§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.5 a.m.
§ Mr. Tudor Watkins (Brecon and Radnor)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
From the titles of Private Members' Bills on the Order Paper today, it appears that this is to be a Celtic day.
The 1946 National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act was universally accepted as a revolutionary change in dealing with workmen's compensation. Debates of the past which were so vigorous, are now definitely something of the past and today greater emphasis is placed on certain anomalies. One of my early experiences as a Member of Parliament was to serve on the Standing Committee supporting my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) in piloting through that Bill. That was a great experience.
I, and I am sure other hon. Members, subscribe firmly to the view and aim that no man incapacitated because of his employment shall receive less than his guaranteed wage. I was faced with the question of whether, by a Private Member's Bill, I should pioneer a Measure of that character as a great ideal, or should try to do something about certain anomalies. In drafting this Bill with the help of my hon. Friends the Members for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) and Wigan (Mr. R. Williams) we thought it wise to narrow down the provisions and not go so far as did Mr. Tom Smith, the former Member for Normanton, who, in an interesting discussion on Clause 1, in the Standing Committee, in 1945, asked what was meant by "by accident." At that 838 time it was stated that there was great difficulty in finding a form of words which would meet the request for a removal of the words "by accident."
This Bill endeavours to narrow down from the wide interpretation of the open field to the restricted case and I should imagine that it would be most difficult to argue against such an intention. At present, benefit is payable in respect of all persons covered by the industrial injuries Acts who suffer personal injury causedby accident arising out of and in the course oftheir employment or become disabled by industrial disease.
The proposal is that in addition benefit shall be payable in respect of every person in insurable employmentwho suffers personal injury (not being injury by accident) caused by exposure to risks inherent in his employment and peculiar to or characteristic of that employment.Since the 1946 Act a fairly large number of cases have come into operation and this has given rise to considerable concern because the interpretation of the law in relation to those cases by the industrial insurance commissioner has appeared to be contrary to common logic and has prevented the workman incapacitated because of employment from receiving benefit. I am sure that this morning cases to support that view will be cited from both sides of the House.
There is great concern in industry over this whole issue. I would direct the attention of the House to a Resolution at the Trades Union Congress of 1950 in appreciation of the work done by the Government of 1945–46 in respect of workmen's compensation. The resolution said thatin view of the many diseases not prescribed which result from employment and in respect of which there is no title to benefit the time has now arrived when further consideration should be given to the broadening of the Act to cover all industrial injuries.Representations were made, which were not concluded when the present Government took office.
It ought also to be noted that at the annual conference of the National Union of Mineworkers this year a resolution was agreed unanimously to instruct the National Executive to press for the scheme to be amended to provide for the payment of benefit to men, incapacitated 839 as a result of their employment by a "process," where no specific accident has occurred. This Bill sets out at least to take care of those cases which can be attributed to employment, but which do not satisfy the definition of "accident" in Section 1 of the Act and which are not included in the schedule of prescribed diseases in the 1946 Act.
Since it became known that I was promoting a Bill of this kind several examples have been submitted to me. On looking through the decisions of the Commissioner it will be found in quite a number of cases that, "owing to the existing state of the law" he has had to make distinctions. If there is an existing state of the law which prevents a workman from obtaining industrial injuries benefit, surely it is for the House to remedy that as soon as possible. There are typical cases about which I am very concerned as are industrial workers and I will give illustrations of such cases which seem to contradict each other. In all the cases I mention I can give the reference numbers if they are challenged.
Take the case of the building foreman who was incapacitated by disease of the feet, not a prescribed disease, caused by wearing cold and wet gum-boots over a prolonged period. It was held that incapacity was the result of unhealthy working conditions and not due to accident.
There is the case of the man engaged in washing out railway engine boilers who received "two bad wettings" caused by heavy rain coming into the shed where he worked and who contracted fibrositis. It was held that that was an injury by accident as it was ruled that the wettings were exceptional incidents. Mark the difference between those two cases.
Then there was the case of the gas-fitter who contracted bursitis of the right shoulder as the result of carrying a heavy bag of tools. The Schedule of the 1946 Act admits bursitis of the hand, knee, or elbow, but not the shoulder, and the appeal was disallowed. The Commissioner commented it was clearly due to the man's occupation, but he got no benefit. There is also the case of the driver of a lorry which had a broken window the draught from which set up an attack of fibrositis. It was held that he had 840 suffered injury by accident. What is the difference between those two types of cases?
Then we come to the case of the apprentice colliery blacksmith engaged in putting picks in a furnace and lifting them out hot. He was scorched. In three months the back of his hands were inflamed. He worked for a year and then finished his job. The Commission did not doubt that the injury was due to his employment, that the incapacity was due to "a continuous process of exposure to heat." But, despite all the evidence of that character the appeal was disallowed.
Local tribunals, who perhaps know as much about this, if not more, than the Industrial Insurance Commissioner, are sympathetic in these matters. There is the case of the miner who had been working underground for 28 years and became incapacitated because of sciatica. Most of the time he was working under a 3½ ft. by 4 ft. ceiling, which is work of which I have had personal experience. After working in the warmth of that face with a pneumatic drill, he had to go back to do some repair work on the drift where it was cold and damp. The local tribunal allowed his claim, because it was something which arose in the course of his employment. The insurance officer appealed against the claim as there was no "accident." The Insurance Commissioner said he was obliged to hold that the contention of the officer was correct in law. But whether or not it was correct in law the workman never received any benefit.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of National Insurance has had great experience of the work of agricultural workers. I am wondering what he would say about a farm worker who was sent out to cut a mildewed rick and, as a result of working in dust, became incapacitated through asthma, having never suffered from it before. What would the Parliamentary Secretary feel about that? An appeal failed because it was said it was a "process" and not an accident. What I am anxious about is the kind of argument which can be put up against the contention that the decision of the Commissioner is right in all these cases.
Before I became a Member of Parliament I was an administrator of National 841 Health Insurance. It was my job to examine claims for sickness benefit by people incapacitated by sciatica, fibrositis, bronchitis and other diseases. A sick visitor went round to the people, and very often a confidential report was given that a man's incapacity had been caused by his employment, although no particular accident had been sustained. Then I would inquire from the doctor what he thought about it, and he would agree that it was caused by the man working at some kind of employment. Sometimes I would say that we would pay sickness benefit in advance, and then see what could be done by the trade union to get compensation. But such efforts always failed.
Recently, I met a young friend of mine who had been working in water in a colliery in the Swansea Valley. He had to come out of the colliery because of crippled hands. He suffered that affliction because he worked in water; but the result was that he had no compensation and had "to go on the knocker" as an insurance man. The psychological effect on that man was such that recently he ended his life. I am sure that if the law were brought up to date that might have been some consolation to this man.
I want to declare a personal interest. My father worked underground for a number of years. He used to come home and to say, "There is something wrong with my arm." He could not say that the trouble was due to an accident, but he had never worked anywhere else than in the mine. He lost the use of his arm and he had to give notice to the colliery company. He had to give up his job and to collect insurance. I am sure that it is not the intention of the legislators that my father, having worked underground, should have to go out and collect insurance without having any benefit at all. He had to start on another job after reaching the age of 50.
Other cases will be quoted from all parts of the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) will no doubt be able to provide a wealth of evidence, he having been a compensation secretary in South Wales for a long time. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent. Central (Dr. Stross) has medical evidence to put before the House. I hope that my hon. Friend the 842 Member for Wigan, who has some legal knowledge, will wind up the debate and deal with the lawyers, because up to now I have had a tough time with them.
Unfortunately, from time to time, though, happily, not so often now as used to be the case, an hon. Member has to ask a Private Notice Question inquiring whether the Minister of Fuel and Power has any statement to make about a colliery accident. Then everybody is grieved and shocked. Everybody sympathises. I am advancing today the type of cases which may be forgotten. Let us be equally sympathetic towards them. If my Bill had had something to do with betting pools, the Press would have said a great deal about it; but I have not seen a single comment about this Bill in the Press. I do not seek to he advertised, but I am concerned about the sympathetic relationship of the Press to cases of the kind I have quoted.
I am encouraged by the fact that the Swansea Valley group of miners have sent me a resolution congratulating me on being lucky in the Ballot for Private Members' Bills. They represent 20,000 miners, and they say:We are glad that you have elected to utilise that privilege by endeavouring to help the injured and disabled of the mining industry.I hope that that message will have some significance with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of National Insurance. I appeal to him to cast aside all fears and doubts. I say to the lawyers that they should not argue this matter too much. As we are coming to Christmas, I say:O hush the noise, ye men of strife,And hear the angels sing.If alterations are suggested by hon. Gentlemen on either side of the House which would improve this Bill or make it more acceptable, I suggest that we should give it a Second Reading and consider the alterations in Committee. Let us make up our minds that the existing law is not what we should like it to be and that this matter merits attention. I say from my own experience that the hearts of all Ministers connected with this problem since 1945 have been sympathetic, and the Insurance Fund is sound—in fact, it has a surplus. Finally, I say to all hon. Members:Today is the accepted timeHarden not your hearts.
§ 11.25 a.m.
§ Mr. Harold Finch (Bedwellty)
I beg to second the Motion.
Those of us who had the privilege of listening to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) will have been impressed by his sincerity and by the reasonableness of his proposals. We are all conscious of the hardship experienced by many disabled persons who fail to come within the provisions of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, 1946. My hon. Friend pointed out that to obtain benefit under that Act a workman had to show either that he has sustainedpersonal injury … by accident arising out of and in the course of his employmentor that he is suffering from one of the scheduled industrial diseases. They are those diseases prescribed by regulation.
The phrase:personal injury by accidentis one which obtained under the Workmen's Compensation Act. Over a period of years the courts have placed a fairly wide interpretation upon the meaning of that phrase. They have regarded it as "an unlooked for mishap," "an incident which can result in incapacity," "something unexpected," and "something undesigned." That appears to be the general finding of the courts over a period of years on the meaning of this phrase.
The incident or accident may result in a disease, or the incident might aggravate a disease, but benefit is payable providing that the workman can show that his incapacity is related to the accident or incident which is quoted. It is immaterial whether the disease is one which in other persons can be attributed to natural causes. The fact is that if the disease is one which may be shown to be due to the incident then payment is made.
I do not want to weary the House, but I should like to draw attention to a few cases. One was decided under the Workmen's Compensation Act some years ago. It concerned a workman employed underground. There was a sudden inrush of water. The pumps had broken down and the man found himself almost up to the waist in water. He tried to bale the water out as best he could, but he was in that position for many hours. He con- 844 tracted a chill which resulted in sub-acute rheumatism.
The case came before the courts—I think that it went to the Court of Appeal—and it was held that the rheumatism was due to an incident, something occurring at a certain time. He was in water for many hours on that day and, in the circumstances, benefit was payable by way of compensation. My hon. Friend mentioned the case of the railwayman who was washing out boilers. On two occasions there was torrential rain and a lot of water came into the shed in which he worked. They were the incidents which gave rise to a form of fibrositis. The Commissioner under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act held that the fibrositis, which perhaps in other persons could be attributed to natural causes, but in this case was related to these incidents and that the man was entitled to benefit.
There was also the instance of the man shot-firing underground. He returned very promptly to the face after the shot-firing had taken place, and he was over-come by fumes. He contracted pneumonia through some form of carbon monoxide poisoning, was disabled and ultimately died. When the case came before the courts, it was held in the Court of Appeal that the workman's death was due to a particular incident of shot-firing on that particular day, and payment was made.
There are many men in the mining industry who are concerned with shot-firing, which takes place many times a day. Men are working in a smoke-laden atmosphere day in and day out, but they continue their employment and very often contract some form of lung trouble or disease, not pneumoconiosis, but suffer from shortness of breath and similar troubles. The medical board cannot grant a certificate for pneumoconiosis, but the condition, nevertheless, is due to the employment in which the man was engaged.
Unfortunately, of course, these men cannot prove an incident. If water is rushing into the place where a miner is at work, it is called an incident, but, if it dribbles along silently and quietly, there is no incident, and I cannot see what logical distinction can be drawn there. These men are being refused their claims on a mere technicality. While the lawyers 845 may have some technical explanation, to me, as a layman, it seems that, if a bug had a good bite at me, it would certainly be an incident, but, if it nibbled at me for hours, it would be held that there was no incident. Therefore, the whole thing is absurd and ridiculous, and I agree with my hon. Friend that this is the time to correct it.
I should like to cite two other cases in order to point out the contradiction which is taking place. The first is that of a pug-feeder employed in brick making, who had to lift 700 blocks of marl about six feet, each of the blocks weighing between 56 lbs. and 60 lbs. It was held that his condition of strained chest was due to the process in which he was employed, but he could not relate it to any particular incident or accident. Yet, at the same time, there was the case of a railwayman, who had to move heavy levers and who sustained a hernia. The Industrial Commissioners under this Act held that there were specific incidents which resulted in the man's condition, and, in those circumstances, the payment of benefit was allowed. These two cases show a very thin line of demarcation.
I will quote one more case. There was a workman employed by Briggs Motor Bodies, Limited, who contracted what is known as heat hand, which is certifiable in mining but not in the motor industry. He was off work for quite a while, but his claim for benefit was rejected. When special medical evidence was called—indeed, it was that of a very high authority in matters of industrial diseases in this country—it was to the effect that the workman's condition was due to thousands of small blows or incidents. There was no doubt, the Tribunal stated, that the man's condition was due to his employment, but it could not be related to any specific incident, and his claim failed. There are other persons who are employed by Briggs Motor Bodies, Limited, who are suffering from similar trouble, but whose claims cannot be sustained.
I wish to support what my hon. Friend said on the subject of production. In these days, of course, we are stressing the need for increased production from the point of view of the economic recovery of this country, because more and more production is required so that we may get out of our economic difficulties, 846 but, after all, there is a human element in connection with increased production, and there is a price which men in industry are having to pay in life and in health for this necessary increase in industrial production.
It seems to me that, when these men employed in industry, who are making such a valuable contribution towards the economic recovery of this country, sustain a disability that may be brought on gradually and slowly, they should be placed in a position as relatively good a position as those people who sustain an accident at a particular moment. After all, men do not always report every incident that arises. If a miner, for instance, was to report every incident that occurred, the Ministry of National Insurance would be overwhelmed by thousands of incidents. The ordinary miner carries out his employment despite these incidents, and, indeed, if a mishap should occur, he is not always idle because of it. The miner is not afraid to take the risks of the job; he has done it for years, and that is one of his great qualities.
Miners are brave men, who continue at their work in spite of its hazards, but, surely, if after a period of years, he becomes worn out and is unable to continue with his employment when medical evidence shows quite clearly that his condition is due to that employment, then this House and this nation should be magnanimous about it and should compensate these men in such circumstances.
I try to be a practical person myself, and, very often, I am faced with practical difficulties. I have tried to see what real objection can be put against this Bill. Certainly, the first point that may be made against it is that it will bring in more cases. That is not a valid objection. Why should we object to more cases, if We are convinced by the medical evidence that those cases are due to the men's employment?
Next, it will be stated that there will be more disputed cases, but we have always had disputed cases under the workmen's compensation provisions. Solicitors and those who have dealt with compensation matters over a period of years now have certain classical interpretations of what is meant by incidents in industry, and, if this Bill reaches the Statute Book, the Commissioners will 847 very soon place their interpretation upon it. I know that the three Commissioners meet occasionally when they are faced with something that is general in the question of Industrial Injuries Act, and they give an interpretation, which becomes the law for the time being under the Industrial Injuries Act. Therefore, those who will administer the Act will be guided by these interpretations.
I do not see what practical difficulties there could be, but it will be said that Section 55 of the Industrial Injuries Act allows diseases to be scheduled. That is true, and the fact that Section 55 does allow diseases to be scheduled is very helpful. As a matter of fact, under the new Act, I am of the opinion that diseases are dealt with perhaps more expeditiously than they were under the old workmen's compensation provisions. When we are dealing with a group of cases, and we are endeavouring to get a certain disease certifiable or prescribed, the general test is whether it applies to a number of men in a particular industry, and one might say that one or two cases would not be a sufficient indication to put the matter before the advisory committee in order to get a particular disease scheduled. They require to have evidence that it affects a body of men in a certain occupation.
Here, however, we are dealing with individual cases, and, in this connection, I should like to refer to rheumatism. I should hesitate to schedule rheumatism as an industrial disease, and I think the Parliamentary Secretary would also have some hesitation about it. There may be certain conditions which would appear to be due to rheumatism, but I should hesitate to schedule it as an industrial disease in that way.
But there are cases here and there of men whose rheumatism can be connected with their employment. I have cited the case of men who suffer from the effects of fumes underground. To a large extent, they occur in certain collieries. It may be difficult to place them in the schedule, and, indeed, if the Parliamentary Secretary began to put all these cases in the schedule of industrial diseases, he would find that there were thousands of them and that it was not practicable to do so. I do not want to interfere in any way with the present method of scheduling 848 industrial diseases, but here we are dealing, more or less, with individual cases in certain occupations.
There is one other point I want to make about this method of scheduling industrial diseases. After all, a great deal of consideration has to be given to the matter before the Advisory Council can recommend the scheduling of a disease, and that takes a long time.
§ Mr. Finch
The hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams) and I gave evidence before a special committee dealing with pneumoconiosis in relation to people working in coalmines and Phurnacite plants, and we contended that that disease should be certified in those particular occupations. That was over 12 months ago, and in the interval men have been rendered disabled as a result of that disease. Not a word has been heard about the matter since then, so that it will be seen that there is delay after all. Though I appreciate that delay may be necessary in scheduling diseases, it would be possible, if this Bill became law, to deal with some of these cases more expeditiously.
We have had four years' experience of the working of the Industrial Injuries Act, and we should benefit from that experience. It is a far better Act than the Workmen's Compensation Act, and it has given added security and benefits to the men employed in the industry. The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor, who made a very able speech, has done a great service in drawing the attention of the House to this subject. I hope that this Bill will be taken to Committee where we can improve upon it. It it can cover those cases where the Commission has said that a disease is due to industrial causes, then it will be heralded by the industrial workers of this country as another step forward towards giving them security.
It has been said by those in the mining industry that if we are to get more men into that industry we must give them more security. Although recruitment to the mining industry is increasing, the question of security is one of the stumbling blocks in that campaign. I hope that the Bill will be given a Second Reading.
§ 11.44 a.m.
§ Mr. John Arbuthnot (Dover)
I am sure that the whole House is extremely grateful to the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) and to the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) for raising this vitally important subject, and for the great sincerity of the speeches they have made upon it. Their remarks could not fail to enlist the sympathy of hon. Members on both sides of the House for the people suffering from industrial diseases to which they referred, and who are not eligible for compensation. However, I must say that it seemed to me that their speeches were directed not so much to the Bill, but to making out a case for the payment of compensation to everyone suffering from accident and disease regardless of the cause.
I am sure we were all delighted with the picture drawn by the hon. Member for Bedwellty when he said that if a hug had a good bite at him it would be regarded as an incident, but that if it nibbled him for hours that would not be held to be an incident. This Bill seems to me like the bug having a series of bites rather than having one good bite and dealing with the whole matter. My difficulty is that the Bill seems to be dealing piecemeal with the problem rather than taking the whole problem into full consideration.
As has been pointed out, the law as it stands gives rise to a large number of anomalies. On the one hand, we have the National Insurance scheme, which helps everybody, and, on the other, we have the higher benefits which are payable under Section 7 of the Industrial Injuries Act to two particular categories of people, those who sufferpersonal injury … by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment,and those who are suffering from diseases prescribed under Section 55 of the Act.
For a disease to be prescribed under Section 55 of the Act, it has to be shown thatthe attribution of particular cases to the nature of the employment can be established or presumed with reasonable certainty.I think it important that, in considering the operation of the Act, we should get clear the historical basis on which it is founded. It arises initially out of the old doctrine of common employment under which no claim could be made for 850 injury if that injury is the result of actions of other people in the employment of the same employer. It was as a revulsion of that doctrine of common employment that the Workmen's Compensation Acts came into being.
There was one case, I believe, where an ex-Member of this House received considerable facial injuries as the result of an industrial accident. He was taken to hospital, and, in due course, received the bill for the cost of taking him there. That was a shocking thing to have happened. These workmen's compensation cases gave rise to a mass of litigation and to decisions, as was described by the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor, contrary to common logic. In many cases, the decisions were contradictory, and the amount of case law arising out of the Workmen's Compensation Acts represents many feet and even yards of books in thickness.
There was the case of the man who was up a chimney stack when it was struck by lightning. That man was held to be eligible for compensation. Yet another man, on whom a wall fell while he was at work, was regarded as ineligible for compensation because it was held that the wall might have fallen on anybody. One is tempted to ask what would have been the decision if that wall had been struck by lightning. In the light of such contradictory decisions it was extremely difficult to know exactly where one stood under the old Workmen's Compensation Acts.
Then we come to the problem of what is an accident. There was the case of Fitzsimons versus the Ford Motor Company where the man concerned contracted Reynaud's disease. In that case, it was held to be an accident because it was said that each vibration of the tool was a separate accident and contributed to the ultimate injury to the person using it. The man received compensation. This was reversed, in effect, when it was decided that accidents forming a continuous process are not accidents, but fall into the category of diseases.
The whole of that historical background has led us to the present position of the law, which this Bill seeks to alter. I, personally, find it very difficult to justify a difference between an accident or disease which results from employment and any other form of accidents or 851 disease. There is a justification on an historical basis, and there was the advantage that it made employers take greater care. But that advantage seems to be less today than it was in the old days. I am not sure that we should not go the whole hog and say that the money available for compensating people who suffer from accident or disease ought to go in its entirety to relieve distress regardless of how that distress arises.
§ Mr. Ronald Williams (Wigan)
Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that the logical consequence of pursuing his argument would be the repeal of the Industrial Injuries Acts?
§ Mr. Williams
Perhaps I have not made myself clear. As I understand the hon. Gentleman's argument, he is saying, in effect, that there is less justification than there was for the distinction between cases which arise from the occupational risks and cases which do not, that if a person injured outside industry gets a certain amount per week, there is no logical reason, as far as I can understand the argument, why he should get more if he suffers injury at his work. If that were so, would it not logically lead to the repeal of the Industrial Injuries Acts?
§ Mr. Arbuthnot
I should not like to go on record as being in favour of the repeal of the Industrial Injuries Acts. What I do say is that I can see no justification why somebody who suffers an accident or injury in the process of going to work should not receive just as much compensation as if he suffered the injury once he had got inside the gates and was at work.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
We draw a distinction between people who are injured in war, people who are injured at work and people who are injured domestically. When considering a war injury, a tribunal has no difficulty, because the test applied is if the illness is the result of service. If it is, they get a pension. Why should not the same principle apply to industrial injury, provided we accept the proposition that industrial accidents should be treated differently from domestic accidents?
§ Mr. Arbuthnot
If I continue what I am saying a little further perhaps the point will become clear.
The difficulty I get into in considering this Bill is that it seeks to provide a halfway house, so to speak, to cover the field in which injuries and illnesses cannot be attributed with any certainty to employment. I think it is impracticable to achieve that half-way house. It is important to bear in mind that under the present law the claimant gets protection if he contracts a scheduled disease, and if we try to provide a half-way house of the sort which seems to be provided under this Bill we shall lay open to litigation people who at present are given the protection of being within the scheduled diseases category.
This Bill refers to the personwho suffers personal injury … caused by exposure to risks inherent in his employment and peculiar to or characteristic of that employment.That is very wide phrasing, which will cause a mass of litigation. It will take up the time of doctors and lawyers—not that I will put that forward as a reason for rejecting the Bill.
§ Mr. Arbuthnot
I think the lawyers will be required to argue the doctors' decisions in the courts.
It will occupy a great deal of the time of doctors, of whom we have not got enough at the present moment to cope with diseases, to spare them to deal with troubles into which we shall get. We shall find difficulty, for example, over the man who is doing heavy work and suffers from heart disease. Will that beinherent in his employment and peculiar to or characteristic of that employment."?
§ Mr. Ness Edwards (Caerphilly)
Surely the hon. Gentleman is aware that the man who has heart disease and collapses when doing heavy work is covered?
§ Mr. Arbuthnot
True enough, but this Bill will re-open the whole question. That will be the effect of it.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that this is in addition to the other provisions? It does not affect the other provisions.
§ Mr. Arbuthnot
It seeks to be an addition, but whether it will work out as an addition seems to me to be questionable.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
Does the hon. Gentleman intend to support the Bill? That is the question.
§ Mr. Arbuthnot
If somebody doing outdoor work contracts pneumonia, is that pneumonia considered to be the result of that outdoor work,inherent in his employment and peculiar to or characteristic of that employment."?Alternatively, if a man is working indoors and contracts scarlet fever, will that come within the provisions of this Bill on the grounds that he would have been less likely to contract it had he been in the open air?
This Bill will result in a vast amount of litigation which will create uncertainties and more difficulties rather than less for the very people we are trying to help. I believe it is impracticable to reach a half-way house. We must either remain where we are or go the whole hog, because by taking minute bites at the cherry we shall land ourselves in an impossible position. I therefore hope that there will be substantial amendment of this Bill, and that it will be drastically modified.
§ 12 noon
§ Mr. D. J. Williams (Neath)
I am very glad indeed to have the opportunity to say a word or two in this debate. I promise to be brief because I appreciate that our time this morning is limited and that other hon. Members wish to speak.
I should like to begin by congratulating the sponsor of the Bill, my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins), first, on his good fortune in the Ballot for Private Members' Bills, secondly, on his decision to bring in a Bill dealing with this vitally important matter of industrial injuries, and, thirdly, for his very clear and lucid exposition of the provisions and purposes of the Bill.
When my hon. Friend's name came out first in the Ballot he certainly did not suffer from any paucity of advice as to the kind of Bill he should introduce. Indeed, the advice was embarrassing in its profusion and variety. It was only natural, I suppose, that much of this advice should come from Wales, where the problem of our constitutional rela- 854 tionships with England has a curious fascination for some people.
I noticed in a letter in one of the Welsh newspapers that my hon. Friend was advised to bring in a Bill to repeal the Act of Union of 1536. In other words, he was asked to perform a revolution here this morning. He was advised to separate Wales from England, to undo the work of Henry VIII, and, in one short Bill, to unwind the vast and complex relationships which have grown up between Wales and England over the last four centuries.
However, we all know my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor as a good Welshman with a passionate interest in Wales and in the Welsh people. But he is not only a good Welshman. He is a practical Welshman, with his feet on the ground, and he has shown in this Bill that he is far more concerned to remove the actual grievances of today than the imaginary grievances of a remote and distant past.
My hon. Friend and I have a common industrial background. We come from the same mining valley in South Wales. We were both employed in the same industry, if not in the same pit, and we both have had very wide—indeed, grim—experience of the problems of compensation. The mining industry has a larger incidence of compensation cases than any other industry in the country, and we have had a long and bitter fight in this industry over compensation problems. We know the tragic effect of these problems on the miners and their families, and on the social and industrial life of our mining communities.
In the mining industry questions of compensation are of immense importance to the miners. This is inevitable because no other industry carries such a heavy roll of accident and disease cases under the Industrial Injuries Act. In the mining industry no subject arouses such keen and widespread interest. Compensation is always a live issue in the mining valleys, and no subject is discussed with more feeling and animation at lodge meetings, area gatherings and national mining conferences.
In the past nothing has done so much to poison industrial relations in the mining industry as the treatment of the victims of accident and disease. For 855 years this was a chronic cause of bitterness and strife. It did more to exacerbate relations within industry than even questions of wages and conditions of employment. It led to incessant friction, innumerable disputes and many strikes. Indeed, it created in the minds of the miners a profound resentment not only against the employers but against the industry itself.
I well remember the protracted and costly struggle we had in South Wales to establish compensation rights for the victims of silicosis. It took years of costly effort to get something like justice for those men. If a tithe of the time, effort and money devoted to litigation had been spent on preventive measures, the mining industry would have been a far healthier place today—and healthier in more senses than one. The ravages of dust disease and the treatment of the victims have done more to deter recruitment into the mining industry in South Wales than anything else, and even now, after many improvements introduced by the Coal Board, the youth of the mining valleys are still reluctant to enter the industry. The old fears and resentments are still there, and they are very hard to eradicate.
In recent years, I agree, great improvements have been made in the treatment of the victims of accident and disease. Compensation provisions are more comprehensive, more people are covered and, on the whole, they are more generously treated. The administration is more humane. There is less legality and more humanity. I mention these things not because there is no further room for improvement—there is, indeed, a great deal of room for improvement; this Bill is itself evidence of that—I mention them simply to indicate the background of the problems we are discussing and to show some of the changes which have taken place in recent years.
The Industrial Injuries Act, 1946, was, in many respects, a great step forward. It has now been in force since July, 1948. When it was discussed in the House in 1945 it was received with a large measure of agreement. I think we all recognised that it was a big improvement on all the previous Workmen's Compensation Acts. We have now had 4½ years' experience of the working of 856 that Act, and this experience enables us to assess its advantages, its defects and its limitations.
We have found, in practice, that the Act has many limitations. I get frequent complaints, especially from my mining constituents, about the limitations of the Act, and the union to which I belong—the National Union of Mineworkers—is constantly occupied at all levels in dealing with those limitations. The Bill before the House this morning deals with one of these limitations and seeks to remove it. It is confined to one narrow and limited point, but it is a point of the utmost importance to all those employed in industry.
I could quote from my own experience many cases of people who would be covered by the Bill, but I do not want to burden the House with individual cases. Surely the important thing in this Second Reading debate is the principle of the Bill, and I do not think anybody will deny that the principle which the Bill seeks to establish has merit, logic and justice.
There is no doubt that the Bill is badly needed and is, indeed, long overdue. Those of us who are intimately associated with industrial workers realise how essential it is. I hope, therefore, that the House will give it a Second Reading today and that after today the Government will provide every necessary facility to expedite it on its course to the Statute Book.
§ 12.10 p.m.
§ Mr. E. H. C. Leather (Somerset, North)
To ensure myself a safe passage home, I want to make it clear to the lawyers in the House, with whom I would not dream of arguing, that I support the Bill and am prepared to carry that support as far as may be necessary.
In our minds and hearts, the principle involved in the Bill is agreed, and has been for years. For a very long time we have all recognised that a man who at some stage of his life, usually a later stage, is thrown on the industrial scrap heap through no fault of his own and through circumstances entirely beyond his control, but as a result of having spent his life in the service of part of our vast modern industrial complex, upon which he has very little influence and over which he has no control at 857 all, is entitled to some compensation from the community to ensure that his faithful and honest service does not result in his having to spend the dying years of his life in conditions of the most abject poverty and hardship.
I shall not weary the House with more illustrations of cases. The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) and the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) gave most convincing examples. The Parliamentary Secretary must know of many similar cases from his long experience. I am sure that my hon. Friend has every sympathy with them and would like to assist cases in the mining industry and also in the agricultural industry. The agricultural industry has not so far been mentioned but there we have men who, as a result of having spent their lives in the open air, exposed to most violent and unpleasant weather conditions over many years, suddenly, at 40 or 50, find themselves "crocks". Because there has been no accident, nothing can be done for these physical wrecks, and in many cases they are not even eligible for benefits under the ordinary National Insurance scheme.
There is a case in my own constituency which the Parliamentary Secretary knows. As long as the man sits in a chair in front of his fire he is perfectly well, but every time he goes out to work it is only a matter of days before he is once again on his back and in hospital. He has a heart and lung condition as result of many years' exposure to wind, rain, and cold. He is fit to do a sedentary job if only we could find him one, but we cannot.
I have been trying for months to find him employment, but in a country district there are no jobs for such a man. If he lived in London we could find him a job as a night watchman or a hall porter, but no such jobs are available where he lives. The man is 49 or 50. He just cannot work, and his wife and children are having a desperate time. No one disputes that his dreadful condition is the result of the labours he has honestly performed, but because of the qualification in our legislation he is not entitled to benefit from the State.
I am sure that we have already accepted the principle in the Bill. In the case of workmen's compensation, years 858 ago, we accepted the principle that such men are entitled to some consideration from their fellow citizens. What we have not succeeded in doing is to draw up legislation which will include all those men. We have found ourselves coping with lawyers, and I confess that I have no power to cope with them.
It may well be that the drafting of the Bill by two or three hon. Gentlemen opposite is not perfect and that its technical phraseology does not achieve what they want. I speak from bitter experience. When I introduced a Private Member's Bill the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill), then Minister of National Insurance, genuinely did her best to convince me that my Bill would produce results precisely opposite to what I have had in mind, though I must confess that I never really succumbed to her argument. It is only fair to say that, as a result of my Bill and of the great support which I got from some hon. Gentlemen opposite, a short time afterwards the right hon. Lady introduced a Bill of her own which did what I had wanted to do. I do not want to argue about the language of this Bill, because there may be a possibility that it will have the effect upon my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary that mine had upon the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West, and if it does I shall be delighted.
I am sure that my hon. Friend will have great sympathy with what we who support the Bill are trying to do and will listen to us with understanding. We are not trying to open the gate wide to a flood of disputed cases. If what we want to do is done, we see no reason why the law courts should be flooded with disputed cases and why all kinds of difficulties should be caused. It is up to the Ministry of National Insurance to carry out the principle in a way which will not cause trouble. Now that we have made clear what is in our minds, it is up to the lawyers and other experts of the Ministry to draft a Bill to give effect to it. I am sure hon. Gentlemen opposite would accept that.
What we seek to do is to ensure that the comparatively small section of disabled who are still outside the provisions of our legislation and are becoming wrecks on the scrap heap of industry 859 because of their services to industry are given the benefits to which they are entitled.
§ 12.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards (Caerphilly)
I am sure the miners of Somerset will be much more pleased with the speech of the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) than will the miners of Kent with the speech of the hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Arbuthnot), who said that he did not like the Bill because it was only a small one. The hon. Member for Dover thinks much more should be done, and that is his excuse for not even supporting the little good which it is proposed to do by means of the Bill.
I compliment my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) upon his very good fortune in being able to present the Bill, and I congratulate him upon the manner in which he has done it. The Motion was very ably seconded by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch), and, by and large, I believe that my hon. Friends have made their case. My right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill), the former Minister of National Insurance, is indisposed and regrets her inability to be present to give her unqualified support to the Bill.
The Bill deals with two points which have emerged in the administration of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, 1946. The first relates to a person who sustains disablement as a result not of one incident but of a series of microscopic incidents which cannot be measured individually. This disablement is not in dispute. One has only to read through the Industrial Commissioners' long series of cases—they are becoming as bad as the unemployment umpires' decisions—to know that case law will be used in the future not for the purpose of giving benefit but for the purpose of depriving people of benefit. There seems far too much of the technique of the old unemployment decision being used for the purpose of stopping an applicant getting benefit. In this connection Industrial Commissioners are prisoners of their own decisions.
It may very well be argued that some decisions are justified on House of Lords 860 cases, but there have been subsequent decisions. I would not think that the Commissioners were absolutely bound by old judgments under the old workmen's compensation Acts. The primary object of the scheme was to give disablement benefit for the disabled, not to discover whether there was an accident or what was the type of accident. That appears to me to be what the Commissioners are doing today. In discussing the application of an applicant they consider how he sustained the disablement, and if he did not sustain it in a particular way then he is not entitled to benefit. Surely that was never the intention of this House. It is not sensible, logical or just. Here is an injustice that is being perpetrated in this type of case and the Bill proposes to deal with it.
I would not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty that we should schedule these diseases, because where that is done, qualification for benefit is limited by a number of processes and conditions in which the disease is acquired. This Bill will deal with the type of person who gets a disease but not in the prescribed way. There are two such types of case, and if I may I would sum it up in this way. When one looks through all these Industrial Commissioners' decisions one sees that a man may get wet once and become disabled by it, thereby getting benefit; but if he is wet very frequently and becomes disabled by it he will not get benefit.
Here is an illustration. If a miner suffers once from an inrush of water into the mine he will get benefit for disablement, but if he works in water regularly and becomes disabled as a result he will not get any benefit. If a man lifts one block and becomes injured thereby he will receive benefit, but the fellow who lifts hundreds of blocks and then becomes injured will not. That is only too apparent from looking through these decisions, and I will leave it to some of my trade union friends to state cases in detail.
Let me give one other example. A man who gets beat hand in a mine will get benefit, but a man who gets it elsewhere will not. A man who gets a beat shoulder will not get benefit at all because it is the result of a continuous period of activity, but the man who gets beat hand in the mining industry will get it. There is absolutely no difference in the experi- 861 ence which produces the different types of conditions, whether it is in the hand, elbow or shoulder. It is such cases as that which we have in mind, and I think it will be agreed on both sides of the House that here at any rate an injustice is being perpetrated.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of National Insurance (Mr. R. H. Turton)
Beat hand is now prescribed for all industries. The hon. Member was quoting the Briggs Motors case, but that was before the disease was prescribed generally. Now for all manual labour beat hand is prescribed, and the right hon. Gentleman was inaccurate in what he said, though no doubt it was an inadvertent inaccuracy.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for correcting that point, but the principle is there and he will not deny it. If we schedule the disease and limit the processes we are by that method eliminating all those men who suffer from this disease through their employment and do not conform to the process. I should be the first to admit that there are difficulties in dealing with this matter, but surely the Parliamentary Secretary can in Committee introduce some limit if he feels that the Industrial Commissioners and the appeals' boards are not a sufficient check upon abuse, though it seems to me that they ought to be adequate.
I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to say that he agrees to this Bill having a Second Reading. The Industrial Commissioners want to do something in these admitted cases of injustice, because they have said that they would do something were it not for the state of the law; and if the Industrial Commissioners want to do something surely the Minister ought to assist them to do what they consider to be right. That is the point.
This is an important little Bill. Its passage through the House will have a very good effect upon our industrial relations, and in the future we shall want good industrial relations. The men will feel that here is a genuine attempt to give the disabled worker the benefit which the House originally intended and to which he is entitled
§ 12.28 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Partridge (Battersea, South)
I am very glad of the opportunity of speaking on this Bill, because I can assure the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins), who introduced it, that, like so many hon. Members, I recognise the desire underlying it. But I must approach this as a layman and one who is not versed in the law. Those hon. Members who are lawyers, or have a knowledge of this part of the law, seem to have different opinions on the interpretation of the law, and I want to be assured on one or two points. Although my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Arbuthnot) was castigated by the right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) for not supporting the Bill in an unqualified manner, I am not sure that the Bill does carry out the intentions and the desires of the majority of the Members.
We want to see those who are laid aside, either temporarily or permanently, treated with the utmost compassion and justice, but if this Bill does not do what we want it to do, I am afraid that I cannot follow so blindly in the steps of my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather). I am not prepared blindly to say, "This is what we want. Let us go ahead with it." I should like to be convinced, and I hope that some of the hon. Gentlemen who follow me in the debate will be able, during the course of the discussion, to throw light on my doubts.
One of my doubts is whether the Bill gives a clear-cut demarcation between those who ought to get higher benefits under the Industrial Injuries Act and those who develop diseases and complaints simply by reason of ordinary proneness to illness in any walk of life?
§ Mr. R. Williams
I am listening to the hon. Member rather carefully. Would it be a fair way of putting his question to say that he would like to have an answer to the point whether the Bill does not obscure the distinction between occupational and non-occupational risk?
§ Mr. Partridge
Exactly that is the real difficulty that confronts me.
At first flush I am afraid that the Bill does just the reverse and that we are likely to get a field of uncertainty among people, who will have fear and distrust 863 implanted in their souls when it should not be. I am impressed by paragraph 17 of the Report of the Departmental Committee on Industrial Diseases. The paragraph deals with prescription, and says:Our attention has been drawn to the great importance, in prescribing a disease, of keeping a clear dividing line between the National Insurance Act and the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, in order to avoid as far as possible doubts and disputes as to entitlement to benefit which, apart from other effects might"—and I would say definitely would—seriously retard the recovery of a sick man.It is because of the possibility that the Bill will not do what the great majority of us desire, but might have the reverse effect in respect of a great body of people on whom we would not wish to inflict this additional industrial injury, that I hope we can get some assurance. I have an open mind on the matter at the moment. I have a very definite idea what we want to do, but an open mind as to whether the Bill will do it. I hope I can have an assurance later in the discussion.
§ 12.35 p.m.
§ Mr. David Thomas (Aberdare)
I, too, want to compliment and congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) upon introducing this very important Bill. Judging from the speeches on both sides of the House there appears to be full agreement on the main principle of the Bill. Like other hon. Members, I sincerely hope that the Bill will get a Second Reading and that people who are suffering from industrial injury but are unable to get benefit because they cannot prove a specific accident arising out of and in the course of their employment will be covered by it in future.
I shall not dwell on the provisions of the Bill. They have been made very clear by those who have spoken before. I want to touch briefly on some of the complaints and illnesses which arise as a result of work in coal mines, steel works and factories, and which undoubtedly, according to medical evidence, have been brought about by such employment. Several cases have already been cited, and very many more could be cited. Indeed, I venture to say that risks are taken by all industrial workers, immaterially of the industry in which they are engaged.
864 A man may work underground in a very warm atmosphere in the return air-ways this week and next week. For the following week he may be transferred to a cooler place, and contract a severe cold, developing into pneumonia or bronchitis. The bronchitis may remain with him as long as he is alive. I think everyone will agree that industrial injury benefit should be paid in such a case, when the man is disabled by these diseases. I know that the medical profession might say that there is no need for him to work in a steel works or a colliery, and that one can contract bronchitis when employed in congenial surroundings, as the result of catching a cold. There are many cases where it can be proved that bronchitis is the direct result of the employment.
There are other complaints. One of my hon. Friends has mentioned hernia. I have listened in county courts and I have had great experience in dealing with compensation cases for the mining district which I am privileged to represent. I have heard specialists disagree. One set of specialists may state categorically that hernia can occur immediately after a certain act, while another specialist will say that it is a slow process. If it is a slow process, the sufferer gets no compensation. A man following an arduous occupation may eventually find himself suffering from hernia, but it should be provable by medical evidence that he should be paid compensation as the result of hernia arising out of his occupation. There are other instances that one could cite.
Coming here this morning by Underground train I was reading a daily newspaper. I have it here. It is the "Daily Express." [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is immaterial to me what the journal is. If it contains the news, I read it. Let me make a point of this. I saw these headlines:Mystery fog illness swamps hospitals:'Worse than 'flu'.The news story related how in this great city, last week-end, we could not see our hands in front of us and how the atmosphere was laden with dirt, soot, particles of small coal and other impurities, two or three days' experience of which caused a "mysterious" illness. It is not a mysterious illness to anyone from the British coalfields where men work in dust laden atmosphere. Yet 865 those men, working from Monday to Saturday every week in a heavily laden atmosphere in certain coal washeries, if certified as suffering from pneumoconiosis, cannot get any payment from the Industrial Injuries Fund.
If a man working in a coal washery attached to a colliery is certified, he gets industrial injury benefit, but a man working in a comparable plant erected outside the colliery premises is not in the scheme at all. That is most unfair and I do not think that any hon. Member would say that it metes out any measure of justice as between one man and another.
Then there are patent fuel works in different parts of the country—in South Wales, at Cardiff, Swansea, and Port Talbot. There, the men work in an atmosphere laden with small coal dust, which injures their lungs. They do not get industrial injury benefit, but tippers on the docks come inside the scheme. So we have a long way to go before we really deal justly with industrial injuries. We are always sympathetic in the case of a huge disaster, but from Monday to Saturday each week scores of industrial workers leave industry as a result of illness, who seem to be forgotten. I could mention any number and many different types of cases such as arthritis, rheumatism, neuritis, heart trouble, etc., contracted as a result of the man's employment. As the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) said, these men are on the scrap heap and get no benefits except the inadequate rates payable under the National Insurance Act.
We should all give this Bill a warm welcome and strong support. There may be some difficulties but the Ministry, with their legal experts and all the advice available, should be able to find ways of meeting what we all have in mind, namely, the alleviation of distress in order that men who have given their lives to industry, helping to keep us a leading industrial nation, shall receive industrial injuries benefit to which they are entitled when incapacitated.
Before I sit down I want to urge the Minister to look into the case of the Middle Duffryn Washeries and the Phurnacite plants at Aberaman, Aberdare. Will he speed up as much as he can the process of getting in these men, who are outside the pneumoconiosis 866 orders at the moment, so that when they become disabled they are not dependent only on National Insurance benefits supplemented by National Assistance?
I hope that the House will give this important Bill a unanimous Second Reading so that we can continue to better the conditions of those who have lost their health in industry, whichever industry it may be.
§ 12.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Carr (Mitcham)
Like other hon. Members on both sides of the House I want to congratulate the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) on using his good fortune in the Ballot to such excellent effect in bringing forward this important subject.
The industrial development which gave this country its wealth and on which we built our position in the world also exacted its heavy toll of industrial illness and suffering. It has been a heavy price to pay. Some of that industrial illness as, for example, in our mining and pottery areas, has received publicity, but those are the dramatic cases. Those of us with experience of industry know only too well that apart from those more terrible cases of special industries this problem is widespread throughout the whole field of industry.
Although over the years we have been making gradual and slow progress, both in preventing industrial diseases and in helping those who suffer from them, we know that there is much still to be done. For that reason I am glad that the hon. Member has brought forward this Bill. I feel certain that although we must take account of what our head says, we should be led more by our heart in approaching this subject.
I agree entirely about the need for achieving the purpose which this Bill has in mind. However liberal an interpretation the courts may put upon the meaning of the word "accident" there are bound to be cases which we know in our hearts are due to employment but which fail to come within the meaning of that word "accident" and which also fail to fall into one of the classes of scheduled diseases. I want to see those cases brought in. The only question is what is the best machinery for the purpose. 867 Frankly I see some difficulty in the individual applications for benefit envisaged in the Bill, where the onus of proof will be on the individual making the claim, and where there will be no presumption, as there is in the case of a scheduled disease, in favour of the applicant. On that point I agree with the view taken earlier by the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) rather than that taken by the right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) about scheduled diseases. The question of presumption so far as the categories of scheduled diseases are concerned is most important.
I agree also that there is the limitation about how a scheduled disease arises and that, therefore, it may be necessary, if we can devise the means of achieving it, to specify something other than the classification of scheduled diseases. But I do not wish the idea of scheduled diseases to be abandoned, because it seems to me to be by far the best way of achieving our purpose.
The promoters of the Bill obviously have in mind clear-cut cases. Many examples have been given, and I do not propose to add to them. What I am afraid of is that together with the applications which can be called clear-cut cases, there will be a great flood of border-line cases. I agree with the hon. Member for Bedwellty that we should not be deterred merely by numbers of applications; that must never be an overriding reason for rejection. Nevertheless, these things have to be administered and I hope that this aspect will be carefully considered.
I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary, when he replies, can say in terms of numbers how many applications might be involved and how they can be dealt with. It is not only the question of expense and the administrative machine that has to be set up. If there is a flood of applications there are, as we have seen in certain sections of the Health Service, interminable delays in reaching decisions, and this can bring hardship to those who submit claims.
In an earlier intervention, the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) drew a comparison with the system of granting war disablement pensions and said that this Bill sought to 868 introduce the same principle to industrial injuries benefits. Although the numbers involved in disability pensions from war causes are very great, the subject of industrial injuries embraces a very much wider field. I hope, therefore, that my hon. Friend can give an assessment of the volume of work and the administrative problems that will be involved.
From the viewpoint of those who are introducing the Bill, I am worried about the meaning and interpretation of these words at the end of Clause 1:peculiar to or characteristic of that employment.These can be very limiting words. I am not a lawyer, and I hope that other hon. Members can give us the benefit of their expert knowledge on interpretation, but it seems to me that the very cases which the Bill seeks to benefit are often those where the illness cannot be described aspeculiar to or characteristic ofa certain employment. If the Bill becomes law in its present form, these words might impose a narrow limitation, and, perhaps, defeat rather than help the real purpose which we have in mind.
In spite of this kind of difficulty, I want the genuine cases with which the Bill deals to be included in our scheme of industrial injuries. The subject of industrial injuries is very complicated and difficult, and although the Bill in its present form raises doubts in the way I have suggested, I certainly do not oppose it because I want this subject to be examined and the House to seek every possible means of finding an answer to this problem, which we all want to have solved.
§ 12.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)
I wish, first, to compliment my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) on using the opportunity afforded to him by his good fortune in the Ballot for the promotion of a Private Member's Bill.
The Bill indicates at once the interest that we have on this side of the House in seeing that justice is done to those who are unfortunately handicapped and broken upon the wheels of industry. I am one of those who believe, and has always believed, that as long as there are wars there will be sick and wounded 869 men, and that as long as there is industry there will be broken, bruised and injured men. Those two things are inevitable. Our job in the House is not only to see that those who are overtaken on the field of battle are protected, but to see that those who are broken, injured, and bruised in industry are also protected when overtaken with a misfortune which puts them on the injured list for compensation.
We have travelled a long way since 1893, when the first Workmen's Compensation Act was put upon the Statute Book. As we have travelled along that hard and difficult journey, we have always, because, perhaps, of circumstances over which we have no control, left some of the sick and wounded by the wayside. We have never yet been able to embrace them all and take them with us. The Bill, in its simplicity, is an endeavour to pick up some of the men and women who have been left by the industrial wayside, for one thing that it does is to remove certain limitations upon the payments of benefit out of the Industrial Injuries Fund.
Since the passing of the 1946 and 1948 Acts tremendous benefits have been given to those who were hitherto disregarded in the payment of workmen's compensation. I wish to pay my tribute to the Board that was set up under the Ministry and which now operates from Euston Road, for the great work it has done in dealing with pneumoconiosis and silicosis. But one thing that always disturbs me when dealing with compensation is the procrastination, after the discussion and passing of a Measure, before the workmen who are the unfortunates in industry get their benefit.
I happen to be one of a committee of five—I think I am the only one still alive—which made inquiries into the incidence of silicosis and pneumoconiosis. That was in 1922, and it took us seven years before we got the Silicosis and Pneumoconiosis Schedule. That is far too long. In these days of so-called speed, we ought to be able to ensure that when a Bill has become an Act of Parliament it should operate almost immediately.
For that reason, I address my plea to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of National Insurance. I know that the Bill is not perfect and that, as the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr) 870 said, there are difficulties; but difficulties are a means of progress if tackled properly, and we must tackle them in the proper way and put them right. If the Minister accepts this Bill we shall assist him in every conceivable way to put it on the Statute Book. In my judgment, it is long overdue.
What particularly caused me to intervene is that there are two diseases which are becoming more common in the mining industry than any we knew in our lifetime in the industry. I speak as one with a long experience, more years than I care to remember, of dealing with compensation cases from the mining industry. We are having more cases of what we call Dupuytren's contracture. That disease pulls in the first two fingers and the little finger. Men in my constituency now cannot greet a man or woman in the ordinary way by a handshake because, through this disease, they cannot open their hands. I hope that those cases of Dupuytren's contracture which hitherto have been denied compensation will be brought within this Measure and that we shall see that the injustice they have experienced for so many years will be remedied.
The other disease which is now becoming prevalent is due to mechanisation in the mining industry and other industries. It is known as the Raynaud's disease, and is due to the fact that we have mechanised the mining industry not only with coal cutting machines and coal conveyers but with picks working by compressed air. Those who have had experience of working with a compressed air pick know the effect of the vibrations it sets up. It would be all right if one worked with it for one hour, but when it is used for seven or eight hours a day the vibrations have a terrific effect on the man's hand and shoulders.
There are more cases of Raynaud's disease in the pits than there ever were. I am not complaining about mechanisation. In the process of evolution it is inevitable. But I am complaining that if our men are compelled to suffer as a result of using the machines which modern science has invented we should see that they are protected from the misfortunes which overtake them as a result.
A lot has been said about litigation expenses. I see three well-known lawyers on these benches and one or two opposite. I do not know how true it is, but it has 871 been said that the Workmen's Compensation Act of 1893, followed by the Act of 1906, made some very wealthy lawyers, I remember an estimate being submitted many years ago to the Miners' Federation of Great Britain that from 1893 to 1925 we spent £8 million in fighting cases of workmen's compensation.
§ Mr. Brown
Far less than the fees we paid. I have often said when I have brought cases before the courts, to the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords and been faced with fabulous amounts of £2,000, £3,000, or £4,000 for legal expenses that we would have made a much better job of it if we had paid the workman from the funds of the organisation. I hope that when this Bill is put on the Statute Book it will not involve heavy litigation expenses. I do not mind paying value to solicitors for work done, but I intensely dislike paying money hand over fist because they possess a little extra knowledge of the law.
§ Mr. R. H. Turton
Does not the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams) also possess a little knowledge?
§ Mr. Brown
Joking apart, it is a very serious aspect of the compensation law of this country and I hope that if this Bill is passed we shall not be involved in heavy litigation expenses.
As one who spent his working life in the pits, I plead with the Parliamentary Secretary and with the Government to support this Bill with all the enthusiasm they can give it. Let us be able to say at the end of this day that at least we have marched another mile along the road towards meting out justice to our injured workmen.
§ 1.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)
I rose at one time with a view to asking an hon. Member whether he had objected to paying doctors for the little extra knowledge they undoubtedly possess, and I think he would have answered that of course he did not. It is not right to compare the amounts spent in fighting individual cases with the amount of compensation received. It should be 872 remembered that the Miners' Federation were fighting for a principle and if the principle were established they would obtain compensation for tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of men without dispute. That only shows that by quoting one particular case—and I say this with no offence—it is easy to mislead people who have not had experience of the interpretation of these various Acts.
When I heard the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) cite a number of cases I was at once moved to repeat the thought I expressed on 2nd May, when we were discussing much the same matters. What I said then, I say again today, although I realise there is very little support for it, on either side of the House. It was a great mistake to abolish the old Workmen's Compensation Act and to introduce the present Act. Workmen got a much better deal under the old Act, a much better chance of establishing a new legal principle and of having a case aired fully and openly in public than they have now.
I pass from that because, although I feel that one day the present Act will be repealed and the old Workmen's Compensation Act will be re-enacted, I do not think that will be in our lifetime.
§ Mr. Doughty
I hope I am wrong, but I think that will be so because it takes a long time to satisfy people that they have made a mistake.
§ Mr. Doughty
It takes a long time for people to realise they have made a mistake and to put it right, but I think that they will realise it in time.
I pass from that to the matters which we are discussing today. I think that some hon. Members who mentioned difficulties in regard to the present Act have failed to realise exactly what has been done since it came into force. There are many industrial injuries and many people who suffer from industrial injuries. Listening to some hon. Members who have spoken today certainly gave me the impression, as I am sure it would give to others, that unless injured workmen were suffering from one 873 of the prescribed diseases in Section 55 of the Act and diseases contracted in the industry and mentioned in that Section, they were shut out, but that we were doing something today which was opening the door for them to benefit.
That is entirely incorrect. If they do not come under Section 55 and the prescribed diseases, it is open to them to come in under Section 7 and to say that they suffered an accident in the course of their employment. The definition of "accident" is very wide indeed. It means an incident or a series of incidents which have taken place in the course of a person's work. "Series of incidents" is one of the widest interpretations there has ever been in an Act. There are a number of cases which are quoted. I will not refer to them all and that is why I took the liberty of indicating dissent to the hon. Member when he was saying that where the disease is caused by a "process" the claim for benefit is not allowed.
There is the case of the workman who contracted ringworm while a member of the Women's Land Army. That is not an actual accident; it is not a particular occasion. It is a slow process. We cannot say which calf, or which day. But compensation was allowed.
§ Mr. R. Williams
In fairness to my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards), he did refer to a decision of the Commissioner although he did not in fact take up the time of the House in quoting from it. It was a case of Dupuytren's contracture. It is interesting to note that in that case it was held that if the multiple small traumata contributed to the progress of the disease they must have occurred at short intervals and constituted a process, and because they constituted a process the claim was disallowed. I hope it will help the hon. Member to know that that was the case my right hon. Friend obviously had in mind when he referred to this question of process.
§ Mr. Doughty
We are dealing with borderline matters where there are cases on both sides of the line. A case I argued was one in which silicosis was contracted through welding. One would not think that that was an occupation which would expose a workman to silicosis at all, but an analysis of the 874 welding rods revealed a small proportion of sand. I argued that case, although the incidence of silicosis had obviously taken place over a long period. It was a typical process where the disease is caused by lung exposure to the risk involved in the process.
it is quite wrong to say that because he was not suffering from a prescribed industrial disease he was not entitled to compensation. Is it not the same as saying that a man who steps in a series of puddles or who is working in water at the bottom of a pit is entitled to compensation? Do not let us be carried away by any suggestion that because a person is not suffering from a prescribed industrial disease he is therefore not entitled to compensation.
§ Mr. Granville West (Pontypool)
The hon. Member is not overlooking the decision of the House of Lords in the Dorothea case?
§ Mr. Doughty
That was quoted by me in the case I mentioned. I should be interested to go into a long legal argument about it but I am not proposing to do so. I am merely trying to disabuse the minds of those hon. Members who may think that people who are not subject to prescribed diseases are dis-entitled to compensation.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
Is the hon. Member arguing that if a person is suffering from a certifiable disease no matter what the circumstances in which he acquired it in his employment, he is automatically entitled to compensation?
§ Mr. Doughty
I certainly never argued that.
Now we come to the most difficult side of the case. Human flesh is heir to a great many diseases. If we were wrapped up in cotton wool and never went near any industrial process we should still be prone to suffer from a great many diseases, including influenza and many more which may be found only in medical text books. A great many people who are engaged in industry acquire those diseases and may think that they are suffering from an industrial disease. Some criticism has been made of the legal arguments which are advanced in these cases, but they are as child's play compared with the medical arguments. 875 It may be that a person who cannot bring himself within the scope of Section 55 would have difficulty in bringing himself within the scope of Section 7. But I do not think that the difficulties are half as great as hon. Members have indicated. It may be that they have not fought as hard or as long to obtain compensation but have accepted decisions in the first place. I do not know. One has to look at the number of cases before the answer is known.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
Would not the hon. Member agree, even accepting his argument for the moment, that there are very many well known instances in which cases are not admitted because decisions have already been made by a medical board?
§ Mr. Doughty
One is often disappointed at decisions and feels that they are wrong. I am sure that the hon. and learned Member appreciates that as much as I do.
There are many cases where a man is suffering from a disease and genuinely thinks that he has contracted it in the course of his work. I say at once that I support the principle of this Bill, but not the Bill itself. That is to say, if it comes to a Division and I hope it will not, I will support the Bill, while reserving all rights to treat it, or mis-treat or ill-treat it, afterwards as may be thought fit.
As industry becomes more complicated with new processes the finding out about new diseases will become still more complicated. The fact is that under the present Act or even the old Act we have not caught up with new diseases and new processes as fast as medical science and industry itself. Therefore, I am sure the principle of the Bill is one in which all hon. Members are interested and are concerned about. We are discussing this Bill and the wording of it as it is at present before the House, though I hope that after it has gone through the Committee stage it will be something entirely different. As at present drafted it would be impossible to work it.
876 There are many cases of men and women who suffer from diseases and illnesses and who are also engaged in industry. As this Bill is drafted all they would have to do would be to find some disease peculiar or characteristic of their employment and then claim benefit. Just think how wide that opens the door. A commissionaire outside a cinema may suffer from a bad chest, caused through atmospheric conditions such as the fog we recently experienced, or the cold weather which we sometimes experience. Or he may suffer from an infection of the skin caused by excessive heat. Is he to obtain benefit?
§ Mr. Doughty
I do not think he should. I am sure that that is not the type of case the Minister, or Parliament, intended should be brought.
Take the case of a ticket collector who has to stand on a draughty station—and many of the London stations are draughty—for many hours. He may be suffering from something to do with his chest. Or he may suffer from heat stroke. I do not believe it was ever intended that the Industrial Injuries Act or the old Workmen's Compensation Act should cover that type of case at all. But the wording of this Bill will open the door to that extent. It will open it even further. It will open it to every man and woman who suffers from a disease and thinks that it can be related to his or her employment.
If this Bill were passed into law in its present form there would be a flood of applications. I do not know whether the Ministry have facilities to deal with such a flood. I am not speaking on that aspect of this question. There would be appeals in many cases and a number of medical people and other witnesses would have to attend. Many applications would be turned down, and there would be a great deal of disappointment. That would bring the system into disrepute.
Therefore, I say that we should support the principle of this Bill. I should have thought that the best way of doing that was to prescribe more diseases which are general as industrial diseases caused by certain processes. That could be done under Section 55 of the present Act. If that were done in a more liberal spirit and with more respect to modern discovery and medical science, it would go 877 a long way towards removing the injustices which the Act has caused or failed to remedy.
If the Bill is given a Second Reading I ask hon. Members to realise that in principle they will be advocating something which will, according to the wording of the Bill, be unworkable, although by doing so they will be doing what we all want to do. We all want to compensate on the industrial injuries scale for the diseases which people have suffered as the result of their employment, but not to bring in those who suffer a disease and are employed and seek to link the two where no proper link can be found.
At least one hon. Member has indicated that it is time that the National Insurance Act and the industrial injuries legislation should be amalgamated. I am entirely opposed to that. We have always maintained the principle that those who suffer from industrial injuries should receive compensation upon a higher scale than National Insurance. Indeed, a man pays a certain proportion towards that compensation. Therefore, he is entitled to receive a higher scale. Whatever those scales may be will no doubt be discussed from time to time in this House, but in my submission they must always be at a higher rate than those received by the person who suffers sickness and has to draw ordinary National Insurance benefits.
This Bill is unworkable in its present form. We all support the principle behind it. If the Bill is given a Second Reading it will be necessary to alter it considerably, though I should have thought that a further prescription under Section 55 of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act would cover most of the points with which the Bill attempts to deal.
§ 1.23 p.m.
§ Mr. lorwerth Thomas (Rhondda, West)
There seems to have been a conflict of opinion in the past about the merits of certain disabilities. There has been a conflict as to whether they are the result of any specific immediate cause or the result of a long, slow, gradual accumulation and multiplication of experiences. It seems to me that if they are caused by direct action there is a liability, but that if they are the result of the "inevitability of gradualness" then there is no case.
878 My hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) said that several examples could be cited of disabilities affecting men in industry when, from the medical point of view, there was no doubt that the conditions were the result of the nature of the man's employment. Reference has been made to the prevalence of arthritis. The danger of arthritis in the mining industry has been considerably increased by the new technique applied to mining. For many years we have had a lot of discussion about silicosis and pneumoconiosis. But the process of remedying the dangers of those diseases has created other dangers in their place.
As a result of the safety measures now operated in the industry for the suppression of dust, we have, month by month, a higher percentage of coal being cut by wet cutting and produced by water infusion than ever before. There is a wetness and dampness in the conditions in the mines that has never been experienced before. In the South Wales coalfields there have been occasions when miners at the coal face have refused to work because of excessive wetness. The Coal Board is involved in a great deal of capital expenditure in draining away water from the coal face to make the conditions as dry as possible.
If a man works in these conditions for a long time he almost inevitably develops one of the diseases in the rheumatic group. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us whether any facts are available as a result of the inquiry now being conducted by the Manchester University into the high incidence of rheumatism and arthritis among miners. The fact that the University is conducting an investigation shows that there is this problem in the mines. Why should the miner, because of the nature of his occupation, be deprived of benefit under the Act because the condition of arthritis is the result of a prolonged period of occupation and not of a specific accident?
There is one type of disease or disability suffered by miners which is not certifiable at present by the Silicosis Board. I refer to emphysema. If the Parliamentary Secretary consults the files of the Medical Research Council and has regard to the investigations of the pneumoconiosis research unit he will find sufficient evidence to warrant the conclusion that emphysema is prevalent at a 879 high rate among miners. Since this Bill was published I have received a volume of medical evidence from men of high standing in the South Wales coalfield testifying that emphysema is a disability which arises out of a man's employment in the mines.
I will briefly quote part of the evidence given by one particular specialist, now in retirement, who, in South Wales, in 1920, carried out an investigation which led up to the classifying of pneumoconiosis and silicosis as industrial diseases. He was at Cardiff Infirmary for 20 years, and he said this as the result of his experience in dealing with miners:I could find clear evidence of emphysema in young colliers, even after only having worked 10 years in the mining industry. These men were of good physique and good muscular development, but their chest expansion, instead of being 3 inches or 3½ inches, would be down to 2½ inches or even 2 inches, and, as the years rolled by, their chest expansion would gradually diminish to 1 inch or even less, and, when they reached the age of 50 years, would inevitably show evidence of severe heart affection.If the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary is satisfied that the medical evidence is of such a character and of such strength, then I think it is his duty to see to it that the legal code of the country is adapted and adjusted to the needs of the moment.
In doing so, by the acceptance of this Bill, he will resolve a conflict that is now in the mind of the Commissioner, who is divided between his loyalty to his human instincts and humanitarianism, on the one hand, and his regard for the legal code, on the other. The House is in a very pleasant mood today, and everybody seems to be very receptive. I therefore trust that, as a result of the pleas made from both sides of the House, the Parliamentary Secretary will indicate that the Government are prepared to accept the Bill, not necessarily as it stands in its present phraseology, but as a means whereby some type of legislation would be introduced to meet the requirements of the present day.
§ 1.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
I had not intended to intervene in this debate, but one or two things have been said which have induced me to do so. First, I should like to join with those who have 880 congratulated the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) for the very valuable service which he has rendered to the House in introducing this important Bill. As a Member coming from the same part of the British Isles, I think we might almost say that this has been a Welsh day
It would be agreed that there has been a little dispute about the machinery of the present Act and that of the old Workmen's Compensation Act, and I think it is probably true that something between the two extremes that have been cited is required. It is also probably true that the man who succeeded in establishing a claim under the old Act was sometimes in a better position, and, possibly, in some cases, men with border-line cases had a better chance of establishing their claims under the old Act. On the other hand, a man who does not establish his claim is not in such a disadvantageous position under the new Act. Ultimately, it may be possible to combine the benefits of the new Act with the undoubted advantages of the old Workmen's Compensation Act in certain cases.
Nothing is more tragic and affecting for those of us who have seen it as I have myself when interviewing applicants, than the situation of the man who is just outside the strict wording of the existing law. We have all come into contact with such people. We came into contact with them under the old workmen's compensation provisions, and, even today, we sometimes find them failing to establish their claims within the strict wording of the enactment.
In this respect, everybody in the House must support the idea of giving a Second reading to this Bill, and I certainly hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will indicate shortly that, even though they cannot accept the wording of this Bill, which obviously has its defects, the Government will accept the principle and agree to accept the Bill on Second Reading.
My hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Mr. Doughty) pointed out the danger of opening the door too widely, but I feel that there is a greater danger of opening the door too narrowly. I am sorry that my hon. Friend is not here; he was here a few moments ago. He cited one example which, I thought, was unfortunate. I can well imagine a com- 881 missionaire outside a cinema in extraordinary weather sustaining an illness which would be definitely attributable to his employment by reason of extraordinary conditions, and I see no reason why such a person should not be brought within the scope of this legislation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr) pointed out the possible danger of the wording at the end of Clause 1:inherent in his employment and peculiar to or characteristic of that employment.That is one example of the kind of case we shall have to tackle in Committee, but I think our final judgment on this Bill, as it stands, is that it expresses something which a majority of people on both sides of the House desire. It expresses something which is manifestly overdue, which covers a defect in the existing law and which will be for the benefit of industry; because each step that we take to satisfy those engaged in industry that their welfare is being looked after is likely to contribute to that better spirit and that better service which we all desire, and which will be the best means of solving our real economic difficulties.
§ 1.39 p.m.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
I am very happy to follow the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower), who has just spoken. Throughout the whole of this debate today, there has been a considerable feeling on all sides of the House that this Bill should be given a Second Reading, irrespective of whether its wording is exactly right or not. The principle that lies behind it appears to be accepted by literally every hon. Member who has spoken.
I have to admit an interest, in a way, because, for 26 years, I have been medical adviser to the miners of North Staffordshire and to the 70,000 pottery workers in Great Britain, and I think I must have seen between 20,000 and 25,000 cases of men injured at work or affected by industrial disease. Therefore, I may possibly be biased because of that, and I must warn hon. Members that they may disagree with what I am going to say.
I think this Bill deals with a quite simple matter. It provides that injury by process, as well as injury by accident, should be accepted for the purpose of receiving compensation. None of us wants to see the schedule abolished. On the 882 contrary, we accept that it is most desirable, but we should like, as was said by the hon. and learned Gentleman a few minutes ago, to see it more liberally interpreted.
I will give a simple example. I was recently asked to give my advice about cases of cadmium poisoning, and when I looked into the matter I found that as late as 1924, His Majesty's Inspectors to the Ministry of Labour described three cases of poisoning by cadmium fumes, one of which was fatal. In 1928, a medical man in Scandinavia found that men working on the manufacture of alkali storage batteries were prone to lose their sense of smell and to be afflicted by a disease of the lung and of the kidneys.
That medical man published his cases. He found that there was a large factory of this type in this country, and he came over here. When he arrived he found that the factory had been closed, but he traced 70 of the workers who had been employed in it and examined them. His examination showed that a considerable percentage of them were showing signs of kidney disease as a result of the work they had been performing. But the condition of cadmium poisoning is not scheduled.
The Parliamentary Secretary will find that in a very short time a number of cases will be brought to his notice of people who have died from inhaling the fumes of cadmium in similar works, and he will then realise how essential it is to schedule this disease. At present, the only redress open to people affected is by an action at common law.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) spoke about Dupuytren's contracture. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will not have gathered from what my hon. Friend said that there are many cases of that disease.
§ Dr. Stross
That may well be. I think that the matter is well worth watching more carefully, and that if more pneumatic picks are being used the number of such cases might increase.
But we are also getting cases of this disease in the pottery industry. I saw one last Saturday. It was the case of a man of 73 who, in 1911, had an accident 883 to his right hand. He ran a three-inch wood splinter into the ball of his thumb and developed a septic palm. In 1913 his ring and little finger contracted down.
Dupuytren, in describing this condition in 1832, said that there was, first, always an acute inflammation of the palmar fascia and that later the ring and little fingers are drawn down. We have not discovered anything more than Dupuytren himself discovered, and we do not allow compensation to be paid in such cases because it is said that professional men, lawyers and dancers, and people of that type, also get it. But the man of whom I am speaking, and who developed the first attack in 1913, had his other hand affected three years ago, after a lapse of nearly 40 years. On that occasion there had been no splinter in the hand, and there was no question of acute inflammation or of an inflammatory condition.
It may be asked whether, in this case, there was a predisposition to the disease. The facts are these. The man was a china dipper. For literally millions of times he has had to perform the action of spreading out his fingers and thumb in order to pick up plates five or six inches in diameter and to lift them, two at a time, with his hands fully outstretched to dip them into the tub of glaze, and then to pick up others.
This constant stretching and over-stretching produced in the uninjured hand this further Dupuytren's contracture 40 years after the first one. But in neither case, neither in 1913 nor three years ago, were we able to get redress for this man. Though these cases are rare, the grievance is great. Every man in the area knows about these cases. We have tried to fight such cases for years, but have consistently failed. The Parliamentary Secretary must know that although cases of this type are rare, including osteo-arthritis of the vertebrae of the neck in potters who carry heavy weights on their head up and down what we call the "horse"—the ladder—into the kiln, people sometimes contract the disease after many years of work.
But how many cases of this kind ever ask for recompense from the fund? We are not discussing compassion, but justice. It is justice we want. I have only seen three cases to which I could really swear throughout all the years I have been working in this field. My view is that the 884 clear-cut cases are very few, and, therefore, that the fund would not be raided.
The Parliamentary Secretary has noted, I am sure, that the Industrial Injuries Fund has about £80 million to spare at present. On 31st March, it had £59 million, and nine months have elapsed since then. The fund has been saving at the rate of about £20 million a year, so we must be approaching the £80 million mark. The savings each year are always greater than the total payments made, plus overheads and administrative charges. Therefore, when we consider that in a full year compensation payments in respect of such cases might cost £250,000, it is obvious that we could take that chance when we know that the fund is saving £20 million a year. I am sure that, having listened to the speeches that have been made today, the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that it would be worth taking such a chance.
Some of the dangers expressed today are not well founded in fact. When a man has fibrositis or rheumatism—and these are not contentious cases—he usually goes to his doctor and says. "What is the matter with me? Please will you treat me? I have a pain in my joints or in my muscles." The doctor tells him what it is, and treats him. The patient then says, "Do you think I have got this condition through being exposed at work to wetness, draught or cold?" In the first place, it is for the medical officer to advise him. After that, if the doctor is uncertain, he would take a second opinion, normally through the consultant at the hospital.
I do not think that the tribunals would be very greatly affected after the thing had settled down. It would take a year to settle down, for there is a mass of cases which want testing. I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary would never say that such a process would be too cumbersome or too burdensome to the machine. It is our right to plead that we should test these cases if the principle which we have been discussing today is accepted.
Lastly, I wish to say this to the Parliamentary Secretary. My hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor appealed in his speech today to the angelic hosts. I am speaking as a Member from North Staffordshire surrounded by the most eloquent Members of the House of Commons, namely, those from the Principality. I have been praying that I had the tongue 885 of an angel. I have tried to ask the Parliamentary Secretary, not for compassion, because I do not think this is a matter for compassion, but for justice. Surely a process which brings about a loss of faculty should be accepted for purposes of injury in the same way as an accident is accepted for such purposes.
I am satisfied that we shall not have to press very hard at this door. Indeed, I believe it is already open. Neither do I believe that too much will go through this door. All we want to get through it is the justice for which we have long been asking and which we expect to receive.
§ 1.50 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of National Insurance (Mr. R. H. Turton)
First, I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) on his good fortune, and then to thank him for the skill and ability with which he has presented the case. This has been a most valuable morning for both me and the Department for which I speak.
I think it is wise first to try to get the broad picture of what we do at the present time to meet the disabilities of an injured workman. There are two methods under which the injured workman can obtain industrial injury benefits. Either under Section 7 he can prove that he has suffered injury by accident, in which case the onus is upon him; or he can establish that he is suffering from a disease which has been prescribed under Section 55, in which case he has the advantage, after he has proved that he is suffering from the disease and that he is engaged in a particular occupation, of presumption which shifts the burden of proof from shim to the other side. It is important that that should be recognised.
This Bill is directed to Section 7, but it tries to set up a third way under which a man will, by discharging his onus of proof, have to establish that he is entitled to industrial injury benefit. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have commented on our present scheme. I was very grateful to the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) for what he said about how we were managing to prescribe diseases under Section 55; and I am quite sure that all connected with this work, both in the Department and those who are working on the committee that advise 886 us, will be grateful to him for what he said.
I regret very much that the only right hon. Gentleman to speak from the Opposition Front Bench, the right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards), should have said that he was never keen on scheduling diseases; that they were subject to so many exceptions. It is to me regrettable that he should make that remark, because I believe that the system of prescribing diseases under Section 55 has done a great deal for the injured workmen of this country; and I think that it has been most sympathetically administered by all engaged upon it. It is not true to say that the way we administer it is subject to so many exceptions. If the right hon. Gentleman wilt look down the list of prescribed diseases, which I will hand him later, he will find that with the exception of pneumoconiosis and byssinosis there is very little limitation on the nature of the occupation.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I was engaged from 1928 till about 1939 in handling the old regulations, when pneumoconiosis and silicosis were first prescribed under the first Order, and lots of my life was spent going down the pits to look for samples to show that a man had handled silica. That was what was at the back of my mind.
§ Mr. Turton
The right hon. Gentleman must not be so reactionary. We are now in 1952, and we have had four years' experience of the Industrial Injuries Act introduced by his right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths). It is very unfair to make comments on what we are doing together and compare that with what happened many years ago.
In order to get the history right, I should like to give the House a brief account of what has been done in this direction, before I deal with the Bill. In 1897, the first Workmen's Compensation Act was passed, which limited benefit to injury by accident. In 1906, another Workmen's Compensation Act extended the benefit to cover six specified industrial diseases, and gave the Home Secretary power to make Orders adding further diseases.
In consequence of that Act a Committee was set up, which was presided over by the present Lord Samuel, to consider how those industrial diseases should be scheduled. That Committee 887 reported in 1907 recommending three tests to be applied. First, was the disease outside the category of accidents and diseases already covered? Second, did it incapacitate from work for more than the minimum period for which compensation was payable? In those days it was seven days; it later became, of course, three days. Third, was it so specific to the employment that the causation by the employment could be established in individual cases?
The whole of this scheduling of diseases under the workmen's compensation Acts was guided by those recommendations, which were accepted, and which were endorsed by the Holman Gregory Committee in 1922, and the Rolleston Committee in 1933. That continued till 1946, when the right hon. Member for Llanelly brought in the Industrial Injuries Act. That Act changed the whole method of prescribing diseases, and gave different tests.
The two things about which the Minister had to be satisfied before the disease or injury might be prescribed were, first, that it ought to be treated, having regard to its causes and incidence and any other relevant considerations, as a risk of the occupation and not as a risk common to all persons; and second, that it was such that, in the absence of special circumstances, the attribution of particular cases to the nature of the employment could be established or presumed with reasonable certainty.
In view of certain debates which took place in Standing Committee on that Act—which were not dissimilar to the debate we have had this morning—the right hon. Member for Llanelly set up the Dale Committee to guide him on how he should prescribe those diseases, and I should like to deal with certain aspects of their report. One of the principal recommendations was that the Minister should set up a small specialised standing committee to advise the Minister on additions to and alterations of the schedule and to make suggestions about research. That recommendation was adopted, and the Minister arranged that the Industrial Diseases Sub-Committee of the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council should undertake that work. Up till now some 40 diseases have been prescribed.
Let me, in passing, say one thing about that. The hon. Member for Bedwellty 888 suggested that before a disease is prescribed there have to be one or two cases to support it. That is not, in fact, necessary. I will give the example of beryllium poisoning, which was prescribed merely on a report that a fair number of cases had been recorded in the United States, and that there had been instances of beryllium poisoning occurring in Britain before the new Industrial Injuries Act.
§ Dr. Stross
I know that that is true, but how does the Parliamentary Secretary explain that in the cases I quoted concerning cadmium poisoning, Legge was able to produce three cases in 1924, and Dr. Lars Friberg in 1948 prescribed more than 40 cases in Stockholm, but we have not prescribed it at all yet, and I know that a number of deaths are suspected to have occurred recently from this source?
§ Mr. Turton
I am coming to what is happening. I only want to make the point that once a disease can be attributed specifically to the employment, then the Sub-Committee give their advice and the Minister prescribes without delay. I think we can all be satisfied that the new procedure is working far more quickly.
One other fact that I want to make clear is that when the Minister prescribes a new disease it is the invariable practice to sweep within the ambit of the Regulation all persons who have been in the particular occupations covered by it since 5th July, 1948, and put them in such a position that they will get the cover even though the time when they got the disease was before the date of the Regulation. The benefit is naturally limited to the date when the Regulation comes into force.
At the present time the Sub-Committee are examining the two main problems, first whether the limitations on the prescribing of pneumoconiosis can be removed. A number of speeches have been made today dealing with that limitation, and references have been made to coal washing and other aspects of the problem. The Sub-Committee are already examining that matter, and we hope that in due course we shall receive their report, but the fact that there has been a delay shows how difficult it is to reach a clear conclusion and to be reasonably satisfied in such cases. 889 The second matter that the Sub-Committee are considering—this was mentioned by the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown)—is an even better illustration of some of the difficulties that this House faces in dealing with this matter of disease, and that is Raynaud's phenomenon. Last Monday my right hon. Friend published in the OFFICIAL REPORT a letter from the Chairman of the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council on the question of Raynaud's phenomenon and the inquiries that had been going into that matter for some time since the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) submitted that matter for their consideration.
I should like to read out to the House an extract from that letter, because I think hon. Members will see how difficult is the solution of some of these problems which have been mentioned today. The letter states:… the Sub-Committee have felt hampered by a lack of adequate factual evidence on certain aspects of Raynaud's phenomenon and by the difficulties they have encountered in trying to obtain such evidence. Without it, they find it hard to reach a conclusion as to whether or not prescription would satisfy the conditions in Section 55 (2) of the Act. The main problems are, first, that Raynaud's phenomenon occurs widely among the general population from causes unassociated with the use of vibrating tools and that not all vibrating tools can be admitted as causing special exposure to a risk of it; where a worker using a vibrating tool has developed Raynaud's phenomenon, therefore, it may be very difficult to decide satisfactorily whether it is due to the use of the tool. Secondly, it appears that, while the disability caused by Raynaud's phenomenon is occasionally substantial, in the great majority of cases it is trivial, often amounting to no more than temporary inconvenience, and is in any event not easy to assess satisfactorily because the attacks are usually seasonal, intermittent and of short duration—for example, half-an-hour on cold mornings."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th December, 1952; Vol. 509, c. 9.]I emphasise that because I want the House to realise that that is the kind of difficulty that we and the Sub-Committee who are advising us are facing in trying to get certainty in this matter of prescription.
What I want the promoters of this Bill to consider is whether this Bill would help to bring greater certainty in those cases. Under the system of prescribing diseases, as I have said before, we have less restriction. Once a man applies under Section 55, there is the presumption that he will be helped. The view taken 890 by our predecessors in office was that in helping these difficult cases it was preferable to do so by enlarging Section 55 rather than by dealing with the matter under Section 7.
The danger of dealing with this matter by the removal of the words "by accident"—because that is really what this Bill proposes—is that it will make it very hard to draw a clear line between sickness benefit under the National Insurance Act and industrial injury benefit under the—
§ Mr. Turton
Please let me finish. I am sorry that the hon. and learned Gentleman was not called, but I must develop this argument first and then I will give him every opportunity to intervene.
§ Mr. Turton
I anticipated that, but when the hon. and learned Member rises in the middle of a sentence it is very awkward.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
I should have thought the Parliamentary Secretary might have waited, as is usual, for hon. Members on this side of the House to speak before he replied to the debate.
§ Mr. Turton
I am speaking now because of an undertaking that I gave to the promoters of this Bill in order to help another Measure. I express my apologies to the hon. and learned Gentleman, and I should have thought that as I am acting in accordance with a request that has come from the Opposition, he would have appreciated the position.
I am trying to explain the importance of this clear dividing line between National Insurance sickness benefit and industrial injury benefit. That is absolutely vital. All of us on both sides of the House are anxious that we should have this industrial injuries scheme. If we are to have that, then we must have a clear dividing line between the two kinds of benefit. Frankly, I personally do not believe that we shall get that clear dividing line if we alter the wording of Section 7.
§ Mr. Turton
I suppose it is true to say that whenever we have a borderline it is not easy to distinguish clearly between one side and the other, but I believe nearly every union representative could give an injured workman a fairly good view on whether his injury was an injury by accident. The long history of the Workmen's Compensation cases enables a pretty clear distinction to be drawn.
I am reinforced in that view by the attitude that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly took in 1945, when this matter was discussed in Committee. I should like to read to the House the words that he used on that occasion when Mr. Tom Smith moved a very similar Amendment. He said:If we leave out 'by accident' we have to prove that a personal injury does arise within the course of the employment. The effect would be to throw the whole thing into the melting pot.He went on:… when we come to the realm of some kind of diseases which are common to the whole of the people it is difficult to establish a connection between the occupation and the disease. The only way in which that difficulty can be satisfactorily solved is by a comprehensive scheme which says that it does not matter where the man got the rheumatism or the neurosis. We have decided, because it was the general view of the House when we discussed the White Paper, that there shall be a special scheme for industrial injuries and we are, therefore, under that limitation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A. 30th October, 1945; c. 31–34.]I believe that expresses the point of view of all hon. Members as to how the scheme should work. There must be some clear dividing line. If we are to try to remove borderline cases, the best way is not by altering the law of accidents which has stood for 55 years but by doing more by way of Section 55.
Hon. Members should also bear in mind the importance of avoiding disappointment to people who believe that they will benefit by the provision but will not in fact do so. The Dale Committee—I would remind hon. Members that its examination was recent; the report was published in 1948—said, as one of my hon. Friends quoted earlier:Our attention has been drawn to the great importance, in prescribing a disease, of keeping a clear dividing line between the application respectively of the National Insurance Act and the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, in order to avoid as far as possible doubts and disputes as to entitlement 892 to benefit, which, apart from other effects, might seriously retard the recovery of a sick man.I attach the greatest importance to those last words. We must not hastily pass a law which will cause bitter disappointment and retard recovery.
The Dale Committee considered whether it would help the injured workman to place additional words in Section 55. It said:We have therefore come to the conclusion that the primary consideration should be whether a disease is specific to the occupations of the persons concerned, or, if it is not so specific, whether the occupations of those persons cause special exposure to risk of the disease, such risk being inherent in the conditions under which the occupations are carried on.I pause there. Those words are similar to the words in the Bill.
What did the Committee say on that?It has been urged on us that words to this effect should be incorporated in the Act by amendment of Section 55 (2). The present wording of the subsection however gives very wide powers of discretion, and we have formed the view that any attempt, by way of formal amendment, at further definition of the way in which these powers should be exercised would only have a limiting effect. We therefore do not consider amendments of the Act either necessary or desirable in this respect.Let us be absolutely clear about this. The Committee was at that time considering whether to use a form of words, similar to that used by the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor, in Section 55, not Section 7, and its view was that that would have a very limiting effect on the position.
What would be the effect of the Bill in practice? If we used this form of words, we should first have to prove the cause of the injury under Section 7. That would be very difficult in many of the cases which have been quoted today. The hon. Member for Ince quoted Raynaud's phenomenon. It has taken the Diseases Sub-Committee over two years to reach a conclusion about Raynaud's phenomenon. It will be very difficult for the injured workman to succeed under Section 7 if he has to make that same case, and the onus of proof is on him, before the insurance officer, the local appeal tribunal and, finally the Commissioner.
That is not the only thing he will have to do. Having established the cause, he will have to prove that it is something 893 inherent in the employment. The wording of the Bill is a little awkward in this respect. I doubt whether diseases and injuries are caused by exposure to risks. What causes a disease is a microbe or fumes or whatever it is. Quite apart from that, the injured workman will have to prove that there is something inherent in his employment which creates a special risk of incurring the injury or contracting the disease. It would undoubtedly not be easy for the injured workman to establish that proof in many borderline cases. I put it no higher than that. The man would have to prove that it was a risk inherent in his employment.
Finally, he would have to prove that the conditions which create the risk are peculiar to or characteristic of the employment. I suggest to the House that there could not possibly be any case where the risk was peculiar to the employment in respect of which we have not already prescribed the disease under Section 55. The words are so limiting as to be of no value to the injured workman. The workman would also have the alternative of showing that the disease is "characteristic of the employment." I do not know what the independent statutory authorities will say about the words "characteristic of the employment." My hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) said this would admit large numbers of cases. I am advised that it would not necessarily have that effect. But there it is. What is clear is that if the workman had to establish his case under Section 7 by the use of these words, a large number of claims under the Bill would arise.
My hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr) asked what would be the effect of this on our administration. I must candidly tell the House that I am advised that if we had a complete reversal—which is what it would amount to—of the terminology under previous legislation, and had an entirely new form of words, the result would be a flood of claims which would confuse and interfere with our administration, and I am also afraid that bitter disappointment would he caused to many of the claimants.
I appreciate that there are a number of borderline cases which the whole House—there is no division of opinion in this matter—would very much like to see brought within the scope of our 894 provisions. Let us see what we have done so far. This matter has been examined always on the question of how we should prescribe disease. There has never yet been an inquiry of a wider nature to see whether we are right to have only these two avenues of getting benefit, the avenue of "by accident" and the avenue of prescribed disease. If we have an alteration it would mean a complete revolution in our approach to the Industrial Injuries Act. That revolution should be preceded by an expert investigation to which representatives of workers and industry would be appointed.
My right hon. Friend is prepared to have this whole topic examined afresh in order to see whether within the framework of the National Insurance Acts some way can be found of drawing the line between industrial injury benefits and sickness benefits for incapacity from disease, rather differently from the way in which it was drawn in the 1946 Act. I would submit to the House that that is the right way of dealing with this problem. There is no division of opinion either within the parties or between the parties on this matter. We want somehow to get a clear line so that the man who is incapacitated by his industry will receive the benefit he deserves.
I hope the House will agree that we should proceed in that fashion and have the matter remitted to a committee, which will be the most suitable way of doing it. I would not like to say definitely how the committee will be composed, but I suggest that the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council, which has on it representatives of industry and of the trade unions, would be an appropriate body to consider the matter. We will certainly be guided by any remarks or communications we receive from hon. Members who have taken part in this debate.
In view of this assurance, I hope the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor will feel this debate has been of great value to the House. I can assure him that the Committee will examine every word that has been said here. It is a wiser course for us to proceed on those lines rather than to try to find in Committee a form of words which, it is admitted, will always create a great difference of opinion between lawyers.
§ Mr. R. Williams
I am very interested in what the Minister is saying, and perhaps it will shorten the proceedings if I put this point to him. If we wish to approach this matter in a sympathetic way, surely there would be no objection to proceeding in the manner in which he suggests and at the same time giving the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Mr. Turton
The difficulty would be that if this Bill received a Second Reading it would have to be examined further in Committee. This Bill is limited to an alteration making a new avenue in Section 7 of the principal Bill. It may well be that the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council might believe that that is not the right method of approach. Therefore, I suggest that the right procedure to follow is for the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor to withdraw the Bill and then we will have an expert investigation into the subject by a committee, and any legislation that they recommend will be introduced without further delay. I hope that the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor will regard that as a satisfactory conclusion to this debate.
§ 2.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Williams (Wigan)
Before I deal with some of the arguments which have been raised in this most interesting debate it would be right, I think, to express our sympathy with my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) in her indisposition, and to express the hope that she will soon return to participate in our debates. She certainly would have participated in this one today had she been here.
I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be more specific about the undertaking which he has suggested, and that he will give us some information as to the time within which this committee would be set up, what he has in mind as to the terms of reference, and so on. I hope he will have something to say by way of further explanation after I have sat down and before my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) makes his final observations to the House.
If the suggestion which the hon. Gentleman has made is not acceptable to my hon. Friend, then I would suggest that the Bill be given a Second Reading 896 since the whole course of the debate has indicated that there is nobody who is against the principle of it with the possible exception of the hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Arbuthnot), and even he expressed his opposition so mildly that I think it would be fair to say that he left the impression that he supports the principle of the Bill.
§ Mr. Williams
In that case, I would say that this debate has clearly demonstrated that there is complete unanimity upon the principle, and that the whole House wants to see this Bill given a Second Reading.
There are some hon. Members who have expressed doubts about the wording of the Bill, and have indicated that in Committee it might be necessary to do a hard job of work. This is not the time to go into details like that. It is sufficient for us today to deal with the actual question before us, namely, the Second Reading of this very important Bill, which will be of such help to people who are feeling an injustice.
Let us be absolutely clear about the consequences and the nature of the injustice that is being felt by these men. They are not just imagining that they have a claim, or that a claim should be conceded. They are being told by the Commissioner himself—the Commissioner being the final court of appeal in these matters—that he has great sympathy with them; that they are disabled as a consequence of their employment; but that he is unable to do anything to help them in spite of the sympathy he feels for them because their disablement is not technically injury by accident or by a scheduled disease.
That means that the great Act which started so full of promise is at this point breaking down. When the old Workmen's Compensation Acts ultimately became discredited it was largely because there was an accumulation of cases over the years where there was a feeling of injustice, and that feeling penetrated into all sorts of groups in our society. Eminent men came along to investigate it. They found it was a fact that the Workmen's Compensation Acts simply could not solve the social problem in these cases and, consequently, a new departure 897 was made in the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act.
If, through the years, we go on accumulating cases in which we get sympathy but not awards, I put it to the Parliamentary Secretary that there will gradually be an erosion which will result in the Industrial Injuries Acts being in peril. How does it come about, with such a sympathetic Minister, a successor in a line of sympathetic Ministers, in a Ministry doing first-class work, that my colleagues and I have to meet the criticism that the old Workmen's Compensation Acts were better than the Industrial Injuries Acts? We know that is not true and that the criticism is wrong, but we have a feeling that it is right in the particular case. We have to face this problem very seriously. We must not be frightened by the fact that we are facing a very tricky question of drafting.
I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary's view that we must preserve the distinction between occupational risk and non-occupational risk. I agree with him, for the reasons given in paragraph 17 of the Dale Report. That is an argument in favour of the Bill. If it be the case that, despite the discretionary powers enjoyed and exercised so well by the Minister—I offer no criticism of the way in which he and his colleagues are exercising their powers or of the way in which the advisory committee are performing their duty—and the fact that these people are all working hard and well, we still have these difficulties. obviously we have to find a way of preserving the distinction between occupational and non-occupational risk.
How have we made that distinction up to the present? We have done it by using the words "by accident." The Parliamentary Secretary warned the House of the danger of removing those words, and he recalled certain observations which were made some time ago by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths). The Parliamentary Secretary was not addressing himself to this Bill then. The Bill does not remove the words "by accident" but leaves the words there. It provides for an additional category not now covered.
My hon. Friends and I have made a very close study of the cases which have arisen, particularly in the National Union of Mineworkers. We found that these 898 cases were covered by the formula we have suggested, although we had reservations as to what should be done at a later stage, which is quite another question. How do we still preserve the distinction between occupational and non-occupational risk? The Dale Committee was set up to deal with a different problem from the one which arises in the Bill. It was to deal with a matter very closely related. The distinguished members of the Dale Committee had to draw a distinction between occupational disease and disease which is common to all persons. They had to draw a line, and in doing so they set about it in the way described in paragraph 19 of their Report. They have put it in italics:We have therefore come to the conclusion that the primary consideration"—I emphasise those words—should be whether a disease is specific to the occupations of the persons concerned, or, if it is not so specific, whether the occupations of those persons cause special exposure to risk of the disease, such risk being inherent in the conditions under which the occupations are carried on.That was the line which the Dale Committee drew. Is that very different from the one which we are drawing in the Bill? The Parliamentary Secretary says, "No." Well, that is a recommendation for the Bill. It shows that we are preserving the distinction between occupational and non-occupational risk, which is the only point the Parliamentary Secretary had in mind so far as this aspect of the matter is concerned.
The argument of the Parliamentary Secretary against our adopting the criterion suggested in the Dale Committee's Report and putting it into the form of a Bill is, as I understand it, that the Dale Committee themselves said there ought not to be an Amendment to the Act because the Minister had sufficient power. Indeed they said it, but they were addressing themselves to the problem of the addition of diseases to the schedule. They were concerning themselves with powers already held by the Minister. In the cases covered by this Bill, the Minister has precisely no powers whatsoever.
Therefore, while it might be quite proper to say that it would be wrong to amend the Act where the Minister had wide discretionary powers for the scheduling of diseases, it would be a 899 different matter if the Dale Committee had made that suggestion when the Minister had absolutely no discretionary powers whatsoever. Then, presumably, they would have applied their own criterion and would have recommended a Measure to be brought forward to give the Minister that type of power.
If this is the sort of power which it is necessary to have for the purpose of adding diseases to the schedule, is it not obviously the type of criterion to apply when we consider cases which are excluded merely because of a legal fiction? If the consequences of passing the Bill were that the words "by accident" were removed from the Act, obviously the Minister need do no more than to read the refutation of that argument which was submitted to the House by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly. But my right hon. Friend did not have before him the point which was put today.
The Parliamentary Secretary has told us that there will be difficulties of proof and that it will be extremely difficult for people to prove their cases. In that case, I say, give us the Bill. Let us win our spurs. We believe that we can bring these men in if we have this form of words, subject to what we do in Committee. Give us a chance to prove it. We have an honest difference of opinion in this matter, which is almost just between ourselves. The view which the Parliamentary Secretary put forward was not supported by the vast majority of speakers in the debate today.
Even if there will be difficulty of proof, is it not better that an injured man should be faced with a situation in which it may be difficult to prove his case rather than that, for administrative convenience, he should be excluded altogether and suffer a manifest injustice, emphasised by the final court of appeal, the Commissioner? It is shocking that it should be possible, with the vast experience that we have of the working of the Workmen's Compensation Acts and of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, to be frightened of the terms used by this eminent committee.
I know that the hon. Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) appeared to think that some of us might not have pressed cases as hard as we might. He seemed to be losing sight of the fact that 900 what we are complaining of in this Bill is the decision of a final court of appeal having within the Industrial Injuries scheme the full authority of the House of Lords. Consequently, when we are met with a case where a Commissioner says to us, "I have great sympathy with the man who is injured but I can do nothing for him"; when that Commissioner goes on to say, "This man is suffering solely because of the conditions of his employment, but I can do nothing for him," it is high time there was a great row in this House about it. If it means that it is necessary to bring forward a Bill and face up to the extremely difficult points of drafting, then we must face up to it.
I shall not press the Parliamentary Secretary. I simply say that in the many years that I have had the privilege of dealing with his Department I have always had a lurking suspicion that they would have done this job long since if they could have found a way round the drafting difficulty. If that is so, let us look at this form of words and let us try to do it. Let not the Parliamentary Secretary press the point of burden of proof too far.
If these words are so restricted that there is a crushing burden of proof resting on the workman and only a few will get through, then it is unlikely that anyone could say that argument was consistent with the suggestion that there would be a flood of cases thrown back in a wave of frustration. I really do not think that is the true picture.
This Bill does little more than say that our concept of injury by accident and scheduled disease is over-simplified, and that the problem with which we are faced in relation to the injured men is far more complicated than is the remedy which we are seeking to apply. In other words, having proved that these cases are arising repeatedly, we must look for something in addition to the remedies now available. So, when the Parliamentary Secretary says, as he did, that we are really putting a third point forward, it is true that we are, because it is necessary. We may have to put forward a tenth point eventually.
The only hope the Industrial Injuries Act has of survival is that it should continue to meet the cases and give the people concerned a sense that they are 901 receiving justice. If those words "by accident are to be treated as sacrosanct because they have been used for many years, that will sound the death knell of the Industrial Injuries Act. The Parliamentary Secretary does not want that any more than I do.
The hon. Gentleman suggested that the scheduling of diseases is not an easy matter, that the Ministry are working hard and efficiently at it and that it is better to do it in that way. Is that quite right? It is true that the Ministry are doing a first-class job and I heartily congratulate those carrying out this vitally important work. But they are not dealing with individual cases. I do not want to have to bring up groups of cases of men suffering from identifiable diseases and to say, "Here are my groups of pathetic failures in these claims and, because I can show them to you, you should schedule the diseases." Once they are scheduled, there are advantages in regard to the onus of proof and to administrative convenience in dealing with them. I want the scheduling as much as the Parliamentary Secretary does, but there will still he individual cases left out.
For instance, in the case of Raynaud's phenomenon, the letter which the Parliamentary Secretary read was perhaps the best thing he could have done to underline the importance and rightness of the principle of this Bill. Because he showed that in spite of everything they were doing they could not schedule Raynaud's phenomenon and we under the Workmen's Compensation Acts actually established a case of it in the courts in the teeth of all the difficulties in regard to the interpretation of the term "by accident."
For us to have succeeded under the so-called discredited Workmen's Compensation Acts, and for the Minister to stand at that Box today and say that we cannot get this scheduled is not a condemnation of the scheduling processes but is an indication that we are right in saying that there are cases which we could cover and which are not covered under the present provisions in the Act.
We have not said that we cannot schedule it, but that we cannot as yet schedule it. That is important for the record.
§ Mr. Williams
With respect, if the hon. Gentleman says, "We cannot schedule it," I take that to mean that he cannot as yet schedule it unless he says, "We can never schedule it."
For instance, he might say, "It is impossible to schedule this disease because something might come out to show that, say, Raynaud's phenomenon could in no circumstances ever be affected by an industrial process." So I take his words to mean simply that he could not yet schedule it. The word "yet" is small but important and, although it is a small word, the time keeps going on and the men keep suffering from this as a result of exposure to risks inherent in their employment—not all, but some of them.
Why should they be excluded simply because the others cannot be brought in? It is monstrous to suggest that a person should be compensated for disablement suffered as a consequence of his employment, but only if he is in a group large enough to be recognised by the Ministry and with a disease sufficiently clearly defined for it to be settled without dispute. Time goes on while these matters are being investigated, and while that time is going on people are suffering and a sense of injustice is growing.
I tell the Minister, frankly and seriously, that he will be living in a fool's paradise if he thinks he can get out of this problem simply by getting a committee at some undefined time to have a look at the general principle. He must not think that because a specific case is turned down by the Commissioner, and the Commissioner expresses sympathy, that is necessarily only one case. It is a representative case. And when the Commissioner turns it down: in the colliery villages up and down the country the branch secretaries, when consulted, will say, "It is no good sending up this case, because a similar one a few weeks ago was turned down. Here are the words of the Commissioner and your case is precisely the same."
My colleagues and I get the impact of that at the headquarters offices and in the areas and we know how the problem can grow. We understand why people come to us and use the most critical observations about the Industrial Injuries Act. At the same time we know that it is a fine, great social Measure 903 which can be made to live if we allow it to develop along the lines we are suggesting in this Bill.
Now I want to mention one or two points which arose in the debate and upon which I was invited to provide an answer. I hope I have already covered most of them. The hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Arbuthnot) said that it was a piecemeal approach. Yet, thank God, it is. This problem of industrial injuries is so difficult, so complicated and develops so erratically and unpredictably in certain fields that we shall always be providing piecemeal solutions. When the Industrial Injuries Act was passed, great though that Measure was, it was a piecemeal approach and it was not represented by any of its supporters as being the final solution nor, indeed, was it suggested that any final solution was possible.
The hon. Member also said it was impossible to achieve a halfway house. We are not submitting this Bill as achieving a halfway house. We are simply pointing out these heartbreaking cases, to which my hon. Friends have referred, who are not at present covered and who are excluded under what is very nearly a legal fiction. We are asking that the Bill be given its Second Reading, so that we may get into Committee and maul the Bill about a bit, and be able to cover these cases.
The hon. Member for Dover seemed to be a little concerned about the possibility of pneumonia in outdoor work and scarlet fever indoors. If he had had a really intensive and prolonged experience of this type of case, he would know that under the present provisions there is nothing remarkable about a successful claim being made in respect of pneumonia in outdoor work or scarlet fever indoors; but, of course, it has to be proved that it is accidental scarlet fever or accidental pneumonia. My hon. Friends are familiar with cases of that sort, but we are not today dealing with those; we say that they are already covered, and we are seeking to make an extension into fields which are not now covered. I hope that the hon. Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Partridge) will feel that the arguments which I have submitted concerning the line of demarcation 904 have quite clearly been covered in the Bill.
This is an honest and sincere attempt to deal with an extraordinarily complicated, difficult human problem. Masses of cases have been submitted during this discussion, and I ask the Parliamentary Secretary, even at this stage, having regard to the importance of this matter and to the fact that the whole House wants the Bill, and in order to help these deserving cases who have waited so long, to support the Second Reading of the Bill and to give these people a bit of help.
§ 2.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Watkins
By leave of the House, I should like to put a query to the Parliamentary Secretary before I come to a decision, but before doing so I wish to thank hon. Members on both sides of the House for the wonderful support I have had today for the Bill. My query to the Parliamentary Secretary is this: would the Minister receive representations as to the terms of reference of the committee, the nature of the committee and its time-table?
§ Mr. Watkins
By leave of the House, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion and also the Bill.
Motion, by leave. withdrawn; Bill withdrawn.