§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ 11.10 a.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of National Insurance (Mr. Lindgren)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
It has been said,' and rightly said, several times during the discussion on this Bill in the various stages of its progress through this House, that it sets out to be an entirely new scheme of compensation for injury suffered at work. This, of course, in an important sense is perfectly true, but in another sense it is not. We in this country do not proceed by way of setting up schemes that are entirely new or wholly unrelated to what has gone before. We build on, and develop existing structures, and make use of previous experience, so that this new scheme of compensation for industrial injury takes account of much that has 1444 gone before, picking out the good and rejecting the bad. It carries forward a good deal from the schemes for workmen's compensation which it replaces. It recognises the case for special benefits for injury or death arising out of and in the course of employment. 'It applies to all workmen covered by Workmen's Compensation Acts. It makes some important additions. If brings all workers into one fund and spreads the cost of providing the improved benefits over all industries. The new scheme also owes a great deal to the experience gained in operating the Royal Warrants which provide for casualties sustained by members of the Forces, and wartime schemes of compensation to civilians who suffered at the hands of the enemy or as a result of war service.
Then again, the scheme has been brought within the ambit of the larger national insurance schemes; and the system of financing these schemes, and the machinery for operating them and giving decisions rapidly and without expense to the claimants, have been adopted here in this Bill. Perhaps it is partly due to the fact that we are not building entirely anew that the scheme does not, at all points, give complete satisfaction to all Members of this House and to all sections of the community. But I myself do not take this view. Past experience tells how far we can safely go and how much further we can go as a legitimate risk. Future experience will tell us what is the next advance we should make. If the scheme is not entirely new, it is equally true that the Bill which will, I hope, pass its Third Reading today, is not the same Bill as that which was published at the end of September and which was, with minor variations, the same Bill as published by the "caretaker ", Government in June, 1945.
There was much helpful criticism during the Second Reading Debate and also in the Committee. I would like at this point, on behalf of my right hon. Friend and on my own behalf—and I am sure 1 speak for every Member of Standing Committee A— to say how very much we appreciated and benefited from the very wise and tolerant, but firm, guidance of the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr and Bute Northern (Sir C. MacAndrew). A considerable number of amendments have been made upstairs, and there were a number of points which my right hon. 1445 Friend agreed to look into and reconsider. Every one of these points has been carefully reconsidered, and where my right hon. Friend could, and felt able, he has made amendments. The many important Amendments which he introduced during the Report stage at the beginning of this week, should be evidence of the care which he has devoted to this matter.
During the Report stage there was also considerable discussion on Clause 61 with regard to the powers taken for inspectors to secure evidence. First may I emphasise, as did my right hon. Friend during the course of the discussion on that Clause, that the powers taken under Clause 61 are identical with those which, from time to time, have been taken by successive Liberal and Tory Governments, and even by the Coalition Government as late as 1945. As a trade unionist who, in the past, has had something to do with the practical application of these Acts, may I say that I have never heard the slightest implication that these powers have ever been abused. On the very few occasions on which they have had to be used, they have always been used to the benefit of the worker in industry. However, the very valid point was made during the discussion that if the powers taken were greater than was absolutely necessary for the successful operation of the Measure, then the House ought not to give those powers. My right hon. Friend said he was prepared to look at the matter again, and if those powers were found to be ' greater than was necessary he was prepared to see that opportunities would be given for modification of the Clause, in another place. During the last two days there had been discussions with the Law Officers and my right hon. Friend is now satisfied that adequate power can be taken in a modified Clause. I am sorry I cannot give the House the actual wording of the proposed new Clause, but I am happy to be able to say that the modified Clause will meet 99 per cent. of the criticisms which were made during the Debate.
A further point made in Committee stage—and my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General promised to discuss and reconsider it— was in connection with Clause 67 (5) and the power taken to call a husband or wife as a witness. In Committee my hon. and learned Friend gave it as his opinion that a husband or a wife was a competent witness, though not a 1446 compellable witness, but he promised to confirm that, and put it beyond a shadow of doubt. My hon. and learned Friend had hoped to be in the House this morning to make a statement himself but demands upon his time from other directions have so far prevented that. I am authorised by him to say, on his behalf, that by the terms of the Subsection it is assured beyond doubt that the point of view he expressed in Committee is correct, and that a wife would be a competent witness but not a compellable witness.
We think the Bill is much better as a result of all the Amendments, and I gladly acknowledge the help we have received from all quarters of the House in our effort to make it as good as possible. Of course, improvements in benefits mean increased expenditure, and in any insurance scheme, an increase in income is needed to meet increased expenditure. Perhaps the House will bear with me while I say a word or two about the finances of the scheme. Though, as I have said, we have made use 0f past experience wherever we could, the proposals in the Bill are, at points, sufficiently novel to make impossible a precise estimate of expenditure on the benefits to be provided. So far as we can judge, however, when the scheme reaches maturity— and I will have a word or two to say about that in a moment— the total expenditure may amount to rather more than£32,000,000 per annum, including expenses of administration, for which we allow about£3,500,000. Included in this total expenditure is the cost of the Amendments made to the Bill since its introduction, which amount to a total of about£6,000,000 per annum.
My right hon. Friend was asked by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peaked) whether at some stage, preferably on the Third Reading, we would give details of the estimated increases in the Bill. I take first the Amendments made during the Report stage earlier this week. The figures are as follows: Proposals relating to death benefit£250,000; proposals relating to the assessment of the degree of disablement,£250,000; and proposals for alteration of waiting days,£300,000. Then I take the cost of the Amendments which were made in Standing Committee A. They are: waiving of the hospital deduction, between 1447 £100,000 and£150,000; the post-accident wife being made eligible for death benefit,–250,000; the increased disablement gratuity, for the percentage below 20, raised from£100 to£150,£150,000; the increase of the maximum benefits from 40s. per week to 45s. per week,£2,500,000; the increase of benefit in the case of special hardship—the engineer's eye, the compositor's finger, those men who are unable to return to their pre-accident occupation,£2,000,000; the increase in the maximum weekly rate of benefit to juveniles of 17 to 18 years of age to three-quarters of the adult benefit,£150,000. If my arithmetic is still as good as it used to be, that should total between£5,950,000 and£6,000,000.
Against that, may be set the income from the increased contributions agreed by the Standing Committee, which will produce about£4,500,000 per annum. To meet the expenditure of£32,000,000 there will be an income—and of course in the nature of things the income can be much more firmly 'estimated than the expenditure—estimated to be in the neighbourhood of£30,500,000 per annum. Contributions at the rates now in the Bill of 8d. for men, 6d. for women, 5d. for boys and 4d. for girls, of which the employer pays half and the worker half are expected to produce£25,500,000 per annum. The Exchequer contribution will be£5,000,000 per annum. On the basis of these estimates, it will be seen that there is an excess of expenditure over income of£1,500,000 per annum. As I have said, however, the expenditure is what we expect when the scheme reaches maturity, and, in the nature of things it cannot reach maturity for some years— certainly not for ten years and possibly not for twenty years. The annual income, however, should be realised from the outset, and in fact, therefore, in the early years of the scheme, there should be an excess of income over expenditure. That excess of course must be held in reserve to meet the rising cost of benefits as the claims mature, but in view of what I have already said about the difficulty of making precise estimates of expenditure, we feel justified in keeping the contributions at the level proposed in the Bill until we see how closely our estimates are confirmed by events and experience.
Under Clause 58 the Government Actuary is to review the operation of the 1448 Act at the end of five years, and to make a report to the Treasury,on the financial condition of the Industrial Injuries Fund and the adequacy or otherwise of the contributions payable under this Act to support the benefits payable thereunder.The first report by the Actuary should give us a reliable pointer as to how far our estimates will be confirmed, at a time before the expenditure on benefits has fully matured. I would add the warning, though indeed it will be obvious to the House, that any surplus disclosed as a result of the first report by the Actuary is not likely to be available to increase rates of benefit or to reduce rates of contributions, but will be needed to meet the rising cost of benefits in years to come. This rising cost will, of course, be due to the accumulation of long-term cases over a considerable period of years. They correspond to the cases in which, under the Workmen's Compensation Acts, payments will have been in force for some time when our Appointed Day arrives, the cases which we sometimes call "past cases". On that subject of past cases, the House will recall that my right hon. Friend the Minister said that he was most anxious to bring them under the Bill if a satisfactory scheme could be worked out. The proposal raises some very complicated problems, and it was decided that the Bill should not be held up until the inquiry and discussion necessary to secure a solution had taken place. The inquiries are still proceeding, and if it is found that arrangements could be made to bring these past cases within the scope of the industrial injuries scheme, the necessary legislation will be introduced.
I have spoken about the benefits to be paid under the Bill and their cost. Let me conclude by repeating what my right hon. Friend has emphasised on many earlier occasions both inside this House, and outside it—that the payment of cash benefits is not the only, or even the most important, part of this new scheme. We shall seek to do by every means in 0 power all that it is possible to do to promote measures for the prevention of accidents. Prevention is better than cure. For those who, despite all the preventive measures that can be taken, still suffer injury, we shall arrange for courses of rehabilitation and training, so that they may be able to take their place and play their full part in the battle for production and the normal life of the community.
§ 11.30 a.m.
§ Mr. Osbert Peake (Leeds, North)
We come today temporarily to the end of our discussions on this Bill. It has had a fairly long journey through Committee and on Report, but I do not think that anybody could claim that any of the time spent upon it has been wasted. When we got to the Report stage there were something like 13 pages of Government Amendments and there are still, as the Under-Secretary has indicated, quite a number of lacunae in the Bill—matters which will have to be dealt with during the further stages after the Bill has gone to another place. I should like at the outset of my remarks to congratulate the hon. Gentleman who has moved the Third Reading, and to congratulate his Minister on having acquired a very competent and courteous Parliamentary Secretary. The hon. Gentleman came into this matter at a rather late stage of the development of the scheme; he has applied himself to it and mastered it, and, having been an Under-Secretary myself for a number of years, and having seen a good many occupants of such offices struggling with difficult situations, I must say that the hon. Gentleman has done himself great credit during the progress of the Bill.
There are a few points to which he addressed himself, and about which I should like to say a word. I am extremely glad that further consideration has been given to the powers of inspectors, which are detailed in Clause 61 and about which, during the Report stage, a certain amount of criticism arose in all quarters of the House. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman the Minister, at all stages of the progress of this Bill, when short of an argument with which to combat a case made against the Measure, has thought it a complete and conclusive answer to produce the Coalition Bill, which bore my name, among others, upon it. Of course the right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that my connection with this scheme terminated when the original White Paper was published, and that the Minister of National Insurance who held office during the time when the Bill was being prepared was his col-. league in the Government, the present Lord Chancellor. Therefore neither Mr. Hore-Belisha—who came into this matter as a bird of passage in the "caretaker" Government—nor I, can have any very 1450 great measure of responsibility for the details of the Clauses.
However, I am glad that this matter of the inspectors' powers is to be looked at again. The Clauses as included in the Bill are, I think, rather a hangover from the days when the power of employers was far greater than it is at the present time, and when there was a possibility of, and an incentive to, evasion on the side of the employer. When we convert the workmen's compensation and other schemes into schemes of State insurance, the incentive to the employer to evade the provisions of the Act is very much more limited than it was in the old days, and also his power to intimidate his workmen has been almost completely destroyed. I am therefore glad that the Clause with regard to the inspectors' powers is to be modified.
There are two or three matters which, on the Third Reading, I think it would be well for us shortly to consider. We had all hoped, I think, that ultimately this scheme and the Social Insurance scheme might be unified, that the rates of benefit might be assimilated, and all the difficulties which follow from having to draw a distinction between an industrial disability and a disability attributable to other causes might be eliminated. When these schemes were launched it was perfectly clear that, in the light of history the benefits for industrial injuries must be on a higher scale than those for either sickness or unemployment. That, in the circumstances, in the light of past history, was inevitable; but at the time that the White Paper on this matter was drawn up, the gaps between the two scales of benefit were bridgeable in the course of. perhaps, 10 or 20 years. During the Committee and Report stages of the Bill, however, as the Parliamentary Secretary has indicated, those gaps have been very much widened. The Committee stage of the Bill cost the scheme, as I estimate it,£5,250,000 per annum, and the Report stage nearly another£1,000,000; and the result now is that, if we take the basic scales of payment, we have to compare 45s. under this Bill with 26s. under the National Insurance scheme. I am afraid that creates a gap bridging of which none of us can visualise. Suppose it is possible to increase that 26s. in the course of ten years to 35s., will there not, meantime, have been an unanswerable demand to in- 1451 crease the 45s. under this Bill to a still higher figure? Therefore, have we not now to abandon, completely and for ever, the idea that we can unify these schemes? I am afraid we have, and I am afraid there was justice and truth in the leading article in "The Times" of last Monday upon this subject.
I turn to another matter which is fundamental to this Bill, and to the National Insurance Bill, also. That is the question of alternative remedies, which still remains with the Monckton Committee. We all know about the old doctrine of election under the Workmen's Compensation Acts. We all know of the difficulties to which it has given rise; but we must surely recognise that the position cannot be left as it is at the present time. It is quite unjustifiable, upon any thesis, that the workman should obtain on the one hand, common law damages from a negligent employer to the full extent, and all the benefits of the industrial injuries insurance scheme as well. He would be getting two remedies for the same injury; and the Bill, of course, as it stands, is silent upon that point. I think we arc promised that when the report has been received and considered, further Amendments will be introduced into the Bill in another place. I do not think that is a very satisfactory way of proceeding with such a fundamental and important issue. I urge the Government to consider the possibility of introducing any legislation that is required as a result of the Monckton Committee's report in a separate Bill, so that issues which vitally affect the interests of the workpeople may be considered in this House before they are considered in another place.
I had something to do with the framing of this scheme, and there were two ruling ideas to which we related every detail and every proposal. You can consider how this matter affects the injured workman individually, or how it affects injured workmen collectively. So far as the individual injured workman is concerned, our motive in drafting the scheme was to do our best for the injured workman and to promote his recovery in the shortest possible time. You can do that, I think, if you give him a feeling of security; and that, I think, this scheme is calculated to do. In the old days, rehabilitation was unthought of, unheard of, undiscussed; and injured workpeople 1452 simply found their way on to the economic scrap heap. But we must remember, in the future, being a much poorer nation now than we were before, that it is by the efforts of the able-bodied workpeople alone that we can achieve prosperity and maintain the standards of life for the children, for the middle-aged, and for the aged folk that we have established in this country; and that, therefore, it is vitally important to promote the recovery and rehabilitation of injured workpeople. We cannot afford any waste of man power through failure to restore injured workpeople to full capacity at the earliest possible moment. Rehabilitation depends as much on psychological factors as it does on medical factors, and this scheme, which deals, of course, with the limited aspect of financial provision, will, I think, assist greatly to give the injured workman the right psychological attitude. He will feel secure in the continuance of his pension. His pension will no longer be related in any way to his earning capacity, and he will, therefore, feel that he and his dependants are provided for and that he can devote his whole effort to trying to regain full working capacity.
The second main idea running at the back of this scheme has been the elimination of suspicion and bitterness, and the promotion of good will between employers and workpeople. This is, of course, related to the question of" the man's recovery, because so long as the man is permeated with bitterness and suspicion, his recovery is bound to be retarded. But it goes much further than that, much further indeed. It is much easier to promote discord between workpeople and employers than it is to promote harmony. The old system of workmen's compensation, of itself, tended to promote discord and suspicion between employers and workpeople. Of course, it was a great advance upon anything that existed before the year 1897, but it has been for many years past, a hopelessly out-of-date model of a social provision against misfortune. In many ways this scheme will tend to promote better relations between employers and workpeople. There is, for example, the local appeal tribunal, upon which will sit representatives of workpeople and of employers. There is the Central Advisory Council where the broad features of the scheme, and the amendments to the 1453 scheme, and the regulations under the scheme will be discussed jointly, under the chairmanship of an impartial chairman, between representatives of both sides of industry. There is the total elimination of the interest of the employer and his insurance company from the whole business. There is, moreover—I congratulate the Government on this—the accepted basis of equal contributions from employers and their workpeople.
There was a great deal of discussion as to the incidence of the contributions under this scheme. I always attached considerable importance to these contributions being equal. It would have been comparatively easy to add an extra penny to the employer and take a penny off the employee, but I always felt that in the administration of a scheme in which both sides of industry were to play a part it was very important that those who sat round the table should speak with equal voices and an equal sense of responsibility. I, therefore, attach importance—I should like to congratulate the Government upon adhering to the principle set out in the White Paper— to equal contributions from employers and from workpeople. The idea of the new scheme is to promote the recovery of the workman at the earliest possible moment under the best possible conditions, and to tackle this question of industrial injury, which inflicts severe economic loss upon the nation year by year, in a totally new spirit—a spirit of partnership rather than a spirit of hostility. I think that this Measure is designed, and well designed, to achieve these ends. In conclusion, I congratulate the Minister on having had the good fortune to pilot this Bill through the House. Our discussions throughout have been amicable although we have sometimes differed; and I compliment the Minister, the Parliamentary Secretary, and the Solicitor-General upon their conduct of the Bill throughout its various stages.
§ 11.47 a.m.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)
I shall not detain the House for more than a few minutes I want to say how proud I am that this Bill has now reached its final stage. I welcome it in the main because it removes from the private profit-making motive the whole of our work- 1454 men's compensation arrangements. I do not know whether Members recollect what has been said on many occasions against the present system. Of the premiums paid by the employer to cove" workmen's compensation risks, about 10s—50 per cent—goes in legal, medical profits and administrative costs. This Measure makes it certain that a larger amount of the premiums paid will in future come back to the pockets of the injured workpeople. The administrative costs of National Health and other forms of State insurance are known to everyone to be comparatively low in relation to private enterprises undertaken in this connection. The success of every scheme depends ultimately on its implementation and administration. For instance, at present, when a man is injured either at work or outside his employment, and fails to secure workmen's compensation or damages he falls back automatically on the National Health Insurance funds. The right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) mentioned in his speech something about "bridging the gap." I would ask the Minister about another gap, namely, whether, when an injured workman fails in his claim for benefit under this Industrial Injuries scheme and is still incapacitated from following any employment he will then fall back automatically on to the new National Insurance fund. It is not impossible that the injured may have the same doctor under both schemes. Would that doctor be able to declare that he is entitled to claim from either? Having administered these schemes for a number of years, I have found that that always has been a very difficult problem to handle. I leave the point, however, with the right hon. Gentleman. I am sure he will come up against it fairly soon in his administration of the two schemes.
The right hon. Member for North Leeds welcomed the fact that in future employers and employees will pay equal contributions for workmen's compensation risks. I have studied social insurance schemes throughout Europe and America, and I think this is the first occasion in any country that the workman is called upon to contribute to benefits which he will receive as a result of injury while following his employment at the dictation of an employer. In that respect it is a new principle and a very serious departure. We cannot, I suppose, get a Bill passed to throw the whole of the financial 1455 responsibility for workmen's compensation on to the employer. If, however, the employer is the State, as may' be the case for millions of our people in future, then the situation may become a little more difficult still. On the whole, however, I think it is a splendid Measure. I believe that there will be less bickering, and certainly fewer legal proceedings, in future. I have been somewhat gratified that lawyers in this House have supported this Bill; I have wondered that they have not asked the Minister for compensation for loss of profit.
I, too, congratulate the Minister, his Parliamentary Secretary and the Government on a very excellent achievement, but I say again that I am a little disturbed about the question of contributions when the workman is employed at the dictation of his employer He meets with an accident in the course of his employment; and it has always occurred to me that the departure of calling on him to pay contributions towards benefit in those circumstances is a litle odd in comparison with other social insurance schemes that have been established throughout the world. Finally, this Bill is one more contribution to our scheme of social service. I have lived long enough to see them all coming into force; and I accept this as one more contribution towards laying down that economic foundation for the people of this country through which no decent man shall fall.
§ 11.54 a.m.
§ Mr. Renton (Huntingdon)
May I deal with a question which the hon. Member who has just spoken has raised about the employee's contribution? I would point out that it is not a large contribution, and I have no doubt that there are many working people in this country who will feel some pride in having themselves made some contributions to a scheme which is very much for their own benefit I leave it at that.
In the Autumn, the Leader of the House taunted the Opposition with not doing their job properly. I am sure, however, that those of us who have sat through all the stages of this Bill will feel that the Opposition have made a positive contribution to the work which has been done. I must confess that the way has been made more simple and more encouraging for us by the co-operative 1456 attitude of the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary. It has been a great comfort to know, when we have raised a point, that it has actually received consideration, whether the result which was achieved was the one which we wanted or not. For the most part our points have been fairly dealt with. There is one matter which was not dealt with in the way we had hoped, and that was the question of representation before the tribunals. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that we on this side of the House will keep a careful watch on the way their work proceeds, and a very careful watch indeed upon the Regulations which he makes.
In the work of the Standing Committee and on the Floor of the House a certain amount of light abuse was thrown at the position which lawyers occupy in our society. I am sure, however, that Members who have taken part in the various stages of this Bill will agree that we have gained something from the wrangles between the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) and my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg). Not only have we been delighted, but I think the Government have, to some extent, profited by their wrangles. But there was a point of view which the Government had about this Bill which, frankly, shocked me just a little. They have been trying to prove that two blacks make a white, by referring to the fact that previous legislation very often contained Clauses which they have put into this Bill. When they were embodying Clauses from past legislation in that way, they were indulging in that imitation which is always said to be the sincerest form of flattery, but we on this side of the House consider that we should move with the times, and that not everything we did in the past, will be right for the future.
§ Mr. Renton
I am astonished that a Left Wing Government should adopt such a complacent and sometimes reactionary attitude as to want solidly to embody in their own enactments, things which have gone before, and then put forward as their main defence for doing it the fact that those things have been done before. It may be that like very subtle lawyers 1457 they were relying on the doctrine of estoppel, and trying to prevent us from condemning their Clauses because we had approved similar ones in the past.
In conclusion, I would like to say that I welcome this Bill and I do so not only as one of the few Liberals left in this House, because it is an essentially Liberal Measure. I also welcome the Bill because it will contribute considerably to the solution of the manpower problem which this country will have to face for many years. We have suffered through two wars. We have suffered through years of calamity of one kind and another, and we shall have to nurse our manpower, in future, as best we can. One way in which we can conserve that manpower is by having a well thought out and workable scheme of industrial welfare, such as this Bill envisages.
§ 12 noon.
§ Mr. Blyton (Houghton-le-Spring)
As one who was very critical of this Bill on the Second Reading, and who supported many Amendments in Committee, I would like to say how satisfied I am at the way in which my right hon. Friend met the points of view which I and some of my colleagues have put forward. The right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) referred to the question of common law in relation to this Bill. Well, I do not seriously suggest that a man will contribute to this scheme in order to get benefits for an accident while following his employment, and I see no reason why he should be debarred from receiving benefits under the Bill and, at the same time, damages for an accident which he suffers through the negligence of his employer. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said, earlier today, that the Government were proceeding upon the experience of the Royal Warrant. I hope that in determining partial incapacity the basis of such in-capacity, and the percentage of disablement that was fixed by the Tory Party after the 1914-18 war, will be forgotten. When a man came out of the Forces at that time his assessment was fixed for him as a citizen with no relation to his particular industry. As one who has been critical about light rate compensation, I hope that while there is no increase in the basic rate, the committee which will deter-mine partial incapacity will bear in mind 1458 my failure to get increased amounts of light compensation, and increase percentage disability, having regard to a man's particular industry over that of the Royal Warrant.
Having had to handle questions of workmen's compensation for miners for 25 years, I am pleased that we are taking workmen out of the field of contests between owners, employers and doctors, contests which often finished in the county court. It is worth fourpence a week to take the working man out of that field. I compliment my right hon. Friend in making provision in the Bill for supplementation of compensation. If we are to get people to go into hazardous industries such as mining we must see that there is supplementation. There has been a departure from the waiting days' provision. That, in itself, was a compromise between those who wanted it and those who believed it should be abolished, but, taking the long view, I think my right hon. Friend's concession will be welcomed. It will mean that if a man has an accident, he will have his waiting days counted. If, after a 13 weeks' gap, he has another accident his waiting days will be counted in that respect as well. In the major Bill, there is need for a man to go from compensation on to the Unemployment Fund. I hope my right hon. Friend will regard a man's first three days' compensation as his waiting days to come out of employment, or, where he has lost three days' compensation for incapacity, he will see that the man comes on to benefit on the first day of his employment. As regards the wages of boys between 17 and 18, my right hon. Friend has met us handsomely, Compensation for boys has been equalised to such an extent that there is no loss under the present Bill, as compared with the Workmen's Compensation Act.
I would like to know what is the position with regard to successive accidents. This point was debated at considerable length in the Standing Committee, but so far there has been no Government pronouncement as to what is to happen in this matter. The position taken by the Government is that no matter how many accidents a man may suffer, he can only reach a total disablement of 100 per cent. There are, however, cases in which a man gets a light rate of compensation fixed, he goes back to do light work, and then has a second accident. There are cases 1459 in which a man receives the full rate of compensation for the second accident while at the same time receiving the light rate for the first accident. As the Government have made no pronouncement on this subject, I am wondering what is to happen in such cases. As the Minister knows, such a man is now able to get the light rate and full compensation. I feel that some concession should be given in these cases.
In my opinion, the finest part of this Bill is that relating to rehabilitation. Gone are the days when, at the colliery gates, we collected pennies from the men in order to buy an artificial leg for an injured man. It also means that people suffering from spinal injuries, who used to have to lie in bed, will now have facilities provided which will enable them to get out into the sunshine. If there had been rehabilitation in the past instead of spending money in the county courts in contesting the men's claims for compensation, there would have been a different tale to tell today. Finally, I ask the Minister to consider the point about amputations and operations being a question for the man himself to decide. That is the position at present under the compensation law, and I see no reason why that position should not be carried into this Bill. I hope that as experience is gained in the operation of the Measure during the next year or two, the Government will be able to come to the House and say that, as a result of this experience, better benefits can be given than are embodied in this Bill.
§ 12.4 p.m.
§ Major Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)
Were it possible to embarrass the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of National Insurance, he would be embarrassed by the chorus of tributes with which he has been greeted this morning, and I hope it may not be an impertinence if, as a new Member, I add my humble mite of appreciation to the very large wad with which he has been presented. The manner in which the right hon. Gentleman and the Parliamentary Secretary have conducted the Bill has been a vivid illustration of the efficacy of the maxim of the American hotel industry that courtesy pays dividends, for not only has the right hon. Gentleman obtained his Bill with, as he, I am sure, will be the first to admit, nothing but co-operation 1460 and help from all parties, but he has also got, and will no doubt take credit for, a very much better Bill than the one with which he started. I welcome among the improvements the provisions as to supplementary schemes which now stand as Clause 82 of the Bill. Several hon. Members, particularly on this side, were very much concerned about one matter in the Bill, as originally drafted, and that was the position of the more highly paid and highly skilled workers who became injured. No matter at what level the ordinary basis of compensation and benefit was fixed, such level could not possibly reach the level at which the highly skilled man getting good wages would not suffer a catastrophic loss of income. I feel that the provisions as to supplementary schemes in the new Clause 82 go a long way towards meeting that apprehension, and for that reason I particularly welcome those provisions.
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will admit that, even with the many improvements which have been incorporated in it, the Bill still leaves a number of loose ends. A great deal still falls to be determined by the regulations which the Minister is empowered to make under the Bill. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that those regulations will receive respectful, but diligent, scrutiny from hon. Members on both sides, and I express the hope that they may be so framed that it will not be necessary for hon. Members to interfere with the Minister's beauty sleep by putting down Prayers for discussion at a late hour. Another loose end, and one which may give rise, as loose ends so often do, to a certain amount of friction, is the one which was referred to a moment ago by the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Blyton)— the position, under this Bill, of the common law action by an injured workman against his employer on the basis of injury caused or occasioned by the negligence of the employer. As hon. Members are well aware, there have been, in the last 20 years, even under the old system under which the injured workmen elected whether to go under Workmen's Compensation or common law, a very considerable number of such actions, and many of them have resulted in the injured workmen recovering damages to the tune of some thousands of pounds. I am not certain to what extent under this Bill that common law. 1461 right of action is affected, and if it be not affected, how it is co-ordinated with the scheme.
There are two ways of looking at it. There is the way adopted by the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring of saying that where a man is injured by the negligence of his employer, he should be entitled both to his insurance benefits and to such damages as he can get. But there is also the consideration as to whether it is right to burden what is, after all, a contributory fund with the consequences of the personal negligence of an individual employer; and there is the question, to which I do not know the answer, whether the courts, in dealing with such an action for negligence, when they came to assess damages, would bear in mind the fact that in any event the injured workman would be entitled to benefits under this scheme. It is a little unsatisfactory that there should be any room for doubt in this most important matter, a matter which, after all, will be liable to arise so soon after this Bill becomes law.
There is only one other matter to which I wish to refer, and that arises from the observations of the hon. Member for West-houghton (Mr. Rhys Davies), who I regret to say is not present now. Throughout the Committee stage, the hon. Member was very naturally concerned with the relative levels of costs of administration under the various schemes under which benefit has been administered, and will be administered. I understood him to say, subject to correction, that under some of the previously existing schemes, costs of administration, etc., had risen to something in the neighbourhood of 50 per cent. If that was the hon. Member's contention, I would most respectfully point out that that is quite out of date and that the latest figures so far as the mutual insurance associations are concerned is an administrative cost of 11 per cent., which is actually less than that contemplated under the present Bill. Therefore, although that matter is now becoming one perhaps of more historical interest than of practical importance, I thought it proper to put on record that I, at any rate, do not accept the figures which the hon. Member, no doubt perfectly sincerely, gave.
Finally, I would express the hope that this Bill, upon which so much labour and 1462 time has been expended, not only by the present House but by our predecessors, may make its contribution to give additional peace and a feeling of security of mind to the much tried and valiant British people.
§ 12.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels (Gloucester)
This is one of those harmonious occasions that lend grace to Parliamentary life. Every one who has spoken has been in a mutually congratulatory mood, and I think the occasion merits it. No one is so enthusiastic or so blind about this matter as not to agree that although this is the right road, it is not the whole of the road. It is quite clear, looking at this Bill, that there are still visions of the old neighbourhood, and even, lying ahead, one can see signs of things in the old legislation which I am perfectly certain the Minister will want to get rid of as soon as he can. I, too, would like to give my meed of congratulation and praise to the Minister relative to the work and success he has had in connection with this Bill. It is perfectly true, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) has said, that he has been ably assisted and seconded by his Parliamentary Secretary, and there is no doubt that all of us who took part in the Standing Committee proceedings can say, with truth and pleasure, that this is a better Bill because of the personalities of the Minister and of his Parliamentary Secretary.
The effect of the Bill is undoubtedly a revolutionary one, in spite of the qualifications that have to be made. It has been said by one of my hon. Friends that it is unique to call upon the workman to make a contribution even in a social insurance scheme. There may be two opinions about that, as there usually are about most things, but I am not at all certain in my own mind that it is not both an equitable and a practical position. First of all, it means that the employer ceases to be responsible for injury resulting from accidents to a man whilst in his employment. I am not quite sure, on perfectly just and logical grounds, that so long as it cannot be shown that the employer himself was not in any way responsible for the injury or the accident which occurred, in equity he ought to be called upon to pay the necessary compensation or damages that result. However, it must be remembered that this 1463 Bill does not divest the employer of his responsibility or liability if he himself is negligent and that negligence is the cause of the accident. It is only fair that members of the House and the public outside should realise that it is not a correct statement to make that the employer is being divested of liability; he still remains liable if he himself is, either in the way of negligence in connection with his property or his machinery, or if he contravenes any statutory or other regulation that controls the carrying out of the particular work, responsible for the accident.
One feature of the Bill to which I would like to refer—and I do so with great pleasure from certain experience I have have in connection with these matters as an unfortunate member of the Bar—is the elimination of the insurance companies. 1 think that will achieve more than anything a position of harmony between the worker and the employer that has not been present in the past owing to the friction and the controversy which arose whenever these matters of compensation were in issue, because the insurance companies were behind the employers. That will undoubtedly help to smooth the course of events in industrial life and in the relations between employers and workman, and that, to my mind, is a very considerable gain. Another gain under this Bill is that it gets rid of the "compo" man. When one remembers, as one does from knowledge of the industrial centres of the North and the mining areas, coming across these unfortunate people of the industrial system who became almost part of forgotten humanity, it is some tribute to make to this Bill that it may achieve the most desirable disappearance of these "compo" men.
The Bill will undoutedly abolish litigation. I dare say it might be thought extraordinary that a lawyer should accept, with rejoicing, that particular fact, but there is no doubt that it will be a very great gain to get rid of the complicated legal proceedings which have surrounded questions of compensation and of the obscure and complexing mass of case law that exists in connection with it. It is one of the things which undoubtedly the Bill sets out to achieve. In that sense a new chapter is being written, and the State will see that every man who suffers injury in industry will get his benefit without the test, and very often to him, the terror, of legal proceedings and legal atmosphere.
1464 With regard to the question of alternative remedies, it has been asked, why should a man be able to draw State benefits, such as this particular legislation gives him, and at the same time bring proceedings either for negligence or for loss of expectation of life, and so forth, with regard to those alternative remedies that exist, and also get damages there. One of the elements that we have to keep in mind is, that on no account must a person who has been guilty of negligence get off scot-free or be able to reduce his liability merely because the workman is under a scheme of social insurance. Every reasonable person would agree that that result would be wrong. Whether it can be adjusted, and whether some other system can be achieved, I do not know, but the central point should be borne in mind that the person guilty of negligence ought not to go free merely because compensation is receivable from some other source.
Another point to be borne in mind in connection with the Bill is that it has a wide embrace in regard to people whom it brings into its purview. Its circle is larger than existed under any previous Workmen's Compensation Act. It brings in everyone who is under a contract of service or who is in apprenticeship, and a large range of persons who do not come under that category, such as policemen, taxi-drivers, seamen, and civilian airmen. An aspect of the inclusion of the police was made a subject of criticism by me in the House the other day. I have no doubt that those criticisms will be well considered and that the necessary machinery or legislation will be introduced to make their inclusion completely water-tight.
Self-employed people feel that they have been left out in the cold. I am sure that the Minister has tried hard to see whether it was practicable to include them. They are people such as small builders, village carpenters, hedgers and ditchers. The difficulty was found to be too great. No satisfactory basis could be found on which to bring them into the Bill and they would have to pay an unduly large contribution for a relatively small risk. A serious principle in all social insurance is that all those who come into the scheme should do so with complete pooling of risks. One of the strongest arguments for not bringing them in is the 1465 fact that the National Trades and Kindred Organisations Committee, who look after the interests of these people, came to the conclusion that they ought not to press for inclusion.
Another change is the disappearance of the notorious lump sum payments. Those who have done this work are very familiar with that procedure and how it was brought about. It was not a result that the court initiated, but was confined to the parties themselves. It was necessary for the parties to come together in order to bring that result about. All experience showed that the practice was surrounded with pressure, hardships and abuses. It led in many cases to improvidence. No one regrets that it has disappeared. Another very important feature of the Bill is that a person will no longer be robbed of initiative and of the incentive to mitigate the melancholy prospect of living workless, wasted and without a future. Previously, once a man got his compensation no one offered him a job or lifted a finger to help him, or to make it possible for him to restore his capacity for work.
Under the present Bill not only is there provision for rehabilitation and aftercare, but, whatever a man may earn or whatever money he gets, once he receives his disablement pension, belongs to him, and does not in any way affect his pension. It is along those lines that the Bill is such a welcome addition to the social legislation of the country. I should like to have referred to industrial disease, which is another very serious matter, but I have no doubt that the Minister will speak about it. The mechanisation of industry is making a greater and greater levy on human life One is, therefore, pleased to see that the Bill endeavours to make a more human approach to the problem of dealing with the scourge of industrial disease.
1 should like to have dealt with the question of the determination of claims and legal representation, but I have already taken enough time. I conclude by saying that the Bill launches a new era in compensating for industrial injury and that any leader of the working class might be very proud to have introduced the Bill. The Bill gives the present Minister a great opportunity and I am 1466 sure he will take it and that the Bill will become an epoch-making piece of the legislation of the Labour Government.
§ 12.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Attewell (Harborough)
I will attempt to make the points I have in mind in as few words as possible. I appreciate that the main points have already been dealt with by previous speakers and at other sittings, as well as today. I was not on the Committee, and, therefore, I would like to express my opinion. I understand that the Parliamentary Secretary has drawn attention to the fact that the Bill is the result of previous experiences, and consequently I read into his speech an apology for some of the flaws in the Bill.
One of the greatest flaws in the Bill could have been overcome, even at the stage when the Bill came into the hands of the present Government. I believe that the contributing factor is basically wrong and that industry should bear the cost. The costs incurred in respect of workers in industry should be a basic charge upon industry. I agree that there is a change, it may be that many of the main industries will pass into public control. I do not know whether that possibility has been responsible for the abolition of employers' responsibility for workmen's compensation. I know that it would not have been welcomed 18 months or two years ago by hon. Members sitting on these benches. Obviously, it should be a charge upon industry.
The next point I would like to make concerns Clause 61. I understand it is going to be slightly modified, and I would make a plea that in that modification it will be possible for those who will be charged with looking after the interests of the injured person to see the report of the inspector. I should like to say at this stage that workmen's compensation has been something with which I, as a trade union officer, have been concerned for many years, and consequently I am speaking from experience. I hope that the House will accept that as the reason why I mention this point. At the present time when we want a report from the factory inspector it is denied to us, and so we cannot get that report. I think that is wrong because, after all, if a report of an inspector is made, and it is not in the hands of those who are dealing with 1467 the case on behalf of the claimant, the claimant is at a disadvantage. I hope that the modified Clause will contain something to cover that.
As far as negligence is concerned, I hope claims at common law will be continued. Obviously, there is a difference between a case based on negligence that goes to common law and the ordinary claim for compensation. We know today that the Workmen's Compensation Acts bring great benefits to the workers, and, in spite of the higgling and haggling which takes place, matters are satisfactorily settled. I must pay my tribute to the manufacturers whom I have had to visit, for if there is a clear accident, there is no great argument—I do not know anything about the mining industry—but in saying that I am speaking for my own industry, which is the boot and shoe trade. When we come to a question of negligence obviously we are in a different position. I do feel that, if the management can be proved to have been negligent and that fact is accepted by law, the person who is injured has a right to expect more than the barest livelihood; he Has a right to expect a livelihood similar to that which he would have enjoyed had he been permitted to carry on with his career. He alone is not affected, but his wife and family are concerned as well, and, consequently, if it can be proved that negligence has prevented him from reaching that standard of life he would have attained in normal circumstances, adequate payment should be made to compensate him for that great loss. I hope that these points will receive due consideration.
§ 12.39 p.m.
§ Mr. House (St. Pancras, North)
I wish to join in congratulating the Minister of National Insurance and the Parliamentary Secretary on getting this Bill to its present stage, and particularly would I like to refer to that tremendously important aspect whereby the issues between insurance companies and workers are diverted from their present relationship to something that is more humane and largely upon the State. I also wish to thank the Minister for his deep understanding and for the intelligence which he has shown in conceding the maximum possible allowance which he can arrange for the unmarried wife. 1468 There is one aspect to which I should like to call attention. The Minister has great powers under the regulations, and I should like to think that under those regulations he will protect the natural right of the injured workman to seek the medical or other treatment that he chooses. At the present time, as the Bill stands, the existing freedom in regard to-the selection of a practitioner will be less than obtains at present under the National Health Insurance Act of 1936. Under the regulations of that Act there are within certain limits a right for the insured person to attend his own practitioner and also for a practitioner to be paid. Under this present Bill an injured workman might be able to seek his own form of treatment, but there is no provision for the payment of such treatment. So the injured person is in this position, that if he is sufficiently well to do to pay for the treatment of his choice, he can have it, but if he is not sufficiently well to do, it may well be he cannot have it. So this Bill might very well bear unfairly on the injured workman in that respect and I trust that the Minister will take the matter into consideration.
The final point I wish to make is with regard to the observations of the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) and the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Attewell). Under this Bill, in their opinion, the employer ought to pay all the contributions to support the workman. I am against that opinion. I cannot see that it is fair that a person, merely because he is an employer, should bear the full burden of compensation arising from an accident in industry. The employer may be running an industry that is not paying very well; he might be running a dangerous industry or one where accidents are not very frequent. I am also against the statement made by the hon. Member for Harborough that industry should, in effect, carry the whole of the financial burden of this scheme. Personally, I cannot see why, collectively, employers and workmen should pay the whole of the financial burden for those injured in industry, nor do I see why industry should be the sole bearer, because there are those not engaged in industry at all or in useful occupation who ought to pay more than those engaged in industry. I would say, too, that, morally, the State ought to bear the whole of the 1469 burden of such a scheme as this, which is based on the principle of ability to pay.
Another aspect to which I would like to call the attention of the Minister is that it is quite true that, where there is proved negligence against an employer, the employer will be exposed to a claim for damages at common law, and that that employer, if he is proved negligent, will be required to pay considerable damages to the workman. There are many cases where, although negligence has been existing, nevertheless, it has not been quite revealed so that it could be established in law. It is well known, for example, that many individuals are what is called accident-prone. There are many employers, too, who are not only accident-prone, but accident-prone in the conducting of their industries, and they can get away from this burden. Under the existing Act, the employer who is accident-prone has his premium increased proportionately by the insurance company, and, therefore, an employer who is negligent to a moderate degree is, nevertheless, penalised under the present Act, whereas, under this Bill, the employer who is accident-prone but is not proved to be negligent will not have his financial burden increased at all, and, to that extent, there will not be the need for that added incentive on the part of the employer to protect his workers to the utmost limit against accidents.
From that point of view, therefore, there is something to be said for placing some part of the financial burden of the Bill on the employer. To want to place the financial burden of this Bill solely on industry is wrong in principle. To want to place it solely on the employers is again wrong. The ideal way of placing the burden would be through the national Exchequer, based upon the principles of Income Tax, with some leanings towards increased premiums being charged against an employer where it is shown that an unusual number of accidents occur in his works. I wish to express my sincere congratulations to the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary for the deep and sympathetic understanding they have shown throughout the different stages in the passage of this Bill.
§ 12.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Bechervaise (Leyton, East)
1 will not detain the House very long, but I 1470 Would add my own to the congratulations of other hon. Members to the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary for the way they have carried out their responsibilities in piloting this Bill through the House. I wish to refer to what strikes me as an anomaly in this Bill. In Clause 31 (3), there is a reference to a local authority paying a sum of money to a person becoming a beneficiary under the Act during a period of waiting, and it is provided that a local authority will be financially reimbursed for carrying out that service. This practice has hitherto obtained in similar services, but under paragraph (b) there is a reference to a recipient going to the workhouse. I rather regret that phrase being used in the Bill, and I should have thought that the Minister would have been the last person to use it, because it has been dropped in some places in South Wales, and, in Aberdare, they refer to the workhouse as "'Windsor Castle."
In any case, when a recipient enters the institution, he will not receive any benefit, and, presumably, the local authority, the public assistance authority, will have to bear the burden. I think that is unfair to the local authority, and I certainly think it is unfair to a man or woman who has gone into the institution. It has been the practice for public assistance authorities who have been making advances to old-age pensioners to return a sum of Is. or Is. 6d. to the inmate, so that these people might have some sense of independence, although in the institution, and could purchase those things they required. If this Bill is allowed to go through as it is, or some provision is not made by regulation, it would appear that the person who enters the institution and has hitherto received this benefit will be deprived of that opportunity. I think the local authorities should, first of all, be considered and should be reimbursed in some way, and, further, that an opportunity should be given to them to pass on to the inmate something in the shape of pocket money.
§ 12.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Moyle (Stourbridge)
Perhaps I may be permitted to add to the compliments which have been extended from both sides of the House to the Minister and his lieutenant, in connection with their responsibilities for this Bill. May I also say that I am perfectly certain that 1471 we have also been helped a great deal on this side of the House, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake), who has shown unfailing courtesy in carrying out his responsibilities on behalf of the Opposition? I am sure I can say that, while the right hon. Gentleman may no' always be able to command agreement from this side of the House, he will always command our attention and respect.
The Minister will not be surprised, if I express some disappointment in not finding in the Bill a provision that some of us would like to see. We thought he might have found it possible to agree to the very strong representations that were made to him on behalf of the health workers in this country in relation to the exposure to the risk of tuberculosis of the health workers, particularly nurses. It is somewhat gratifying to know that they will have, under this Bill, the right to make a claim on the ground of having contracted such a disease, but, of course, I know it will be very difficult indeed to establish such a claim since such diseases are not being scheduled under this Bill. It is hoped by some of us that, when the committee is appointed to review the existing schedule of industrial diseases, it may be found possible, on the evidence submitted, to bring such diseases within the scope of the schedule and thus put at rest the present agitation that such diseases, to which we consider health workers are subject in the course of their employment, should be covered.
§ 12.54 p.m.
§ Major Sir Basil Neven-Spence (Orkney and Shetland)
I should like to add my praise for this Bill, and my congratulations to the Minister on the fact that he has seen his way to include in it the share fishermen. The great majority of fishermen are already covered, and I am grateful to the Minister for having brought in the share fishermen under this Bill. Having once taken them under his wing, I hope that, in future, he will not ignore their claims in connection with another Bill.
§ 12.55 p.m.
§ The Minister of National Insurance (Mr. James Griffiths)
May I begin by expressing my sincere gratitude and thanks to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) and to Members on all sides of the House 1472 for the kind things they have said about myself and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. I am sure they will not mind if I include my Parliamentary Private Secretary as well. We had a most interesting, sometimes exciting, at all times helpful, time on Standing Committee A, and it has been a pleasure today to hear voices with which I have become familiar. On the first day in Standing Committee A, I tried to estimate the composition of the Committee. It may be some guide to the House, as it was a very good one. There were 17 lawyers and 17 coalminers on the Committee. The lawyers brought their learning, and the miners brought their experience. The combination of the two is responsible for the improvements that were made in the Bill in Standing Committee. I would like to express to my opposite number my gratitude for the helpful way he has approached this matter. When we have differed we have done so without unpleasantness to one another or to either side.
A number of points have been raised, and I wish, first, to refer to the very important one raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds. He referred to the fact that there was a well informed, highly critical leading article in "The Times" on this problem which deserved every attention, the question that in these schemes it has been found impossible—I do not think anybody would have found it possible—to secure that there shall be equal benefits under the whole of our social insurance schemes. I have had the privilege for seven months of working, first, on this Bill and then on the other Bill which has received its Second Reading, and will shortly go to a Standing Committee. I have often felt that it would be an advantage in some ways if one could begin with a blank sheet, if one were beginning to write the social code of legislation in this country. We are not doing that. As the Parliamentary Secretary has said, there is a background, a history, to all this. All our new legislation is replacing existing legislation, and we have to remember that the men and women of this country will judge it very largely by a comparison between the benefits of the new and the old. This is particularly true of the Industrial Injuries Bill. We have been asked "what are we doing in this Bill 1473 to cover something that is provided under the old Measure? "
There is a very wide and substantial gap between the benefits provided under the Bill before us today and those proposed in the National Insurance Bill, which is now before the House. At some time in the future—I hope the not too distant future—it may be possible to bring into being a unified social insurance scheme. The measures we are taking pave the way for that, for while we had a system by which the population was divided into a section which was covered by State insurance schemes, and a section which was outside, it was difficult to co-ordinate them. It may, in ten years or less, be possible to unify the schemes. It is clear that when that is done it will be effected by a departure from the contributory principle and an acceptance of the principle of this obligation being covered by the State from State funds. Meantime, it was clear that since this Bill was one to replace the existing Workmen's Compensation Act, the scales of benefit had to be higher than we could possibly make them under the National Insurance Bill in view of their effect on contributions. Hon. Members will be fully seized of the facts that benefit scales under the National Insurance Bill require heavy contributions, and also that if there is to be equalisation, it will have to be upwards and not downwards. It will be appreciated that that is a problem for the future.
Let me say a word about the important, very vexed and highly controversial problem of alternative remedies. That matter is still receiving the consideration of the Committee appointed by my right hon. Friend the Lord President when he was Home Secretary and presided over by Sir Walter Monckton. That Committee is still continuing its consideration, and it would obviously, be wrong for me to say a word before I receive its report. When it is received the Government will give it immediate and urgent consideration. We realise how important it is. Meanwhile, I can only say that the Monckton Committee is proceeding as rapidly as possible with the considerataion of the problem, which is a difficult one. I hope to receive their report in the not too distant future.
There have been references to the fact that under this scheme we are departing, 1474 in many ways fundamentally, from the old code. The consequence of that departure is that for the first time in the history of workmen's compensation in our own country, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) said—and, speaking from memory, I think he is right—for the first time in any country in the world, provision for industrial insurance is being placed on a contributory basis. Under our existing scheme it has been the responsibility of employers. Is that departure justified and worth while? I do not want to enter into a long argument, but I do not accept the view that the worker has never previously paid. 1 am a coalminer, and since 1921 I know that indirectly 85 per cent. of the cost of compensation has been borne by the workers. One of the incidental affects of this Bill will be to reduce enormously the burden of workmen's compensation upon the mining industry. In my own part of the country that burden has reached an appalling figure, represented in tonnage by 3s. 6d. or 4s. a ton on the coal, for compensation alone, and 85 per cent. of that goes in the queer, curious ascertainment of the earnings in the coalmining industry.
What do we gain? If the employers are to be solely responsible for the payment of workmen's compensation, they will also claim to be solely responsible for its administration. Under the new scheme each workman pays 4d. a week, and for that 4d., in addition to the cash benefits, which are. substantially improved, the whole of his treatment is taken out of the hands of the employers and the insurance companies, and out of industrial strife. I would say to my constituents that it is well worth the 4d. they will pay, and it will be worth much more in the years to come. That principle having been accepted, it can be said that what we gain ii full compensation for the fact that we have had to accept the principle of having to contribute towards it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Blyton) raised the question of successive accidents. This is one of the many headaches we have encountered in seeking to translate into this new scheme, which is a revolutionary departure from the old, all the provisions, either in the existing Act or which arise from all the judge-made case law which has been built up over the years. This question 1475 of successive accidents is one of them. After the first accident, when a workman receives partial compensation and returns to work, and meets with a second accident, in some cases—not all, for the case law is uncertain—the man is entitled to receive compensation. But whereas the workman would receive partial compensation based upon half the difference between his earnings at light employment and his earnings before the first accident, the second compensation he would receive would be based upon his earnings at light employment. Therefore, the whole thing becomes entangled with the earnings rule. It is very difficult to introduce into a scheme like ours a principle of that kind which provides a flat rate benefit for the period of the injury benefit—six months— and then provides for an assessment of the injury based upon loss of faculty, and an award of payment which has no relation to earnings.
At the same time, 1 appreciate that something must be done about this question of successive accidents, and the provision which attracts me most is a combination of both. I propose, therefore, since these schemes will be worked together and co-ordinated, where there is a second accident, to give the workman in that case an option of receiving either the injury benefit of 45s. or his pension, plus the sickness rate provided in the new Bill. That is rather complicated, and I do not wish to go into too many complications now, but it seems to me that in that way we can meet fairly the position of the second and subsequent accidents if they occur, without departing from what is a principle in this scheme, which is, that 100 per cent. disablement, whether it is a consequence of one or more accidents, is assessed at a uniform figure.
§ Mr. Blyton
1 apologise for interrupting my right hon. Friend, but would he explain what that would mean in actual monetary value, assuming that a man had 10s. a week compensation for his first accident?
§ Mr. Griffiths
The position is this. The sickness benefit in the new scheme is 26s. and provision for a wife and children is the same in the two schemes. In the case where the man has 10s., the addition of 26s. sickness benefit would make 36s. He could, therefore, have his pension, plus sickness benefit, or the benefit of 45s., which ever is the greater. The bigger the 1476 pension, the greater would be the amount he received. The system provides benefits which increase in accordance with the gravity of the injuries the man has sustained, as assessed by the tribunal for the purpose of compensation. After a good deal of consideration of what is a very difficult problem indeed, that is the best solution that I and my advisers have been able to find.
There have been several references to-day to the question of industrial diseases. My hon. Friend the Member for Stour-bridge (Mr. Moyle) raised the question. It is a difficult question, but I know it is an important one. It has been urgently pressed upon me—and I know how urgent it is—and my hon. Friend expressed disappointment because I have not so far included in the Bill itself a provision for the payment of compensation to nurses who contract tuberculosis at their work. As my hon. Friend will appreciate, we do not in this Bill specify a list of industrial diseases, nor do we specify the workmen who are entitled to claim subject to certain conditions. That is left to be done under regulations as provided in Clause 54 and the succeeding Clauses. With regard to the nurses' claim, the Clause in which industrial disease is defined is sufficiently wide, that, if the evidence that I can get is sufficiently strong, to schedule tuberculosis contracted by health workers. The question is one of evidence.
Here 1 would like to say a general word. In the past the task, first of all, of the Home Office—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds had some experience of it there—and now of my Ministry, of scheduling industrial diseases has been easier than it will be in the future. Miners' nystagmus, for example, is fairly easily recognisable by accepted medical standards. There are other industrial diseases of that kind. We are now reaching the stage where it is not so easy to draw the line between the disease which is constitutional or which arises from natural causes, and the disease which arises from industrial causes. That is becoming extremely difficult because of mechanisation. We have a good deal of discussion in the House these days about the need for modernising, re-equipping and mechanising our industries. I agree that that has to be done, but I have to look at the other side of the ques- 1477 tion. Mechanisation and modernisation, with all their consequences, including the consequences of speeding up, are going to bring a new range of problems and industrial diseases. One of these days we shall have to consider seriously a group of neurotic diseases which will arise. That is bound to come. Therefore, we are entering a field in which it will be difficult for a Minister or his medical advisers to be able to say: "Here is a disease which many people have from natural or constitutional causes, but here it arises from industry." For those reasons I felt it was desirable to assist myself, the House and the country by having this problem considered afresh.
I propose, therefore, to set up a Committee of persons, both medical and lay, who can examine this problem, and I hope they will find it possible to establish and recommend—unanimously, I hope—some criterion, perhaps a new criterion, which will help the Minister to decide where the dividing line should be in these difficult cases. At the moment there are two of these difficult cases which I am considering. There is the claim put on behalf of the nurses; there is the other claim for Reynaud''s Disease which has suddenly come into prominence. It is claimed in one factory that there have been scores of cases of this disease due to the effect of vibratory tools on the hand. I think the Clauses we have in the Bill are sufficiently wide to enable me to bring in the nurses and the other cases, if I am satisfied about the evidence. At the same time, it is essential for the future to have a fresh examination of this problem, and I hope that a new criterion will be found which will be helpful to us.
There have been references to the question of the administration of this scheme. I appreciate that in this scheme and in many others, administration will be the key to success or failure. I am confident that it is right to take workmen's compensation out of industry. I am certain that nothing but good can come from that. I am a coalminer, though it is along time since I first had the misfortune to have an accident. I was very lucky. I spent 17 years in the pit; I have a few marks, but they are very trivial. I can remember my first compensation payment, and I can remember going to the colliery office. The 1478 very idea that an injured workman—I was a boy then—had to go to the colliery office and associate with the manager and the boss, and be examined by a' doctor who was the employers' doctor, has been one of the most important elements in creating the tragic strife in the coalmining, industry for which the country is paying very dearly in these days. I believe in taking it away from the industry and from the employers, and making a social service of it and creating a new chapter. That is going to be worth the£5 million which the Exchequer will pay towards it. The taxpayers will pay£5 million towards this scheme and the contributors will pay the balance. That£5 million will be repaid one hundredfold to the State in the improvement of industrial relations in consequence of taking workmen's compensation out of the industrial field. I hope 1 have covered most of the points raised in the course of the discussion this morning.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I am sure my hon. Friend does not expect me to make a pronouncement on that. In the not too distant future the House will be considering proposals for a new health service. That question, of course, will be much more relevant then. At the moment I cannot say anything about that. My hon. Friend must await the production of the new scheme by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health. The matter, obviously, will be dealt with in a general way and not in a particular way as confined to this Bill.
My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, who made an admirable statement in opening the Debate today, and who has been such a fine and loyal colleague to work with, referred to the fact that this Bill is estimated to cost in benefits—and all estimates are bound to be rather conjectural, for we have an entirely new system of assessment of benefits, and there is therefore an element of conjecture about it—in the region of£30 million. That is as far as we can estimate with the aid of our advisers and the Actuary. I hope the country will realise what that means—£ 30 million. This country cannot afford to go on suffer- 1479 ing an appalling waste of manpower. The number of preventable accidents is still far too high. I am certain that the number of industrial diseases which can be prevented is far too high.
If Members will look at HANSARD today they will see I have made a written reply to an hon. Member with regard to the number of cases certified disabled by pneumoconiosis and silicosis last year. In South Wales alone the number in one year exceeds 5,000. I look upon this not merely as a scheme to pay benefits, but as something imposing an obligation to conduct a search into the incidence of disease, into the prevention of accidents, and an obligation to rehabilitate men and give them a new life. If I go home to-night to my village, I shall find there is a little pool of "compo" men. I know perfectly well those men can be, ought to be, and, speaking for myself, will be rehabilitated to new work and new life. They have been there for five, 10, 15 and 20 years and the country has lost their services. So far we have only used their services to produce munitions. We must use their services in future to produce things needed for this country. Perhaps one of the greatest things now is that, in future, it will be the responsibility of the Minister, of the Government, of the House and of the country to see to it that these men not only receive payment during the time they are incapacitated, but receive the best of medical services and skill, the best kind of rehabilitation, and that they are fitted into a new life. That will be the true advantage of this Bill to the nation. I am sure the House will give the Bill its Third Reading. Perhaps I might be permitted to say, as an ex-miner, that it is for me indeed a proud moment to see this Bill pass.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.