HC Deb 30 June 1958 vol 590 cc849-51
1 and 2. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (1) if he will make a detailed explanation of the figures for North Staffordshire shown in the Digest of Pneumoconiosis Statistics 1956, table 9, page 11, and tables 10, 11 and 12, with particular reference to the relatively large numbers of reassessment boardings and their results and of disablement assessments of 10 per cent. or less;

(2) if he is satisfied with the administration of the Industrial Injuries Act in North Staffordshire, with reference to pneumoconiosis, and, in particular, with the classifications and the percentage assessments made; and if he will make a statement.

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

A full explanation of these complex statistics is hardly possible within the permissible length of an oral Answer; but if the hon. Member will tell me the points about which he is concerned, I will write to him about them. The answer to the first part of his second Question is "Yes, Sir."

Mr. Ellis Smith

Whilst thanking the Minister for his sympathetic Answer, may I ask whether he has made a personal analysis of the serious figures contained in the excellent Digest of Pneumoconiosis Statistics, and if so, does he agree that it reveals some startling figures, particularly as regards their effect in North Staffordshire? In view of the situation in North Staffordshire and the concern of the miners there, will the Minister agree to consider having a special investigation?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I have looked at these figures, but the hon. Gentleman will be aware, of course, that as the Digest itself shows, they fluctuate very much from area to area for reasons which I think are quite easy to understand, such as the nature of the coal dug, and, to some extent, the differing awareness of risk, of which there is a good deal among those concerned. There are explanations which I shall be happy to give the hon. Gentleman of the extent to which the figures about which he is concerned diverge from those in other areas. I do not think that the figures are startling. I think that they are all explicable, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will allow me to explain them.

Mrs. Slater

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that the high percentage in an area of an extensive coalfield like that in North Staffordshire as compared with other parts of the country is such that concern should be felt? Can the Minister perhaps suggest why it should be higher in that area, or is he prepared to give special consideration to the matter to find out whether there is some special reason for it?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

If the hon. Lady is concerned about the relatively high figure for reassessment boardings, the reason for it is that owing to the shortage of accommodation for this purpose in 1953 and 1954 a much larger number of assessments were made for a longer period than was usual. The result was that they have been falling in for reassessment in substantial numbers. We have, I am glad to say, now remedied the shortage of accommodation. That is the explanation.