and the State will subsidise the mining industry to the tune of at least 1s. 3d. a ton. I think it would be more honest and practicable to see that that 1s. 3d. was passed on to the consumer of coal. As I have said, there is a very good case for placing the responsibility for injury on the particular industry. I feel that that is the only way that we can work industrial compensation. It is perfectly simple, and all this business of constant litigation against the owner, the feeling of bitterness and the friction could easily be done away with. A compulsory insurance scheme could be brought in for compensation liabilities and the insurance need not be done through an insurance company. It could be done through one single organisation. It could be a poundage levied on wage bills in every single industry, or the industries could be pooled.
I beseech the House not to make the fatal mistake of linking up industrial injuries benefit with the rates for social 1605 insurance. The hon Member for Gorbals asked for the raising of the benefit payable for non-industrial injuries to the level payable for industrial injuries. But it will not happen like that; it will happen exactly the other way round. I am sure we are going on the wrong lines. I am sure the scheme is misconceived and the result, while a great improvement on the present situation, will not be anything like the improvement that it ought to be. I sat on the private committee which the hon. Member for Caerphilly rather sneered at. We came to the conclusion that there were two elements in industrial injury insurance. In the first the worker, the employer and the State contribute. I call this Beveridge benefit. Let that be the bottom storey of your industrial injury scheme. I do not see why the worker or the employer should be deprived of the benefit of those contributions. I do not see why, just because a man suffers an industrial injury, the benefit previously paid for by the worker and the employer should go back into the common pool. Let the Beveridge benefit be the bottom storey of the structure. Let the second storey be the result of a comprehensive, universal, compulsory insurance scheme—if you like, a Government insurance scheme—to which all employers are forced to contribute. It must have relation to the man's previous earnings.
It is sheer humbug to make the workers contribute to industrial insurance and I refuse to stand for it. I do not pretend to be an expert, but I have thought much about this and feel very deeply upon it. I beg the Government to think again before they introduce legislation along these misconceived and hybrid lines. The Solicitor-General simply assumed that the whole House agreed to the main philosophical principles underlying the scheme. He takes it for granted. As far as I am concerned he cannot, and the more the scheme is considered the more I think hon. Members opposite will see the many disastrous consequences which will follow from it. There is only one certain ray of hope that I have detected in the last two days, that there is no division on party lines and no desire to make party capital out of it. We on this side are just as anxious to see justice done as hon. Members opposite. I beg hon. Members not to be led away by the obvious benefits 1606 that must ensue when a lot more of other people's money is put into the pool. I beg them to try to think out a more rational basis for industrial insurance. It is not the worker's responsibility, and he should not be asked to pay for it if he suffers injury in the mine. It is the responsibility of the industry. In the long run it is the responsibility of the person who buys a ton of coal. I am very disappointed with most of the arguments which have been adduced in favour of the scheme.
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ Dr. Morgan (Rochdale)
One hesitates to approach a subject of this complexity. I have always been in favour of workmen's compensation reform, having regard to the deplorable situation at present, but though I view this scheme with good will, hoping for reform, at the same time I do so with a considerable amount of misgiving and foreboding. Why this particular scheme was chosen by the Home Office I do not know—or rather I think I do, but I will not mention it. It is unfair for one who knows the inner workings to make any comment on that score. The Home Secretary said yesterday this was a revolutionary change. I have never conceived him with a halo of revolution around his head. When I dreamt of this scheme last night and of the Debate and thought of the Home Secretary with the halo of revolution around his head, I wondered whether it was Dante's Inferno or the Vale of Gehenna or one of Disney's macabre and grotesque fantasias of the new Resurrection that I was witnessing.
What are the good points in the scheme? There is, first, the common central workmen's compensation fund, but there could be a common fund without having it of this nature—tri-partite. It could be in line with the various schemes in Canada and the United States. I should prefer to take the Ontario scheme as a model. There is the minimum of legal wrangling. Then there is the pensions officer for the preliminary inquiries, and later the local bi-lateral appeal tribunal, and even the advisory council. I know no more damaging evidence against medical tuition than is to be found in the Workmen's Compensation Acts. I have seen so-called doctors and specialists go into the witness box and make the most mendacious statements against the workmen. I have wondered where was the General Medical 1607 Council and why some of them were not struck off the roll. It could easily be proved, from the medical point of view, that their statements are quite inaccurate and grossly unfair. Not only that, but doctors have not in the past been taught anything about the assessment of injury and, if they had, they would have to know something about the industrial occupation of the workmen before they could assess it properly. Yet they have to make assessments without knowing the nature of the occupation and how the workman has been affected in his occupation by the injury. From the point of view of industrial diseases doctors are not taught anything at all. There is not a Lectureship on Industrial Diseases in this pioneer country of industrialism in the world. I am not saying that against the profession as a profession. I know that it is really sound at bottom, but there are a few who are employed by certain insurance companies who are not a credit to their profession.
What are the bad points in the scheme? The liability of the employer in case of injury to his workmen runs through the whole course of our common law. That is going to be removed. It may be a good thing, but I have grave doubts whether it is right that a workman injured through no fault of his own, in the environment provided by an employer working for a profit, under conditions over which the workman has absolutely no control, should be forced to contribute to some scheme under the disguise of social insurance, and that the taxpayer also should be brought in to contribute. As the schemes abroad have it, I think that this common pool should not only be the individual liability of the employer, but that it should be subscribed to wholly by industry for this special purpose. I agree that workmen's compensation should be treated as a special branch of social service, but it should be something entirely different though buttressed basically by the general social insurance scheme.
This scheme will relieve employers of a great deal of expense. They will have no urge for prevention. Take the case of dermatitis, which a man gets by coming into contact with certain irritant substances during his work. It is a scheduled disease under the Act—in a restricted way 1608 —and there should be proper preventive measures for the protection of the workmen. If a workman gets a sensitive skin from an industrial irritant it may last him all his life. What happens now? There are barrier creams known which can protect the workmen, not one general barrier cream for every form of irritation, but specific barriers for specific irritants. Are they ever used? Are the officers of the factory department able to say that this or that is the best barrier cream? No, because they are afraid of the rival firms. Certain firms are producing barrier creams which, if used universally, would reduce the rising incidence of dermatitis to a low figure. It may be said that I am arguing about things that are past and the present but is this scheme going to change them? What about the procedure in regard to industrial diseases?
Regarding accidents, the use of the words "arising out of and in the course of employment" is to be retained, with all their difficulties of different interpretations. A disease is a national accident. Is the whole procedure of the past with regard to the scheduling of diseases to be continued? This proposed change, which is supposed to be revolutionary from the point of view of diseases in industry, appears to make no change at all. Take the case of the nurse, that Cinderella of our health services. If she goes into an infectious diseases hospital, she cannot help her environment. If she goes to a sanatorium, she is liable to infection. If she gets tuberculosis, she cannot get compensation because it is not in the list of scheduled diseases. We cannot get tuberculosis scheduled as something specific to the risk that a worker is running in a particular industry. The same applies to scarlet fever with all its complications. The only remedy for the nurse is to fight a common law action. The same applies to the whole gamut of so-called social diseases.
The late Sir Thomas Legge, my predecessor at the T.U.C., who had so long an association at the Home Office as Chief Medical Factory Inspector, was one of the authors of the third test, which means that a disease must be proved to be specific to the employment before it can be accepted for the Schedule. He said that, after considerable experience, he thought that the third test should be changed, but nothing has been done. We 1609 have had to fight the Home Office Committee time and time again before many diseases were scheduled. Chronic carbon monoxide poisoning is scheduled in Australia, but not in Great Britain. Vibrational diseases contracted in boot factories and road repairing are scheduled in Germany, but not in Great Britain. I may be told that these matters are too technical to be dealt with by the politician, but they are comparatively simple and form the whole basis of disease compensation. If a person goes to work and is damaged by his particular environment, his disability should be made compensatable. Nothing is changed in these matters under this scheme.
I want to make representations on behalf of the seaman. Is there anything in this scheme that will benefit him—the seaman whose workshop is his home, who works under bad conditions, facing the elements all the time and with the restrictions of the Merchant Shipping Act constantly before him? He may get an accident or disease abroad and there are no means of treating him. The Board of Trade, which is responsible for seamen, has never Yet had a permanent medical officer attached to the Department like the Ministry of Labour, the Home Office and the Ministry of Health. We have been careless about the requirements of the seamen. If a seaman gets injured his pay ceases the moment he is off his vessel. What is to happen to him then? Is he brought under the social insurance scheme? What special arrangements have been made for him? Do the Government intend, between this Debate and the introduction of the Bill, to have separate negotiations with the seamen's organisations? Take the question of rehabilitation. Some seamen get compound fractures, and sometimes a man lands with three inches of bone jutting from his leg after having been in plaster for months. Does the House realise that if a seaman who has been in hospital abroad is conveyed to another ship in order to get to Great Britain and has an accident when he is in transit from shore to the departing ship his dependants get no compensation?
It is really a pathetic and wonderful tale. I listen sometimes to the speeches made about the magnificent work of the seamen in the war, and I wonder whether we are not shedding crocodile tears over them in view of the fact that, after all their bravery and heroism, they cannot, when it comes 1610 to workmen's compensation and questions of industrial disease, get the services of a certifying factory surgeon abroad, or some adequate procedure cannot be devised. Think of the seaman, braving the elements of rain, storm and sea, who is flung overboard in the course of his work. He cannot get compensation. If he loses his life, his widow cannot get compensation either because she cannot prove that an accident occurred, the theory apparently being that the seaman always wants to throw himself overboard and commit suicide. I see the Solicitor-General making a remark. I assure him that this is not hanky-panky and that if he will read the evidence given to the Royal Commission on Workmen's Compensation he will find a special part devoted to seamen and many points covered, some which I have mentioned.
This may be a revolutionary scheme and a wonderful scheme. It may have good in it, but it will need more thorough revision and recasting than we have yet conceived. I could tell terrible things about what has happened under workmen's compensation. I have done workmen's compensation work for 25 years and I have seen the end results not only of ordinary accident and industrial disease, but of neurosis—men neglected, frustrated, degraded, and down to the bottom, with nobody helping the bottom dog. It is unfair not to provide against that in this scheme, which seems almost to divide the Labour Party into two; I hope not. There are very different opinions about this scheme. I ask the Home Secretary to give it further consideration and to see whether, especially in industrial disease and in the terminology in regard to accidents, he can give more safeguards for the worker who is injured in an occupational environment over which he has no command of any kind.
§ 2.33 p.m.
§ Mr. E. J. Williams (Ogmore)
I am sure that the Solicitor-General and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will have been impressed by the speech which we have just heard and I hope that nothing that may have been said by way of criticism of the scheme will deter them from considering seriously what my hon. Friend has said about industrial diseases. I propose to leave out of my speech that aspect of the matter, with which my hon. Friend has dealt substantially better than 1611 I could hope to do. Unlike him, I welcome the Government scheme because it is a radical departure from the past. For at least the reason that was mentioned by the Solicitor-General I think it will create a new atmosphere in industry. Like so many of my colleagues, I have been a practical miner for years, and a miners' official for many years. Within my province I have had to attend collieries where there had been fatal accidents such as explosions, involving the lives of many men, as well as accidents that concerned individuals, and ultimately coroners' courts and post-mortem examinations.
In relation to the latter I could talk much, particularly if I linked them up with industrial diseases such as silicosis, now termed, of course, pneumoconiosis. From the historical aspect of the matter we can see how practically impossible it has been for the dependants of persons who contracted silicosis to obtain compensation. I have attended many postmortem examinations where the lungs were actually like fossils, but the dependants were not entitled to compensation because they could not prove that the man had worked in the process or that his work was in hard ground or that, if he had there was 40 per cent. of silica in the rock. Sometimes the rock has had to be sent to a geologist to be analysed before the fact could be established that the dependants were entitled to compénsation.
I merely cite that in order to bring out the point. I hope that the Solicitor-General will very seriously consider the interruption I made in his speech. In this matter my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) is quite right; we must tackle the question of proof. So long as the onus is placed upon the individual to show that he sustained the accident while in the course of his employment he is the victim of circumstances for ever. While the onus is placed upon him to show that he has not recovered from the accident, he will be a victim too. That onus must be lifted from the shoulders of the injured person. I am certain that if that is done the scheme will work well.
I welcome the scheme for an additional reason. I see no reason why the injured workman should have to go to the employer's premises each week to receive his compensation. Why should there be 1612 that attachment? In this matter my colleagues, particulary those from the mining industry, could give many instances of the real, petty tyranny that has obtained for years in the industry. A colliery cashier paying compensation to an individual, perhaps because of his position, will ask the individual whether he has recovered and whether it is not time that he got back to work, worrying him from week to week just at the time when he requires every bit of encouragement to recover from the accident. Psychiatrists are employed on many jobs; it would seem as though colliery cashiers and the small bosses were creating problems for them. Obviously this matter must be taken away from the employer.
I do not know how we can run a scheme of this kind unless there are flat-rate benefits, or how we can hope to comply with the wishes of persons who would like to have varying payments of compensation and still maintain an insurance scheme. I want the contributory scheme, but I want to avoid a repetition of the very general experience we had in the mining industry from 1921 to 1936, and from 1936 almost up to the outbreak of war, which is that, when periods of depression took place in the industry, concerns went into liquidation. Persons should be entitled to payment for physical damage sustained by way of accident regardless of the assets of the firm. I could mention scores of cases of men who are walking the streets to-day as cripples because the colliery went into liquidation. They were not first preference creditors. Ultimately, when the assets had been realised, the colliery paid 2s. or 3s. in the £. There are hundreds of cases such as these, walking the mining villages of South Wales and other places to-day. When this insurance is made a social service, such a situation should not be allowed to recur. I cannot see how it could recur, for the obvious reasons that the man would be entitled to this compensation as a right quite independent of the business, quite independent of the employer, and I think that is really a very good thing.
Although we support this scheme and the flat rate of benefits, we are obviously not satisfied with the rate of benefits, and frankly the Government must face up to that. In the last 12 or 13 years when we have been discussing compensation we have never had such an attendance in 1613 the House as we have had yesterday and to-day, and I am very pleased to find that. I have never heard such a favourable response from my political opponents on the other side of the House. I suggest it is just the war. [An HON. MEMBER: "They get rid of their liabilities."] I think myself it is the war. I think they realise that labour in war-time is really the boss, that labour can dictate terms, and that because it is impossible for them to get the necessary labour to run the mining industry and other essential industries, they must create a better atmosphere, they must take all these irritants out of industry as far as possible, and must endeavour as far as possible to meet the claims of the trade union movement, including the Miners' Federation and the others. They are endeavouring to do that under this scheme. But we are not satisfied with the rate of benefit.
There can be no reason why the employers should be relieved of about £8,500,000, so that while we welcome this scheme we are not prepared to make a present to the employers of that fabulous sum of money. There is no reason why retrospective claims back to 1924 could not be met out of that £8,500,000. There is no reason why we could not increase the flat rate fairly substantially—the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir W. Beveridge) said 50 per cent. above Part 1. There is no reason why it could not be increased to 50 per cent. above Part 1. I am hoping that the Government will face up to the major criticism of the rates of benefit within the scheme.
I welcome this scheme as a social service. 1 am a little dubious about the machinery. I do not know exactly how to substitute another kind of machinery for that which was suggested by the Solicitor-General. Frankly, I am prepared to try it out. I have had experience, like my colleagues, of the administration of the Unemployment Insurance Acts. I realise that things are substantially better than they were in the old days, and I think most of my colleagues would he prepared try it out as an experiment, and if ultimately something is found to need modification I trust the Government will face up to it. But if we have to take this matter out of the courts, if we are to free the men from the suspicion they now hold about doctors, solicitors, court procedure, the wrangle 1614 of prolonged litigation, and so on, the only substitute for the court is the body that is proposed within the scheme itself. I can think of no other and I am prepared to try it. But obviously the success of that tribunal will depend upon its terms of reference, the rules and regulations and how simple they will be, whether they are understandable, whether the man feels, when he appears before that tribunal, that he is prejudiced by the regulations or rules or advice that is given to that body. I am sure that if onus of proof is taken from the shoulders of the individual he will feel all right, but if he is to appear there a victim of circumstances, pleading his own case as an individual, with the weight of evidence thrown against him, I am certain we shall have a substantial measure of dissatisfaction. I put it to the Solicitor-General that if he will meet the point I put in my interruption this scheme will work reasonably well.
I say this in conclusion: Being attached to the mining industry, I am very much concerned about its future. We on these benches differ substantially from our political opponents on the other side of the House as to what should be done. I do not know whether they can believe me if I tell them that I feel that, regardless of politics, we shall have to take control of the mines as a matter of pure business, that is, if we require coal produced, and want persons coming into the industry as miners to make good the wastage from year to year. Though we may differ politically as to the future of the mining industry, I am certain that we shall never be able to attract youth to the mining industry unless we substantially improve the conditions of that industry, and in that respect compensation payments will be a major factor. The benefit must be increased, not as an inducement but as a right. Something must be produced as a right that is substantially better than the men in the mining industry get to-day. I am putting that purely from the mining aspect, but obviously it applies to other industries too. But that is an industry radically affected by the accidents of industry in which substantial improvement is required at the present time.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr)
I propose to confine the few remarks I intend to make to one matter. I also must plead guilty to having interjected while the 1615 Solicitor-General was making, may I say quite respectfully, an excellent contribution towards the subject matter of the Debate of to-day and yesterday. I want to thank him for his clarity in dealing with what is obviously a very complicated matter. I interjected on the very point I now wish to raise, because I am extremely disturbed by what is regarded as the scope of the scheme, and it is found largely in paragraph 33. First we are told:The scheme will apply to personal injury by accident arising out of and in the course of employment. …That worries me and has worried me from the moment I saw it in the Report. The Solicitor-General could not satisfy me this afternoon, in answer to my question, whether the interpretation to be placed upon this sentence under the new scheme was an interpretation that would be determined by the precedents laid down in the present law of workmen's compensation. I am very much afraid that is just what will happen. If that is so, I am absolutely confident that this scheme will never operate to the satisfaction of the workers.
I speak about the legal side of this matter as a layman. It is not my desire to reflect on those who practise law, but I respectfully suggest to the Home Secretary, who like myself does not claim to be a lawyer, that he might spend a few hours with our great old friend Willis's "Workmen's Compensation." It has been a friend to all of us who have been pitchforked into representative positions in the trade unions, and I always feel profoundly indebted to Mr. Willis for that great work. Last Monday I spent nearly three hours reading Mr. Willis on the judgments that have been given on this very subject. As one who has had a lifelong experience in the mining industry, I defy anybody to say that there is agreement that principles have been laid down which are satisfactory, clear and understandable, and which can help us to decide whether an accident has arisen out of, or in the course of, employment. Mr. Willis, who must be regarded as an authority, tells us, in the 1943 edition:In respect to the meaning of the words 'arising out of employment'"—1616 and that is only half of the phrase—there is room for divergent views on the same facts. No principles of general application can be gleaned from the cases, which can only be regarded as illustrations of the operation of the words of the Act upon a particular set of circumstances.My experience has led me to regard Mr. Willis as being one of the great authorities on workmen's compensation in this country, and I say that this description of the state of the law on workmen's compensation is as perfect a description as could ever be put into words. Mr. Willis's statement that there is room for divergent views on the same facts is based on hundreds of cases that have been decided in the higher courts. The facts may be identical in relation to accidents to two persons; but one person may be paid compensation, and the other not. That is what has happened in many cases which are known to us personally. Mr. Willis tells us:No principles of general application can be gleaned from the cases. …Is this to be a legacy? Is this to be the atmosphere in which this scheme will be wrapped? There is no agreement in law with respect to hundreds of cases that arise under the present Workmen's Compensation Acts. All that the costly litigation has produced is chaos.
I profoundly hope that the Government do not intend to rear their new structure of workmen's compensation on a basis of that kind. In some instances we find that compensation is paid when the accident occurs to a workman on his way to work, and in other cases, where the physical circumstances are as identical as they possibly can be, and accidents occur to persons on their way to work, no compensation is paid. Further, there are fine and baffling distinctions drawn as to the meaning of "continuous" and "intermittent" employment. Although these are quite ordinary words, of which the workers know the meaning, the law, in its practice, apparently can come to different conclusions about when work is continuous and when it is intermittent. Who can tell us, in the light of the present law, when employment begins and when it ends? The law cannot tell us. I have looked it up. My colleagues here and I have had experience of cases in which it has been perfectly clear to the worker that his employment had commenced when the accident happened, but the claim has failed because it was 1617 held that his employment had not commenced. I must not take up time in going over these cases, but I should like the Government to consider the matter, in order that this scheme may not be ruined in its inception.
I welcome the scheme as a pointer in the right direction. I cannot put it higher than that until I see how it is to be clothed, what the machinery for its administration is to be, and on what principles these questions will be decided. The effect of these distinctions on the mind of the worker has been detrimental. They have crowded his mind with suspicions, but he knows very well that his contract of service implies a direct and immediate obligation on his part to work for his employer. He gets up in the early hours of the morning and proceeds to the place of his employment, but, 500 yards from his home, he meets with an accident and finds that he has no claim for compensation. If the accident had happened to him 501 yards from his home, he might, perhaps, have succeeded in his compensation claim. Again, I hope the Government will avoid those other fine calculations in estimating time and space under the present law of workmen's compensation. Fancy a workman coming across a statement of this kind, made by an authority on the present law:There must, in all cases, be an interval of time and space in going to, or returning from, the scene of his labours. during and in which the employment of the workman ceases.Why is language of that kind necessary? The workers of this country are ordinary mortals, but, really, the language of the law has reached such a state of stultification that one cannot read it without getting extremely exasperated. One is forced to wonder what nice abstract speculations occupy the mind, say, of the collier, working in a temperature of 90 to 100 degrees, in a cramped and confined position at the coal-face, or of the blast-furnace man, keeping his furnace and controlling the flow of molten steel, or of the machinist, tied to his machine for eight hours and victimised almost to the point of idiocy by a minute detail, one of the many required before the finished article sees the light of day.
May we express the hope that the right hon. Gentleman who will be putting some thought into this scheme will drop com- 1618 pletely these stupid and often metaphysical speculations that are associated with the law of workman's compensation to-day. I must appeal to them, because they will be people who will have had a great deal of experience. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman who will reply to the Debate has had a very close and intimate knowledge of colliery work. I hope he will remember the language that the workers in our industry speak, and the language they understand. I hope Ministers will for the first time clothe their directions and lay down principles in language which our people can understand and in which they will have the necessary confidence.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Sloan (South Ayrshire)
I am one of those who must give this White Paper a very mixed reception. I can understand the desire to lift compensation out of the arena of heated controversy and remove it from what the White Paper terms a disputable issue between employers and workers. It would be unfair, I think, to say that we have not gained something by our compensation law, but it would be quite fair, I think, to say that we have lost much by our continuous strife and litigation. Any attempt to reduce this irritation and secure compensation for injury as a right should be welcomed. It will eliminate the body-snatching insurance companies and lawyers, and should restore some measure of confidence to employees. The willingness of the Government to pay some regard to the criticisms levelled at this White Paper will prove whether or not we are to have fundamental changes in our compensation law.
I represent a large working class population of miners, agricultural and factory workers, who are prepared to respond to the Home Secretary's appeal to discuss these proposals in a spirit of co-operation, mutual respect and good will. It would not be correct to blame entirely the employers for the unhappy state that exists in regard to compensation. It has been due to the state of the law and to the evil consequences that arise from it. Those of us who have intimate knowledge of the system know that, for every compensation case contested in the law courts, hundreds, even thousands, have been settled and paid without any difficulty at all. Indeed, it is difficult for 1619 the ordinary trade union official to keep pace with them, because the men are injured, are off work, receive compensation and are back to work before we know anything at all about it. Therefore, we do not attempt to claim that our compensation laws are all bad, but we do think that, now that they are in the melting pot, and it is agreed on every hand that they have overstayed their welcome and outlived their usefulness, we should take care that we make a good job of what we erect in their place.
This has been a long-drawn-out struggle. The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir W. Beveridge) talks about this as his baby, but I do not know whether he claims to be the father or the mother. The compensation baby was born some 50 years ago, but has taken an unconscionably long time to grow up. I suppose it has been afflicted with all the ills known to children, and is now afflicted with infantile paralysis. I must say that I was tremendously disappointed with the speech of the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, because he is a Scotsman who came to us with a great reputation and with a halo round his head, and his Report had become a household word. And why? Because what the people of this country have been searching for, more than anything else in this world, has been security. That is fleeting and visionary, and is too conditional for us ever to contemplate. I am afraid my hon. Friend has lost his éclat and can no longer be classed as a glamour boy. He was a supporter of the view of the Government that 35s. was sufficient for the first 13 weeks. What reason did he advance? It was that if we gave too much for a short period, there would not be sufficient to go round.
Here we have the case in a nutshell. Here is a pool, and if too much is paid out of it somebody has to go short. If that is the method of the administration of this pool, someone is going to suffer very seriously, and it savours so much of the unemployment pool that we shall have to be very careful before we accept it. It originated from the champion of social security. Ninety per cent. of the cases are short period cases and the proposal is, therefore, that 90 per cent. of the workers of this country who are injured are to be palmed off with what is 1620 termed the "subsistence level." It is a horrible term. We have had reference to a subsistence wage among pit-head workers, and we are now adopting the same scheme in these White Paper proposals. I will let it go at that.
I must apologise for returning to the question of adequacy. This is a crucial test of our sincerity. If, at this stage, we are not prepared to insert in the scheme fair rates of compensation payments for hundreds of thousands of industrial workers, it will not be unfair to accuse us of humbug. What value can be placed upon our declarations of freedom from want? Why should we attempt to deprive our injured workers of this very elementary justice? According to the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed it is because of lack of funds. That was an extraordinary statement. It was difficult to believe that it was made in cold blood, but I will be generous and give the hon. Member the benefit of the doubt by saying that he made that statement when he was overexcited at speaking in these strange and bewildering surroundings.
Let us look at the finances of the scheme, on page 25 of the White Paper. The Government are now proposing to take over a scheme which, we were told, has cost £17,000,000. They are going to pay very little. Instead of the employers bearing the whole cost there is now to be a tripartite payment by employers, workers and the Treasury. Whereas the employers themselves should find £17,000,000, the amount to be found by the whole crowd of us, from the domestic servant to the employer of labour, with the assistance of the Treasury, is £20,000,000. A remarkable feature of the proposal is that the employers are to be relieved of the payment of £8,500,000. It is about Christmas time and Santa Claus is coming along and we are going to put £8,500,000 into their stockings. Surely, such a generous gesture has never been heard of since we handed over the ships at a nominal figure to the shipowners after the last war. What excuse can be offered for asking the employers to pay less? It was stressed from the benches opposite that they were wholeheartedly with us. I would be surprised if they were not. The scheme is offering their friends £8,500,000 and I would be surprised if they did not accept it with both hands. 1621 What is the reason given for making them this handsome subsidy? This £8,500,000 has become part of the cost of industry; it is a cost on wages and is passed on to the consumers in the price of commodities, and now we are calmly proposing to relieve them of responsibility and leave them with £8,500,000 in their possession.
It is a satisfactory state of affairs for the employers, but such magnanimity will be very sadly misunderstood by the workers who will be asked to pay their weekly premium. They will place their own construction upon a device that asks them to pay their own insurance while the employers walk away with the swag. If there were any weaknesses hi the pool before, this is the one for which the Government ought to answer. To the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, who is concerned about the finance, and to the Government I would say that, if this £8,500,000 were placed in the pool, it would enable more generous treatment to be given to injured workers. Do not let us deceive ourselves; the people are watching us more keenly than they have ever watched us before. If the benefits of this scheme are typical of the bright new world that is before us and this is the standard we are prepared to set for freedom from want, if this is the foundation on which we are to build homes for heroes and the line on which we are to redeem our promises to the men in the Services, then I can say, in the words of our national poet, it is "dark and drear."
The point has been raised whether there is to be relation between cost of living and the benefits. There has been no answer, as far as I have heard, from the Government in regard to this matter and I hope, whatever Minister is to reply, that he will not ignore the fact that that point has been put from these benches. Is there to be any provision made in the fund for violent fluctuations in prices or are these figures to be static or flexible if inflation should hit us? Section 47 (2) assumes that wages will fall to 25 per cent. in excess of their level in 1938. That, if true, would be a most horrible prospect, and I am genuinely surprised that the Government have placed it on record. Such a state of affairs would bring the wages of the Scottish miners down to the region of £3 a week. I wonder if the implications of what is stated in this White Paper is understood? It means that if the pits were able to 1622 work every day in the week, miners would be earning something like £3 a week. That would be a policy of starvation. I would point out that the miners have an agreement for a minimum of £5 a week. Does that mean, if the language of the White Paper means anything at all, that this will drop to 25 per cent. above 1938? Does that mean that we are only "kidding ourselves" in discussing this White Paper, and that even its limited provisions are not to be implemented? Or are we to look forward to 1947, 1948, 1949 or whenever wages have fallen to 25 per cent. above 1938 and peace-time conditions prevail?
We really ought to have an answer, and we ought not to be asked to discuss this White Paper until we have had it. When the monetary storm breaks lose anyone is an optimist who thinks we shall be free from inflation. We are living in a fool's paradise, an ice palace that will melt with the heat of the summer sun, if we imagine that we shall ride out of this storm quietly and with dignity, with no inflation and no trouble, and that the compensation benefits in this Paper will be sufficient to meet the needs of our industrial casualties.
I would have liked to say a word about rehabilitation but I think, like the compensation laws, I have overstayed my welcome and I do not like to be forcibly ejected. Under these circumstances, I would ask if it is the intention to prepare a Bill to implement the promises in the White Paper, that some regard will be paid to the criticisms levelled from these benches that these figures are quite insufficient, and that medical attention and rehabilitation will have to play a very important part in the future. There is nothing worse than poor people who have been injured. I have been injured and I know something about the mental strain. What we want more than anything else, when people are injured, is to get them to take a normal interest in their lives, and we can do this by paying attention to rehabilitation. I hope, therefore, that this will play an important part in any compensation laws of the future.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Barstow (Pontefract)
It is not my intention unduly to prolong this Debate. The many speakers who have taken part in it have travelled all round the world, and they have brought forward every 1623 possible argument for and against the White Paper. Therefore it would seem that there is not much more to be said on it. I want to put it to the Minister that this White Paper is the most unsatisfactory document yet produced by this Government. It does not provide for any reasonable standard of social security. The Home Secretary said yesterday that he was anxious to have the whole system of compensation properly cleared up, but this does not clear it up properly.
A great deal of attention has been directed to the position of miners, but I want to direct attention to railwaymen. In this House I represent at least 400,000 railwaymen. The policy of the railwaymen's union is not 35s. a week for a single man for 13 weeks. Their policy is that as an accident is incurred by a workman in the course of his employment, by an act which is for the benefit of his employer, he is entitled to 100 per cent. compensation. After all, when we come to analyse the subject, we have all to admit that there is a fundamental difference between a man who develops a cold from sleeping in a damp bed and has to go off work because of influenza or bronchitis or some other kindred disease, and the man who meets with a physical accident when working on behalf of his employer. There is no direct relationship between those two. In the one case the man is selling his power to labour to an employer in order to get the means of livelihood, but he is only employed by the employer because he is necessary in the process of producing the commodities which are being manufactured. He is, therefore, a part of industry just in the same way as a machine is a part of industry. If a machine fails, it has to be scrapped and a new machine put into its place, and we do not ask the social security firm to come along and replace that machine or make it good, for it is owned by industry. We say that the worker in industry is just as important and more important than the machine, and if he meets with an accident, then he is entitled to full compensation.
This scheme certainly does not give full compensation; it does not provide an adequate living margin for the injured workman. Let me give a concrete case. An engine driver, who may have an aver- 1624 age wage on mileage turns of £8 or £9 a week, has an eye damaged by a spark and is no longer fit for footplate work. What happens to him? He is not totally incapacitated from employment but he will be given a labourer's job at £2 10s. a week. Can it be argued that to pay him an industrial pension based on his present earnings of £2 10s. per week is adequate compensation for that injury?
Certainly not. The Government, by their scheme, draw everybody into the vortex. Contributions from employers as a whole will be increased by several million pounds, because all employers will be brought in and not merely those engaged in the manufacturing industries. All workers, too, are being brought in, although many of them are not liable, by the nature of their industry, to meet with an accident. Ultimately, the Government's proposals mean an average increase in compensation of from 2s. 6d. to 3s. 9d. a week. For that increase there has to be a contribution of 6d. per week. No one in the House has made any attempt to defend the existing compensation law. It has cost my union, the National Union of Railwaymen, hundreds of thousands of pounds to establish cases before the House of Lords, and help to put the present compensation law into the position it is in to-day.
The present compensation law is not satisfactory, and this White Paper does nothing fundamentally to alter it. I want the Government to take this Paper back, and reconsider the whole question. I know that if they bring in legislation embodying the proposals of this White Paper we shall pass it, but I beg the Government not to try to force this scheme on the House. Give us an opportunity of looking at the question again. Bring in all the people with expert knowledge of compensation law, and let us see if we cannot find a better basis. For instance, this White Paper perpetuates some of the evils of the present Compensation Acts. If a man is injured he is told, "For the first three days of the month there is no payment for you." The compensation rates, even under the latest scheme, are not adequate. In my union we have certain provident funds, and if a man who pays 1d. per week to these funds is injured he receives 10s. a week. The Government's scheme provides for an average weekly increase of 3s. 9d. in compensation. I do not wish to oppose 1625 an insurance scheme, but I am against forcing down the standard of living of tens of thousands of men in the railway and other industries. You are catering here for the lower paid men and not the higher paid men, and you have no right to plunge men who are living in decent social conditions into the lowest depths of poverty.
The Home Secretary yesterday asked for suggestions which would amend this scheme. Whether he seriously meant that I do not know, but at any rate I now ask the Government to take back this White Paper, bring in a new White Paper and avoid any further cutting down of people's benefits. There is a suggestion in the White Paper with regard to common law. Why is that there? Why did the Government refer that to Sir Walter Monckton, unless it was in the hope that compensation cases could be cut away from the common law? During the last few weeks my union established a case in the appeal court and obtained £2,900 damages because of an act of negligence by the employer. We do not want that to be removed; we want the Campbell Act to remain. If the Government want to supersede that by means of a scheme of social insurance such as this, they will create hostility throughout the trade union movement. Therefore, let them bring in something complete and final in all its details.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Murray (Spennymoor)
I want to thank the Solicitor-General for the statement he made this morning. It was one of the best statements I have heard for some time. I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Barstow) has not misrepresented the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. He said that the railwaymen were not satisfied with 35s. a week and I want it to go on record that the federation, which represents over 750,000 members, are not satisfied with 35s. a week and that they are only prepared to give a blessing to this scheme because there are higher rates of benefit. Anyone who knows anything about the mining industry, knows that once upon a time it was quite easy for a workman to get in touch with his employer. But to-day things are quite different. There have been established in the industry, and in many other industries too, huge combines, in which the 1626 workers are not able to get in touch with their employer. They do not know who he is, and to a large extent I believe that has been responsible for the lack of confidence there is in the mining industry to-day, and the suspicion in the minds of the workers in that industry.
It is claimed that this scheme is a break with the old, and I hope that is true. The compensation of miners has always been a nightmare. Whenever a man has had an accident, the amount paid to him for a bruised and broken body has been an insult. Immediately following the accident, the first thing he must do is to rearrange his mode of living. If he has a good Cavil and is a pieceworker he may earn £6 or £7 a week. If an accident happens, the first thing he says to his wife is that they must of necessity cut down their expenditure. The whole gamut of their life is changed. His wages will be reduced by £4 to £5 per week under the new scheme to £2 3s. 9d. per week compensation. He wants to get back to work long before he is ready for it. What is he offered? As I understand it, the rate for a married man with no children is 3s. 9d. higher than he receives now, and he pays no contribution. He is going to be asked to pay 13s. a year whether he has an accident or not. I want the Bill put through before the next election, but I want increased rates of benefit. The mining industry will pay between £9,000 and £10,000 a week to this fund.
I want to mention another matter, the case of the young man who is totally disabled. I have always felt, when working in the pit, that if you can keep the young men right, you have a good chance of keeping your wheels going all the time. The trouble usually starts with the young men. Under this scheme, a young man who is totally disabled is offered 17s. 6d. a week until he is 18, because he pays half contributions, I suppose, but assuming that his wage is £1 5s., the present rate of compensation is £1 1s. 10d., so he is asked to pay contributions for a reduction of 4s. 4d. a week for the first 13 weeks. The whole thing is ridiculous to my mind. After 13 weeks he still pays his contributions but gets 1s. 10d. less. If you want trouble in the mining industry, operate that. If his wage is £1 7s. a week the Government say, "Seventeen and six for the first 13 weeks and £1 afterwards. "The present compensa- 1627 tion is £1 3s. 7d., so that he is paying a contribution for a 6s. 1d. a week reduction, and after 13 weeks it will be a 3s. 7d. reduction. If his wage is £1 15s., compensation at the present rate is £1 6s. 3d., so that he will be paying increased contribution for a reduction of 8s. 9d. a week for 13 weeks. After that he would still suffer a reduction of 6s. 3d. for total disablement. If his wage is £2, the Government will give him the present rate of 17s. 6d. and £1 while compensation is £1 7s. 6d., so that he will be paying a contribution for a 10s. a week reduction, and after 13 weeks the reduction will be 7s. 6d. a week. Will this give satisfaction to the miners? The answer is inevitably in the negative.
I differ from my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) on the question of the lump sum and of the medical referee. It is all a question of the man. I have had men who received lump sums and I did not like the owners chasing round, to try to make a bargain with the men for their broken bodies. They visited them in their homes offering them a price—a ridiculous system. No matter what we advised some would accept it. They were prepared to sell their bodies. I have had men who have had £500, and I have gone with them to the bank and invested it for them, in war savings certificates. I have had others who have wasted their money, but I am glad to say they have been in the minority. I have known men who said they were going to start a business, but did not do so, and the money has gone. I am glad that the lump sum question is being got out of the way altogether. I would rather feel that the wives and the kiddies had something coming in every week. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider what I have said and have these things removed, because, if he does not, there will be left a spark which will set fire to the mining industry.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke)
The Solicitor-General spoke of the wealth of information which found expression in yesterday's proceedings. I want to endorse that, and to say that to-day has provided more evidence of that wealth of information. We have had a good Debate. It reminds one of pre-war days. It has done credit to the House. I wish the Debate 1628 could have been broadcast. If it had been heard by our people throughout the country, particularly in the industrial centres, it would have given great satisfaction. It would have let the world hear British democracy functioning in the national Assembly in the sixth year of the most terrible war mankind has ever faced. There seemed to be some ambiguity yesterday about the attitude of my hon. Friends and, in order to remove it, and to make our position clear, I want to quote extracts from the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for North Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) yesterday. He said:We welcome the scheme, and when we see the whole plan we hope it will be a little more attractive than it is at the present time … I would now like to supplement a plea that has been made about the rates of benefit. They are not good enough … 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."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th November, 1944; Vol. 404, C. 1448.]We hope that to-day marks the beginning of the end of one of the blackest chapters in British industrial history. In the past, workmen who have been injured through no fault of their own, or who have suffered from industrial diseases, have been treated like criminals. For the second time in my life, our people have toiled to save their country, and they have now a right to expect that the country will save them when they are in need in the future. The misery and suffering caused to families by industrial injuries and diseases cannot be assessed. The dominant factor in industry has been, and is, at the present time, "Get rid of the injured as quickly and cheaply as possible." Clever lawyers and plausible insurance officers are employed to play upon a man's eagerness to return to work. Their attitude has been, "Never mind a declaration of liability; leave it to us, and we will look after your interests." Many broken-hearted men and women have spoken to me about their tragic experiences through taking notice of people who have given advice of that kind.
From 1922 to 1933, for every £100 paid in premiums, the compensation paid was £56 10s., or only 11s. 4d, out of every £1 paid in premium. That included the legal and medical charges. Management and profits took 8s. 8d., and we hold the view that that represents exploitation by finance capital of both employers and em- 1629 ployees. When representatives of the Trades Union Congress gave evidence before the Inter-departmental Committee, it was my privilege to be present. The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir W. Beveridge) and Mr. Epps carried out a severe interrogation, and it was made clear that under capitalism workmen's compensation should be the direct responsibility of the employers. Those of us who have been brought up in industry and have suffered from the lashes of it during the last 20 years, are bound, if we are worthy of our fellows, to have a certain amount of bitterness. Industry is carried on for profit, and in the main that determines industrial policy. It is true that enlightened employers are now beginning to realise that it is a business proposition to embark on a big scale policy of welfare. Nevertheless, the main motive power behind industry is profit, and we cannot lose sight of it. I have not time to reason this out in a detailed way because I want to deal with the merits of the scheme before us. I felt bound, however, to place these observations on record.
So anxious are we for improvement that we accept this White Paper as a basis for discussion. We cannot forget that our people have suffered and have waited long enough for improvements, and we are bound to have regard to that. A new foundation is laid by this White Paper, and it is the desire of my hon. Friends to build upon it a satisfactory scheme of industrial injury insurance. Let me remind the House that we have been promised fundamental improvements in workmen's compensation before. We had a promise in 1917, and I shall never forget the report of the commissioner who investigated industrial unrest in that year. Like many more promises that have been made, that promise has never been fulfilled. We were also promised improvements in 1938, 1942 and 1943, but they have never materialised. Anyone from an industrial area could build a terrible indictment against the way our people have been treated for generations. Therefore, we are bound to accept proposals that have for their object improvements in general.
In our view, these proposals will pave a way to a new approach and a more humanitarian method of dealing with those who suffer through no fault of their 1630 own from industrial injury and diseases. All the people of this country look upon war casualties with the greatest amount of sympathy, and it is time that they looked upon industrial casualties in the same way. We welcome these proposals, and I do so in particular, because they will assist in the elimination of legal quibbling and legal bullying and of the insurance blackmail from which we have suffered so long. Introducing this Debate yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary used these words, which should be emphasised and to which my hon. Friends desire to tie the Government: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."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 8th November, 1944; Vol. 404, c. 1390.]We welcome my right hon Friend's statement that the Government proposals are not final, that they were put forward as a basis for discussion. For the first time, he said, it was proposed to transfer to the community as a whole the responsibility for the casualties of industry. What is an injury? When is a person suffering from an industrial disease? The White Paper makes no change in the present definition. I hope that the best legal advice will be pooled, in order that we can try to find a new definition before the Bill is drafted. The trade unions have spent thousands of pounds on litigation on this question. I would like to ask the Minister to consider the phrase "in connection with the employment," or some other basis of entitlement that will improve the position of the injured worker.
With all the emphasis I can use, I want to say how heartily I welcome the proposal to terminate lump sum settlements. I admit at once that the allowances are an improvement on the Beveridge Report, but the Government seems to start from the present inadequate low standards. Is it a fact that 90 per cent, of the injured workpeople return to their normal employment within 16 weeks and that 65 per cent, return within four weeks? If so, the 13 weeks proposal should be reduced to four weeks and the three days waiting period should be abolished for those who are injured and lose employment for six or more days. We are very concerned about the proposed injury allowance. I am glad that the 1631 word "allowance" has been used, because that is all it is. I shall never forget a spokesman for the Government saying that it was the policy of the Government to ratify all the Conventions of the International Labour Office. Therefore I want to remind the Government of the evidence that was given before the Royal Commission, by representatives of the International Labour Office. I am quoting from their document:On May 1st, 1939, the International Labour Office was requested to prepare for submission to the Royal Commission a survey of the workmen's compensation legislation in certain States of industrial importance. The workmen's compensation minimum scale recommendations, 1925, lay down the general principle that in case of incapacity for work, or death, the wage loss should be indemnified to the extent of two-thirds. It refers also to the desirability of instituting measures for vocational rehabilitation.It is now nearly 20 years since that Convention was agreed upon; is it the intention of the Government to ratify all I.L.O. Conventions, and are they prepared to ratify this 20-year-old Convention in the Bill when it is brought before the House? This evidence goes on:In the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, different rates of benefits are provided for adults and young persons, for miners and other workmen, and for permanent and temporary workmen. Here is the compensation payable for temporary incapacity in the U.S.S.R.: Under two years"—that is to say, those who have been employed for less than two years—fifty per cent.; miners, 60 per cent. Those who have been two years or more in their employment, miners, 100 per cent"—and so it goes on. I invite the Government to give consideration to that evidence. On another page, it sets out information about the different States in America. In California, for total incapacity, 65 per cent. of the wages is paid; in Massachusetts, 66 per cent.; in New York, 66⅔ per cent., and so on. The fact of the matter is that during the past 30 years we have been held back to such an extent that we have lagged behind the world in regard to treatment of injured workmen. The time has arrived when the Government should, at least, seeing that we have been fighting for the retention of British democracy, produce more instalments of democracy so that this country can take the lead in social development throughout the world.
1632 I happen to have been employed in the engineering industry. For certain skilled workers in that industry, the prewar wages were £3 2s., and their earnings were £3 16s. Their wages at present are £5 2s. and their earnings are, on the average, £6 a week. Are the scales proposed in the White Paper considered adequate for men injured in that industry through no fault of their own? For the second time, those engineers have provided the basis, with the tool fitters making jigs and patterns and providing drawings, for making the mighty effort that we have made in the world-battle for freedom. After all that sacrifice and all that effort, are these scales satisfactory to the Government—after the great efforts made by the men whom I have the honour to represent?
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I have not the time to go into that matter. We can have a party meeting where we can hammer out those things. If we are to do justice to ourselves in this House, we should be prepared to hammer those things out outside, and to come here united to present our arguments to those who are supposed to be against us. Some people have been critical of the Coalition but one cannot fail to notice that they are members of another Coalition of which some of us refuse to be members.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
To return to my subject: the married men's allowance should, in my view, be increased by a substantial amount. Rents at the present time are between 12s. and 15s. per week. We live in an ordinary working class house and we have to pay 15s. 4d. a week. That is typical of the rents of houses in that locality. How can we be expected to maintain ourselves adequately, if we have to be satisfied with the scales laid down in these proposals? Those who are responsible for the White Paper should go to the Exchequer and say that they want a very substantial grant, in order to do justice to the people. Let me make it clear that our movement will never be satisfied with the scales of benefit laid 1633 down in Part I or Part II of the White Paper.
Can we have an unequivocal answer to three questions which I wish to ask? The first is: Is it intended that the Government will be guided by this Debate, in the preparation of the Bill and will the Bill be carried through in the next Session? Our people have suffered so long that the time has arrived when substantial improvements ought to be introduced, in a Bill that will guarantee them to our people, before this Parliament breaks up. Secondly, will consideration be given to the need for substantial increases in benefit and to an increase in the Exchequer grant? Will industrial diseases, and especially pneumoconiosis, be dealt with in this Bill? In my view, the employers' contribution to the new scheme should be increased, to guarantee at the very least £10,000,000, in order to make a greater contribution than they are doing to increasing the benefits.
§ Mr. David Eccles (Chippenham)
Would it not be fair to regard the finance of Parts I and II together? Is it not a fact that the additional amount put upon the employers in Part I very much exceeds the £8,500,000 of which they are being relieved in Part II? In fact, would not the wage-earners of the country be unwise to put too much on costs?
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
In regard to the latter point, if the scheme is carried through on the present basis, it will be a good proposition from the employers' point of view. We can see great possibilities of improvement in the new methods. We have had such a sickener of legal quibbling, and of the insurance people, that we want to take it out of the courts. Therefore, we look upon this as a basis upon which to build a satisfactory scheme. In regard to the first part of the hon. Member's question, if the hon. Member accepts that reasoning, he brings it to this, that the employers ought to make the same contribution to the scheme as they are making at present. I do not think there is any analogy between Part II and Part I, because Part I deals with the whole of the people, while Part II deals only with people who run a greater risk than the average citizen. In running that risk, particularly when the motive power of industry is dropping, these people should be more adequately compensated when they suffer injury through no fault of 1634 their own than is the average citizen when he is suffering in any other way.
A terrible story can be told by my hon. Friends who are familiar with the miners' lives, and I do not wish to go into that. Within the few minutes at my disposal I wish to make a special plea for those who are suffering, through no fault of their own, from the deadly industrial disease better known in the country as silicosis. Our present methods of dealing with this are disgraceful. As my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan) has reminded us, we are years behind some other countries in our compensation and treatment of people who suffer, and I plead for a new approach to this problem. No one would suffer from one of these diseases unless he or she was engaged in a certain industry. The logic of that is that those who suffer from industrial diseases should receive special benefits and special treatment. Silicosis is a deadly industrial disease which is very difficult to diagnose. The least we should do in an enlightened community is to give the person who thinks he is suffering from it the benefit of the doubt, instead of turning against him any doubt there is. The people of the area from which I come and have the honour to represent have suffered from this disease, relatively speaking, more than any other section of the community in this country. Anyone who doubts this should go to the Blue Books which have been published in this country in the past 100 years. Then they will be convinced.
Industrial disease is brought about through no fault of the workpeople. It gradually saps the vitality of the individual. Their manhood or womanhood is gradually undermined, and all this brings about a greater danger of tuberculosis, bronchitis, asthma and consumption. Hundreds of people are suffering from these deadly diseases because they have been employed in particular industries. Therefore I wish to plead with the Government to change the phrases used on page 19, where it states:It is proposed to adhere generally to the principles at present recognised in extending the Acts to diseases due to industrial employment.There will be no difference between us on this—that the prevention of accidents and the prevention of industrial disease is more desirable than compensation. There is 1635 nothing the people of this country desire more than health and strength to continue in employment as regularly as they can possibly get it. The war has proved that no one in this country can point a finger at the industrial population with regard to their contribution to this war. Surely they should be treated differently from the way they have been treated in the past if, in future, they suffer through no fault of their own.
Therefore, not only do we want to consider these things, but we ask the Government whther they intend to carry on maximum consultation after the war through production committees and workshop committees, as has been the case during the war, so that those representing the workpeople will be taken into consultation with regard to safety first. At the present time I am having electric short-wave treatment. That has stimulated me to desire to understand the value of this kind of treatment better than I have done in the past. I have been surprised at the benefits that can be derived from electric short-wave treatment and from radiological treatment, now being administered to a small section of people only. If that scientific treatment is good for some it ought to be good for the whole of the people. Those suffering from industrial diseases should receive regular medical attention and regular medical examination in order that these new scientific ideas can be applied to them as soon as possible.
A few weeks ago I went to a new rehabilitation centre run by the R.A.F. in Northern England. As I went round tears of joy came to my eyes when, thinking of how men had suffered in the past, I saw the treatment which sufferers in the Royal Air Force were now receiving. My hon. Friend the Member for North Islington (Dr. Haden Guest) outlined his experiences yesterday. We say that if this rehabilitation treatment is good for our men injured in the war, it ought to be applied to industrial casualties to minimise suffering in the future.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Peake)
I should like to associate myself with what the hon. Member said with regard to the quality and interest of the Debate which we have had for the 1636 last two days. It has been a fascinating Debate, and hon. Members on all sides have made their contributions in the true spirit of a Council of the Nation. Divisions have not been, as so often in the past upon this thorny and difficult question, upon party lines. In fact, some of the most strenuous arguments in the course of to-day's Debate have been between members of the party opposite. That of course is a welcome change to His Majesty's Ministers, who have so often sat here in workmen's compensation Debates and been roundly abused from all quarters of the House.
My hon. Friend asked three questions, which I had better answer straight away. First he asked whether the Government would give close attention to what had been said in the course of this Debate. To that my reply is an unqualified affirmative. One of the great difficulties we have had in framing this White Paper has been that we have had to do it in secret. In the preparation of all the workmen's compensation proposals with which I have been associated in the past five years, and have presented to the House of Commons, we have had the advantage of consultations with representatives of both sides of industry, and from the insurance interests which have great experience in this field. On this occasion, we have not been able to follow that course. We have had to proceed and draw up our White Paper without the benefit of such consultations. In the light of this fact, it is remarkable that no hon. Member has been able to point out any inaccurate statement of fact in the White Paper. It may have its imperfections; it may in some respects be, as the hon. Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan) suggested, incomplete. But we wish to have an opportunity first of considering everything that has been said in the course of this Debate, and in the second place of having consultations with the great interests concerned in this difficult question, before the Bill embodying these proposals is presented to the House.
Next, my hon. Friend asked whether we were going to introduce the Bill next Session. My answer to that is that if it is humanly possible this course will be taken, but nobody, can tell when the General Election will come upon us. I shall do all I can, and I am sure my right hon. Friend will also, to get these 1637 proposals through before this Parliament dissolves, and for this reason: I think we have in this Parliament an absolutely unique opportunity of dealing with this thorny and difficult question. I have been in this House for something like 15 years, and I have sat through many Debates upon this subject. They have been extremely bitter—which one can quite understand—and very little real progress has been made. There is an opportunity in present circumstances, with Members of all parties welcoming these proposals, of getting a really big reform carried through, with a very large measure of general agreement.
These proposals have been, in the main, supported by hon. Members. They were supported by the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell), my hon. Friend the Member for North Southwark (Mr. Isaacs), whose knowledge of his subject is so profound, the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown), who made a very excellent contribution, the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards), with whom I have crossed swords on this subject very frequently, the hon and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hughes), whose speech I should like to commend to hon. Members who were not here last night as an admirable contribution, the hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Oliver), and the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. E. J. Williams), who is too little heard in this House in these days. Good Conservative Members of my party have supported these proposals. They include the hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller), the hon. and gallant Member for Brighton (Lieut.-Colonel Marlowe), my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Erskine-Hill), whose views carry so much weight in my party, and the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Colegate). I am sorry that there has only been one speech from the Liberal benches, but it was a very good one. The opponents of these proposals are drawn from the extreme wings, I think, to some extent, of each party—perhaps I am being a little unfair to my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) in saying, that. The hon. Member for Oxford and my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. G. Nicholson) were the two critics on this side. On the opposite side, the critics were the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) and the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen). This reminds 1638 me of the opposition to the proposals for the totalisator, when bishops and bookmakers were found in close association.
It is a matter of considerable satisfaction to me personally to be privileged to take part in this Debate. I have spent a long time at the Home Office, and certainly no week has ever passed—and very few days—without this subject of workmen's compensation coming under consideration. The hon. Member for Gorbals criticised my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for dishing out one or two compliments in the course of his speech. I am going to disregard the advice of my hon. Friend, and to pay one to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. He has been a very good man to work with in the preparation of these proposals. He is a man of courage and he is a man of conviction. We have agreed upon these proposals, and he has been a worthy protagonist of the cause of the injured workman, for which on occasion he and I have had to fight within the ranks of His Majesty's Government. I shall enter into no competition with my right hon. Friend in claiming authorship for these proposals. He, quite rightly, accepted full Ministerial responsibility. He has said that when he came to the Home Office he had certain misgivings as to how he was going to get on with me: I also had misgivings as to how I was going to get on with him, and how he would accept the plans that we already had in mind for the future handling of workmen's compensation.
In 1940 a Bill, which many hon. Members will have forgotten, was introduced into this House, and subsequently, on the formation of the present Government, was withdrawn. That Bill introduced allowances into workmen's compensation, not only for children but for wives also. There was a Debate, in the course of which the hon. Member far Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan)—whose silence in the course of the last two days has been as eloquent as many of his contributions on this subject have been in the past—made a speech, from which I would like to quote one passage. Amongst all the oratorical sparks that fly from the anvil of my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale there are sometimes to be found flashes of political insight. When that Bill was before the House, in 1940, the hon. Member spoke of the desire of the Government to bring workmen's compen- 1639 sation into line with the general body of social services. He said:We are witnessing, therefore, an attempt to embody that principle of bringing workmen's compensation into conformity with the rest of the social legislation by means of a long-range policy. The right hon. Gentleman—that was the present Chancellor of the Exchequer—dare not do it at once. If he did we would see through it, and there would be too much row about it, and so he is doing it slowly."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th April, 1940; Vol. 360, c. 621.]We had an idea at that time that workmen's compensation ought to be dealt with on social insurance lines. The subject matter was, therefore, included in the reference to the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir W. Beveridge). I should like to pay a tribute to my hon. Friend—if I may so call him because we had some exchanges outside the House before he came here—for the magnanimity of his speech yesterday. Whilst being a little sad, I think, that we had abandoned the special levy on the hazardous industries, he said, in regard to the principle of the abandonment of the basis of earnings, that he approved of it entirely, and that he wished he had thought of it himself. I acknowledge with gratitude the attitude of the hon. Gentleman. I have always found architects particularly difficult to shift, once they have drawn up their plans. You can sometimes influence them before their plans are drawn, but he is a very broad-minded architect who can adapt his plan after he has presented it. I thank the hon. Gentleman for taking the broad view, and acknowledging that in some respects we have been able to improve upon the proposals in his Report, which has become a household word. This subject has been for too long the sport of party politics. I do not think that any unilateral solution of the problem could ever have been achieved. It is a remarkable thing that, when party conflict is once more starting to rear its head, there has been such a large measure of unanimity about the proposals contained in the White Paper.
I want to deal, quite shortly, with one or two of the main criticisms which hon. Members have made. Apart from my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford and the hon. Member for Gorbals and one or two other Members whom I have 1640 named, there has been widespread acceptance of the general structure of the new scheme. Hon. Members have criticised rates of benefit and so forth on individual, scheme seems to have received a large points, but the main structure of the measure of acceptance. I am particularly sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford is not able to go with us in this matter. Had I not been in office, I should myself have liked to have been one of the group of progressive young Conservatives with which my hon. Friend is associated, of which he was one of the principal promoters, and of which he is now the chairman. I received, indeed, a complimentary copy of the booklet—
§ Mr. Peake
Not complimentary? I did not pay for it. I should say very complimentary. I received a copy of the booklet "Forward by the Right," which I read with both interest, and pleasure. The second sentence is as follows:The Committee was originally formed in November, 1943, with the object of encouraging the Government to take constructive action on the lines of the Beveridge scheme.Therefore, it is a matter of some disappointment to me to find that on one of the main proposals, and, I think, the most revolutionary, of the Beveridge scheme, my hon. Friend is unable to support its thesis, and, indeed, desires to retain in its main outline the bad old scheme whose faults have been condemned on all sides of the House. I think that, had I become what is called a financial member of the Tory Reform Committee in its early stages, I might have had some complaint with my hon. Friend, and might be demanding my money back, and asking the appropriate political authorities to try to tighten up the law in regard to political prospectuses.
The four main lines of criticism have been on these points. First, the retention of the words "arising out of and in the course of the employment." Secondly, the ousting of the jurisdiction of the courts. Thirdly, the new and revolutionary method of assessment in relation, not to the loss of earnings, but to the disability. Fourthly, that the benefit rates in the scheme as set out are too low. May I say a word or two on each of these matters in succession?
1641 With regard to the words "arising out of and in the course of the employment," we have given a great deal of thought to this matter. It is perfectly clear, in the first instance, that, if you are to have a separate scheme with special rates of benefit higher than that laid down in the general scheme, you must have a clear line of demarcation between an industrial accident and misfortunes giving entitlement to sickness benefit. It is said that these words have been the major cause of litigation under the old Workmen's Compensation Acts. That, as my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General pointed out, is not the case. Out of all the cases which come before the courts under workmen's compensation, so far as we can ascertain, only about one case in eight is concerned with the construction to be placed on those words. The great majority of the cases that come before the courts are concerned with two issues, which, under the new scheme, will disappear altogether. These are the extent to which the workman has recovered, and the connection between his loss of earning capacity and the original accident. Under our proposals, these two matters will disappear altogether as matters for contention between injured workmen and the fund.
May I also say, in regard to these words, that we have heard much criticism of them in the Debate in these two days, but only the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Foster) has suggested any alternative. It is very easy to criticise these words, but it is very difficult to find a good alternative for them. The hon. Member for Wigan suggested that we might adopt the words used in the Royal Warrant for Service pensioners, that is, the words: "attributable to or aggravated by." There is one very obvious difficulty about the adoption of the words "aggravated by." "Attributable to" would, in my opinion, by itself, be very similar to the words "arising out of and in the course of the employment," but, when you come to include the words "aggravated by," you obviously open up a completely new field.
These words are perfectly appropriate in the case of a man disabled in the course of service in the Armed Forces. A man entering the Armed Forces is subjected, on joining, to a rigorous medical examination; he serves His Majesty dur- 1642 ing the 24 hours of the day, and it is, therefore, a perfectly legitimate deduction that, if his condition is worse on leaving the Forces than it was upon joining, his condition is attributable to or aggravated by his war service. But, surely, it must be clear to my hon. Friends in all quarters of the House that these conditions are not applicable to industry, where a man spends, perhaps, only one-quarter or one-fifth of the time in the factory or in the mine, and the hazards of the home and the street, and even of the public-house, are, of course, quite outside the purview of the scheme.
§ Mr. Peake
I only say, in regard to these words, that, if any hon. Member can suggest any good alternative, we are perfectly prepared to consider it. The reason why we finally decided to include them in the White Paper was that they had, at any rate, been the subject of a great deal of construction by the courts and that they are, at the present time, pretty well understood. As I say, however, if practical alternatives can be suggested, they will be welcomed and considered.
§ Mr. Foster
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point, may I ask whether he has taken into consideration the point, which I made in my speech, that there are hundreds of workmen, not necessarily in the mining industry alone, but in other industries, who are suffering from disabilities which they may have had before, but which have been aggravated by the conditions of their employment? I gave instances in respect of the mines, and I cannot for the life of me understand why the provisions of the Royal Warrant applying to the members of the Forces, cannot apply to workmen in industry.
§ Mr. Peake
We will certainly look carefully at what my hon. Friend has said, with a view to considering whether any improvement upon those words is possible.
May I come now to the question of the ousting of the jurisdiction of the courts? May I remind the House that the initiator of the scheme of workmen's compensation, Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, had in mind that there should be a friendly and informal hearing before a tribunal consisting of representatives of workmen and employers? That was what he had in mind, 1643 but it has only been in the Durham and West Cumberland coalfields that his hopes have been realised. In the second place, Mr. Chamberlain, although he hoped that the great majority of disputes would be settled in this way, wisely provided, as you must provide in a scheme where liability rests upon the individual, an ultimate recourse to the courts of law. Methods of settlement of claims which are appropriate, and, indeed, necessary, to the enforcement of civil rights as between one citizen and another, are not necessarily appropriate to the settlement of claims as between the individual and a fund administered by the State. We have provided in the scheme that the pensions officer can refer cases to the local appeal tribunals without himself giving any decision, and if a difficult case on this question of entitlement should arise, and there should be doubt of any sort or kind, the pensions officer will be instructed to refer the case to the local appeal tribunal and not give a decision himself.
As far as the second stage of appeal is concerned, there is going to be an Industrial Injury Insurance Commissioner, and at that stage the decisions of the local appeal tribunals will be co-ordinated, so that we have provided a reasonably good machine for the settlement of disputes. But, here again, we shall welcome constructive suggestions for the improvement of this machinery. Let me say on this point finally, that we really must have regard, in a scheme for the benefit of injured workmen, to the views of those bodies that represent them; and I would remind the House that in their evidence before the Royal Commission, not only the Trades Union Congress, but the Miners' Federation of Great Britain both gave considered evidence urging that the recourse to the courts should be done away with. The Trades Union Congress said:Furthermore, we submit that the litigious atmosphere of the courts is altogether unsuited to this class of case. Much injustice results from the absence of facilities for an inexpensive and an informal method of settling claims.And the Miners' Federation said:We are strongly of the view that this method of dealing with cases should be entirely abolished.If these are the views of the great organisations of interested workpeople, where a trade union is at the service of the in- 1644 jured workman to render him assistance, how much stronger is the objection to the method of recourse to courts of law in the case of the workman who is not a member of a trade union and who has no funds at his disposal for briefing counsel and proceeding, if necessary, to the high court of appeal. I am sure that it would be wrong, in a scheme of the character we propose in the White Paper, to retain the machinery of the ordinary courts of law.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvin-grove)
If it is a dangerous thing to allow recourse to the courts in the case of a person who is a member of a trade union, and who has therefore got a representative on this tribunal, I do not follow the logic of the proposition that it is still more dangerous to allow recourse to the courts in the case of a man who is not a member of a trade union, and is therefore not represented on the tribunal.
§ Mr. Peake
I think that my right hon. and gallant Friend must have misunderstood my point, but I regret that I have not the time in the few minutes remaining to me to make it clear to him. I think that the great majority of hon. Members followed the point I was endeavouring to make.
As regards method of assessment, here we make a revolutionary change. Let me say at once that there is no such thing as a perfect method of assessment. All we claim for the method we propose is that it is infinitely superior to the old method of basing compensation on loss of earnings. As long as compensation was based on loss of earnings, the man was afraid to get well for fear of losing his compensation; he was afraid to undergo rehabilitation or re-training for fear that his compensation might be reduced. Moreover, the old system, as one or two hon. Members opposite pointed out, gave nothing whatever in cases where the worker suffered mutilation or disfigurement arising from industrial causes, which prejudiced the chances of the injured person and very often took half, or more than half, of the pleasure of life away. It seems to me all wrong that a man should lose an eye, or an arm, or that a girl should be facially disfigured, and that no compensation of any sort should be given. I do not pretend that there will not be some cases, such as that of the compositor 1645 to which my hon. Friend the Member for North Southwark has referred, where possibly our method may give rather less than the old method did, but those cases will be exceptional. They will be rare and, frankly, we do not see any way of taking account of the skill of the workmen without looking to the question of earnings. After all, skill, in this imperfect world, is measured very largely in terms of earnings. There again, we shall welcome suggestions but we have given close attention to this matter for many months, and it is a problem which we are unable to solve. We feel that, by and large, the new system of assessment will confer great benefits upon the injured workmen, and that if individual hard cases arise, they should be dealt with by voluntary methods outside the State Insurance Scheme.
I come to what is perhaps, the most important of all the criticisms which have been made, and that is in regard to benefit rates. We might have brought a scheme before the House without putting into it any pounds, shilling or pence at all. We might have used x and y and all sorts of algebraical symbols which, I am afraid, would not have been very enlightening to hon. Members. What matters about the scheme of benefits is that they should be balanced, and should bear the right relation to one another. Nobody can say what the cost of living is going to be after the war, when this scheme will come into full operation. Therefore, to enter into argument upon particular benefit rates, on the assumption that those rates are going to be fixed and permanent, is, at the present stage, a little premature. Let me take two examples, because I think there is a certain amount of misunderstanding about the benefit rates. First I take the rate of 40s. proposed for the single man, which was criticised as a basic figure in this scheme by my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford. To take that rate without mentioning any of the supplements or any of the services which are to be provided in addition is, I think, a little unfair.
§ Mr. Peake
Hon. Members must remember that under this scheme there are going to be very considerable supplements, and very considerable services. In the first place, there will be free hospital treatment and no workmen will be badgered, as in the past, to make a subscription or payment in respect of his treatment in hospital. In the second place, there will be rehabilitation and retraining, and a special allowance at that stage. In the third place, there is an unemployability allowance if the man is unemployable. There is also a completely new feature in the allowance for a dependant other than a wife, which has been asked for by hon. Members opposite for many years, and which we have never been able to introduce into workmen's compensation. There is, moreover, an allowance where constant attendance is necessary.
Let me, therefore, explain how these allowances work out in two cases. Take a single man with no dependant who has a pension assessed at 100 per cent. The Ministry of Pensions have found that seven out of every eight men assessed at 100 per cent. pension are capable of substantial earnings, so seven out of eight of these men will either have wages to supplement their 40s. pension, or they will have some provision made for them out of the Unemployment Insurance Fund, out of the general social insurance fund, in addition to their pension. In the cases where a man is neither in work and earning wages, nor in receipt of unemployment insurance benefit, there will be this 10s. supplement for unemployability, of which I have spoken; and it will be seen that supposing a man is so badly crippled that he needs constant attendance, he will get an additional 20s. on top of the 10s. supplement for unemployability. That means that a single man with no family responsibilities may, if he is badly knocked out in an industrial accident, be in receipt of 70s. a week 1647 under the proposals we have put before the House.
Let me take one other example which is very relevant to the case which the hon. Member for Gower made early in the Debate yesterday. Let us take the kind of case which excites our greatest sympathy, the married man with three children, who is working, let us say, in a mine, and who is completely crippled, perhaps with a broken spine, from a fall of roof, or blinded in both eyes by explosion. That is the sort of case which excites deep feeling and sympathy. The hon. Member for Gower said that the benefits proposed in our scheme were no better, taking into account the change in the value of money, than the benefits provided by Mr. Joseph Chamberlain in 1897. Let us follow through from 1897 and see what such a case would have received at different stages.
In 1897, wages were very much lower than they are to-day. I know a man, wholly disabled, upon the railways in the year 1898 whose compensation payment was half his wages and amounted to 8s. 9d. a week. A man wholly knocked out in industry in 1897 with a family drew only 9s. or 10s. a week, as a general rule, by way of Workmen's Compensation. In 1938, 40 years later, that payment was, at a maximum, 30s. All those associated with the mining industry know that the average payment was less than 30s. because it was related to wages, and you might have a man completely crippled needing constant attendance, with a wife and three children, receiving a payment of 25s. or 26s. a week. That is only six years ago. What is the position under the additions we have made since the war? Such a man would get 50s. for himself and his wife, and three children's allowances, which would be 65s. at the present time. What is the position under the White Paper? Such a man under the proposals in the White Paper would get basic pension for himself and his wife, 50s.; 7s. 6d. for the first child, 10S. for the other two children, making another 17s. 6d.; 10s. on account of employability; and up to a further 20s. on account of the need for constant attendance, making a total of £4 17s. 6d. That is a very big advance, and we are dealing, I think, not unfairly with the most serious cases. When the hon. Mem- 1648 ber for Gower says that these payments compare unfavourably with the provisions made in 1897, I think he would have great difficulty in making out his case. What we have tried to do has been to devote the greatest amount of money to the hardest cases which excite the greatest amount of sympathy.
I must pass on as I have only a few minutes left. One or two hon. Members have mentioned the subject of contributions. It is a great step forward, in my view, to get a complete pooling of risk. It is a great thing that those in the safer industries should be paying a little more, in order that those in the dangerous industries should receive a little more. In my view, that is a great step forward. As regards the shares in which contributions are borne, that, again, was a subject to which we gave a great deal of thought, and finally we came down in favour of the view that employers and work people should make equal contributions. That was the view taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed—he provided, of course, that some of the money should be raised by a special levy on the hazardous industries, but after that he came down in favour of one-sixth contribution by the Exchequer, which the Exchequer has accepted, and that the remainder of the contribution of cost should be divided equally between the workman and employer. This is a very difficult question, indeed, but we take the view that rather than pay a penny a week less, in order that the employer should pay a penny a week more, the workpeople would like to feel that they stood in on an equal footing at all stages of this scheme. One of the big ideas underlying this scheme is a new attitude towards industrial injury, to treat it not in conflict but to treat it in partnership. We thought, therefore, that the House at any rate would like us to put forward a proposal in which both partners came in on an equal footing. There again, however, that is a matter to which further attention can be given, and upon which further Debate will take place.
In conclusion, I should like to say that in the past workmen's compensation has, inevitably, been a cause of bitterness and ill-will in industry, not because of the vices of the parties, not because of the wickedness of the employers or the obstinacy of the workpeople, but because the system itself has been a bad one. We 1649 have had this system under which, unless the employer insured, there was no security for benefit to the workman, and if the employer insured, the insurer stood in the shoes of the employer and conducted the whole of the negotiations. Any system in which somebody, whose object is mainly financial, stands in the shoes of somebody else, who is concerned with questions of good will, is, in my view, bound to be a bad one. A system under which an insurance company could conduct litigation up to the highest courts in the land, taking all sorts of technical points and issues against the workman in the name of the employer, is a system which is bad for industrial relations.
§ Mr. Peake
Our new scheme, in our belief, will lead not to ill-will but to harmony. It will give a completely new concept to the status of the injured workman. Instead of appearing, cap in hand, at the employers' office to draw his payment, he will have a new status, much more comparable to that of the "boys in blue" who have been disabled in the service of their King and country. May I finish by saying that, in my view, the new scheme will remove workmen's compensation from the atmosphere of controversy and conflict with which it has been surrounded, and place it, for the future, on a happier and sounder foundation.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
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.