§ 11.7 a.m.
§ Mr. T. W. Jones (Merioneth)
I beg to move,That this House is of opinion that the time has now arrived to increase the rates of compensation payable to the partially disabled under the Workmen's Compensation Acts for workmen disabled as a result of accident or disease arising out of their employment, in order to meet the rise in the cost of living and remove the sense of injustice prevalent among such persons, and would welcome a declaration of the policy of Her Majesty's Government.I represent a rural constituency, and it may have surprised some of my hon. Friends that, following my success in the Ballot, I elected to move this Motion this morning. Let me, therefore, hasten to add that in my constituency there is one industry which is responsible for creating a larger percentage of partially disabled workers than any other industry, with the exception of coal mining.
In the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog there is one of the largest slate quarries in the United Kingdom. Not many decades ago the population of that town 517 was 14,000. Today, the population does not exceed 8,000. The reason for this great and rapid decline in the population is not far to seek. Associated with the quarrying industry is the most cruel, the most relentless and the most ghastly industrial disease known to the medical profession. No one who has seen a victim of silicosis gasping for breath or halting on the roadside when out for a short walk will question my statement.
For many years Blaenau Ffestiniog was proud of its single industry, proud of the fact that its product was in demand in all parts of the world. Those people were very attached to their industry. They were engaged in a very skilled occupation, and the strong and sturdy workers of Blaenau Ffestiniog joyfully went to the interior of the surrounding mountain to extract its wealth. Sons followed their fathers for succeeding generations.
It had long been noted, however, that lung trouble was very prevalent in the town. It was only eventually recognised that this trouble was the direct result of the occupation in which they were engaged. With what result? The children were advised by their parents to seek other means of livelihood, even at the expense of leaving their native town. Who would blame those parents? Personally, I would never be responsible for advising a child to seek employment in a slate quarry. What I have said about Blaenau Ffestiniog would be true of quarrying villages in my constituency and others also, at such places as Corris, Abergynolwyn and Glyndyfrdwy. Only yesterday I was told that the youngest worker at the Glyndyfrdwy quarry is 40 years old—the youngest worker
As one can imagine, there are a very large number of partially-disabled persons in a community of quarry workers, and as a representative in this House of those people I am, naturally, thinking of them in particular, but the House will appreciate that I am not thinking exclusively of the victims of silicosis. What I am anxious to do today is to draw the attention of the House and the Government to the plight of those who are dealt with under the old Compensation Acts and who are partially disabled due either to injuries or to industrial disease. Their plight when known must evoke the greatest sympathy. Unfortunately, the 518 terms of my Motion do not allow me today to deal with the position of the totally disabled, although I am sure that the Government, if they take any action at all, will include those unfortunate people in their scheme.
The workers of this country will be forever grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) for the great and humane Act of Parliament associated with his name. They are particularly grateful for the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, which is a great advance on the former Workmen's Compensation Acts, and there would be no need for my Motion today were all the industrially-disabled persons brought within the ambit of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act. The Workmen's Compensation Acts and the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act provide two different systems. Under the first we are dealing with loss of earning power; under the other we are dealing with the loss of faculty. It will be readily recognised that the vast majority of disabled persons receive far more generous treatment under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act than under the old Workmen's Compensation Acts.
Partially disabled persons seem to me to be friendless in any Government Department. The partially disabled are expected to find light work to augment their incomes. In my constituency, and this would be true in most constituencies, there is no alternative employment. It is not there. It is simply adding insult to injury to tell those people. "Find light work." So the Minister of Labour cannot be their friend. Last year the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his Budget speech, declared that to counter balance the reduction in purchasing power as a result of the cut in the food subsidies he was prepared to increase old age pensions, unemployment allowance. National Assistance, industrial injuries benefits and war pensions.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer deliberately omitted those unfortunate people who have lived under the provisions of the Workmen's Compensation Acts. So the Chancellor is not 'heir friend. He still held aloof from them on Tuesday. Those people are not interested in E.P.L. They are interested 519 in L.P.E.—the "Low Payment Enigma." They are not interested in the reduction in piano prices. What we want to do is to strike a note in their hearts—a note of comfort.
I am glad to see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of National Insurance in his place. The Minister of National Insurance last year gave certain increases, but those thousands of people did not come within his friendship either. They were for some reason or other excluded. I have a question to ask, and I hope that I shall have an answer. Are these men to remain friendless everywhere and indefinitely? What is their crime that they should be so friendless? I have heard it argued that those men are not subject to financial hardship in the sense that they are not compelled to live below the subsistence level. I sincerely hope that argument will not be heard today. Surely those heroes of industry deserve something better than the right to existence merely.
I took it upon myself last Friday to meet a large group of those particular people. Their tale of woe would have melted the hardest heart. Let me briefly give one or two examples. One of the men was declared to be partially disabled before 1948 and was in receipt of partial disablement pension. Feeling somewhat stronger, and anxious to augment his income, he returned to work. His disease, as a consequence, was intensified, and he had again to relinquish his work. He was by now nearly totally disabled, but he had to be content with the award made to him previous to 1948.
Several of the men told me how they had been advised by their respective doctors to buy eggs and milk. They did not buy those, of course. Why? They could not afford them. The tragedy and irony of the situation is that they were even denied them by the National Assistance Board, due, presumably, to the incidence of the means test.
Even a totally disabled person under the Workmen's Compensation Acts feels a great sense of injustice when he compares his position with that of the workmen under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act. A man with a wife who was injured before 5th July, 1948, receives£2 10s. a week. Remember, nature does not work according 520 to a diary. These men cannot be blamed for having been injured previous to 1948. If a man was injured after the appointed day, after July, 1948, he receives£3 16s. 6d., a difference of£1 6s. 6d. Surely that does not make justice. Indeed, to my mind, it does not make common sense.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of National Insurance (Mr. R. H. Turton)
Will the hon. Gentleman tell me, before he leaves that point, how he makes up his£3 16s. 6d.?
§ Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)
Can the hon. Gentleman tell us whether the figure he has given, confirmed by his hon. Friends around him, is for total incapacity under the Industrial Injuries Act or for partial incapacity? Is it for total lack of faculty or partial lack of faculty?
§ Mr. Jones
The hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch), who is to second the Motion, will deal with that point. He is an expert in the subject.
It is not my intention to make a long speech and, as I was about to say, I shall not deal with the technical aspects of these Acts. I will leave that to my hon. Friends who are experts in the subject, who are surrounding me today and many of whom have suffered under the Acts. The House will have observed that I have dealt with the subject on a broad humanitarian basis. No one knows these Acts better than the present Minister of National Insurance for he, with my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), initiated the 1943 Act which provided for temporary increases in workmen's compensation.
I am very hopeful that good results will follow from today's debate. I base my optimism on an observation made by the Parliamentary Secretary during the last debate on this subject. This is what the Minister then said:Therefore, we have only had a few months in which to examine this problem, which up to then had met with failure of 521 solution. We do not intend to be satisfied with that position. We are determined to see whether this problem really is insoluble."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd May, 1952; Vol. 499. c. 1887.]Those were his words, and I will give him due credit that they were spoken in earnest and in all sincerity. He has had a further 12 months in which to consider the problem. Will he today allow me to declare that a Tory Minister admits defeat? Will a representative of a Government which was elected to set the people free allow me to declare this evening that they are content to hold these people in perpetual bondage?
We have heard a great deal this week about incentives. I hope that this debate will be an incentive to the Minister to give generously to these people. I can anticipate his answer, although I hope I am wrong; he may declare that it was not solved in 1948. But we are now in 1953 and many things have happened in the meantime. We have now had an opporuntity of seeing the Industrial Injuries Act in operation for a number of years. The approach today can be different and, indeed, perhaps should be different from the approach of 1948.
There is today a substantial surplus in the Industrial Injuries Fund. I do not suppose I should be wrong if I said there was£60 million. My right hon. Friend the Member for Llannelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) had to start from scratch. But in any case, it is no argument that because others have failed, as perhaps the Minister would like to put it, the problem must remain insoluble. Indeed, it is all the more reason why the Minister should be determined to succeed and to take credit for it.
My appeal this morning is for sympathy, and I am not ashamed to make such an appeal. My appeal is for justice, too—a justice which is long overdue. I can only hope that my appeal will not be in vain, but that a declaration will be made on behalf of the Government which will gladden the hearts of thousands of these men, broken in body, broken in health and, due to their distress, liable to be broken in spirit, too.
I hope I shall not be asked where the money is to come from. The other day I heard of a boy carrying his crippled brother on his back—far too heavy for 522 him; and a gentleman, who saw the boy doing this, said, "Put down that child. He is far too heavy for you." "No," replied the boy; "he is not heavy; he is my brother." If the Minister can only make brothers of these people, he will not ask the question, "Where will the money come from?"; he will find the burden much lightened indeed.
§ 11.27 a.m.
§ Mr. Harold Finch (Bedwellty)
I beg to second the Motion.
The Motion has been very ably moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones). I think the plea which he made, coupled with the eloquence and sincerity with which he made it, was welcomed by the House, and I can only hope that it will have assisted the Parliamentary Secretary in appreciating the justice of the claim which my hon. Friend desired to make.
Those people who come under the provisions of the Workmen's Compensation Acts have had no increase in basic rates of benefit since 1943. Those persons who sustained accidents or industrial diseases on or after 5th July, 1948, come within the provisions of the Industrial Injuries Act and have had some redress by the Family Allowances and National Insurance Act which came into operation last year. There has also been some increase to disabled ex-Service men, and although we do not regard the increases given under the Family Allowances and National Insurance Act and to disabled ex-Service men as adequate, these men at least have had some redress.
Those of whom my hon. Friend spoke, however, who can only be described as the forgotten men of industry, have had no increase at all. We want to bring the full facts of the situation before the House. It is true that those people who come within the provisions of the Workmen's Compensation Acts may receive a fluctuation in their partial compensation according to the pre-accident wages rate. The higher the pre-accident rate, in all probability the higher the partial compensation. It is based on a difference between the post-accident and pre-accident wages. For the married man it is always two-thirds.
If, however, there has been an increase in post-accident wages and pre-accident wages remain stationary, that could 523 amount to a reduction in compensation. There are, of course, many men who have suffered as a result of the recent increase in post-accident wages which has taken place in the mines among the day wage-men—although not in the piece work wages. With the increase in day wage rates, the partial compensation of these men has been reduced.
§ Mr. Doughty
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will remind himself that there is full provision for a notional increase of pre-accident wages, so that if wages go up throughout industry they also go up in respect of pre-accident wages.
§ Mr. Ronald Williams (Wigan)
Would my hon. Friend agree that this has happened in some cases, but not in all cases?
§ Mr. Finch
I have endeavoured to point out that it has happened in some cases but not in all. When post-accident wages increase, particularly in mining where there has been an increase recently, many men have suffered a reduction in compensation. It can be said also that partially disabled men who leave the mining industry suffering from pneumoconiosis may take up work in other industries, but in some of these industries, even for light work, the wages are higher than they would receive when working on the surface at a colliery.
The test is a loss of earning capacity. The compensation paid has no regard to the nature of the work; that does not enter into it at all. It is merely a question of loss of earnings. Some men may have minor injuries; they are sufficiently disabled not to be able to undertake their pre-accident work; yet it cannot be said that their disability is so serious as in some other cases. They may have had a high pre-accident wage, say£9 or£10 a week; if they are in a light job at£5 or£6 a week they become entitled to the maximum of two-thirds partial compensation with a "ceiling" of£2 10s. But they are the more fortunate men who come under this Act.
524 Now I come to the more serious case of loss of a limb. A special job has to be found for these men, and that is very difficult from the Ministry of Labour. Their pre-accident earnings may be only£6 a week; they have lost a limb; they cannot do much work, yet they are tied on this basis of loss of earning capacity to£6 a week pre-accident wage. They may be able to earn£5 10s. a week, which brings them near their pre-accident wage, so that on the basis of two-thirds of their loss of earning capacity of 10s. they get 6s. 8d. compensation. But it does not stop there in many cases. Many of them may not be able to get a light job. That applies particularly to a number of pneumoconiosis cases in South Wales. They are not working, but the partial compensation is assessed on the basis of what they are deemed to be able to earn, not what they are earning.
A judge at a county court dealing with a compensation case of that kind would immediately ask himself, quite rightly within the provisions of the Act, "What could this man earn in the open labour market?" He would undoubtedly say that in the mining industry he could get, working on the surface,£6 10s. or thereabouts a week; his pre-accident earnings may be only£7 a week, so that in consequence he gets only 6s. 8d. If he is unemployed, that is his total income from the compensation, although he will, of course, receive unemployment benefit.
To get a clear picture of the situation it must also be pointed out that many of these men earn wages equivalent to their pre-accident wage. If they were earning£6 a week and after incapacity are able to do a job and earn£6 a week, there is no compensation because there is no loss of earning capacity. There axe many cases of that kind. Let me give this example, which may be slightly exaggerated. Suppose a man lost both his legs. He would be very fortunate if he got over such a serious accident. As a miner working underground his pre-accident wages may have been only£6 a week, or thereabouts. He may be fortunate enough to get one of these chairs we see some of our disabled men travelling about in as best they can, and he is given a job in the colliery office as a clerk at£6 a week. There is no loss of earning capacity, and he ceases to get partial compensation so long as he is 525 earning wages equivalent to his pre-accident earnings.
This Act has, therefore, no regard to the nature of the disability, and in that respect differs fundamentally from the improved piece of legislation for which we are indebted to my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), the Industrial Injuries Act, which assessed disablement benefit in a different way altogether. Under that Act a workman receives benefit in accordance with the degree of his incapacity, and in that respect it is fair and more equitable. There has been an increase under the Family Allowances and National Insurance Act of last year, whereby benefits were increased for 100 per cent. disability from 45s. to 55s. for a single man. That consequently increased the proportion of payments for those who were declared less than 100 per cent. disabled.
If a man had been certified 50 per cent. disabled under the Industrial Injuries Act, with the increase to 55s. he would get£1 7s. 6d. disability pension. In addition, this Act has some regard to his earnings. If he can show that he cannot earn wages equivalent to his pre-accident wages, for permanent disability he can get a maximum of an additional£1 hardship allowance, so he would receive£2 7s. 6d. Prior to the increase to 55s. a 50 per cent. disabled man would get£1 2s. 6d., not£1 7s. 6d—5s. less. In addition he would get the hardship allowance, making£2 2s. 6d. That person has had an increase of 5s. for partial incapacity.
A similar illustration can be given for a man certified 20 per cent. incapacitated. The House may think that is a fairer analogy. Under the old arrangement of a maximum of 45s. for 100 per cent. incapacity, he would have 9s. disability pension. The increase last year gave a further 2s.—not a great deal, but it was some concession. In addition, he would receive the hardship allowance. I submit that under the Workmen's Compensation Acts these men have had no such redress. They remain exactly as they were in 1943, in spite of the fact that the Minister recognises that there has been an increase in the cost of living and has increased the amount to 55s. under the Industrial Injuries Act. If that holds good under the Industrial Injuries Act, the same 526 principle should be applied under the Workmen's Compensation Acts. It is wrong to have two sorts of disabled men, it causes dissatisfaction and discontent among disabled persons.
I have submitted a proposal, and a suggestion was put forward by my hon. Friends the Members for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. S. O. Davies) and Wigan (Mr. R. Williams) on a similar Motion 12 months ago, whereby these cases could be transferred to the Industrial Injuries Act. I am aware of the difficulties. I understand that the matter has been considered at some length by the Trades Union Congress. But until some method is devised whereby these cases can be transferred, we ask the Parliamentary Secretary to grant some increase on the basic wage to those who come under the Workmen's Compensation Acts. We have submitted a proposal for an extra 5s. to the partially incapacitated who are in work. We have said that when a man is out of work the concession should be one of 10s., which would put his compensation somewhere near that for men under the Industrial Injuries Act. This will help to alleviate the discrepancies at present occurring under this legislation.
§ Mr. John McKay (Wallsend)
I have had a point brought to my notice relevant to the people in Northumberland. Can my hon. Friend, as a secretary of the Parliamentary Group of the National Union of Mineworkers, deal with this point? In Northumberland several pits were closed down some time ago and the companies went into liquidation. Many men who were employed by these companies had to accept lump sum compensation, which was nothing like equivalent to what they ought to have received. Some of them are not able to work. Some are working on light jobs. Does not my hon. Friend think that particular problem ought to come under consideration as well?
§ Mr. Finch
My hon. Friend is raising quite another point. As the law at present stands, even though a company may have gone into liquidation, the fact that the workman has been given a lump sum closes the case. The argument might be put forward that the case should not be closed in that way if the employer goes into liquidation, but, as the law stands, I am afraid that is the position. 527 Perhaps another opportunity may arise to debate that type of case.
I will now turn to how many men are involved—what is the extent of the problem? I appreciate that this is a point which the Government and the Parliamentary Secretary have to consider. The trade unions have gone very closely into this matter. They estimate that about 50,000 workmen in this country under the Workmen's Compensation Acts come within this category, and that 30,000 of them are in the mining industry. Ten thousand of. them come from South Wales, where the problem of pneumoco-niosis has been so acute in years gone by.
§ Mr. Turton
Is the hon. Member suggesting that there are 50,000 men within the terms of this Motion, or is he suggesting that there are 50,000 men under workmen's compensation, receiving rates of compensation either for partial or total disability?
§ Mr. Finch
I am referring to 50,000 men in receipt of workmen's compensation. I do not know the exact figure, but I think that is a fair estimate, which has been very closely gone into by the trade unions. As I say, 30,000 of them are in the mining industry. I am particularly interested in South Wales where there is the problem of pneumoconiosis which accounts for approximately 10,000.
We have made inquiries of the National Coal Board in South Wales on this point. We find in South Wales, where the Coal Board is responsible as the employers, that they took over the liability when the Industrial Insurance Act came into operation of the older cases. There are 2,105 men on full compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Acts. The partially disabled on maximum is 3,066. Below the maximum—and these are the persons we are particularly concerned about—there are 4,392. Approximately 1,000 men are not getting any partial compensation at all in respect of loss of earning capacity.
I cannot for the life of me see why the employers, the insurance firms and the nationalised industries who hold the liability for these cases cannot increase these rates of compensation. Prior to the Industrial Injuries Act coming into operation, compensation claims were increased from time to time. In 1939 there was a certain rate of compensation, which 528 was increased as a result of legislation, and the employers and insurance companies were called upon to pay the increase. I want to ask whether the Minister can consider introducing legislation to make the employers responsible. They carry the liability and they should be made to face any further liability, having regard to the increased cost of living.
If that is impossible, then compensation has to be found from the Industrial Injuries Fund. That may involve some money, but it is a limited liability. There are no further cases arising under the Workmen's Compensation Acts. The members who come under the Acts are growing less. Some have died and some have accepted lump sum payments, and the total number of cases is gradually declining. Therefore, the Parliamentary Secretary has not to face some unknown future liability. Having decided on the extent of the problem, which we estimate at 50,000, it is not going to increase. I hope that he will bear that point in mind because it is very important when considering the future position of these men.
In my view, modern society is judged mainly by the way in which it treats the weak and disabled. That is why I deeply regret that the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not make some provision for the disabled men in industry. We see the reaction. The miners who, in certain cases, get a few shillings benefit under the Chancellor's proposals are living side by side with these disabled men, and they are already showing concern about them. They are asking: "How can my friend next door live on the low pittance he is receiving by way of compensation?" There is a growing agitation among the wider sections of the community that this lower strata, if I may so term them so far as these compensation Acts are concerned, have not been considered in that way. The Parliamentary Secretary has a great opportunity to do something for these men who have had no redress at all since 1943.
This matter has a bearing upon production. Many of these men come from the mining industry. We are asking them to work harder and to do more, if possible, in the interests of production. If they are to take risks in this arduous employment, they are entitled to a certain measure of security. That is going to be measured on the basis of how they are 529 treated under workmen's compensation. I have referred particularly to the miners, but there are many other industries concerned. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary, who, I know, has a wide knowledge of this subject, will rise to the occasion today on this matter.
There was a debate in this House 12 months ago on this very subject. The Parliamentary Secretary promised then that he would seriously consider the proposals we put to him. We are getting now—I want to be quite frank—very impatient about this matter. We are beginning to feel that these men are not getting the consideration which they deserve. There will be added strength to our case if after today the Parliamentary Secretary is not in a position to give some assurance that he will assist these deserving men of industry.
§ 11.49 a.m.
§ Mr. Spencer Summers (Aylesbury)
I intervene in this debate with some trepidation, because I cannot possibly claim the detailed or extensive knowledge of this subject which the seconder of the Motion is well known to possess. I am in good company, however, as the mover of the Motion also claimed no expert knowledge. I have failed to detect any main difference in the case advanced today from that which was advanced in May of last year, when this ground was fully covered. It is necessary, therefore, for us to be reminded of some of the points which were raised at that time, for they are just as relevant today as they were then.
The first point, on which I do not want to make undue play, is that the question of how two different men shall be dealt with—namely, the man before 1948 and the man afterwards—is a problem which was thought by the former Administration to be wrongly solved by transfer from the one scheme to the other, when it is known that to make such a transfer some men would be better off and some worse off and that some men affected in a particular way today might quite well be affected in a different way six months hence with the fluctuations that may occur meanwhile. It is manifestly difficult, therefore, if not impossible, without great care and many medical boards and other complications, simply to make transfers because of the vital difference in the principles underlying the two schemes.
530 When listening, with the sympathy that one naturally has, to the case put forward today, I could not help thinking that it was slightly misleading to present the case in that way. It was suggested that because men who were granted benefits under the old scheme compare unfavourably with men granted benefits under the new scheme, that in itself created a hardship. It may create an unfavourable comparison, but that is not the same as a hardship, because the men in the new scheme have their benefits paid on certain new principles which did not apply before 1948.
§ Mr. Summers
I am coming to that.
It is suggested that because men paid under the old scheme are not able to pick up, in some cases, as much compensation as men paid under the new scheme, the old one should be brought up to the present level. But if the new scheme of improved benefits is derived from the application of new principles, and it is recognised that to make such principles retrospective is impracticable, it seems to me that from that point of view it is virtually an insoluble problem.
§ Mr. R. Williams
The hon. Member has dealt with a particular aspect of the presentation of the case which has been put forward this morning. I do not complain about that, but will he let us have his views as to the state of affairs in which, improved payments having been made under the Industrial Injuries Act, there is an addition to those payments but no addition to the lesser payments under workmen's compensation?
§ Mr. Summers
Of course. The very simple reason is that the improved payments under the Industrial Injuries Act were payments related to the nature of the injury and not to the discrepancy in earnings. It is on account of the differences in principle which apply-that that result is, to my mind, virtually inescapable.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
The hon. Member told us that he would face up to the question of the rise in the cost of living as a factor in this problem, and I remind him that he must do so if his case is to be worthy of merit.
§ Mr. Summers
Had the hon. Member given me a chance to develop the point I was making, that intervention would not have been necessary.
I do not think it is practicable to consider transfer from one scheme to another because of the difficulty of placing responsibility upon those employers who were in the saddle, so to speak, prior to 1948 and who are no longer responsible for a man in his present occupation. To saddle a new employer with the supplementation in respect of an injury sustained when the man was employed by somebody else, is an extremely doubtful proposition to say the least of it. [HON. MEMBERS: "We do not suggest that."] In many cases it must be clear that the man who was injured prior to 1948 is now in a quite different job with another employer. If it is suggested that the supplementation which is asked for should be given by the old employer—
§ Mr. Finch
Let me correct the hon. Member. It is the employer in the occupation in which the man had the accident who is responsible. Even in the old days, before the operation of the Industrial Injuries Act, a man might have changed his occupation but the employer in his new occupation did not become responsible for the payment of compensation. The liability remains always with the employer for whom the man was working, or the insurance company concerned, at the time of the injury. I submit that, in present circumstances, the original employers should be held responsible for some increase.
§ Mr. Summers
I see no reason why a colliery company, since nationalised— many of whom no longer exist—should be suddenly saddled with the responsibility of cases where injury occured prior to 1948. In such cases it is a question not of the old employer, but of the new employer. I am dealing with the old employer, and I say that it is not reasonable to saddle the old employer, whose business has since been taken over by the State, with the supplementation that is now being sought.
If it is suggested that the old employer was not a proper source from which to obtain supplementation, as I think it is right to do, and if the insurance company is not the body to be held responsible, there remains only the 532 Industrial Injuries Fund. Before the onus could be justifiably placed on the Fund, the case of hardship, not by comparison with somebody else but genuine hardship to the individual, must be established before it can reasonably be said that a proper additional burden should be placed upon the Fund. There are very few cases in which genuine hardship as such, irrespective of comparisons with others, can be made out, and so I am very doubtful whether the case for transferring the burden to the Industrial Injuries Fund is made out.
We are dealing today solely with the partially incapacitated, and I fail to see why their case should be singled out for attention in the House and to the Minister when, if there is any case to be made out, it is certainly more cogent in respect of the totally incapacitated. Mr. Deputy-Speaker has been liberal in allowing the case to be developed as though it applied to both categories, but we must not overlook the fact that those who have introduced the Motion have seen fit to confine their attentions only to the partially incapacitated.
Because of the operation of the scheme, many of these people are drawing benefits at least as good as they would draw if they were totally incapacitated. It must not be overlooked that as wages have risen, so the incomes of these people have improved. While it may sound dreadful to point out that in certain circumstances the compensation is reduced, it is only right to remark that the income has gone up, otherwise there would have been no case for reducing the compensation. In such circumstances it is hardly feasible to argue that there is genuine hardship.
Last time this subject was debated, the Minister promised to look into the whole question and to see what improvements, if any, were practicable. I was sorry that neither the mover nor the seconder of the Motion, so far as I could detect, alluded to the scheme that was announced in February this year, which applies to the married men who fall sick and who are in receipt of workmen's compensation.
As a result of the administrative change they are now entitled not merely to dependants' allowance associated with their workmen's compensation, but the dependants' allowance associated with their sickness benefit. That has resulted in a 533 substantial improvement to very large numbers of married men, and I am glad that my hon. Friend has found it possible to make this change. I was only sorry that reference was not made by the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) or the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) to this matter particularly as it was made since we discussed the position in May of last year.
There is one other group of people to whom I should like to call the attention of the House, and particularly my hon. Friend, in the hope he can do something for them. There are those in receipt of workmen's compensation who have become unemployed, and they reach a stage in their careers when they are entitled to unemployability benefits. As I understand the position, they are then precluded from drawing the dependants' benefit associated with the unemployability benefit as well as the dependants' benefit associated with their workmen's compensation.
§ Mr. Turton
Would my hon. Friend say whether he is referring to the unemployability supplement or the unemployment benefit because, in present circumstances, these men will draw the dependants' benefit with unemployment benefit, but not with unemployability supplement.
§ Mr. Summers
The words unemployment and unemployability are apt to be confusing in hearing but unemployability was the particular group to which I was referring, and I was urging that the bar to full dependants' benefit now operating against the recipients should be removed in the same way as was done by removing the bar to dependants' benefit when sickness benefit was paid. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams) looks mystified, but it is rather complicated to explain clearly.
§ Mr. R. Williams
I think my mystification arose because the Parliamentary Secretary, quite properly and clearly, asked if the hon. Member was making his observations concerning the unemployment benefits or the unemployability supplement. They are entirely different payments and they arise under entirely different conditions. What the hon. Gentleman has not done in deploying his arguments is to make clear the distinction of that which he is talking about.
§ Mr. Summers
I have endeavoured to make it quite clear, and I am referring to unemployability supplement. I think I did omit the word "supplement," but I used the word "unemployability ". I omitted to couple with it the word "supplement". They ought to go together; otherwise, they give a misleading impression. If my hon. Friend would take a look at the unemployability supplement and see whether some small help could be given in that way to those who still remain in the scheme I think it would be generally advantageous.
One must not lose sight of the fact that genuine hardship can be estimated not by comparison with someone else's position but by comparison with a man's own need for a livelihood, and I hope it will be possible, in those circumstances, to consider this matter, having regard to the insoluble problem of transferring from workmen's compensation to the industrial injuries scheme.
§ 12.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Bernard Taylor (Mansfield)
There was one argument in the speech of the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Summers) that rather confused me, and that was the issue about receiving benefit from a new employer with whom a man had gone to work. The only point I want to make about that is that any man injured in the course of his employment, even if he leaves the particular employment in which he has met with the accident and goes somewhere else, will receive compensation from his old employer who in law is still liable. Supposing there is an arrangement between the old employer and the man who has suffered incapacity to commute the compensation, it would not fall upon the new employer but upon the employer by whom he was engaged when he met with the accident.
The only other point I should like to raise on the hon. Member's speech is about the question of financial hardship to those partially incapacitated. It is a fact that they have had no increase in benefit at all recently and are rather at a disadvantage compared with their contemporaries who come under the Industrial Injuries Act. I hope that before the debate closes today we shall have made it sufficiently clear that that is the real ground of our case, that we are 535 anxious to bring the partially incapacitated cases into line with those under the Industrial Injuries Act.
The first thing I should like to do is to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) on being successful in the Ballot. By a strange coincidence at the very moment when the Ballot was being held and my hon. Friend was being successful, some of us were being received as a deputation by the Minister of National Insurance, when we put before him the very points which are the subject of this debate today.
My hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth, in a very moving speech, characteristic of Welsh eloquence, put his case very forcibly, very admirably and very effectively. I am sure hon. Members in all parts of the House enjoyed his speech, and we all acknowledge the great sympathy and sentiment that lay behind his remarks. It has already been pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) that men injured by accident or suffering from a prescribed industrial disease and who are receiving payments under the Workmen's Compensation Acts have had no increase in their benefits since 1943.
I well remember at that time that some of us on a deputation went to see my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) and the present Minister of National Insurance, who was then the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, to put the case on this matter. Great care and consideration were given to compensation at that time, and as a result, as is well known in all parts of the House, the ceiling was lifted from 30s.—that was a general ceiling; it applied to everybody, whether married or single, provided their earnings warranted giving them the maximum, but they could not get any more —to£2 in the case of single men and£2 10s. in the case of married men.
It is interesting to recall on an occasion like this when the principle of payment for dependent children was instituted for the first time in workmen's compensation. That was very important indeed. The Industrial Injuries Act, 1946, as has already been pointed out, provided for higher rates of benefit, particularly for the totally disabled, and it is the case that 536 many cases respecting the rights of disablement benefit under the Industrial Injuries Acts were more favourable than partial compensation payments under the Workmen's Compensation Act.
I know that in some cases it works the other way. Many of us have looked into this problem. From the evidence that we have been able to collect we have come to the conclusion that the rights of disablement benefit for partial incapacity are better and more favourable under the Industrial Injuries Acts than under the Workmen's Compensation Acts. That is a matter of opinion, but we feel that that is the case. We should have it on record that last year the benefits under the Industrial Injuries Acts were increased roughly between 22 per cent. and 25 per cent.
May I say on behalf of my hon. Friends that we welcomed the proposals giving the increases and we supported them, although we felt very sincerely that they were not enough. Both on the Floor of the House and in Committee we argued that the increases should be greater than they were. We are not unmindful of the Minister's proposal, which he made in answer to a Question which I put down a few weeks ago, to amend the overlapping Regulations. Perhaps it is appropriate that I should make a brief reference at this stage to those proposed changes.
They mean that when the Regulations are introduced to modify the overlapping benefit Regulations, that the totally disabled cases will be in a position to receive the full sickness benefit rates for dependants, which is not the case now. The only observation I would make arising out of that proposed modification is that it would only go some of the way to bring in some of the total cases into line with those who are receiving benefit under the Industrial Injuries Act. May I briefly show what the position would be. A married man with no dependent children will be 5s. worse off. The single totally disabled man will be 15s. per week worse off as compared with his counterpart under the Industrial Injuries Act.
I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that the Minister and himself should think again before bringing in the Bill or the Regulations, whatever the procedure might be, to remove this anomaly. We welcomed the announcement of the 537 proposed changes, but we do not think that they go far enough. I hope that both of them will look at the matter again, and give further consideration to removing entirely the anomaly which exists between those on industrial injury benefit and those who come under workmen's compensation legislation. May I put in a plea for one section of the community who will certainly be left much worse off, the single man.
I come to the cases which are primarily the subject of the debate. All of us are very interested in this question and I regard it as above party. To me the disabled, whether from the industrial field, from war, or from wherever it may be, are a great human problem. I believe it is the desire of us all to arrive at a satisfactory solution by pooling our ideas and our thoughts to give the maximum benefit to the unfortunate people who are so situated. The partial cases fall into two categories; in one are the pneumoconiotics. In the second category are the pre-1948 accident and industrial disease cases, who are receiving compensation of varying amounts from a few shillings per week up to the maximum payments under the Workmen's Compensation Acts.
This reminds me of the early 1930s. Some of us have been interested in this problem from a practical angle for many years. No body of workers is more interested in the question of compensation than those connected with the coal mining industry. One third of all the accidents in the industrial field happen in that industry. At this moment, all kinds of accidents are causing minor injury and incapacity, and put together they are running at the rate of about 1,000 a day. There is no wonder that we who have been connected with the mining industry, come from mining areas and meet these people every day have, if you will, a particular vested interest in the question of workmen's compensation. It would be unnatural if it were otherwise.
May I deal first of all with the partial pneumoconiotics. I do not think any hon. Member would deny the severity of the problem. The National Union of Mineworkers have been conscious of it for a very long time, and my two hon. Friends the Members for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams) and Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) 538 have been wrestling with it for a long period of years. They have been connected with a coalfield where the incidence of silicosis, as it was known, and now of pneumoconiosis, has been very high indeed.
What is the position with pneumoconiotics? Many years ago a man may have felt that something was wrong. He felt a tightness across the chest and could not breathe as he used to do. He found difficulty in climbing a gradient of 1 in 2, or 3 or 4, which is very often met with in our pits, and he found it difficult to get along, even on level ground that was quite smooth. Finding themselves in this condition, they came to the conclusion that they had better flee from the wrath to come. By that I mean that, many years ago, many of them left the mining industry. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), who knows the medical aspect of this matter from A to Z, will have something to say on pneumoconiosis if he has the good fortune to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
§ Mr. Turton
If the hon. Gentleman is drawing attention to men who left the industry before 1948, as he suggested, and who are not now drawing workmen's compensation, may I submit that it is rather difficult to see how they could come within the terms of this Motion? I should like your ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, on whether the debate should go as wide as that, because it is far wider than the questions to which previous speakers have addressed themselves.
§ Mr. R. Williams
Further to that point of order. It is true that, on the very restricted interpretation of the terms of the Motion, it would be possible to argue that, since the Motion refers to increases in the rates of compensation, and these men would not be receiving any rates of compensation, it would conceivably be out of order, but I do submit very strongly that, since the object of the Motion is to draw attention to the plight of the partially disabled workmen, and since anything that the Minister will be able to do to increase the payments to these partially disabled cases will be very near the point of relevancy, that this is a case where it could properly be said that such cases were within the terms of the Motion.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
Of course, the Motion refers to the partially disabled under the Workmen's Compensation Acts, and to that only. Perhaps I was allowing the debate to go rather wide, and I hope that hon. Gentlemen will keep as near to the terms of the Motion as they can.
§ Mr. Taylor
I bow to your Ruling. Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I thought that it was an appropriate moment to mention these cases, because I think it is the case that the people to whom I have been referring are not, at the moment, in receipt of payments.
§ Mr. R. Williams
On a point of order. I intervene with some reluctance to obtain some clarification of your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Putting it very shortly, the position is that the totally disabled pneumoconiosis cases who are excluded because of the time limit, are included in the new provisions in relation to compensation for partially disabled, and I gave that as an indication of how very near the terms of this Motion would be to the partially disabled pneumoconiosis cases. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary, because of the importance and relevancy of this matter, may perhaps say something on that point, and not insist on the point which he has put.
§ Mr. Turton
I do not want to insist upon anything, because it is for the Chair to lay down the rules of order. I only want to know what kind of case I have to meet. As far as the cases which the hon. Gentleman has mentioned are concerned, they do not fall within the terms of the Motion, nor do the 50,000 latent cases, and if the hon. Gentleman pursues the point, I only wish to know if I should be in order in replying to it.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I am in some difficulty, because I am not an expert on these complicated Acts. The Motion, however, is perfectly clear and does not refer to the totally disabled, but only to the partially disabled under the Workmen's Compensation Acts.
§ Mr. Taylor
At the moment when the Parliamentary Secretary intervened, I was dealing with the partial pneumoconiosis cases, and I frankly admit that many of them are not in receipt of payments under the Workmen's Compensation Acts. There is a reason for that, which I do not want 540 to elaborate now, but I did think it was appropriate to mention them, and I am quite sure that the Parliamentary Secretary is fully acquainted with the whole position. This being the great human problem that it is, we are anxious to get the matter ventilated, and I think it is right that it should be so, and that was why I was making those comments respecting the partial pneumoconiosis cases.
However, in deference to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, may I say that I am quite sure that the Minister will be in possession of the facts about these cases, which present a severe problem which is of some magnitude, and some of us are very anxious about it. If the Parliamentary Secretary could give us some indication in the course of his reply as to the progress being made in the discussions which I understand were instituted some time ago with the Trades Union Congress, it may be that that would be some satisfaction to us concerning the references we have made to the partial pneumoconiosis cases.
I had intended to indicate, as far as I was able, the size of this problem in actual numbers involved, but, in deference to your Ruling, I will only say that if the Parliamentary Secretary will indicate to us how these discussions are proceeding—and I know that there have been difficulties and may well be further difficulties—and if we can be told that the difficulties relating to these partial cases have been overcome, no doubt that would meet the situation. We shall be glad of any information which the Parliamentary Secretary may be able to give us. I will leave the matter there, in the hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to say something about it.
May I now turn to the partially incapacitated cases receiving payments under the Workmen's Compensation Acts? It may be that what I have to say now will be something in the nature of a reply to the interesting point raised by the hon. Member for Aylesbury concerning the proving of hardship. There was an increase in the benefits under the Industrial Injuries Act last year, and the point that I would make here is that the people receiving benefits under the Workmen's Compensation Acts could not receive any of those increases. They have been, still are, and are likely to 541 be—unless something is done—at a disadvantage as compared with the people dealt with under the Industrial Injuries Act.
The submission that I would make is that no one can argue that the increases made in the benefits under the Industrial Injuries Act in 1952 were made on the grounds that the assessments were not high enough to compensate for the loss of faculty and power to enjoy life. We can all remember the Budget speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1952, in which he made his frontal attack on the food subsidies, and went on to say that, as a result of doing so, he was proposing to increase the benefits to the worse-off sections of the community—the lower income groups—in which were included the people who were receiving benefits, not only under the National Insurance Act, but also under the Industrial Injuries Act.
I remember that when the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of National Insurance was introducing the Bill, his main argument for proposing to increase the benefits under the Industrial Injuries Act was because there had been a change in money values and because there was unlikely to be a decrease in the cost of living. That was the reason why the increases were given. We welcomed them, we supported them, and we even argued that the increases were not big enough. Yet the man under the Workmen's Compensation Act has received no addition to his payments because of the change in money values and the increased cost of living since 1943. I submit to the House that on the merits of the case there can be no argument for denying that something should be done for these cases. It is only because the payments to these partially compensated men are regulated on different principles from those who come under the Industrial Injuries Act.
It would be proper for the Parliamentary Secretary to ask what is the size of the problem, how many cases there are, what would be the cost and where should the money come from. Those are fair questions and we on this side of the House are not unmindful of them. It is not easy to estimate the number of cases concerned but, as has already been pointed out by my hon. Friend the 542 Member for Bedwellly, there are already 30,000 cases in the mining industry receiving weekly rates of compensation and in industry generally about 50,000.
I know of the representations that have been made, and possibly are being made, and the various suggestions to bring the old cases into the new scheme. This is a hardy annual and I agree that it is not an easy matter. I believe that the present Minister of National Insurance and his Parliamentary Secretary have the same good will in this regard as had their two predecessors and I do not minimise the difficulties. With the best will in the world it is not easy to find a completely satisfactory solution of this problem for the reasons stated so effectively by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty. As time goes on we may be able to solve it, but the case we are putting forward today is that because nothing has been done since 1943 for these people the problem has become urgent.
In order to do justice to these cases, and to do no less for them than has been done for those injured or for those who have contracted a prescribed disease since 5th July, 1948, we say that as an immediate measure the existing benefits should be supplemented by a weekly flat rate payment.
§ Mr. Summers
Would the hon. Gentleman say whether in his view that should be taken from the Industrial Injuries Fund?
§ Mr. Taylor
I know it is a matter of controversy and before I sit down I shall refer to it. My own opinion is that these cases are the legal liability of the employers. Surely it is not beyond the wit of man today, in 1953, to raise these payments as was done in 1943 when there was no Industrial Injuries Fund? The question may be asked, why not raise the ceiling to meet this immediate problem? That merely dodges the question. All it would mean would be that some of those people, and only some, who are already on maximum compensation payments for partial incapacity might benefit, but there would be a large number who would still be left out in the cold because their weekly payments are so low
§ Mr. Taylor
In reply to my hon. Friend, who is very knowledgeable on this subject, in addition to the figure I have mentioned of those already receiving benefit, we estimate that there are no less than 50,000 latent cases in the country which are not receiving payments because their post-accident earnings are as great as, if not greater than, their pre-accident earnings.
Why should we leave out in the cold those receiving small weekly sums of 1s. and 2s.? I remember that not long ago a man came to see me who had his arm off right up to the sholder. He was getting nothing and is not likely to get anything because his employer has found him a job at a rate of pay which is not less than his pre-accident earnings. I always think of these people who receive small weekly payments as having been unfortunate on two counts: first, to have had the accident and, secondly, to have had it at a time when their pre-accident earnings were low. It should be pointed out that in the early days of the depression in the 30's the average weekly compensation payment in 1934 was only 23s. 6d. a week because the average weekly wage in the industry was only£2 5s. 6. I am pleased to say that we have gone a long way from that state of affairs.
What should be done? We feel strongly that the rates for the totally disabled should be brought up to the rates of the Industrial Injuries Act—5s. a week for a married man with a dependent child, 15s. a week for a single man, bringing him from£2 to£2 15s. As far as the partially disabled cases are concerned, I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty in putting forward a concrete suggestion, which we are not only entitled but expected to do. For those partial cases not working there should be an added flat-rate weekly payment, whatever the man is getting, of 10s. a week, and for those who are working, 5s. a week.
One concluding word. In the mining industry we have what is known as the miners' supplementary scheme for which the Industrial Injuries Act provides. It is to the credit of the National Coal Board and the National Union of Mine-workers that this is the only industry which has taken advantage of that par- 544 ticular provision in the Industrial Injuries Act, 1946.
Consequent upon the increase of benefits under the 1952 Act, discussions are already taking place between the N.C.B. and the N.U.M. so that the supplementary payments can be brought into line with the increases in benefits which took place under that Act.
The example of the mining industry in this respect is worth following because the increase in those supplementary payments will not only be made to men in receipt of benefit under the Industrial Injuries Act, but also to the old compensation cases. I know that the Parliamentary Secretary is not unsympathetic towards this argument, and I hope he will have some crumbs of comfort to give us this afternoon on this very great human problem in which all of us on both sides of the House are very deeply interested.
§ 12.43 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of National Insurance (Mr. R. H. Turton)
I wish, first, to join with the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. B. Taylor) in congratulating the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) on his good fortune in the Ballot and also for the substance and manner of his speech. I cannot, however, congratulate him on the drafting of his Motion, and it is for that reason that I am taking the unusual course of intervening early in the debate because it is quite clear from the speech of the hon. Member for Mansfield that we are in very considerable difficulties.
It always helps a Government to know the charge that is to be brought against them, and that is why I intervened when the hon. Member for Mansfield was asking me to say something about men not at present under the workmen's compensation scheme and who, ever since we took office, have been giving us a good deal of anxiety concerning whether we should bring them into the scheme. I had not expected that somehow, under the very narrow terms of this Motion, we should have a "Fourth Reading" of the Pneumoconiosis Bill.
I believe that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North has a Question down on the subject for Monday next. I do not know what my right hon. Friend 545 will be able to answer, but we are deeply exercised on these problems and have been having consultations with the responsible bodies concerned, and I am sanguine that in a short time we shall be able to make a statement. What is quite impossible is for me to make a statement in this debate which would, of course, be out of order.
§ Dr. Stross
May I point out to the hon. Gentleman that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) is a lady, and has not yet put down a Question.
§ Mr. Turton
I beg the hon. Lady's pardon and congratulate her upon being the representative of Stoke-on-Trent, North, thus correcting the record in HANSARD.
§ Mr. B. Taylor
We are delighted to have those few brief words which, I think, warrant my introducing in this debate the very vexed question of the pneumoconosis cases. I am very much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for what he said.
§ Mr. Turton
I would remind the House of the debate on 2nd May last year, to which the hon. Member for Merioneth alluded, when the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. S. O. Davies) moved a Motion, which was much wider in character, dealing with the whole problem of workmen's compensation. On that occasion, I explained, in my reply, some of the difficulties with which we were faced in dealing with the problem.
At that time there was general agreement that as the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) had wound up the workmen's compensation scheme to the extent that no more contributions were being paid by employers to insurers, it would be difficult to get any extra sums out of them. That was the problem last year and for that reason the general view was that any payment should come out of the Industrial Injuries Fund. I remember that in that debate I remarked that if that were so, then we should only be justified in making payment in cases where real hardship was proved because it would be wrong to burden existing contributors to the Industrial Injuries Fund with payments in cases where the recipient would be receiving more than the recipient for 546 similar injuries under the Industrial Injuries scheme.
I finally gave an undertaking that we would examine the whole problem in consultation with the trade unions to see whether any just and equitable solution could be found. Following that debate we did our best to fulfil that undertaking. Consultations proceeded with the T.U.C. in the summer and in the late autumn of last year, and on 16th February last, in reply to a Question by the hon. Member for Mansfield, my right hon. Friend announced his decision on the matter. I would remind the House of the terms used by my right hon. Friend in his reply. He said:As the result of these discussions I have come to the same conclusion as my predecessors, namely, that it is impracticable to attempt to transfer men from workmen's compensation to the Industrial Injuries scheme either compulsorily or on an optional basis.My right hon. Friend went on to state that with a view to improving the position of men who are at present suffering financial hardship he wassubmitting to the National Insurance Advisory Committee a proposal to remove existing restrictions which prevent a married man on workmen's compensation who is totally incapacitated from drawing his full sickness benefit."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February, 1953; Vol. 511, c. 89–90.]The hon. Member for Mansfield had some comments to make on that, and I am in a little difficulty as to whether I should be in order in replying to those comments because, quite clearly, this is outside the terms of the Motion. However, I would say to the hon. Gentleman that in what we regard as the hardest cases our proposals will mean a supplementation of 10s. in some cases and of 15s. for the totally disabled. We have been reinforced in the view that transfer is impracticable by the consultations we have had with the bodies responsible in this matter and which represent the workmen involved. I have recently heard that the National Insurance Advisory Committee have approved our suggestion in this respect are the draft regulations put forward, and, therefore, those regulations will be introduced.
§ Mr. R. Williams
I am most interested in what the Parliamentary Secretary has said about the steps which were taken following the undertaking which he gave a year ago. But as he himself has said, those steps are related purely to the 547 totally disabled and, as he quite rightly said, that is not the subject which we are discussing today.
Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hopkin Morris)
I did not hear the remarks to which a reply is being made at the moment, but it appears to me that the discussion to which I am now listening is not within the terms of the Motion.
§ Mr. Williams
If I may disregard what the Parliamentary Secretary has said up to the present, my question asked what, if anything, the Government has done following their undertakings of last year in relation to the partially disabled.
§ Mr. Turton
I am sorry that by dealing with part of the reply to the Question of 16th February I was led to what I candidly admit was something which was completely out of order.
What we have done in respect of the first part of the Motion comes under the first part of my right hon. Friend's reply to the Question to which I have just referred. He said that he had examined the whole question with the Trades Union Congress and that at the end of that examination he came to the same conclusion as did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly and the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill), namely, that it would be inappropriate to assimilate the industrial injuries scheme with the Workmen'9 Compensation Act. He was trying to deal with the cases of real hardship, and before I was last interrupted I went on to one case of real hardship with which we are dealing, but which is quite outside the scope of this Motion.
Quite clearly, the reason why the hon. Member for Merioneth has drafted his Motion in the way in which it appears on the Order Paper is that he regards that part of the position as satisfactory and he wants to deal with the part relating to the partially incapacitated, which he still regards as unsatisfactory. During the rest of my remarks I propose to adhere strictly to the motion and to deal with the problem which the House is facing this morning.
First, I should like to define "partially incapacitated." I agree with the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) about 548 the size of this problem. In our view, there are probably 35,000 partially incapacitated men now drawing rates of compensation. That figure agrees pretty well with the figure which the hon. Member gave of 50,000, of whom about 15,000 are totally incapacitated. These men fall into three main categories. First, we have the category of men who are at work and who are on the maximum rate of compensation. I would remind the House, for the purpose of the record, that the maximum rate for a single man is 40s., the maximum rate for a married man is 50s., and for a married man with one child it is 55s.
It means that if these men are in work and are receiving compensation at the maximum rate they have a loss of earning capacity varying from£3 for a single man to£3 15s. a week. The formula for working out the loss of earning capacity is, in the case of the married man with a child, seven-eighths of loss of earnings up to a maximum of 55s. a week, in the case of a married man two-thirds of loss of earnings up to 50s., and in the case of a single man two-thirds up to 40s.
§ Mr. R. Williams
The hon. Gentleman said that this represents a loss to the partially disabled man of from£3 to£3 15s. a week. Would it not be really correct to say that it would mean a loss in wages of£3 a week upwards without limit?
§ Mr. Turton
I think that I should have said an "estimated loss," because we have to take into account the rise in wages.
It is clear, therefore, that in this category these men have benefited from the upward movement of wages in recent years. As a result of trade union negotiations the wages that they have received have been larger than they were in 1947, before the 1948 Act was in operation. We also find from the observations of our Department that, as the wage for pre-accident employment has been raised, a larger number of men receiving workmen's compensation have come up to the maximum rate in recent years.
The hon. Member for Bedwellty made a very fair intervention on that point, when he said that in the coal mines the effect in the last year had been to narrow the difference between the skilled face 549 worker and the surface worker. I want to set the matter in the right perspective and I have obtained figures or average wages in the mining industry. The average wage in 1948 for a face worker was£9 10s. 10d., and for a surface worker it was£6 11s. 3d. In 1951, the average wage of a face worker was£11 16s. 9d., whereas for a surface worker it was£8 0s. 3d. During that period, therefore, there was a very considerable increase in the difference between the wage of a face worker and the wage of a surface worker. The difference had risen from£2 19s. 7d. to£3 16s. 6d.
It is quite true that what happened last year was that the average wage of the face worker became£12 3s. 1d. and that of the surface worker£8 7s. 3d. and, therefore, the difference decreased from£3 16s. 6d. to£3 15s. l0d. I think that these figures show how it has come about, especially in the case of the married men in the coal mining industry, that before 1948 they were prevented from drawing the maximum of 50s. whereas since 1948, especially up to 1951, they have become entitled to the maximum. Therefore, in effect, they have had a rise in compensation since 1948 in the region of 10s. a week.
§ Dr. Stross
Everything that the hon. Gentleman has said is correct and the inferences that he has drawn from it are correct. Does he not also agree that it has created a specific anomaly for men who are sharing or contracting colliers, as we call them, for they, by agreement between the National Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers, have accepted that there should be no rise in their rates other than 7 per cent. on bonus day rate? Therefore, in relation to the face average this makes their case a very hard one.
§ Mr. Turton
It is not my intention to deal with individual cases.
The hon. Member for Bedwellty made the point that, as the average of coal mining wages have shown in recent years, the margin of difference has narrowed. I have countered that by giving a full picture showing that since 1948 the margin of difference between skilled and unskilled has increased sufficiently to put many men who were below the maximum now on the maximum. It is the 550 experience of our Department that many men who were not in the category before have been put on the maximum in recent years. It is difficult to give an exact proportion, but our estimate is that of the 35,000 partially incapacitated a little less than a quarter come in this category.
§ Mr. R. Williams
The earlier figures which the Parliamentary Secretary quoted showed a difference between the two earnings of£2 19s. 7d. and, therefore, if a person were injured at a higher grade and fell to the lower grade he would be within 5d. a week of the difference between the two earnings, and therefore within 2½d. of the maximum rate in 1948.
§ Mr. Turton
It is unfortunate that the hon. Gentleman did not hear what I said. I was dealing with the married man; he is now getting 50s.
§ Mr. Turton
No, he is getting 50s. I was taught that there is a difference of 10s. between 40s. and 50s., but perhaps that is not so in Wales.
§ Mr. Williams
What the Parliamentary Secretary is overlooking is that if, in the year which he first quoted, we have a gap of£3 a week between the pre-accident average earnings and the post-accident average earnings the maximum compensation rate would have been payable. The gap was not one of£3 a week, but one of£3 a week less 5d. What I am suggesting is that to say that in subsequent years, because of the difference in the movement of wages, that 5d. would be wiped out so that there would be 2½d. increase to the maximum rate is a very tenuous argument to put before the House.
§ Mr. Turton
I am not putting any tenuous argument. I am dealing with the position put by the hon. Member for Bedwellty, and I am givng the actual figures.
Dealing with the case of the married men, who are the vast majority of those in receipt of workmen's compensation at the maximum rate, they have received an increase of 10s. in compensation to 50s. a week and they have also received the wage increase which has been freely negotiated by the Union in that period.
§ Mr. Finch
I appreciate the Parliamentary Secretary's point, but, as I pointed out, some men have had increases because of the change in the pre-accident wages. There are fortunately men who have had the increase in the pre-accident wages, but, even so, we have to look at what they have lost. Today, such a man would be getting£12 to£15 a week, but his disability has robbed him of his future. He is tied to his£5 or£6 a week; that is what he has lost.
§ Mr. Turton
I was explaining the categories with which we are to deal. In my view, and in the view of our Department, a little less than a quarter of the cases are on the maximum. Let us deal with the point which the hon. Member for Bedwellty has put. Is there a case of great financial hardship, comparing those men with the men under the Industrial Injuries scheme? That is what I have to consider, and that is the purport of the terms of this Motion.
These men are getting the maximum of 40s. or 50s. a week—let us say 40s. a week—plus their wage, and they are partially incapacitated. What would a partially incapacitated man under the industrial injuries scheme be receiving? We have the figures which were brought out only last year in the second interim report by the Government Actuary, which shows what proportion of the 8,500 life pensions are at the different rates. We find that the vast majority—round about three-quarters—of the men under the industrial injuries scheme are on partial incapacity rates of 30 per cent. or below.
These men, however, who are receiving 40s. a week under the industrial injuries scheme are receiving a rate of slightly more than 70 per cent. or, if we make allowance for the fact that the men on the industrial injuries rate would, as the hon. Member for Bedwellty pointed out, be receiving in similar circumstances a special hardship allowance of 20s., then they are in a comparable position with men under the Industrial Injuries Act who are receiving a 40 per cent. partial incapacity assessment plus 20s. special hardship allowance.
552 If the report of the Government Actuary is right, therefore, in this particular group the men are considerably better off than the men under the Industrial Injuries Act because they are getting the equivalent of 40 per cent. and the special hardship allowance when we know that three-quarters of the cases under the industrial injuries scheme are getting only 30 per cent. or under.
The next group with which I want to deal comprises the partially incapacitated men who are at work and are not in receipt of the maximum rate. These men are not in receipt of the maximum rate because owing to the operation of the rules for the calculation of earnings they have not, as a result of their incapacity, suffered a loss of earning power sufficient to provide for more than a partial rate of workmen's compensation.
I think it was the hon. Member for Mansfield who said, quite rightly, that any raising of the maximum would not help those men at all because their loss of earning power has not been sufficiently great. Therefore, comparing those men with those in the industrial injuries field, it cannot be said that those men are as a class worse off than those under the industrial injuries scheme. Those in that category who are under the maximum rate come to slightly more than a quarter.
The third category of men are those who are not at work, but are partially incapacitated. Those men are either drawing unemployment benefit, or retirement pensions, or sickness benefit, or un-employability supplement. It is true, of course, that the vast majority in this category are retirement pensioners. Owing to the action of the present Government, those men have had a rise in their income; there has been an increase in the retirement pension from the 26s. level to 32s. 6d. for a single man or from the 42s. level to 54s. for the married man—a rise, for the single man, of 6s. 6d. a week and, for the married man, of 12s. a week.
We have looked very carefully at the position of men in this category. They are probably one half of the partially disabled cases who are receiving compensation. My hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Summers) drew attention to the fact that some of these men on unemployability supplement are suffering 553 under an anomaly by comparison with men on the industrial injuries scheme because they cannot draw dependents' benefit with their unemployability supplement. The same point has been put to us by the Trades Union Congress and we think it is a good point.
I will not pretend to the House that a great number of such men are partially incapacitated. I will be quite frank; the vast majority of men in this category will be the totally incapacitated. But I am not out of order in referring to them, because there may well be one or two partially incapacitated men in this category. In view of the representations which have been made to us, both this morning and previously by the T.U.C., my right hon. Friend is anxious to meet that anomaly and to see that these men who are drawing workmen's compensation and receive unemployability supplement are also able to draw dependency allowances. That will mean that those cases will, in future, be raised nearer to the position of those on the industrial injuries scheme. In all other cases, as regards dependency allowance, both the partially and the totally incapacitated will be in the same position as men under the industrial injuries scheme.
There is one final category of the partially incapacitated—men whom we call latent cases and who are not drawing compensation. Again, I am clearly in a difficulty here because this category is outside the terms of the Motion. I cannot, therefore, enter into the point, beyond saying that I agree with the hon. Member for Bedwellty, and in our view the number is around 50,000.
That is our appraisal of the position. It is a very difficult inheritance to which we have succeeded—this problem of the anomalies between the workmen's compensation scheme and the industrial injuries scheme. I remember that in the last debate the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams) said it was as difficult to reconcile the two schemes as to reconcile a quarter of a pound of tea with a quarter to four. Perhaps he was slightly exaggerating; it seemed to me to come out of the realms of Alice in Wonderland. Nevertheless, there is a great deal in what he said. In other words, some men are better off under the workmen's compensation scheme and 554 some are better off under the industrial injuries scheme.
I suggest that, within the confines of the terms of the Motion, we are dealing with men who, as a group, are, by and large, better off under the workmen's compensation scheme than under the industrial injuries scheme. I remind hon. Members that the point was made by the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West in the debate on 21st February, 1951, when she introduced the Workmen's Compensation Supplementation Bill. She is reported, in column 1374, as saying:… our conclusion is that the workmen's compensation scheme and the industrial injuries scheme are based on such different principles that they cannot be assimilated in any way which would be fair to the men concerned and administratively practicable.She is later reported as saying:But under the more generous provisions of the Industrial Injuries Acts it is a fact that the most seriously injured men are often at an advantage over those under workmen's compensation. This is not, of course, necessarily the case with those with slighter injuries."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February, 1951, Vol. 484; c. 1374.]That is a point on which I agree with the right hon. Lady. It is a fact that the cases where men are better off under the industrial injuries scheme are where they are most seriously injured; but it is very hard to generalise.
§ Mr. Turton
I am dealing, first, with cases of serious incapacity and, next, with cases of incapacity which has no effect on loss of earnings. That is the distinction and that is the case of the right hon. Lady. By and large, it is the totally incapacitated and the latent cases who are better off under the industrial injuries scheme than under the workmen's compensation scheme. But this Motion is drafted so that both those cases are excluded. That is the point I was trying to make.
In the number of cases—35,000—which we are considering today, it is perfectly true that there are a number of cases of men who are worse off under the workmen's compensation provisions than under the industrial injuries provisions but, at the same time, among these 35,000 there are an even greater number who 555 are better off. That is the problem which faces us and that is why to assimilate, compulsorily or optionally, men in this group of workmen's compensation into the industrial injuries scheme would create greater hardship than that which exists at present.
§ Mr. Finch
The point I want to put is this. There are many men with serious injuries who are getting but a few pence, having regard to their loss of earnings. They had a low pre-accident rate. The hon. Gentleman is dealing with people who were fortunate enough to have a high pre-accident rate, but there are many men who are receiving only a few shillings and who are seriously disabled.
§ Mr. Turton
I have to deal with 35,000 cases and the argument which has been addressed to me—although the hon. Member for Aylesbury rather queried the point—was that the majority of these men were suffering hardship. It is very difficult to discover the facts, but, as far as we can find out, the reverse is the case. This is a group where the majority of the men are better off under the Workmen's Compensation Acts than under the Industrial Injuries Acts. It is perfectly true that there are undoubtedly cases of men who are suffering severe hardship under the workmen's compensation provisions and who, had they been under the provisions of the industrial injuries scheme, would have got a great deal more. That is the problem I am trying to show and that is why we have been trying to deal with cases like those of the unemployability supplement.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North) rose—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
If the Parliamentary Secretary does not give way, the hon. and learned Gentleman must resume his seat.
§ Mr. Turton
I have not. I hope that the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) will be making a speech later. It will be much easier if I make my speech and 556 he succeeds me with his. I am not here to curtail the debate, but there is sometimes a limit to the process of cross-examination and it is far better, both for me and for those succeeding me, if I make my speech and then, if hon. Members disagree, they express their disagreement in speeches rather than in question and answer.
In our view, and especially with this group, assimilation would not be a satisfactory solution. There has been very little argument addressed to the House in favour of assimilation and I hope, therefore, that we can agree that this is not a problem which can be solved by that method. I also hope that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen will consider that suggestion I make to them, and bear in mind that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly and the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West, both of whom were fully alive and sympathetic to these problems, both came to the conclusion, as we have now, that we cannot use the method of assimilation.
§ Mr. Hughes
Would the hon. Gentleman be so kind as to give way now? Is it not a very strange thing that the argument he is now putting forward, that thousands of men are better off under the Workmen's Compensation Acts than those under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, was not put forward this time last year when a similar Motion was before the House, and he himself spoke to it?
§ Mr. Turton
That is not true, of course. That I must correct. That argument was put forward last year when the hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr Tydfil was raising the whole problem of the 100,000. This Motion is not dealing with the 100,000, but with the 35,000. That is what I am trying to emphasise. That is the point I am labouring to make, although the hon and learned Gentleman does not appear to be catching it. In my view, the 35,000 affected by this Motion are really not cases of such great hardship as, probably, the 65,000 outside the Motion.
The next suggestion made by the hon. Member for Bedwellty was that we should try to give a flat rate supplement to everybody now receiving workmen's compensation. That would mean that while they were working the supplement 557 should be one of 5s. a week, and when they were not working it should be one of 10s. a week. In looking at this matter the question I have to ask myself is: how can we help those who are suffering real hardship as compared with those under the industrial injuries scheme? If the men under the industrial injuries scheme are now getting some 5s. a week less in certain cases than the men on compensation it would clearly be wrong to enlarge that difference by means of a supplement. So, while I will certainly give further consideration to that suggestion by the hon. Member for Bedwellty, it does not look to me to be a fair solution for the men concerned.
It would have the further very unequal effect that a man who was receiving workmen's compensation of only 5s. a week would get a 100 per cent. increase whereas a man who was receiving 50s. a week would get only a 10 per cent. increase. That does not appear to me to be a fair way of dealing with this problem, but, certainly, we will have it fully examined again. On the face of it, it does not look to be a very satisfactory solution.
I want to assure the House that my right hon. Friend, who has spent most of his political life dealing with workmen's compensation, has the fullest sympathy with this problem. We have inherited in this matter a great difficulty which came inescapably, of course, from the decision of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly that the Workmen's Compensation Act should be wound up but that the men on workmen's compensation were not to be absorbed into the industrial injuries scheme. This problem arises from that. We have tried, in the time we have been in office, to solve some of the inequalities that have arisen from that. We have also faced the fact that all these men on compensation or National Insurance payments have suffered the difficulty of the cost of living, which has risen between 1947 and today.
When we came into office there had been a rise of 29 points since 1947, and there has been a rise of another 10 points since we came into office. In other words, the cost-of-living index rose from 100 to 129 in October, 1951, and is now 139. It is for that reason that we have improved the National Insurance payments, to put the men on National Insurance payments back to the 1948 level. 558 I do not want to make any party points on this matter. That is the last thing I want to do, but the House will remember that we inherited the position that men on National Insurance and workmen's compensation had had hardly any compensation—all but one very small group had had no compensation—for the cost of living that had risen so much between 1947 and 1951. We have now, with the other group of cases, picked up the inequalities of those who are totally incapacitated, and I have announced today that for both the partially and totally disabled we intend to give the extra dependents' allowance that I earlier mentioned.
I regret that it is not possible at present for me to give any further assurance. I will give this assurance, that it is the policy of the Government to do all they can to check the rise in the cost of living, and when they find that the cost of living has risen so as to make the money values of National Insurance payments less than they were they will do their best to restore the purchasing power of those payments. That is where I must leave this subject.
I will just say this to the hon. Member for Merioneth. This is not a party matter. We on this side of the House are as anxious as hon. Members are there to try to put the position of these old cases right. It will not do the wider problem much good to pass this Motion, for it deals with such a very small, narrow sector of a very wide front. I would, therefore, ask the hon. Gentleman, when the debate has been continued, to withdraw the Motion, so that the country will not think that the position of the partially incapacitated under workmen's compensation is something different from the wide aspect of the totally incapacitated.
I have intervened now only to define the position. I shall continue to listen to this debate. I shall be most grateful to the hon. Gentleman if he will take the course I suggest. I have the greatest sympathy with those who are totally incapacitated and on workmen's compensation, and I should not like the country to have any misconceptions about the views of the House.
I repeat what I said at the beginning, that I am grateful to the hon. Member for Merioneth not only for choosing this Motion, although I wish it had been a 559 wider one, but also for the arguments he has put forward, and I hope that many more Members will take part in this debate.
§ 1.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)
In the first place I want to join with my hon. Friends on this side of the House and one or two on that side who have congratulated my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) on bringing forward this Motion. I am grateful to him for selecting the subject of workmen's compensation. Within 12 months two of my colleagues who have been successful in the Ballot have selected the question of workmen's compensation for debate.
That reveals the burning enthusiasm we have about removing the anomalies which now confront us in the mining and quarrying industries. I also compliment my hon. Friend on his eloquence, and the profoundness of his conviction, which we gathered from his speech. He feels deep in his heart that the quarry workers in his constituency are not getting a fair deal, just as we in the mining villages feel that our partial compensation men are not getting a fair deal.
It is understandable why we speak as we do on the subject of workmen's compensation. I speak this afternoon as one who has spent 35½years underground. Any medical man can examine me, and my body and limbs will reveal evidence of accidents I have sustained when I was working in the pits. I never could understand, when I sustained my first accident, why I had to be off work for three weeks before I could claim a week's compensation. We have travelled a long way since then.
We have had some hard and bitter experiences of the operation of the old Workmen's Compensation Act. From 1925 to 1937 I was charged with the responsibility of looking after the compensation of a large number of workmen, and from 1937 to 1942 I had added responsibility put upon my shoulders in dealing with workmen's compensation. I therefore speak, if I may say so with all modesty, with a breadth of experience which is not the lot of many hon. Members.
I have always said, and I repeat this afternoon with greater emphasis than ever 560 before, that as long as we have wars we shall have sick and wounded men, and as long as we have industry we shall have broken, bruised and injured men. We cannot escape it, and our job as Members of this honourable House is to see to it that men wounded and stricken on the field of battle or broken and bruised in industry are protected when they are overtaken by misfortune such as accidents and industrial disease. That is a great responsibility resting upon us.
I may say that to a degree the Minister has gone one step further than he did on the 2nd May, 1952, because in reply to the debate initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. S. O. Davies) in eloquent terms, feeling as he did a burning desire to improve the lot of the partially and fully compensated on that occasion, the Parliamentary Secretary said:Hon. Members will agree that this is a problem requiring very careful consideration. The Motion calls for a declaration of policy by Her Majesty's Government. Let me give it. Our policy is to examine the whole position of workmen's compensation in consultation with the T.U.C. and see whether any just and equitable solution of it can be obtained." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd May, 1952; Vol. 499, c. 1893.]That statement fell from the lips of the Parliamentary Secretary on 2nd May, 1952. We are now in April, 1953, and despite the promise that was made then and the attempts that he has been making between that date and now, the Government have failed to find a fair and equitable solution to this very difficult problem. I am not criticising them unduly, but I wonder whether they realise that in these cases speed is of paramount importance. The hon. Gentleman will recall the scheme that was brought into operation in 1951 to deal with partial compensation cases of men suffering from silicosis. It is disturbing to find that from 8th July, 1951, to 31st December, 1952, 200 men have died from silicosis who made claims under that scheme and there are hundreds and hundreds of men who are waiting patiently, and have been waiting for a large number of years, for somebody, somewhere, sometime—and the time is overdue—to bring a crumb of comfort to them in their lives.
I have complained before, and I have no hesitation in complaining again, that Government Departments move too slowly. They ought to deal more quickly with these matters. I know that 561 they have to deal with the human aspect and the numerical aspect; they have to examine almost every step they take. But when a great human problem is involved, they must move with speed and accuracy. I know how protracted negotiations are when dealing with vast institutions or organisations, but having regard to the promise made and the declaration of policy of the Government on 2nd May, 1952, I do think that we could have expected something different on 17th April, 1953.
A great deal has been said about the cases that would be transferred from the old compensation laws to the industrial injuries regulations. I wonder whether the Department have ever considered the large number of cases of those who were in receipt of partial compensation way back in years gone by whose partial compensation has been cancelled out consequent upon increased wages.
I have in my constituency hundreds of miners who up to a certain period were in receipt of partial compensation of 1s., 1s. 6d., half-a-crown and some as low as 1d., consequent upon the formula— which in my judgment was a very inhuman formula—of determining what the partial compensation of an injured workman should be. I have discovered that consequent upon the increased wages paid to what we call light workmen, those men have had their partial compensation cancelled out altogether. What have we had to do? In order that the memory of an accident could be kept green, we have had to agree with the insurance companies and the colliery companies to the payment of 1d. per week. We have had to agree with them for a declaration of liability to be filed in court. A large number of men who have lost their earning capacity because of an accident are not receiving any partial compensation today. That is the type of case that needs some consideration.
I have been looking up the definition made by the Central Information Office in 1946 as to what compensation really means. Workmen's compensation, broadly, it says—and I quote from page 7,is the right of the worker to payment for his loss of power to earn due to an accident or disease arising out of or in the course of his employment.562 Many of these men who had the power to earn when they were in full strength and vigour have now lost that power, and not only have they lost the power to earn, but they have lost assistance in the direction of adequate compensation.
The Motion today is seeking to bring in these unfortunate men who have been left by the wayside. I know that we have travelled a long way, and in our travellings we have tried to improve the lot of the injured, the sick, the unemployed and the infirm, but we have still left a number by the wayside, and it is that number who have been left by the wayside whom we want to bring in and take with us along the pathway into the new era which was mentioned in 1946.
I make a special plea, along with my hon. and right hon. Friends on this side of the House, to the Minister, who has given us a little crumb of comfort, to continue to consider this very vital problem and, as a result of that consideration, to provide something very much more generous than that which he has given us today.
I am the first man, having regard to my dealings with compensation, to admit that there are difficulties, complexities and problems, which the ordinary man in the street does not understand. When I went to technical college and I was confronted with a difficulty, I used to call the attention of my professor to it. He would say, "Ah, my boy, difficulties are means of progress if they are tackled in the proper way." I want the Department to tackle this problem in the proper way. I know that they will tackle it with sympathy and with human understanding. I am not going to decry the Department just because they do not give me all my own way—there are other people who need consideration—but I have found that there is a human approach made by the Department, and I want that human approach to become intensified and speeded up, so that some relief can come to these men as quickly as possible.
I often asked myself this question when I was dealing with hundreds and hundreds of compensation cases: Has the right thing been done in the past in relation to injured workmen? I used to meditate upon that. I would repeat the question to myself and further examine 563 the legislation which operated and determined the destiny of these injured men. Having asked myself that question, I would try to find the answer, and my answer is this—I say this with the greatest respect to this Government and to preceding Governments—we have never—I challenge any man to deny this statement—fairly or adequately, in relation to full or partial compensation, paid to injured workmen who have had the misfortune to sustain injury, whether in the mines, the mills, the factories or the foundries, the total compensation, which I am not permitted to mention, or the partial compensation which has borne the correct relationship to the earning capacity of the injured workman. Nobody can challenge that.
Partial compensation and full compensation have never borne accurate relationship to the earning capacity of the injured workman. It has always been something less, something lower than what he could earn, something less than what he did earn. The very fact that we are discussing this matter today is conclusive evidence that in the past we have failed to realise the responsibility resting upon us.
When I compare the claims of compensation under common law—and I am not complaining—with the miserable amount of compensation paid to all injured workmen, I am flabbergasted that there is such a disparity between the two. One may claim compensation for facial disfigurement in the courts and get£3,000,£4,000 or£5,000, but the poor miner who has sustained an accident in the pit in the production of the commodity which determines the economy of this nation has to be satisfied with about 55s. a week. Is there any fair play in that? Is there any justice in it? I say that we have never done the right thing in our approach to compensation for injured workmen.
The Motion before the House calls attention to the inadequate rates of compensation payable to the partially disabled under the existing Workmen's Compensation Acts. It should be quite possible, with the organisations such as we have, to find out what was the position of these men; to find out how far and to what extent they are suffering as a result of the inadequate partial compensation. I am not going to suggest a 564 figure that ought to be paid, but I am going to suggest that it should be such a figure as will enable these men to rear their heads in the society in which they move and have their being and be like the village blacksmith, able to look….the whole world in the face,For he owes not any man.There was a little cross-chat between the Parliamentary Secretary and the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams) about gaps. What I am concerned about today is the gap that exists in the purse of the injured workman when he goes to market to buy necessary commodities.
I know that my fortunate colleague has a right to select what he wishes to put into the Motion, but I cannot understand why he left out the full compensation rate. That may be due to the fact that we had a discussion some 11 months ago on that matter. It is not my intention to repeat some of the figures which have been given, but I do say that the operation of the two schemes—what we call the old Workmen's Compensation Acts and the Industrial Injuries Acts—are based upon two different principles. That being so, they operate in two different ways.
I am not saying that the Industrial Injuries Acts have reached perfection; they have not. Let us not kid ourselves in that direction. We are now finding— I know that the hon. Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) will smile at this— that that scheme, with all the talent, ability and wisdom and intellect which was applied to make it as near as perfect a scheme as possible has fallen short in certain directions. We have to face up to that. In the process of evolution from 1893 to 1943 we have left a large number of men out. These, I repeat, are the men for whom we are appealing today. Over 50,000 men are still receiving payments under the old Workmen's Compensation Acts. There are more who are entitled to payment for partial compensation but who cannot get it because of the miserable inhuman formula that was adopted.
Briefly, what happened was this. A man's average post-accident earnings were deducted from his average pre-accident earnings and he got 50 per cent. of the difference. The vital point that ought not to be overlooked is that many of the men on whose behalf we are 565 pleading were working in the mining and quarrying industries when the level of wages in those industries was at rock bottom.
§ Mr. Doughty
Will the hon. Member continue to say that if the wages have now increased, the notional pre-accident earnings have also increased?
§ Mr. Brown
No. A notional increase was agreed upon because it was provided for in the 1925 Act, but there has not been an increase in all cases.
Let me give the hon. Member an illustration, of five cases in one family. In this family in my village, there are six brothers, who all worked in the pits. Five out of the six have sustained accidents. They received partial compensation until their post-injury earnings cancelled out their partial compensation. Two of them have both lost an eye each. Would the hon. Member for Surrey, East suggest that they have not lost earning capacity and are not entitled to partial compensation? They cannot go back to work at the coal face. If they did, their earnings, as indicated by the Parliamentary Secretary, would be from£10 to£12 a week. Surely, these men are entitled to be brought within a scheme of some sort in order to compensate them for their loss in earning capacity.
§ Mr. Doughty
Of course they are entitled to compensation. They are entitled to full compensation under the old Workmen's Compensation Acts.
§ Dr. Stross
Does not my hon. Friend agree that whereas it is legally possible to bring up the old wage rates to the present level notionally, in many cases men were for certain reasons prevented from working full time before their accident, and that if they were doing only three or four turns a week, their wages could only notionally be raised on that basis? The inference is obvious.
§ Mr. Brown
I agree that in many cases where we have attempted to get the 566 notional increase so that a man should be entitled to partial compensation, it could not be put any higher than the level of the wage in, say, 1919 or 1920.
I agree that something has been done by the present Government. The Department have assisted in every conceivable way and some of the additional National Insurance benefits are now payable with workmen's compensation, which was not the case a few years ago. There are the sickness benefits and the unemployability supplement. All these have been brought in because of pressure by Members of the House and by various institutions or organisations.
We on this side are particularly concerned about the protection of these cases because there are over 30,000 of them. Three-fifths are receiving compensation from the Coal Board. Workmen of other industries get little or no help and, as was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. B. Taylor), it would be a good thing if other industries would introduce and operate something similar to the scheme in the mining industry.
Succeeding Ministers of National Insurance have been unable to find a solution to the disparity of treatment because they could not devise a formula which would be fair to all parties if the old cases were brought within the ambit of the Industrial Injuries Act. When this matter was before the House in 1946 and we were discussing the Industrial Injuries Act, we were promised that urgent attention would be given to the question. It was suggested that the various insurance companies, indemnity companies and compensation trusts should all be approached with a view to relieving the liability resting upon them by the payment of a global figure into the Industrial Injuries Fund. Steps have been taken to achieve that objective, but they have failed.
I still think that it is within the realm of possibility to go a lot further than the Department have gone. In the light of my experience in dealing with compensation cases, I appeal to the Minister and his Department to look again at the problem and to see whether he cannot discover some formula which would help the unfortunate partial compensation men.
567 I know that we cannot do everything at once—it would have to be done in stages; but it would be foolish to do nothing at all, because we cannot do everything at once. We must do little by little, and with as great speed as possible. Having regard to the complexity and complication of the Workmen's Compensation Acts, we can, and must, do something to bring about immediate relief to these unfortunate men who have been left by the wayside as we have gone along our journey propounding our scheme, and to bring comfort and assistance to the partial compensation men.
§ 1.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)
Much as I should like to go into the long history of the old Workmen's Compensation Act, in which I was about to embark with the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown), I should clearly be out of order. Reference was made to our debate on 2nd May last year, and on referring to Volume 499 of HANSARD I notice that I said then:I agree entirely … that this is not a political problem but a difficulty that was bound to arise and must have been foreseen when the Industrial Injuries Act was passed in 1948. It was quite clear then that there must be two classes of workmen, those who received their injuries before 5th July, 1948, and those who received them afterwards."— [OFFICIAL REPORT. 2nd May, 1952; Vol. 499, c. 1865]I went on to say that I thought it was a great pity that the old Workmen's Compensation Act had been abolished and that what I considered, and still consider, to be a much worse scheme—the industrial injuries scheme—brought in to take its place.
My solution of this problem would be, perhaps, rather sweeping. It would be to abolish the Industrial Injuries Act and to go back to the Workmen's Compensation Act, because I believe that workmen got, and would still get, a better deal than they get as a result of the present Act. The Motion that is before us, however, deals solely with the case of the partially disabled workman.
Despite the depth of feeling shown by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones)—and I do not use that expression in any derogatory 568 fashion—he still did not get down to the hard facts of that with which one has to deal when considering these particular cases. They are men who are wholly and fully employed. They are not. as the hon. Member for Ince said, wrecks left by the wayside. They are men who are doing a full-time job. It may not be in the same grade and in the same class as that in which they were employed at the time when they met their injury.
§ Mr. T. Brown
The hon. Member will recall, with his knowledge as a barrister, that there was a period of 1931 when many could not go back to work because they were partially incapacitated and they were described as "odd lots."
§ Mr. Doughty
I remember it, but I am sorry that the hon. Member has not got it quite right. The odd lot men were unlike the men whose injury prevented them from finding employment in any other branch of the labour market. That is something different. There was another type of man who suffered injury but could work but could not get his own employment. Therefore, he was entitled to full benefit although partially incapacitated. But that is going back to the old Workmen's Compensation Acts, and I do not want to go into that because it would probably be out of order.
In 1948 the two different types of assessment for compensation were broken up. Before that the assessment for compensation was based upon the loss of earning capacity. If there was a man who had suffered injury but no loss of earning capacity he was not entitled to any compensation. In my view that was the right way of looking at it, because what we were trying to do was to give something to a man who was earning less.
Wrongly, I think, in 1948 the method of assessment was changed, and a man was given an assessment for compensation based solely upon his injury without regard to his loss of earning capacity. That was wrong because it caused many anomalies. It was clear, and it must have been clear to those who made the change, that there would continually be two classes of workmen both drawing compensation, the compensation being assessed upon different bases. That it 569 would cause anomalies was a gross understatement. These anomalies will continue as long as men draw compensation under the old Act and under the new scheme.
I would ask hon. Members on all sides of the House not to ask whatever Government may be in power to take on the partially disabled men and put them under the Industrial Injuries Act. Not that I think it would be a practical proposition, because those men would be in a much worse state than they are now under the old Act. As the Parliamentary Secretary pointed out, these men, who are in regular employment though in a different and lighter grade of work, as the cost of living goes up enjoy such an increase in earnings or wages as their own particular grade or class of workmen get, and to that extent they are compensated for the increase in the cost of living.
§ Dr. Stross
I am following very closely the hon. Gentleman's argument, but will he not accept that if men, as a result of their incapacity are limited in their post-accident work to a number of days per week—say four days—they are not working a full week and they are still under great difficulty.
§ Dr. Stross
The hon. Member started his speech by saying that the whole group of men were wholly or fully employed. That is wrong. The group are not wholly or fully employed. They are only partially employed if they cannot work a full week.
§ Mr. Doughty
There are a number of cases when for nearly five years after the 5th July, 1948, when these men have reached such a stage in their injuries that it can be described as permanent. They will not get better, and I hope they will not get any worse. I would suggest, however, that those men are able to do a full week's work. There must, however, be cases of men who cannot do a full week's work, and to that extent they are not able to earn their pre-accident wages and, therefore, are entitled to compensation.
Owing to the general rise of wages which has taken place since pre-war days it is not at all unusual—indeed, I should have suggested it was usual—to find that the difference in earnings, except in the 570 case of the very slightly injured, amounts to£3 a week. For that reason these men are entitled to their full compensation. If a man earned£9 in pre-accident days and is capable of earning£6 a week after his incapacity then he is entitled to full compensation, and if a married man with only one child he draws 55s. a week. If that man is given industrial injury benefit he will in all probability be assessed somewhere about 30 per cent. and he will get some 15s. to£1 a week. So it will be seen that he will be much worse off under the Industrial Injuries Act.
I agree there is a class of men who have been partially disabled and seriously injured so that they have lost earning capacity and they may be suffering some hardship. Where we get these classes of man there are bound to be certain anomalous cases, and I feel certain, after what we have heard the Parliamentary Secretary say today with regard to the efforts that have been made to catch up with these individual cases and try and sort them out from the vast mass of cases of men who do not suffer, that we can be satisfied their interests are being watched. Every effort is being made to deal with these people who may suffer hardship.
To comply with what has been suggested today, namely that there should be a general increase of rates, would in my view be all wrong. For the reasons which I have already indicated I consider that the partially disabled men are better off than they would be under the Industrial Injuries Act. They are drawing their full wages and in most cases full compensation. Of course, they may not be earning quite so much as if they had not met with any accident, but it does not leave them in any condition of penury or hardship. They are working with their fellows, drawing the same wages and in addition they are drawing an amount of compensation. If their wages do not come up to the maximum they are entitled to have their compensation increased.
Therefore, I do not agree with the hon. Member for Merioneth or the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) that there is a large class of people whom we have to consider and deal with in the manner which they suggested. One interesting fact about today's debate was a figure which was mentioned and which I have 571 been trying to obtain for some time, namely, the number of men who are left tinder these old Acts. They are rapidly decreasing every day, because these old terms are being redeemed at a rapid rate. I think I am entitled to say that, because to my knowledge it is a fairly rapid rate, so that in a few years the whole question will have solved itself by redemption. Although I think we should consider this matter very fully on all sides of the House, yet we do not make our cases any stronger or weaker by trying to bring in individual hard cases. Viewing the question as a whole, I do not think that a case has been made out for increasing the rates, which were increased so recently as 1943.
§ 2.11 p.m.
§ Mr. George Sylvester (Pontefract)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) upon bringing forward this Motion. He did not claim to be an expert, but he moved the Motion in a very lucid manner. My own interest is very great, because I have spent my whole industrial life in an industry which is much affected by accidents. For more than 20 years, as a local lodge secretary, I was dealing with this type of case.
The Motion boils down to one short sentence, which is that it calls attention to the number of people who are in receipt of partial compensation as the result of accidents received before July, 1948, and asks what the Government are prepared to do about them. The time is long past when something should be done in these cases. It has been suggested that they are better off than they would be under the industrial injuries legislation, but such cases are in a very small minority. Owing to the nature of the work in the mining industry the mining accident rate is, roughly, one in three of all industrial accidents, and it is, therefore, only natural that we who represent mining constituencies and have spent our lives there should be interested in cases of this character.
The Parliamentary Secretary has stated that about 30,000 cases are in receipt of workmen's compensation, but there are thousands of men suffering as a result of accidents who, under the earnings rule applied under the workmen's compensation administration receive no compen- 572 sation. Everyone knows how partial compensation is arrived at and how the earnings rule is applied. Taking the pre-accident weekly earnings and the post-accident weekly earnings, the figure is worked out. Great play has been made about notional earnings, and my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) said, quite rightly, that in the 1930s and especially in the mining industry, men were working only three or four days per week and wages were low. The application of the notional earning rule would work out in respect of three or four days at the time of the accident. Therefore, even now a man of that type is in a much worse position.
It was not compulsory on the employers then to find employment for injured workmen, although I appreciate that large numbers of employers did find suitable work for them. It can be proved that a lot of men could not find suitable work. I know one case very well of a man who had an arm off and was on light work for about three years. Owing to the fact that he was able to do some kind of work he was entitled only to partial compensation. In the course of a year or so the seam on which he was working closed down, and everyone received notice. Most of the workers were able to get employment in other collieries, but this man could not fit in. He has not worked a single day since, and although he has an arm off from the shoulder he receives a very small amount in partial compensation and unemployment benefit.
§ Mr. Doughty
Is not the hon. Gentleman forgetting the provision which says that if the man cannot get post-accident work he is entitled to full compensation?
§ Mr. Sylvester
That might be so, but if it was proved that a man can do some kind of work he could not claim total disablement because he is not totally disabled.
§ Mr. Doughty
Perhaps I did not make my meaning clear. A man has a claim for full compensation even if he is capable of light work and can satisfy the appropriate authorities that he would still be employed in his old grade if it were not for the accident and he has tried and failed to get suitable light work. The hon. Gentleman will find that that man ought to get full compensation.
§ Mr. Sylvester
The hon. Gentleman takes a legal view of these things which may be correct, but it is safe to say that many of our men who do not get the advantage of some of these things are in receipt of partial compensation and are unemployed. A fair criterion is that the majority of employment exchanges in the mining areas show that the men signing on the register of disabled persons are mostly disabled miners.
We have to face the fact that no amount of figures will improve the position of these men and that action should be taken. In May last year my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr (Mr. S. O. Davies) moved a Motion which I had the honour to second, and which a great majority of us on this side felt was equitable and administratively possible. The reply by the Parliamentary Secretary at that time was that the Government's policy was to examine the whole position of workmen's compensation in consultation with the T.U.C. to see whether any just and equitable solution could be obtained. Nearly a year has passed. While I will not say. that nothing has been done, because the Parliamentary Secretary has made some suggestions in respect of men on total compensation, I have still to be convinced that what he has told us today helps the partially disabled men covered by this Motion.
Before the previous Motion the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in introducing his 1952 Budget, mentioned that the Minister of National Insurance would increase the various benefits for which he is responsible in order to offset the cut in the food subsidies. The meagre increases granted were not large enough, but the people covered by this Motion have not received any increases at all. Another year has passed and the Chancellor has now introduced what one newspaper has described as a "Something for everybody budget." Where do these people come in? They do not pay Income Tax, because they are well below it. Therefore the set-off of 6d. does not affect them. I presume, also, that they are not in the class of persons who purchase motor cars, pianos, etc., so the reduction of Purchase Tax on those commodities will not benefit them either.
Therefore, the men covered by this Motion are in relatively the same position as they were in 1933. One of my 574 hon. Friends asked for sympathy in dealing with these cases. I am not asking for sympathy but for social justice for men who have been disabled, especially those in the mining industry who have provided this country with the coal which is the basis of our economy. In past weeks I have seen in the Press extracts from the speeches of some hon. Members opposite about the price of coal. What a price these men are paying who have been injured and who receive miserable sums by way of workmen's compensation.
I hope that we shall not be content with what the Parliamentary Secretary has said about compensation, but that something will be done for these forgotten men of industry who, after all these years, have little hope of getting any better physically but on whose behalf we can at least ask the Minister to do something tangible to make their economic life brighter.
§ 2.25 p.m.
§ Mr. E. H. C. Leather (Somerset, North)
I find myself today in a difficult position. I am sure that those of my hon. Friends opposite with whom I have had the pleasure of working in regard to questions associated with the one we are discussing today will accept my statement that there is nothing I would like better than to support this Motion, to see the Government accept it and do something about it. Last May, however, when we discussed this matter, I did not know how it was to be done. When I came into the Chamber this morning, I did not know how it was to be done. With great respect, I have listened to speeches from all sides of the House today and I still do not know how it is to be done. Much as I want to disagree with the conclusions of the Parliamentary Secretary, I cannot do so because I do not know the answer.
As has been pointed out already on this and on previous occasions, successive Ministers from both sides of the House have given this problem an immense amount of study and time. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and my right hon. Friend the present Minister both say that they cannot find a solution, as a layman I can only say that until somebody can give me the solution we are stuck with what those right hon. Gentlemen have said.
575 It is common knowledge that there are cases of hardship. No one is trying to pretend the opposite, or to minimise the sufferings of these people and the justness of their cause. The hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Sylvester) talked about social justice. We all want that. Until the last shred of poverty has been banished from the face of the earth, we shall not have reached perfection in social justice. The problem today is how we are to get it in these limited, specific and difficult cases.
Time and time again it has been said in this debate that nothing has been done for these men since 1943. The hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) mentioned the various Ministries and proved that none of them were the friends of these unfortunate people. But my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary answered that point. It is true that nothing has been done for a certain small section in this way, but in other ways a great deal has been done. For instance, the various improvements that have been made in all kinds of social benefits have helped many of the people we are talking about. By the law of averages alone it must be so.
I am not a lawyer. I would not like to be drawn into any of the interesting discussions I have heard my colleagues in all parts of the House getting drawn into today on the fine points of Section 52 (5) of the 1923 Act as amended by the 1943 Act under the 1948 Act. When my legal friends get into that kind of discussion I think it is time to go out and take a little refreshment because my mind just does not work in that way. However, I hope that because I have not got that technical qualification which the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams) possesses to a supreme degree, it will not be thought that I am any less qualified to consider this subject. I may not have that experience but I have a heart, and eyes, and I have had considerable experience in the mining industry in my own constituency in the last five or six years.
I do not want to take the time of the House in going over the background all over again, but the facts of the background are relevant. If all those in industry over the years had been saints and paragons, these poor unfortunate men 576 would not be suffering the miseries they are. There is a great deal in the stories of hardship, bitterness and unfairness in the past, and that is certainly a fact which is well-known to those of us who represent mining constituencies. That is the first difficult fact which gives rise to this problem.
The second difficult fact arising from the past is quite a different one, and it comes from the decisions that were taken at the time of the 1948 Act. Then, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly came to the conclusion that he could not include these people in his Bill.
These two facts have brought us to the position with which we are faced today, and with which, in fact, we have been faced ever since July, 1948. We may say that the cost of living has gone up and that the position has become progressively worse, and that, as the cost of living begins to go down again, the situation will begin to get progressively better, but the basic facts have been the same since 1948. When discussing these matters, one cannot go on saying that something ought to be done without, in fairness to those who at present have the responsibilities of Government, saying that everybody who has tried to do it in the past has failed to do so.
§ Mr. R. Williams
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me? I am trying to follow his argument, and I am a little disappointed with him today. Do I understand him to say that he sympathises very much with these cases, that he recognises that they are very hard cases, but that, because nothing has been done in the past, we have now reached the stage at which nothing can be done either now or in the future? Is that the substance of his conclusion?
§ Mr. Leather
No, that is not. in substance, my conclusion. My conclusion is that nothing can be done along the lines suggested in the terms of the Motion, and, again, I did not say that nothing has been done at all for these men. I said specifically that certain things had been done, and that point was canvassed in the debate last year, but what has been done has been what one hon. Member in the debate last year called an improvement of the trimmings, rather than an improvement of the basic principle. The 577 reason is that improving the trimmings is the only thing that has been found possible so far.
I know that there is room for still more improvement of the trimmings, and the Parliamentary Secretary has already stated that certain specific matters are being considered at this moment. I have every confidence that the right answers will be found. The Parliamentary Secretary knows me well enough to know that, if they are not found by the next occasion when we discuss this matter, the hon. Member for Wigan will not then be disappointed with what I shall have to say. He is disappointed now, because he and I have fought on the same side in this battle so far, and I should like to fight on that side today, but I do not see my way clear, because I do not see the answer.
§ Mr. Williams
I really want to bring the hon. Gentleman back. It is easy for him to say that he has fought on this side, because the Motion merely says that we will welcome a declaration of policy on the part of the Government. So far, we have not had it. If the hon. Gentleman wants that declaration, he can still be with us.
§ Mr. Leather
With great respect, I am coming to that in a little time. I do not usually occupy the House for very long. There are two parts to this Motion, and if, during the time when I have been taking refreshment, the other part of the Motion has been withdrawn I will figuratively cross the Floor of the House, but I do not think that has happened. So far as the declaration of policy is concerned, I shall come to that, but I am dealing at the moment with the flat demand for an increase of rates, which is the first part of the Motion.
I want to say again that I feel myself that the Parliamentary Secretary established the case that by the improved sickness benefits, assistance rates, retirement pensions and so on, something has been done for certainly the great majority of these people. There may be, and there probably are, certain cases that do not come into any of these categories, but I should think that the number of those people is probably very small indeed, and certainly not anything like the 35,000 to 40,000, which is the total we are discussing. [Interruption.] Well, 50,000; the hon. Member's guess is as good as 578 mine. I think that everybody who has spoken has given a slightly different figure so perhaps the hon. Gentleman will accept mine as reasonably accurate. [Interruption.] The number has this to do with it. I am pointing out that, while it is quite fair to say that certain numbers of these unfortunate people have not been helped at all, I am satisfied that it is wrong to say that none of the 50,000 have been helped, which was the statement made this morning and which has been effectively answered by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary.
There are two particular categories which have been mentioned before and which particularly affect us in the mining districts. There is the case, which I must be careful of exploring, of partial pneumoconiotics which was dealt with by the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. B. Taylor). The Pneumoconiosis Bill was a case where we fought the same battle, a battle which was, to a very large extent, successful, and which was only unsuccessful on the point of these partial cases which we are discussing today.
The Parliamentary Secretary will remember the lengthy discussions which he had with some of my hon. Friends and myself. At one stage, I did not think that I could support that Bill at all because the partial cases were excluded. We then received a definite undertaking that, if we would agree to put that Bill on the Statute Book—which was the advice of the National Union of Mine-workers, and very good advice—every effort would be made to deal with the partial cases as soon as possible.
That was enormously important to us, because it tied up with two other points which have been made today; one, the fact that, because of the low earnings in the mining industry before the war, the rates of compensation based on earnings are most unhappily and in many cases deplorably low; and, second, because of the very nature of the community in which the men lived, light clerical work just is not there. It is no good saying that these people can get light jobs, because they cannot do so. That is the situation in South Wales and also in my own constituency. The jobs are not there.
Those are the two particular categories with which I am more concerned than anything else, and I believe that they are 579 the two categories where the case of real hardship could be made out. I think one must accept that, in many of these cases, hardship has not been made out. but I think it certainly could be in these cases. I should like to ask my hon. Friend whether it is possible—and I do not know, and I have not heard it from anyone else today—when the Ministry is dealing, as I hope it will be very soon, with the cases of partial pneumoconiotics, they could in some way adjust the system in order to take care of the people whose compensation is unduly low because of their reduced earnings in the pre-war period. [Interruption.]
I appreciate what the hon. Member is indicating, but, unless we can answer that question, it is sheer blarney for the Government or the Opposition to commit themselves to making still greater improvements when they still do not know how to do it. That will merely raise false hopes and pile agony on top of agony. It is all very well for some hon. Members to say, "Do not ask where the money is to come from," or to say they do not care, but that only indicates that they really have not got a policy, but only a pious hope. We all share that pious hope, and have always shared it. These difficulties, perhaps, are mechanical difficulties, but. nevertheless they are very important.
May I deal for a moment with the mechanics of the problem. There is the possibility of assimilation. We discussed that at great length last year and decided against it. Quotations were given from the speeches of both the right hon. Member for Llanelly and the right hon. Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) in which they said that the assimilation of these cases into the Industrial Injuries Act had been found to be quite impossible.
It is not getting any easier. On the contrary, the longer it goes on the more difficult it becomes, because all the time more men are being paid off in lump sum settlements who disappear out of the machine altogether and cannot even be traced. I do not know what we could do in the case of men who received a lump sum benefit in, say, 1943 or 1944. Nobody has suggested what we should do for them, but it is in that very section of men where the hardship is probably 580 particularly great. If anybody can devise a scheme for dealing with those men I am prepared to commit myself to support it. I have never heard an answer to that problem, and, quite frankly, I do not believe there is one.
In the debate on 2nd May last my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary gave a declaration of policy which, quite frankly, I still think is a good one, and as long as he sticks to it I propose to support him. He said quite frankly:We believe there are men suffering real hardship and we want to pay something to meet those cases.He went on to say:Our policy is to examine the whole position of workmen's compensation in consultation with the T.U.C. and see whether any just and equitable solution of it can be obtained." [OFFICIAL REPORT. 2nd May. 1952; Vol. 499. c. 1893.]I do not believe that that was a once and for all process. As far as I am aware it is going on all the time. There is constant discussion on this matter and as weaknesses are brought to light they are dealt with. It was at the request of the T.U.C. that the double sickness dependence allowance was introduced. The present Minister brought in that reform which is quite a help to a certain percentage of these men. I do not know how many it affects, and neither does anybody else, but it is quite obviously a help to a number of them.
We now have the question, which again arises from a request from the T.U.C, of the dependency increase with the un-employability supplement. I very much hope that the Minister will find it possible to grant that. I am sure my hon. Friend is aware that all in this part of the House want that to be done, and if he does it—
§ Mr. Turton
If I may interrupt my hon. Friend, I would point out that I made it quite clear that my right hon. Friend is prepared to grant that concession and that the amendment will be put into the new Industrial Injuries Bill which will shortly be introduced.
§ Mr. Leather
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend. I am afraid I did not understand him to say that it had already been done. I am glad to know that.
That is another step forward. Some hon. Members may say that these are 581 the trimmings, but if we are driven to the unfortunate conclusion that trimmings are the only practical way of solving the problem, then the more trimmings we have and the bigger they are the better. I think it true to say that the record of the present Minister and of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary in that regard is a very good one indeed. They have added a great many trimmings by increases in the ordinary social services and by certain alterations such as the ones I have just mentioned. So long as they go on doing that, I think we must accept it as the best that the experts can do.
§ 2.46 p.m.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
These debates are always interesting and as is quite common when the House discusses these problems there is today a great deal of agreement on all sides. What we are trying to do is to find out the best way of approaching the problem and where are the men we wish to help. We want to be as practical as possible and we want an administrative Measure which will not create further anomalies, or, at any rate, as few as possible.
I thought that under the terms of this Motion, which speaks of the partially disabled who are entitled to benefit under the old Acts, would be included not only the 35,000 people particularly mentioned as the partially disabled, but also a similar figure, namely, those once entitled to benefit and who at one time have drawn it, but who, owing to a change in circumstances due to the rise in their present remuneration are no longer drawing it, though they still have their declaration of liability.
I thought the Parliamentary Secretary tried to clarify the matter by asking my hon. Friend what group he was speaking about. I would point out to the Parliamentary Secretary that there is a large group of people who receive little or nothing due to no specific fault of their own, but merely because at the time they sustained their injury or contracted an industrial disease there was not much work available. We know that in the late 1920s and early 1930s that was indeed the case in North Staffordshire in the coalfields and in the pottery industry. It was also the case throughout the length 582 and breadth of the country where the heavy industries were concerned.
I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that he should agree with the solicitors who advise the unions in North Staffordshire, and who advised me on the matter and helped me to understand the cases which I medically examined on this issue, that there are many cases of this type. They are the people who cannot help themselves and who for some reason or another were working short-time. The main reason for that, as I have already said, is that the work was not available and some remedy should be sought for such people. In their case I suggest that a flat rate assistance would not be a wrong thing to offer if such a rate can properly be worked out.
There is another way. It has been suggested to me that for the purpose of computation it should be assumed, not that they were working short-time, but that they were doing a full week's work for the whole of the year preceding injury. If that were accepted as a principle it would obviously put the matter right for the whole of this great group of cases. I offer this suggestion to the Parliamentary Secretary.
There are some people who do not keep good time because they are not as fit or as strong as other people. In many cases, this may be due to the nature of the work they have been doing for many years past and to lung diseases, and the older they get the more difficult it is for them to do full-time. So it is not difficult to imagine that men have sometimes kept bad time because they were not able to do a full week's work every week. I do not think that they should be penalised for it if it be due to industrial disease which is beginning to attack them.
Then there are the men who keep poor time because they have already had an accident. These are the most innocent of all and something should be done for them. I can quote very shortly a case of that kind. It is the case of Arthur Tellwright versus Sneyd Unit, a famous and well-known coalmine in Stoke-on-Trent, North. This man received serious injuries in August, 1946, as a result of which he is an "odd lot" in the open labour market. At the time of the accident he was doing a light job as a haulage hand, because he had met with an injury about five years previously and 583 he had settled for a lump sum coupled with a promise of work. In consequence, his average wage was only£3 18s. 1d. at the time of his injury. That figure has been revised upwards to£5 13s. 8d. That is the notional increase, of which we have heard so much today.
This man has been found work at a Remploy factory. Hon. Members know that those factories do not employ men who are normally fit for work outside but only men who really must have sheltered employment. His earnings are slightly more than his former average so he is not entitled to compensation in spite of having had a very serious injury. An example of that kind is not an isolated case. I do not mean that there are tens or twenties of thousands of them, but there are very many and enough for them to be a continuous anxiety to us who have to deal with them and certainly to their fellow-workmen.
I suggest that we can put this matter right, either by saying that in such cases we will assume that these men have worked full time every week or by making a flat-rate increase. I do not think that it is good enough to be completely defeatist, as I felt the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) to be when he said that he could not see a way out. I think that there is a way out and that we must not let the Department, the Parliamentary Secretary and his right hon. Friend sit back for too long on this matter. We have all agreed that the burden is diminishing, but that should not mean that we do nothing until all these cases are either paid up or the men are dead, because in the years between we shall not feel very comfortable about it.
There is another class of case which I put shortly to the Parliamentary Secretary when he was speaking. Perhaps it was wrong of me to do so, because it is not an easy point. It refers to men who work in coal mines, but who do not receive day wages. They are called contractors, or sharing colliers, and there are quite a number of them throughout the country. These men are not supposed to have had any increase in their rates of remuneration in the way in which the day-wage workers have received an increase.
584 I believe it is correct to say that the National Union of Mineworkers agreed with the National Coal Board that sharing or contracting colliers who now receive£2 or more per shift in many cases cannot take the increase between that£2 and the 30s. a shift which they received a few years ago as an increase in remuneration. It is said, indeed, that this increase is due to better working conditions—that is, greater facilities for getting out the coal—and an agreement has been made that only 7 per cent. of the bonus shift shall be applicable to them. This means that if a man is a sharing or contracting collier and is working three or four shifts—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I agree that the terms of this Motion are really very narrow, but it does not appear to me that the hon. Member's argument is related to the Motion. The class of case with which he is dealing does not appear to fall within the Workmen's Compensation Act.
§ Dr. Stross
I assure you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that this case does fall within that category. This man is receiving compensation at the partial rate for partial incapacity. I am saying that he is not getting enough and that he would be receiving more if he did not fall within a group of miners whose wages have actually risen but the increase notionally is not accepted as a rise in wages. It is a difficult point, but these sharing and contracting colliers are suffering in this way if it so happens that their pre-accident average in shifts per week was rather low.
I offer my apologies for stressing this point, but there are some thousands of sharing and contracting colliers in this country and it is not really fair that, because of a wrong use of words or because of the use of certain words, they are debarred from certain compensation. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary, who is legally trained and very well versed in this matter, will find it interesting when I say that I am advised that if the words at present used, "rates of remuneration" were changed to "rates of pay in the mines" it would be very much easier to lift the averages of this group. That is a point on which, perhaps, I may have the pleasure of writing to the Parliamentary Secretary at a later date.
585 Not enough has been made of the fact that all the men whom we are discussing are, if they are working at all, paying into the industrial injuries fund and have done so since its inception. Therefore, if they have no practical right to have something more done for them by us they seem to have a moral right. I know that, technically, an insurance scheme of the type that we have under the Industrial Injuries Act is not supposed to pay out on cases that were not included at its inception in 1948.
But the fund is not bankrupt. I do not know whether the surplus amounts to£80 million or£90 million, but it is a fact that the Minister saves more than he pays out. I believe that he pays out£16 million and saves between£20 million and£22 million on an average. We are glad about that. It leaves him a little elbow-room for manoeuvre. We want him to manoeuvre in such a way as to please everyone on both sides of the House and do justice to the men whose cause was pleaded so eloquently by my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones).
I was not present at the previous debate on this subject because I was in hospital enjoying an attack of virus pneumonia, but I noticed that there was a little contention in the arguments on that occasion. That has not been the case today. It appears that each year we are getting nearer a solution of this problem that we want to solve, and it may be that we will solve it this year. We shall never be able to satisfy each and every person involved, of course. I know that that is quite impossible, but a brave gesture would be a good thing. Already to those who are totally incapacitated a very substantinal gesture has been made, and I welcome it so far as it goes.
Some people may say that it is not enough; none the less, it is a forward step and a very substantial one. Other things have been done as well, but still these particular cases rankle in our minds. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary, who gave us so much valuable information, will bear in mind what has been said since he resumed his seat and will remember, in particular, that the latent cases contain so many of these people of whom I have been speaking.
§ 3.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
I should like to join the other speakers who have tendered a meed of praise to the proposer and seconder of this Motion, because they did it in a distinguished way and the Motion itself is of a very meritorious character. Some of the other speeches that have been made in the debate, however, prompt me to say that in this matter we ought to have a sense of proportion. We ought to consider things in their proper perspective.
Only the other day, in this very Chamber, we listened to the Chancellor of the Exchequer opening his Budget and disposing of very large sums of money for various national needs. Here, today, we have had put before us a national need of peculiar poignancy concerning a large number of workers, the sum for the satisfaction of which, however, is very small indeed, compared with the sums which were mentioned the other day by the Chancellor. In those circumstances, I suggest, with all respect, that some of the speeches we heard from the other side of the House were discordant, anomalous and quite inappropriate to the kind of widespread national need that we are considering.
There is no doubt that here we have a wrong which requires a remedy—a wrong which involves the lives of hundreds of workers, which involves great agony and distress for them and their families. We are considering a social injury which needs a cure urgently and promptly. We have had put before us by the mover, proposer and the seconder of the Motion a remedy which should be applied quickly. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that the essence of the solution is the urgent and rapid application of the cure suggested.
Hon. Members today have made points which, with all respect to them, I stigmatise as niggling, legalistic and technical points which seem to suggest to me, at any rate, that they do not really want to grapple at close quarters with the problem before the House. I think that that was a mean and unworthy way of approaching this poignant problem.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent. Central (Dr. Stross) who said that something has gone 587 wrong with the debate. What is wrong is that there has been a wrong approach to it, and I suggest that we should consider it in a proper and logical way under three heads: first, is the proposal a right, good and proper one for the people of this country? Secondly, is it in accord with the trends of our modern legislation in these matters, or is it at variance with them? Thirdly, how can it be implemented, if it should be implemented at all?
As to the first—is the proposal a right, good and proper one?—I cordially support the Motion, because I think it is right and just that partially disabled workmen whose compensation is insufficient should be enabled to procure the necessities and luxuries to which they are as much entitled as are richer citizens. While others get increases of pay, as is happening, and while wages, salaries, dividends, rents and the price of food rise with the increased cost of living, it is wrong that these disabled workmen should be penalised by being forced to eke out an existence on out-of-date compensation.
That is the essence of the Motion. The compensation is out-of-date in its degree and in its proportion and the net object of the Motion is to bring about an increase which will enable those penalised workers to have access to the good things of life just as freely as other citizens. It should be remembered that until the other day they were the wealth producers of this nation, and they are entitled to access to the wealth which they produced. This Motion is long overdue because, as others enjoy a sliding scale in incomes, so should these disabled, who should not be penalised because of their disability.
Some hon. Members have spoken as though partially disabled workers were to be found only or mainly in one industry. In fact, they are to be found in all industries. They are to be found among miners, fishermen, ship builders and repairers, steel workers and all other workers. I want to pay a special tribute to the miners, who suffer particularly heavily and in large numbers—the miners, those heroes who dig coal and suffer in that most dangerous industry where accidents occur most frequently.
All these, and others, at continual risk are fighting the campaigns of productivity 588 that you and I, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, may live and that this nation may flourish. They have created national and international records. It is right and proper, therefore, that when injury befalls them or disease attacks them, there should be no doubt about their compensation. That is what the Motion seeks to implement.
As to my second question, I say that it is in accord with modern trends. In the course of his eloquent and able speech my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) gave us a review of the law in this respect, and I think it is striking, in the history of the law relating to workers' injuries, to find how long and bitter was their struggle for justice. That struggle has been one of selfishness against justice, of profiteering against fair play, of reaction against social progress. Indeed, it has been a history of trial and error, as the hon. Member for Ince reminded us. This has been so right back before the times of the employers' liability Acts, which were inadequate, and the Workmen's Compensation Acts, which were orgies of litigation, up to the Labour Government's Industrial Injuries Act of 1946.
I am arguing that this Motion is quite in accord with the trends of today. It is noteworthy that the struggle was won by the very principles which are inherent in this Motion, won by humanitarian progress resulting from remarkable changes in philosophy in these matters. Before that change there was a heavy onus of proof on the injured worker, but this has been gradually lightened. Before that change the worker was given compensation as a gesture of sympathetic charity, but this has gone, too, and in its place is the recognition that it is a right, the right it undoubtedly is.
Since then there have been great and beneficial changes. The old idea of liability for compensation has changed to the newer idea of insurance against industrial risk, so that insurance against industrial injury has become a part of the country's social services. Great, gradual and gratifying advances in our social philosophy have brought us forward to a better civilisation.
I mention these advances in thought and in administration to show that this Motion accords with the social trends of our times, and in the hope that, that being so, the Government will accept it 589 and implement it: in the hope that they will not put it away in a pigeon-hole as they seem to have done with the Motion which was proposed about 12 months ago in this House relating to the fully disabled men. Why is the present Motion necessary? It is to keep the Government on their toes in this matter, to make them see and do justice to this particular class of workers as the Labour Government saw and did justice when they were in office.
I turn now to the third question: how is it to be implemented? I suggest it is to be implemented in the same way as earlier legislation which provided funds for the administration of the earlier Acts. In 1946, the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act of that year changed the entire basis of the relevant law. It was that Act passed by the Labour Government which, in place of liability put on the employer, substituted a compulsory insurance scheme financed by contributions from the employer, the worker and the State. That has worked well and has conferred benefits upon all concerned.
High prices and inflation, however, have made a hole in it which this Motion seeks to mend. It was not the fault of the legislation. It was the fault of Old Father Time that made these ravages, not in the system itself, but in the amount of compensation payable under it to workers who are partially disabled or wholly disabled. The matter to which this Motion is directed is not one of principle but only one of amount, and that again leads me to hope that the Government will accept this Motion and will take steps to implement it.
I have already said that almost exactly a year ago a similar Motion relating to wholly disabled workmen was discussed in this House. That Motion was withdrawn. Why? Because the Government then made a favourable declaration of policy; offered that as an inducement to the proposer and seconder of the Motion to withdraw it.
On that occasion, the Parliamentary Secretary said:The Motion calls for a declaration of policy by Her Majesty's Government. Let me give it. Our policy is to examine the whole position of workmen's compensation in consultation with the T.U.C. and see whether any just and equitable solution of it can be obtained…590I hope, in view of the assurance I have given, that the hon. Member may see his way to withdraw this Motion so as to enable these negotiations with the Trades Union Congress to go forward in a clear field."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd May, 1952; Vol. 499. c. 1893.]That Motion was then withdrawn on that representation, but the representation has not been honoured.
§ Mr. Turton
I want to challenge the hon. and learned Gentleman on that. I gave an undertaking that conversations would be carried out with the Trades Union Congress. Those conversations have been carried out, and, in consequence of them, there have been proposed—and today I have announced that they have been accepted by the National Insurance Advisory Committee—concessions dealing with the wholly incapacitated. It is quite unjustifiable for the hon. and learned Gentleman to say I have betrayed the House in the assurance I then gave.
§ Mr. Hughes
As the Parliamentary Secretary has used the word "challenge," I challenge him to point to any concrete implementation of the undertaking he gave upon that occasion. No statute implementing it has appeared on the Statute Book, nor has anything concrete been brought before this House to show that the negotiations to which I referred have resulted in a redemption of the pledge which was given on that occasion.
§ Mr. Turton
As I have again been challenged, may I say that if the hon. and learned Gentleman will refer to HANSARD of 16th February, 1953, Volume 511, he will see that my right hon. Friend gave in full detail the policy that resulted from his conversations with the Trades Union Congress on the wholly incapacitated. That is on record. I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will now withdraw the quite unwarrantable charge he has made.
§ Mr. Hughes
It is quite evident that the grievance with which this Motion deals, and with which the Motion proposed this time last year dealt, has not been effectively dealt with by legislation. I stand by what I said. The cost of living has gone up and the compensation rates have not been increased comparably. On the occasion last year the Parliamentary Secretary, in the words I have quoted, talked about wanting to "go 591 forward in a clear field." It seems to me that then, and since, and now the Minister and the Government have been wandering in the field of negation in this matter and have nothing concrete to produce.
The Motion last year related to the wholly disabled. This Motion relates to partially disabled workers. The need of both is equally great and urgent. It arises from the increase in the cost of living. Both must eat, whether they are wholly or partially disabled. Food costs have risen in one year. What in January, 1952, cost£1 17s. l1d., in January, 1953, cost£2 6s. 1d. Who dares say that the disabled have had an equivalent rise in their incomes? They have not, and that is the very matter with which this Motion deals.
I refer now, not to the Parliamentary Secretary but to the Minister who, I think, spoke at an early stage in the debate last year. He gave the House some honeyed words on 2nd May, 1952, when. according to column 1849 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, he said that there were…40,000 cases involved. They are cases which have a special claim on the sympathy and consideration of the House of Commons."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd May, 1952; Vol. 499, c. 1849.]I break off to say that it is not sympathy that these disabled workers want; they want what is their undoubted right—an increase in their compensation comparable to their obligations under the increased cost of living.
§ Mr. Turton
I must again interrupt the hon. and learned Member. He made a statement—and said that he was quoting from column 1859 of HANSARD— which he attributed to my right hon. Friend. I have here HANSARD for that date, and the column reference does not relate to a speech by the Minister. The Minister, so far as I know, was not present, so it is quite wrong to attribute words to my right hon. Friend which he did not use.
§ Mr. Hughes
It is quite wrong for the Minister to refer to column 1859 when I said, as clearly as I could enunciate, column 1849. If the Minister will look at column 1849—
§ Sir E. Boyle
That was a speech by the then right hon. Member for Enfield. West (Mr. Iain Macleod).
§ Mr. Hughes
That is the secret. He was not a Minister then but he is a Minister now, and he was announcing Government policy. I think that the Minister should apologise to me. The hon. Member for Enfield, West as he then was, and I think still is, was not at that time a Minister. I was mistaken in saying that he was a Minister, but he is a Minister now, and it was he who uttered these words on that occasion. He added:The Motion—which, of course, I will not oppose in any way—implies two distinct possibilities. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) seeks to increase the rates payable to these men. As I see it, that can be done in one or two ways and I propose to examine those ways briefly and see whether they are practicable or not."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd May, 1952; Vol. 499. c. 1849.]The right hon. Gentleman, who is now Minister of Health, went on to discuss these two ways. One was by fiat of Parliament, mainly by legislation, and the other was by assimilating these men into the greater scheme, that is, I take it, by administrative action. He found difficulties in the way of each, and I think that I am right in saying that in the result nothing has been done.
I want to know now why nothing has been done: why have these disabled men been so shabbily treated? The Minister ended his speech—that is. the right hon. Gentleman who is now Minister of Health but was not then Minister—by saying:They"—meaning the Government—must also try, by determined attack on the cost of living, to make the amounts more attractive than the fall in value has made them in the last few years. It seems to me, if that be done, then the Government will be meeting both in spirit and in fact the Motion which the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil has put before the House this morning."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd May. 1952; Vol. 499, c. 1853.]593 That seems to me to be very much like what the Parliamentary Secretary said today. He will not ameliorate the position in a legislative way for these disabled men; he will wait for the cost of living to fall. But is that not a very unfair discrimination between these disabled men and the rest of the country? It is wrong that the disabled should have to wait for relief until the cost of living falls while others have their incomes raised comparable with the cost of living. In fact, the cost of living has gone up in the last year by 23 per cent.
This is not fair treatment for the disabled and it is. in effect, a fraud on them in their distress to which no Minister of the Crown should be a party. Furthermore, the observations which I have quoted of the hon. Member who is now Minister of Health conflict with the assurance given later in the same debate by the Parliamentary Secretary who is with us today and on the strength of which the Motion which was debated last year was withdrawn.
In justice to these disabled men, I hope that the Motion today will not be withdrawn. I hope that the Government will be faced with the alternative of either supporting the Motion, as they should, or of voting against it, so that the disabled workers throughout the country will know the worth of the assurance which the Government gave a year ago and of the assurances they have given today. Whether the Motion be withdrawn or voted upon, whatever happens to it, I hope that the Government will regard today's debate as a warning pointing the way for them to do something for this large class of disabled men.
§ 3.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Williams (Wigan)
I wish, at the outset, to offer my heartiest congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones), who proposed this most important Motion, on his luck in the Ballot and for the admirable way in which he has submitted the case. His arguments will be noted most carefully by the quarry workers and others in his constituency, as they will be observed by workers over a much larger field. I sincerely congratulate him, as does every Member on both sides of the House, for having done a first-class job.
594 So far as my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) is concerned, I have given up paying him compliments. He and I have been engaged in this field for so many years that I expected, as everybody expected, that when he put the case today it would be a carefully reasoned case, that he would have fact and argument in support of it, and that it would be the sort of case of which the Minister should take a great deal of notice. My hon. Friend has lived fully up to the great expectations which we had of him.
I wish that I could go further in congratulating the Parliamentary Secretary. Today I must commiserate with him, because he is in a difficulty. True, he has had some support during the debate from his side of the House. I do not know that he particularly welcomed the support which he got from the hon. Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty), because if my note of his speech is correct the hon. Member's solution to the terrible problems which confront us in this field is to repeal the Industrial Injuries Act and to restore the Workmen's Compensation Acts.
The Parliamentary Secretary has not by his conduct in the House given the slightest indication of whether he agrees with that revolutionary suggestion, but I have had a great deal to do with him in these cases. I hope I am entitled to say, even here, that I am greatly attracted by the Parliamentary Secretary as a person, and I am quite sure that his reputation would suffer terribly if it got about that he was a party to the argument which was put forward by the hon. Member for Surrey, East. I did not actually hear him use the phrase, "God save us from our friends," but had I heard him use it immediately after the speech of the hon. Member for Surrey, East I would not have been at all surprised.
I do not think I need detain the House with any reply in detail to the arguments put forward by the hon. Member for Surrey, East. He happened to speak on the same side as the Parliamentary Secretary, but if I were to compare their arguments, I am sure that the House would see there were many inconsistencies between them; perhaps it would be completely unfair to the Parliamentary Secretary to do so, because I am satisfied he had no part in this argument and does not subscribe to it.
595 The hon. Member for Surrey, East would find himself opposed by the Parliamentary Secretary and by everybody who has spoken in this debate on both sides of the House, and I think that is the best comment I can make about his contribution, a contribution which was delivered in a most charming and skilful way, but was entirely ineffective in dealing with an approach to this intricate problem.
There were two other hon. Members who supported the view of the Parliamentary Secretary, the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Summers) and the hon. Member for Somerset. North (Mr. Leather). It seemed to me that the hon. Member for Aylesbury was very concerned as to whether hardship could be proved. I will not reply in detail to his argument, because it will be necessary for me to deal with the question of hardship and the approach one should make to it when I come to speak about the arguments put forward by the Parliamentary Secretary.
The hon. Member for Somerset, North seemed to be extremely uncomfortable, because he was obviously very anxious to disagree with the Parliamentary Secretary. But I think in his heart of hearts the hon. Member really felt that this was a most disgraceful state of affairs, namely, that there are people who should benefit, that we as a nation have the resources with which we can help them, and yet with all our experience and expert advice there is nothing that anyone can suggest to meet the case.
§ Mr. Leather
I do not accept that it is disgraceful at all. I certainly accept it as unfortunate, but it is not disgraceful. The hon. Member, after all, is the expert, not me.
§ Mr. Williams
If here are unfortunate cases and the Government of the day are in a position to remedy them, then surely it is disgraceful if they do not bring forward some remedy.
§ Mr. Williams
However, I do not wish to press the point, because it seemed to me that the hon. Member was at a disadvantage. We have had a friendly debate and I do not want to press the 596 hon. Member too hard or embarrass him more than has been done up to the present.
§ Mr. Williams
The Motion is not a vote of censure. It is not cast in terms which imply that the Government have not done anything in relation to the men who are disabled. It merely draws attention to a particular class, and in doing so the Parliamentary Secretary should bear in mind that there is something in the credibility of witnesses. If he finds that there are a large number of people on this side of the House who have personal experience of these cases which they meet every day in their constituencies, and if they come along and say, "There is something wrong here," then I think the Parliamentary Secretary should take very serious notice of that.
Particularly should he take serious notice when this is not one of those painfully obvious cases where men are practically unable to buy anything at all and hardship is so obvious as to command everybody's sympathy. If the case at first sight looks as if it is not one of hardship, and he finds experienced people on this side of the House telling him that it is, he should give most careful attention to that type of case.
This is not a Motion of censure. It calls attention to certain categories of case and says that the time has arrived to increase the rates of compensation. The hon. Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) said that everything is presumably all right, because these people are under the Workmen's Compensation Acts which are, according to him, better than the Industrial Injuries Acts and that we must tackle this problem at the industrial injuries end.
§ Mr. Williams
That intervention would have had some substance if the hon. Gentleman had not been at pains in a previous intervention to make it clear that, under the provisions of the 1931 Act, if men were receiving less than the maximum they could claim under Section 9 (4) the maximum rate of compensation. If, coupled with that, he says that workmen's compensation legislation is better than 597 that on industrial injuries, I make a perfectly fair inference that he considers the industrial injuries men worse off and that everything is all right for the workmen's compensation men. I am glad to see that the hon. Gentleman agrees with me.
In approaching this Motion the Parliamentary Secretary seemed to have in mind similar ideas as to hardship to those which were in the minds of some of his hon. Friends, and it is necessary for me to apply a corrective. Let us be clear what we are dealing with in relation to partially disabled men. Perhaps it would be convenient for a moment to forget about comparisons between the compensation men and the industrial injuries men and if we addressed ourselves to partially disabled men to whom the Workmen's Compensation Acts apply.
What do these men receive in partial compensation, even when they have the maximum? The hon. Member for Surrey. East, quite fairly, quoted cases that were favourable to his argument, but let me consider the case of a man earning£5 per week and partially disabled. In the same works he sees men who have not been injured and who are earning£15 a week. The loss to that man is very substantial. He is reminded of it every day and is conscious of a grievance because things are not as they should be. Great as is the experience of the hon. Gentleman, I put my own experience against his, and I will argue the matter out in quite a friendly way from time to time as our debates proceed.
However, the Parliamentary Secretary did not seem to me to have that concept in his mind. He seemed to be approaching the matter in this way: that if a man was in employment and earning wages, although those wages were considerably below his pre-accident earnings, if he were then getting all that he was entitled to under the Workmen's Compensation Act, the case did not involve the element of hardship which would attract the attention and interest of the Parliamentary Secretary; that is to say, he himself would say that if a man were partially disabled and working at a job for which he was getting much less than before he was injured, provided that man was getting an amount which seemed to compare in the mind of the Parliamentary Secretary with what he would be getting under the Industrial Injuries Act, there 598 was no need to do anything because it was the sort of anomaly regarding which the Government should have no policy at all.
I am suggesting to the Parliamentary Secretary that that is the wrong attitude of mind in relation to these cases. If he goes on with that kind of idea in his mind, his Department, great as is the work it has done and is doing, will become discredited. He must move with the times and appreciate that these people who are partially disabled are terribly dissatisfied with their position. It may be that in making adjustments in relation to them, he may have to make other adjustments in relation to the partially disabled under the Industrial Injuries Act and that, as a consequence of his doing that, both those under the Industrial Injuries Act and those under the Workmen's Compensation Acts may be better off.
Who would grumble about that? We on this side of the House would pat the Government on the back and say they were doing a good job if they did precisely that, but we are dismayed at the thought that what the Government are saying in relation to these partially disabled men is that they will do nothing, or next to nothing, because that is what the undertaking of the Parliamentary Secretary amounts to. I hope to make some observations to him in the course of this reply which may perhaps result in his saying that he is prepared to go a bit further than he did in the early stages of the debate. Because, if he is only going as far as that, how can he expect the proposer of this Motion to withdraw it? Surely, on the basis of saying, "We have no policy because the difficulties are so great," the Motion should stand and be carried or be kept on the Order Paper under the noses of the Government until they do have a policy?
The Parliamentary Secretary divided the cases into certain categories and said firstly that there was no argument for assimilation. The hon. Gentleman did me the honour of quoting from a speech I made on an earlier occasion in this House in which I compared the principles underlying the Workmen's Compensation Acts and those underlying the Industrial Injuries Act with a quarter of a pound of tea and a quarter to four in the after- 599 noon, saying that they were different concepts, and that it was difficult to draft a formula which would take that difference into account and reconcile it.
Strangely enough the Parliamentary Secretary, having said that, having applauded what I said, having said that this is something which prevents assimilation, proceeded himself to make the comparison between the two cases and gave that comparison as a reason for doing nothing on the second point of his undertaking. Because he said that he would give further consideration to the idea of a settlement, but where, under the Workmen's Compensation Acts, they are already receiving more than under the Industrial Injuries Act, this does not seem to be the right thing to do. How could the Parliamentary Secretary make a statement like that without, by implication, saying. "I can compare the two cases"? If he can compare them for the purpose of refusing to accept this Motion today; if he can compare them for the purpose of saying that nothing can be done for the partially disabled man who is under the Workmen's Compensation Acts, then cannot he compare them for the purpose of assimilation?
I would be the first to admit that he is in difficulties. But I would assert that the difficulties which he is in in relation to assimilation, and which I recognise, are precisely the difficulties which he has when he attempts to refute the suggestion of a flat rate increase by saying that men, in these categories may be better off under the Workmen's Compensation Acts. If they are better off, those men would not elect to come into the Industrial Injuries Scheme, and if they are not as well off, they should have a chance to opt to come into it, if a case for assimilation can come into it at all.
What the Parliamentary Secretary is saying is that, because he cannot evolve a formula which would cover the whole of the cases, he is not prepared to do anything at all in relation to assimilation for those whom he can clearly identify. If the Parliamentary Secretary is to reject assimilation altogether, and I emphasise that there are great difficulties about doing it, if he says he can make a comparison to the extent of comparing the two cases, to that extent he can devise a formula- 600 Let us suppose that we came to the conclusion that we cannot assimilate—that we cannot bring the Workmen's Compensation Act into the field of the industrial injuries scheme with the safeguards which would be acceptable to the hon. Member for Surrey, East. If we are not able to do that, are we then to say that there is nothing at all that can be done for these people; that is, nothing apart from such increases in wages as they can earn?
That is almost like an insult to the person who has lost a very considerable amount of his earning power. To such a person, who has been employed in skilled work, and, as a consequence, has been reduced to a position in which he has to accept the lightest form of work at very much lower wages, it is an insult to say, "You are earning wages." That person is conscious, not of what he is earning, but of what he has lost, and it is out of that sense of loss that a great deal of trouble arises and on which this Motion is founded.
I beg the Parliamentary Secretary to consider this matter again and see if he cannot, even at this stage, say that he will investigate this problem afresh, and will not say that the arguments appear to him convincing that there is nothing that can be done so far as these men are concerned. I ask him to go a little further. If he is prepared to say that, having regard to the strength of the arguments put forward in this debate, he is prepared to have another look at this matter, he would find nobody more reasonable than the proposer of this Motion, who, I have no doubt, in those circumstances, would withdraw the Motion.
But I must tell the Parliamentary Secretary that, if he stands firm on what he has said so far. and tells us, in effect, that the Government have given dependents' allowances—good heavens, what a concession that is—we shall be very disappointed. In any case, that concession did not come from the hon. Gentleman, because the Parliamentary Secretary knows that it is a point which has been pressed and argued before. I am delighted that he was able to make that announcement, but let him not think that that was anything more than an adjectival point and not the main point submitted to him in this House today in relation to the partially disabled men. I 601 am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that that is a very minor point, which will affect only a very small number of cases. It will help, it is true, but it is only touching the fringe of the problem.
The Parliamentary Secretary has drawn attention to what has been done for these men in other fields. We have partially disabled men receiving a pension or receiving unemployment benefit, and there have been increases on that side which must be taken into account. I agree, but I emphatically disagree that the implication of their being taken into account is that nothing can be done on the compensation side for these men who have suffered loss.
If an uninjured man becomes unemployed, he receives unemployment benefit and gets the addition which the Government considered it was fit to add to that unemployment benefit, but the man who is receiving unemployment benefit, and who, in addition to having lost his job, has sustained an injury, which in itself, even prior to the passing of the Industrial Injuries Act, was the subject of compensation, is placed at a disadvantage. That part of his income is affected by the drop in his purchasing power.
It is quite wrong to shelve the workmen's compensation side of it and to say that, because people have had increases in other respects, that wipes it out. To do that is to take the amount which a man is getting in respect of workmen's compensation and to say to him, "There is nothing further for you whatever the strength of your case may be in respect of this payment. So far as your injury is concerned, we will do nothing further at all."
In all seriousness, that is a shocking thing to do. However well the Parliamentary Secretary may say it, it would really be a most shocking thing if we were to say today that we can do nothing further for the partially disabled so far as their compensation is concerned. That is something which I think the Parliamentary Secretary should repudiate.
The hon. Member for Somerset, North asked how we were going to deal with this, and a most carefully thought out suggestion in relation to a flat rate increase was put forward by the seconder of the Motion. As to where the money is to come from—which is something that 602 perhaps concerns the Parliamentary Secretary even more—that is a question which I must answer even if it is not of importance as far as the hon. Gentleman is concerned because, quite obviously, if I say that these men should get an increase and if I claim, as I do most emphatically, that their case for an increase is unanswerable on its own merits, then I am bound to accept the responsibility of telling the Parliamentary Secretary from where I think the money should come. Here. I think, be has a precedent, as I believe I have told him before in connection with other cases.
When in its wisdom this House most properly considered that the pre-1924 cases should be supplemented and brought into line with the post-1924 cases, it did not say that they were in receipt of advances from other sources. It said that the pre-1924 cases, as compared with the post-1924 compensation cases, were not as well off as they should be.
We asked who was going to meet the bill since many of the former employers had gone out of existence and many of the cases had been settled by a lump sum payment. All the objections which the Parliamentary Secretary can put forward in relation to supplementation of the partially disabled men here applied to supplementation of the pre-1924 cases in respect of which, after considering the matter most carefully, the Government decided that the money involved should come from the Industrial Injuries Fund.
Let us look at the Industrial Injuries Fund for a moment and see what the position really is. In paragraph 99 of the Report of the Ministry of National Insurance (Cmd. 8635), we read:The balance of the Fund on 1st April, was£39 million, and on 31st March,£59 million. The excess of receipts over payments during the year was thus£20 million.Without being involved in any serious Budgetary repercussions, the Parliamentary Secretary has the financial resources with which to deal with this question. He could give these men some hope of an increase, but he is not prepared to do so even though he has the cash and the opportunity to do it.
If as a consequence of his doing it, he found there were certain anomalies at a higher level, that is to say, that by giving these men a measure of justice he then 603 had to make an adjustment in the industrial injuries cases, I would say to him for heaven's sake do it. I am not prepared to admit for one moment, in relation to industrial injury cases, that the assessment of the partially disabled and the amounts which they receive are reasonable.
I am putting this as strongly as I can to the Parliamentary Secretary. The case put against him in this debate has been a devastating one to which he has provided no answer at all. It is no good the hon. Member for Somerset, North asking us to make a suggestion. Let us get on the other side of the House and he will see what is our policy.
§ Mr. Williams
I only ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether, in the light of these arguments and on the basis of these facts, he is prepared to look at this problem, and never mind the question of a declaration of policy from the Government. We know that the Government have no policy on this matter. It may be that that is because of the difficulties of solving these problems, the difficulties of even the experts putting forward something which the Parliamentary Secretary can accept. But it is the fact that the Government have no policy. I make no complaint about that. Nobody is better aware than I am of the great difficulties that are involved.
I ask the Parliamentary Secretary, however, even at this stage, whether he will say that he is prepared to look at these facts and arguments. If he is, I will strongly advise my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth to withdraw his Motion. If the Parliamentary Secretary feels that he has said the last word, that 604 there is nothing that can be done now or in the future—because, unmistakably that is the effect of what he has been saying and that is where the logic of his argument leads him—then I say that, regrettable though it may be, the Motion should remain on the Order Paper. The Government have clearly informed the House that whatever the merits of these arguments there is nothing that can be done now or in the future because of the difficulties. If that position is to remain, then I repeat that the Motion should remain on the Order Paper.
§ Mr. Turton
I made it perfectly clear in my speech that we are constantly examining this problem. I made it clear in my earlier speech that we have really come to the conclusion—the same conclusion as was reached by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham. West (Dr. Summerskill)—that any system of absorbing workmen's compensation into the industrial injuries scheme was impracticable.
But. following the suggestions made in the speeches of the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones), the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) and the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams), we will certainly re-examine this problem to see again if anything can be done. But we have fulfilled the undertaking given last time. We have talked the matter over with the Trades Union Congress. We will continue to examine the problem.
§ Mr. T. W. Jones
In view of the statement which has just been made by the Parliamentary Secretary, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.