HC Deb 22 June 1956 vol 554 cc1828-49

1.13 p.m.

Mr. Bernard Taylor (Mansfield)

I beg to move, in page 3, line 37, to leave out from "evidence" to "and" in line 38.

We had a long discussion on this matter in the Standing Committee, as the right hon. Gentleman will know, and the Joint Parliamentary Secretary undertook that the important points that were then raised would be examined. I do not want now to deploy any of the arguments that we have used before. The main purpose of my moving the Amendment now is to provide an opportunity for the Minister to tell us what is the outcome, which, I hope, is very favourable, of the consideration which he has given to this matter since we met in Committee.

1.15 p.m.

I would repeat only this, that I still feel, as I said in Committee, that the words which we seek to delete from the Bill are unnecessary. I trust the Minister has found a way of doing away with what I shall call a duplication of medical examination in this type of case.

Mr. Roy Mason (Barnsley)

I beg to second the Amendment.

If left in the Bill these words will mean that the industrially injured man, when applying for the 17s. 6d. supplementary benefit the Bill provides, may be subject to a further medical examination. The Minister thinks that because the supplement is to be paid out of the Industrial Injuries Fund he should reserve the right to demand another medical examination. I appreciate that point of view, but does the Minister really know what apprehension this will create in the minds of the industrially injured workmen, and also of the trade union official?

Frankly, apart from the provision for this extra medical examination, this is a just and a very much needed Bill. Many injured workmen, that is, totally incapacitated workmen, having received their injuries between 1924 and 1948 are eagerly awaiting their legal recognition.

I want to express my specific objections to these words in subsection (1, c): … and to undergo medical or other examination.… Confusion, dismay and apprehension will follow if those words are left in the Bill. Will not the second medical examination really mean a cross-examination of the competence of the first medical board? At present, these injured workmen have been medically examined and assessed at a certain percentage of disability and informed when they shall appear next before the medical examiners. It is not always that they are granted 100 per cent. disability for all time. Following the Minister's examination, different results may be obtained. Has the Minister any idea how the men's faith in the Bill and in the preceding legislation may be shattered by this? The Minister may easily jeopardise the whole Bill by introducing this kind of unnecessary, cumbersome cross-questioning legislation.

I would repeat a warning I gave the Minister when, on 17th February, I was moving the Second Reading of a Private Member's Bill, and dealing with special hardship allowance and unemployability supplement. I was referring to the injured man and I said: … he becomes a disgruntled man and complains bitterly of the injustice meted out to him. He becomes antagonistic towards the Industrial Injuries Acts and tends to bring them into disrepute. These men, in the main, are the skilled producers of the nation's wealth—the miners, steelworkers, engineers and railway men. They all figure in this unfair deal."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th February, 1956; Vol. 548, c. 2680.] That warning should be borne in mind.

Secondly, what system of examination is to prevail? And at what expense to the workmen or to the trade union acting on his behalf or to the Ministry? In any case, it seems as though there is to be a quite appreciable sum of unnecessary expense incurred by the Ministry and by the workmen.

Thirdly—and I think that this is very important—what recognition is the medical certificate issued by the workman's employer to receive? What exactly will be its strength? Will not the whole of the present procedure be seriously undermined by the introduction of this extra examination? Is it not sufficient for the workman to have in his possession one certificate from the employer's examiners, which will, in any case, have been tested to the full, ready to show at any time that he is 100 per cent. disabled?

What really is the aim of the Minister in instituting this new procedure with all its difficulties, and the problems which will follow its train? What exactly is he hoping to achieve? Is not the system tight enough at the present? Does he think that the employers are eager to pay 100 per cent. disability if it cannot he proved? Is he not aware of the rigorous examinations these workmen have had to undergo?

Let it not be said that the Minister intends paying 17s. 6d. to the totally disabled under this Bill, and then is hopeful of retrieving part of the outlay by reducing the number of totally disabled cases by denying them benefits through a second examination. I do not think the Minister really has that in mind at all. Nevertheless, therein lies a danger. There is another major point, and here I refer specifically to the cases of injured workmen who have received their 100 per cent. disability grant under Section 9 (4) of the old Workmen's Compensation Acts. This category includes a large percentage of industrially diseased workmen—particularly silicotic and pneumoconiotics—the two most dreaded dust diseases in mining and quarrying.

Here are workmen who are not, strictly speaking, 100 per cent. disabled. But under the Acts I have mentioned, and after hearing the case put by both sides and surveying the available medical evidence, a county court judge could make an award of 100 per cent. disability. The judge invariably took into consideration the fact that the workman, in his diseased state, could not find suitable employment, and also that the employers would not engage what they term "liabilities."

I refer once more to the OFFICIAL REPORT of 17th February. When I was pleading for unemployability supplement for those people, I said: There are not many cases which would benefit, but they are hard cases—men suffering from industrial diseases, and pneumoconiosis in particular, who, because they are not classed as unemployables, yet in effect really are, no employer will entertain because of their condition. There are also a few accident cases of people in the same position."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 17th February, 1956: Vol. 548, c. 2694.] There are men so affected in every mining area and what of their feelings now, if the Minister is to challenge their position and disability? I hope that the Minister has given this aspect of the matter sympathetic consideration, and that it is not his intention to penalise these men. As I see it, the danger is that the Minister's doctors can reduce a judged totally incapacitated man to one capable of light work. The consequence of such an examination would be to provide the employers with fresh medical evidence which, in turn, would be used to recall the workmen for a fresh medical examination by the employer's doctors. The tendency would be to reduce the full rate of compensation to a partial rate.

Replying to this point during the Committee stage discussions, the Parliamentary Secretary did not help to settle our disturbed minds. She said:

Not every case rested on medical evidence. There was a loophole in the case of a man who was partially incapacitated, but who received maximum compensation. That was one of the difficulties."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee E: 14th June, 1956, c. 37.] We are, therefore, particularly worried about the future of the classified 100 per cent. disability case. May I also ask whether the right of appeal is to be granted? There does not seem to be any provision in this Bill to cover that point. To sum up, the funds are protected, if that is one of the Minister's worries, as the full-rate men have their compensation granted on medical evidence or on a judge's award. Clause 9 (4) cases can be seriously jeopardised by the Minister's doctors saying that they are fit for light work, and so stopping their supplement. It is possible that the Minister's doctors can be the instrument used to reduce full-rate men to "partials" by providing fresh medical evidence to the employers. The cost here is a diminishing one as the years go by. Many of these men are aged workmen, and in the light of the history of these cases sufficient medical evidence is at hand to grant the supplementation.

In view of these many and varied reasons, I hope that the Minister will accept our arguments and delete the words to which the Amendment refers.

The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter)

The effect of the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. B. Taylor), in a speech of most commendable brevity, would be to delete from the regulation-making powers provided in Clause 3 of the Bill the power to make regulations requiring persons claiming to undergo medical or other examinations. As I explained to the hon. Member for Mansfield, I am sorry that owing to other duties it was not possible for me to be present during the Committee stage discussions when this Amendment was dealt with. But I can assure the hon. Gentleman and the House, that I have carefully studied the quite lengthy debate on it, as recorded in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

On reading that, and considering the matter carefully, it seemed to me that the fears then expressed, and again expressed most eloquently this afternoon by the hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason), are founded on a misapprehension, both as to the position of the old workmen's compensation cases which this Bill seeks to relieve, and the provisions of this Bill. It seemed to me in the first place that the apprehensions expressed were based on an assumption about the old workmen's compensation cases which is not completely consistent with the facts. None the Jess, the underlying assumption on both subjects this afternoon was that there was a complete and perfectly defined category of workmen's compensation cases of total incapacity, and therefore, all that was needed was to recogise that, and to pay the supplement.

The hon. Member for Barnsley indicated some awareness of the fact that that was not quite the whole truth, that there are a considerable number of cases the position of which under the Workmen's Compensation Acts is not wholly clear. First, there are the cases of partial incapacity on maximum. During the Second Reading debate I referred to the difficulty of applying the new industrial injury system of assessment on loss of faculty to the old workmen's compensation system of assessment on loss of wages. Of course, the House will appreciate that there are many cases of partial incapacity where the loss of wages was such that maximum compensation was payable, and therefore, under the old Workmen's Compensation Acts there was no incentive for the injured workman, or his trade union, or the employer, to seek to disturb the earlier finding of partial incapacity.

There are a number of other cases, as my investigations indicated, where, if the maximum rate is being paid now, it is not clear whether it is being paid on the basis of total or partial incapacity —it simply is not clear. And as in those cases the loss of wages has been substantial, it has, frankly, been to no one's interest to seek to disturb that state of affairs. That is the answer to the hon. Member for Barnsley's shrewd observation that no employer—or as is generally the case, no insurance company—would be likely, through sheer benevolence, to pay more than he was obliged to. That does not apply in this matter, because the amount paid, once a man is on the maximum, is the same, whether the incapacity is partial or total.

That is the difficulty which we have to face. There will be a number of such cases where either the finding is one of partial or total incapacity, and where it is not clear whether the payment is on partial or total incapacity on the maximum. We shall have to deal with those cases under the Bill. If in those cases it is impossible to arrange for a medical examination, it seems to me that it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for those men to establish their case.

1.30 p.m.

I think that part of the misunderstanding which has arisen has done so because a number of hon. Members particularly concerned with this matter are concerned with the mining industry. So far as I can see, this is not a problem which arises in the mining industry, because there is there the scheme of the National Coal Board for supplementation of old workmen's compensation cases, in connection with which the National Coal Board has itself undertaken most careful classification of total or partial disability.

Therefore the problem is not one affecting the industry with which most of the hon. Members who have spoken are particularly concerned. Though I readily acknowledge that this Bill will be of special benefit to casualties from the mining industry—indeed, I recall that about half the cases whom we shall benefit were associated with that industry —it covers the whole of industry, and it is mainly outside the mining industry that there will arise these problems of seeing whether a man at present classified for workmen's compensation as a "partial," or whose classification is not yet clear, may be entitled, if he can make out his case, to benefit under this Bill. I must tell the House that if we were not able to have a medical examination in those cases it would be difficult, if not impossible, to see that those men receive the benefit of this Bill.

Let me, then, indicate how it is proposed to handle this matter. The hon. Member for Barnsley asked what was proposed. He may recall that on Second Reading I indicated that we intended to use the existing machinery of the Industrial Injuries Acts with respect to medical examination. I think that is satisfactory, because I think that the men, and certainly the union leadership, are fully familiar with that procedure, which has been operating for eight years, so it will not occasion any difficulty. Cases will be decided by the statutory authorities under the Industrial Injuries Acts, who are qualified and experienced in handling this kind of case.

As I have said, it is unlikely to be necessary to arrange for medical examination, in any case in the mining industry, and even outside the mining industry there is no intention, in the majority of cases, to arrange for a medical examination, because we do not think there will be any need to do so. For instance, there is no intention to undertake a medical examination where there is a clear and obviously effective decision of the medical referee under the workmen's compensation procedure. In many of the other cases the statutory authorities will be able to settle the claim without medical examination in the normal way. As the hon. Member for Barnsley said, there will be the evidence of the employer and of the insurance company or my own Department's records of sickness benefit.

However there will be other cases where medical examination will be necessary if benefit is to be paid. I will give one or two examples which I think will immediately strike the House as being relevant. There is the case where there has been an old injury and partial incapacity for some time but where, with age and physical deterioration, the incapacity has more recently become total. In such a case a medical examination may be necessary if a claim to the supplement under this Measure is to be established. Then there will be the case, probably outside the mining industry but conceivably within it, of a man with a certificate for partial disablement for pneumoconiosis. It may be necessary for such a case to go back to the medical board to be certified as total.

Then there is the case for which we are seeking to provide under Clause 1 (1, e) of the Bill. This is the case of the man with two or more injuries, in respect of each of which he is receiving partial compensation, and is therefore, in respect of each of them, classified as a "partial." The Bill contemplates that such a man may be entitled to the supplement because the cumulative effect of his injuries may be total. If such a man puts in a claim, it may be necessary to arrange for a medical examination if the claim cannot be established without one.

Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)

Would the Minister look again at the words, because it seems to me that he can get all the information he wants, in the very few cases which he admits are likely to arise, under the following words, in Clause 3 (1, c): for requiring persons claiming or receiving such allowances to furnish information and evidence … He could get that from the man himself. In other words, in the case which he has in mind he could place the obligation on the man to get a certificate from his own doctor, thus obviating the necessity for a further examination.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

As the hon. Gentleman will appreciate from his trade union experience, in the first place that would involve placing the cost of obtaining evidence on the man—

Mr Jones

Not necessarily.

Mr Boyd-Carpenter

—whereas if the hon. Gentleman will look at Clause 3 (2), he will see that we are proposing to take powers, where medical examinations are required, both to provide the medical examination free, and to pay for subsistence and loss of time in the normal way when medical examinations are required.

Secondly, that suggestion does not get over the difficulty that under the Bill, as under industrial injuries legislation, it is for the statutory authorities to decide a specific case. One might get the unfortunate position in which a medical certificate was submitted which did not satisfy the statutory authorities and where, therefore, for the claim to succeed, a medical examination under the provisions of the Measure would still be necessary.

Though there is nothing in the Bill, as I understand it, to prevent any applicant bringing forward such evidence as he wishes, including medical evidence, I am certain that the freedom to do so does not in a small minority of cases exclude the necessity for the proposed medical examination. However, what I am about to say will, I think, reassure the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Barnsley in respect of the apprehensions which they feel, and will show that they are unfounded.

There is no intention to go to great expense and great trouble in oversetting or upsetting clear cases and clear decisions. This power is required for the minority of cases only.

I think it will help to reassure hon. Gentlemen opposite if I go on to indicate, the class of cases where a medical examination may be necessary if the statutory authority cannot come to a decision without its help. I have referred to a certain number of classes of cases which may arise when the Measure comes into force. But, after all, this is a continuing provision, designed to deal with people who, as a result of their injuries are only partially incapacitated. at the time when the Bill comes into force, may subsequently become totally disabled. There is the case of the comparatively short breakdown about which hon. Gentlemen opposite were much concerned, and which led to our discussion on Clause 1, and to my subsequent introduction of an Amendment shortening the period involved. That is the case of a man who is normally no more than partially incapacitated but who claims to have become totally incapacitated for a comparatively limited period for anything over 13 weeks.

There is another type of case. There is the man who, after the passing and coming into force of this Measure. commutes his compensation. When that happens his employers or insurance company are no longer in the picture. There is no workmen's compensation to help him if his condition deteriorates, and the statutory authority will be unable to come to a decision in his favour without a medical examination. I cannot see, therefore, how that type of case can possibly succeed without the medical examination provision.

Mr. B. Taylor

Is the right hon. Gentleman implying that if the person who has commuted his compensation makes an application for the supplement, he will be submitted to medical examination? The two tests laid down in Clause 1 are, first, total disability, and. secondly, receipt of weekly payments. Yet if the man has commuted his compensation he is not in receipt of weekly payments.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I think that the hon. Gentleman misunderstood me. The provision in Clause 1 is in respect of men in receipt of weekly payments on the coming into force of the Act. The case which I am putting to the House is that of the man who is in that position subsequent to the coming into force of the Act, and who is therefore within the benefit of the Act, and commutes his compensation subsequently. I do not think that there is any misunderstanding between us there.

Those are the types of cases. I hope that they will be few because naturally I and the Department have no wish to overstrain the Departmental machinery, which has a good deal to do in the ordinary way, and which, as hon. Members know, has worked to the satisfaction of the House generally in the administration of the Industrial Injuries Acts. We have no wish that the Department should take on work for the sake of it. I can assure the House and hon. Members opposite who are concerned that there is no intention of going to the expense of ordering unnecessary examinations where the case is clear. What I propose to do, however, when we come to the regulations stage is this.

The House will appreciate that at the moment we are considering the Clause under which regulations will be made. Under the Act those regulations will have to be laid before Parliament and will be subject to the Prayer procedure with which some of us have from time to time not been wholly unfamiliar. Therefore, if anything I say by way of forecast of the regulations does not seem to be carried out, it will be open to hon. Members to put down a Prayer, and to discuss the matter further.

It is my intention that the effect of the regulations, when laid, shall be that, except with the consent of the workman, a medical examination shall not be required, unless in the opinion of the determining authority the evidence otherwise available is insufficient. If the evidence otherwise available is insufficient then, of course, the result would be that without such an examination the award could not be made. I think that if the regulations can be drafted to make that clear there need be no reason for the apprehensions which hon. Members have expressed.

I cannot, and I am frank with the House, recommend the House to accept the deletion of the power to order medical examinations, because I am satisfied that if I did I should, as a result, deprive of benefit a few of the people whom this Bill is designed to help. I hope that what I have said and what will subsequently appear when the regulations are laid before Parliament will make perfectly clear the fact that we intend, in administering this matter, to restrict our administration, by the terms of the regulations themselves, to dealing with those cases in which it is not possible to make an award because the evidence without such medical examination would be insufficient.

I hope that I have made clear the point that it seems to be in the highest degree improbable that there will be any need to order many such examinations in connection with the mining community because of the fortunate arrangements made by the National Coal Board with respect to mining cases, and that, with respect to the rest of industry, in the clear cases, which will be the majority, there should not be any need for medical examination. I hope that I have also made it clear that even in many of the doubtful cases the highly experienced statutory authorities will not require the medical examination, but that there may be some cases in which we cannot do what we want to do and what Parliament wants us to do to benefit all those total incapacity cases unless we have the power to clear up the doubts which otherwise may arise as to whether they come within the provisions of Clause 1.

Mr. B. Taylor

I believe that the Minister has moved some way to meet the objections which we not only raised in Committee but which were raised again this morning by my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason). When the Minister says that there will be no medical examination unless there is insufficient evidence on which to pay the benefit, it seems to me that that is going a long way to meet our objections and we shall look forward to scrutinising the regulations very carefully. I appreciate the generous way in which the Minister has met the points which we made, and, in view of that, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

1.45 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance (Miss Edith Pitt)

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

The Bill represents the desire of hon. Members on both sides of the House to do something for those men on workmen's compensation who are most in need, and who may be suffering hardship. It helps to meet the disparity which has grown up with the passing of the years between the present rates of benefit under the Industrial Injuries Scheme, and the rates of benefit payable under the old workmen's compensation schemes which preceded the Industrial Injuries Scheme.

The Bill does not go so far as some hon. Members wish, and points of detail which concern them have been raised during the various stages. But I think that the Bill has been unanimously accepted as a useful contribution to dealing with a difficult problem. It is a modest Bill and a useful one. It is also, as my right hon. Friend said when he began his Second Reading speech, a very complicated Bill, despite the fact that its purpose is modest. It has had a speedy passage, and I should like to thank all those hon. Members who have contributed to bringing about that speedy passage, and who have helped to secure the fact that we are today engaged on its Third Reading.

I hope that the Bill will receive an equally speedy passage through the other place, and that it will be brought into effect as soon as possible after the Royal Assent is given. Preparations at the Ministry are well advanced, and I think that hon. Members would like to know that. They include the drafting of regulations, the writing and printing of explanatory leaflets, claim forms and order forms, and the instructions to local offices. If the Bill receives the Royal Assent before the Summer Recess, we hope to begin making the payments in the first fortnight in September, as I have indicated.

With this supplement for old cases, there is the problem of making the new benefits known to the men concerned, and in that respect the Ministry will do all it can. Leaflets will be available in the Ministry's local offices, including, I am sure hon. Members will be glad to learn, a Welsh version for Wales.

Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)

I will read the proofs.

Miss Pitt

I should be very grateful to have an interpretation.

Copies of leaflets will be available to the trade unions, and Press notices will be issued to the national and local Press and to trade union journals.

I think that the claims in some cases are already known because the men in question are already beneficiaries under the 1951 supplementation scheme and under the benefit schemes for pneumoconiosis and other diseases. Those men will be invited to claim. Since the identification of the totally incapacitated man is so much easier in the coal mining industry, because there is a concentration of men in that industry who qualify for the supplement, we hope that with the co-operation of the National Coal Board, the Ministry will be able to get in touch with the totally disabled ex-miners and invite them to claim.

Finally, I believe my right hon. Friend the Minister hopes to be able to make a broadcast on the matter. We shall do all we can to make sure that the men entitled to a supplementation under the Bill will be in a position to claim it. We shall rely on the co-operation of the trade unions, which has always been forthcoming and which I am sure will be on this occasion. We also believe that hon. Members themselves can help, when the appropriate time arrives, by speeches and publicity in their constituencies. Once again, I wish to thank those hon. Members who have contributed to the quick passage of the Bill.

1.50 p.m.

Mr. B. Taylor

I entirely agree with the sentiments expressed by the hon. Lady when she said that the Bill is a very useful one. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman is to follow the usual procedure in regard to advertisement. May I make a suggestion about the implementation of that practice in this case? In addition to disseminating the information to the National Coal Board, I suggest that the Minister should also send it not only to the London office of the National Union of Mineworkers, but to the area offices in various parts of the country. We know that at least 50 per cent. of the cases which will receive benefit from the Bill are in the mining industry. I am certain that the unions will be prepared to cooperate to the maximum in implementation of the provisions of the Bill.

I have no doubt at all that the provision for a supplement embodied in the Bill will bring a measure of relief to some— I underline the word "some"—of the old cases. I repeat what I said in that connection during the Second Reading debate. It is a matter of regret and disappointment that the provisions are to be restricted to the extent that partially disabled cases will be excluded. The right hon. Gentleman has been very helpful and co-operative and we on this side of the House appreciate that helpfulness and co-operation very much. I hope that negotiations will go on with the Trades Union Congress on the partially disabled cases and that in the not too distant future a solution to that problem will be found and something done for those suffering only partial disability. I frankly admit that a solution is not easy to find.

We on this side of the House give a very hearty welcome to the Measure. Not only will it increase our pleasure, but the proposals will increase the pleasure of 13,000 cases which will benefit from the supplement provided by the Bill. If the Bill can go through its next stages with the expedition by which it has gone through stages in this House, the hopes and qualified promise which the hon. Lady has given about the appointed day—the middle of September—should be fulfilled and the target should be easily reached.

As I said on Second Reading, the people for whom we are legislating today have waited a very long time for this much needed held. In spite of what the hon. Lady said, it is the case that their last increase in workmen's compensation payments was made in 1943. It will be see that this is a long overdue improvement for the old compensation cases. This supplement will bridge the gap for the married man and the married man with a child, while for the single man the gap between pre-1948 and post-1948 cases will be covered by the Industrial Injuries Acts.

In welcoming the Bill, I take the opportunity of expressing our appreciation of the effort the Minister has made to get it through this Session of Parliament. We are very grateful. I know we are expressing the gratitude and appreciation of those who will benefit by these provisions and the early prospect of the appointed day gives no less pleasure. Although I readily admit that we did not like two points in the Bill, and have had discussions about the questions of the prolonged period and medical certification, I also admit that the Minister has gone a long way to meet the objections we made.

I hope that the Bill will have a speedy passage so that the people in need of this additional help, those who have been off work and have suffered for so many years, will soon be in possession of this supplement.

1.58 p.m.

Mr. D. Jones

I wish to join my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. B. Taylor) in offering congratulations to the Minister on this Bill for two reasons. I am rather glad that it has fallen to my lot to agree with the Minister on this occasion as it is well known that in the two previous positions he held in the Government we rarely saw eye to eye.

I also wish to congratulate the Minister on taking up the Bill after some of my hon. Friend's had not succeeded in getting through a Private Member's Measure with a similar object. I do, however, utter a word of regret. I regret, as I am sure my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) regrets, that the very strenuous efforts he made in 1946 and 1947 to secure some measure of agreement with the insurance companies to bring this class of case within the industrial injury provisions did not succeed. I am sure that no one regrets more than my right hon. Friend that he failed to achieve that and that it has become necessary to deal with those cases in this way.

I was particularly delighted to hear the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary say that there is to be a Welsh version of the leaflet to be issued. After all, that is merely poetic justice. As I look around the House I find that 25 per cent. of the occupants of the benches are Welsh-speaking Welshmen. Therefore, it seems only reasonable and fair that my native language—shared by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly, and by you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker—should be used for this leaflet.

Originally, the right hon. Gentleman had included in the Bill the word "prolonged". He has succeeded in amending that to the word "considerable". In Clause 1 (2, e) the Bill now defines what "considerable" means. The paragraph says: a period shall be treated as considerable if it lasts or can be expected to last for not less than thirteen weeks; In Committee, the right hon. Gentleman said: I think that the Committee is in agreement that what we are seeking to do is to provide for the totally incapacitated person, by which we mean those who are totally incapacitated not for an odd day or so, but for a reasonable length of time."-[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee E, 14th June, 1956; c. 4.] What concerns me is what is a fair interpretation of "considerable", because there is a wide gap between an odd day or two and 13 weeks. After all, 13 weeks is 25 per cent. of the year. It follows from the Bill that a man must be totally incapacitated for 13 weeks before he is entitled to receive this supplement.

May I detain the House for a moment or two in order to give two examples from the industry which I know best? I have in mind the case of a railway shunter who, unfortunately, lost a limb. He was unable to continue his work as a shunter, but was accommodated by the railway company with a job as a crossing keeper; and, fortuitously, the rates of pay of the two jobs were similar. When he was able to resume work he did so as a crossing keeper. There are periods in the year, however, when the stump of his leg gives him such trouble that he is totally incapacitated from following his employment.

If I understand the position correctly, he will not receive the supplement unless he is incapacitated for 13 weeks continuously. In a reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Blyton) in Committee, the Minister explained that if such a man were idle for eight weeks, resumed work, and then were idle for a further six weeks, that would not count for supplement. This person, therefore—and there are hundreds of similar cases in the railway service—will not be entitled to claim the supplement.

May I offer another example? It is of another shunter—a Class I shunter—who lost a limb. Obviously, he could not follow his employment as a shunter and he was offered a job as a pointsman, not carrying the same rate of pay. Consequently, he receives partial compensation while he is at work. The stump from time to time gives him trouble and he is unable to work at all. To all intents and purposes, he is totally disabled. As I understand, he must be incapacitated for 13 weeks continuously before he can receive this supplement.

I sought earlier to have that period reduced, because it seems to me that there should be a reduced period for these cases. Obviously, they are all pre-1948 cases or they would not be in this category. I should have thought that had the interpretation subsection not been inserted in the Bill, and had it been left merely at the word "considerable," the statutory authorities could have interpreted it in a reasonable manner.

I fail to see how, in the present circumstances, it will be possible for any statutory authority to interpret it with any other meaning except 13 weeks or an anticipated 13 weeks, when it is written into the Bill that the interpretation of "considerable" is 13 weeks.

It therefore seems to me that if my apprehensions are correct, and if the examples which I have given are apt, this interpretation will hamper both the statutory authorities and the Minister in trying to administer the Bill, when it becomes law, in a reasonable manner. May I add to a comment made by my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield? I hope that the Minister will circulate this information not merely to the National Union of Mineworkers, but to every trade union, because all the trade unions have members in this category.

If my apprehensions about the Bill are well-founded, I hope that between now and its final stages the right hon. Gentleman will endeavour to do something to remove them.

2.6 p.m.

Mr. George Deer (Newark)

I want to add my personal thanks to the Minister for the way in which he has met us in the Bill and for the favourable reception which the Bill has received. It is not often that we find several people claiming paternity; in certain circumstances it is something one tries to avoid.

In this case, however, I would point out that there was a Bill standing in my name and the names of some of my hon. Friends which went a little further than this Bill, although we gladly accept this Bill as an instalment towards what we tried to achieve. We hope that the circumstances which caused this Bill to be brought forward will also apply in respect of the Clauses which were in the Bill which I had the pleasure to introduce—although I was not fortunate enough to get time to have it thoroughly discussed—but which are not in this Bill.

The Second Reading and Committee stage of the Bill have been harmonious and reasonable, and I want to thank the Minister for the way in which he has met a number of our apprehensions. I hope that in the future administration, particularly of regulations, the Minister will bear in mind these people who have had a very raw deal for a long time. Because their accidents occurred before a certain date they have not received such good treatment as others whose accidents occurred later. That has created a psychological outlook which we must face.

At our branch meetings and public meetings, these men have described themselves as being forgotten. I am glad that they are not forgotten now, but if we spoil the Bill by harsh regulations we may have a good deal of bother in the future, and I am glad that the Minister has taken the line that he will see that regulations are framed in such a way that these cases will be safeguarded.

Those who suffered under the Workmen's Compensation Act had a number of difficulties. Their compensation was based not on their incapacity, but on their loss of earnings, and in assessing their loss of earnings they were affected by such matters as illness, short-time, unemployment, or even low wages. All these things militated against whatever they received as compensation for injury due to loss of wages.

When the new Act was introduced, some of my hon. Friends said—and I know that some hon. Members opposite still think—that there were better chances under the old Workmen's Compensation Act than under the National Insurance and Industrial Injuries Schemes. I have heard that argued. It is true that under the new Act the lawyers do not have the pickings which they got out of the Workmen's Compensation Act. Nevertheless, I am inclined to think that the Act which we are now administering is much better for the workman, the recipient, than was the old Workmen's Compensation Act, which occasionally provided all sorts of legal battles for our friends who had to deal with it.

Apart from the very constructive suggestions put forward by my hon. Friends in Committee, the only criticism I heard of the Bill in Committee was that we were hampered and hamstrung because it was limited to a certain type of person, cutting out others we had wanted to include. It was suggested that it was bad for the representative Members not to be in a position to develop schemes or ideas or to enlarge the scope of the Bill because, it was said, certain people or associations had met the Minister beforehand and had reached a gentleman's agreement on what would be an agreed Measure.

I hope that that will continue. I sincerely hope that the Minister's door will be open to receive the same people, who may want to talk about provisions which are not in this Bill, but which were contained in the earlier one, and which, I believe, will sooner or later have to be faced. For that reason, I am glad that the Minister is receptive. The right hon. Gentleman has been most favourable in his approach to this matter, and we wish him all success in trying to settle finally the problem of all the people who are suffering from the limitations of workmen's compensation, with which we have been trying to deal in this Bill.

There is no question of using the taxpayers' money. The money is to come out of the fund which is provided for industrial injuries. Nobody is grumbling, and I have not heard a single complaint from either employers' associations or trade unions. Everybody welcomes the Bill. In view of the fact that some of my hon. Friends before me had tried to secure approval of Bills similar to the one for which I was responsible, we cheerfully accept this Bill as an instalment, and wish to thank the Minister for the kindly way in which he has approached the matter.

2.12 p.m.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

In view of what the hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) said, I hope you will not rule me out of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if I address the House in English, in view of my frailty in doing so in any other language.

I wish to thank most sincerely hon. Members who have spoken for the courteous and kindly way in which they have received the Bill, and to say that the Government intend to administer it in a human, humane and, as my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said, expeditious manner.

I think that the only point of substance which remains outstanding arises from the speech of the hon. Member for The Hartlepools and I am particularly anxious to deal with it, because, as he indicated, there have been occasions when certain things, such as an airport, have come between us.

It concerns the period of incapacity. It is essential to identify those whom the supplement is designed to help—the man who is totally incapacitated, not for very short periods, because there are provisions for sickness benefit which I think will take care of those cases—but where it is a case of reasonably long-standing incapacity. As I said during the Committee stage, I think that perhaps we overstressed that in providing six months, and I am inclined to think that the present period of 13 weeks will, in practice, deal with all the cases that we have in mind and which I think the House has in mind.

I think I can relieve the hon. Member's mind a little about how this will work. The 13 weeks—and here I may perhaps appear to be speaking Irish rather than Welsh—will work backwards as well as forwards; that is to say, if a man is examined, having already been totally incapacitated, the time that has passed, as well as the time that might reasonably be expected in the future, will both come together to make up the 13 weeks.

The other question which the hon. Gentleman raised concerned periods of total incapacity of limited duration. There is strictly no linking provision in the Bill, nor do I think we could work it if there was. If one takes the extreme case of a man who, after being incapacitated for a number of weeks, makes a plucky and gallant effort to resume work and then finds himself incapacitated again, I do not think that any statutory authority would have much difficulty in finding in those circumstances that he had never been fit for work during the whole period, and, therefore, the period would be treated as one.

It only remains for me to thank the House, and, once again, the long-suffering Standing Committee E, for the kindness and the closeness of their scrutiny of the Bill, and to suggest that we now send it on to another place.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.