§ 3.55 p.m.
§ Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)
I beg to move, in page 2, line 5, at the end to add:(3) As from the appointed day section two of the Workmen's Compensation and Benefit (Supplementation) Act, 1956 (which provides for the payment of allowances out of the Industrial Injuries Fund to certain persons), shall have effect as if there were substituted for the words "seventeen shillings and sixpence" the words "forty-five shillings" and as if the reference to "the appointed day" were a reference to the appointed day under this Act.If this Amendment were accepted, it would give the increase proposed in the Bill for those who are covered by the Industrial Injuries Act to those who are covered by the old compensation Acts and by the Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Benefit Act of 1951.
By the Workmen's Compensation and Benefit (Supplementation) Act of 1956 these men received the weekly increase of 17s. 6d. This brought the compensation of the married man at that time up to the same rate as that of the man receiving his benefit under the Industrial Injuries Act, that is, for those who were totally disabled. For those who were receiving their benefit under the 1951 Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Benefit Act, it raised their rate from 40s. to 57s. 6d. These two categories of men—those under the old compensation Acts and those under the Act of 1951—have been left completely out of the provision of the Measure before us today.
It seems to us on this side of the Committee that there is no justification for their being left out. If I could have the attention of the Minister, I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he will be very hard put to it today to give a case against these men being left out of the provisions of the Bill. He will be particularly hard put to it in the light of his own speech on the Second Reading of the Workmen's Compensation and Benefit (Supplementation) Bill of 1956.
I felt that it might be a good thing to refresh the Minister's memory of his own 45 words or that occasion. In that debate, when the Minister was talking about the reason why we were having a Bill to give such an increase to the old compensation cases and to the time-barred, totally disable pneumoconiotic, he gave the following as one of the reasons: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 oat of line with what would he received by a man similarly injured since the Industrial Injuries Act came into effect."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th May, 1956; Vol. 552. c. 1912.]I agreed wholeheartedly with those words of the Minister in the House in May last year. I still agree with them. It is because I agree with them so fully that I was surprised, when this Bill came before us, that the Minister seemed to have forgotten those words. Also, he seemed to have forgotten the reasons for his own Act in 1956 and, having forgotten both, he has left these cases completely out in the cold as regards this Bill.
The feeling must have been very strong in his Department because, if we turn to the winding-up speech of the Parliamentary Secretary in that same debate, we find that the hon. Lady said: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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th May, 1956; Vol. 552, c. 1960.]Those words were very sound indeed. They suggested that the hon. Lady, the Minister himself and the Department were convinced that, to do justice to those men of the old compensation cases and the time-barred, totally disabled pneumoconiotics, it was essential to raise their rate by 17s. 6d.
46 4.0 p.m.
We have tabled this Amendment to ensure that we shall not have once again this difference in the amounts received weekly by those men and those who will receive Industrial Injuries benefits. I am quite certain that the Minister has not raised the Industrial Injuries benefit in this Bill because of any generosity on his part.
The other provisions contained in the Bill are very niggardly indeed. The Minister must have decided to raise the Industrial Injuries benefit to the rates proposed in the Bill because of the increase in the cost of living. Because he has felt it to be only just to raise those benefits, he cannot tell us that it will be unjust or wrong to give, in those other cases, an increase that will bring them again to the same level as those receiving Industrial Injuries benefit.
These men and their families have had to suffer exactly the same increase in the cost of living as those who are benefiting under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act. In mining villages we do not find shops with one price for those who are receiving Industrial Injuries benefits and a lower price for those receiving benefit under the old compensation Acts. Since that is the position, there is no case at all that the Minister can put forward for refusing to accept our plea.
I received a letter from a man in Halmer End, Stoke-on-Trent. Long before the war this man had his back broken in the pit. He has been paralysed from the waist down for many, many years. He reads HANSARD every day, and he is exceptionally interested in any debate which takes place on National Insurance or Industrial Injuries. He read the whole of last Wednesday's debate from end to end. He, as I am sure every person in his position would, backs up the case which we are making in this Amendment. He gives his reasons, and finishes his letter by saying:Have not the maimed and disabled, some of whom have been disabled for two, three, or even four decades and their womenfolk, had through the years enough burdens to bear?Many of these men for whom we are speaking today have been seriously disabled, like this old ex-miner who has written to me. Many of them have not only had to suffer because their income 47 has been greatly depleted as a result of an accident, but they have had to suffer very great pain day and night over decades. It is for these men that we are asking for justice in this Amendment. I am sure that when the Minister considers his own words and those of the Parliamentary Secretary he will say that he is most willing to accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. Harold Finch (Bedwellty)
The Amendment seeks to bring within the provisions of the Industrial Injuries Bill those who are in receipt of compensation under the workmen's compensation Acts. They are men who are seriously incapacitated. Many of them are suffering from pneumoconiosis, and if this Bill is passed a single man who has been industrially injured, and who comes within the provisions of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, will receive £4 5s. per week. Those who come under the workmen's compensation Acts and who are seriously or totally disabled will continue to receive £2 17s. 6d. per week. Many of those men, who are idle, have to draw National Assistance today.
Of course, we welcome any increases and the increases that are provided in this Bill to improve the position of the industrially disabled. I equally welcome the provision which the Government are making in respect of war disabled pensioners. We are covering, both in respect of war disabled pensioners and the industrially injured, a large section of those who are suffering serious incapacity, but these are the only class of men who are being left out. Thousands of these men are seriously incapacitated. They have been seriously disabled for many, many years. I hope that in these circumstances the Minister will seriously consider the Amendment which my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Margaret Herbison) has put forward.
After all, this is a limited liability. Month by month these men are dying. The expenditure that may be involved in this matter is declining month by month and is not something, as is so often said in these National Insurance discussions, where the liability is unknown and may increase. This matter is very limited and will decline year by year. What applies under the workmen's compensation Acts applies to pneumoconiosis.
48 We had to raise this matter when the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Bill was under discussion, in 1955. On each occasion that provisions to assist the industrially injured have come before this House we have raised this issue. But there has always been delay in dealing with compensation, and it was not until last year that an increase of 17s. 6d. a week was given to these men. Provision for workmen's compensation was originally the liability of employers in industry. Under the workmen's compensation Acts the employer was liable. To get the employers to meet their liabilities was one of the difficulties that faced my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), when he was Minister. But he failed to achieve that. Of course, it is recognised that many of these employers have now gone into liquidation and the Government realised that when, last year, they granted the increase of 17s. 6d. to the totally disabled.
There will be a grave discrepancy between those who come under the workmen's compensation Acts and those who come under this Bill. A wide gap of £1 7s. 6d. cannot be justified. There is provision for other classes of men, but these men are being left out. I have said that the liability is limited. Above all, these are seriously disabled men, because it will be realised that men who had their accidents under the workmen's compensation Acts and prior to 1948 are bound to be a seriously and permanently disabled class of injured men. I should have thought that in those circumstances the right hon. Gentleman would have included these men within the provisions of this Bill.
There is, too, another feature. Supposing that there had not been an industrial injuries Measure. Is it seriously suggested that men would have remained under the workmen's compensation Acts on £2 or £2 17s. 6d. a week? Supposing we had not had this legislation. Surely Parliament would have come forward years ago and increased these benefits under the workmen's compensation Acts. They would not have left seriously incapacitated men on £2 a week. Every justifiable argument can be adduced for these forgotten men of industry. They are being left out. Many of them had their accidents before 1924. Many are suffering from pneumoconiosis, and are 49 seriously incapacitated, gasping for breath and can hardly walk at all.
Therefore, in the circumstances I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will seriously consider the Amendment, which seeks to do justice to these men who have been injured in industry.
§ Mr. R. E. Prentice (East Ham, North)
I wish briefly to support the Amendment and particularly to underline the point that the extra liability on the Industrial Injuries Fund through acceptance of the Amendment would be very small indeed.
I propose to quote from the Department's Annual Report, which gave figures last year for the number of people covered by these schemes. First, there is the Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Benefits Scheme. I refer to this scheme first because I feel that the Committee ought to be particularly concerned to give justice to the people covered by it. Not only is pneumoconiosis a terrible disease, one which, in most cases, gets worse as a man gets older, but those covered by the scheme are people who, for many years, were left out of account by the workmen's compensation Acts because there was an entirely artificial five-year limit on claims in respect of pneumoconiosis and byssinosis. The scheme covered those people for the first time.
According to the Department's Annual Report, the number of people getting benefit under the scheme at the end of last year was almost exactly 8,000, of whom approximately 5,300 were totally disabled people. In the same category I would put the very small number of people who are covered by the Industrial Diseases (Miscellaneous Benefits) Scheme, which has similar provisions for old cases suffering from occupational skin cancer and from exposure to X-rays and radioactive substances. The total number for the whole country under that scheme was only eight. I mention it because, if some Amendment is to be made, those people should not be left out of account.
The Workmen's Compensation (Supplementation) Scheme, 1951, gives certain supplements to people who had industrial accidents before 1924. There were 2,400 people getting supplements under that scheme. Finally, there was the supplementation scheme of last year which gave 17s. 6d. a week to totally disabled cases under the workmen's compensation Act, and there were approximately 9,000 50 people getting supplementary benefits under that scheme.
The Committee will appreciate that the total number of all those cases comes to fewer than 20,000. In fact, that will still be an artificially high total, because some people qualify under more than one scheme. Consequently, the Amendment proposes a very small extra liability. As the extra money which is to go into the Industrial Injuries Fund as a result of the financial provisions of the Bill is in any case erring on the generous side, this is an Amendment which the Government could easily accept. This would put the old casualties of industry on the same basis as the new casualties of industry.
The Committee should bear in mind that here we are, in very many cases, dealing with people who were injured at a time when safety measures in factories and mines were very rudimentary compared with what they are today. It is true to say that, in part, our present prosperity has been built on the sacrifices which some of these people have made. It would be wrong to go on treating them on a basis inferior to that on which we treat those who happen to have been injured or to have contracted industrial diseases since 1948.
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman will say that the Amendment is in some way a breach of the insurance principle. If he says that, I would remind him that the insurance principle has already been breached by the schemes in that payments are made out of the Industrial Injuries Fund to which some of the people concerned have not contributed. A more important reply would be that a worker who contributes to the Industrial Injuries Fund would not resent in any way the payment of proper compensation to the people covered by the Amendment.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)
I support what is suggested in the Amendment. I believe it is the right thing to do. I have often wished that there would descend into our midst a Minister—or a Department—who would approach these problems on a human basis. In some strange way, Ministers and Departments seem to forget the human side of these cases of injured workmen.
It is now thirty-five years since we first ventured along the troubled road towards 51 the provision of some compensation in pneumoconiosis and silicosis cases. It was 1922 when we started to secure elementary justice for these unfortunate men. I was a member of a Select Committee that year which was charged with the responsibility of establishing the claim, and it was not until seven years later, in December, 1929, that these diseases were scheduled as industrial diseases. Ever since then we have been fighting to get elementary justice. Here again we have a Bill which has to a very large degree left out these men.
It is true that these unfortunate men are not physically incapacitated as we understand it in the pits, but they are incapacitated to a larger degree. Right hon. and hon. Members opposite may think that a strange statement. Those who have fractured legs, arms or ribs are able to walk about, but these unfortunate men cannot walk about or sleep properly. That is a tragic state of affairs. This weekend I met one such man, as I do almost every weekend. He has been away from work for four years, suffering from pneumoconiosis. He cannot sleep properly art night. He has not slept in his bed for at least three months. Why? It is because he cannot get his breath if he leaves his kitchen and goes to his bedroom. That man is entitled to the best that any Government can provide. Again, we are pleading on behalf of these unfortunate men.
I am continually asking myself why the Government and the Department—I am not speaking about any individual personally—are so harsh and hardhearted when dealing with men of this type. In previous debates I have given names, ages, and dates of certification in respect of some of these cases. The last time I spoke about pneumoconiosis cases I referred to six of them, and said that the average period that the men lived after their date of certification was twelve months. Surely we are not going to deny these men their rights. Comparatively speaking, they are only a few, but the few are entitled to justice. Whether it concerns one, 1,000 or 1 million, it is our job, when preparing legislation relating to injured workmen, to ensure that they get the best that it is possible to give them.
Here we have an opportunity. The Amendment has not been tabled merely 52 for the sake of tabling it. Behind it is a profound desire that these men shall be given the justice which has been denied them in days gone by. I have sometimes wished I could wave a magic wand and transfer some Members of the Government and some officials from the Department to a mining village so that they could see some of these men who know—they tell one so—that in a very few months' time they will be called to their reward. Surely that should appeal to the Government. It ought to persuade the Minister to say to himself, "Here are people who have contracted this tragic disease, who have given the best they could to industry when they were in a condition to do so, and they should now be protected by the Government and by industry."
I plead with the Minister to accept this Amendment so that these people, who have been forgotten in the past, can know that now they are to be treated in the way in which they should have been treated many years ago.
§ Mr. George Deer (Newark)
I wish to support the Amendment and to draw the attention of the Minister to the fact that in this case we should, as it were, be knocking at an open door. Hon. Members will recall that we attempted to deal with this matter by means of a Private Member's Bill some time ago. Later, the Minister received deputations, not only from the Trades Union Congress and the National Union of Mineworkers but from hon. Members of this House. I was one of the members of the deputation, and we pleaded with the right hon. Gentleman to do something. At that time the only difficulty was the problem of dividing the partially disabled from the totally disabled. Then we had a supplementary Measure, bringing in the 1948 cases and giving them the 17s. 6d. to which we thought they were entitled.
Surely, we do not want once again to go through all the formula of adding on benefits in the main Act and then having a separate Bill to put the matter right because these people have slipped back a peg? If the Minister will examine the matter from the standpoint of Parliamentary expediency, he will see that the case we are making for this Amendment is reasonable. It is something which should be done by one Bill rather than by two.
53 As some hon. Members may be aware, I have been fortunate enough to win a place in the Ballot for Private Members' Bills, and if we do not settle this matter today an opportunity will be provided for raising it in another way. But it would be much better and tidier if the Minister conceded that these people must not be forced back to the inferior position which they occupied prior to his own supplementary Measure. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to take heed of the appeals of my hon. Friends and put the matter right by accepting this Amendment.
§ Mr. Ronald Williams (Wigan)
I hope that the Government will not get off to a false start over this Measure. It is heartbreaking to those of us who have been concerned for so many years in making representations on these matters to successive Ministries to find ourselves faced with this position in respect of clearly deserving cases of such long standing, and the fact that we have to put forward all the old arguments again. We have reason to feel angry about it.
What is the position of the Government regarding the cases mentioned in the Amendment? The Government have the Industrial Injuries Fund available; they know the cases to which this Amendment relates, because they have dealt with such cases in earlier legislation. The Government provided a supplementation Act in 1956 for the purpose of bridging the gap which then existed, and today they propose to bring in a Bill which will widen the gap without providing for this class of case. How can the Government possibly justify that attitude? It may be that they consider they must have two bites at the cherry. It may be that the Government concede the argument, but desire certain things to be dealt with in this Bill and intend to deal with the matter referred to in the Amendment by means of following legislation.
Were that the case I should have thought that before the debate reached this point the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary would have said so and thus saved a lot of time. From the silence of the right hon. Gentleman I think we must assume that, despite the powerful arguments addressed to him from this side of the Committee, this Amendment is not to be accepted. That means that the Government are going 54 back on the position which obtained in 1956. They are eating their words regarding the arguments which were then advanced, with the full knowledge of the facts that these are long-standing and deserving cases. They are neglecting these people although there are funds available and the necessary administrative machinery to provide the remedy.
I hope the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary will not feel affected by certain arguments used recently in connection with other matters and say something about inflation. Not only would that be insulting to the possible beneficiaries under the proposals contained in the Amendment, but it would be quite inconsistent with the views expressed by the Government in 1956, and it would be treated with derision by electors in every constituency in the country.
Had I the slightest confidence that such an appeal would meet with success, I would join with my colleagues in appealing to the Minister to accept this Amendment. But because both the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary have remained silent during this debate we must assume that, here again, we shall have to embark on all the old difficulties and troubles in our efforts to establish a case for these people who were badly disabled in the service of their country. What nonsense it is, and what complete hypocrisy, on the one hand to ask people for increased productivity, and to take the risks which may be attendant upon their efforts in that direction, and, on the other, to say that if they are injured before a certain date their position be ignored and, in effect, that they shall be publicly insulted, condemned and neglected by the Government.
I say that there is no argument against the principle of this Amendment. I put it as strongly as that. If arguments are voiced against the drafting of the Amendment, that is something which can be dealt with by the advisers who assist the Minister to put right such deficiencies. But the principle of the Amendment is unanswerable, even on the basis of arguments which have already been used regarding the situation previous to 1956. As I say, I hope that the Government will not get off to a false start with this legislation by doing a grievous wrong to these people.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mrs. Harriet Slater (Stoke-on-Trent, North)
I add my plea to those of my hon. Friends that the Amendment be accepted. Last year an attempt was made to give justice to this section of the disabled people, and if the arguments used then were valid, they are still valid and should be applied now.
These people have met with difficulties all their lives. They worked in industry when few precautions were taken against pneumoconiosis or the possibility of serious limb injuries being suffered by those employed in the mines. They worked in a period when there were difficulties about the diagnosis of diseases, particularly pneumoconiosis. It was almost impossible for them to secure a diagnosis which was in their favour. Facilities for treatment were limited and in many areas people, having contracted the disease, were left to a lingering death without receiving treatment at all.
We are now at a stage when precautions are taken in the industries in which the disease is prevalent and when safety measures have been introduced. Moreover, there are many more facilities for early diagnosis, and in industrial areas such as Stoke-on-Trent there has been a very great improvement in the facilities for the treatment of pneumoconiosis and spinal and limb injuries. We therefore ask that those people who have been condemned for so many years shall not be further condemned.
After all, they are in exactly the same position as every other section of the community which the Bill seeks to aid. They have to meet the higher cost of living and all the difficulties of increased rent. We should not leave them to lag behind.
One point which has been stressed but which I should like to stress again is that, the older they get, the worse their troubles become. Anyone who has lived among people who suffer from pneumoconiosis and who has watched them gradually decay and suffer, especially in the winter, between November and early March, will say without hesitation that we ought not to hand out any further injustice to them but ought to implement the terms of the Amendment.
§ Mr. John McKay (Wallsend)
I do not want to take up time unnecessarily on the 56 Amendment, but I am not quite sure whether there is not some confusion about it. The Amendment seeks to increase the sum of 17s. 6d., which was based on the 1956 Act, to 45s., but the Act says that it does not apply to pneumoconiosis and byssinosis. Whether it will apply in practice, I do not know.
The main point is that we are dealing in the Amendment with old compensation cases. We ought to remember that because of the introduction of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act we have in practice almost been debarred from amending the Acts dealing with the old compensation cases. It appears that all improvements in those cases have depended on an amendment being made to the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act. We therefore have old-established cases of people who are unable to work and who, had not the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act come into operation, would no doubt have benefited by improvements in their conditions, because without the slightest doubt the old compensation Acts relating to benefits in old and new cases would have been amended to such an extent that the benefits paid would practically have reached the figures suggested in the Amendment.
Even if we accept the Amendment and give these men greater benefits, bringing them up to the basic level of men under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, we shall not be giving them the total amount of money which the other men can claim. In other words, the Amendment proposes a basic payment up to 85s., but that is not the maximum for a man under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act. Under that Act a man who is insured can claim unemployability allowance in addition. As I understand it, even if the Amendment is accepted, these men who come within the old compensation cases will be unable to claim unemployability allowance in addition to the 85s. Under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act they would have been able to claim not only 85s. but also an extra unemployability payment.
The Amendment therefore does not bring the two classes into parity. While we may colour all our speeches with sentimental feeling and with an appeal to good nature, in fact we are dealing with 57 a necessity. We cannot always press arguments forward with pure logic. They must be built up with sympathy and human understanding.
We are dealing here with men who have the same disability, the same kind of injury—there is not one iota of difference in their economic or human disability—as those covered by the Bill. They are people who were seriously injured while endeavouring to produce wealth for the country. Yet, because their injury occurred at a certain time, they are not to benefit under the Bill. We raise the standard for others in accordance with the cost of living and the new ideas of life, yet we do not raise the standard for those men, who encountered dangers while working in industry for the good and welfare of the country. Why we cannot see our way clear in the Bill to bring some consolation to these people, I cannot understand. I hope that action will be taken in this respect.
§ Mr. Thomas Hubbard (Kirkcaldy Burghs)
I have delayed rising to my feet to take part in the discussion because I felt sure that before this the Minister would have made a statement to the Committee. I thought it might be said that no action could be taken under the Bill, but that cannot be the excuse because, if it had been so, the Minister would have risen to make a statement before now.
I cannot understand why we should not take care of people whose disability was incurred either before it was covered by the legislation or when it was covered by legislation which did not come within the provisions for National Insurance. As an ex-miner who has worked and lived with these people and seen their suffering, before these diseases were recognised as scheduled diseases, and having suffered injuries myself, I certainly sympathise with them, because there is no injury worse than that which means that a man is unable to move about and to live an ordinary life, quite apart from being unable to earn a livelihood.
It has been stated that the expectancy of life for this section of the community is short. If these men are compelled to live at a lower standard because of the increased cost of living—a factor which led to the introduction of the Bill—their expectancy of life will be still shorter, I refuse to believe that the Ministry has no experience of many of these cases. One 58 of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessors surprised the House by going a long way further in benefits in respect of pneumoconiosis than many of my hon. Friends expected. I am therefore amazed that the Minister has not made a statement in this discussion. How can it be argued that circumstances today and the cost of living—never mind who is responsible for it—are such that although increases have been made in industry and have been found necessary in National Insurance, this one section of the community should continue to be left outside? I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will reply to some of the points that I have made.
None of us should look upon old-age pensions as a burden. We are dealing here with the aged population of industry. We shall deal a double blow by this Bill not only to those people, which would be an injustice in any circumstances, but to the weakest section of the community, which has suffered most. These are the people who are often confined to their homes. They cannot enjoy normal pleasures, and many of them cannot look forward to a night's sleep, or, even in the best of weathers, to going out of doors. Can the Minister justify singling them out for treatment which he does not expect other sections to suffer?
I am amazed that nothing has been said from the Government side of the House about the pleas that we have made. There has been no reply whatever; no Government supporter has shown sufficient interest to get up and add to the weight of our arguments. I do not believe that Government supporters are inhuman. My experience is that when one makes a direct appeal to them as individuals they are generous, but when they come here collectively they are not. I am making my appeal to them individually for decency and fair play.
Whatever the Minister may say, it will leave a nasty taste in the mouth if we do not give these people fair play. We are not even asking for justice. This is a section which has always been forgotten. I put my emphasis on the fact that this is a diminishing responsibility. It is easy to get rid of it by refusing to give anything, and making these people suffer even more, although they are the ones who need additional sustenance. They 59 should get the best and not have to be content with the lowest. How can the Government or any of its supporters justify legislation to leave out a section of the community which is suffering and has suffered so long?
In my early days in the mines we all ran the risk of pneumoconiosis every time we went underground. Every worker in every industry runs a risk of injury. Pneumoconiosis is a risk taken in the mining industry. Economic circumstances demanded that even when we suspected that we had the disease we had to go on working. We were not covered by legislation. The Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary have an opportunity of doing something for this section of the community, and I hope they will let us know what they intend to do. They will be condemned for all time if, in their desire for economy, they do nothing.
We are speaking on behalf of a very small number of people who are still dependent on the old workmen's compensation. We should bring them into the Bill and let them get the same benefits as everybody else. If other people have a good case, their case is very much stronger.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Joseph Slater (Sedgefield)
Nearly 99 per cent. of our people in the mining industry are tainted with the horrible disease, pneumoconiosis, which has been referred to repeatedly. No one is better aware of the position than my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams). When he was in our county of Durham dealing with these cases on behalf of the Durham Miners' Association we had the privilege, as members of the Durham Miners' Executive, of attending with him. We have seen the position of these sufferers in Durham and elsewhere. It is deteriorating rapidly.
I am therefore most gratified at the way the debate has proceeded and the cases have been put forward. The name we used to have in the mining industry for this terrible disease, before it received its name "pneumoconiosis," was the "black lung." Probably 90 per cent. of hon. Members of this Committee who worked in the mining industry are touched with the disease, which they brought with them from the industry in 60 which many of them spent a great part of their lives.
Why is not the Minister prepared to accept the Amendment? Is it because of the amount of money which would be needed to give the increased benefit which is being asked for? I sincerely hope that the Parliamentary Secretary who will reply to the debate has consulted her right hon. Friend, and will concede the Amendment, and so give benefit to unfortunate people who cannot help themselves.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance (Miss Edith Pitt)
The Amendment, as the hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) said, seeks to increase the supplement of 17s. 6d. which was passed in last year's Act for the totally incapacitated and is paid for out of the Industrial Injuries Fund.
We are dealing with two different things, are we not, when we are considering the old cases under workmen's compensation and the Industrial Injuries cases? I think that all hon. Members present realise the distinction, and it is essential to make it clear. Workmen's compensation is on an entirely different basis. The compensation was paid for loss of earnings and was a liability on the employers, as the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch), pointed out, whereas the basis of loss of faculty was accepted by the House of Commons under the Industrial Injuries Act.
It is necessary to emphasise that Industrial Injuries contributions have been paid only since 1948 and refer only to accidents or diseases contracted since that date. The proposers of the Amendment have in mind, as the hon. Lady made clear, an increase which is based on the single man, receiving 40s. workmen's compensation. The proposal is to give him a supplement of 45s., making his benefit equivalent to the 100 per cent. Industrial Injuries rate proposed under this Bill, of 85s.
I wonder if the proposers realise that if that were accepted it would mean that the supplement, which is a charge on the Industrial Injuries Fund, would be greater than the basic benefit which such a man now enjoys under workmen's compensation? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] 61 Secondly, a married man at present receiving 50s. under workmen's compensation, if he were given the proposed supplement of 45s., would receive 95s., which would be 10s. more than the 100 per cent. rate proposed for the Industrial Injuries man. We are talking of men who sustained injury before 1948. In most cases their children will have grown up and be above school-leaving age, but there are a few married men with school children and their rate is 55s. The Amendment would give a supplement of 45s., bringing them up to 100s. in all and making them 15s. better off than those receiving benefit under the Industrial Injuries Scheme.
Married men form the majority of the old cases, the workmen's compensation cases. That was why, when last year's Bill was going through the House, we explained that we had decided that the flat rate was the best provision that could be made as it gave the benefit in the direction where the need was most. Since there has been considerable reference to the discussion which took place when the 1956 all was going through the House, and since comments of my right hon. Friend and myself have been quoted by hon. Members opposite, I think I should stress what we had in mind at that time and I should especially quote another part of the speech of my right hon. Friend in which he said: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 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 justice. 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."—[OFFICIAT REPORT, 15th May, 1956; Vol. 552, c. 1913.]Turning to my own comments, I of course accept that part which the hon. Lady read earlier, where I demonstrated the need and our desire to help, but I also want to stress this to keep the matter in proportion. I said:The disparity…—that is, the disparity between the old workmen's compensation and Industrial Injuries rates: 62justifies some improvement…. [OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th May, 1956; Vol. 552, c. 1957.]We effected some improvement with the 17s. 6d. flat rate addition to the totally disabled.
The 17s. 6d. supplement we gave last year was not the first improvement which workmen's compensation cases had enjoyed. Under the 1946 Act, passed by hon. Members opposite, those cases were given limited rights to sickness benefit, and in 1953 the limitations on the sickness benefit were removed so that they had full entitlement to sickness benefit. Again, under the 1946 Industrial Injuries Act, also passed by hon. Members opposite, they were allowed two of the provisions of the Industrial Injuries Act—that is to say, they could claim unemployability supplement and constant attendance allowance on the same terms as the Industrial Injuries claimants, except that the dependency benefit was not payable with unemployability supplement; but in 1953, that restriction was removed. They have participated in all subsequent improvements in the various Acts relating to Industrial Injuries and National Insurance benefits and they will do so again under the present Bill.
A number of comments have been made. The hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) said that he wished some Minister would approach these matters on humane principles and suggested that my Department—not the people in it—was harsh and hard-hearted. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Mr. Hubbard) said his sympathy was with these old people in industry and he felt that our sympathy should be with them also. We have demonstrated our practical wish to help the old workmen's compensation cases as far as possible because we passed last year's Act, which gave the 17s. 6d. addition, whereas nothing was done by hon. Members opposite when they were in power, except in the other benefits I have illustrated.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
Will the hon. Lady agree that 50,000 partially disabled were left out, that there are many who are 100 per cent. disabled, and that still nothing is being done for them?
§ Miss Pitt
I am not sure that I should be in order in talking about the partially disabled, because they are not included 63 in the terms of the Amendment. A partially disabled man is able to earn something and to get some benefit out of our higher wage rates.
Reference has been made to the Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Benefit Act and the men who, under that Act, were brought into the 17s. 6d. supplement. I hope that clears up the point which was rather fogging the hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. McKay), who thought they were not included. They were included in the 17s. 6d. supplement.
I want to emphasise particularly, in view of the criticism which has been made about unjust treatment of workmen's compensation cases, that those cases have had a greater measure of help from my party than from hon. Members opposite. What we should remember—it is the reason for the Amendment not being acceptable—is that the 17s. 6d. was granted as recently as last year. If we are to talk in terms of increased cost of living we should note that that is worth now only 8d. less than when it was granted and—this is the essence of the situation—both the workmen's compensation cases and the pneumoconiosis benefit scheme cases will be eligible under the proposals in the Bill for the increased rates of unemployability supplement or of sickness benefit, if they satisfy the conditions. Those who are older, if they are now retirement pensioners, will benefit from the proposed increases bringing retirement pensions to the highest level ever. Therefore, it cannot be said that they will not derive any benefit from the Bill. I think we have added to our record of providing further help to people on workmen's compensation.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
I do not often find myself in disagreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Mr. Hubbard), to whom I always listen with respectful attention, but I think the time has come for us to end saying these things about the humane attitude of the Tories and for us to call attention to one or two facts, both in the speech to which we have just listened and in the debate. The first fact is that no Tory, apart from the Parliamentary Secretary, has intervened in the debate or made a point of any kind, nor even made any suggestion on behalf of these suffering 64 people. The whole of these proposals section by section are designed to give the least money to those who are the worst off.
The poorest of the retirement pensioners get the least benefit; they are the victims of a miserable, dirty swindle which started in 1955 and has now been brought to a fine art. I have had the privilege of appearing for some of the most eminent financiers who have come into conflict with the law in the last twenty-five years, but I have never seen a series of documents like these, nor any which contained more fraudulent material. If the Minister were charged under the ordinary law with the production of these documents as a financial basis of information, he would get penal servitude in any criminal court.
If I catch your eye, Sir Charles, on the Motion, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," I shall have something to say on Clause 2 about the Report of the Government Actuary. I have no doubt that the Actuary has performed his additions and subtractions and even multiplications with accuracy, but his Reports are based on certain political assumptions. They are based on fraudulent assumptions provided by the Government. Who provides the figures on which he bases the estimates of revenue of the Industrial Injuries Fund? Who says that industrial injuries are going to continue at a certain rate? What allowance is to be made for the question of whether the present President of the Board of Trade remains in office, or whether the cuts on investment continue which tend to increase accidents because they restrict the provision of new machinery?
These are not small matters. So far as byssinosis is concerned, it is an accepted fact in the cotton industry that there is no need at all for any new entrant into the industry to be exposed to any risk of byssinosis provided that modern machinery is installed. A modernly-equipped card room gives virtually no possibility of dust at all, but there are all too few such card rooms, and, as long as the present Government are in office, the restriction on investment and the credit squeeze tend to increase the risk of byssinosis.
65 I do not wish to raise more than one or two points, but I am bound to say that the speech of the hon. Lady the Joint Parliamentary Secretary was so disappointing and so full of calculated attention to points not raised in the debate and so empty of any answer to specific points that were raised that it is obviously impossible not to criticise it. I do not wish to criticise the Minister personally. I have had some decent letters from him in which he expressed pious hopes of doing something in the future, and so on. I had the privilege of hearing him at Brighton, but, for the moment, I will talk on this narrow point.
Let us apply a fairly simple test to the matter. On the figures put forward the total cost of this in the worst full year would be £1½ million, a rapidly diminishing sum, unfortunately, because it is a rapidly diminishing number of people who become entitled. I know that when one talks about £1½ million in the House of Commons there is always some Tory economist who gets up and says that it is a very large sum. So it is by comparison with what I have in the bank at the present moment.
The National Insurance Fund stands at £1,500 million. That is the amount by which the State has drawn from contributors mare than it has paid out. The Industrial Injuries Fund stands at £150 million. We are told that the Minister of Pensions combines those two offices in the interest of economy. We were all very unhappy about this combination of the two Ministries because we always thought that the Ministry of Pensions had something of a heart while the Ministry of National Insurance had a good deal of liver. They were combined in the interest of economy because, the right hon. Gentleman said, we have to face the expense involved to the community in having this diversification.
The total cost of the two Ministries in 1952–53 was £21 million. In 1953–54 it went up by £600,000. It was said that there had not been time to introduce the co-ordination which would result in the necessary economies. In the next year it went up another £600,000 and the following year, the last year reported, by £900,000. The right hon. Gentleman is wasting by his oversurfeited. Ministry a great deal more each year than these proposals would cost.
66 That is not all. If we turn to the next page—and I confess that some of the figures are most astonishing—we find note (f) which states:The total payments for the year ended 31st March, 1956, exclude the sum of £100 million of investments (at cost) which were transferred during the year to the National Insurance (Reserve) Fund "—this fund is now making reserves, it is so prosperous—at market value involving a loss on revaluation of £1,341,728.Therefore, whilst the Minister is making this economy of £1½ million at the expense of the poorest and those suffering most, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is losing £1½ million on his shares by the terrible depreciation of securities since the Tories came to office. That is only on one-fifteenth of the money, and assuming that the loss is the same on the rest of the shares, then, apparently, there is something like an overall loss of £20 million on these investments owing to the incompetence of the Government.
The hon. Lady the Joint Parliamentary Secretary then gets up and says, "We have really been very good. We have given them 17s. 6d.", and this at a time when the Government are losing £20 million through sheer incompetence. Indeed, the Government have brought the country to the situation where Government securities now stand lower than they ever have since the Battle of Hastings, when confidence in Government securities stands lowest and when trustees are facing actions all over the country for breach of trust because they invested in trustee securities instead of breaking the rules and investing in equities.
I am hoping to be fortunate enough to catch the eye of the Chair when we come to the main debate on the Clause, and, realising that I shall have less chance of doing so if I go on now, I will be brief in my hopes for the future. I hope to be able to develop this argument in the main debate on the Clause, and to argue about what appears to me to be a complete fraud on the old-age pensioners and a calculated disregard by the Government of the poorest of the community who are not, from the Government's point of view, electorally reliable and therefore may he electorally written off.
§ Miss Herbison
I wish to raise one or two points mentioned in the Minister's 67 reply. The hon. Lady seemed to base her whole case on the improvements made from time to time before May, 1956. If the hon. Lady will look at HANSARD she will find that on almost every point her case was made on the improvements which these people had got out of the Industrial Injuries Fund prior to 1956. The one improvement which she mentioned that came in 1956 was the fact that the 17s. 6d. increase had been given, and since then, she proudly told us, there had been only an 8d. increase in the cost of living.
That was not the basis for the Bill last time. The basis last time was clearly stated by the Minister and by the Parliamentary Secretary as that of giving justice to those men as compared with those receiving their benefit under the Industrial Injuries Act. If the figures which we have put down cannot be accepted, then I must ask the Minister a further question to which I hope he will reply, because, if we do not get a suitable reply, we shall have no alternative but to divide on the Amendment.
If the right hon. Gentleman really felt that there ought to be an equivalent increase as compared with the 1956 Bill, then, surely, it would have been easy for him, if he considered that the 45s. figure was wrong, to put down an Amendment. It seems to me that since he did not do that the whole of the hon. Lady's argument on that part was quite a "phoney" argument in support of the Government's decision to do nothing at all.
What we have tried to do in our Amendment is to bring the old compensation cases of pneumoconiotics up to the level of those receiving Industrial Injuries benefit. If we are to speak about the cost of living then it should be pointed out that the increase proposed in the Bill is being given because of the increase in the cost of living. Therefore, as far as these people are concerned, another part of the hon. Lady's argument falls completely. A great fight was put up last year in two Private Members' Bills to get justice for the totally disabled. We have not as yet been able to get justice for the partially disabled.
In this case, the Government are leaving these men to tail far behind the other men. As my hon. Friend said, the Industrial Injuries Fund is increasing, and we 68 are asking young men to pay an increase of 2s., when actuarily, even for their own pension, forty years hence, they should not have to pay that. It would seem that, in justice to these people, the Government ought to have accepted the Amendment.
§ The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter)
I hope that the Committee will be ready to come to a decision on this matter, but it would be discourteous if I did not respond to the request made to me by the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) to add one word.
I think that the real nub of this discussion is this. The Bill now before us relates in very large measure to a proposal to increase benefits last fixed, with the exception of the case of widowed mothers and their children, in the Measure introduced by my noble Friend, Lord Ingleby, as he now is, in the autumn of 1954. The proposal in the Amendment is to increase the amount fixed as recently as last year, in the Measure to which reference has been made, and which my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary and I had the privilege of taking through this House.
Therefore, it seems to me that there is a real difference between the proposals to adjust benefits fixed some three years ago and a proposal to increase payments fixed only in the Bill of last year. There is perhaps more reason for a little caution here when we recall, as my own words, which were quoted, indicate, that we are here dealing with a proposal not to increase contributory benefits at all but to increase the supplement paid out of a fund to which others have contributed in respect of people who have no contributory rights at all.
I think, as I said last year, this does call for caution. I should not like to leave this on the basis that the people concerned—and some, at any rate, of them are very proper objects of sympathy and understanding, as was very well said by one or two hon. Members—would not, in fact, gain if Parliament passed the Bill now before us.
We are dealing solely in this Amendment with the case—I refer to what was said by the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough)—of the totally incapacitated. It seems to me clear that these are people who must either, by reason of age, be in a position to gain from the improvements 69 in retirement pensions within this Bill or the improvements in sickness benefit, or, failing that, in the unemployability supplement under the Industrial Injuries Act, all of which are being improved under this Measure.
I must re-echo what my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary says, that we have, and we consider that we have, behaved fairly and generously to this section of the community. Therefore,
§ we do not feel able, despite the real eloquence which has been displayed from the benches opposite, to accept a proposal to increase so very largely a supplement on which Parliament decided only last year in order to deal with the situation which has changed very little since then.
§ Question put, That those words be there added:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 199, Noes 242.73
|Division No. 4.]||AYES||[5.15 p.m.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Oswald, T.|
|Albu, A. H.||Hale, Leslie||Owen, W. J.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Hannan, W.||Padley, W. E.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Hastings, S.||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Anderson, Frank||Hayman, F. H.||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Healey, Denis||Parkin, B. T.|
|Balfour, A.||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Paton, John|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Herbison, Miss M.||Pearson, A.|
|Beswick, Frank||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Peart, T. F.|
|Blackburn, F.||Hobson, C. R. (Keighley)||Pentland, N.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Holman, P.||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Blyton, W. R.||Holmes, Horace||Popplewell, E.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Hoy, J. H.||Prentice, R. E.|
|Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.)||Hubbard, T. F.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Bowles, F. G.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Prootor, W. T.|
|Boyd, T. C.||Hunter, A. E.||Pryde, D. J.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Randall, H. E.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Rankin, John|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Redhead, E. C.|
|Burke, W. A.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Reeves, J.|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & St. Pnos, S.)||Reid, William|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Ross, William|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Royle, C.|
|Champion, A. J.||Kenyon. C.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Short, E. W.|
|Clunie, J.||King, Dr. H. M.||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Coldrick, W.||Lawson, G. M.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Ledger, R. J.||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)|
|Cove, W. G.||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Lewis, Arthur||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Cronin, J. D.||Lindgren, C. S.||Snow, J. W.|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||MacDermot, Niall||Sparks, J. A.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||McGhee, H. G.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||McInnes, J.||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Deer, G.||McLeavy, Frank||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Delargy, H. J.||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Diamond, John||Mainwaring, W. H.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Swingler, S. T.|
|Donnelly, D. L.||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Mason, Roy||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Mayhew, C. P.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Mellish, R. J.||Thornton, E.|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Messer, Sir F.||Tomney, F.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Mikardo, Ian||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Mitchison, G. R.||Viant, S. P.|
|Fernyhough, E.||Monslow, W.||Weitzman, D.|
|Finch, H. J.||Moody, A. S.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Fletcher, Eric||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Foot, D. M.||Morrison, Rt. Hn. Herbert (Lewis'm, S.)||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Moss, R.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Moyle, A.||Wigg, George|
|Gibson, C. W.||Mulley, F. W.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.)||Willey, Frederick|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Oliver, G. H.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Oram, A. E.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Orbach, M.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)||Woof, R. E.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Winterbottom, Richard||Yates, V. (Ladywood)||Mr. John Taylor and Mr. Rogers.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Gibson-Watt, D.||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Glover, D.||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster)|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Glyn, Col. Richard H.||McLean, Neil (Inverness)|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Godber, J. B.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Goodhart, Philip||Madden, Martin|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Gough, C. F. H.||Manningham, Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.|
|Ashton, H.||Gower, H. R.||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Graham, Sir Fergus||Marshall, Douglas|
|Atkins, H. E.||Grant, W. (Woodside)||Mathew, R.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Maude, Angus|
|Balniel, Lord||Green, A.||Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.|
|Barber, Anthony||Grimond, J.||Mawby, R. L.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.|
|Barter, John||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H.||Nabarro, G. D. N.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Nairn, D. L. S.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Neave, Airey|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Harvey, Sir Arthur (Macclesfd)||Nugent, G. R. H.|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. D.|
|Black, C. W.||Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Bossom, Sir Alfred||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare)|
|Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)||Henderson-Stewart, Sir James||Osborne, C.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Page, R.G|
|Braine, B. R.||Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Partridge, E.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Hobson, John(Warwick & Leam'gt'n)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Hope, Lord John||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Bryan, P.||Hornby, R. P.||Pitman, I. J.|
|Bonus, Wing Commander E. E.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Horobin, Sir Ian||Pott, H. P.|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Campbell, Sir David||Howard, John (Test)||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Channon, Sir Henry||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Profumo, J. D.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Redmayne, M.|
|Cole, Norman||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.)||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Cooke, Robert||Hutchison, Michael Clark (E'b'gh, S.)||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Cooper, A. E.||Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Iremonger, T. L.||Robertson, Sir David|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Cunningham, Knox||Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Russell, R. S.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Sharples, R. C.|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot||Shepherd, William|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Kershaw, J. A.||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|du Cann, E. D. L.||Kimball, M.||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Kirk, P. M.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Duncan, Sir James||Lagden, G. W.||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Duthie, W. S.||Lambert, Hon. G.||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. (Kelvingrove)||Langford Holt, J. A.||Storey, S.|
|Elliott, R. W. (N'castle upon Tyne, N.)||Leather, E. H. C.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Leavey, J. A.||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Leburn, W. G.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Teeling, W.|
|Fell, A.||Legh, Hon Peter (Petersfield)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Finlay, Graeme||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Fisher, Nigel||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.|
|Fort, R.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Foster, John||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale)||McAdden, S. J.||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Freeth, Denzil||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek||Webbe, Sir H.||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Wall, Major Patrick||Whitelaw, W. S. I.|
|Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)||Wood, Hon. R.||Mr. Oakshott and Mr. Wills.|
|Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold||Woollam, John Victor|
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. H. A. Marquand (Middlesbrough, East)
In the last short debate there were references to the size of the Industrial Injuries Fund, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take an opportunity to tell us a little about it. It may be the last chance we have of discussing the finances of the Fund for some time. The original Statute provided, I believe, for a quinquennial valuation, and presentation of a report to Parliament, but that, so far as I know, has never been done. Whether that merits the savage penalty of seven years' penal servitude that my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) recommended for the Minister, I am not sure, but it certainly merits some explanation from him now.
The Industrial Injuries Fund is, as we know, a separate fund. It provides insurance against injury at work and is, as we were reminded just now, on a different basis from that for workmen's compensation. The old workmen's compensation system compensated a worker for loss of earnings resulting from the incapacity; the present system compensates an individual, whoever he may be, for loss of function. Loss of function is the same whether a man is earning a large or a small sum of money, though the loss of a leg to a man earning only £10 a week may be a more serious deprivation, in many ways, than a similar loss to a man earning £30 or £40 a week, who can, for example, well afford a motor car.
This scheme was introduced to replace in large measure the old system of workmen's compensation by the new method of compensation for loss of function, with approval throughout industry. For this reason, of course, it is a scheme in which a flat-rate contribution with a flat-rate benefit is entirely appropriate. Although we have been discussing a great deal recently the introduction of graduated contributions for graduated benefits, nobody would propose that that should apply in this case.
Our only concern here, therefore, is not so much with the method of financing as with the adequacy of the benefits, and the 74 reasonable relationship between benefits and contributions. As to the adequacy of the benefits, we may be concerned at a later stage with the hardship and unemployability supplemental allowances which are mentioned in the Schedules, but here, as I say, we are more concerned with the relationship between the benefits and contributions.
The proposal authorised by this Clause is for an increase of contributions as set out in page 2 of the Report of the Government Actuary, in which we see that the old rate payable by a male insured person was 5d., and is now to be increased to 8d.; and by the employer, 6d., which is to be raised to 9d. For women, there are other increases, but the remarkable fact about the proposed increases is that they are 66⅔per cent. in respect of a woman and 60 per cent. in respect of a man; but for the employer, in both instances, they are only 50 per cent.
Why this disproportionate increase between the injured person and his employer? Industrial injury is a matter very much within the sphere of control of the employer. After all, the old system of workmen's compensation laid the burden on the employer entirely to compensate the injured individual. It seems rather remarkable that now, when there is an increase of contributions, it should bear more heavily on the injured person than upon the employer. I do not think that my calculations are wrong.
It may be said that to get an exactly proportionate increase in the contributions would involve an odd halfpenny and be rather difficult. No doubt it would, if we were to get an exactly proportionate increase, but did the Minister consider, for example, making it 7d. for the injured man and 10d. for his employer; and 4d. and 7d. respectively in respect of the woman? If not, why not? Presumably, various possible increases and rates were considered, and this one that I have suggested, though I am not necessarily proposing it, must surely have been considered then.
Did it occur to anybody to ask himself whether it was wise, or consistent with the nature of the scheme itself, that the increase in contribution should be 75 heavier for the injured person than for the employer, so largely responsible for the conditions in which the workers work? After all, workmen's compensation legislation in enlightened States has tried to give a financial incentive to the employer to prevent injury. It may be that there is some simple explanation of this, but whatever it be, I think the Committee deserves to know it.
Passing from the relative share of the employer and employee to the total increase proposed, the Government Actuary tells us, in paragraph 6 of his Report:… I estimated that in order to ensure the solvency of the Fund the rates of contribution prescribed by the 1954 Act would have to be raised by 18 per cent.That is to provide for improved benefits in 1954. He went on to say that, since that was written, three other Acts had been passed, all of which imposed some slight additional liability on the Fund.
Let us suppose that the total of this 18 per cent. in 1954 and the slight additional liability for 1956 brings the total up to 18½ percent.—an 18½ per cent. increase in the rates of contribution which would be necessary. But the increase in the total combined contributions proposed here is 54½ per cent. in respect of a man and 57 per cent. in respect of a woman. Take 18½ per cent. from 54½ per cent. and we have 36 per cent. for a man and 38½ per cent. for a woman.
The increase proposed, therefore, in respect of this new Measure is presumably 36 per cent. in respect of a man and 38½ per cent. in respect of a woman. Yet the increase proposed in the benefit is only 25 per cent. at best. This is illustrated by other paragraphs, namely, paragraphs 3 and 5, where it is shown that the Actuary expects in the year 1958–59 an increased expenditure of £10 million on benefits, but an increase in contributions by £23 million. Even allowing for the backlog, which I have already mentioned, remaining from 1954–56, an increase in expenditure next year by £10 million and contributions by £23 million seems very large.
Of course, I agree that there are future liabilities. Increased benefits mean increased contributions. I do not want to 76 make any accusation, or use words like "swindle" or anything of the kind. I only want the right hon. Gentleman or the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to explain the matter a little further.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. Richard Wood)
The right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) asked first, about the possibility of the next quinquennial review. He will remember that there was a quinquennial review under the Industrial Injuries Act in 1954. No doubt, his mathematics are as good as mine and he will calculate that the next one will come in 1959. If he so calculates, he will be correct.
The right hon. Gentleman also asked me about the relationship between the benefits and contributions which are proposed in this Bill, particularly in Clause 1, which refers to the first two Schedules. It may be that later in our consideration of this Bill we shall be considering in detail the proposals to increase the contributions and certain benefits.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned that there was a disproportionate increase in the contribution to be paid by employees. In 1945, when his right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) was moving the Second Reading of the Industrial Injuries Act, 1946 he gave the undertaking that when contributions between employers and employees had been made to differ, action would be taken later to bring them together. In this Bill we do not propose to bring them together, but that surely is no reason for increasing the gap that existed before. We propose, in fact, that the gap should remain at 1d.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about the finance of the Industrial Injuries Fund. I hope I understand it well enough to explain it to him. These proposed increases in rates in the Bill will add, in 1957–58, about £3½ million to the Fund. In a full year they will add nearly £23 million, and to that is added, as hon. Members know, the Exchequer supplement of one-fifth. Therefore, in a full year the additional income to the Fund will be £27½ million. The cost of the new benefits which are proposed in this Bill this year, 1957–58, will be £1½ million and in the first full year £10 million. It will be plain to all hon. Members that 77 thereafter the number of disablement pensioners and widows will increase. In 1979—twenty-two years hence—these increases in benefits will cost the Industrial Injuries Fund about £15 million, and the total cost of benefits and administration in the year 1979–80 will be increased to £81 million.
The right hon. Gentleman asked why the increase in the contribution rates was much greater than the 18 per cent. mentioned in the Government Actuary's Report. The reason is, as he estimated in paragraph 6 of this year's Report, that
"…in order to ensure the solvency of the Fund the rates of contribution prescribed by the 1954 Act would have to be raised by 18 per cent."
He then mentioned what had happened since then and said that there had been three new liabilities on the Fund. In addition, there are the liabilities which this Committee is to place on the Fund by increasing the benefits which appear in the Bill. That is why it was necessary to increase the contributions by the sum of 6d.
It has always been the intention of Parliament, I understand, that the Industrial injuries Fund should be self-supporting. If I may recapture the words of the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren), who was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry when the Industrial Injuries Act passed through the House, he said, and I think, rightly, that in the early years of the scheme—and those early years certainly include this present year, 1957—there should be an excess of income over expenditure, and this excess of income over expenditure must be held in reserve to meet the rising costs of benefits as various new commitments mature.
I think that a figure has already been mentioned in an earlier debate by the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), who said that the balance in the Industrial Injuries Fund at present is about £150 million. It has been estimated that if we are to keep the Industrial Injuries Fund solvent at the new rates of benefit, we must try to produce in the Fund about £500 million ultimately.
It is very remarkable—I certainly share any feeling of surprise which hon. Members may have about it—that proposals to decrease the contributions suggested in the Bill. although they may be very small 78 reductions, would have quite alarmingly large consequences, because any proposal to reduce contributions under the Bill would prevent the Fund from continuing to increase at some time in the 1970s, and that would mean that, in the early years of the next century, the Fund would be reduced to nothing. The fact remains that, if we dispense with a small amount of the proposed contribution now, it will be necessary to find a great deal more in the future.
I hope that I have said enough to point out to the right hon. Gentleman some of the financial facts about the Industrial Injuries Fund. I have told him that the next quinquennial review will be in 1959. No doubt, if there are any further detailed points upon which information is required, there will be a chance for hon. Members to raise them in the debates we shall possibly have later on the Schedules to the Bill.
§ Mr. T. Brown
Before we leave this Clause, I should like to put some important points to the Minister. I am very much afraid that due consideration has not been given to the amount of contributions now being paid by employees. I believe that sooner or later we shall have to consider a graduated contribution, though I know that I may not go into that now. During the debate on Wednesday last, the Joint Parliamentary Secretary was asked whether any consultation had taken place between her Department and the General Council of the Trades Union Congress. I cannot envisage that the General Council would agree without hesitation to what the Government were proposing to do.
Over the weekend, I took the trouble to find out what an employee below the age of 21 pays from his wages. In one case I was startled to find that he pays every week £1 5s. 11d. Now it is proposed that he should pay more. I have here information about a young workman between the ages of 18 and 21, and his case is an example of the circumstances of thousands of young men and women engaged in industry. This particular individual—his pay number is 450, but I will not mention his name—had a total gross wage last Friday of £6 15s., to which was added bonus pay, to which he is entitled, of £1 7s. 2d., making a total gross sum of £8 3s.
79 Let us now examine the deductions, or stoppages as we call them in industry. They are as follow: miners' pension scheme, 1s. 6d.; permanent relief society, 9d.; welfare club, 2d.; baths, 4d.; trades union contribution, 1s. 7d.; supplementary insurance scheme, 4d.; the new contribution rate included in the Bill, 9s. 3d.; Income Tax, 12s. That employee, therefore, is paying from his wages every week £1 5s. 11d.
We have been told that slowly, but surely, the Exchequer grant to these schemes is going down. We were told by the Minister that it would go up this year, but, slowly, responsibility for the National Insurance Scheme is now being shifted from the Exchequer to the workman. Nobody can deny that. An examination of the last few years' administration will reveal it. Has the Minister or his Department consulted the General Council of the Trades Union Congress to find out whether it has agreed upon the increased contributions?
I said last Wednesday that if we are to have a scheme which will meet with the approval of people at large we shall have to be prepared to pay. There is no escape from that. Nevertheless, I want the payments to be on an equitable basis, equitable for the man in the pit, in the mill or in the engineering shop, for the employer, and for the Exchequer. We all know that, during the early years of the scheme, the Exchequer paid over £100 million. Next year, according to the Minister's statement last Friday, the contribution will be approximately £90 million. It has been as low as £70 million.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I hope that there is no misunderstanding about this. I think that the figures to which the hon. Gentleman refers relate to Exchequer contributions to the National Insurance Fund, whereas we are at the moment, as he appreciates, dealing with the Industrial Injuries Fund, where there is an automatic Exchequer supplementation in proportion to increases on the part of employee and employer. I hope that there is no misunderstanding, because we may well have to have other discussions on the relevant Clause relating to the National Insurance Fund.
§ Mr. Brown
I agree with the point the Minister is putting; he is speaking about the Exchequer grant to the Industrial Injuries Fund. I, however, am speaking about the all-in contributions which now have to be borne by the worker. There ought to be a closer examination of the contribution paid so that there should be equity in what the Exchequer, the employer, and the employee pay. I very much suspect that we are drifting into a situation where the full responsibility will be placed on the workers and employers, the Exchequer escaping scot-free. I ask the Minister to look most carefully into this aspect of the contributions as a whole.
§ Mr. William Blyton (Houghton-le-Spring)
I listened carefully to what the Minister said about the quinquennial review. When we were discussing the National Insurance Bill, 1946, upstairs, a provision was deliberately put into it so that there would be a quinquennial review and, at the time of that review, the House of Commons, after seeing the mistakes which occurred in the meantime, would have a chance of considering the whole matter in the light of experience gained. There is no denying it. In 1954, when he brought in the National Insurance Bill, 1954, the Minister "dished" the House of Commons by preventing it from having a review of the whole purpose of the Act, although that was the intention of the original Act in respect of the quinquennial review.
Many of us complained very forcibly, at that time, at not being allowed to discuss the reports and experience gained in the interval and, in the light of that, to frame the new Act accordingly. What perturbs me in the Bill is that widows who have no children and who are under the age of 50 are still to be left with only 20s. a week. Even with the fall in the value of money since 1946—
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Gordon Touche)
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but the actual rates would be more suitably discussed under the Schedule.
§ Mr. Blyton
I looked at the Clause, Sir Gordon, which refers to the rates specified in the Schedule, and I thought that I could deal with that question on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ The Deputy-Chairman
We can discuss the general principle, but the actual rates will be discussed on the Schedule.
§ Mr. Blyton
Then I will leave my question until later. It is a point that needs to be considered.
From our discussions, we find that the pneumoconiosis cases have been omitted. In discussing the last Amendment, the Minister stated that they were reviewed last year. I must remind him that last year we had two Private Members' Bills and that although we are thankful for such small mercies as came our way last year we expressed our dissatisfaction that, while the Government had helped the fully incapacitated cases, thousands of partially incapacitated cases had been entirely ignored; they have had nothing up to date.
The Minister is wrong in thinking that we are dealing only with old men, because many men under 30 or 40 years of age were injured before the passing of the Act, and they are today married men with children. Their rate of partial compensation has not been reviewed, neither have they had any increase. They have the worst of both worlds. If they are unemployable at the partial compensation rate, they have lost their insurance stamps because they have been unemployed and they are now on National Assistance. Even then, the disregard relating to their compensation on National Assistance has not been altered. The 20s. disregard for the partially incapacitated man was fixed as long ago as 1946, and not even this has been altered.
I impress upon the Minister that these cases are entitled to be reviewed again and I assure him that we shall continue to agitate. If he cannot do it through the present Bill, let him bring in a one-Clause Bill and make the insurance companies pay. They got their premiums in the old days under the workmen's compensation Acts. The partially incapacitated people are entitled to benefit that is more in accord with the present-day value of money.
§ Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)
I will not detain the Committee more than two minutes. It is a pleasure to hear the Parliamentary Secretary at the Dispatch Box, but I was alarmed by something that he said. We shall be discussing for quite a long time in the country the question of the relation of contributions 82 to benefits. From what the hon. Gentleman said in his intervention just now, I gather that the additional benefits that will come from the Bill are more than monetarily compensated for by the increased contributions.
I took it that in the first year the increased benefits under the Clause will amount to £1½ million and the contributors will pay about £17 million. Even next year, the full benefits under the Clause will amount only to £10 million, and still the money that goes into the Fund from the contributions will be more than the increased benefits that come out of the Fund. I ask the Minister, when replying, to tell us when the new increased benefits under the Clause will be greater than the contributions paid by the workers.
§ Mr. R. Williams
I find myself in a difficulty, on which, I hope, I shall be helped by the Minister, in understanding what principle the Government are following in the Clause. At one moment they assert that there must be such a clear relationship between the rate of contribution and the rate of benefit that the rate of contribution must be put at a figure which vastly exceeds the amount of the benefits that will be paid in anticipation of future liability. That I understand to be one of the arguments.
I understand, too, that the Government argue that we must be very careful in dealing with the Fund and allowing it to be raided for the payment of benefit to cases which are not covered by contributions. I understood that to be one of the reasons put forward by the Minister for refusing an Amendment.
When the Minister asked us to be careful in approaching the question, I assume that what he meant was that if we are not careful in approaching it we will give the impression to the electors that there is a large surplus in the Fund, that the surplus is increasing and that the Government are being niggardly in not providing for these deserving cases. In other words, the point of his argument was that the Fund is in a sense sacrosanct.
Is the Fund sacrosanct? We are dealing with a social service for those who are industrially injured. The difficulty facing the Minister and the Government is that they have to come before this House and suggest that there should be some difference of interest between those 83 who contribute and those who do not, between those who were injured before contributions were payable and those who were injured after contributions became payable. That affects the principles upon which the Clause rests.
We are in an astonishing position. While, in theory, if one forgets all about the individual cases of which one has experience, it could be argued that there is a distinction between the man who pays for benefit and one who does not, that distinction exists only in the minds of those who want to find reasons for not providing benefits and giving justice in these cases. From my experience, which is, perhaps, as intensive as that of any hon. Member in any part of the House, especially in a sphere in which there is a heavy incidence of accident rate, over a period of more than twenty years, I assure the Minister that it is blatant, arrant nonsense to suggest that there is any dispute between any sections of the workers and others whether they contribute or not and that the fullest support is given by those who contribute to the view that the justice which has been so long delayed should be given to those who are refused justice under the Clause and by the attitude of the Government.
The Minister is being openly hypocritical in his approach. He and his predecessors have raided the Fund for what to them seemed legitimate reasons, and it is right that they should do so. After all, if we are to accept the view put forward by the Minister that the scheme must be based upon a Fund, the vast accumulations in the Fund and in other funds become the basis of subsequent benefits. The Minister knows that in what he was saying he was talking rot. Because he, the Minister, has a large surplus and has taken future contingencies into account, can he come to the House and say that these are his proposals? Of course not. He dare not draft a Clause like Clause 1 without going to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
It has become absolutely clear that this is a matter of Government policy in the provision of a social service to injured people and that the amount of the stamp has very little to do with it. When it comes to a question of increased benefits, the Minister has to go cap in hand to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because the matter is one of general Government 84 policy, and the right hon. Gentleman knows it. That being so, it is astonishing that we should have to deal with a Clause which basically is unsound. It does not concede justice to those whom we have asked to be included in it and it is unsound because it carries too close a relationship between contributions and benefits and emphasises much too strongly and in far too confused a manner the significance of what actuarially may be considered to be right concerning a situation twenty or thirty years hence.
The Government have fallen down badly on the Clause. They should have considered the matter much more carefully before bringing it before the Committee.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. McKay
I should like to make a few comments on this Clause. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Blyton), I think that one of the outstanding features of these benefits is that those widows who were under 50 when their husbands died receive only 20s. per week, which is no more than they got in 1946. No alteration at all is proposed for these widows, who continue to receive 20s. a week, because they had no children and were under 50 years of age when they qualified.
The other point on which I want to comment is the question of contributions. I have been considering this problem a great deal. I have often listened to hon. Members speaking in this House on insurance matters and emphasising that the one great principle connected with this legislation is that there are equal contributions and equal benefits. Ordinary people, when reading expressions of opinion like that, will at least expect that, in practice, the whole of the contributors to these schemes will be paying the same. Not only that, but they will also have the impression that the cost will be the same. In fact, there is a difference. The ordinary man believes that when the contributions are equal the costs of the scheme will be equal.
Let us take the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act. The employer is expected to pay so much in contributions. Take the case of a firm paying £1,000 a year in contributions to the Industrial Injuries Scheme. One would think, at first, that the cost to that firm 85 would be the £1,000 which it pays in contributions, but in practice that is not so. The cost to that company is not £1,000. Though it pays £1,000 in contributions, the company itself, as a consequence, pays £500 less in taxation. The general run of taxation on profits and other taxes comes to about 50 per cent., and if a firm pays contributions amounting to £1,000, it will get taxation relief amounting to £500. That is how it works out in actual practice, so there is no question at all of the cost being equal.
If there is anything that requires to be examined in the administration of the Act today it is the fact that the cost to different people is not the same, and that employers pay about 50 per cent. less than the amount shown in their insurance balance sheets. The whole thing needs putting on a proper footing, providing for equal payments where ordinary contributors are concerned. The poorest man in the country who does not pay Income Tax is paying his contributions today, while the highest paid are paying at least 2s. a week less. They are receiving a return in taxation relief on their contributions of about half the amount of the payments made, and if they are paying at the rate of 8s. 6d. in the £ they secure relief of about 2s. a week.
In that case, we find that men in the highest ranges of income are having their contributions reduced by about 2s. a week as against the payments made by some other contributors. The whole thing needs to be put on a proper basis, but I shall have something more to say about that when we come to the question of the Exchequer contribution.
§ Mr. Wood
May I say another word or two in answer to the points which hon. Members have raised?
The hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) mentioned the possibility of a graduated industrial injuries contribution. I do not know what other hon. Members feel about that, but I understood from his right hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury, East (Mr. Marquand) that he thought it would be a rather difficult operation. I myself feel that for a contribution of this kind a graduated scheme would be extremely difficult.
A number of hon. Members seem to have rather blurred the distinction 86 between the National Insurance Scheme and the Industrial Injuries Scheme, the latter of which was always intended to be entirely self-supporting. The Industrial Injuries Fund has always put the responsibility on the employer and the employee, with a certain proportion of their collective contributions added from the Exchequer.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring Mr. Blyton) finds it difficult to obtain opportunities to discuss the quinquennial review, but I imagine that with his ingenuity he will probably find an opportunity to do so. I have no doubt that he will make the best use of his opportunities today and tomorrow. I think that we do get opportunities from time to time, if not directly, to discuss matters that are based on the review, such as we are doing at present.
I do not think it would be in order if I discussed another topic which the hon. Member mentioned—the question of the partially incapacitated—because they do not appear in the Clause. The hon. Member for Itchen (Dr. King) asked me about the balance between the rates of contributions and benefits. I did not make it clear before, and I should like to do so now. Comparing like with like, the income is certainly greater than the expenses at the present time. In the first year, 1957–58, which is not a full year at the new rates, the extra income will be £3½ million and the extra expenses £1½ million.
The hon. Member asked me when, in fact, these two would meet. I think I gave him the answer when I said that, if the contributions were increased only to the extent suggested in the Amendment, then the money in the Fund would stop increasing in the 'seventies. Presumably, if the money in the Fund stops increasing and payments go upwards, the benefits will be less than balanced by income.
§ Mr. Wood
It does indeed. It is assumed, as it must be, that the one-fifth Exchequer contribution will continue right into the future.
The hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. McKay), and also the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring, raised the question 87 of the widows receiving 20s. I do not know whether I should be in order if I went deeply into this question, but those widows are in the category of young, childless, fit widows and the Government have not changed this figure—
§ Mr. McKay
For widows whose hushands were killed in mines or engineering shops there have always been special payments. Whatever was done for other widows, ordinary widows whose husbands died at 30 or 40, had no bearing on what was done when there was industrial injury, for then there was a capital amount of money paid to the widow regardless of age, and in the Act itself the principle was laid down that there should be some recognition of the widow who was made a widow because of an industrial accident. That principle was established and is still there. The amount has remained the same. If it is not right, why not abolish it altogether?
§ Mr. Wood
The hon. Gentleman is, of course, quite right. That is the reason why the widow whom he has in mind receives the 20s. pension. She, I repeat, must be compared with the widow under the National Insurance Scheme who is not receiving any pension at all. That is the reason the 20s. pension is not increased.
§ Mr. Bernard Taylor (Mansfield)
When we refer to a review under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act it is not altogether for financial 88 reasons. The only opportunities we have had since 1948 of considering that Act is when Bills of this kind have come up. There are many things affecting the structure of the Act itself, assessments for one, of which we should certainly like a comprehensive review so that we could go into all these matters and discuss not merely the financial aspects. If my memory serves me right, that Section of the Act which refers to a comprehensive review has never yet been implemented.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.