§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.33 p.m.
§ The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. Osbert Peake)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
It gives me great satisfaction to be able to move the Second Reading of this Bill this afternoon. Its main purpose, of course, is to extend the provisions of the Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Benefit Act, 1951, to cases of partial disablement. I will explain a little later why the Title of the Bill is wider than the Title of the Act of 1951.
Hon. Members who are well acquainted with this subject know the reasons why a fairly large number of persons suffering from pneumoconiosis have failed to get any benefit or compensation under either the Workmen's Compensation Acts or the Industrial Injuries Scheme which supplanted them in 1948. The reason these men have been debarred from benefit is twofold. Many of them contracted the disease before it was covered under the Workmen's Compensation Acts. Others left the prescribed industries and failed to prove that they were disabled within the time limits laid down. These people have been described by the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) and other hon. Members as the "forgotten men of industry."
On 25th May, 1951, the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) obtained leave to introduce a Bill under the Ten Minutes Rule to deal with this problem, and two months later the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) presented a Bill on behalf of the then Government to provide compensation for cases of total incapacity or death. After the change of Government, I had the honour to pilot that Bill on to the Statute Book in November, 1951.
The scheme under that Act came into force on 10th March, 1952, and I think hon. Members would be interested to hear quite shortly what has happened as a result. Some 6,000 clinical examinations have been made by the medical 31 panels. In the first few weeks, the panels had to deal with about 250 cases weekly. In recent weeks, the rate has fallen to about 50. So far, 3,300 awards in respect of total disablement have been made, and 840 awards in respect of death. Payments, of course, fall upon the Industrial Injuries Fund, and the scheme is administered by a Board representing employers and employed persons and presided over by Mr. Paul Sandlands, Q.C. I think we would all like to express our thanks and congratulations to the Board and its Chairman for the efficient way in which they have administered the scheme.
The Act of 1951 was generally welcomed, but everybody is agreed that it should, if possible, be extended to cover corresponding cases of partial incapacity. In my speech on the Second Reading of the 1951 Bill, I described three difficulties which made it impossible to include such cases at that time. These difficulties were not only formidable, but indeed seemed likely to prove insuperable. The House would like to know how it is that we can now overcome them, if we are given the good will and co-operation of all concerned.
The first difficulty was that it was quite impossible to estimate either the numbers of possible claimants or the financial burden which might fall upon the Fund. Even in regard to the cost of the total incapacity cases and death cases, we had to make a guess; and our guess was they would cost about £250,000 a year. The actual cost of that scheme in the first full year has been about £390,000—nearly half as much again as we had anticipated—but the experience gained under the 1951 Act has given us a morereliable estimate of the number of partial cases which still have to be dealt with. There have been about 3,300 successful claimants in respect of total incapacity, and experience has shown that the proportion of partial to total cases is between four and five to one. We thought that the number of partial cases would lie somewhere between 10,000 and 30,000, but we can now put 15,000 as the number of claims for partial incapacity that are likely to succeed.
The other difficulties were to find a basis for ascertaining the loss of earning capacity and to decide how it should be 32 dealt with; and lastly, there was the immense burden which might be thrown on the medical panels both by a flood of original claims and the possibility that, as disablement progressed, frequent re-examination and re-assessment would be required.
The House will observe that we have devised a rough-and-ready method which goes a long way to overcome both of these difficulties. We propose in the Bill a flat rate of payment equal to one-half of the rate payable under the 1951 Act for total disablement. This rate will apply to all cases of partial incapacity of a degree sufficient to attract a continuing payment under the old Workmen's Compensation Acts. I am quite sure that this is the only basis upon which this problem can be tackled. It means that a single medical examination will suffice in each case at any rate until the time comes, as unhappily it often does come, where partial incapacity becomes total.
Even with this rough-and-ready method of assessing cases, the introduction of the new scheme may well entail nearly as many extra medical examinations as the panels carry out in a single year under the Industrial Injuries Scheme. Clearly, in order to complete these examinations they will have to be spread out over a fairly prolonged period. Some cases will qualify right away. These are the cases where a claim under the 1951 Act has been rejected because the disability has not reached a total stage, but partial incapacity is in fact already established.
As regards the others, I hope to have discussions with the T.U.C. and other interested parties to see whether we can arrange some method of enabling the most deserving cases to be taken first. But as the task is bound to be prolonged, we have introduced into the Bill a provision which will be found in Clause 2 (2) which will enable payment to be made subsequently as from the date of application, even though the medical adjudication is delayed.
Hon. Members will remember that under the 1951 Act, in addition to the basic payment of 40s. a week, there is power to award increases for dependants and the supplement for unemployability. Hon. Members will like to know that even where only partial disability arises it will be possible to grant the unemployability supplement in exceptional cases and, where this is granted, to pay dependants' 33 allowances also. This is because under Section 13 of the Industrial Injuries Act unemployability supplement is payable where, as a result of the disease, the workman is incapable of earning more than £52 a year and is likely to remain so incapable.
The Bill also covers partial disability for the disease of byssinosis, but I should like to explain how it comes about that the Title of this Bill is not the sameas the Bill of 1951, which was called the Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Benefit Bill. This Bill has a Title which is more easy to pronounce—the Industrial Diseases (Benefit) Bill.
The reason for that is in part attributable to the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West. In the course of our discussions on the scheme under the 1951 Act, she drew attention to certain cases of skin cancers which are slow in developing. After she had drawn attention to them, I had some discussion with the T.U.C. which brought before me a number of cases of what are called mule spinners' cancer. It appears that there are two groups of these cancers. In the first place, there are cancers whose source is tar, pitch, mineral oil or soot, and they include the mule spinners' cancer. There are other cancers, mostly of the skin, caused by X-ray or radio active substances.
These are cases where the diseases manifest themselves very slowly and where the time may exceed that laid down for making a claim under Section 43 of the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1925. It is for that reason that we are taking a general power in the Bill for the future to make a scheme for any cases where it appears that there is late development, where one of the diseases scheduled in the Workmen's Compensation Act is concerned. That will enable any future Minister to make an appropriate scheme without having to come back to Parliament to obtain the necessary powers.
As regards the cost of the proposals embodied in the Bill, we estimate that in a full year it will impose a charge on the Industrial Injuries Fund of £750,000 for pneumoconiosis and a smaller sum, perhaps £50,000 to £60,000, in respect of other diseases. If we include the administrative charges of the various Bills and Acts which have been passed in order to deal with old workmen's compensation 34 cases, and the cost of which has been imposed on and has to be carried by the Industrial Injuries Insurance Fund, we find that, under the two Acts of 1951 and the Bill which is now before us, we shall have to put on that Fund an annual charge of something like £1½ million. That is a substantial sum.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether that is a continuing sum, or will it decline?
§ Mr. Peake
The right hon. Gentleman is quite right. Most of this charge in connection with cases under the two Acts and this Bill will tend to diminish as the years go by. But it is a substantial sum. I think it is also money very well spent. This Bill will do something to remedy a justifiable and long-standing grievance. It will provide some additional income where the wage earner has lost in the service of his industry part of his physical capacity to enjoy life and support his family. Above all, it will give some recognition of the misfortunes that these men have suffered, and an assurance that if their condition deteriorates they and their families will be entitled to a larger measure of security than they have enjoyed hitherto.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ Dr. Edith Summerskill (Fulham, West)
I propose to speak very briefly on this Bill, but I think I can say that my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), my predecessor in office as Minister of National Insurance in the Labour Government, and my hon. Friends will welcome this little Bill. I must confess that I am surprised that two years should have elapsed before this Bill was introduced, having regard to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman came to his office when these matters were under very active discussion. The Minister said that on the Second Reading of the Bill which I introduced before the General Election, it was said that the problem was insuperable. I do not recall that. I thought that what was generally agreed was that we should movetowards a solution.
The particular grievances which he says are of long standing and have been remedied in this Bill were under very active discussion between his Department and those people who are very much concerned. The grievance which the men felt was that they were not entitled to 35 benefit under the Workmen's Compensation Acts owing to the fact that their disablement was not manifested before the expiration of a certain time limit.
It will be recalled that in 1951 there was passed the Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Bill, which made provision for those who were totally incapacitated. Before the election, I said that I was not prepared to wait for a scheme which would embrace those who were partially disabled, because I thought that the men who were totally disabled had been waiting long enough. I thought it was said then that we would try to arrive at a workable scheme. That is why in my opening remarks I said to the Minister, and I say again, that I am surprised that two years should have elapsed when one thinks that the men suffering from this appalling disablement, this dust disease, have had their lives shortened. In my opinion, two years is too long a time for them to continue to wait.
However, the scheme has arrived and I think the approach has been the right one. In 1951, when I sat listening to hon. Members explaining the difficulties which would face us when a scheme was introduced, I found it difficult to arrive at a conclusion. Probably I was a little overwhelmed by the medical complications. I recognised that there would be certain degrees of partial disablement. There would be the man who had only part of his lung affected, whereas there would be another man with la more widespread disease. There would be those who were only a little short of breath, whereas there might be others who would be almost totally disabled; and we would be faced with a good deal of friction over compensation.
I am glad to hear the Minister say that, so far as the totally disabled are concerned, the medical panels have been able to deal with these cases. We were a little afraid that the medical panels would be swamped, so we welcome the information given by the right hon. Gentleman. I think the decision to give a flat rate of compensation is the right one. This will only do rough justice, of course, but that is the only solution to this extremely difficult problem. Whether the amount given is the right one, we can discuss in Committee, and my hon. Friends who are particularly interested in 36 this matter will then be able to consider it more fully.
Meanwhile, we welcome this Bill wholeheartedly, and may I ask the Minister at this stage to expedite the necessary business so that it may come into operation as soon as possible?
§ Mr. Peake indicated assent.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ Mr. E. H. C. Leather (Somerset, North)
For all of us who represent mining constituencies this is a happy occasion and I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for having allowed me at this early stage to give my thanks to the Minister. These weird diseases with long and complicated names which we have in mining constituencies are a deep, dark secret as a rule to the rest of the country. I find that outside the mining villages few people even know what pneumoconiosis is, and they find it difficult to understand why we in the House of Commons should be voting money to compensate men for something which may have happened 25 years ago.
Those of us in the mining divisions and in the mining industry know full well that when the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) spoke about "forgotten men" in the industry, he was not exaggerating, and that the problem has been a curse in the mining villages for many years. We had the 1951 Measure, just two years ago, which took care of the worst problems, the human wrecks brought about by mining. Now we have this Bill, which takes care of the people who are not complete wrecks but, unfortunately, nearly so, and we all owe a real debt of gratitude to the Minister.
Perhaps it is not quite correct to say that the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) complained, but she certainly commented about the delay of two years. That charge could be answered, but I do not want to answer it in this debate, because human suffering of this kind is not a party matter, and I do not want to make it such.
I want, however, to make two points to the Minister. The first is that we shall be interested in Committee to find out exactly how the flat-rate payment system will work. I appreciate that it is a kind of rough-and-ready justice, and I am prepared without much further consideration 37 to agree that it is probably the only practicable method, but I want to be convinced on that score before I commit myself entirely.
Secondly, I hope that the Minister will bring all the pressure he can on his colleague the Minister of Fuel and Power, because the more pressure he can put on that Ministry to bring about the prevention of these diseases, the more quickly we shall reach the solution and the sooner will my right hon. Friend be able to decrease his own budget. In that connection, I am glad to see my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power on the Front Bench. I shall be the happiest man in this House when my right hon. Friend is paying no compensation to pneumoconiosis sufferers at all because there are no longer any such people. It may be a long time ahead, but many of us feel that even more vigorous measures can be taken than have been taken up till now. Here I am on my favourite hobby horse of X-rays, the best preventative measure in lung diseases.
In thanking my right hon. Friend for this Bill, may I say that we now have a complete cover in the mining industry? I think the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown), who has many years of experience in the industry, will agree that the forgotten men in it have now all been taken care of, and that the last outstanding injustice has been removed. We who represent mining constituencies are grateful, and I am glad that it is my right hon. Friend who has been able to prove that the forgotten men are no longer forgotten.
§ 3.57 p.m.
§ Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)
Like all hon. Members in this House I welcome the Bill and I agree that a flat-rate payment is about the only way in which the Minister could deal with this problem. However, like a number of my hon. Friends on this side of the House, I would have liked to see a higher figure, and we shall want to discuss this point more thoroughly when we come to the Committee stage of the Bill.
The hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) has urged on the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power that a great deal more preventive work should be done in the mines in order to ensure that this disease. 38 which is prevalent in many areas, will in the future become rare. I support that plea.
There is, however, another angle which we should stress, namely, that much more work should be done in regard to research amongst those who have already contracted this disease. In Scotland we have only one small unit devoted entirely to research into pneumoconiosis. There are other hospitals where pneumoconiosis are treated, but our miners in Scotland feel that the unit in Bangour is the only one where real research is done. If greater research into the disease were carried out in hospitals in all the mining areas in Scotland, it would eventually help the Minister of National Insurance.
After the provisions of the last Act came into operation, I discovered that many of the older miners in my area were examined under that Act and then a number of them received the usual letter, which I can almost quote by heart because almost all of them brought their letters to me, which said that they were not totally disabled. Since I knew that in a short time we were to have this Measure, I wrote to the Minister to find out whether it would not be possible for the doctor who made the examination for the Board to say whether or not the man was suffering from pneumoconiosis, and the percentage of his disablement. At that time the Minister did not feel able to allow that to take place. Will all these men have to go before the Board again and be examined, or has some record been kept of the first examination and will that mean that without a long waiting period those discovered to be partially disabled will be entitled to benefit?
§ Mr. Peake indicated assent.
§ Miss Herbison
That is a very good thing indeed.
There is a further problem arising from this Bill. There is the case of the miner who is examined by his own doctor and is told that he is suffering from pneumoconiosis. Men so examined in my area are then examined in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary or Glasgow Royal Infirmary and after X-ray and careful examination the specialists there diagnose pneumoconiosis. The next step is for these men to go before the Pneumoconiosis Medical Board. Because of the report that they 39 have received from the infirmary these men are so convinced that they are suffering from pneumoconiosis that their expectation of benefit is very greatly disappointed when the specialist employed by the Board tells them that they are not suffering from pneumoconiosis. I know of many cases of this kind in my own village and many more in my constituency.
Very soon after I first came to this House, I raised this matter and I raise it again today because I feel that it is a matter that merits some examination by the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary. I know that it is not an easy matter. I know that it is difficult to come to a decision on medical problems, but I do not think that we ought just to sit back and say that the Pneumoconiosis Medical Board has the final decision. We ought to find out what causes these great differences in diagnosis. There ought to be greater research into the incidence of this disease.
I do not know how we could set about it, but if we could find some way of reconciling, for example, the diagnosis by a specialist in an infirmary with that of the specialist employed by the Pneumoconiosis Medical Board, it would do away with a great deal of the bitterness that sometimes arises in the minds of those miners who are turned down by the Board. We do not have many opportunities of raising these matters in this House and that is why I am raising this one in the debate on this Bill.
I feel that all our miners are now fully covered, and that is a very good thing indeed. Those who have suffered from this disease for a very long time have not only suffered from the disease but have also suffered because they felt that no one was interested in what was happening to them. The fact that this latest Bill will cover those who were left uncovered under previous Measures will do away with the feeling that there are people in whom no one at all is interested. For all these reasons, I welcome this Bill.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
Our debates in this House on Industrial Injuries Bills have recently tended to run almost to a predetermined pattern. Amongst a general atmosphere 40 of congratulation, an early feature of these debates is always a complaint from the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) as to the time lag in the introduction of the Measure. I have been refreshing my memory, as no doubt she has, on the terms which she used on the Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Benefit Act of almost exactly two years ago, when it was before the House as a Bill. If an unprejudiced person having read her words on that occasion had been asked to indicate what interval of time in her opinion was likely to elapse before a final solution of the problem could be put before the House, he would have estimated it at considerably more than two years.
For example, on that occasion she said to my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) that it would not serve a useful purpose for him to make the demand which my right hon. Friend has now been able to satisfy, and she spent one and a half columns of Hansard very clearly setting forth the difficulties.
§ Dr. Summerskill
I think that the hon. Member had better look at the one and a half columns. The Minister will not disagree that when he followed me in office he found that this matter was being discussed. I had given an undertaking that we would arrive at some plan. At that point I was trying to help the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather), and show the difficulties, but at no time did I say that it was impossible. The point that I want to make is that in 1951 we had already been discussing this matter for some months and now two more years have elapsed.
§ Mr. Powell
Yes, but I was drawing the attention of the House to the change in the right hon. Lady's sense of perspective. Instead of congratulating my right hon. Friend without reserve, she now lowers her sights and argues that this should have been done more quickly than she herself indicated when she went out of office.
Having complained of the right hon. Lady going back over her tracks, I propose to do so myself and to refer to 25th June last, when we were discussing the National Insurance (No. 2) Bill. I then pointed out that the actuarial prospects of the Industrial Injuries Fund were extremely obscure, and that in rather less 41 than two years we had on five separate occasions placed an additional annual commitment on that Fund of altogether about £1 million. Indeed, we heard today from my right hon. Friend that in one respect the additional commitments had in fact proved to be under-estimated.
On that occasion the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch), who is perhaps our greatest expert on this subject, went on to say that he shared my viewthat in years to come this Fund may get into a rather serious position,…."—[Official Report, 25th June, 1953; Vol. 516, c. 2128.]We ought to recognise today that in this Bill we are imposing a further annual commitment—though this will in the nature of things be a declining commitment—of £860,000; for the £60,000 for administration, although initially paid out by the Treasury, is recouped out of the Industrial Injuries Fund.
The additions which we have made to the charges on the Fund fall into two classes. There is one class where additional benefits paid out of the Fund are in respect of persons contributing to the Fund, persons covered by the insurance scheme in its full insurance sense. The other group of additional burdens have been ex post facto additions, where we have been using the Industrial Injuries Fund of 1946 to deal with cases from the past which arose under, and in some instances, before, the Workmen's Compensation Acts. Indeed, I think a case could be made out that this burden should not in strict logic fall upon the Industrial Injuries Fund but ought to have been borne by the public at large.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
This is very interesting. Is not what is happening that the Industrial Injuries Fund, which is the first fund to which the workmen have contributed for industrial compensation purposes, is bearing a burden which rightly belongs to the employer?
§ Mr. Powell
If there were any means practicable of jobbing back into the 1930s and 1920s and having a kind of Tabula Rasa so as to re-enact the Workmen's Compensation Acts with our present knowledge and present intentions, I would agree that that would be the perfect answer. But the contention I am making is simply that we are charging the insurance fund, set up and contributed to for one set of circumstances, with the task of blocking up holes in a past before any such fund existed.
§ Mr. Ronald Williams (Wigan)
How far does the hon. Member press that point? I follow it and I can quite see that it is right to call attention to it and to some of the consequences. I am not in the least hostile to the line of argument of the hon. Member, but how far is he pressing it—to the point at which he would oppose the Bill?
§ Mr. Powell
I think it will appear that my answer is "No." I am drawing attention to the difference between the two classes of burden which one can impose on an insurance fund, because I desperately believe in the importance of the insurance principle. In the end, if we are to use the insurance fund to benefit persons who have not contributed to it, a limit will be reached beyond which we shall have increasing demands that the insurance principle as such should be abandoned. I do not think we are anywhere near that point yet, but we ought to see as clearly as possible what we are doing.
We are in this difficulty with the Industrial Injuries Fund, that even now, on 23rd November, 1953, we have not got the Government Actuary's report—I think it is rather late this year—on the accounts for the year ended March, 1952. When I drew attention to these facts six months ago, the hon. Member for Bedwellty said that they belonged more appropriately to the quinquennial review. That, of course, is true, but we ought not to imagine that the quinquennial review is coming in the near future. It will be a full two years before the Government Actuary's report on the first five years' operation of the National Insurance Scheme is available.
§ Mr. Powell
The last financial year of the quinquennial period ends in March, 1954. We shall not get the accounts of that year until the end of 1954, and experience shows that we shall not get the Actuary's report on those accounts, which must be the basis of any serious review, until well on in the following year. I think that the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) will find that it will be a full two years before the quinquennial review of the working of the Insurance Scheme can seriously commence. We have to bear these uncertainties in mind and have them clearly in 43 view when we continue to impose further burdens on the Industrial Injuries Fund.
In case, however, the House, like the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams), should suppose that for that reason I am opposing this Bill, I wish to put two points to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary which, if he takes them, would in fact involve more rather than less expense.
The first refers to the allowance in respect of byssinosis. Under the 1951 Act, Section 2 (2), a person to qualify in respect of byssinosis under that Act and therefore—since this is an amendment of the 1951 Act—under this Measure, must have been employed for a period or periods amounting in the aggregate to not less than 20 years in an occupation being a prescribed occupation in relation to that disease. I ask my hon. Friend if he is quite sure whether that qualification of 20 years' employment in the relevant industries is still in line with the terms of this Bill and with the progress of medical knowledge in the last 15 years. The period of 20 years was written into the 1940 Act as a result of the Report of the Ross Committee, which reported at the end of 1938. In introducing the 1940 Bill, my right hon. Friend summarised the conclusions of the Ross Committee in regard to the qualifying period as follows:In advanced cases, where there is total incapacity after not less than 20 years' employment in the cotton room, blowing room or card room, taking into account industrial history as well as clinical evidence in a particular case, the question can be settled that the workman's disability was occupational."—[Official Report, 19th November, 1940; Vol. 365, c. 1874.]What I take it the Committee was there reporting was that where a case of total disability was found and the sufferer had been employed for 20 years, then, provided other conditions were fulfilled, there was justification for regarding the incapacity as due to his employment. What I want to put to my hon. Friend is that, now he is taking into account partial disability as a result of byssinosis—that is to say, a less severe affliction than that dealt with by the 1940 Act—it might be logical, although one would require thorough medical evidence to decide it, also to reduce the period of employment in those parts of the cotton industry 44 which was necessary as a basic qualification for enjoying the benefit.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
I am grateful to the hon. Member for raising this point, and I had hoped that the Minister would intervene, because I am not sure of the 20 years' period still being operative. There is the special difficulty in the cotton industry, which does not apply in the coal industry, of people leaving the industry to work on munitions and armaments and coming back to it. That is a very real and special problem.
§ Mr. Powell
I am obliged to the hon. Member, although in the terms of the 1951 Act the period which forms the qualification is not20 consecutive years but an aggregate period of 20 years however divided. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to make some reference to the possibility of reducing that qualifying period.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
I am very interested in this matter. On 22nd November, 1951, I moved an Amendment asking for a reduction to 10 years. It was true that we were discussing total incapacity and not partial incapacity but in the answer given by the Parliamentary Secretary I was told that research work had been done as recently as 1950. Is it fair to say that the hon. Member is accepting that that may be true for total incapacity but now we are dealing with partial incapacity, and can we not be relieved of the 20 years' bar there also?
§ Mr. Powell
Yes, indeed; my argument does mainly hang on the fact that the recommendations of the Ross Committee of 1938 related specifically to total disablement, and on those grounds I am asking that the matter might be looked at again.
Another point I wish to put is in regard to additional allowances. My right hon. Friend has informed the House that un-employability allowance may be payable in cases of partial disability now brought within the scope of the Act. I wish to ask him whether the special hardship allowance, which of course is given on different grounds, will be applicable. As this Bill brings partial disablement into view, the grounds on which the special hardship allowance is made, namely, the necessity for following a less profitable 45 employment than that before disablement, appear to arise. The special hardship allowance has since 1948 come to be a standing feature, a very much more predominant feature than was then anticipated, of the disability payments as a whole. I cannot help feeling that if the beneficiaries under this Bill are excluded from the possibility of special hardship allowances, they may be further below the modern levels of compensation for industrial disability than appears on the surface.
These are the two points of a positive character which I wish to put to my right hon. Friend. It only remains for me to add my thanks and congratulations to the others which have been expressed to him for bringing in this Bill.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Jack Jones (Rotherham)
At the outset of my very brief remarks, I should like to be one of those—no doubt there will be more—who congratulate the Minister on bringing this Bill before the House. If there is a Bill which is overdue it is this, and one is happy to see that a long-sufferingsection of the mining community are now to receive what they are entitled to, even though it be ever so belatedly.
Having said that, I wish to explore the meaning of the Bill and if possible to get the Minister to give us some assurance that when the regulations are introduced something definite will be done for those people who may be found to be suffering from this dread disease but who are in unscheduled occupations. The anomalies arising as a result of the Act, and indeed as a result of this addition to it, are a matter on which I wish to give one or two illustrations.
Appendix B of the Pneumoconiosis Report includes provision for men who are busily engaged in mining haematite iron or who are, as a result of their occupations, dealing with it after it is brought to the surface of the mine. There is, however, nothing in the Bill relating to the person who may suffer through handling the same type of material when it has left the mine or the place of production. I am very concerned about those persons.
I note that in Appendix B of the Report provision is made for the person who mines ganister clay or silica. I have mixed many thousands of tons of ganister in my time in the steel industry. Silica is 46 used more in the steel industry than in any other combination of industries in the country. Silica brick for the refractory is one of the primary requirements in the construction of a furnace. I know men who for years have been engaged in mixing silica clay, but they are not scheduled. They do not come within the terms of the original Act or, as I understand it, those of the Bill which we are discussing.
I make no complaint nor do I wish to raise complaints in any politically contentious way, but we have the coalminer, the man at the face, producing coal with the new methods of mechanisation, producing coal of less size, and with more dust, etc., who is scheduled; but his twin brother can be working in a steelworks, and if the coal which the miner has produced goes out of the mine and finds its way to a coke oven plant inside the steelworks he is not scheduled, although he can be suffering from the same disease as the miner. If the coal finds its way to a coke oven attached to a mine, the man handling it is scheduled.
We in the steel industry are concerned about this. We are not one of the "gimme" industries; we are not always crying out on the Floor of the House or in the country "Gimme this" or "Gimme that" or "Gimme the other." We are too 'busy producing steel, and doing a grand job. On this occasion, however, I am able to tell the House that my colleague the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Mort) and I are speaking for and on behalf of the industry as such.
Having read very carefully the interesting Pneumoconiosis Report, we find that my trade union gave written evidence of a substantial character. I have seen that evidence, and it proves beyond a shadow of doubt that in this country men can be and have been found to be suffering from this dread disease who have had the greatest difficulty in proving it. I haveread the Report, and I know that there is a dearth of medical specialists to deal with this dread disease, and that the Minister is anxious to prevent anybody who is not entitled to use the medical panels or the specialist boards from doing so. I hope, however, that we shall not be driven, as is suggested in the Report, to wait until a post mortem is held to decide that an individual was suffering from the disease.
47 I am exploring the situation and am asking the Minister if he will be good enough, when formulating his proposals and regulations, to give the points which I have raised serious consideration, and if at all possible bring them within the regulations so that those men, however few or many they may be, will have exactly the same recourse to the law and satisfaction from the law as their comrades in the great mining industry.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
I welcome this Bill. I think it true to say that the Minister, in the course of quite a long Parliamentary career, and in particular in this Parliament, is fast building up an enviable record for the number of Bills for social amelioration with which he has been associated or which he has personally introduced.
It has been said that we should in no way address any political views about this matter. I should be the last to do so. The question of delay has, I think, been dealt with quite effectively by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). I think it adds to the credit of the Minister that he has dealt with this problem with reasonable speed in view of the difficulties which were indicated not only by him when he introduced the other Measure in 1951 but also by his predecessor; he has not been slow with this supplementary Measure.
It has been said today that the position of the coalminer has been largely covered as far as we can see by the various Acts which have been introduced. In that connection it may be of interest to recall that the foundation of the modern welfare code if it may be so described, for coal-workers, is contained in the four most recent Measures—the Act of 1925, that of 1946, which displaced it, the Act of 1951, introduced by my right hon. Friend, and now this Measure, which we hope will be the Act of 1953, or at all events the Act of 1954.
It is noteworthy that of those four Measures three have been introduced by Governments of the party on this side—
§ Mr. Hale
Surely the hon. Member is in error, and in any event, as his party were in office for 18 out of 20 years between the wars, they must have been 48 responsible for most Measures passed in that time. But what about the Act of 1906, which was the foundation of the whole thing, on which a general election was fought, and which the hon. Gentleman's party fought against?
§ Mr. Gower
I should not complain if the hon. Gentleman or his friends would restrict their descriptions of the party on this side of the House merely to the small number of Acts introduced or delayed. I should not complain if they went around telling their supporters, "The only complaint we have against them is that they are sometimes a little slower in introducing their reforms and perhaps take longer to work out the details." What they generally say is, "They are incapable of such reforms."
I stress the point that, of the last four Measures since 1925, the basic Workmen's Compensation Act in that year, the Act of 1951 and this Measure are the Measures of this party in office. I acknowledge the Act of 1946, which was passed when the party opposite was in power.
§ Mr. Bernard Taylor (Mansfield)
Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House who was responsible for the impositions and limitations which this Bill seeks to remove?
§ Mr. Gower
I am not trying to develop a wholesale or widespread survey of the industry or industrial Acts, but I think what I have said is worth noting.
One point above all I must emphasise. More than the 1951 Act, this Bill will require the maximum publicity. I stress that to the Minister. In most cases these partially disabled men have left the district where they worked and the places where these matters are customarily talked about. I met one such person last summer in Gloucester, where he was watching a cricket match. He was one of the forgotten few. He had worked in the coal mining industry in South Wales in his earlier days, and had left that area to find the light employment which was the only kind of work he was capable of doing. It is admitted in the Explanatory Memorandum that there is anabsence of reliable statistics relating to persons who may become beneficiaries under the schemes.Not only are the Ministry uncertain of the number of people or who they may be, but it is probable that unless every 49 effort is made to attract their attention many will lose the benefits obtainable under this Bill in default of such knowledge.
I support the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West about the possibility of reducing the qualifying period. If the Minister cannot give a final answer now, perhaps this matter might be dealt with later. We are extending the provisions from complete to partial disablement, and it would be just as reasonable to extend the period. I am not so sure about the flat irate which has been suggested and supported by the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) and some of her hon. Friends as well as by hon. Members on this side. I imagine there will be some difficulty with regard to persons whose health may be described as between moderate and total disablement.
§ Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)
I hope the hon. Gentleman will realise that hon. Members on this side, while admitting the principle of a flat rate, are strongly against the amount of compensation proposed under such a principle.
§ Mr. Gower
I was not dealing with the amount so much as the principle. I imagine that men who qualify through partial disablement and are otherwise able to do a job of work will be pleased with the principle. I imagine it will not affect men who qualify because of total disablement. But the man who just fails to fulfil the description of total disablement may be the one about whom there will be complaint in the future. Could there not be some attempt made to grade these degrees of disablement? I appreciate the difficulties but hope that the question may be re-examined. It is my experience that any rough and ready rule usually has its disadvantages.
I note that of the 6,000 clinical examinations made by the panels under the 1951 Act, 3,300 awards were made for total disablement and 800 for death. I presume the rest of the cases were unsuccessful applications or applications which have not yet been concluded. I should like to know from the Minister which they are, because out of the 6,000 only 4,100 are accounted for. The Minister said that this new Bill may involve as many examinations as those now necessary under existing legislation. That of 50 necessity will throw a heavy burden on the existing machinery of medical panels. I wish to know whether it is proposed to increase or improve the facilities for medical examinations. Otherwise there will be a tremendous burden imposed on them and there may in consequence be an unreasonable delay in the implementation of the provisions contained in this Bill.
I disagree with the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams). What was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West did not in any way suggest to me that he was opposed to any part of this Bill.
§ Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)
I would ask the hon. Member why he thinks his hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) brought up the matter.
§ Mr. R. Williams
Since the hon. Gentleman has referred to me, may I suggest that in all fairness he would admit that the logical consequences of the argument deployed by his hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West was that we should be very careful about the fund, and therefore careful about the admission of further cases into it. It was an argument on restriction of admission of new cases, and not for the enlargement of the field covered by insurance. Therefore it was logical to say that that argument could be used against this Bill.
§ Mr. Gower
I cannot accept the logic referred to. The argument could equally be used to justify the setting up of a separate fund. Indeed, my hon. Friend went so far as to say that these finances should be met by the community as a whole. I suggest that he meant they should be paid by the Treasury through a separate fund. But I am quite satisfied that in itself these proposals need involve no unbearable burden to the fund. The problems will develop from retiring pensions and the increase in the age of the 51 population, and I think that the fund can quite easily bear some of the subsidiary improvements we are bringing in year by year.
§ Mr. B. Taylor
Do not let us be under any misapprehension. The Industrial Injuries Fund, from which it is proposed to pay this benefit, is entirely separate and distinct from the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, from which retirement pensions are paid.
§ Mr. Gower
What I intended to convey was that future problems primarily concern the National Insurance Fund rather than the Industrial Industries Fund. I think that such problems will be more capable of solution and control in the future that those correlated with retirement pensions and the administering of financial provisions for old age.
In conclusion, I would say that this is a good Bill. Despite our minor differences it is a Measure which has the support of almost every hon. Member, though I do not doubt that we shall have arguments about details, such as those which have already been referred to. One of the most important considerations is that the utmost publicity should be given to this Measure when it is placed upon the Statute Book. I hope that it will be possible for both sides to co-operate so that the Bill can be passed as quickly as possible for the benefit of those who are partially disabled, so that there may be no unnecessary delay in implementing its provisions.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Dr. H. Morgan (Warrington)
Let me be perfectly frank. I am most disappointed with this Bill. I deal with questions of industrial diseases almost every day of my working life. At the T.U.C. hospital there is a new research department on industrial diseases which is a magnificent gift from the Transport and General Workers' Union.
I thought that today we would at least have a somewhat expansive introductory debate on the question of industrial diseases with special reference to one industry, such as the mining industry. I should not have minded that; but this is a very narrow Bill which confines us to specific purposes, and I am disappointed with the whole matter. That is why I 52 took an early opportunity to speak. I will say a little now and reserve myself for an occasion when we can discuss this great question of the relationship of the worker, whether man or woman, to the industry in which he knows that he is taking a risk.
The whole subject is not one for a Royal Commission but for a week of Parliamentary debate. Even on the subject of pneumoconiosis alone, we can have a debate for a week and still not exhaust all the possibilities. There are many different aspects. I do not want to confine myself to one disease, but I must do so under this Bill. I cannot help that. I hope that this Measure is only a preliminary to a bigger Bill covering other industries. I see that my own Front Bench is getting a little big nervous, so I must stop. I do not want to incommode them in any way.
The amount of illness and the many deaths that can be attributed to the work which people are asked to undertake—I would not say deliberately but knowingly—for the sake of profit in industry are a perfect disgrace to this civilised nation. People are asked to sacrifice their lives. I say again that, while this Bill will improve matters to a certain extent, it really will not touch more than a fractional part of a great problem. We are simply playing with the subject, playing with the lives of men who go to work everyday with the knowledge that they may not come back or that they will come back with an increased disability through the inhalation of foreign matter.
§ Dr. Morgan
I agree with the Bill within its limited sphere. It is not a Bill which should be opposed, but it is very minor treatment of a great problem. It is like putting a plaster on a syphilitic patient; he ought to be treated for syphilis instead of having a plaster put on the ulcer on his leg.
I want the House to consider whether we are being fair to the workers in various industries—not only in the mining industry, though that perhaps is our most 53 important occupation. I want to know whether hon. Members think that they are doing justice to the men who daily risk their lives perturbed by the thought that they will have shorter lives because of their industrial occupations, and that their wives and children cannot have them for long because of the risks they take. This worry has a cruel effect on their general health.
I may be diverting a little, but I hope that I am not. I feel deeply on this subject because it is my life. In hospital, at the T.U.C., and with the various trade unions with which I am associated, I think of nothing else but the disability of workers. I sometimes look with disgust at a system of society which allows men to take risks without society doing everything in its power to safeguard the one consideration that a man values—his health, which he wants to keep at tip-top standard for the benefit of his wife and children.
This is a petty Bill, with one little benefit here and another there. It is a shocking state of affairs that men of our calibre—great, intelligent, well-educated men—should be debating a tiny part of the problem and running away from the main issue because we are afraid to tackle it for the benefit of those who work in industry.
This is a minor Bill which deals with a little piece of a big problem. I hope that at some time or other what I have said may cause some little stirring in the hearts of the great men of our country so that they will decide to make an effort to help those in industry who are sacrificing their lives day after day for the sake of giving us comfort and allowing us to have a satisfactory coal situation, which is of such great value.
§ Mr. Stan Awbery (Bristol, Central)
Before my hon. Friend sits down, may I ask him whether or not he is under a misapprehension about this Bill?
Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hopkin Morris)
That may be a debating point if the hon. Gentleman is called to speak later.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Fort (Clitheroe)
I am particularly pleased to follow the hon. Member for Warrington (Dr. Morgan) because, although I am not a doctor, I 54 have had a scientific training and I have therefore always been concerned with the problems of those who work in hazardous industries, underground or in the cotton mills or elsewhere, with which we are primarily concerned in the Bill.
I should like the Parliamentary Secretary, when he replies, to give us, as lay men and in laymen's terms, information about the progress of research work into the causes and therefore the prevention of the two classes of disease with which we are concerned today, pneumoconiosis and byssinosis. If he does that, I feel that we shall be beginning to collect the information, as laymen, which we shall need for what I hope will be the memorable review of this whole problem of industrial injuries when the Government Actuary reports on the working of the system, as he must do some time in the fairly near future under the provisions of the 1946 Act.
We shall have two matters to consider—first of all, the range of benefits and the form in which they are paid, on which some hon. Members are not too happy; and secondly, the scientific problems, to which the hon. Member for Warrington referred, and whether we are spending enough time and energy on research work towards preventing these diseases, which is a far more satisfactory activity than that of producing, every now and again, a few pounds to try to compensate those poor fellows who have lost their health as a result of their occupation. I remember from my visits to the Shirley Institute that they have been working on trying to prevent byssinosis by mechanical means, by boxing in the cards which are thought to be the main cause of the disease.
Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will put before us, as simply as he can and in terms which laymen can understand—so that we may put it before our constituents, who, like ourselves, are laymen—the present state of knowledge both from the medical point of view and from the point of view of the other scientific work which may be going on in this field. We have plenty of time this evening and it seems to me an excellent occasion for quite a broad review of these subjects on the fundamental theory of what we are considering today, in preparation for the great review to 55 which I, and no doubt most hon. Members, look forward in the future. We look forward to having those several days, to which the hon. Member for Warrington referred, when we can review the whole Act and its working next year.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)
To me, this is a very happy day—happy in the sense that I have lived to see the end of some work which I had the pleasure of beginning in 1922. I think I am the only Member of this House and, certainly, the only member of the Mine Workers' Federation left alive of the special committee which was appointed in 1922. We have worked down the years trying to impress Governments of the past and the Government of the day with the importance of meting out elementary justice to these unfortunate men in the mining industry.
This special committee started its work in 1922, and down the years representations have been made, strong points of view have been expressed, medical science has been brought to bear, analytical chemists have been asked—all these people with specialised knowledge of the various aspects of pneumoconiosis and byssinosis and other diseases have been brought into the problem; but it has taken us 31 years to bring this Bill about. The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) congratulated the Minister on what he had accomplished within a brief space of two years. If the hon. Member were to examine the annals of the history of legislation brought before this House and the many efforts which have been made from time to time by workers' organisations, his head would hang in shame, because Governments have failed to take notice of what has been said to them by experienced men representing the workers—men who had practical knowledge of the circumstances which they described.
We have travelled a long, hard road—a road which has been strewn with obstacles and difficulties. Some of the obstacles and difficulties have been real, some of them have been imaginary; but I suggest, with all respect, that some of the obstacles which we have encountered as we have been travelling along that road have been deliberately made to prevent 56 the worker from getting elementary justice. There was a time, a few years ago, when I began to think of what Dante said to Beatrice, "All hope, abandon…"I was beginning to abandon all hope that any good would come out of our representations when I was inspired by the words of Robert Louis Stevenson, who said:To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.That inspiration carried me forward. Today we have arrived—not on the mountain top of ecstatic joy but at something which will bring benefits to our men who have been neglected in the past and whose lives have been made a misery, physically, mentally and economically. I speak as I do because every week in my village I have seen them, broken in health and broken in spirit because somebody somewhere has failed to do that which is right.
Now we have the Bill, and my complaint about it is not the principle of a flat rate but about the amount—20s.—of partial compensation which will be paid to these men after they have waited for more than 30 years for elementary justice. To me the old formula of making calculations of partial compensation was bad enough, but if we were to apply that formula, which I criticised after the passing of the 1925 Act, any partial compensation to be paid to these men would soar high above 20s. Even on the Government's own figures, given last week, the 20s. ought to be 21s. 7d. because the spending power of the £ is now 18s. 5d.
I therefore cannot understand the mentality of the approach to this question. It is not the Minister's fault, nor the Parliamentary Secretary's fault; it is the fault of the permanent officials whose conception of the value of human life is too low. I challenge any hon. Member or any one outside the House correctly to estimate the value of a human life expressed in terms of £ s. d. It is beyond the wit of man to determine the value. Yet they now offer 20s.
I think I know the arguments which will be advanced by the Parliamentary Secretary. He will say, "Well, it is just half the difference between full compensation and partial compensation." Perhaps he will allow me to give him a formula which has just been worked out. Who are these men who are to get the benefits 57 of this Bill? In the main, they are colliers from the coal face, who were working there when wage levels were very low, or at their rock bottom—in 1922, 1924 and 1926. If these men had not had the misfortune to be overtaken by silicosis and had continued to work at the coal face, they would now be receiving £12,£13 and £14 a week, due to the improved economic conditions in the mining industry. Under the 1925 Act the formula adopted was to take the post-injury earnings, deduct them from the pre-injury earnings, and award half the difference. That determined the amount of partial compensation.
Now the Minister says, "We will give you £1 per week partial compensation, because you are partially incapacitated." If the old formula had been worked these men would have been entitled to £3, £4, or £5 per week compensation. While I do not disagree with the principle of a flat rate, I am wholeheartedly and strongly opposed to the amount of 20s. After these men have waited all this time for elementary justice they should be offered more than this paltry sum.
In his opening speech the Minister referred to schemes to be made. We all know that Regulations follow every enactment. What I want to impress upon the Minister and his Department as I have tried to do before—is that in in drawing up these schemes speed is absolutely essential. We cannot allow this procrastination to continue. If the Regulations are not brought in with speed many of the men who should receive the benefits mentioned in this Bin will be in their graves. The figures which the Minister gave today indicate the alarming speed of the death rate, in mining districts, of men suffering from silicosis. Every week without exception, from 1st January, 1953, up to last week, one, two or three men have died in my own district from the effects of silicosis. I beg the Minister and his Department to speed up the Regulations which will implement the Bill now before the House.
I should like to say a few words about other diseases which we have power to incorporate in the schemes. I make a special plea for the Minister to consider one or two diseases which have increased during the last few years. In 1946 I mentioned the disease known as Dupuytren's Contraction. On 3rd November of this year I mentioned it again. 58 It may not be within the knowledge of the Minister's Department, but those of us who represent mining areas come face to face with men who just cannot understand why they are losing their grip. We find that those men are suffering from Dupuytren's Contraction. There is nothing like a good grip of the hand when one meets a friend, but when a man is suffering from this disease he cannot shake his friend by the hand. That is a terrible thing.
Since I mentioned it on 3rd November I have received a letter from a man whom I have never seen in my life. I do not know him, but he is an old collier. He read in the newspaper that I had mentioned this disease. I shall read only part of the letter, which is dated 17th November, 1953, and comes from a mining village. It says:It was the best bit of news I have read for some lime being a sufferer from Dupuytren's Contraction of a finger of each hand for several years. You would understand the handicap I have been working under and am still working under, just to finish my time out. It won't be long before I retire after 56 years in the pits. Trusting that if it comes too late for me it will benefit others.There is the spirit of a man who knew that this Bill was coming forward. He did not adopt a selfish attitude. He manifested a good spirit, and said, "Well, if it does come and it does not fit in with my requirements it will benefit others." That is the spirit of some of our men who desire that this disease shall be scheduled for compensation.
The next disease that I want the Minister to consider is Reynaud's Disease. We have had many legal battles about this disease. We have tried to prove that it arises from occupation. We have tried to prove, I think successfully, to the minds of sensible men, that the machines which our men are now called upon to work in the pits and in the streets—such things as air compressed drills—have a tremendous effect upon the physical system of the user. I speak with a full sense of responsibility, as one who has used them.
If a man were able to stand erect and use a compressed air drill the effect of the vibration upon his body would not be as great as if he had to lie on his side to use it. The full weight of the vibration has its effect on a body which is in a peculiar position. I suggest that when the Minister draws up a scheme he 59 includes this disease, so that we can abolish all the legal expenses which have been incurred during the last few years.
Another disease which is increasing considerably is bovine tuberculosis. Many men in the meat trades suffer extensively from this disease. The Ministry may not know about it. Many insurance companies in the early days of the discovery of this disease paid compensation, because there were only a very few cases but, owing to the increasing number of men found to be suffering from it, insurance companies are refusing to pay compensation because the disease is not scheduled. I plead with the Minister to bring in his Regulations quickly. He has some very eminent medical men in his Department. I wish their speed was equal to their eminency. Then we could get things done much more quickly.
I hold in my hand here photographs relating to a disease suffered by men who are working in a particular pit very near to where I live. It took us from 1935 to 1940 to establish that this was an industrial disease and it is not even mentioned in the Schedule as a disease. It is described as "Kent itch." How does that arise? It is as well that hon. Members should know how these diseases arise. Some of them, including this particular disease, cannot be prevented. Those who suffer from it are men working 1,295 yards—not feet—below the surface. They are working in a seam which is two feet five inches high, that is 29 inches, and in water with a temperature of 112 F.
It is the water, overburdened with chlorides, plus the heat, that sets up that disease. It took us five years to establish the claim of these men for compensation. Is it right, honest and just that men should have to wait so long, when they are called upon to work for their living shut out for eight hours of the 24 from the health-giving rays of God's sunshine and when they are affected by their working conditions, and have to fight like the devil to get compensation?
We hope that the things we have complained about in the past and are complaining about today will be erased from the Department altogether, and that we shall at long last, and pretty speedily, ensure that the men who are entitled to justice shall receive it. I have said 60 before, and I repeat, 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 and bruised men, and that our job is to see that those who are wounded on the field of battle or are broken and bruised in industry shall be rewarded for doing their duty to themselves and families, to the State and to industry, and shall receive adequate compensation when overtaken by diseases and injuries.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)
Our duty is not only to see that those who are broken and bruised in the course of their avocations in British industry are properly provided for after accidents have occurred but, I would remind the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown), to take all reasonable steps to prevent the accidents from occurring in the first instance. I cannot expect to match the incomparable experience of the hon. Member in the mining industry and its human problems, which he has accumulated in the last 40 or 50 years. I shall content myself by making a few observations in connection with preventive methods, which I regard as complementary to the proposals in the Bill.
The Gracious Address from the Throne, on 3rd November, made a suitable and adequate reference to Measures which will be introduced during this Parliamentary Session of the character that we are discussing today. The words used were:Legislation will be proposed to revise, consolidate and extend the law on the safety, health and welfare of miners and quarrymen, to provide benefit for certain further cases of disablement from industrial diseases"—and so on. That was one of the most important statements contained in the Gracious Address from the Throne and I cordially and happily welcome this first Measure within that field. [Interruption.] Does the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) wish to say something?
§ Mr. Nabarro
If the hon. Gentleman considers that the Measure we are discussing today is lacking in importance perhaps he will go and tell those sufferers in the mining industry that he considers 61 it nugatory, trifling and of no value. Unfortunately he has little knowledge of the mining industry.
§ Mr. Hale
I lived for 30 years in a mining village and was solicitor to the South Derbyshire Miners' Association and still am to the Warwickshire Miners' Association. I have for more than 14 years been associated with the cotton industry. I do not know why I should have to suffer nauseating hypocrisy from those benches and from a single speech from the four Members on the Government side of the House who have been sufficiently interested to listen to this debate on the subject of this beneficial but very small improvement.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for intervening. No doubt his passion arises from his envy of the fact that my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side have been responsible, and will be responsible in the lifetime of this Parliament, for introducing at least three very important Measures, all of which bear on the health, safety and welfare of people engaged in the mining industry. Those three Measures are: the 1951 Act, which is referred to in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum on the front page of the Bill, the Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Benefit Act; the Bill which we are discussing today and, thirdly, a Measure of singular importance and of very great interest to the mining industry, a proposed revision of the long out-of-date Coal Mines Act, 1911.
Perhaps I may, as an aside, draw attention to the fact that the nauseating hypocrisy to which the hon. Gentleman has just referred is in extraordinary contrast to the fact that he and his friends sat in office purporting to represent 700,000 miners and their families, in this House, between 1945 and 1951, and made no attempt at all to remedy the archaic provisions of the 1911 Act.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not carry these asides too far from the Bill.
§ Mr. Hale
I want to deal with the main point of the very important remarks that the hon. Gentleman has made. I hope that he will remember the circumstances under which the Act of 1911 was 62 introduced, against the opposition of his friends, and after Senghenydd, one of the greatest disasters in the mining industry. I hope he will also remember that there have been a whole host of improvements and safety measures since that time.
The hon. Member for Oldham, West does not need my protection at all at the moment.
§ Mr. Hale
I am rising to a point of order to seek your protection. The hon. Member gave way to me in the presence of the House, and I dealt as briefly as I could with the point in an interruption, which the hon. Gentleman welcomed, yet in Hansard I am going to be criticised for having accepted an offer made by an hon. Member who gave way to me presumably on the ground that he did not like something that I said.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I should be continuously out of order if I endeavoured to respond to the quite irrelevant comments of the hon. Member for Oldham, West.
My hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) made a slight and passing reference to the important subject of prevention. The Measure before us deals with effects. It seeks to compensate those unfortunate persons whose injuries have resulted from their normal and lawful occupations. I suggest that we in this House spend far too much time legislating for effect and far too little time legislating for cause. Not only is it urgently necessary—and I understand that this is proposed during the present Parliamentary Session—drastically to overhaul the 1911 Coal Mines Act, but it is also necessary, if the Measure we are discussing today is to become really effective, to devote a great deal of attention 63 in the amended legislation on coal mines to that part of it which deals with the abatement of coal dust.
Forty-two years have elapsed since the following words were written in Section 62 of the Coal Mines Act, 1911. That Section says:In every mine, unless the floor, roof, and sides of the roads are naturally wet throughout,—Those words were written when coal was hewed manually. Quite clearly, if dust prevention is to be tackled energetically and comprehensively, it is urgently necessary that, in the forthcoming Measure dealing with the amendment of the Coal Mines Act, 1911, there shall be a very adequate and comprehensive revision of this Section which will place on the single owner and employer, the National Coal Board—
- (1) arrangements shall be made to prevent, as far as practicable, coal dust from the screens entering the downcast shaft; and, in the case of a mine newly opened after the passing of this Act, no plant for the screening or sorting of coal shall be situated within a distance of eighty yards from any downcast shaft unless a written exemption is given by the inspector of the division;
- (2) the tubs shall be so constructed and maintained as to prevent, as far as practicable, coal dust escaping through the sides, ends, or floor of the tubs…"
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
On a point of order. As I might subsequently wish to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I should welcome your guidance on the following point. Is the hon. Gentleman in order, or is he not, because it seems to me that what he is saying has nothing to do with the Bill under discussion and that all he is doing is indulging in self-advertisement.
I think that the arguments being put forward by the hon. Member were connected in some way with the provisions of this Bill, but I hope that arguments will be connected with the provisions of this Bill.
§ Mr. Nabarro
You must, of course, correct me if I am wrong, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I think I am right in saying that on Second Reading I am allowed to discuss what is not in the Bill as well as what is in the Bill, and the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), far from 64 seeking self-advertisement, is totally ignorant of anything that goes on in a coal mine.
§ Mr. Wigg
May I address my remarks, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, not to the coalmining industry—my knowledge of which is possibly more than that of the hon. Gentleman—but to my submission to you? With respect, if the hon. Gentleman can talk about anything that is not in the Bill, then, of course, he can talk about anything under the sun.
The hon. Member is entitled to discuss what he thinks ought to be in the Bill, and the general provisions of the Bill.
I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I am not sure whether this is a point of order or an intervention. Of course, the hon. Gentleman was not in his place when I began my speech. Indeed, he has been absent for almost the whole of this debate.
Order. I think that this sort of exchange might very well end, and that we should return to the Bill.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I am grateful to you, Mr.Deputy-Speaker, for the protection which you unfailingly afford me. If I may be allowed to continue my speech without these ribald interventions from hon. Gentlemen opposite, I would point out that the important thing to remember is that a Measure of this kind is rendered valueless unless there are complementary Measures assuring that adequate provisions are included in a general Statute, for abating dust in coalmines and any other places within industry where the dangers of pneumoconiosis and byssinosis can arise.
It is not only a matter of the Coal Mines Act. It is also a matter of the Factories Act, 1937, and in that connection Section 47, which deals with the removal of dust or fumes, must, in my view, be carefully considered by the Government to ascertain whether it is sufficiently strong in its present form. Section 47 of Part IV of the Factories Act, 1947, 65 lays down certain important provisions in regard to the removal of dust or fumes, and that Act is, of course, applicable to all sections of the cotton industry. Unless there is adequate strength in the 1937 Factories Act and suitable Regulations made, year by year under the Act, to ensure that improved methods and improved appliances for dust abatement are introduced into the cotton industry and into all other industries that come within the general scope of the Act, then a Measure of the kind we are discussing today, which deals only with effect, can be rendered practically valueless.
The hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones), who, I am sorry to say, has now left the Chamber, drew attention—
§ Mr. Nabarro
The hon. Member for Rotherham, who I am sorry to see is not at present in his place—no doubt he will return—drew attention to scheduled and unscheduled occupations. I would ask my hon. Friend, when he replies to this debate, to say what unscheduled occupations are now omitted, for it seems to me—
§ Mr. T. Brown
Plenty. A number of diseases in many industries are not yet scheduled for compensation.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Though that may be represented as being the case, by certain industries, it is not always supported by medical evidence.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Not always, by any means. After all, one can range over the whole of British industries and say that any sort of occupation which gives rise to fumes or smoke, or any matter injurious to the lungs, ought to be a scheduled occupation. There is considerable doubt in the medical world whether many of these occupations ought to be scheduled.
I ask my hon. Friend to tell us what method is adopted in adding to the scheduled occupations, and whether any of the major industries of this country that gives rise to fumes, dust, smoke and other causes of lung afflictions are, in fact, outside the scope of scheduled occupations. This ought not to be a matter of surmise. It ought to be supported by medical evidence that there is 66 reasonable ground for so scheduling on account of dust and fumes. There is not supporting medical evidence, in every instance.
Finally, I want to say a word about the application of radiology in this field. I mentioned earlier the need for strengthening the Statute for the prevention of dust and fumes, not only in coalmines and quarries, but in many different industries. I would like to know from my hon. Friend the frequency of radiological examination by mobile units of the workers in those industries already scheduled. What is the percentage of workers in those industries who have already been examined by these means? What is the general outcome of these examinations, and what plans have the Government in hand for extending them to the whole field of those industries which are generally scheduled within these Acts?
I have devoted the greater part of my brief comments to matters arising from preventive measures that ought, in my opinion, to be taken in the future. I stress that in doing so I am mindful of the fact that there is far too much attention paid in this House to trying to cure the ill effects of industrial hazards and far too little to curing those hazards at the source.
§ Mr. Wigg indicated assent.
§ Mr. Nabarro
For once, the hon. Member for Dudley finds himself in agreement with me. In making that statement, I hope I shall carry with me those hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House who have any knowledge of industry.
Finally, I congratulate my right hon. Friend in introducing, during this Parliamentary Session, the second of the important health, safety and welfare measures on behalf of industrial workers, as a whole, who were forgotten by hon. Gentlemen opposite during their six years of office. I look forward with great interest to the terms of the third, and major. Measure, which will be a revision of safety, health and welfare measures to amend the Coal Mines Act, 1909.
§ Mr. B. Taylor
Will the hon. Member tell the House what the last Government did in one particular respect, that is, the pre-1924 cases? That was no mean 67 measure in making more adequate payments to those men who, up that time, had been forgotten.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I respond to that point by saying that it was a minor contribution to the whole problem. This Measure before us today could have been introduced some time ago.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Williams (Wigan)
I do not think that, in all the time I have been in this House I have listened to a speech which more clearly demonstrated that the speaker had not read and considered the Bill he was talking about than that of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), who has spent quite a long time dealing with matters that he should know are not within the scope of the Bill. I quite agree that the subject of safety is very important, so important, indeed, that I have had the privilege of personally devoting far more time to it than has the hon. Member or most of his colleagues. I have, on the other hand, a sufficient knowledge of this present Bill to be able to deal with it rather than speak on some other subject, as, I assume, the hon. Member for Kidderminster did because he found himself in some embarrassment in dealing with this Bill on its own merit.
§ Mr. Nabarro
The hon. Member is gravely lacking in knowledge of Parliamentary affairs if he thinks me out of order in talking about matters not in a Bill on a Second Reading speech. It is perfectly in order. Everything I had to say was, of course, directly apposite to the subject of the Bill.
§ Mr. Williams
Since the hon. Member chooses to express himself in such a way as to indicate that he has not read the Bill and is an infant on this subject, I am obliged, most reluctantly, for a few moments to take him by the hand and to tell him, and the House, what this Bill is about. Knowing that, despite the thunder with which he addresses the House on occasions, he is basically a very friendly and fairminded individual, I know that once it is pointed out to him what the Bill is about he will, although perhaps with the change of colour which I note on looking across the House, if only from a sense of shame, say to himself, "Next time I go into the Chamber I will read 68 the Bill before addressing my colleagues on it."
This Bill, quite rightly, is not concerned with questions of safety at all. It is concerned with an aspect of the law relating to industrial injuries. It is intended by the Minister and by the Government, and is so understood on this side of the House, to be a Measure which accepts, as a fact, a situation in existence in this country today, and a situation which will be there whatever preventive measures might be adopted in relation to future circumstances.
That situation has arisen, we consider, very largely because for so many years this subject was bedevilled and poisoned by principles of commercialism, which the Labour Government, when in power, set aside as far as was possible by the introduction of the legislation upon which the present Government are now building. The present Government themselves have been convinced that the steps taken by the Labour Government in taking this out of the field of commercialism, with all the difficulties and heartbreak which resulted from that commercialism, were right. They now seek to take credit upon themselves because they are carrying on, in a "lame duck" sort of way, the great work started by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and his colleagues, when in power.
I can assure the hon. Member for Kidderminster, and the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) that, having had a generation of experience of the most intimate kind in dealing with these affairs of the mining industry, I can say that if they attempt to make this a party issue they are starting with a terrible disadvantage. I can assure them that if they are more modest in their claims and say, "After all, these wretched Socialists were right. This is not a matter which should be based upon commercialism, it is something which should be based upon the attitude of providing a right to someone who, as a citizen, is contributing in industry to the production of this country," then that disadvantage will perhaps not be so noticeable. That is an entirely different concept, but, when we were bringing in that new principle, we found that such a mess had been created by our predecessors that the problems, at first, seemed to be completely insuperable and insoluble.
69 In this particular case representations had been made for years before the hon. Member for Kidderminster and the hon. Member for Barry were out of their schooldays. Those representations were made upon these points year after year, and we take joy in congratulating the Minister, because he is doing something for which we have been pressing for so many years. We recognise, too, that the Minister has had his difficulties in dealing with the complexities of this matter, but this situation has been created by commercial complexities, not by any complexities which could possibly have arisen had this been a social service years before it was.
I am a little dismayed by what might have been an innocent remark on the part of the Minister, but one which might be used as an alibi. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will reassure me when he comes to reply. I find it necessary, when I pat the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary on the back—not too hard—to kick some of his colleagues in the pants, but I hope to be forgiven for that because they made some outrageous observations. The Minister did say that, if given the good will of all concerned, he could get over the three difficulties to which he referred. Well, he has the good will of all concerned.
Surely, by now, he will have taken his own measures and made his own inquiries throughout the length and breadth of industry to see if there are any real objections which would make it difficult for him to go forward. I should have thought that, while it was right for him to say that at an earlier stage when this Bill was in contemplation, now that the Government have come to the point when they introduce a Bill to deal with the subject and contemplate that a scheme will be brought into operation to put into effect the principles of this Bill, the Government are now satisfied that they have the good will of all concerned.
This being a complicated problem, admittedly a small part of a very big problem, it was right, I am sure the Minister will agree, to proceed, first of all, by dealing with the total and fatal cases, because of the more difficult administrative problems which face us in dealing with the question of the partial cases. Now at last we are in a position where we can do something about the 70 partial cases. But I would ask the Minister to remember that there are many other problems. I do not share the view of the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) that this Bill solves all the problems; it merely adds another little piece to the picture. There is a lot more to be done. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) made a most dangerous speech. I would be the last to question the sincerity of any speech made by him, but the emphasis in his speech, for all his reservations, was "Watch the fund; be careful about the fund. There are other cases to be borne in mind, and a precedent will have been created by raiding this fund for persons who are not covered by their own insurance contributions."
That argument, carried too far, could lead to very grave injustice, because it has now become largely irrelevant to talk about these funds. The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance dare not make a major change in the law relating to industrial injuries or National Insurance without consulting the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We know that it is a matter which is now so closely related to budgetary policy, that this question of accounting for certain things in respect of certain isolated funds has become very old fashioned. It would be a shocking argument to use as a refusal to grant a legitimate claim.
I think the approach should be along a different line, and that is why I say that the Minister has a precedent here. He can say, "We have here a class of case which was left out of industrial injury payments altogether; we have brought them in, not at a level which would provide justice for all but at a low level, and we have provided a rough and ready sort of justice with a flat rate principle coming into operation which will please some while creating great hardship in other cases." But still the Government have, not for the first time, said, "Here is the field of industrial injuries; here are cases which are not covered. We want as many cases to be covered as possible. We want as many cases to have the full benefits of the new scheme as possible."
As to the amount which is being paid, I share with my hon. Friends the dismay that it is so small. But the Parliamentary Secretary and his right hon. Friend are, 71 after all, members of a Government which has found good reasons, so they claim, for providing reliefs and advantages for Super-tax payers. They claim also that they are sincerely concerned with the people who are injured in industry. I will only press the point as far as this, that it would not be difficult for such sincere and well-intentioned men to find arguments in favour of increasing these amounts. I recognise that the timing might be difficult and that they might say, "If, instead of having 20s. in this Bill, we had 30s. or 40s. we would run into difficulties in relation to other compensation cases and other benefit rates, and therefore the question of the amount of the rate, although it appears to be a simple one, is very complicated and we must look at it." But I say to them: For goodness sake look at it and do something about it, and help these injured men to get real compensation.
I have been making a great fuss about this subject for many years. I shall go on until, looking over the field as a whole, I can say that the injured man has been put in as good a position as he occupied before the injury, so far as that can be done by money payments. We have not got anywhere near that position yet, but we are taking a tiny little step in that direction for a most deserving class of case and for persons who have waited very long for the little that they are getting under this Bill. With those qualifications I welcome the Bill; I compliment the Minister, and I hope that he will at once get on with the job of seeing how much more he can give in these deserving cases.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Finch (Bedwellty)
I join with my hon. Friends in welcoming this Bill. If a history were written on the efforts that have been made to compensate people suffering from pneumoconiosis, particularly in the mining industry, it would be seen clearly that every piece of legislation that has come before the House since 1928 has been marked by restrictions and qualifications which have resulted in many men being left outside the provisions of compensation for pneumoconiosis. That feature has run through all the legislation since 1928.
72 While I agree that the Minister must feel some pride in bringing forward this Bill, I would remind him that as far back as 1943 we on this side of the House met the right hon. Gentleman and discussed this very point, but at that time the responsibility lay with private employers and insurance companies and he was faced with the difficulty that he could not make an Act of Parliament in respect of compensation retrospective. He would have had to go to the insurers and the employers and say, "Can we make you liable for the payment of compensation for a man who left the industry five or six years before?"
Therefore, although we made strong representations to him then to bring in legislation to provide for the payment of compensation for men who had left the prescribed occupation in the industry more than five years previously, he was not able to do so. What he was not able to do under the Workmen's Compensation Act he is now able to do under the Industrial Injuries Act. He is able to do it because there is a fund at his disposal. The matter is no longer the responsibility of insurance companies and employers. He is able to look around to see what funds he has at his disposal, and he can say, "I can meet this liability." With a considerable amount of pride, he brings forward this Bill which, as I have said, we heartily welcome. But I wish to repeat that we are having this Bill because we have got an Industrial Injuries Fund. We would not have had these benefits under workmen's compensation.
I would draw the attention of the Joint-Parliamentary Secretary to the payment that has already been referred to by other hon. Members. I agree that a flat rate is the best way of dealing with the matter, but the question of the amount arises, and one of the difficulties that we shall experience as time goes on is that of the varying rates which are paid under these different pieces of legislation. We have the Workmen's Compensation Act with its £2 10s. for a man and wife, and there is £2 under the Workmen's Compensation Act supplementary scheme of 1951, with a payment of partial compensation based on the difference in earnings. Then there was the scheme of compensation for pneumoconiosis at £2 a week for the totally incapacitated. Now, this 73 present scheme is to provide £1 a week as a flat rate for the partially incapacitated.
§ Mr. Finch
I was coming to that. I was pointing out that because of the varying rates, the various Acts of Parliament will be very complicated. The Bill proposes a flat rate of £1 a week, another Act is based on half the difference between pre- and post-accident wages, and then there is the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, with assessment of disability at 10, 20 or 50 per cent., as the case may be.
I should have thought the Minister would have said something about hardship allowance in view of the fact that the rate proposed under the Bill is a flat rate of £1 per week, while the payment for total incapacity under the Workmen's Compensation Act is £2, which is the figure under various other Acts of Parliament. In the case of the Industrial Injuries Act, it is 55s. I should have thought that the Bill would have fixed a figure of half the 55s., which would be £1 7s. 6d.; 55s. is the present recognised payment under the Industrial Injuries Act. I hope that in the Committee stage we will be able to convince the Government of the desirability of raising the amount to£1 7s. 6d.
Clause 2, which refers to partial incapacity, says:the restrictions which maybe imposed by a scheme in respect of the persons to whom benefit is payable under the scheme in respect of their disablement shall include restrictions relating to the nature or degree of disablement…I shall be glad if the Parliamentary Secretary will explain what that means. The House will remember that under the Industrial Injuries Act, when a man comes before a medical board for assessment in respect of pneumoconiosis, he is assessed at a percentage; it may be five, 10, 20, 30 or 40 per cent., as the case may be. Is there a similar intention under the Bill? If so, I cannot see how the £1 flat rate will apply. I assume, therefore, that some standard is to be laid down as to what is meant by "partial incapacity." Is the standard to be only 50 per cent.? We should like more information about it.
74 Then under the Workmen's Compensation Act, a man comes before a medical board and is certified to be either in the early stages of pneumoconiosis in a moderately advanced state, or totally disabled. Under the Industrial Injuries Act a man is given a percentage of assessment. What is a workman to be given under the Bill? We should like these aspects to be clarified.
Then there is the question of persons who are left out of the Bill altogether, but who are working in occupations which, we contend, can at some time give rise to the disease. There are persons employed, for instance, in by-product plants, coke oven plants, and "Phurnacite" plants connected with the mining industry who are not under any pneumoconiosis scheme. It was said that we have come to the end of the road, but that is not exactly true.
There are many workmen who are inhaling coal and silica dust who are not receiving compensation and have no hope of getting it, unless provision is made for them either by regulation or by means of a Bill. In the Committee stage, we shall want to know whether a Clause cannot be inserted whereby men working in those occupations and processes may be included. My hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams) and I gave evidence before a Committee which considered the problem and we had the support of medical gentlemen to show that pneumoconiosis could arise in a number of occupations not directly connected with mining. I hope we may have an undertaking from the Parliamentary Secretary that these other categories will be included.
We welcome the Bill, which brings us towards the end of the road of the great problem of pneumoconiosis. As far as mining is concerned, we have been travelling the road since 1928. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) has said, the road has been very long. It is strewn with men who have suffered extreme hardship from the lack of any payment when they have been disabled from this disease. All these years we have been fighting this problem. There used to be a three years' clause, amended later to five years, but it was not until my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) introduced the Industrial Injuries Act that the qualifications of years were abolished.
75 What we are doing today should have been done years ago under the compensations Acts. I hope that we will now complete the job. We can finish it during the Committee stage by embracing all those occupations in which it has been shown that the disease can arise. Having done that, we can complete the great task of giving compensation or some measure of redress to any workman who is declared by a medical board to be suffering from pneumoconiosis.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)
There is really noneed to congratulate the Minister on introducing the Bill. He should congratulate himself, because he has been extremely fortunate in finding on his table several Bills which were already drafted before my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) left the Ministry. The present Minister has found investigation in progress on a number of other matters which have formed part of subsequent legislation.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. R. H. Turton)
Is the hon. Member suggesting that my right hon. Friend found this Bill drafted when he arrived at the Ministry?
§ Mr. Houghton
Not this Bill, but when the Minister went to the Ministry he found that work on the Bill had already been begun.
The Bill would not be possible unless the Labour Government bad completely changed the principle of compensation in the 1946 Act. The Bill deals wholly with the past, as did the Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Benefit Act, 1951. This is an attempt to clear up the inadequacies of the havoc left behind by the workmen's compensation legislation of past years.
§ Mr. Powell
No doubt the hon. Member will go on to mention that the 1946 Act, in turn, implemented the White Paper of the war-time Coalition Government.
§ Mr. Houghton
I am not denying that this proposed change in the principle of compensation was not the original thought of the Labour Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I also admit that 76 the trade union movement were by no means united on that change. In the evidence given by the Trades Union Congress to the Beveridge Committee there is a very strong bias in favour of retaining the responsibility of the employer in industrial injuries and disease. What I am saying is how wise and courageous were the Labour Government to decide upon that change, despite the divided councils of the trade union movement and despite also the support of the Conservative Party.
The changes now being brought about are possible only, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) has said, because we have changed from the principle of compensation: the responsibility is no longer that of the employer. One readily understands what difficulties would arise if we tried to fix the responsibility for compensation in these cases upon individual employers, backed. as they used to be, and as they would be, by wealthy insurance companies who would fight every inch of the way. I think it should be known to those who will benefit from this Bill, and who have already benefited and who will get benefit from its predecessor, the Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Benefit Act, 1951, that it derives directly from the principal Act for which the Labour Government were responsible.
The Minister, in introducing this Bill today, did so in what was, I thought, a minor key. I want to take him back to the "trailer" he gave to this Bill in the debate on 23rd July this year when, the House will remember, we were discussing on a Supply Day, for the second time, the consequences of the lapse of Section62 of the National Insurance Act. The right hon. Gentleman then announced that be was taking certain steps which, he said, would have a beneficial effect upon those who might otherwise be adversely affected by the lapse of Section 62. It is true that my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), with his passion for constitutional propriety in this House and its Committees, did put some difficulties in the way of the Minister's being frank with the Committee of Supply and saying he intended to introduce legislation, because apparently it is out of order on a Supply Day to refer to the introduction of legislation.
77 Anyhow, the right hon. Gentleman said:My announcement should give some cause for rejoicing in the coalfields, and particularly in South Wales. I hope that it will be duly reported to the conference at Porthcawl, about which we heard something in the course of this debate."—[Official Report, 23rd July, 1953;Vol. 518, c. 657.]I want to ask the Minister what he estimates to be the beneficial effect of this Bill upon partial disablement cases, particularly in South Wales, whose exclusion from extended unemployment benefit was the subject of complaint in this Chamber on 23rd July. He referred to the fact that the greater number of cases that existed were in the South Wales coalfield, so I presume that he will have something to say—and I am surprised that he did not say it—about the advantage that this Bill will give to men in South Wales and elsewhere who were on extended unemployment benefit and to whom, presumably, the provisions of this Bill will apply. He referred in his speech to the unemployability supplement which could be payable in certain cases for men qualifying for benefit under this Bill, so it should be possible for him to tell us that some of the hardship which the lapse of Section 62 of the National Insurance Act has caused will be ameliorated when this Bill takes full effect.
There was a question asked by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) about the special hardship allowance. It was not replied to at the time by the Minister, but I thought I discerned a negative shake of the head. The House would like to know whether the special hardship allowance as well as unemployability supplement will apply to men covered by this Bill. We all understand what the unemployability supplement is and what it is intended to be compensation for, but there are already many men under this Bill who have been prevented from following their regular occupations on account of their disablement who may not be entitled to unemployability supplement but whose increased earnings will, in many cases, be markedly lower than those they did have, or could have if they were able to continue their regular occupation. I trust we shall have some information about that.
We welcome the provisions of Clause 1 of the Bill which allows the 78 Minister to extend the scope of schemes beyond the limitations prescribed in the Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Benefit Act, 1951. I heard him refer to what is known as spinners' cancer, upon which, I do know, he has received very strong representations from the textile unions and from the Trade Union Congress it self. I understand the T.U.C. have impressed upon the Minister how strongly they feel about the need for devising a scheme covering spinners' cancer, and I trust we can be assured that something quite definite will be done about that.
As regards the amount of the allowance, I fully recognise, as my hon. Friends do, that the 20s. is presumably related to the 40s. in the 1951 Act Full compensation for total disablement has since been increased. It was 45s., if I remember rightly, under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act at the time we passed the Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Benefit Act. We have since increased the 100 per cent, compensation under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act to 55s., but no consequential improvement was made in the 40s. payment provided for in the 1951 Act, and the 20s.—and I accept the flat rate as being the most convenient method of administration in these difficult cases at this time—is no doubt fixed by reference to the 40s. in the Act of 1951. Although any increase in the amount in this Bill might involve a consequential increase in the amount in the previous Act, surely that increase is already justified by the increases made in the total amount of compensation under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, and I do hope that the Minister will be able to look at that again.
All these improvements are naturally welcome to those of us on these benches, who do understand, perhaps, a great deal more than hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite about this deeply human problem. I think sometimes that the rather irrelevant speeches that we listen to from hon. Gentlemen on the benches opposite on these subjects are due to their lack of knowledge of the subject we are talking about plus their desire to make some sort of a show when a Bill of this kind is being debated in this House. I think that is the only explanation of the speech made by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro).
79 The hon. Gentleman the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) began to retread the past and got into difficulties as to who was responsible for what, but at least we can all agree on this, that after the Whigs and Tories had been in office from time immemorial, at the turn of this century—and many of us were born about that time—the only two features of social security then were the Poor Law and workmen's compensation. I do not suppose that the hon. Gentleman would say that the Conservatives introduced the Poor Law. All they did was to find ways of administering it harshly. I think it must be conceded that Disraeli was responsible for the introduction of the first Workmen's Compensation Act, though I should be quite happy to be contradicted.
§ Mr. Houghton
I am comingrapidly up to date, because surely there need be no apologies on these benches for the great measures of social change and welfare which were introduced during the period of the Labour Government. It ill becomes hon. Gentlemen opposite to chide us for not having done anything in six years. Many first priority Measures had to be undertaken when the Labour Government came into office in 1945. First of all, the nation's economy had to be re-established after the most devastating war of our time. It was not possible to do everything in the short time available, and still less was it possible to bring about changes such as are proposed in the Bill until the main framework of the Industrial Injuries Act had been properly established and the scheme was working satisfactorily.
We commend the Bill to the House, but that does not mean that we need smother the Minister in congratulations and testimonials for the human spirit underlying it.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
I promise not to take up too much time, because I know there is a tentative arrangement that at about 80 7 o'clock we may be able to proceed to other business.
Normally debates on Bills of this type are very equable. Having sat throughout the whole debate so far, I must blame the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) for having intervened at all and particularly for having intervened in the way he did. It is unusual to have an atmosphere of that type engendered in such a debate. The Bill has been drawn quite narrowly and it has nothing to do with the Coal Mines Act, 1911. It is in response to a promise which was made as a result of protestations to the Minister and to his predecessors. We all understood this to be the case, and we are very glad to have the Bill.
Two years is not a very long time when we realise that if we had not had the parent Measure, the Industrial Injuries Act, and the Fund now associated with it—which I presume is running at about £100 million at the moment, for it has been gaining at a rate of £16 million or £17 million a year, in spite of the extra payments which have been made—the difficulties of the Minister would have been excessive and he could not have produced the present Measure in 20 years. That shows the advantage of being able to inherit a decent piece of legislation and money with which to play about.
Money has been paid out—my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) made this point in 1951—which it should really have been the responsibility of the original employers to find. Just as the men we are talking about are said to be forgotten men, so the employers are lost employers and we cannot get any money from them. What is happening is that present-day workers and present-day employers out of their own contributions honour an obligation which it is not theirs legally or morally to honour, and we are very grateful to them for it. The whole House has reason to be satisfied that we can now discuss legislation of this kind so easily and simply and that we take it as reasonable that compensation should be paid and that the net should be thrown so widely that we do not now have constituents coming to us and saying, "We are still suffering from an injustice. What will you do about it?"
The long Title of the Bill refers to 1925. In that year there was no compensation 81 for anyone who was suffering from a respiratory disease of this type. We have made a great step forward since those days, and as a legislature we need not be ashamed of comparing what we have achieved with what has been achieved by any other legislature in the world. Although I have said that, the Minister should not think that everything is straightforward.
Before I criticise the Bill, I wish to refer to the question of the prevention of this type of disease. Prevention itself is not unassociated with the payment of awards to men who are affected by disease. In 1926 and 1927 no compensation was payable to pottery workers suffering from silicosis. At that time in the southern part of Stoke-on-Trent, where fine china is better made than in any other part of the world, the porcelain was placed on a bedding of ground flint before being put into the oven for firing. Men called flint bedders placed the ware in the containers before they went into the ovens. Silicosis, sometimes accompanied by tuberculosis, was rife among those workers, and they got it early. It was very rarely that a man worked 10 years before suffering appreciably from silicosis, and he was lucky if he was alive after 20 years of that work.
When it was found necessary and desirable to pay compensation to men who suffered in this way, the employers examined their processes. They found that this process was very expensive because of the compensation which had to be paid, very often at the full rate, and within two or three years it was found possible to replace the powdered flint with aluminium hydroxide or alumina, which is absolutely harmless. As a result of the employers being forced to pay compensation to men who underwent this hazard, almost overnight the disease was wiped out in the fine china industry and there is now no silicosis problem in Fenton and Longton or wherever else porcelain is manufactured.
Let hon. Members not forget that whether we are dealing with a Government Department, a private employer or a nationalised industry, the worker is the most important part of it and must always be most carefully considered, and if any organisation dares to injure him through carelessness, the first thing to do is to force it to pay compensation, for that may result in improvements.
82 If I understood the Minister aright, he drafted Clause 1 (2) so that he might include other allowances, such as that for mule spinners' cancer. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will make that point clearer later. My hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) is never tired of speaking about the crippling condition, Dupuytren's Contracture. That affliction might well arise after a man has left his occupation. I should like to know if that disease might be dealt with under the Bill.
§ Dr. Stross
If it is, I shall be the first to give my hon. Friend credit for having drawn attention to it by referring to it so often in this House. There is also penicillin allergy. Persons may become so sensitive to penicillin during nursing that they become allergic to it, and this may not be recognised until they have left nursing. I think that these are points worth mentioning, and in a moment or two I hope to have the Minister's agreement that many of the things which we feel ought to be brought in may come under the legislation or regulations which are at present being contemplated by the Department.
For example, we received a promise that injury by process would be looked at, and that a form of words would be found to be put in a Bill so that conditions like Dupuytren's contracture might be considered injury by process, and whereby we could cover many of the things that are outside the scope of present-day legislation.
Moreover, I would point out that the Minister told me last week and in answer to a Question today—Question No. 1 on the Order Paper, put by one of my hon. Friends—about the draft legislation which he is to bring forward quite soon to cover all cases of men who suffer from pneumoconiosis, irrespective of whether their occupations are scheduled or not. Once we get that, and these draft regulations are in force, we shall not have to look to other means of doing justice to such men not included in this particular Bill, and therefore we need not worry too much about their not being included.
That is the way I see it. If I am wrong, I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will tell me that we can have these two things, injury by process brought back in the parent Bill, and if the Minister's 83 promise is kept, as I know it certainly will be, that we shall have the new regulations before this House within a few days. If, further, we can have similar regulations brought forward to cover men who are liable to poisoning in the new industrial processes which tend to arise, and which bring new problems with them, even though he puts the onus on to the worker, as he will undoubtedly do in these new draft regulations, we shall not mind so long as we get comprehensive cover. We can then see that every human being is covered in some way when he is rendered ill or crippled as a result of his occupation.
I hope that the Minister is right in saying—if I may say a few words about money—that this will cost only about £800,000 a year. I should have thought that there were too many of these cases about. When we discussed this on other occasions, I remember that the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) spoke in terms of 30,000 or 40,000 totally incapacitated people, and I suggested that only one-tenth of that number was about right—that between 3,000 and 5,000 folk were still left who were totally incapacitated. It appears from the figures given today that I was more nearly right than he was—in fact very nearly right. I think that it is true that it will be four or five to one for partial incapacity as compared with total incapacity.
I had noted that in North Staffordshire the mass X-ray of some 65,000 people discovered about 350 folk who were suffering from pneumoconiosis who were at work and who had never been examined and had never made a claim. It is true that there is a double risk in my area. There are 20,000 miners in North Staffordshire and about 60,000 pottery workers. Even so, I shall be surprised if it does not cost £1¼ million or even £1½ million.
Fortunately for us all, even if it does cost that, the Fund can stand it, because it is not an expense or an obligation which will continue year after year. It will fall, for obvious reasons, and I suppose that even in 30 years' time, there will be no necessity for this particular fragment of legislation which we are discussing today. I hope that the Fund 84 and all our finances—we base the hope on the speedy rise in production—will be able to bear this sort of thing quite easily and perhaps more easily than some people think.
Finally, may I say that I do not think that the House ever wastes its time by discussing legislation of this kind simply because there are only two or three Clauses; and that it has taken so long in order to bring justice to men who apparently were forgotten for so long does not mean that we have wasted our time in reminding ourselves of what we should do. I hope that when we come to the Committee stage of the Bill, the Minister will this time listen to us on the question of the 10 years of byssinosis and perhaps the increasing of the 20s. to 27s. 6d., which would be half of 55s. All of us, I am sure, welcome the Bill and hope that we shall soon see it passed into law.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Stan Awbery (Bristol, Central)
It is my intention to occupy the House for only a few minutes. We have been concerned this afternoon mainly with the miners of this country and mainly with the disease which we call pneumoconiosis. I understand that this Bill goes much wider than the mining fraternity and includes diseases other than pneumoconiosis. In the South Wales area there are coal trimmers, and in my time I have known thousands of these men who have died from what doctors called at that time bronchitis but which we would call today pneumoconiosis. This Bill will affect the coal trimmers as much as the coal miners.
During this debate my mind has been going back to 1911. I then worked in an industry where men were subject to a terrible disease called epithelioma. We commonly called it pitch cancer. It was caused by men coming into contact with patent fuel and the pitch from which the fuel was made. My union at that time tried to get compensation for the men who were suffering terrible agonies from that disease. I have seen them suffering agonies month after month without any help at all and then dying in agony.
We endeavoured to get compensation for these men. The employers refused. Then we called for an examination into 85 the incidence of pitch cancer in the industry. One would have thought, after hearing the speech of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), that the employers would have gladly acceded to the request of the men for workmen's compensation because of the circumstances in which they found themselves; but, no, they refused, and because a man had not suffered an accident in his employment and was unable to follow his employment he could not receive workman's compensation, although he contracted this dreaded disease while doing so. An inquiry was held. People came from London to South Wales and examined men who were suffering from the disease, and finally they came to the conclusion that this disease could be brought within the schedule of industrial diseases.
We have moved a long way since 1911. We have not yet got to the end of the journey, but I am glad to say that there has been a re-assessment of human values in the industrial world during the last 20 or 30 years, with the result that men are valued as men today and not merely as cogs in a machine.
I rose to express the appreciation of coal trimmers who will benefit from the scheme and of other workers in the South Wales area who are about to come within its orbit. It was in 1906 that we had the first Workmen's Compensation Act, and hon. Members must remember that it was not a gift of the Conservative Party. It was a struggle on the part of the workers and the organisations to which they belonged that brought about the introduction of workmen's compensation, and every improvement that has taken place since that time has been due to the pressure and force of the organised industrial workers.
I want now to say a word or two about the cost, and to refer to the benefit to be received by the men suffering from this disease. These men will receive £1. How are we to measure the value of a man's suffering and loss if we are merely to use as a tape the £1 which we shall grant him under this Bill? In my opinion, the time has come when men who fail to follow their industrial employment, particularly because of disease or accident, should be no worse off because they have suffered than they would be if they were still employed; and to 86 measure their loss by a benefit of £1 is very niggardly indeed.
When we brought the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act into operation, we relieved the employers of a considerable liability. Until that time, the responsibility for compensating a man who had sustained an accident in his employment was that of the employer, who paid out through an insurance organisation. In our view, we relieved the employer of that obligation, and now the workman has to make his contribution towards the scheme. If a man suffers an injury, or if he suffers from an industrial disease, he receives benefit under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, but he has made a contribution towards the benefit which he receives. Prior to 1948, it was the responsibility of the employer, and I feel that we should have called upon the employer to carry a greater measure of responsibility than we have asked him to undertake.
I express my appreciation of this Bill, which is another step in the right direction. My purpose in rising was to express the appreciation of the men, apart from the miners of this country, who will benefit when this Bill becomes law.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
I should like to say "Thank you" to the Minister for this Bill and for the temperate and modest terms in which he introduced it. As a Minister, the right hon. Gentleman is always courteous and tries to be helpful, and I have no complaint about him at all as a Conservative Minister. He says "No" with apparent reluctance and always with courtesy, while most other Ministers say it with alacrity and some with obvious enjoyment. To that extent, I think the right hon. Gentleman is entitled to our appreciation.
It is rather a pity that the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) should have entered this debate and talked of this Bill as a major social Measure. It is an important Measure, and to the people who are to benefit from it, it is of vital importance. My hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) put it as generously as it could be put, and one can understand his emotion, because to the individuals concerned it is of great importance; but to 87 talk of a major social Measure when in fact we are offering, out of a Fund to which they have contributed, a sum per annum to the whole of these suffering people which is less than we have spent on the Royal Yacht, appears to me to be nauseating hypocrisy—and that is the term I used when I first heard the expression.
The hon. Member for Kidderminster obviously had not read much about the Bill, and he seemed to think that it dealt with quite different diseases from those with which it does deal. I want to refer to the Title of the Bill, because I am still not very clear about one or two matters, and I should like to hear more about them. I apologiseto the Minister for being absent from the House at the very minute when he read out the list of diseases brought in by Clause 1, but the Bill does refer to Section 43 of the Compensation Act, 1925. If I may quite sincerely make a point on the wording, I would ask the Minister why he did not not use the wording of the Act. The phrase used is "was payable under," and the controlling word here is "was," and I do not know what that means in relation to the terms with which it is used. Does it mean at the time of the 1921 Act, before the 1951 Act or before the 1946 Act? I ask him to look again at these words and to make sure that the meaning is clear.
The right hon. Gentleman made clear that it is the full intention, as far as this Clause is concerned, to bring in mostly the diseases mentioned in the Third Schedule, which refers to Section 43, of the Act of 1925, which I think includes such things as anthrax, ankylomastiasis and so on, as well as lead poisoning and glaze poisoning. I understand that it also brings in diseases scheduled since the 1925 Act was passed, and I take it that it brings in miners' nystagmus. I should be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman could give me an affirmative nod. I understand that it brings in miners'nystagmus in cases in which a man now qualifies for partial compensation, but I am not sure that I am right about that.
§ Mr. Peake
If I may interrupt the hon. Gentleman, may I say that Clause 1 gives the Minister power to make schemes which will pick up what are 88 called time-barred cases under workmen's compensation, but, before he makes a scheme under Subsection (2), the Minister has to be satisfied that it is a disease in which, owing to late development, more than the statutory period of 12 months has elapsed between the disease being contracted and becoming apparent.
§ Mr. Hale
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. It is very complex, and I am not saying that I am completely clear about everything that will happen under this Bill. We do our best to make absolutely sure.
Miners' nystagmus had a time-bar on working in the pit, but it also had a whole series of other bars, because the difficulty about nystagmus is that the only way of settling the issue of whether a man had nystagmus to the extent of being partially incapacitated was virtually for him to go underground again and work until there was a recurrence. Sometimes the symptoms abated in conditions above ground. I understand that the oscillation of the eyeballs may then cease, although the man may still be suffering from the disease, and I once heard of a specialist who sent a man downstairs into a cellar to shift coal from one side of the cellar to another in order to see whether his eyeballs started to oscillate, and they did not. I do not regard that as a satisfactory test, but it was probably the best he could do in the circumstances.
Then, of course, the specialist comes up against a whole series of old cases, because there was the period when the courts decided that the mere form of words about the certification of nystagmus was the controlling matter, and if the medical referee was of opinion that the fact that there would be a recurrence of the disease if the individual went underground was because he had had a previous attack, then the individual was entitled to partial compensation on the basis that he could not work underground. If, on the other hand, the medical referee was of opinion that the liability to further attacks was not due to the first attack but to his own inherent idiopathic tendency to contract the disease, then he was not entitled to compensation; in other words, he had been carrying something from birth which no 89 one could find, and for that reason he did not qualify.
There is a whole series of decisions, many of which went to the House of Lords, including Edwards v. Penrhyceiber Colliery and Connor v. Cadzon, deciding the thing in two different ways by the highest courts. So we have the situation in which whether one gets compensation for nystagmus or not is pretty well an act of God. Perhaps I ought not to introduce God into the matter, because it is more an act of pure chance. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider that particular problem, because this is no minor disease—it is a very serious disease, and one that occasions very great pain.
Every one of my hon. Friends whose constituents have been afflicted with this disease will agree with me when I say that in the past it was often the case that, because of the sheer force of economic circumstances, a man had to go down the pit again until he became an utter nervous wreck and unable to work any more. This is not a matter of a score of people; it affects a very great many indeed.
Now I come to Oldham. There are two industrial diseases which in a special sense are Oldham's, because we are still the greatest spinning town in the world, in spite of the diminution of employment. These two are byssirosis and epitheliomatous cancer, which has been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Awbery) in connection with pitch and tar. It is the same thing with spinners' oil, and it is known as the spinners' cancer of the North.
There seems to be some doubt about the position of spinners' cancer. I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) talked about the necessity of the trade unions pressing for the inception of a special scheme in this connection. As I understand it, spinners' cancer comes within the purview of the Bill. This is one of the industrial diseases which is allied to Section 43 of the 1925 Act, and therefore there is every hope that the provisions of this Bill will be applied to spinners' cancer.
§ Mr. Peake indicated assent.
§ Mr. Hale
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that affirmative nod, and I thank him sincerely for it.
90 We are grateful for the concession in regard to byssinosis. There again, the problem is the long time that one has to work in the industry to qualify for byssinosis benefit. In point of fact, the conditions in the modern carding room are such that no one really need be exposed to any serious attack of byssinosis. In the carding rooms of Oldham—and they are equipped with machinery made by the Oldham textile industry, which is the best in the world—there are vents going right through the carding rooms so that the dust is kept under control from start to finish of the operation. The intention is to avoid infection, but people go on catching it. Byssinosis today is quite a considerable disease in Oldham, and there are new cases certified day after day, and some of them are of people who work in these new conditions.
The explanation, as I have been given it, is that the dust went into their lungs years ago when dust was circulating freely. Gradually it caused the expansion of the lung and then its deterioration until it reached the stage when it was obvious that byssinosis was there. If that be so, it is a considerable argument against the theory that a man has to work continuously for 20 years before getting it, because if the disease can be got in a modern carding room it can also be got after one has left the industry, for the dust will still be there, and will ultimately develop and do harm eventually to the individual.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider this long period of certification. I do not want to introduce a single controversial note. We got rid of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kidderminster for a long time, and although he is now back and temporarily quiescent, I would not like for a moment to release him again. This problem of byssinosis is a very grave problem. As the disease progresses it brings its own misery, its own sense of despair, its own sense of futility, and that is apt to make it more difficult for a sufferer to struggle against it at all. It is not one of those diseases which brings false hope. It brings false despair, which ultimately turns into real despair. Whatever can be done for the sufferer from byssinosis should be done.
§ Mr. Nabarro
It is all right, I gave way to the hon. Member three times. Surely the whole purport of the argument of the hon. Member strengthens the argument I used. Byssinosis arises from difficulties in cotton spinning sheds and in other sheds, and I pleaded for a strengthening of the Factory Act, 1932, which governs the situation of safety, help and welfare measures in the cotton-spinning industry.
§ Mr. Hale
We are all in favour of strengthening the various Factories Acts, but I would say that it is a better contribution to say what ought to be done in relation to a particular disease than to express vague, pious hopes about legislation.
I would add that I admit that a great deal has been done. The major Measure in this connection was introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton(Mr. H. Wilson), under which there were substantial subsidies available for the purchase of new machinery in the cotton mills. If these had been fully used, the position would have been that today we would have had modern cotton mills as nearly disease-proof as they could be. It is unfortunate that so little advantage was taken of the provisions for re-equipment, which would have got us much further in providing safety in the mills.
I understand that spinners' cancer is under consideration at the moment. I gather that that is not part of the duties of the right hon. Gentleman, but it is a matter for his right hon. Friend the Minister of Health and his right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Labour. Modern oils can do a great deal to eliminate spinners' cancer, and I hope that steps will be taken to enforce the use of these oils, and, further, to see that there is in the cotton industry adequate provision for the supply of protective safety clothing, because the use of the thick white overalls, which are available and should be made more readily available, can do a very great deal to eliminate risk. I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) for raising this point. We always get a sincere contribution from him on matters of this kind, and we are grateful for his advice.
In conclusion, I should like to say one thing which I think is of some importance. 92 I was not in favour of the amalgamation of the Ministry of Pensions and the Ministry of National Insurance. It seems to me, however, that it may have some good consequences as well as a good many bad consequences. One of the good ones that I foresee may very well be that one Minister will deal with the whole question of the payment of compensation or of benefit for sufferers from chronic disease.
I have said this before and therefore I will put it in the narrowest possible compass: I urge the right hon. Gentleman to remember that the history of byssinosis is a long and miserable one. We fought for years to try to get it scheduled but it was fought tooth and nail, month by month and year by year for 20 years, all along the line and on every ground that could be conjured up. On medical grounds, they said, it could not be diagnosed with certainty and there had to be a long period of contraction. On insurance grounds, they said, if people worked for two employers, who would pay and how could it be worked out? Every obstacle that could be advanced was put forward in the years between the wars to prevent this disease from being certified as an industrial disease.
In any case there were not many sufferers and the total amount involved would probably have been covered by the directors' fees paid by big insurance companies. Yet it was fought all along the line. Now we have reached the stage when, bit by bit, an anomaly here is rectified, an anomaly there is rectified, and a few more are being brought in.
Today, in answer to a Question from me, the Parliamentary Secretary gave an indication which I believe is just as important as this Bill. From it I understand that the Government are proposing to give effect to the Report of the Industrial Advisory Committee on this question of dust diseases, and that a further Measure will be necessary to implement that. Or it may be that the schemes under this Bill can bring them all in. So, bit by bit, here and there a little gap is filled in, a little hole is plugged, another gap is filled in, and so on.
Why not have one single bite at this great cherry and say that if a man is suffering from byssinosis he gets compensation, whether he is working in a cotton mill or whether he is not, whether 93 he has been there 20 years or has not, whether he has been out of the industry 15 years or not. If he is suffering from a disease of this kind, a progressive, chronic affliction which ultimately so often, unfortunately, ends in death, why not let him have his compensation now? Why not say, "Do not let us waste our money in doctors' fees, in lawyers' fees, in tribunals, in pensions appeals in courts of appeal, and so on. Let us make one rule and tell him that all he has to do is to satisfy the authority that he is incapacitated by this disease and he shall have payment for it"?
When the right hon. Gentleman looks at the Ministry of Pensions side of his duties, he will find that many of these industrial diseases were incurred in the course of fighting in the war. In some cases he will find that he is paying pensions for industrial diseases contracted not in industry during the war but actually in battle. He will find that men contracted silicosis in operating on the northern sands of the African desert and became entitled to pensions on that count. And if he looks through the records of the various kinds of claims that are made he will find them arising sometimes out of the war and sometimes out of industry, and sometimes not able to be explained. My hon. Friend the Member for Warrington (Dr. Morgan), who speaks with certainty on medical matters, will remember that on the whole the certainties of the medical profession are nearly always proved to be wrong, and in dealing with these diseases we are still in our infancy.
§ Mr. Hale
It is well within the memory of the House that appendicitis was discovered only when King Edward VII decided to have it. Then for 10 years it was an affliction which could only occur amongst people who could pay 50 guineas for an operation. And although it was there all the time, it only developed as a general affliction when we had a National Insurance Scheme and gradually developed the National Health Service. No one here who has lived in the coal fields will deny that 25 years ago every case of silicosis, every case of pneumoconiosis, every case of anthracosis was either bronchitis or pneumonia or something of that kind. There are still 94 probably scores, if not hundreds of men, who have been so afflicted for years but have not been able to get compensation because they went to the wrong doctor or went at the wrong time before the disease was known.
Then, again, we have the areas in which silica was unknown and where they refused to certify for silicosis, but where silica was found later as the seams were developed. That silica had been there all the time but, when the analysis came through, some of the men never caught up.
So it is a big problem. The right hon. Gentleman has shown some humanity in dealing with it, and I appreciate that. He is always courteous in listening to what we have to say on these matters. I hope he will look at the entire range of these diseases in the light of his new experience. I hope he will say that there is only one solution, and that is to say to the man, "If you have got it, you get your payments."
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
I shall not take more than two minutes, but I want to say "Thank you" to the Minister, not only on my own behalf but for those of my constituents who have benefited from the 1951 Act. In thanking the right hon. Gentleman, I want also to acknowledge the courtesy and efficiency with which Mr. Nicholls, Secretary of the Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Board, has handled the claims which have come to him from my constituents.
Having made that point, may I ask the Minister to be kind enough to draw on the experiences of his predecessors at the Ministry of Pensions and realise that to concede a benefit is not of itself sufficient—it has to be made known. Of the 15,000 people who will be benefited by this Measure there will be some who will not know of its advantages unless vigorous methods a readopted. When the scheme under the 1951 Act was put into operation, I approached the editors of the "Dudley Herald" and the "Stourbridge County Express" and they were kind enough to give more than ordinary publicity to the advantages of the Act. It produced results because one or two people who would not have known of the Act became aware of it and benefited accordingly.
95 Now that the applications will be decentralised through the local offices of the Ministry, will the right hon. Gentleman consider doing rather more than can be done by the individual Member of Parliament approaching the editors of his local papers? If the right hon. Gentleman will talk to his Parliamentary Secretary, he will find that vigorous action is necessary by the Ministry of Pensions and by the British Legion to get the facts across, and although the number of people involved is small, it is a job well worth doing.
On the Second Reading of the 1951 Bill, I asked that there should be included the widows of those men who would have benefited but for their death. The Minister was kind enough to give consideration to the pleadings of my hon. Friends and myself and retrospective provision was made by which a number of such women received benefit. Has the Minister considered making a concession of that kind under this Bill? There must also have been a number of people whose cause of death was partially related to pneumoconiosis and byssinosis and yet whose applications for benefit were turned down because the cause of death was not entirely established, and yet there was evidence on the death certificate that death was in some way associated with what would have been a ground of benefit had the man survived.
Mr. Speaker, I do not want to trespass on your kindness or that of the House any longer. I hope the Minister will accept thanks on behalf of my constituents, and that he will give attention to the two points I have made, the one of publicity and the other of the possibility of retrospection.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Bernard Taylor (Mansfield)
I am sure that both sides of the House would agree that we have had a very interesting debate today on this important human subject. The debate has not been as quiet as it normally is on this subject owing to the speech made by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro). I had the pleasure of accompanying the hon. Member down one of our Nottinghamshire pits 12 months ago and I laughed more today at his speech than I did at seeing him crawling along that seam.
A number of speeches have dealt with preventive measures and for that reason I 96 am very pleased to see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power on the Front Bench. Preventive measures can be crystallised in one sentence—"A fence at the top of the cliff is much better than an ambulance at the bottom." I hope that the provision of these preventive measures will be speeded up.
I find from the latest Report of the National Coal Board that they are doing very good work and that they have done more during the last few years than was ever done under the private ownership of the coal mines. I was very interested, as we all were, in the Minister's speech. He put me in a reflective mood and I could not help thinking that had he taken the same line in 1943, or had he been of the same opinion then as he was this afternoon, the need for this Bill today would not have arisen. The time limit which has always been iniquitous would have been done away with at that time had the present Minister listened to the advice given to him by the then Miners' Federation.
It was really pleasing, however, to hear the Minister speak today about the effect of the 1951 Act. I am sure that we are all grateful for the extensive information which he gave. He told us how many examinations have been made since 1951, how many examinations were made each week, the number certified as totally incapacitated and, unfortunately, the large number of 840 deaths from pneumoconiosis which have occurred since then. That figure gives some idea of the magnitude of this problem.
I was interested in a point which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison). Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will say something about it when he replies to the debate. Did I understand the Minister to say that those persons who, under the 1951 Act, applied to the Board but were turned down, not as not having pneumoconiosis but as not being totally disabled, will receive retrospective payment under this Bill from the day of application?
I was also very interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) on the Industrial Injuries Fund. I believe that if it had not been for the existence of that 97 Fund it would have been almost impossible to introduce this Bill today. Where, otherwise, would the money have been found? Experience showed that employers were always disinclined to accept liability for those who had left their employment for such a long time. I am sure that between now and the Committee stage we shall have to give some thought to special hardship allowances. I shall also have something to say later about the proposed flat rate under the provisions of the Bill.
One of two other speeches to which I should like to refer was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams), who has devoted a great deal of time to this subject. While this Bill goes a long way it is quite true that there is still a great deal to be done. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides will wish it well and will hope that it will not be long before the Greene Committee is looking after the question of injury by process. If we can bring those injured by process within this Bill it will solve almost completely the problem of bringing within the ambit of the provisions of the Workmen's Compensation Acts those people who hitherto have been outside it.
This Bill is a piece of ambulance work. It is a picking up of a group of victims of industrial disease who, unhappily, have been outside the scope of the Workmen's Compensation Acts. The only reason for their having been left out hitherto has been the fact that the prescribed disease has developed late, beyond the time limit which was laid down in those Acts.
I know that many of my hon. Friends will support what I am now about to say from my own experience. To go back no further, over the past 30 years many people have fallen by the wayside and have suffered from total or partial incapacity without receiving any payment. Those people have been unfortunate twice. They have been unfortunate inasmuch as they have been the victims of industrial disease, and they have been unfortunate in that they were outside the time limit laid down in the Workmen's Compensation Acts.
Over that period there have been many disappointed men, and for a number of them the reform which we all welcome in this Bill today is too late. They are no 98 more. They have paid the supreme penalty and have taken their disease to the grave, uncompensated and unrecognised, because they had the misfortune to fall outside the time limits laid down in the Workmen's Compensation Acts.
Abolition of time limits is very important to me as a member of a trade union which has been grappling with the problem over the years. To trade unions, particularly those connected with industries in which the incidence of industrial disease—by whatever name—has been highest, it has been a source of concern, of agitation, frustration and disappointment. This Bill is the culmination of the agitation made by those trade unions for the abolition of time limits.
The Bill means the abolition of the iniquitous system of time limits which ought never to have found their way into workmen's compensation legislation. Thirty years is a fairly long time in the field of workmen's compensation. The first Workmen's Compensation Act came in in 1897 and it was confined to a few dangerous industries. Not until 1906 was liability placed on employers generally to make compensation payments for injury and disease. After nearly 30 years, we welcome the opportunity of saying goodbye to time limits. Time limits have not only been a headache for trade unions, but also for Ministers and Governments.
§ Mr. Taylor
I do not know so much about that because in my view it was owing to the insistence by the employers on time limits being inserted in the Workmen's Compensation Act that the Government put them in.
§ Mr. Taylor
Time limits were a headache for my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) when he framed the Industrial Injuries Act, 1946. One of the things he did was to abolish the vexed question of time limits. Tonight, we are dealing with the past and I had to intervene when the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) was saying what this Government had done in this field over the last two years. It is the case that but for the inclusion of time limits in the Workmen's Compensation Act much 99 tragedy, disappointment and frustration would have been avoided for thousands of work people.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) said, negotiations on this subject began about 1950 or 1951. Those negotiations must have been very protracted. I am not unmindful of the difficulties and complexities which surround the problem of the partially disabled outside the time limits. Whatever the reasons for the negotiations being protracted, it is no use now crying over spilt milk as we have reached the happy position in which agreement has been achieved.
The trade unions and, I hope, the House also, will be pleased to have reached the end of the road in respect of time limits because this Bill will pick up all the people who previously have been statute barred. Clause 1 says that specified disease, whether involving total or partial disablement, will be brought within the ambit of the Bill.
In reply to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West I doubt very much whether we should have had this Bill tonight but for the nice little nest egg of the Industrial Injuries Fund for which the Minister said in 1951 he was a trustee and had a certain liability. To convince employers of their injustice over the time limits would have been a very difficult hurdle. I refer again to the experience of the Minister when he was at the Home Office, in 1943. It was because of the opposition of the employers that at that time, at least in regard to pneumoconiosis, the time limits were not abolished.
I am glad that through the Act introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly there is thenest egg of the Industrial Injuries Fund and that we have been able to do a lot with it for the pre-1946 cases, the totally incapacitated under the 1951 Act and now the partially incapacitated.
The Bill does three admirable things. First, it extends the area in respect of industrial diseases; secondly, it affords benefits to the partially disabled; and, thirdly, the proposed benefit to partially disabled is to be in the form of a flat rate. On the first point, it is a great pleasure to find that the door has been opened wide enough to include any prescribed diseases. The Act of 1951 was restrictive 100 as it applied only to pneumoconiosis and byssinosis. The real kernel of the Bill is that it brings in the partially disabled. I know that there must have been great difficulties—a big administrative job and the question of whether medical panels would be clogged—in finding a solution to the problem. But, as I say, the bringing of the partially disabled under this umbrella is the real kernel of the Bill.
I wish to make one observation about the payment of benefit to the partially disabled. I have given some thought to this since the publication of the Bill, and it seems to me that, with all the difficulties, the principle of a flat rate seems by all tests to be the best way of meeting the position. After listening to the speeches that have been made tonight it appears that there is little if any opposition to the principle of the flat rate.
I turn to the adequacy of the amount. My hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown), the whole of whose speech I did not hear, had some comments to make about this, as had my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch). While we on this side of the House give our support to the principle of a flat rate we shall have to give some consideration to the question of the adequacy of the amount. In the 1951 Act the amount was 40s., and it seems to me that this has been some guide to the right hon. Gentleman in arriving at the figure of a flat rate of £1 for the partially disabled. The Minister has taken 50 per cent. of the 1951 amount and said, "This will meet the case of the partially disabled."
I would remind the right hon. Gentleman, if he needs reminding, that in 1952, the year after the 40s. flat rate was fixed, the industrial injury benefits were increased. I ask the Minister very seriously, and I hope he will give the matter favourable consideration, whether, in view of what was done in 1952 in respect of the benefits under the Industrial Injuries Act, he will increase by at least no less an amount the flat rate for the totally disabled under the 1951 Act. Even if he is inclined to retain the same rate of percentage that would mean a vast improvement on the £1 flat rate laid down in this Bill.
I turn to the question of the numbers affected. This has always been a stumbling block, has it not? We have never known and we do not now know. 101 I have heard 40,000 mentioned, and 8,000; which is the correct one I do not know. Even if a figure somewhere in between those is given it is only a guess. It seems to me, however, that the Minister must have had some information at his disposal. The right hon. Gentleman will correct me if my mathematics are wrong, but on the basis of what the cost is expected to be—£800,000—my calculation is that he is of the opinion that the number of cases is likely to be about 15,000.
Let us take that figure. If that is the figure, or even if the figure is somewhat less, the Bill will mean a big administrative job. Having been at the Ministry of National Insurance, however, I do not believe it to be beyond the ingenuity of the Department to carry out effectively and efficiently, and with the least possible delay, the gigantic task of meeting the claims of the disabled.
There are two questions which I wish to put to the Parliamentary Secretary. He may not be able to give the answer, but if he can I am sure that he will do so. Will he give us a little further explanation of Clause 1 (2)? I am not quite clear about it; it is puzzling. Clause 1 seems to open the door very wide, but subsection (2) seems to put certain restrictions upon the Clause. I may be wrong. I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary will help us in this matter. Also, could we have some information about Clause 2 (1, a), because it appears that in the preparation of this scheme certain restrictions are likely to be imposed regarding the nature and the degree of disability? That is all I wish to ask.
We on this side of the House welcome the Bill most heartily, and I can give the assurance that although this is the first Bill to be considered since Friday's episode it is not likely to be talked out, if for no other reason than that we want it very much so that its benefits can be given to partially incapacitated men.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. R. H. Turton)
My right hon. Friend and I are grateful to all hon. Members who have taken part in this debate. I will try to answer, in a reasonable space of time, the main points 102 which have been made, but if I do not answer any point I shall, after reading through Hansard tomorrow, adopt my usual practice of sending Members answers in writing.
It has struck me that the debate has been a good one so long as hon. Members on both sides of the House have abstained from making party controversial speeches. When, in considering a matter affecting social services and injured workmen, we can adopt an all-party approach, I am sure that this House is at its best; but when in such a matter we rather seem to direct winged barbs at each other's side of the House, we fail in our intention.
I thought that the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) did not set the best example in that respect when she began talking about delay. I could make the point, although I do not wish to, that there was a five-year delay before the first Bill dealing with the totally disabled was brought in. This is a matter of extreme difficulty. The right hon. Lady seemed to imply that it was merely a problem of dealing with the partially disabled. The Bill is doing something far more than dealing with the partially disabled. It is not merely a miners' Bill; it will affect workmen in every industry and is a landmark in closing some of the gaps left in the old workmen's compensation scheme.
One of the reasons why there had to be a two-years' delay between the two Bills was undoubtedly the problem of not swamping the medical boards, to which the right hon. Lady herself drew attention in the debate in November, 1951; we did not want so to hurry on legislation that men who were claiming their rights should find themselves being held up as a result. That would have affected not merely the men claiming as totally disabled persons under the 1951 Act, but also those who are making their claims under the Industrial Injuries Scheme on the ground of pneumoconiosis.
My right hon. Friend said that we have got to the stage where the cases dealt with by the panels have dropped from 250 a week to 50 a week. It therefore does appear that we can now introduce this Measure without unduly overloading the panels, though I admit that, as I shall say later, there is a certain amount of 103 danger in that respect. We are taking arise. My hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) asked how many men had failed to obtain their entitlement under the 1951 Act, and perhaps it would be convenient to give those figures now. There have been 4,800 disablement claims disallowed under the1951 Act, and 460 death claims were disallowed. But 930 of the 4,800 have been found by the medical boards to be suffering partially from pneumoconiosis. If I may take up the point made by the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. B. Taylor), it would be unfair to back-date those 930 claims to the date of their application as totally disabled. But we shall communicate with each of those cases and advise them to put in their claims to be dated from the date of the operation of this new scheme. That, I think, will be of great benefit to them, and it will also diminish the strain on the medical side of our administration.
The other alarming figure given by the hon. Member for Mansfield was that 800 had died since the scheme came into operation. He must remember that we back-dated the death provision and that it goes back to January, 1950. Otherwise that would be an alarming figure, were it thought that 800 had died in one year. In fact, the deaths took place between 1950 and November, 1953.
§ Mr. Turton
Pneumoconiosis is an alarming disease. I did not wish to cause consternation among those suffering from it.
Although this Bill deals with compensation, a number of hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House have spoken of research and prevention. While we are not responsible for research or prevention it is germane to discussions on the Second Reading of this Bill, and it is of profound importance. Regarding pneumoconiosis, research is being undertaken at the Welsh National School of Medicine, at the universities of Edinburgh, Durham, Sheffield and London, and also by the Pneumoconiosis Research Unit under the auspices of the Medical Research Council In addition, there is the 20-pit scheme. Hon. Members will be aware that this is being launched on be- 104 half of the National Joint Pneumoconiosis Committee. There are two mobile research units, one centred at Cardiff, and the other at Edinburgh. I think the hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) can rest assured that there will be a full research into Scottish pits from the unit centred at Edinburgh.
With regard to prevention, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power tells me that the National Coal Board are continuing to take vigorous action to suppress dust wherever possible. Periodic sampling surveys are being carried out and, in over 80 per cent. of the coal faces needing dust suppression, treatment is being attempted by one method or another. The progress of dust suppression is kept under review by the National Joint Pneumoconiosis Committee. Measures for prevention of epitheliomatous cancer are the responsibility of my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Labour, who has recently made a Regulation under the Factory Acts prohibiting the use of certain oils known to be capable of causing skin cancers. This Regulation also provides for periodic medical examination of mule spinners.
My hon. Friend the Member Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) asked whether the Mines and Quarries Bill will include provisions for better measures for dust prevention. It would be quite improper for me to comment on the provisions of that Bill, I do not know what they will be—I gather that my right hon. Friend has given notice of his intention to introduce it tomorrow. But the present day provisions are kept up to date by Regulations, and my right hon. Friend keeps the machinery flexible so that every opportunity may be utilised to discover the cause as well as to prevent the incidence of disease in mines and quarries. Byssinosis research is being undertaken by the Manchester University and I will say a word about that when I come to the arguments addressed to the 20-year rule.
Hon. Members have found themselves in difficulty by regarding this Bill, which is an addition to the Workmen's Compensation Acts, as if it were an addition to the Industrial Injuries Acts. All we are attempting here is to close the gap in the old workmen's compensation schemes. That is now past history. 105 There were men—one hon. Member coined a phrase and described them as "forgotten men"—who got neither workmen's compensation nor industrial injuries compensation. What the 1951 Bill did was to bring those men into line with the workmen's compensation schemes. It would seem to me to be a mistake therefore, to argue that the men we are providing for under this Bill should be treated as if they were coming under the Industrial Injuries Acts rather than workmen's compensation.
I do not want to say too much about the amount of flat rate as that will be debated in Committee, but I would make this point; that as the rates in this Bill and the 1951 Act are the rates of the Workmen's Compensation Acts, and as it has been agreed that those rates should be left at the pre-1948 level of 40s., it would not be right to try to link the rate for the partially disabled under this Bill with the Industrial Injuries Scheme rate.
§ Mr. Turton
I meant we must not link the 40s. rate with the Industrial Injuries Scheme. I did not mean the flat rate for the partially disabled because this is a new mechanism which we are using in this Bill. Hon. Members must remember that in this Bill we are trying to bring in all the partially disabled under the definition of the Workmen's Compensation Acts, and for that reason it would appear that the 50 per cent. of the 40s. is a fair solution because some will be minimal cases and some will be near the total—
§ Mr. Turton
Perhaps I may be allowed to go on with my speech and if I leave out some point the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) can refer to it later. I have only made that initial point.
I shall now deal with byssinosis. As the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central was reminded, he raised this matter during the Committee stage of the last Bill. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central, the hon. Member for 106 Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) and the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) have all suggested that we should now revise the 20-year limit for byssinosis. They should remember that in the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act the test is 20 years. It would be impossible in this Bill, which is a workmen's compensation amending Measure, to put in a different test.
Apart from that, all present-day research on byssinosis confirms the reasonableness of the 20-year rule. On a previous occasion I reminded the House of the researches in 1939 of Dr. Ross, and other research was undertaken at the time when the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West was Minister of National Insurance. The researches in 1950 also confirmed the position that a 20-year period was reasonable.
There was a report issued in January, 1950, on the research carried out by Dr. O'Sullivan and Dr. Dingwall-Fordyce, members of the Nuffield Department of Occupational Health. They examined 140 cases of men who had worked in this waste cotton process. The found that out of 140 cases there were only seven of disability through byssinosis, and among those seven the shortest period which any one had worked in the process was 26 years and the longest was 52 years. They also examined cases of those who worked in the dust rooms and they found that the shortest period was 28 years and the longest 60 years.
§ Dr. Stross
Does the Parliamentary Secretary remember that I quoted the result of 36 national surveys conducted two years before that, in 1948. I declared that our own British survey had been the most comprehensive and the best and that the consensus of opinion was that it was from 10 years onwards that some incapacity was noted?
§ Mr. Turton
The point I have made today, and that which I made on the previous occasion, is that the research I have mentioned indicates that 20 years is a reasonable limit. It would appear that, as there has been no greatpressure from those who represent the industry, 20 years is regarded by the industry as a reasonable limit. The unanswerable objection to altering the time is that 20 years is fixed in the industrial injuries legislation. I urge the House to agree that that seems to be a proper solution.
107 Next I come to the questions about the interpretation of the Bill raised by the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) and the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. B. Taylor). I should like to explain exactly what the Bill does. Clause 1 says that the Act will apply to any of the diseases in respect of which compensation is prescribed under the Workmen's Compensation Acts. The hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) suggested that this Bill could be made to cover diseases, or ailments which are not diseases that were covered by the Workmen's Compensation Acts. That would be impossible. This Bill is an addendum to the Workmen's Compensation Acts. Therefore, I warn the hon. Gentleman that it would not be possible in this Measure to bring in Dupuytren's Contraction or Raynaud's Phenomenon which are not prescribed diseases under the Workmen's Compensation Acts.
§ Mr. T. Brown
Is not power given to the Minister to include new diseases and, therefore, is there not power to include these diseases which hitherto have not been recognised?
§ Mr. Turton
That is a point I want to make clear. We are here adding to the old Workmen's Compensation Acts which are in a moribund condition, and the diseases which my right hon. Friend will have power to include are those which are already covered in the Workmen's Compensation Acts. Clause 1 (2), which the hon. Member for Mansfield asked me to explain, puts in a further condition that it must be a disease…of such a nature that there are likely to be cases where a person suffers from it and it is due to the nature of his employment, but where it does not manifest itself till more than 12 months after he has ceased to be engaged in the employment.Therefore, the criterion for my hon. Friend is that it must be a disease that is prescribed or scheduled under the Workmen's Compensation Act. But it also must be a disease which may not reveal itself immediately and where instead there is a lapse of 12 months after leaving the employment before it is revealed.
That, I think, answers the hon. Member for Oldham, West who asked about nystagmus. On the evidence available, my Department would not classify nystagmus as a disease which takes 12 months to develop after the employment is left. 108 For that reason it would be outside the purview of the Bill. The other part of the Bill about which I was asked questions by the hon. Members for Bedwellty and Mansfield was Clause 2 (1, a) which says:the restrictions which may be imposed by a scheme in respect of the persons to whom benefit is payable under the scheme in respect of their disablement shall include restrictions relating to the nature or degree of disablement….That will be broadly in the terms of the Workmen's Compensation Act. The proposed definition will be that, though not totally disabled the claimant is suffering from pneumoconiosis or other disease to such an extent that his general physical capacity for employment is impaired. In other words, what we are trying to do is to bring in the definition used in the Workmen's Compensation Act. The hon. Member for Bedwellty appeared to think that we had some malevolent intention. That is not so. We are merely using terminology previously used in the former Act.
An important subject was discussed by the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones), the hon. Member for Bedwellty and the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton). They dealt with the case where a disease has been prescribed under the Workmen's Compensation Act but the cover has been extended afterwards. That is important, as the hon. Member for Rotherham said, in view of a reply which I gave in the House earlier today. Section I of the Act of 1951 makes it a condition for the receipt of benefit under a scheme that the person concerned shall have been employed before 5th July, 1948, in an occupation which is prescribed under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act in relation to the relevant disease.
The effect of this condition is that any change in the schedule of occupations of the Industrial Injuries Scheme is automatically reflected in the provisions of the present benefit scheme, and the same will apply to a scheme made as a result of the new Bill. In its last report on pneumoconiosis the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council recommended that benefit for pneumoconiosis should be available to persons who had never worked in a scheduled occupation but had worked in some other occupation involving exposure to dust. As my right hon. 109 Friend announced last Monday, he intends to make Regulations, which we hope will come into operation early in the new year, to implement that recommendation.
When these Regulations take effect, corresponding provision will automatically be made for cases within the scope of the 1952 benefits scheme. Then the case of a man who has never worked in a scheduled occupation, which I believe was the category to which the hon. Member for Rotherham referred, will come within the provisions of tie Bill, and then the 1951 Act and this Bill will contain the remedy for dealing with these technical defects.
§ Mr. Turton
In the case of byssinosis there is not to be an alteration to the schedule of occupations. At the moment I do not see the implication of the hon. Gentleman's point, but the matter can be raised again during the Committee stage and we can look into it then.
An important point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Barry and the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) about publicity. It is of vital importance that my Department should be fully conscious of the need for publicity, and indeed it is. I am sure that all hon. Members can help us here. I am very grateful for what was done by the hon. Member for Dudley in connection with the last Measure. Hon. Members on both side of the House have co-operated in bringing these Measures to the attention of those who are likely to benefit from them. The problem in the case of this Bill is even greater than in the case of previous Measures, because a great many men will have left the industry concerned a very long time ago.
§ Mr. Turton
This will have to be brought to their attention. The range of ages in respect of these Measures is very 110 great. In the case of the 1951–52 scheme the ages have so far ranged from 30 to 89. It is a big problem. All the publicity resources of my Department will be engaged in the task, and I again appeal to hon. Gentlemen to help.
The hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams) said that he was frightened by some words used by my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Turton
The words were "given the good will and co-operation of all concerned." I know that the Bill has the good will of all sections of industry and all hon. Members. The words were designedly used to point out how important it is that all concerned should co-operate, if the Bill is to be a success, in securing that the administration works. We are taking a risk in bringing forward the Bill within two years of the previous Measure. We do not want to overload the Industrial Injuries Scheme or the scheme under the 1951 Act. Therefore, we must make the Bill as simple as possible administratively, and I hope all who help in working out the scheme will remember that. The Bill might fail if we try to make it too complicated administratively. Whether or not 15,000 succeed, many more than 15,000 will submit claims, and we shall have a very big problem. That is the reason for the use of those words.
In all these problems we always seem to be catching up with what has been left out as progress has been made. We hope that the Bill really will deal with all the left-over problems of workmen's compensation. I am certain that the good will that has been shown towards the Bill today will help it forward so that it can mark a great chapter in the development of our social services for injured workmen. I thank all hon. Members for the part which they have played, and I hope they will help to expedite the Bill in its later stages.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.