HC Deb 18 February 1954 vol 523 cc2228-53

Not amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

7.11 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. R. H. Turton)

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

In doing so, I should be ungenerous if I did not thank hon. Members of all parties for the help which they have given in accelerating the progress of our deliberations. This is a small but important Measure. It is the final act in our attempt to give cover to all industrially disabled men. It is a sequel to the Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Benefit Act, 1951, but unlike that Act it deals with diseases other than those two. Like that Act it is an enabling Measure.

The next step will be for my right hon. Friend to bring in schemes under the Bill when it is passed. He is now engaged in discussions on these schemes. Those discussions will be continued with the T.U.C. and interested parties when the Bill receives the Royal Assent. As at present envisaged, there are two schemes that will be coming forward. The first is a scheme to extend the Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Benefit Scheme of 1952 to partial cases. Secondly, there is a scheme to deal with cancers that are covered by the Workmen's Compensation Acts.

As to the first, hon. Members are well aware of the formidable administrative difficulties. The right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) has drawn attention to those difficulties on previous occasions. A scheme for the partially disabled may well bring some 40,000 claims. That may entail 20,000 examinations. That is a number nearly as large as all the examinations for pneumoconiosis that are at present being made under the Industrial Injuries Scheme.

It is clear, therefore, that medical help will have to be obtained in such a way as not to interfere with the work of healing and treatment. We have to devise means which will not interfere with the work on the Industrial Injuries Scheme and other schemes. The Ministry has already made approaches to the T.U.C. with a view to working out arrangements which, while being fair to claimants under the schemes, will make the fullest possible use of the doctors likely to be available. The date when this scheme can be introduced must depend upon the progress we make in solving the problems I have mentioned and in our discussions. The assurance I will give is that the House can rely on my right hon. Friend bringing in the scheme as soon as he possibly can.

Preliminary inquiries lead us to believe that the scheme dealing with cancers covered by the Workmen's Compensation Acts should not present great complications. The numbers involved are much smaller. We will introduce that scheme quite independently, as soon as it is ready. We hope that we shall be able to do that at a reasonably early date.

I should like to say a few words about publicity, a topic which was mentioned during the Second Reading by the hon. Members for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) and Barry (Mr. Gower). We shall be proceeding on the same lines as we followed for the Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Benefit Scheme. There will be an explanatory leaflet available in the local offices. Copies of that leaflet will be sent to the trade unions and other associations concerned. There will be notices in the national, local and trade Press. Announcements will be made over the wireless. I can assure Welsh Members that in the Welsh programme of publicity the announcement will be made in the correct language.

There will also be a personal invitation sent to every applicant under the 1952 scheme whom we think might have good claim to be classed as a "partial." When I last spoke on this subject I said that the number was about 900. The number is now over 1,000.

I should like to make an appeal to hon. Members. This Bill is unlike previous Bills. This is not a coalmining Bill or one confined to coalmining constituencies. Many of the men who are partially incapacitated from pneumoconiosis will have drifted some way from the coalmining constituencies. When these schemes are introduced I ask all hon. Members to bring them to the attention of their constituents so that nobody who would otherwise be entitled to this benefit will be deprived of it through ignorance. I assure hon. Gentlemen that we shall do our best to see that full publicity is given. I call upon them to give us their help.

7.18 p.m.

Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)

We welcome this opportunity to give final approval to a Measure which deals with a matter which has caused us a great deal of concern through the years. As I said on 23rd November of last year on Second Reading, that was a very happy day for me. It is a happy day today, because I have lived to see the end of a piece of work which I began on behalf of the Miners' Federation in 1922. I was a member of a Select Committee of five appointed to consider the question of silicosis, and I am the only one left. Therefore, I speak with some feeling. I know that when this Measure gets on the Statute Book and the Regulations are drawn up, it will bring a great deal of relief to partially incapacitated men who have long been suffering under a grave injustice.

I am amazed that the Governments of the past few years have not responded more quickly to the desires which we from time to time have expressed. The right hon. Gentleman who now occupies the office of Minister of Pensions and National Insurance had a very good opportunity when he was at the Home Office. I am sure he well remembers the representations which we periodically made to him, but, unfortunately, those representations fell upon deaf ears. As time has passed, the public conscience has been awakened by the sufferings of the men in the mining areas. At long last, the injustices suffered by these men are now going to be remedied.

The Parliamentary Secretary expressed his appreciation of our help, and we are grateful for that. We endeavoured to help in every conceivable way because we wanted this Bill on the Statute Book. But, at the same time, had we not been very anxious to bring some relief to these men, we should have fought this Bill with greater tenacity than we have done. It would have been a better Bill if the Minister had conceded the Amendments which we placed on the Order Paper.

I said on 23rd November, 1953, that the compensation of 20s. awarded to partially incapacitated men under this Bill was inadequate in relation to present day needs. I said that then, and none of the arguments advanced in Committee and nothing that has been said privately since have led me to change my mind on that point. As I said in Committee, I have examined the matter in every conceivable way in an endeavour to find a justification for that 20s. Unfortunately, I have not been able to satisfy my mind on that point.

There is no way now within our Parliamentary procedure of getting the Bill amended. We have to accept it, but we are still of the opinion that the amount proposed is inadequate for these long suffering men. Some compensation ought to have been paid to them or some consideration given to them for the long years that they have waited. In some cases, they have waited more than 20 or 30 years, and longer. Having at long last brought in this Bill, the Government now have the audacity to hand out this partial compensation of 20s.

My county of Lancashire has many famous sayings, one of which is: Speak your mind, yet be kind Give good advice, and yet be nice. I want to speak very kindly to the Minister and to tell him how I feel about the utterance which he made when we were in Committee. It has been on my mind ever since, and it is as well that I should get it off my mind and that I should tell the Minister how profoundly I resent the statement which he made in the course of our deliberations. He said he knew that there were a large number of these men who were enjoying a very ripe old age. Whether a man be 19 or 90, he cannot enjoy life if he has contracted silicosis. It is a painful, long, lingering death, and for the Minister to tell the Committee and the country through the medium of the records of this House that there are men suffering from silicosis who are enjoying a ripe old age is something which I regard as detestable, and I will leave it at that.

The Minister gave us some very interesting figures during our discussions on this Bill. I would remind him—very kindly again—that had it not been for our agitation in connection with this disease, and for the 1948 Act and the further Act of 1952, he would not have been in the position to give us those figures. It was through the medium of those two pieces of legislation that he was able to give them.

The figures were very interesting, very illuminating, and, above all, very disheartening. They showed the number of men that we now have to cover, the number of men who have contracted silicosis, the number of men who have died, and the number of men who at the moment are in doubt as to whether or not they are suffering from that disease. All these things have been revealed because we fought tenaciously to get legislation dealing with them put on the Statute Book.

The Minister referred to some very interesting figures. They are well worth noting, but I want to refer to several more figures which may prove even more interesting and which will reveal to this House and to the country the importance of the Measure we are now discussing. For many years, I was charged with the responsibility of dealing with miners and their complaints. I want to tell the House of my experience. I will not mention the scores of cases with which I dealt, but will refer only to four very briefly. They reveal the importance of this Bill.

Case No. 1is that of a man aged 60 years. His date of disablement was 29th May, 1937, and he died on 5th January, 1939. He lived for 84 weeks, Case No. 2 concerns a man aged 59. In his case the date of disablement was 7th December, 1937, and he died on 11th June, 1938. He lived for 27 weeks. Case No. 3 is that of a man aged 43 whose date of disablement was 1st November, 1939, and whose date of death was 25th January, 1941. He lived for 69 weeks. Case No. 4 is that of a man aged 51 whose date of disablement was 23rd November, 1940, and whose date of death was 10th February, 1941. He lived for eight weeks, an average period lived of 47 weeks.

I could go on for hours telling the House of cases where men have lived for only a short time after their certification of disablement. These men, unfortunately, have passed into the great beyond. They will get no benefits from this Bill and neither will their widows and their dependants. Therefore, the delay manifested in years gone by has not only caused these men to suffer social, physical and economic disadvantages, but has also deprived their dependants of any sustenance at all.

We welcome the Bill for many reasons, but I am convinced that it does not give to these men what they are entitled to. Even on the Government's own figures, the amount should be 21s. 7d. Accepting the reduction in the value of the £, it should be at least 21s. 7d. instead of 20s. We cannot alter it. We can voice our protest and I have made my protest both on Second Reading and in Committee when, with my hon. Friends, I put down an Amendment. I make my protest now. I know that it cannot delay the Bill, but I do hope that when the Minister and his Department consider monetary values they will not be so niggardly or parsimonious as they have been today in this Bill.

I am glad the Parliamentary Secretary said that the Department are preparing the machine as quickly as they can in order that there shall be the least possible delay. I am glad that he said that assistant medical men will be employed. That is a step in the right direction, because any delay in the administration of this Bill will only make grievance and injustice more widespread than it is at the moment. The Department ought, after the passing of this Bill, to use every piece of administrative machinery, for the purpose of advertising and so on, so that the information is passed to those men who have been waiting so long for so little.

7.32 p.m.

Mr. Jack Jones (Rotherham)

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown), I wish to say how much I welcome this Bill and to assure the Minister that hon. Members on these benches concerned with industries in which these dread diseases are contracted will do all they can to expedite the efficient working of the Bill.

There is one doubt which I have about the Bill. We regard it as a Bill which is applicable in the main—and rightly so; I make no complaint—to the great mining industry of this country. There is no real assurance that the Bill will apply to people suffering from these same diseases who are engaged in other industries. I should like to be certain that this Bill will do something for those people. I know the difficulty of bringing in a broad scheme and giving benefit quickly to additional categories of people. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Ince, I speak with some experience of cases in my own industry. There are men who have suffered from these diseases through working in exactly the same conditions as coal miners, and we find it difficult to be assured that such men will get the same quick benefit as the miners will get.

I know that I may be asking a lot. I am not, however, asking the Minister to say tonight that what we are asking for is possible. What we do ask is that when the scheme is put into operation the officials will get out of their minds the thought that this scheme is peculiar to the mining industry alone. There are other industries—the steel industry, for instance—where the same hazards exist. In the steel industry they use dry and wet silica clay and wet and dry silica sand. They have coke ovens where men unload coke and coal in the same conditions as obtain in the pits, and the men suffer from the same effects and get the same diseases.

I should like an undertaking that the Government will carefully consider this point. I know that the Minister will say that the point is dealt with in the Bill in a general way, but we want a more specific assurance than what is contained in the Bill.

I support this Bill. I do not want to deal with the inadequacy of the amounts paid. That point has been ably dealt with and will continue to be dealt with. This is the sort of Measure that we on these benches might well have introduced if we had been in power. While we were in office one of our major preoccupations was to nationalise the industry and make sure that coal was obtained. I would, however, like the Minister to give an assurance that those engaged in other industries, who give this Government the least amount of trouble, will not be forgotten when the scheme is produced.

7.36 p.m.

Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)

I am very glad that we have reached the Third Reading of the Bill so speedily. I hope it will go through another place even more quickly and that the regulations under it will be made in the quickest manner possible.

I am also glad that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary has said that the greatest publicity will be given by his Department to the provisions of this Bill. I know that that was done very well indeed in connection with the 1952 Act. In mining areas particularly the local Press give great publicity to any debates of this kind so that the ex-miners are made aware that in a short time they will be able to make application.

I was interested in another point which the Joint Parliamentary Secretary made. He realised that a great many people would apply for examination when the regulations are made. He has said that assistants will aid the pneumoconiosis boards. On a number of occasions I have referred to the trouble which has arisen in many cases when the diagnosis of the pneumoconiosis boards has been very different from the diagnosis of a specialist. I should like the Minister to give me a little more information about these assistants to the pneumoconiosis boards, because each time I have raised the question I have been told that the doctors who form a pneumoconiosis board are specialists and that because of their long practice they are able to diagnose much better than specialists, say, in our infirmaries in Scotland.

In Committee my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) said: I know that all these men are protected in a certain way because they can go every six months or each year to a pneumoconiosis board for a further examination…."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 9th February, 1954; c. 21.] However, there has come to my notice a case of one of my constituents who made application under the 1952 Act. After six months he made another application for further examination, and he has been told that he cannot have a second examination. I know that is only one case, but there may be others in other areas, and so I should like the Minister's assurance that when a man makes application after six months he will be sure to have a further examination.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary has said that those who were examined under the 1952 Act and who are likely to benefit by this Bill will have an application form sent to them at the earliest moment possible. I ask the Minister whether he could not dispense with sending a further application along. If there are, as he has told us tonight, just over 1,000 men who have been examined by the board, and who are not totally disabled but are partially disabled, surely it will be a very simple thing immediately to give to those 1,000 men their benefit in the very first week possible.

These men have waited for a very long time. My hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) has said they have waited for 20 and 30 years. As the board has all the knowledge about them already, why not, instead of sending them further applications, pay them in the first week it is possible to do so? I hope that the Minister will give some thought to that.

I want to deal with some of the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Ince. The Minister in Committee quoted the ages of the people who had benefited under the 1952 scheme. He did so, he said, to reassure those who imagined that pneumoconiosis resulted in a diminution of the expectation of life. The Minister gave statistics, but they did not prove, to any one on this side of the House at least, that this dread disease does anything other than shorten the expectation of life. Surely it must make the expectation of life shorter for the sufferers than would have been the case if they had not contracted the disease.

It may be that a man with pneumoconiosis lived to the age of 60 or 70 years, but if he had not had pneumoconiosis he might have been able to live 10 years longer than he did. The Minister said that these men were "enjoying" a very ripe old age. Some of these men live in my constituency. They are very glad to have benefited by the 1952 Act. Some of them are living to an old age, but I should be the last to say they are enjoying their old age. I see them in the streets, I see them coming to my home, often gasping for breath. No one is going to tell me that those men are enjoying a ripe old age.

We have to accept the provision of 20s. made in the Bill. The Minister has said that, perhaps, he has erred on the side of generosity. He has said that some of the men voluntarily left the industry 20 or 30 years ago. The majority of those men did not leave the industry voluntarily at all. They left the industry because they were advised by their doctors that they had miners' disease of the lungs and that it would be better for them to get out of the industry.

Those are the men we are thinking of tonight. Those are the men whose expectation of life has been shortened, and whose earning capacity has for 20 or 30 years been less than it would have been but for disease. I had hoped that the 20s. would have been raised to the amount for which we asked. I still hope that those who should be receiving benefit will get it under the Bill at the earliest moment possible.

7.45 p.m.

Dr. H. Morgan (Warrington)

I am glad to have an opportunity of speaking on a subject like this, because it happens to be one of the subjects which give the most trouble to those very few doctors who specialise in diseases caused by industry. Speaking as one who has served 20 years as medical adviser to the T.U.C. and to trade unions whose members work in occupations in which they have involuntarily to breath different kinds of dust, I can say that there are no more pathetic cases in medicine than those of men suffering from this cause. Moreover, there are no more difficult cases to diagnose, or to give advice about for the future; no more difficult cases in which to make a decent assessment of the gravity of incapacity to work, which is sometimes an incapacity for any form of work.

Many medical men who have not had experience of these industrial diseases regard them as slight. It is only in the last 10 years that industrial diseases of this type have jumped into the prominence that they have now. Previously, in spite of legislation, in spite of the good men there were sometimes upon the various boards, the men suffering from these disease had no more than what are known now to be only the preliminary examinations of their condition. Doctors in general practice, doing their very best, did not recognise these diseases. The diseases were not recognised as being caused by the sufferers' work. There had not been the requisite tuition in them.

There are many men who, at an early stage of disease, having been examined every year, or every two or three years, have been turned down with the verdict, "This man is not suffering from inhalation of dust of any kind. He is suffering from chronic bronchitis because he is living in a certain atmosphere." Unless one has seen many, perhaps 1,000, X-ray pictures of lungs affected in this way, and has had experience of clinical examination in such cases, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to come to a true conclusion about the cause of the condition of the lungs. The disease may be silicosis or pneumoconiosis due to dust, but there are other causes of lung disaffection. Workers in the cotton industry, for instance, may find that, after a certain number of years, their lungs are affected by the inhalation of cotton fragments.

A man is turned down after examination. The examiners say, "We have examined this man carefully, examined his chest, taken X-rays." The man comes away and says, "They say all that, but still, I cannot breathe." Those men do not know. Sometimes the sufferers are sent to specialists, to schools in the North, and still are turned down. Very few hospitals in London have had the experience of examining such cases. The examiners are sometimes afraid of having to go into court lest someone may be called against them who will say, "I have seen many cases, and this is not silicosis or pneumoconiosis." That witness may have seen 12 or 14 cases. If he had had more experience he would not have said that.

This is a pathetic part of medicine. Industrial medicine is not taught in many of the 36 teaching medical schools in Great Britain.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)

I do not want to interrupt the interesting speech of the hon. Member, but do not think that it is related to the Bill.

Dr. Morgan

With great respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I am submitting to you that the diagnosis of dust diseases and of deposits of dust in the lungs is very important in connection with the ailments for which we are now seeking compensation.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I am not disputing the importance of it. I am sure that the hon. Member is right about that, but that is not one of the issues of the Bill.

Dr. Morgan

A man cannot get compensation unless he is suffering from one of the industrial lung diseases which causes him disablement. That is why he is given compensation. There is no other reason except that the dust incapacitates his lungs and he cannot breathe; but if that is your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I will not pursue the matter.

I submit, however, that this is a disease caused by an industry of a particular kind. Different forms of disease produce different X-ray pictures. Sometimes they differ from one another according to the amount of dust inhaled. The ordinary layman may think that we are making a fuss about a little spot of dust in the lungs. It is enough for a man who has a little spot of dust in the lungs and who tries to do continually the work by which he earns his living, to know that he cannot work. He is disabled and he should get compensation.

Again, I come back to the difficulty of diagnosis. The doctors are confused about the diagnosis of these cases. They have only their ordinary stethoscope; sometimes they have no X-ray apparatus. I submit that all these medical facts are of importance and one of the main factors in linking up the disease from which a man is liable to disablement in a particular occupation.

I will stop now, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, because I see that you are still rather anxious as to whether or not I am going beyond the bounds of this Bill. It is very difficult for a medical man, who has been keen about this job, not to do so, especially when he has seen so much suffering and so much criss-cross diagnosis, one doctor differing from another. Ask one doctor how many cases he has seen in the course of 20 years; he has seen 20. Ask another and he has seen 50. The medical officer to a firm in a district where these diseases are prevalent can say, "I have seen 2,000 or 3,000 cases of pneumoconiosis in the last 15 years."That man has these cases constantly brought before his eyes, and when he says, "That man has silicosis," his statement cannot be denied. When that man dies, all the doubters areset back when one cuts open the lung and sees the dust there and the lung almost consolidated.

I do ask for everything possible that can be done to be done to secure compensation for these workers, and some money ought to be available for their wives and children. This Bill should be passed with all celerity and other Bills brought in to secure the inclusion of other occupations of this description.

7.56 p.m.

Mr. Stan Awbery (Bristol, Central)

I am afraid that the last statement of the Minister created some misunderstanding or misapprehension. I gather from the speeches made since that he expressed the hope that when miners left the industry and went into other parts of the country to work efforts would be made to get this Bill known to them. I thoroughly endorse that, and I hope that will be done. But he created the impression that it was only miners who were concerned with this Bill.

I want to clear up the position if I can. In this list of prescribed industries 37 are mentioned. Not all of them will come under this Bill, but a large number will. I am concerned about some of the men who will come under this Bill when it becomes an Act. It is not wholly a pneumoconiosis and byssinosis Bill. It is a Bill, we are told, that will cover any disease, in respect of which compensation was provided under Section 43 of the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1945, which may have given rise to cases where compensation cannot be paid because the onset of the disablement was delayed beyond the time-limit contained in thatSection. So, practically every disease referred to in the Schedule which does not show itself for 12 months will now come within the scope of this Bill.

Like the previous speakers, I welcome the Bill as a step in the right direction. In the course of our legislation on workmen's compensation one step has followed on another. Now, in 1954, we realise that there are men suffering from industrial diseases who are getting no compensation either from their employer or from the State. I worked in an industry where men were subject to an industrial disease. Until 1911, these men were unable to receive or claim workmen's compensation. It was through the death of one of my workmates that an inquiry was held, and as a result of that inquiry the disease from which these men suffered was brought within the schedule of industrial diseases.

These men whom we are now bringing within the scope of this Bill at the present time have been suffering for years, and we are trying to put the thing right tonight by offering them a small partial compensation of £1 a week. I do not think that we are being over-generous to these men who have given their lives to the State. We consider the soldier who has fought on the battlefield and who has been disabled or partially disabled, and we try to deal with him in a generous way;but when it comes to the men disabled or partially disabled in industry, we deal with them in a different way altogether. I am anxious, as I said in Committee, that the Minister should deal in a more generous way than he has done with men of this character.

There is the disease of pitch cancer, to which I have referred; there are silicosis and byssinosis, the diseases of the eye which arise from a man's employment, and tuberculosis. All these things will come under the Act. When the Minister carries out his promise to make this well known among people who are partially disabled because of an industrial disease, I hope that he will do it not only among the miners, but also among the men who are embraced from other industries.

This is an anomaly. It is now showing itself six years after the 1948 Act came into operation. If only for this reason, I suggest that the Minister should compensate these men with much more than £1 a week. A man might have been suffering from one of these industrial diseases for 10, 15 or 20 years. Had the disease shown itself in time, he would have claimed compensation and would have been paid during all these years. But because the disease did not show itself, no claim could be made and the man consequently has lost his compensation.

We are trying to rectify that anomaly, but what about the 10, 15 or 20 years that these men have lost? Surely we could say to them, "We realise that for so many years you have suffered pain and agony, loss of employment, and loss of social amenities which otherwise you would have enjoyed. We are now going to be generous and will give you something worth while." But instead we say to the men, "You have suffered for 15 years and we are going to do something: we will give you now £1 a week." Surely, we can deal more generously than this with the man who is crippled in industry.

I believe the Minister said in Committee that these benefits will cost £300,000 a year. To increase the 20s. payment to 27s. would mean an expenditure of less than £400,000 a year. Surely we can manage another £100,000 to help these men out of their difficulties. After all, their number is diminishing, and in the next 10 or 12 years it will dwindle almost to nothing.

I ask the Minister whether it is possible, even at this late stage, to deal more generously with these men, who have been wronged, but not by themselves. They have suffered not because they failed to claim compensation. They have suffered all these years because the House of Commons decided that it would not see the injustice and put it right years ago. We are not only penalising a man for his suffering, but are penalising him for something that we failed to do years ago. I ask the Minister to consider this appeal generously, and I ask him to do all he can to notify men who are suffering from industrial diseases other than pnuemoconiosis and byssinosis when the Act comes into operation that they can draw benefit under it.

8.4 p.m.

Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

In spite of the criticisms that have been levelled against some of the provisions of the Bill at this stage in its Third Reading, I think all of us would use the adjective "civilised" with reference to legislation of this kind, for it puts an end to a situation which was really not supportable. Even if we do not find in the Bill all we would have liked, that does not mean that we are not very glad that at last the injustice which has been done to so many people comes to an end.

I was not in the House at the time, but I remember that in 1943 Parliament passed a fragment of legislation. That, too, was a benefit Bill, and it was for pneumoconiosis. An attempt was made to pick up men who were outside the former schemes, and because "pneumoconiosis," and not "pneumoconiosis and silicosis," was used, men who were suffering from silicosis and who should have been picked up in the scheme were left out. That sort of thing will not happen with this benefit Bill, and so far as inhalation of dust and the resulting fibrosis from the inhalation of dust are concerned, it looks as if we shall virtually have covered everyone.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones) wondered whether people other than miners would be affected. I may be wrong, but I hope the Minister will make this clear. I was always under the impression that under this scheme it is not the industry in which one had been engaged which mattered. What matters is whether one suffers from the prescribed disease; and if so, obviously one comes within the scope of benefit. I am sure that that is the case, but we shall listen with interest to what the Minister says.

We have made known our views on the flat rate payment of 20s. for partial disablement, and I still think that the Minister has made a mistake. In my view, it is not his generosity so much as his logic which has let him down. I say this with great respect to him, for he said himself that if men were assessed as having a loss of faculty of 80 per cent. they were totally disabled, and he said that the partially disabled would on average have a loss of faculty of 35 to 40 per cent. Thus he was able to argue that the 20s. flat rate was generous.

But the right hon. Gentleman did not give enough attention to the fact that these men are moving into a position in which there is deterioration, and not betterment, so far as their disease is concerned. That is the fact that he has not taken into account. Therefore, if on the Minister's own figures the 20s. payment will be paid for an average loss of faculty of 35 to 40 per cent., he must admit that in a few years many will have become worse; but though there will be deterioration they will not have reached 80 per cent. of loss of faculty or, alternatively, total incapacity.

The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. Osbert Peake)

indicated dissent.

Dr. Stress

The Minister shakes his head. Will he tell the House, at this late stage, that their condition is stationary? Will he not accept that if there is a change, it is for the worse and not for the better? I want him to accept that wherever there is an element of infection in these cases, it always brings worsening. However else does one explain the figures given by my hon. Friend the Member for Ince(Mr. T. Brown)? I have no doubt that most of his instances were of men suffering from pneumoconiosis accompanied by tuberculosis; that is why they died so quickly. But there is a slow form of infected condition in these cases—the fibroid phthisical type associated with pneumoconiosis—which may live for 15 years; yet these cases definitely move forward to total incapacity within a certain time.

I know it is too late to incorporate changes at this stage, and we put down no Amendments on Report, but I ask the Minister to bear all this in mind and not to feel that he is being over-generous with a flat rate payment of 20s. However, the right hon. Gentleman knows that I am not feeling excessively indignant. I merely state that he was wrong in his judgment.

Mr. T. Brown

I am indignant about it.

Miss Herbison

So am I.

Dr. Stross

The Minister in his Second Reading speech gave us figures which were most interesting. We have got to look carefully at them. I was very happy to hear the position now, because I can remember what it was like in 1928 when I began to take an intimate interest in this type of work. I then examined an enormous number of men who were suffering and saw them not only in life but on the post-mortem table. Expectation of life was very low and that was for a number of reasons.

Before the miners were brought into any scheme we in the pottery industry had our own scheme which began in 1928. In those days we used to see examples of massive pneumoconiosis, which were more classical examples on X-ray photographic plates than those from the goldfields of Africa, because one could see lumps of rock as big as one's fist in the lung.

Since then there has been a change. It is because of those very schemes and the fact that employers had to pay compensation to ensure themselves and that the insurance company in their turn demanded that there should be an amelioration of the conditions in the factories, together with the remarkable work done for us through the Ministry of Labour by the inspectorate that we have an improvement generally in the whole position. So the kind of picture we get is a change for the better both clinically and otherwise.

There is hardly a coal face in North Staffordshire today which is not water diffused. We do not see the people dying as we used to when I first began to take an interest in this subject. I can recall people sitting up in their chairs panting for the last four or five months of their lives, literally unable to lie down or to swallow.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I think the hon. Member's speech is more appropriate to Second Reading than to Third Reading.

Dr. Stress

I am referring to the figures which the Minister gave to us and which were so reassuring as showing that certain changes have occurred and that it is because of those changes that it can now go out to the public that this disease is no longer as dangerous as it used to be. I think it is a fair point to make on Third Reading.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

On Third Reading all speeches must be limited strictly to what is in the Bill.

Dr. Stross

I think that I have made my point and I would not stress it further in any event.

May I say this one last thing. This Bill allows the Minister to make schemes, and I hope he will bear in mind that it will allow him to introduce schemes for men who suffer not only from dust inhalation but from inhalation of fumes, who have very marked pulmonary fibrosis and, in particular, bronchitis and emphysema. These men are steel smelters and others and they work in a hot atmosphere. The Minister is probably aware that it is possible sometimes under those conditions to inhale fumes of a deadly nature, and no doubt cases have been brought to his attention.

I am grateful for this Bill for it clears up most of the grievances that we have suffered from in the past, and what we have got to do from now on is to see that new types of assault are not made upon the workers by new processes which are not covered by any legislation.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. Bernard Taylor (Mansfield)

In my constituency are at least 10,000 miners, and I am naturally interested in the subject of pneumoconiosis. There is no section of the industrial community more subject to this awful disease than our coalminers, and for that reason I join with my hon. Friends in welcoming this Bill. I am glad that it has at long last reached its Third Reading. I should like to pay a compliment to all those individuals and organisations who, over the past two or two and a half years, have made such a valuable contribution in finalising the conclusions embodied in the Bill.

I am sure that Members on both sides of the House will give their blessing to the Bill because of the benefits which it proposes to bestow upon those who have suffered so long and so severely and who have been greatly handicapped. Only a fortnight ago one of my constituents came to see me. He had been out of the industry sufficiently long to be penalised by the time limit. He went to the pneumoconiosis board and they would not certify him as totally disabled. Therefore, he did not come within the terms of the 1951 Act. He had seen the provisions of this Bill, and he has been constantly inquiring from me how much longer it would be before the Bill became law so that he could enjoy its benefits.

That individual is only one of many thousands so afflicted. We recall that the Minister's own estimate was at least 15,000. That is a great number of men, and many of them have for long been deprived of benefit which many of us feel they were justly entitled to. Now this Bill recognises that, and I am sure there are many people, particularly coalminers, who will welcome the Bill, because many of them have waited so long under great difficulties and under severe handicap for these benefits.

I hope there will be no misapprehensions on the part of the Minister or anyone else about one subject. Whilst we on this side of the House welcome the Bill because of the benefits which it will give, we still think that the amount of £1 a week to the partially disabled is inadequate. We would have liked the Minister to have been a little more generous. I do not want to go into the question of the average rate and those other ques- tions which were dealt with on Second Reading and in Committee, but I should like to associate myself with the remarks that have been made by my hon. Friends about the amount of the flat rate. We are disappointed.

I rejoice tonight with my hon. Friends because this Bill abolishes the iniquitous time limits. Those of us who have experience of coalmining, and who meet miners almost every day of our lives, know how many of them have been penalised because they have been the unfortunate victims of the time limits which, for too long, have characterised workmen's compensation.

I want the Minister to clarify a statement which he made in Committee, and which caused me some apprehension and confusion. The right hon. Gentleman said: It is perfectly true—I want to be fair with the Committee—that in the field we are now discussing cases of very small assessment will not find a place."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 9th February, 1954; c. 26.] The Minister may have had some justification for making that statement, but for the sake of the record, I hope he will tell us what he meant in order to remove doubt from the minds of many.

I was delighted to hear the Joint Parliamentary Secretary indicate the proposed publicity arrangements. These cases will not be confined merely to the coalfields, and I join with the hon. Gentleman in asking all hon. Members of this House to do what they can to give the utmost publicity to these proposals. Many of those who have been the victims of the time limits have left the mining areas and gone elsewhere to earn their livelihood because they could no longer work in the pits, so I hope that we shall all do what we can in the direction of ensuring the utmost publicity.

I end, as I began, by welcoming the Bill and by expressing our hope that those who make application and are successful will experience no delay in receiving the benefit promised by the Bill.

8.24 p.m.

The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. Osbert Peake)

This is quite a narrow Bill and my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary has already explained clearly what will be done to implement it. Therefore, I shall reply only briefly to three or four of the points made in the debate. In doing so I hope that I shall not trespass beyond the bounds of order and that I shall be able to relate my remarks to matters which are in the Bill.

The hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. B. Taylor) asked what type of case of partial incapacity would qualify for benefit under the Bill. This Bill is an attempt, I believe a successful one, to fill in gaps in the old workmen's compensation schemes. It is, therefore, the workmen's compensation test of partial incapacity which will enable a man to qualify for benefit for pneumoconiosis under the Bill. This means that the man's general physical capacity for employment is to some extent impaired.

The test has nothing whatever to do with earnings, which do not come into this picture. The extension of the Industrial Injuries Scheme which I made last month enabled those assessed at 1 per cent. to benefit, but those with such a low degree of disablement will not benefit under this scheme. This Bill will enable men who failed to qualify for workmen's compensation on account of the time limits to claim benefit.

The hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones) asked to what extent, if any, this Bill would apply to men who had pneumoconiosis but who had never been engaged in one of the employments scheduled under the old Workmen's Compensation Acts. The Regulations I made last month extend the benefit for pneumoconiosis under the Industrial Injuries Scheme to men who have never worked in a scheduled occupation but who have been employed in some other occupation involving exposure to dust. By the terms of the principal Act, which this Bill amends, any amendment of that character made in the Industrial Injuries Scheme extends to cases under this Bill. It will be possible, therefore, for men whom the hon. Member for Rotherham has in mind, who have failed to get benefit for pneumoconiosis because their occupation was not scheduled under the Workmen's Compensation Acts, to make a claim under this Bill.

Mr. Awbery

So the disease will now be considered, and not the place where the man is employed?

Mr. Peake

Yes, that is the case.

Now I come to one small error of fact made by the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Awbery) about the cost of the Bill. The cost is about £800,000 a year on the Industrial Injuries Fund. It was the Amendment which the hon. Gentleman supported in Committee that would have cost another £300,000.

So far as the first point made by the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) is concerned, as she asked about one case, perhaps it would be best if she would send me particulars. The hon. Lady also asked whether those who had already been examined for total incapacity and had failed to qualify would have to be reexamined for partial incapacity. The answer is that the administration of this scheme will be in the hands of a very excellent administrative board. It will be the same board as that which administers the scheme for total incapacity, which we established under the 1951 Act.

Mr. Paul Sandlands, Q.C., is the chairman of the board, and its work has given great satisfaction. It will be for the board to decide in each individual case whether re-examination is necessary or desirable. The board will have to decide whether a man qualifies for benefit under the scheme, and I think that we can leave it safely in its hands to make the best arrangements in each individual case.

There may be cases where the board requires some small amount of further evidence. It may call for a further radiograph or something of that kind. The Bill provides, however, that benefit in cases of delay can be payable from the date of application if the board has decided in the man's favour. That is to say, although there are bound to be delays, especially on the medical side, in view of staffing difficulties of which the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) is well aware, these benefits for men who have qualified can be paid back to the date of the application.

Miss Herbison

I am extremely anxious about this aspect because from my experience I know that so many of these men have died, particularly in the cold weather which we have had recently. I am afraid that if any length of time intervenes some of those who ought to receive this benefit will never have the satisfaction of receiving it. A letter which came to me yesterday from an old miner mentions four villages in my constituency and states that during the last cold spell—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I do not think that that arises at this stage.

Miss Herbison

But this Bill will give compensation or benefit to people who are partially disabled. Surely it is right to try to make a case that compensation should be paid as quickly as possible to these men and to give reasons for making that case.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Lady has made the point.

Miss Herbison

I wanted to give the Minister the details, in case he does not realise what is happening to these people, particularly in cold weather.

Mr. Peake

I can assure the hon. Lady that I used to live with this problem of pneumoconiosis in the years 1942–43, which the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) recalls. I know, of course, that it is important to have these claims dealt with as soon as possible. But I do not want anyone to minimise the difficulties which we have to face on the medical side. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary used some very carefully phrased words about that in moving the Third Reading of the Bill. The matter is the subject of discussion with the T.U.C. and I hope that we shall arrive at arrangements which will enable this work to be carried through successfully and without undue delay.

I should like to say a word or two about the age groups of persons affected by this Bill. In Committee I quoted some figures, which I thought rather startled the Committee, about the ages of some of the claimants for benefit under the scheme which we passed two years ago. I will repeat the figures, because they are important.

At 31st December, 1953, out of a total of about 2,660 beneficiaries under the principal Act, seven men were over 85 years of age, 59 were between 80 and 85, 292 between 75 and 80, 552 between 70 and 75 and 639 were between 65 and 70. About 60 per cent. of the total were men already of retirement age. In quoting these figures I had only two purposes in view. The first was to show the class of person with whom we are dealing under these schemes. They are in the main elderly men, retirement pensioners. It would not be right to assume that the majority are still at work and are suffering considerable loss of earnings at present. They have already passed into the retirement class.

Secondly, I mentioned the figures because I thought that quoting them would give some assurance to a great many sufferers from this disease who might otherwise think they were doomed to a premature death. I do not deny that in many cases this is a progressive disease, but my information is that in many other cases it is static and that sufferers live to a considerable age. I do not want to cross swords with the hon. Member for Ince, but in my time I have met a great many elderly people who, although severely crippled or disabled, do derive some enjoyment out of life.

Mr. T. Brown

We were not complaining about the figures which the Department submitted through the right hon. Gentleman. They were remarkable figures and gave us some insight into the problems with which his Department has to deal. My complaint tonight is that the right hon. Gentleman said that these men were enjoying life. If the right hon. Gentleman can point out to me a man who is suffering from silicosis and is enjoying life. I should like to see him. Our objection was that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned enjoyment of life.

Mr. Peake

I apologise to the hon. Member. I will certainly withdraw that phrase if he takes exception to it.

Mr. Brown

I do take exception.

Mr. Peake

There is one other fact about those people which I should like to mention and which is of interest. The right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West suggested that a great many of these people must be bedridden. Cer- tainly many of them are very old, as is shown by the figures I have given. I have had an examination made of the numbers to whom we give constant attendance allowance at a scale which indicates whether they are made bedridden by their pneumoconiosis or not. I find that out of the total of 2,660 cases we are giving that allowance to cases which are almost certainly cases of bedridden people in 118 instances, about one in 25. I do not think that is exceptional when we consider the age groups of the people to whom I have referred.

Dr. Stross

Does it not follow, therefore, that what is happening is, as I tried to suggest, that there is an improvement throughout the whole field and that men are not subject to the same level as they used to be? Is that not why we have a better situation generally?

Mr. Peake

I think that is probably true. One must be extremely guarded in what deductions one draws from the figures I have given. But I think the fact that many of these people are living to a considerable old age may be a reassurance to many sufferers from this dread and terrible disease.

The only complaint which hon. Members opposite have about the Bill is that the amount of compensation which it provides is, in their view, inadequate. In choosing a rate of benefit for partial disablement I was not a free agent. I was circumscribed by the rates fixed under the old Workmen's Compensation Acts, the Act of 1951 introduced by the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West for supplementing the old Workmen's Compensation Acts, and also by the rates fixed for total disability two years ago.

The House has welcomed the Bill. I am sure that it is a good Bill, and that, with the good will of all concerned, we can do something for what are called the forgotten men of industry.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.