§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 7.38 p. m.
§ The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The object of this small but, I am afraid, inevitably rather complicated Bill is to give a certain degree of relief to—so far as can be calculated—about 13,000 or 14,000 recipients of workmen's compensation payments, and to provide for that relief by imposing a charge upon the Industrial Injuries Fund.
I am afraid the appearance of this Bill confirms the truth of the old Scriptural reference to the difficulty of putting new wine into old bottles— an analogy which at this hour is perhaps not inappropriate. The difficulty is, of course, that we are dealing with two totally different systems, and we are seeking to supplement payments under the one by imposing a charge on the other. The difficulty which arises from a technical point of view and accounts for the Bill's shape is that, after all, workmen's compensation ended, so far as new cases are concerned, with the coming into force of the Industrial Injuries Act on 5th July, 1948, and that the scheme introduced under the Industrial Injuries Act was completely different in its whole scope and basis from that previously existing under workmen's compensation.
If I may put it like this, workmen's compensation was, in essence, a claim by a workman against an employer— in practice, often against the insurance company, but in form against the employer— and it was assessed very largely on the basis of loss of earnings which resulted from the injury. Industrial injuries are now dealt with under the schemes of social security out of the Industrial Injuries Fund, and they are assessed on the totally different basis of loss of faculty and amenity, with only comparatively secondary provisions taking into account the loss of earnings.
The task of dealing with this matter and providing for the supplementation of 1912 what are sometimes called the old workmen's compensation cases out of the Industrial Injuries Fund has been a considerable one. I would suggest that there is no doubt that we ought to take action in this matter. After all, the date of the accident has, in general, determined whether a man receives his compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Acts or his benefit under the Industrial Injuries Act.
As time has gone on, the amounts payable under the one scheme, certainly in cases of total incapacity, have diverged substantially from those payable under the other. There has been felt to be therefore— I think the feeling has been pretty general— some considerable element of hardship, at any rate in the case of certain of these old workmen's compensation cases, because the payment these men receive is now out of line with what would be received by a man similarly injured since the Industrial Injuries Act came into effect.
I stress that, because I will probably carry the House with me in saying that we ought not to put on the Industrial Injuries Fund— that is to say the contributors to that Fund— a charge in respect of an injury not within the scope of that Fund, except where we are really satisfied that some real hardship or real injustice arises. In other words, we ought not to do this merely to obtain exact symmetry or equality, but only where there is a point of substance
It seemed to the Government in respect of the 13,000 or 14,000 cases of total incapacity that the figures have' now diverged so widely as to amount to some such degree of hardship or injustice. It is, however, true that when we get to the wider sphere of partial disability there are cases where the man is better off under the old scheme than under the new. That is true in the case of the partially disabled on the below-maximum rate. It is also possible within the scheme itself to secure some review of the arrangements, but neither of those arises in the case of total incapacity.
The figures are important. Under the present rates payable to the old workmen's compensation cases the maximum or total rate is 40s. for a single man, 50s. for a married man with pre-accident wife, and 55s. for a married man with 1913 pre-accident wife and child. Even when allowance is made for the fact that under earlier legislation in appropriate cases unemployability supplement and constant attendance allowances under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, 1946, can be paid in these workmen's compensation cases, there is still an unfavourable contrast with the full rate of industrial injury benefit at 67s. 6d. a week.
The Bill proposes to pay out of the Industrial Injuries Fund a supplement at the rate of 17s. 6d. per week to these total incapacity cases. This will have the effect, as hon. Members will appreciate, of raising the total receipt— supplement plus workmen's compensation— to 57s. 6d. per week for a single man, to 67s. 6d. for a married man with a pre-accident wife, and to 72s. 6d. for a married man with pre-accident wife and child.
In the course of discussions which I have undertaken in connection with the Bill, I carefully considered the possibility of doing this in another way and simply bringing up the three workmen's compensation rates, 40s., 50s., 55s., to the current industrial injuries rate of 67s. 6d., but after looking at it, I felt that that was the wrong way to proceed. I am bound to admit that I was influenced by the principle, which I have just indicated, that we should not put this charge on the Industrial Injuries Fund, except on a basis of real need and real injustice. If we did it that way, we would put the biggest charge on the Industrial Injuries Fund in the direction where the need is least, that of the single man, and the smallest supplement where the need is greatest, the case of the married man with a child.
It is perfectly true that doing it this way, with a flat supplement of 17s. 6d., we provide that the workmen's compensation case where there is a wife and child will receive in all 5s. more than the Industrial Injuries maximum rate— 72s. 6d. as against 67s. 6d. On the other hand, in the course of nature there are comparatively few of these cases, since such a case must have arisen before July, 1948. It seemed to us that the apparent anomaly was preferable to using the Industrial Injuries Fund to give a bigger supplement where the need was least and a smaller supplement where the need was clearly greater.
1914 The object of the Bill, as I have indicated, is to deal with cases of total incapacity. Clause is designed to give a definition appropriate to the different scheme under which the workmen's compensation is paid. Clause 1 (1) (a) deals with what I may call the ordinary workmen's compensation case, that is of an injury or disease other than pneumoconiosis or byssinosis. It has not proved possible on examination simply to take the classification under the old workmen's compensation Acts. The reason, as the House will appreciate, is that in many of these cases, cases of partial incapacity were in fact paid at the maximum rate, because the loss of earnings was sufficient to enable that to be done.
In most cases, there was no reason for the man or his employer to go through the procedure of the Workmen's Compensation Acts in order to change his category to that of total incapacity. If, therefore, we were to take only the classification of total incapacity under the old Acts, we should in fact be ruling out a certain number of cases classified as partially disabled under the old Acts and never amended, because there was no reason for either party in those days to seek an amended classification, but which would now be deprived of the supplement.
We have therefore sought to introduce the test which we suggest in Clause 1 (1) (a), that is:".…incapable of work and likely to remain so incapable for a prolonged period.Perhaps I should say a word about that phrase, which will be familiar to some hon. Members opposite. It is already familiar to the industrial injuries world and has been ruled by the Commissioner to mean approximately six months. It is probably better to use some such expression as that than to name a precise period. If one names a precise period, the adjudicating authorities will be compelled to rule out any case which comes perhaps one day below the precise period. If one provides the sort of period one has in mind indirectly by the use of an expression such as "for a prolonged period," one gets a little more flexibility, but this is just the kind of matter on which it will be very interesting to hear the views of hon. Members, and I know that several hon. Members have a great deal of experience in this subject.
1915 No such difficulty arises in pneumoconiosis and byssinosis cases. Pneumoconiosis cases have a classification, which one can accept, of total incapacity, and at the time of the Workmen's Compensation Acts compensation was awarded for byssinosis only in cases of total incapacity. Finally, in Clause 1 (3) we have made some provision to deal with the case where total incapacity results from two or more industrial accidents, where neither of them has by itself caused the total incapacity but the two together have.
Clause 2 provides for the supplement of 17s. 6d. for cases defined by Clause 1, and the rest of the Bill largely amounts to machinery. As the House will see, we are seeking to use for the administration of the Bill the machinery of the Industrial Injuries system as far as we can. That is a system which is now familiar, not only to my Department and most of the beneficiaries concerned, but also to the trade union movement. It probably provides the best available machinery for administering the supplement. For example, in that way we can use the medical advice which is available under the Industrial Injuries system, although I very much hope that in the large majority of cases it will not be necessary to resort to it. Broadly speaking, these cases will be able to be handled, as under the Industrial Injuries scheme, by the decision of the insurance officer, with appeal, if necessary, to a tribunal and the Commissioner.
As some hon. Members will know, this matter has been discussed for some length of time. The discussions were initiated by my noble Friend, Lord Ingleby, to whom reference was properly made on the Family Allowances and National Insurance Bill. I can tell the House that I know from my own experience how much attention and care the noble Lord gave to this matter. It was, it so happens, the first matter which he and I discussed when I took over from him in my present office shortly before Christmas. I would express gratitude, too, to the Members of this House who have experience of this matter and have given us considerable assistance, and also to the Trades Union Congress, which has given us excellent and helpful advice on what, though comparatively small, is, as the scope of my speech may already perhaps have proved 1916 only too clearly, a somewhat complex matter.
However, the broad purpose is, I think, clear, and will I hope prove acceptable; it is that we should use the Industrial Injuries Fund in order to provide a supplement to those 13,000 or 14,000 men who because, and only because, they draw their support from a workmen's compensation system which was superseded in 1948 have found that the money that they draw from that is not only insufficient for their needs but is out of line with what is drawn by their friends and colleagues who may have suffered an industrial accident a year or two later and, therefore, receive benefit under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act. Some of those men, I think, have suffered and are suffering a considerable degree of hardship which we are anxious to relieve.
I cannot, of course, say precisely when it will be possible to do that, because that must depend on the Parliamentary progress of the Bill. I should be rash at this stage, on Second Reading, to give any date for bringing it into effect, but I can assure the House that as soon as reasonably practical after the Bill becomes law I shall take the necessary steps to name the appointed day, as provided in the Bill, to bring it into law, because I am aware—I will repeat this—I am aware, of the very real feeling that exists in many quarters that it is full time something was done to help those men. It is because I believe that this Bill does that, that I move its Second Reading.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Bernard Taylor (Mansfield)
I would first express my sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman and the Joint Parliamentary Secretary in having two Bills on their hands in one day; and I know from experience that they must have been giving much thought to the two Measures for some time before today. The right hon. Gentleman was quite right in what he said about the differences between the systems of the workmen's compensation and the new Industrial Injuries benefit and the difference between the pre-accident and post-accident earnings in the one case and of loss of faculty and so on under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act. We are not going into that question tonight or the right or the wrong of either system, but my 1917 views about that have been expressed in the House before, as have those of other hon. Members.
The right hon. Gentleman said, in dealing with the old workmen's compensation cases, that this putting of the financial onus on to the Industrial Injuries Fund does not itself constitute a precedent. I think that that should be borne in mind. Pre-1924 cases were dealt with in that way, and the pneumoconiotic cases were dealt with in that way. No other way has been found to bring additional benefit to these old cases, as they are called, and I have some regrets for this reason, that the employers, whose liability it was before 1948 to carry the burden for the payment of compensation, have up to now completely escaped their liability. The right hon. Gentleman made mention of his predecessor, now Lord Ingleby, and I am glad to know from the statement which he made as recently as 1952 that there has been a change of heart in him, and that something is to be done, as the existence of the Bill indicates, for the old workmen's compensation cases.
We on this side of the House welcome the Bill very much. We are exceedingly pleased that the results of the discussions which the right hon. Gentleman has had with the Trades Union Congress are now embodied in legislative form. Moreover, I and many of my right hon. and hon. Friends appreciate very much indeed that the Minister has made it possible for the Bill to come before us for Second Reading not only in this Session but on this day. I would assure him that we are indeed very anxious to co-operate in giving a speedy passage to this Measure so that the appointed day for the payment of this benefit shall not he long delayed
Since 1948 the old cases, as they are called, have constituted a thorny and very pressing problem. Not only has the right hon. Gentleman had representations made to him but all his predecessors had representations made to them by the Trades Union Congress. Many attempts have been made during the past eight years to find a satisfactory solution of the problem of the old cases, not only the totally disabled but the partially disabled cases as well.
It is proper to place on record that this matter has been very much in the minds of my hon. and right hon. Friends on this side of the House. In 1953 my hon. 1918 Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) introduced a Private Member's Bill to deal with them, and in 1955 so did my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison), and in this Session my hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Mr. Deer) introduced another. The aim and purpose of those three Private Members' Bills was to increase the workmen's compensation benefit not only of the totally disabled but of the partially disabled as well.
The right hon. Gentleman will be aware, I know, of what has taken place, but in discussing a Bill like this it is as well to remind ourselves. All the benefits, with one exception, under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act have, I am pleased to say, been considerably increased— except the benefit to the industrial widow under the age of 50. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will consider that matter in his quieter moments.
What is the position today? As the right hon. Gentleman rightly said, the difference between the 100 per cent. totally disabled under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act and the single man under workmen's compensation is 27s. 6d. a week; between him and the married man it is 17s. 6d; and between him and the married man with one child it is 12s. 6d. The proposal in this Bill will go most of the way—leaving out the single man for the moment—to bridge the gap of difference between the Industrial Injury benefit and the workmen's compensation benefit.
Surely, however, it is not surprising, that difference having existed, that the men who were disabled in the pre-war years and during the war have been referred to in this House and outside this House as the forgotten men of the industrial world? The last increase they had was in 1943, when the maximum compensation was raised from 30s. to 40s. for the single man, to 50s. for the married and to 55s. for the married man with one child.
I should be guilty if I concealed my true feelings about the Bill. They are mixed feelings. I sincerely welcome the Bill. I am very pleased about what it does. I frankly confess that at the same time I am disappointed that it is not more comprehensive so as to include the partially injured. I had hoped that even 1919 if the complicated problem of the partially disabled had not been finally resolved— and I hope that we are very much further on the road to a solution than we were eight years ago when my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) introduced the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act— the proposal put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Newark would have been incorporated, if only to ensure a token payment.
Let us consider the size of the problem. It is true that 45,000 cases are in receipt of weekly compensation payments, but the numbers of the old cases were made up of three types, the totally disabled, the partially disabled and what we called the latent cases. Whilst we have fairly accurate figures for the totally disabled and partially disabled, namely 45,000. my estimate is that if the latent cases are included there must be about 70,000 altogether. The Minister said that the Bill would affect 13,000 or 14,000. Therefore, in relation to the global total the Bill touches only the fringe of the problem.
Those of us who come from the mining areas feel this problem very keenly, because out of the 13,000 totally disabled to whom the Minister referred, 6,000 are to be found in the coal mining areas. I have mentioned the size of the problem to indicate that the Bill deals with only one in every five or six cases.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not think that the proposals in the Bill are the final solution and that he has reached the end of the road. I trust that he will continue his negotiations with that very helpful and responsible body in this sphere, the Trades Union Congress, so that a solution can be found to the whole of the problem and the sense of injustice under which the partially disabled are suffering be removed.
I want to refer to the very words to which the Minister referred. We seem to have mutual feelings on the point. They are the words of Clause 1 (1, a) —… incapable of work and likely to remain so incapable for a prolonged period.I give as an illustration of the problem to which I should like to refer a case which I know personally and which I believe to be typical of many.
1920 Twenty years ago a man lost his leg in an accident in one of our local pits. He received compensation and then resumed work for a time. He had partial compensation and eventually his post-accident earnings began to increase and he finally became a latent case. A few months ago he had to go into hospital for treatment of the stump. He immediately became entitled to total disablement benefit under the Workmen's Compensation Acts. He is still in hospital. If he goes to work again in three months' time will he, having been totally disabled for three months as a result of an accident twenty years ago, nevertheless be deprived of supplement under this Bill?
As I see the position, three conditions must be fulfilled, namely, entitlement to weekly payments, being incapable of work, and the likelihood of remaining incapable of work for a long period. I submit that the third condition is unnecessary and could prove very difficult in a case of the type that I have just quoted. I hope that the Minister will think about this point between now and the Committee stage. I suggest that these words might be excluded, otherwise hardship might be inflicted in certain types of cases.
I suggest further to the Minister that Clause 3 (1, c) relating to medical examination is unnecessary. Certification by the employer's doctor or by a medical referee under the Workmen's Compensation Acts or by both entitles a man to payment of compensation under the Acts. I suggest that that certification is really all that is necessary for the payment of supplementation under the Bill.
The employer has certain rights under the Workmen's Compensation Acts. He can ask a man to undergo examination. If the employer's doctor says that the man is unfit the man is paid, but if the employer's doctor disagrees a ten days' statutory notice is served and the man can apply to go before a medical referee, with whom the decision rests. In the light of those circumstances, it would be a mistake to make a further medical examination a condition of the payment of supplementation. I hope that the Minister will look at that point again.
It would be rather anomalous if the employer's doctor or the medical referee said that the man was totally disabled and he received weekly compensation 1921 payments under the Workmen's Compensation Acts while, for the purposes of this Bill, he would not be regarded as totally disabled and would not receive the supplementation. If, however, the principle of medical examination is retained, who will conduct the medical examination? Will the medical boards under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act be responsible—for in that case there must be more than one doctor—or will it be the responsibility of doctors now employed for National Insurance purposes? Examination for those purposes requires only one doctor.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
It may save time if I remind the hon. Gentleman that in these matters we are intending to use the Industrial Injuries machinery.
§ Mr. Taylor
So there will be two doctors and not one, as constituted under the Industrial Injuries Act. I hope that the Minister will look at this point in this type of case in view of the fact that total disablement payment to the workman's compensation is only paid on the basis of medical certification.
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
1 know that my hon. Friend is trying to deal with a very complex question in the shortest possible time, but title to benefit derives also from an award by a county court judge where medical evidence is in dispute, or from a recorded agreement under Section 12 of the Workmen's Compensation Acts.
§ Mr. Taylor
I fully accept that, but I was trying to take the general run of cases in which it is for the medical referee to decide if there is a dispute between the parties.
Finally, on administration, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman where this benefit wil be paid? The present position, of course, is that it is paid at the employer's premises. Will it be paid there with the total disablement payment or will it be paid through the Post Office by postal draft, as is disablement benefit for industrial injuries?
With the reservations which I have mentioned, I am hoping that the Minister will be able to give us reassuring words on the two main points which I have made, We on this side of the House 1922 very heartily support the Bill for what it contains, but we are disappointed because of its omissions concerning the partially disabled, and we hope that the question of the appointed day will receive very early and serious consideration.
§ 8.12 p. m.
§ Mr. E. Partridge (Battersea, South)
I approach this matter in a mood rather different from that of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mansfield (Mr. B. Taylor). I am probably like him in one respect, in that when I have something given to me, like Oliver Twist, I want more. There is no harm in that. Nevertheless, I think one should take a broad view of the whole situation, and I imagine that it is a truism that, since the beginning of time, man has found his greatest happiness in the task that lies to his hands and the greatest contentment in the task well done. Naturally that is not his only reward, because although we cannot live by bread alone, we do need the bread and the wherewithal with which to buy it.
Unfortunately, there may come a period in our lives— indeed it happens to most of us— when by accident or disease we cannot pursue our occupation, and then we suffer a double blow. In the first place, we lose the joy of working, which 1 honestly believe is a real joy to the majority of the people of this country, and there is also the anxiety of loss of income. Although it is not possible to ward off the former, we can do and have done a great deal to remedy the latter.
In the days of long ago, much was achieved by charitable efforts and voluntary institutions, but under those circumstances there were many more deserving cases which did not get the help they needed, so it was obviously right that assistance should come in a more methodical way and on a more permanent basis. I think that I can speak for hon. Members on this side of the House when I say that we are happy to see that measures have been taken from time to time, particularly in the field of workmen's compensation, which have had the effect of ensuring that, when people are injured or struck down by disease in the course of their employment, a sum of money is provided which to an extent ensures their freedom from want.
1923 We have seen a succession of Workmen's Compensation Acts brought before this House, each one of which, I think it will be agreed, has been better than the one which preceded it. I am quite sure that I carry the House with me when I say that the greatest step forward was the Industrial Injuries, Act, 1948—
§ Mr. Partridge
I am sorry, I mixed the dates. It was by that Act that the responsibility for the care of the injured was assumed by the State and was based on an insurance scheme. This is where I come to the point which I think the hon. Member for Mansfield overlooked, because if we say that it is an insurance scheme, it presupposes, and indeed it is stated in the Act, that there is a self-supporting insurance fund. This Fund up to March, 1955, had, I think, accumulated £ 123 million. I have not the figures since that date, but they have been growing steadily since then.
§ Mr. Taylor
The point I was trying to make was that the proposals in this Bill, as under other legislation, transfer the liability of the employers to the Insurance Fund.
§ Mr. Partridge
I was coming to that point, which I had hoped my right hon. Friend would deal with, and with which hon. Members opposite have not dealt. It is a matter which causes me some little perplexity, although not anxiety, because I am not quite sure how this is to happen.
The Government Actuary in the quinquennial review, after five years of the operation of the Act, which was in 1948, said that the Fund would not grow at a sufficient rate on the then contributions from employers and workmen with the Exchequer grant and interest on the investments of the Insurance Fund to ensure that the then rates of benefit would be covered, and would certainly not take care of the full charge in respect of disablement pensioners and the widows' benefits which is bound to develop and which has been envisaged. The Government Actuary stated then that the Fund would, by those recommendations— and I think that it was 1 d. extra on the contributions and an additional 1924 Exchequer grant amounting in all to £ 10 million a year— permit the Fund to grow to a level of £ 435 million.
In that way the Fund would be stabilised and would be able to take care of all the calls upon it. According to my information, however, those recommendations have not yet been implemented so that, although the Fund is still increasing, according to the Government Actuary in 10 years' time it will begin to fail and eventually will be extinguished unless some such action as he recommended is taken.
So the Fund, on the rates then in operation, was not building up to the figure that it should have reached, and now we are making an inroad into that Fund to the extent of the amount as prescribed in Clause 2 of the Bill. I am sure that my right hon. Friend would not have brought a Bill before this House which made a charge on the Industrial Injuries Fund unless he was sure that the Fund could stand it and that in due time the recommendations of the Government Actuary would be implemented. So it is with confidence that we can consider, as the Minister obviously has done, that the time has arrived when we can begin to deal more generously with those injured prior to 5th July, 1948, and who, because they continue to draw compensation under the old Act, do not come under the new system of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act.
I consider that to be a great step forward. The hon. Gentleman said that this is not the end of the road. I hope that we shall never get to the end of the road but that, as time goes on, we shall be able to find means of improving these social services which are a real benefit to the people who suffer in industry.
When we are considering the progress of our social legislation, we should remember that in 1953 it was firmly established that the full sickness benefit or the unemployability benefit should be payable to the so-called old cases, which was a new and good departure. This supplementary benefit of 17s. 6d. is in addition to the full sickness benefit and the unemployability supplement —
§ Mr. Taylor
The hon. Gentleman is right about it being in addition to sickness benefit, but not sickness benefit and unemployability supplement.
§ Mr. Partridge
I thought I said "and/or". I meant sickness benefit or the unemployability supplement. It is in addition to the maximum workmen's compensation which will continue to be paid.
I do not want to go into the various points which will be discussed in Committee when we try to make this a better Bill. We can always do that because no Bill is perfect on Second Reading; so I have no doubt that we shall improve this one. I regard the Bill as a great step forward —
§ Mr. Partridge
Yes, but I wanted to make that point. It is another great step forward in the efforts of the community to bring such comfort as we can to those of our less fortunate brethren, even though they number only between 13,000 and 14,000. It is because this Bill does so, and because we can continue to be Oliver Twists, looking forward to more to come, that I honestly congratulate the Minister on the care and attention which he has given to bringing this Measure before us. I commend it to the House and hope, with the hon. Member for Mansfield, that it will have a fairly quick passage through. the House so that the benefits, admittedly limited, will become payable at the earliest moment.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)
Like the hon. Gentleman the Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Partridge) and my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. B. Taylor), I welcome this Bill, but only as far as it goes. I should have been much happier this evening if the Bill had covered not only those totally disabled but also those who are partially disabled. In a constituency such as mine, in which there are thousands of miners and others working in heavy industry, I have a number of those 13,000 or 14,000 cases covered by this Bill.
Each time there was an increase in the Industrial Injuries benefit I received letters from those who were receiving payment under the Workmen's Compensation Acts. Those letters always asked me why was it that an increase was given to men who already received a greater weekly income than those receiving com- 1926 pensation. Because of those many representations, when I was fortunate in the Ballot last year for a Private Member's Bill, I introduced a Bill to cover not only the totally disabled but also the partially disabled. I had experience of a previous Private Member's Bill for which I had received the greatest support from a Minister.
Because of that, I decided that I would try to get the support of the previous Minister of Pensions and National Insurance. I have a letter in which he tells me that he could not undertake to facilitate a Measure of this sort. I congratulate the new Minister. When he was appointed to his office he gave a great deal of consideration to the matter, and he has now introduced a Measure which will bring help to the 13,000–14.000 men, upon which I congratulate him. I hope that before the Bill reaches the Statute Book—we want it to do that Its quickly as possible—the Minister, who has shown that he has a more open mind than his predecessor, will be able to do something for the partially disabled also
Both the Minister and the hon. Member for Battersea, South have spoken about the money coming from the Industrial Injuries Fund. It is right that that should be stressed. It is of the greatest importance that we should safeguard the future of the Fund for people who will perhaps live very much longer than we shall. It is right that we in the House of Commons should show ourselves to be responsible people.
If some other way could be found of financing the provisions in the Bill, and further provisions which I hope will be incorporated in this Bill or a subsquent Measure, I am certain that it would be approved by my hon. Friends. I should like to find some way of putting the liability fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the people who ought to carry it, the former employers of the disabled workmen, or if we look to those who provide the money, the insurance companies to whom the employers paid premiums to cover their workmen. My hon. Friends and I would rather that happened than that we had to use money from the Industrial Injuries Fund which was never meant for this purpose.
§ Mr. Partridge
If the insurance companies were called upon to shoulder a liability for which they had not budgeted, 1927 it would mean that this would be at the expense of the benefits anticipated by other policy holders. The insurance companies could not provide the extra money from their own funds; it would have to come from the insurance funds which they are administering on behalf of their policy holders.
§ Miss Herbison
I would answer that with two points. First, these workmen are really the liability of the insurance companies.
§ Miss Herbison
Secondly, I understand that there are very huge profits in some forms of insurance. I still feel that the insurance companies could carry the liability without interfering with the benefits rightly anticipated by people who are making provision for themselves privately through insurance. What I cannot see is how the House can make the insurance companies carry the liability.
Perhaps there is another way whereby the Fund could be safeguarded. I have alway felt that it is the responsibility of Governments to cut away from our life as much suffering as possible. If we accept that, the Government might, instead of turning to the Industrial Injuries Fund, have decided that this was a liability which should be financed by the Treasury. My purpose in making these remarks has been to show that the Opposition are just as concerned about the Industrial Injuries Fund and its future as are hon. Gentlemen opposite, which I think is accepted.
Under the Bill, a man who is totally disabled and is married will be given the same weekly amount as the married man under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, but that will not happen to the single man. At present, the single man receives £ 2 if he has full compensation. With the flat increase of 17s. 6d. he will receive £ 2 17s. 6d. The single man who has been disabled since 1928 today receives £ 3 7s. 6d. In other words, even after the passing of the Bill, the single man about whom I am talking will still be 10s. per week worse off than the single man receiving benefit under the Industrial Injuries Scheme.
I am sorry that when he was dealing with the totally disabled, whether married 1928 or single, the Minister did not decide to iron out all the injustices and to give them all exactly the same, no matter when their accident happened or whether their industrial disease was contracted before 5th July, 1948, or afterwards. I hope that in Committee we will put down an Amendment to deal with this. I know about the Money Resolution, but we remember the other recent Bill on which the Minister came forward with two further Money Resolutions because the justice of the case had been made so clear.
§ Mr. Partridge
I might remind the hon. Lady that my right hon. Friend was roundly condemned for it.
§ Miss Herbison
I am certain that in this case we would never dream of condemning a Minister who had the courage to come forward and say, "I have made a mistake and I shall give to all the totally disabled the same weekly benefit, no matter when their accident occurred."
There is another provision which 1 welcome in the Bill. There are what we term the "time-barred pneumoconiotics". Those who are totally disabled now receive 40s. a week. They are to receive the additional 17s. 6d. Even so, they will still be getting less than the person who receives industrial injury benefit. Many of the partially disabled are really badly off, and I am very worried indeed that nothing has been done for them in the Bill.
I realise the great difficulties of dealing with this category of disabled people. When trying to work out the provisions for my Private Member's Bill, we came up against many of the difficulties that the Minister must have faced. We thought that rough justice might be done if 10s. a week was paid to the partially disabled. I hope that the Minister has not quite closed his mind and that he will give further consideration to those who are partially disabled.
There are pre-1948 cases in my constituency to whom even a 10s. a week increase would be a great help. Those who are partially disabled by pneumoconiosis— the time-barred cases— today receive only 20s. a week. Under the Bill, there is not a penny increase for them. We who represent mining constituencies in particular and who meet these people every weekend in our constituencies feel that if anything at all can 1929 be done to help them, in spite of all the difficulties that might present themselves in the process, we must try to overcome the difficulties. Those are a few of the things which I criticise in the Bill.
There is only one further point I want to make about the partially disabled. Most of those covered by the Bill, and certainly most of the partially disabled, are living in mining villages or industrial areas. Very often light work simply is not available for them. There is no question, therefore, of anyone who is partially disabled and in receipt of partial compensation being able to do a job of work. Many of those who are partially disabled— certainly those whom I know bestx2014; are receiving their low figure of compensation and can find no work whatever. If matters go on as they are in my area, these people will have no hope fo finding a job for the rest of their lives.
These problems are very serious. I do not wish the Minister to think that I am criticising him. I consider that he has made an excellent beginning, and I hope that during our discussions in Committee we shall be able to make the improvements which I feel sure all hon. Members on this side of the House desire.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Finch (Bedwellty)
Any Measure which seeks to improve the lot of the disabled is always welcomed in this House and in the country. From the speeches which have already been delivered, I feel sure that this Bill, which provides for increases in the rates of compensation for the totally disabled, will receive general approval. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison), I congratulate the Minister on his expedition in bringing forward this Bill. We are not completely satisfied with it, but in so far as it provides for the worst type of cases, we welcome it; and I am glad that, in producing this Measure, the right hon. Gentleman has demonstrated that these totally disabled men have not been forgotten.
We have been reminded that the men who will be affected by the provisions of this Bill have received no increase in their rates of compensation since 1943. Hon. Members on this side of the House, by attempting to introduce Private 1930 Member's Bills and in other ways, have raised the question on a number of occasions. But not until now, after all these years, have we had recognition for what have been described as the "forgotten men." The Minister will have discovered already that, while we support the Bill, we are not over enthusiastic about it. We have misgivings. The right hon. Gentleman said that he is dealing with 13,000 totally disabled men, but there are at least another 35,000 men who are receiving compensation on the basis of partial incapacity.
Many of these men are seriously disabled. While they are not in the category which can be described as totally incapacitated, many are suffering from serious disablement. They include skilled engineers and craftsmen who, as a result of injury or disease, have been robbed of the fruits of their skill. Some are fortunate if they can obtain a job in Remploy, or work of a lower category than that to which their skill would entitle them. All their skill and apprenticeship has gone by the board. When these men examine the provisions of this Bill, they will say, "There is nothing for me. This Bill is confined strictly to the worst type of case, the man who cannot work at all. But I have been robbed of earning capacity which is the basis of the workmen's compensation legislation."
Among those men are piecework colliers who now find themselves picking slag on the screes, or doing a light job. They may have lost a weekly wage of £ 8 or £ 10. Or it may be that a skilled engine driver is obliged to take on the job of a porter or a ticket collector. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of such men who could be classified as seriously disabled. There are the miners suffering from pneumoconiosis. Many of them may have not received a certificate of total incapacity, but are declared to be in the moderately advanced stage of pneumoconiosis.
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman or any hon. Member opposite has seen some of these men in a moderately advanced stage of pneumoconiosis. They puff and blow and can hardly walk, but they are regarded as being fit to do some small light work, a sitting-down job, if they can get it. 1 can tell the right hon. Gentleman that in South Wales there are at least 2,000 or 3,000 of those men unemployed and 1931 receiving this partially disabled rate. There is nothing in this Bill for them at all. By Ieaving them out a great sence of injustice will be created.
My hon. Friend referred to the fact that the Private Member's Bill she introduced did at least provide for the 10s. a week increase as a flat rate. I cannot understand the attitude of the Government to social insurance. These improvements are always made in a piecemeal sort of way. There is no comprehensive review and no attempt to deal with all the aspects of the problem but to deal with it stage by stage. In all probability we shall have another Bill after this one. We shall have another Bill in six or 12 months' time, and perhaps another after that. We shall get a series of Acts of Parliament which are difficult to administer, causing confusion to trade union officials who have to deal with the problem and despair among the men affected because they will not fully understand the implications of all those various Acts.
It would have been far better if the right hon. Gentleman had brought forward a Measure dealing with the whole aspect of men receiving workmen's compensation. By reason of the fact that he has not done so, I venture to predict that at every trade union meeting this question of the partially disabled will be debated. The Minister will get resolutions sent to him and he will be asked to meet the Trades Union Congress again to go into the question. I join with my hon. Friends who have asked the right hon. Gentleman to see that when we reach Committee stage he will reconsider this question and at least give some thought to the proposals which have been made in the House this evening and in the Bills introduced as Private Members' Bills to increase the 10s. a week as a flat rate for the partially disabled.
Another aspect of the problem rather disturbs me. The 17s. 6d. increase in the rate is to apply to the totally disabled. It will increase the ceiling from £ 2 10s. to £3 7s. 6d. a week, which will bring the recipients on to a similar basis to those receiving benefit under the industrial injuries legislation. From the year 1897, Compensation Acts have provided that if the maximum rate is increased that is also to apply to the partially disabled.
1932 Under the present Workmen's Compensation Acts a totally disabled man receives the maximum rate of £ 2 10s., and the man who is partially disabled, if the difference in earnings warrants it, can also receive £2 10s. a week. There are many whose pre-accident earnings were £ 10, £ 12 or £ 14 a week who now earn only £ 7 or £ 8 a week. The two-thirds of the difference will entitle them to a maximum of £ 2 10s. a week—in other words, such a man would receive the same amount as the man who is totally disabled. That paragraph applied also under the Act of 1906, where the amount for the partially disabled could rise to 35s. if there were a sufficient difference between the post and pre-accident earnings. The right hon. Gentleman is creating an anomaly by increasing the ceiling to £3 7s. 6d. but, in the case of the partially incapacitated, restricting the amount to a maximum of £ 2 10s
Apart from this injustice, it is going to create confusion. We shall have one man whose compensation for total disablement amounts to £ 3 7s. 6d. a week while the seriously disabled man finds that his maximum is £ 2 10s, a week. A different principle is now being applied as far as the Workmen's Compensation Acts are concerned. I know it will be said, "What about those not entitled to the maximum partial disablement rate who are only receiving 5s. or 10s. a week?" The Bill in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North and of my hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Mr. Deer) provided for a payment of 10s. a week to the partially disabled which would have been some compensation for men deprived of their full earning capacity.
I do not think there is anything worse than to see men who have lost a limb and who are suffering a serious incapacity being deprived of skilful employment. They may be skilled engineers, skilled miners or skilled technicians who acquired their skill over the years and who lost it and who are now without any recompense under this Bill.
Apart from those in receipt of partial compensation, I wish to refer to another class of individual whose case we on this side of the House have raised on several occasions, but for whom no provision is made in the Bill. I refer to those who under the Workmen's Compensation 1933 Acts have been compelled to commute their claim for weekly compensation. I am not referring to those who came to a mutual arrangement with their employers or insurance company to commute their weekly compensation, although many a story could be told of insurance companies persuading men, as a result of negotiation, to accept small sums in total settlement.
I am concerned with the men who have been compelled to commute their claim for a weekly payment because the colliery company or the other employers for whom they were working had gone into liquidation. The compensation paid in such cases was not commensurate with the weekly payment, but it was the best that many of these men could obtain. I have several such men in my constituency, some of them blinded by explosions. The company for which they worked went into liquidation and they were paid off with £ 50, £ 60, £ 70 or £ 100 at most, which represented anything from 3d. to 6d. in the £ when compared with the weekly compensation to which they were entitled. These men did not commute their weekly payments by any mutual arrangement; they were compelled to commute them. The liquidator was called in and the assets available represented only 3d. or 6d. in the £.
I ask the Minister to give consideration to cases where men have been compelled to settle for a lump sum as a result of the employer going into liquidation. Fortunately, their number is limited because many of them have since died, but some cases still exist. As I say, I have men in my constituency who were blinded as a result of explosions and who had to settle for a small lump sum as a result of liquidation.
I fully recognise the difficulty of the Minister in trying to bring these old compensation cases into line with industrial injuries cases. We are here dealing with two Acts of Parliament and with two classes of disabled men, but I should have thought that it would have been Government policy to try to marry those two Acts. There would be great satisfaction if, as far as possible, that were done. That should be the policy
There are these various rates of compensation decided on different bases. I have already referred to the fact that, under the Workmen's Compensation Acts, 1934 the man is compensated on the basis of earning capacity, which has little regard for the nature of his disability. The basis is what he has lost financially and he gets two-thirds of the difference between the pre-and post-accident rates. Under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, 1946, the basis is loss of faculty, which is a very excellent premise or foundation on which men are compensated. That basis has regard not to their financial position but to their medical condition. In addition, of course, they get hardship allowance.
There are many men today who are partially incapacitated and who, under the Workmen's Compensation Acts, do not get an amount equiyalent to that which those others receive under the Industrial Injuries Act. However difficult the task, I feel that it should be the right hon. Gentleman's policy to bring the payments to those partially-disabled men nearer to the level of payments made under the Industrial Injuries Act. We are here dealing with an Act, the financial effect of which grows less and less. We know the extent of the liability. This is not like the Industrial Accidents Act where new cases are being thrown upon the Fund all the time. The number of compensation men is known, and as a certain number are dying year by year this liability grows less and less. That very important factor may help the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the position.
As I have already intimated, we are very pleased that the right hon. Gentleman has brought forward this Measure. It will assist the worst cases, but it certainly leaves out 35,000 partially-disabled men. Those men are not covered by this Bill and, as a result, there will be 35,000 very disgruntled and dissatisfied workers. I want to make a special plea to the Minister to reconsider the position of these men. For the life of me I cannot understand why they are left out.
What is the difficulty of paying 10s. a week as a flat rate to these men? Is it a financial difficulty? On this side we have calculated that the amount involved would be £ ½ million for the first year. No one would grudge that. We feel that that is a responsibility of the Exchequer. The men of whom I am speaking made their contribution to industry— and here 1935 I refer particularly to the mining industry. The men who worked in the mines years ago helped this nation. Surely it is not much to ask £ ½ million from the Exchequer to help them.
If the Exchequer cannot deal with it, then representations can be made to the employers. Reference has already been made to the employers, whose liability this really is. They are the people who are responsible, but I hope that the Government will confess that they failed to get the employers or the insurance companies to meet one penny of this liability. That is a shame and a scandal. Having failed to get the employers to deal with it, the Government should meet these claims out of the Industrial Injuries Fund. The present provisions would not be possible had it not been for that Fund. It is because we have that Fund that the right hon. Gentleman is today able to do what he is doing by this Bill
I plead with him to look again at this problem of the partially disabled, and at least to remove the anomaly of the position whereby this 17s. 6d. is not added to the maximum payment to the partially-disabled where the earnings warrant it. I hope that the Minister will at least do what was done under the 1897, the 1906 and the 1925 Acts. I hope that he will make the £ 3 7s. 6d. the basis for all payments under the Workmen's Compensation Acts.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril Osborne (Louth)
I observe that a number of hon. Members opposite who are experts on this subject have for the last five minutes been looking most anxiously at their colleague the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch), who has taken so long to make his speech. I promise that I shall speak for only two or three minutes.
I was brought up in a mining area, and I remember how important workmen's compensation was fifty years ago to people who had the misfortune to lose the breadwinner through an accident in the pits. Anything that my right hon. Friend can do to help remove injustices, even in a small number of cases, will be very welcome on both sides of the House. Therefore, I welcome the Bill and congratulate the Minister on it.
The hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. B Taylor) said that while he was glad 1936 that these 14,000 men were covered by the Bill, he calculated that there were 70,000 cases in all which ought to be dealt with. I want to ask my right hon. Friend if he accepts that figure. If so, what would it cost to bring the other 56,000 into benefit? Can it be done? I was taught to be grateful for small mercies, and therefore I will thank him for what he is doing already for those who have suffered, but I should like to know whether it is possible to do something for those who feel they have been left out.
I am sorry that the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) has left the Chamber. She made a point to which 1 should like to refer. She said that she felt that the liability ought to be put upon the shoulders of those who are really responsible, and in this connection she referred to former employers and insurance companies. I think I agree with her in a way; but that is only half the story. That is a matter only of national bookkeeping. Hon. Members must face the fact that if we are, as I think we ought as a nation, to look after more generously those who are unfortunate, we shall not do it merely by bookkeeping.
As I have said on many occasions before, we shall only do it out of the increased wealth that we create by greater productivity. Whether the burden is put on the Treasury, which will lead to greater taxation; whether the liability is put on the previous employers— although how that can be done with companies which have gone bankrupt I do not know; or whether it is put on to the insurance companies, that would merely be a little bit of national bookkeeping, transferring from one account to another.
If we are going to do what we should for the unfortunate— and this is only one small aspect of a great national problem — we can only do it, as my right hon Friend is so well aware, out of the increased wealth that we create. We shall not do it merely by legislation. We should get into the minds of both sides of industry that if we are to look after our people as we would like to, we have got to put our heads and our muscles into the task, as well as our hearts.
I welcome the Bill. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the step he has taken. I hope that he will be able to do 1937 something for the 56,000 who, it is claimed, are not covered by this Bill, and I hope that before we part with the Bill my right hon. Friend will tell us what it will cost to deal with these people and, if it is not too much. I hope he will deal with them.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)
I cannot follow the philosophy of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne), but there is one thing I did appreciate in the course of his speech—that he had sympathy for injured workmen. As to the liability, I believe— whether the hon. Gentleman believes it or not— that the liability for these men whose cases we are discussing under this Measure ought to rest upon the people who are liable.
Let it not go forth from this House that no attempt was made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) to place that responsibility where it belonged. He made an attempt, after the passing of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, to establish with the insurance companies and the indemnity companies a global figure which would redeem the liability resting upon them. We ought, therefore, to say that an attempt was made during that period. My right hon. Friend had the patience of Job, and he manifested the wisdom of Solomon in trying to get a figure fixed so that the liability for injured workmen should rest where it ought to rest.
Before I turn to deal with the matter of compensation under the Bill, I should like to put one or two questions. Like my hon. Friends the Member for Mansfield (Mr. B. Taylor), the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison), and the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch), I too must express profound regret that this Bill does not contain any reference to the partial compensation case. I want to add my plea to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North, that the Minister should at a very early date bring forward a Bill to deal with those partial compensation cases.
What are we to understand by the expression "prolonged period" in Clause 1, page 1, line 12? I am not quite sure that we can accept that wording; a "prolonged period" may mean six months in one person's estimation and may mean twelve months in someone else's estima- 1938 tion. We should have not a fixed date but a clear definition of what is meant by "incapable of work" for a prolonged period.'
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) was in the Chamber when I moved the Second Reading. If he was, he will recall that I did indicate that there had been a number of decisions by the Commissioner construing these words in other legislation as meaning about six months.
§ Mr. T. Brown
Six months is rather a long period, as we understand it in what I may call pit language. If it is six months, then six months it will be; but I should like a much clearer definition in the Bill itself.
My other question relates to the pre-1924 cases, and I wish to know whether all those men who are now in receipt of full compensation for total incapacity will receive this 17s. 6d. increase. That is very important. I do not know whether the Minister realises that many of them are now in receipt of ld. a week. Many of them have established and kept their claims green— speaking now in ordinary language, as we understand it in the mining areas— and in some cases they have a declaration of liability which carries nothing. In other cases a penny a week is paid every four weeks in order to keep the memory of the accident green. Will such cases be entitled to receive compensation?
I want next to deal with cases which are designated "odd lots" The Minister and those who come from mining areas will know what I mean by "odd lot" It is regrettable that a man who has sustained an accident which renders him totally incapacitated should be designated an "odd lot". These "odd lots" are forgotten men. Will the increases in the Bill be applicable to them?
The Minister referred to medical boards now operating under the Industrial Injuries Scheme. I suggest that medical boards which have to determine many of the questions arising from the operation of the Bill should consist of medical men from industrial areas. That would be a step in the right direction. We are now finding— and I say this with the greatest respect for the medical profession 1939 —that some of the medical boards which have to assess the loss of faculty of an injured workman come from seaport towns and have no knowledge of industry, and cannot be expected to have. That is something which I hope the Minister will consider.
With certain reservations, we support the Bill. As it proceeds through Committee, we shall attempt to improve it, and I hope that a degree of amiability and reasonableness will be manifested by the Minister and his Department when we put forward Amendments. This is the 64th compensation Bill to be introduced since Lord Campbell's Fatal Accident Act reached the Statute Book in 1846. That was the first Act of Parliament to declare that compensation should be paid for fatal accidents.
My experience of dealing with compensation cases is that not one of the 63 Acts of Parliament which deal with compensation has ever faced up to the realities of compensation in industry. I challenge anyone to say that compensation legislation in the past has given the injured workman or workwoman the compensation to which he or she has been entitled. It has always fallen far short. When I went to school we used to gather in the playground and sing the song:Here we are again, happy as can be.Tonight we are here trying to bring some little happiness in the social and economic conditions of injured men and women in industry.
I have said before and I now repeat with greater emphasis that so long as we have wars, we shall have sick and wounded men: so long as we have industries we shall have men and women broken and bruised upon the wheels of industry, some incapacitated for the rest of their lives, as are those men who will benefit by the Bill. Others are incapacitated for long periods, "prolonged" periods as the Bill says; others for shorter periods; but whether the incapacity is for a long or short period it is the task of this House and of the responsible Minister to see to it that those who have the misfortune to meet with accidents shall be protected against the social, economic, physical and mental consequences which follow accidents—and many there are, as figures prove.
1940 I may be departing into idealism when I say that for a long number of years, having the experience I have been fortunate to have in this matter of compensation, I have been possessed by the hope that one day there would come into our midst, a statesman, a Minister, who would tackle the question as it should be tackled, a man possessing a high degree of courage and profound humanitarianism, with a lofty and noble conception of the value of human life and limb.
I have said many times, and I repeat, that no man, however clever he may be as a mathematician, can determine in terms of £s. d. the value of human life or human limb. I challenge any man to do so. I have myself tried to do so. How difficult I have found it. We have travelled a long, hard road, and we have failed to find such a man. I am not saying that the present Minister is lacking in the spirit of humanitarianism: but I have longed for the time when there would come into our midst such an individual.
In my long experience of this kind of social service I have not been, and I am not, unmindful of the great work and of the success which has attended the efforts of men who, ever since 1897 until the present time, have struggled in so many ways to secure adequate payments for compensation for industrially injured workmen. I do not want to be misunderstood, but I must say that we have not yet done all we could have done.
History records the fact, as has been indicated by previous speakers, that every now and again the question of some improvement in the rates of compensation paid to injured workmen is brought up. It is brought before us in Government Measures such as the one now before the House. Private Members, when fortunate in the Ballot, have chosen to bring forward Bills specifying improvements and figures for workmen's compensation rates.
Now here we are again seeking tonight, through the medium of this Bill, to bring about further improvements. We all welcome them. The Bill, with all its shortcomings, we welcome because it will bring some little relief to those who have been waiting patiently and long for that relief. People in non-mining areas from 1941 time to time ask the question which has been put to me many times—why is it that miners' M. P. s are always trying to improve compensation rates? The reason why we are so enthusiatic about it is obvious, because of the high incidence of accidents in the mining industry.
The Bill will deal with men injured not only in two decades but in three. I would mention the number of men injured and killed in the decade before the First World War. These figures will indicate the magnitude of the problem that confronts us. In the ten years, 1928 to 1937, following the First World War, 1,602,496 men and boys were killed, injured or disabled by accident or industrial disease in British mining.
It may be easier to realise the terrible consequences of the sorrow, physical pain and mental agony if I say that in the ten years preceding the First World War 18 miners were killed and 3,000 injured every working week. As we are directing our minds to what we ought to do, let us try and visualise the 1½ million who have been injured and have suffered. They are a vast concourse of people who would take a long time to pass us if they marched in procession. Many of them would be in grievous pain, and the sound of their passing would equal that of the moaning wind.
During the ten years following the Second World War, the total number of miners killed was 4,802, and there were 2,089,935 reported accidents. I speak from the depths of my heart, and I want the House to try to visualise the great human tragedy that these figures represent— to picture the physical suffering and mental agony which have been the lot of these men and their families. And not one of them has received adequate compensation. Like so many of my colleagues who have spent many years in dealing with compensation cases, I am looking forward again with the strong hope that one day compensation will be paid not only for the loss of faculty but for physical suffering and mental agony. I know that that is a far-reaching idea but, let the House mark my words, it will come.
I hope that the House will permit me to quote one of the many cases that have come to my notice. It is that of a man who over a period of six years had 22 1942 amputations arising from one accident. Every finger of both hands was amputated, and then he had to have both hands taken off, and the big toes on both feet amputated. What physical pain and mental agony must have been endured by that unfortunate man.
I have in my hand a photograph of eight brothers who are all mine workers. Seven of them have suffered accidents and misfortunes in the pits, and not one of them has received adequate compensation. As the Act was drawn, they were denied that right. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty said, when the colliery closed down on 3rd February, 1937, these men failed to obtain the compensation to which they were entitled. What a tragedy in human life. I have in my constituency unfortunate men who were injured before 1934 and who today are receiving £1 0s. 10d. full compensation. They have had to go to the National Assistance Board to eke out a livelihood.
What a tragedy in a civilised country if men who, after being injured in producing the products which the nation needs, should be compelled to have recourse to National Assistance because of the inadequacy of the compensation paid to them. Therefore, I express the hope that in the very near future a realistic view will be taken of the subject of compensation and all its implications. Never let it be said that this honourable House failed to do its duty to those who toil and who give to the nation the products which are so essential to the maintenance of our economic life.
Whether a man or a woman works in the mines or the mills or the engineering shops or the steel works, our task as a legislative assembly is to afford protection to that man or woman. I will not go into the question of the size of the problem. Cases have been mentioned, and 1 could mention many more. I say that in the very near future, if we do that which is right— and we are expected to do that which is right— we shall have to rewrite the values of our people engaged in industry. The values have been fixed too low, and they are too low now. Whatever the wages may be, whatever the conditions may be for the men and women in industry, those conditions will have to include adequate compensation if they are unfortunately overtaken by accidents.
1943 Therefore, 1 welcome the Bill for the small provision that it makes for these unfortunate men, and so far as we on this side of the House can do so, we shall give it a speedy passage through its Committee and remaining stages.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
I am sure that no one could listen to my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) in a debate such as this without being very moved and very touched. Those of us who, like him, have spent our lives in the mining areas know that all the sentiments he has uttered are perfectly true. It is a substantial reflection upon our modern society and our social consciousness, which is supposed to be so well-developed, that in the year 1956 we should have to try to get a greater measure of justice for people who have been denied justice in some cases for well over thirty years.
This Bill is naturally welcome because it gives some redress to 15,000 people, but, as has been indicated, there are some 30,000 or 40,000 people who will obtain no benefit and will be still suffering substantial and grave injustice.
I had staying with me last week a man who had to leave the mines in 1931. He had not been away from home for over thirty years. He had not been able to go away from home because he was a victim of pneumoconiosis. Everyone who has seen these cases knows that a man is constantly coughing, hacking and spitting, and this man told me that it would be disturbing and embarrassing to him to go through that ordeal in front of my family. However, I told him that I had two brothers in a similar state who coughed and spat and spluttered, who never knew what it was to get a full night's rest, and who, if they had two hours' sleep, felt very fortunate.
This man, who came out of the pits in 1931, was judged to have pneumoconiosis in the year 1955. For 25 years he has been gasping for breath, for 25 years he has been unable to follow any normal occupation. It was not until he had his third board, twenty-five years later, that it was agreed that he had partial pneumoconiosis and, as my hon. Friend has indicated, he gets the princely sum of £1 1944 a week. He was denied anything for all those years, and this Bill will give him nothing.
I make no bones about it, 1 get sick to death in this House about these things. Whenever we estimate the cost of something that will bring relief to those who are injured, sick or poor, every penny is counted, every penny is weighed and measured. To give justice to the 35,000 left outside the Bill would cost hardly more than one bomber. If we wanted another thousand bombers, the money would be found.
Why cannot we get Ministers of Pensions and National Insurance who are prepared to stand up in their Department with the same courage and tenacity and determination with which air commodores and generals and admirals stand up in their Departments? They never go short. Their demands are always met. Some day, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ince said, we shall have a Minister who will stand up in the Cabinet for the maimed and the injured and the sick and the aged with the same determination with which the Service Ministers obviously stand up in their Departments.
The hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne), who has departed from the Chamber, wanted to know where the money was to come from. He was very concerned about the cost. Half the men on partial compensation are victims of the mining industry, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ince said. The hon. Member for Louth, with whose presence we are no longer graced, said we could not juggle with the figures in the balance sheet, and that if we were to do anything for these people we must increase production.
I think we could juggle with the figures in the balance sheet. I do not think that there would be anything wrong in taking £ 2 million off the compensation for the coal owners. That would give these people adequate compensation and justice. This is the moral obligation of the coal owners, because those men are suffering from disability today because they hewed coal at too cheap a price for the old coal owners. So, if the hon. Member for Louth wants these people to have the measure of justice to which they are entitled, I hope that he will join with us on the Committee stage in trying to bring these people within the scope of the Bill.
1945 There is no doubt that there have been substantial improvements. For example, a fortnight ago my nephew, who had had his finger badly smashed in the mine, returned to work after six or eight weeks and received £45 for disfigurement. One of my brothers said to me, holding out his hand, "Look at this. I shall never get anything for this disfigurement" That happened before the present scheme came into operation, so there is a vast difference.
Because the numbers of the men we are talking about tonight are limited, because their numbers are growing less every year and because, therefore, the money involved will become less every year, 1 hope that during the Committee stage the Minister will consider whether it is not possible to bring in the partially disabled in order to go some way towards giving them the measure of justice to which they are entitled.
The Minister ought to pay very great regard to the matter. If there is one industry in the country in which we need manpower, it is the mining industry, and if there is one thing more than anything else keeping young men out of the mines it is a miner saying "Look what has happened to me. For goodness sake, do not go near the mines or what has happened to me may happen to you and you may not get adequate compensation" If the Minister can improve the Bill by providing justice for the whole of the 70,000 men, he will probably be doing indirectly one of the best things he could do to aid the recruitment of much-needed manpower to the mining industry.
§ 9.36 p. m.
§ Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)
I should like to add my voice to those who have asked for more generous treatment for those who have suffered in the mining industry. I am thinking not specially of the coal mining industry but of a mining industry which once flourished in my constituency, the tin mining industry.
Although tin mining is small in extent compared with the past, it still carries a high incidence of silicosis, as we call it. I have heard the disease described by different terms. When my grandfather coughed his life away it was known as miners' complaint, a very good description. Then it became known as miners' phthisis. Then it was called 1946 silicosis, and now it is known as pneumoconiosis. Whatever it is, it is miners' complaint, a complaint terrible to behold, and a great burden to those who suffer from it, and to their families.
We cannot be too generous to the men in our vital industries who are stricken. I am shocked at the treatment accorded by the country to two classes of compensation cases. The right hon. Gentleman, when Minister of Transport, was responsible for safety on the roads. Those who are injured on the roads get very generous compensation compared with those who sustain injuries in industry. Now that he is Minister of Pensions and National Insurance I hope he will try to ensure that industrial compensation payments are raised more closely to the levels of compensation paid in the case of injury and death on the roads. I see the Minister smiling. I agree that the payments come from different sources, but they still arise from the one national income.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Anyone suffering personal injury on the road can obtain compensation only if he succeeds in establishing negligence on the part of the other party. In the case of road casualties there are none of the advantages of workmen's compensation or the Industrial Injuries Scheme.
§ Mr. Hayman
I am speaking about the rate of compensation. A person cannot receive compensation for industrial injuries unless he can establish his claim. The compensation for injuries on the roads, while it is true that it does not come from the State, is far more generous than the compensation for industrial injuries.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
It is still a fact that, if negligence can be proved, a person injured in industry can sue his employer. Over and above that, there are all the provisions that we are discussing which are absent in the case of casualties on the roads. Far more provision is made for the industrial casualty than for the road casualty.
§ Mr. Hayman
We can take the two categories broadly, I suggest, and without the legal niceties which the right hon. Gentleman naturally brings to the subject.
Speaking as a layman, I think that medical boards— and here again I am on 1947 contentious ground— are so technical in their assessment of injury that very often it appears extraordinarily difficult for anybody to establish a claim at all. I hope, therefore, that the time will come when the gentlemen on those boards will make a far more human assessment of injury of this kind.
§ 9.41 p. m.
§ Mr. George Deer (Newark)
I am exceedingly pleased to have the opportunity tonight to welcome the Bill, primarily because it succeeds an infant which I tried to bring into the world. I even offered it to the Minister and asked him to adopt it. He preferred, however, to bring in this Bill. Nevertheless, for this small mercy I give thanks, because it admits a principle and it goes some way towards what I was striving to do when I brought forward my Bill to deal not only with the totally disabled, but also with the partially disabled.
I regard this opportunity tonight as some compensation for the wearisome Fridays I have spent in the House trying to move a Bill, colloquially speaking, "on the nod" and receiving a harsh "Object" from hon. Members opposite, who tonight, I am glad to say, are waiving their objection and supporting their own Minister in his Bill.
Before I had the privilege of representing my constituency, 1 was for 40 years a trade union official. Since 1915, I have been dealing with the effects of workmen's injuries and compensation, and I know something of the difficulties that many workpeople have had in trying to prove employers' liability and in trying to get redress for their wrongs. To go back a little further, in my late 'teens I had the misfortune to have a crushed foot arising out of my employment. The employer and the insurance company, which was a mutual company of employers, both treated me as if I was trying to steal pennies from a blind man's can in asking for workmen's compensation. We were gently told, "If you want compensation and are not too careful in your demands, we might remember it later" Consequently, people who obtained workmen's compensation usually found that they were the first to go when redundancy or unemployment arrived. That was my personal experi- 1948 ence and, therefore, I have some right to talk on this subject.
My second purpose is to thank the Minister, and I do so sincerely. Although he would not father my Bill, I bear him no malice. It is a pleasant step forward that, after negotiations with the Trades Union Congress and the National Union of Mineworkers, he has come to the conclusion that something must be done for at least some of the people who are suffering from the disadvantages of being under workmen's compensation.
I welcome the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has made this change, although we should like to see something done for the partially disabled. Anyone who listened to the speeches from my hon. Friends will realise that there is no ambiguity about our feelings on that matter. But I speak for my hon. Friends when I say that under no circumstances shall we delay the passage of this Bill, which does justice to some, because we are not getting what we want for everyone, and I hope that the discussions in Committee will be reasonably short. The Committee stage of the last Bill with which I was associated lasted for twelve minutes. I cannot promise such acceleration, for this Measure, but while we may try to improve the Bill in ways we think acceptable to the Government, we do not intend to obstruct this Bill because it does not give the "partials" all we think they deserve.
We are here dealing with 13,000 out of a total of 45,000 people, and if we include the latent cases, the number is brought up to about 70,000. We must remember that those who were injured prior to 1948 represent many old compensation cases. Some of them sustained the injuries which totally disabled them long before there were the reasonable wages which were paid at the beginning of the last war period. Those who were injured in the 1930's often received small compensation grants. Because of their loss of earning capacity, due to short time and intermittent work and, in some cases, low wages, they received a rather rough deal compared with— I nearly said those who were more fortunate to sustain their injuries later. Of course, no one who sustains an accident is fortunate, but comparatively speaking those who were injured later received better compensation terms.
1949 In many cases the people with whom we are dealing have seen the advent of improved working conditions and pay for the jobs which they used to do. They have had to stand aside, the victims of a struggle which my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) described so graphically. Although in the 1946 Bill, which reached the Statute Book in 1948, we did something for the new cases, for varying reasons we did not include those people who had been injured earlier. We did not do so because, as most hon. Members who were in the House at that time will recall, there were difficulties about wedding the two schemes. The old scheme was based on the loss of earning capacity and was dealt with by insurance companies under mutual contracts and so on. The new scheme made the State responsible, and a fund was created to deal with the injuries as such rather than the loss of earning capacity. It was difficult to classify these particular cases. It would have meant the whole of them coming under critical examination when the new scheme was being introduced.
We had to wait our time, and gradually from 1948 onwards improvements have been made to those Acts, all of which have had some justification in showing that the scheme needed tidying up. This is the next step. I am glad that we are to deal with this one section. I wish the Minister, who has agreed to this rough and ready calculation of 17s. 6d. for the three categories of totally disabled persons, could have gone that little step further and said that he would have a rough and ready calculation of 10s. for the partially disabled. That would have made all the difference between us receiving the Bill with acclamation and receiving it with the reservations which have been shown tonight. On the other hand, if he cannot do that, it may be that as the number diminishes— as diminish it must— we shall have a second opportunity of looking at the case of the people who this time are missed out.
I promised to be reasonably brief in my remarks in order to give the Minister a chance to wind up the debate. So much has been said by my right hon. Friends that they have left me very little to say. I could summarise all that has been said. I expected that some hon. Members would have had greater reservations than we had, but the only hon. Members who 1950 have been rather critical were the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne), who was bothered about production and where the money was to come from, and the hon. Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Partridge) about inroads into the Fund.
I meet many people in my constituency, which is partly industrial and partly mining. I have never met a person engaged in industry who would make any complaint whatever about inroads which have been made into the Fund to help those worse off than himself. There are ways and means, of course, of assisting the Fund if we so desired.
Much has been said about the significance of this Bill to the mining industry. In my constituency there are seven pits. I was talking to an official of the miners' union yesterday, and he gave me these significant figures. Whilst the mining industry employs only 4 per cent. of the industrial population, it accounts for 40 per cent. of the casualties dealt with under workmen's compensation. People who never know when they leave home to go to work whether they will come back again as they went— who may come back in an ambulance, or worse still, not at all— are bound to take a real interest in this question of the improvement of workmen's compensation.
On behalf of my hon. Friends, I say we shall do all we can to hasten the passage of the Bill through Committee stage. We shall remind the Minister, kindly but severely, that the sooner he fixes a date the better we shall like him. It must be a very pleasant change for a Minister in this present Government in one day to bring in two Bills, both of which have been received with acclamation and promise of support. I say more power to his elbow. I hope and trust that in the not far distant future we shall get the remaining Bill which will improve the position of those left out of this Measure. We pledge ourselves to give this Bill every support we can.
§ 9.55 p. m.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance (Miss Edith Pitt)
It has become almost a convention, when winding up a Second Reading debate to comment on the measure of agreement between the two sides of the House, the eloquent speeches that have been made, and the 1951 sincerity of all hon. Members in wanting the proposed benefit to be paid. I think I can say that with truth tonight. Hon. Members who have spoken from both sides of the House have been very anxious to do all they can for those men who before 1948 qualified for workmen's compensation.
I shall try, briefly, to reply to some of the points raised. The one thing that has been common to every speech delivered from the benches opposite is, of course, the question of the partially disabled— "partials" as we call them— and on that matter I shall have something to say later. In opening the debate for the Opposition, the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. B. Taylor) referred to these men as "the forgotten men," a phrase which we have heard before. He stated that their benefit was last increased in 1943. That is not wholly correct, as I shall show later. The hon. Gentleman also said that out of a total of 70,000— I think that his figure may be on the high side, but I am not proposing to question it at the moment— we were only touching the fringe of the problem. I think he would agree that in dealing with the 13,000 to 14,000 whom this Bill affects we are helping those most in need.
The hon. Gentleman also referred to the necessity for medical examination. I should like to try to make it clear that we hope that in many cases that will not arise, though we must reserve our position in certain instances when it may be necessary to ask a man to undergo a medical examination. In any case, this provision in the Bill gives the Minister power—it is a permissive provision—to act in most instances where that is thought to be necessary.
The hon. Member for Mansfield also asked how the benefit would be paid. The answer is that we hope it can be forwarded for substantial periods in advance. It will be paid by books of orders. That is a point to bear in mind when I later return to the subject of the partially disabled, because it would disturb the system of payments in advance for long periods if partials were included who might have to undergo examination, perhaps even weekly to know whether they would still enjoy the benefit.
§ Mr. J. T. Price
Before the hon. Lady leaves the general question of entitlement 1952 to benefit, is she in a position to say anything about the considerable number of injured persons who are now receiving compensation under the Government's scheme— Government servants— in respect of whose injuries the Government contracted out of the Workmen's Compensation Acts and who are covered by a special scheme to which no reference whatsoever is made in this Bill?
§ Miss Pitt
No, not a medical examination, but an examination as to their need still to enjoy this benefit.
The hon. Member for Mansfield also referred to the specific case of a man only likely to be off work for three months, and asked whether that man would satisfy the terms of Clause 1 (1, a) on the "prolonged period". The answer is that as the Bill is now drafted he probably would not, because "prolonged period" has been taken, on existing case law, to mean about six months. But I will return to that point later.
The hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) congratulated my right hon. Friend on the introduction of the Bill, and on his behalf I should like to acknowledge that. She made the point very vigorously that the cost of these proposals should really fall on the insurance companies and not on the Industrial Injuries Fund. It is no part of my task tonight to deal with the position either of the pre-1948 employer or of the insurance company which, in many cases, took the risk of workmen's compensation, but I think that I ought to ask the hon. Lady to consider this analogy. If she herself bought an annuity from an insurance company in the days before 1948 for a specific sum of money which she had invested, and that annuity now brought in £1 a week, I think that she would have little claim, and would 1953 be little likely to approach the insurance company and say "The value of the £ has fallen; I think that you ought to pay me more" That is one of the difficulties of trying to help men —
§ Miss Pitt
The hon. Lady said that, failing the insurance company, the benefit should be paid by the Treasury but, again endeavouring to think logically, I believe that if this were to be paid by the Treasury, it, in turn, would have to collect the money from the taxpayer. I see no difference between asking that this money should be paid through the medium of Income Tax collected by the Inland Revenue and paid out by the Treasury and asking that it should be paid by the same man through his contribution towards the Industrial Injuries Fund. I do not regard these arguments as being the main basis of this discussion, but since the points were made, I think that I should try to reply to them.
§ Miss Herbison
In dealing with both those matters I was taking up a point which I felt had rightly been made by the Minister when he suggested that we should take from the Industrial Injuries Fund only that amount which we felt would do away with grave injustices. It was in dealing with that point, trying to say that we on this side of the House were as much concerned as was the Minister with the future of the Fund, that I made these suggestions. I would have to make another speech to show how illogical was the hon. Lady in drawing an analogy between the annuity and what we are now asking, and also how wrong it is to suggest that the Treasury should not have some responsibility for these people who have had injustices heaped on them for so long.
§ Miss Pitt
I appreciate that the hon. Lady is as concerned as we are with the proper use of the money in the Industrial Injuries Fund. As I remarked a moment or two ago, I do not want to get these matters out of proportion, but since she raised the points, I thought that it was only proper to comment on them.
The hon. Lady mentioned, in addition to the partially disabled, another point which I feel I must answer. It is that a single totally disabled man under these proposals will receive less than a single man on 100 per cent. disablement pension now receives under the Industrial Injuries Act. But does not the hon. Lady agree that a flat rate of 17s. 6d., giving the same measure of improvement to the single man, the married man or the married man with a child, is the fairest way of doing it? If we were to accept her implied suggestion, we would give the single man 27s. 6d. a week and bring him up to the same rate as the 100 per cent. disablement pensioner. Does the hon. Lady agree that it is right to give the greater increase to the single man than to the married man, or the married man with a child?
§ Miss Herbison
The hon. Lady has asked me a direct question. Of course I think it would be absolutely right to give to the single man the £1 7s. 6d., because it would bring him up to what the single man under the Industrial Injuries Act gets. I take it that when increases were made in Industrial Injuries benefit they were made because of the increased cost of living. It seems to me that whether a man had an accident before 1948 or after, even though he is a single man, the cost of living is exactly the same. What I have said is absolutely logical. namely, that all those beneficiaries should receive the same as is given under Industrial Injuries.
§ Miss Pitt
I do not mean that the totally disabled man is physically better able to look after himself; I mean in the material sense of buying things and of having sufficient finance with which to carry on.
The hon. Member for Bedwelty (Mr. Finch) referred to the subject of the partially disabled and complained that there was no provision in the Bill for those whose compensation has been commuted. Here I think the answer is that no provision is made in the previous Acts passed by his own Government, namely, the main Act of 1946 and the Act of 1951, so we are following precedent.
The hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) referred to the partially disabled and asked about the pre-1924 cases. The answer is this. If the pre-1924 cases are totally disabled, they will qualify in the same way as the post-1924 cases.
The hon. Member for Ince concluded with a very eloquent peroration, which is in keeping with the whole of this debate, and said that we should give the utmost sympathy and practical help that we can to men drawing workmen's compensation. The purpose of this Bill is quite straightforward, as my right hon. Friend made clear in his opening speech. It is to provide a supplement of 17s. 6d. a week to the totally disabled, and that I wish to underline—the totally disabled still receiving workmen's compensation.
§ Mr. J. T. Price
Would the hon. Lady allow me just to raise this one point? The question of total and partial disablement, in general terms, has been fully discussed this evening, and I do not wish to waste the time of the House; but there is a considerable segment of old cases where partial disablement under the Workmen's Compensation Acts was accepted as total disablement for the purpose of benefit because the continuing effect of the injury prevented the workman from getting employment suitable to his condition. Those are cases under Section 9 (4) of the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1925. I should like to know how the Minister proposes to deal with them.
§ Miss Pitt
The hon. Gentleman is anticipating my speech. I promise I shall come to that.
1956 The supplement will also apply to the totally disabled who come within the terms of the Industrial Diseases (Benefit) Act, which provides benefit from the Industrial Injuries Fund to people disabled by certain industrial diseases in cases which would be time-barred, to use the expression which has already been used tonight about workmen's compensation. I think the point has been made very clearly that it was impracticable to absorb the old cases, as the workmen's compensation cases were so frequently called, into the Industrial Injuries Scheme, because of their different bases.
In fact, it is still true that some men are better off under the workmen's compensation scheme, but increases in Industrial Injuries rates have now resulted in a marked disparity between the maximum rates for workmen's compensation and the rate for 100 per cent. disablement pension under the Industrial Injuries Scheme. The 100 per cent. disablement pension was increased to 65s. 6d. last year. The maximum rates of workmen's compensation were last increased in 1943, as the hon. Member for Mansfield said; but there has been some improvement since that date, because the Industrial Injuries Act made unemployability supplement and constant attendance allowance available to the old workmen's compensation cases, and since 1948 sickness benefit has gradually been made available to them until in 1953 they came into full benefit. They are, therefore, better off to that extent.
§ Mr. B. Taylor
I am sure that the hon. Lady would not wish to misconstrue what I said. I purposely intimated to the House that the compensation payments had not been increased since 1943, which is true.
§ Miss Pitt
If the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mansfield used the words "compensation payments ", then I did misunderstand him. I inferred from his comment that he was suggesting nothing had been done for the pre-1948 cases. In fact, I am concerned to show that to some extent they are better off than they were before the passing of the 1946 Act. A married man, totally disabled and on compensation, can get £5 15s., the 50s. compensation under the old Workmen's Compensation Act, plus 65s.—and more if he is receiving constant attendance allowance. That compares with 50s. before 1948.
1957 The fact remains that the man on 100 per cent. disablement pension resulting from an industrial accident since July, 1948. is now better off than the man receiving compensation for total incapacity before that date. The disparity justifies some improvement, and that is the purpose of the Bill. It is accepted generally, I think, that that cannot be done at the expense of the employers or insurance companies.
§ Mr. Price
Every year the insurance companies carrying these liabilities have to make a return to the Board of Trade showing the amount of capital reserved in that year's account to cover liabilities still current. I suggest that the hon. Lady and her right hon. Friend should look at those returns, because that is where the money is to be found.
§ Miss Pitt
That is quite irrelevant to the debate. To pursue that particular argument, we should have another debate on confiscation. We cannot alter the fact that the premiums paid in the old days are relevant to the benefits provided.
As I was saying before that interruption, the supplement will have to be charged on the Industrial Injuries Fund, and the rate of 17s. 6d. now proposed will bring married men, who form the majority of cases, up to the level of 100 per cent. disablement pension. No provision is made for the partially disabled, because a supplement for these men from the Industrial Injuries Fund is not justified.
The partials are in two groups. The first is those on less than maximum compensation, who form the larger part of the number comprising partials, and the second is those partials on maximum benefit. In the first group— those who have not yet reached maximum compensation— there is provision for a review of the compensation within the maximum to take account of changes in wage rates, so that they are able to benefit 1958 from increases in pay for the particular job they are doing. The second group—those already up to maximum benefit—is the one group where workmen's compensation compares favourably even now with Industrial Injuries.
For example, a 30 per cent. assessment under the Industrial Injuries Scheme gives a pension of 20s. 3d. a week. That can be increased by special hardship allowance at the maximum rate of 27s. 6d. a week, which brings the total up to 47s. 9d. a week. That should be compared with 50s. to which the married man is entitled on maximum workmen's compensation for partial disability. It will be seen, as I have said, that the man on workmen's compensation is better off than the man on a 30 per cent. assessment under the Industrial Injuries Scheme. In fact, about three-quarters of the disablement pensioners under industrial injuries have assessments of 30 per cent. or less.
One further point is the fact that the partials are able to benefit from increased wages. In fact, they still have capacity to work, and the benefits they are entitled to from under the National Insurance Scheme are increased from time to time.
§ Mr. Finch
I do not like to interrupt all the time, but the hon. Lady has given some answers which are not correct. She mentioned rates of compensation for partially disabled men rising as a result of increases in wages. That may be true in some cases, but it very often operates the other way round. There are men in the mining industry who are getting an increase in wages in light work, but there are thousands of men who are getting no compensation at all. Let us have the right setting and not an exaggeration.
§ Mr. Finch
Partially disabled men may get a slight increase in light work wages, but suppose they do? That results in the reduction of compensation. The hon. Lady is making a lot of the increase in light work wages, but those are still far 1959 behind what the men could have been earning. Do let us have the facts in the right perspective.
§ Miss Pitt
I would rather not give way again because the debate has already gone on for a considerable time and I have already given way frequently.
The supplement is to be paid if a man is incapable of work as the result of injury or disease and is likely to remain so for "a prolonged period ". The Industrial Injuries Commissioner will be the final authority to decide what is meant by "prolonged period" but as my right hon. Friend endeavoured to make clear in his speech we think it wise to keep this definition of "prolonged period" as flexible as possible so that we should not be tied down to three months or six months or whatever period may be decided upon. That would make for difficult cases and difficult decisions. If there is a certain amount of discretion in the interpretation of the words "prolonged period" we think that it will benefit the men concerned.
Claims will be decided by the usual machinery. That is the insurance officer in the first place; on appeal the case would go to the local tribunal; the final appeal would in certain circumstances be to the Industrial Injuries Commissioner. It is not possible to give an accurate estimate of the numbers who will benefit, but we think probably between 10,000 and 11,000 on workmen's compensation and about 3,000 under the benefit schemes; perhaps more than three-fifths of the beneficiaries will be from the coal mining industry.' I understand the interest which hon. Members opposite who represent mining constituencies have in that matter. The cost will be £ 650,000 a year at first, to be met out of the Industrial Injuries Fund, and it will be a diminishing figure.
May I conclude with a comment on something said by the hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Deer). He referred, in what I thought was a rather telling 1960 phrase, to the men who have had to "stand aside". We are trying in this Bill to help the men who have had to stand aside, those who do not share in the general level of increased prosperity, the men who are not able to help themselves, the men in need. We hope to do something for them through this Bill.
§ Miss Herbison
There was one category of men whose position was mentioned in speeches from this side of the House, but not mentioned by the hon. Lady in her reply to the debate, and that is the category of those who are receiving 20s. a week as men suffering from pneumoconiosis and considered partially disabled. All that has been said in the hon. Lady's reply about those who are partially disabled cannot apply to these people. What is the attitude of the Government to them?
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 38 (Committal of Bills).