§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 2.7 p.m.
§ Mr. George Deer (Newark)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I want to thank hon. Member opposite for not being afraid of the word "deer" being associated with this Bill and for not deciding to keep me out a little longer. The Bill providesfor the payment of allowances out of the Industrial Injuries Fund to workmen to whom the Workmen's Compensation Acts apply; and for purposes connected therewith.This is no new subject, because in the last five or six years there have been four different essays into it. My hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) endeavoured to raise it in 1953, my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) had another attempt and in 1956 and again this year I myself have returned to this matter to see whether we could do something for this class of injured people whom we think merit the attention and the sympathy of the House.
There has been outside pressure in this matter, and the Minister is aware that the Trades Union Congress, the National Union of Mineworkers and individual Members of Parliament have all met him at different times to put the plea that something should be done to remedy this grievance. In the Bill I have tried as far as I can to follow the phraseology which was adopted in the Minister's own Bill in 1956, and I want to express my thanks to the officers of the House who assisted me and to my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams), who is not here today, who did valiant service in helping me to get over the legal points which are pitfalls to Private Members attempting to introduce a Bill of this kind.
The background shows that about 40,000 people are still receiving workmen's compensation in either a partial or total disablement capacity. It is an unfortunate fact that half these people come from the mining industry. Anyone who has talked to members of that industry about industrial injuries will 1634 not go far before someone says to him, "What about the forgotten men—the people who were injured before 1948 and whose injuries are assessed on the basis of loss of earnings and not loss of faculties?"
I am also told that of the people drawing partial benefit under the Workmen's Compensation Acts a considerable proportion, although not qualifying for the full benefit because their earning capacity has not been impaired to the extent that it would have been if they had been wholly incapacitated, have great difficulty in maintaining their jobs. The National Union of Mineworkers tells me that over 7,000 of its members in that category have had to leave the industry because of their injury, and many of them are out of work.
The idea of compensating these people more adequately is not put forward in an attempt to do something different from what was provided in the 1956 Act. The Bill is being introduced because we believe that these people have had a raw deal. Many of them have suffered a considerable loss of faculties, but because some kind employers have found them jobs the loss of faculties is ignored and their compensation is based upon loss of earnings.
I was a trade union official for many years before I had the privilege of sitting in this House, and during that time I had many experiences of handling difficulties arising in workmen's compensation cases. As a very young man I remember the real shock I had when I was trying to negotiate with an insurance firm on behalf of a young girl who had lost part of her middle finger when working on a leather guillotine machine. Wages were not very high in those days, and she was earning a very small sum of money, but when we came to negotiate the final settlement the insurance company representative said, "This girl has not lost her capacity; in fact she has actually gained, because the finger is not in the way and she can work quicker." That case occurred in Mansfield. It was decided that she had no difficulty about looking after her longest finger and she should therefore be able to continue to work at the same job.
I want to draw the attention of the House to the provisions of the first Workmen's Compensation Act, which was 1635 superseded by the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act. It gave a maximum allowance of £2 a week, plus allowances for children, and was based upon loss of earning capacity. If a worker had been on short time, or had lost employment for varying causes, he suffered in the assessment of his compensation payments by virtue of that misfortune. There was no compensation for loss of a limb or partial disablement unless loss of earnings was also proved.
In many cases the men concerned were taken on again by their employers, and in those cases all that could be got for them—even where their injuries involved amputations—was a declaration of liability that if, on some future occasion, they lost their earning capacity, the matter could be reopened. There must still be thousands of such cases on the files.
When my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) piloted the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act through the House we took an entirely new line about compensation for loss of faculties, and we made all kinds of allowances. A contributory scheme was introduced, with State responsibility. The matter was taken out of the hands of the insurance companies. Since then the position of those receiving payment under the Workmen's Compensation Acts has gradually worsened. We have been able to increase benefits paid out of the Industrial Injuries Scheme, but that has had no effect upon the position of those drawing benefit under the old Workmen's Compensation Acts.
It was not until 1956 that the Minister produced a Bill with a similar Title to this, which provided that the 11,000 or 12,000 people who were wholly disabled should have their benefit increased by 17s. 6d. a week in order to give them parity. It then did not make any difference whether a man became wholly dependent before or after 1948. That Bill went through the House with the blessing of hon. Members on both sides. It had one of the quickest passages that I can remember. We were most anxious not to obstruct the Minister. We wanted to help him to perform what he called an act of justice, in order to remove real hardship. If I wanted to do so I could quote at length from Ministerial speeches 1636 made on the 1956 Act in order to justify what I propose to say about the first half of the Bill.
We next had the National Insurance (No. 2) Act of 1957, which increased the benefits of persons receiving payments from the Industrial Injuries Scheme. Once again therefore, a gap was created between the two classes of people receiving compensation. It seems to me that I need only argue that if action was justified in 1956 in order to bring the two classes of people together it is surely justified in 1958. The Minister should reconsider the position and once again remove the differences in benefit paid to people under the 1956 Act and 1957 Act respectively.
The first Clause deals with two matters. First, it alters the benefit from 17s. 6d. to 35s., thus bringing the two classes of people together again. Secondly, in the case of a person who is wholly disabled, the Clause increases the benefit from £52 to £156. We suggest that £1 a week is not a realistic figure in these days.
If a man can do something to eke out his existence it helps him not only financially but psychologically. In other words, he does not feel entirely on the shelf. Therefore, most of our rehabilitation work is directed to getting people back to work instead of sitting nursing their grievances and developing into hypochondriacs. We think that the alteration of the figure to three times its present amount would be realistic and that it would put the payment more in line with present day values.
Clause 2, of course, raises the question of the partially disabled. I know that I am in difficulties here, because I have discussed the matter many times with the Minister. There is always the question of administration, and so on. We believe that a rough and ready way of dealing with the matter is to say that everybody with a disability of over 10 per cent. should be given the flat rate sum of 15s. a week out of the fund. That would compensate them for their years of waiting during which time they have fallen behind. That is the justification for that. As I have already mentioned, the latent cases are really in a similar position. As I said, people who have lost compensation because of earning capacity ought not to be left out.
1637 Clause 4 deals with the wife's allowance arising out of the 1924 Act, and Clause 5 deals with the loss of faculty to be determined by the existing machinery. We think that the Ministerial machinery both in regard to pensions and National Insurance could very easily deal with this matter. In any case, I do not think that the people who were dealt with under the 1956 Act caused many headaches to the Minister at that time. The matter was dealt with very expeditiously and very reasonably, and we received no complaints about people having to wait for medicals, being delayed or being refused.
Surely, it is not too much to expect when a man has suffered an amputation and experiences trouble arising out of his industrial disability that the staff of the Ministry should deal with the matter expeditiously. We believe that if the will is there such cases could be dealt with on those lines.
Clause 6 has caused me some difficulty because when framing the Bill I found that, having no Money Resolution, something had to be done to meet the administrative side of the matter. I have had to say that not only shall benefits come out of the Industrial Injuries Fund, but administrative costs also. It was not my idea of dealing with the point, but it was the only way that I could get the Bill past the Table. Of course, a way out would be for the Minister, as he did in the case of the 1956 Bill, to take over this Measure. He could then submit a Money Resolution without any trouble, in which case the charges would not come out of the fund.
Quite frankly, I know the difficulty about some of the latter things I have mentioned, but I do not think that there is any difficulty about the first Clause which seeks to bring back parity to the people who were helped years ago and who have now slipped back. I am glad to see the hon. Gentleman the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance on the Government Front Bench. I do not say this in any disparagement of his two colleagues, but I know the honest and sincere way in which the hon. Gentleman dealt with the other pension cases. If he can persuade his Department to be half as reasonable with those in receipt of industrial injuries benefit as it was 1638 with the other kind of pensioners. I shall be very happy.
I know that I am knocking at an open door, and I want to say how glad I am that we have a new face on the Treasury Bench dealing with these matters. I am hoping that, if the hon. Gentleman cannot say "Yes" today, he will not entirely slam the door, and that what happened in 1956 may happen again in 1958.
§ 2.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Finch (Bedwellty)
I beg to second the Motion.
I am sure I am voicing the feelings of all hon. Members when I say that we are grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Mr. Deer) for explaining the principal provisions of his Bill so sincerely and so ably. As lie reminded us, this is not the first time that an attempt has been made by way of a Private Member's Bill to improve the position of those who come under the old workmen's compensation system. Previous similar Bills failed either because they did not get the necessary support or because they were not reached.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newark was himself successful in a Private Members' Ballot in 1956, and on that occasion he endeavoured to introduce a Bill something on the lines of the one he has introduced today. Not long after that the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance brought forward a Bill, which ultimately became law, providing a supplement of 17s. 6d. for those totally disabled and who came under the old Workmen's Compensation Act. I have no doubt that at that time my hon. Friend's Bill, the efforts that had been made by other hon. Members and the representations made by the Trades Union Congress, did, to some extent, influence the Minister of the day. I am sure I am voicing the opinion of all hon. Members when I say that we appreciate the efforts made by my hon. Friend the Member for Newark on so many occasions with a view to improving the lot of those men who come under the workmen's compensation system, and I want to compliment him on those efforts.
The present Bill seeks to increase the payment of compensation paid to those suffering a disability as the result of an 1639 accident sustained or an industrial disease contracted prior to 5th July, 1948. In other words, it endeavours to close the gap between the payments made under the old workmen's compensation system and those made under the Industrial Injuries Act.
I would remind the House that when the Industrial Injuries Act came into operation married persons under the Workmen's Compensation Act were receiving more than under the Industrial Injuries Act. That was the position in 1948 but, as we have already been reminded, since then increases have been given to those coming under the Industrial Injuries Act, but those coming under the old Workmen's Compensation system have been left behind. This disparity has widened over the years, particularly for the partially disabled.
It is most difficult for one to understand what reason there can be for not putting the old workmen's compensation cases on a parity with cases under the new Act. It is unreasonable to have two classes of injured men, one class receiving a lower rate of compensation than the other simply because the accident occurred prior to 5th July, 1948. I readily admit, of course, that we are here dealing with two systems of compensation. Under the old Workmen's Compensation Act the principle obtained, as it does today, that the liability was that of the employer or the insurance company. As has been said, the Minister introduced legislation in 1956 which provided for a supplement of 17s. 6d. to be added to the old workmen's compensation rates.
Introducing that Bill, the right hon. Gentleman said he appreciated that the amounts between the schemes had diverged considerably and that payments under the old scheme were out of line with what would be received by men who were injured subsequently and since the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act came into operation. That is the position today. We have had these further increases under that Act, and we are back to where we were regarding the totally disabled. The case put then by the Minister holds good now.
What is the present position of the totally disabled? Under the Workmen's Compensation Acts a totally disabled 1640 married person receives 50s. a week from the employer or the insurance company, plus 17s. 6d. supplementary payment, making a total of £3 7s. 6d. Under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act he receives 85s., a difference of 17s. 6d. In this Bill, my hon. Friend is providing that the 17s. 6d. should be paid to these old compensation cases and thus put them all in the same position. I submit that that is a reasonable proposal. It is unjust that persons who are disabled should be compensated at a lesser rate because of a difference in the date of the accidents. If that applies to the totally disabled, it also applies to the partially disabled. Our objection to the Bill in 1956, although we were anxious that there should be increased supplementation, was that the partially disabled were left out. They have received no increase in the rates of compensation payable to them since 1943.
It will be argued that there are two systems for the payment to partially incapacitated people, which is true. We have been reminded that compensation under the old system is based on earning capacity; not so much on the nature of the disability but on the workman's loss of earnings. Where there is a loss of earnings, generally speaking the man receives two-thirds of the difference between pre-accident and post-accident wages. If there is no difference, he does not receive anything. Here we are dealing with men who suffered accidents many years ago, as long as 20 or 25 years ago, when wages were extremely low. Some suffered accidents at the time of a severe trade depression, and case after case could be quoted of men who were at that time earning £2 10s. a week although they were skilled men. Therefore their compensation was extremely low.
§ Mr. Finch
I was coming to that.
In 1943, provision was made for a person to have his pre-accident wages reviewed, if he could show that there had been an increase in the rate of remuneration in the occupation which he was following at the time of the accident. That applied to the 1925 Workmen's Compensation Acts. In recent years many 1641 men have taken advantage of that provision. A man whose pre-accident earnings might have been £2 10s. or £3 has been able to prove that there has been an increase in the remuneration paid to people engaged in the same occupation, and his pre-accident rate has been doubled. Other conditions cannot be reviewed in this connection, and workers in the mining and engineering industries, although conditions may have changed, cannot take those factors into account in reviewing pre-accident wages.
To quote an extreme case, but one which will hold good over the whole range, a person may have been blinded in a pit explosion. He may be fortunate enough, after years of effort and industry, to find an occupation which he can follow. His pre-accident earnings might have been £7 a week, and in his new job he is receiving £7 a week. Although he has been blinded, he receives no compensation for that, because he is earning the same wage as before. By the provisions in this Bill, my hon. Friend is trying to rectify that unfortunate position. The wage paid to such a man before his accident were low and conditions were different from those which prevail today, and, therefore, we submit that he should receive partial compensation at a static rate of 15s.
Many men were compelled to accept lump sums in respect of accidents. Generally, this was because the firm for which they worked went into liquidation. In my own constituency, men received compensation at the rate of 1s. 6d. and 2s. 6d. in the £ because the company employing them went into liquidation. As a result, sums of £40 or £50 were paid for serious incapacity. Some people may have received £20, £100 or £150, but they have not received anything like adequate remuneration. My hon. Friend is trying to redress this state of affairs by saying that they should be paid the right compensation, and here again I submit that the proposals in the Bill are reasonable.
Many of these disabled men are unemployed. They cannot get work owing to their serious disablement. Their partial compensation is based upon what they are deemed to be able to earn. A man might have lost an arm or be suffering from pneumoconiosis. He could be judged to be able to earn £5 or £6 a week as he was not unemployed on 1642 medical grounds but because he could not get a suitable job. Consequently, many men receive low rates of compensation on assumed earning capacity. There are 7,000 of these unemployed disabled men in the mining industry, and we are trying to remedy the situation for them by the provision of 15s. a week.
There is another class of hardship, consisting of men who were more fortunate in that they sustained their accidents in the later years before the Industrial Injuries Act came into operation. It was a time when wages were higher. Many of them were highly skilled and they became entitled to the maximum partial rate. Many of them were fit only for light work, for which they got £5 or £6 per week. They may have been skilled engineers, engine drivers and the like. Their pre-accident earnings may have been £11 or £12 per week, but in light employment they can get only £7 or £8, leaving a gap of £4 or £5 per week.
For these men to get a maximum of £2 10s. in disablement benefit is most disheartening. Many of them were skilled men, and they now see themselves deprived of what might be regarded as a reasonable pre-accident wage. They feel that they have been robbed of their skill, of their years of apprenticeship and their years of training. A man in this class undoubtedly looked forward to years of fairly good wages, but he forgot that he might sustain an accident or, in the mining industry, that he was threatened with pneumoconiosis, and be deprived of his pre-accident income and forced to take a job in a light labour class with a difference of several pounds per week.
The Bill proposes that a man in this class of case should receive another 35s. a week, which would put him on the same basis as many of those under the old Workmen's Compensation Acts, under which a man partially disabled can go up to the same figure as a man who is totally disabled.
Let me give figures from South Wales. There are, in that part of the country alone, 1,577 totally disabled men under the Workmen's Compensation Acts. There are the partially disabled who are getting the maximum partial compensation of £2 10s., and their number is 1643 2,846. There are also in South Wales today 2,259 persons getting less than the maximum. These classes make a total of 6,682.
§ Mr. Arthur Probert (Aberdare)
Can my hon. Friend say whether those figures include the men who have commuted their claims?
§ Mr. Finch
No, they do not. They include only cases of men in receipt of partial disablement compensation.
I would refer to the position of persons under the Old Workmen's Compensation Acts, prior to 1924. The maximum payment to these older men is £2 per week. There are not many today who are in that position, but they do not get the extra 10s. for their wives as do men under the subsequent Acts. The Bill would seek to remedy that anomaly. We are endeavouring to marry these two systems, and we want the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions to play the rôle of officiating parson at the ceremony.
I have tried to look at the matter as clearly as I can, to see what arguments there are against the Bill. I always like to look at the arguments of the other side. It is difficult to see what objection there could be lifting these two rates up to a similar basis. It may be said that we are dealing only with partial cases and are allowing them the 15s., provided they are assessed at 10 per cent. or more, but we have to fix some method of doing it. That means a medical examination. I understand that that is one of the objections, but it is not insuperable. Many of these men would be examined in due course by the medical board to ascertain the extent of their disability. If they are assessed at 10 per cent. under the provisions of the Industrial Injuries Act they would have to do the same. The medical board is doing a good job in cases of pneumoconiosis. I cannot see that men could object to medical examination.
The other objection can be a financial one. I would remind the House of the increased contribution that industrial workers are now called upon to pay as the result of the Acts passed in December last. Contributors have to pay an extra 6d. into the Industrial Injuries Fund. The receipts into the Industrial Injuries 1644 Fund in the past year were £27½ million. It was admitted by the Actuary that the 1958 cost would come to about £10 million, leaving a balance of £17,500,000.
It has been said that as years go by the number of cases will increase, but I submit that £17,500,000 is a fairly substantial sum over and above expenditure with which to deal with them. The surplus will be due entirely to the increase of 6d. and to the Exchequer contribution. The fund will not be undermined by the proposals of the Bill.
§ Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)
Has my hon. Friend noticed that the Actuary estimates in his report that the increases will cost £15 million in the year 1979–80, and that the increased income will result in £27 million in the same year?
§ Mr. Finch
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for that contribution. It relates to the year 1958–59. Surely there cannot be any argument here on financial grounds. The men working in industry are paying the increased contribution, and feel that the older men who worked in industry should get the same payment as they themselves will be getting.
I shall not attempt to cover any other points, except to point out that the financial liability imposed by the Bill is a dying one. The Parliamentary Secretary cannot get up and say that he does not know what the future will bring, because he knows that the men who would benefit by the Bill are passing away year by year. The more I look at this matter the more sure I feel that the Government must give serious consideration to the proposals of the Bill, which are reasonable and just and offer redress to men who have made a very valuable contribution in industry in the years gone by.
These miners, steelworkers, railway-men and others of that kind, have never had a chance to get these great opportunities of modern medical treatment, or of rehabilitation and training. So great has been the advance in medicine that if a man now gets a serious fracture he receives the most up-to-date treatment, but we must think of the old boys who, because of accidents years ago, are malformed and suffer serious disability. They did not get proper treatment. For all these years they have been robbed of their earning capacity and of the full 1645 enjoyment of life. The least that this House can do is to agree to the Second Reading of the Bill and so give the older men of industry a reasonable chance.
§ 2.50 p.m.
§ Mr. R. P. Hornby (Tonbridge)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Deer) and the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) on the speeches they have made. I am sure everyone present feels that there was a wealth of experience behind the remarks made and the trouble taken by those hon. Members in drafting the Bill and calling attention to a problem which must concern us very closely in an industrial society such as ours. We all want to be certain that we are trying to do well by people who have served us in industry and have suffered as a result of their work.
Before coming to the exact provisions of the Bill, I wish to point out that we can never emphasise too much that the best thing we can do in this matter is to see that we take all possible measures in engineering and design, in safety regulations in factories, and in medical research, to prevent such accidents occurring. A great deal has been, and is being, done in those respects.
We had a very clear explanation of the Bill from the hon. Member for Newark. It deals specifically with people who have suffered industrial injuries or contracted industrial diseases, especially those who suffered and contracted them before 5th July, 1948—those to whom he referred as "forgotten people". The Bill has two main objectives. It seeks to close the gap in financial benefits received by those injured before 1948 and those injured after 1948. It seeks also to widen the scope of workmen's compensation and to raise the payment under the earnings rule, if we can call it that, from £52 to £156. It would bring partially disabled people and those whom the hon. Member described as latent cases into that scope.
I wish to speak about the problem of the gap between pre-1948 and post-1948 cases. It strikes everyone immediately as hard that there should be a difference in treatment between a person injured in June, 1948, and a person injured a month later. As the hon. Member said, because of that we had the 1956 Act, which attempted to bring those two categories into line with one 1646 another. I am not quite clear—and hope we shall hear more about this—whether in the 1956 Act we were trying to arrive at a permanent equality between those two categories and to marry the two systems. If so, the very fact that we are having this debate shows that we did not succeed. Nor shall we succeed in this Bill, for we shall leave another gap if insurance benefits change at any time, although, as this is a dwindling category of people, the gap will be on a dwindling scale.
The first question I put to the Parliamentary Secretary is whether, recognising the difficulty of this problem, we think this periodical way of tackling it is the right way? Should we look for some action on a wider scale and try to achieve a permanent solution? Probably the hon. Member for Newark would be the first to agree that this Bill will not provide a permanent solution. The second question arises in this way. When the 1956 Bill was introduced, did not the Minister of Pensions try to suggest that he was tackling the problem in this way as he was tackling personal hardships because of the gap between what those cases received and what the post-1948 cases received. The question we have to ask ourselves affects the urgency for the Bill. it is whether we are in the same position now in relation to 1956 standards and payments. Is there the same urgency, or can we arrive at a better solution?
In relation to both those problems we are not dealing only with the forgotten people, the pre-1948 people. We have to remember the principle involved as well as those people. In spite of the figures quoted, the principle is that we are talking about an insurance fund and in several provisions of the Bill we are asking for payment out of an insurance fund to non-contributors. When there is a backlog, of cases not covered by an insurance fund at the time of its introduction that is always a tempting thing to do. We had the same problem in relation to retirement pensions. One has to be wary of pushing demands on a fund too far, because there is a danger that one might run the fund into difficulties in respect of the £17 million quoted by the hon. Member for Bedwellty.
§ Mr. Hornby
The money always seems to be there when one takes these steps, but one has to look very carefully at payments to non-contributors out of an insurance fund. Otherwise, there is a very real risk of running into difficulties. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will reply to one or two questions on this subject. I wonder if he can give some idea of what he thinks the Bill would involve in terms of cost? Probably it is a very difficult figure to arrive at, particularly in view of the latent cases. May we have an indication in terms of the number of cases? Can my hon. Friend tell us whether we are considering the whole field of industrial injuries, and what research is going on into the whole problem of insurance? There has been talk about that in the Press and in the House in relation to the National Health Service. I wonder if this is something which could be brought within the scope of that survey.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Newark on introducing the Bill. This is an important subject; so also is the insurance principle which is involved. I do not think it easy to separate the two. It is of great use to us all to have had this discussion and we look forward to hearing a speech from my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary towards the close of the debate.
§ 2.58 p.m.
§ Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)
I should not have intervened in this debate but for the questions and the points put by the hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby). He told us that we ought to deal with this problem in some other way. I agree that what the Bill seeks to do is to reduce the disparity between a man who sustained an accident on 1st July, 1948, and a man who sustained a similar kind of accident only a week later on 8th July, 1948.
Many of us who were in this House from 1945 and helped my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) to get his Industrial Injuries Bill through Parliament in 1946 believed that a solution of the problem would be found by an arrangement with the then employers whereby beneficiaries under the Workmen's Compensation Act could be brought within the Industrial Injuries Act. My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly, then Minister of National 1648 Insurance, strove hard to secure some kind of agreement. He sought to secure some kind of lump sum payment into the Industrial Injuries Fund in respect of those who were injured and receiving compensation prior to 5th July, 1948, so that they would be dealt with in precisely the same way as those who sustained an accident after that date.
As far as I know, no agreement was possible. It was not possible for the then employers to provide the necessary lump sum to enable the proposal to be considered. Consequently, to the disappointment of many of us, there arose gradually over the years the disparity by which the pre-1948 partially and totally disabled people were treated quite differently. I agree with the hon. Member for Tonbridge that the principle of insurance was not observed, but, frankly, I do not see how, in 1958, it is possible to secure any other kind of arrangement.
When the total weekly income of those who are paid under the Workmen's Compensation Act does not come up to the total by which the National Assistance Board relieves those who are otherwise destitute, their only recourse is to the National Assistance Board to make up the difference. To the extent that the Industrial Injuries Fund would carry this financial liability, the liability to the National Assistance Board would be eased.
I should have thought that today's Bill is the natural consequence of the Bill introduced by the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance towards the end of last year, when, because of the increases in the cost of living, he decided to make increases in the amount of benefit to be paid to those entitled to receive benefits under the Industrial Injuries Act. For example, prior to the introduction of the Bill last year, the injury benefit was 67s. 6d. a week. It has now been increased to 85s. All that today's Bill seeks to do is to apply the same principle of financial assistance to the totally disabled who are not covered in the same way by the Industrial Injuries Act.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) pointed out, the Minister described the 1956 Bill as an attempt to narrow the gap. Surely, if in 1956 it was right to bring those outside 1649 the Industrial Injuries Act up to a rate comparable with beneficiaries under that Act, it is not unreasonable to argue that precisely the same thing should be done in 1958. That is all that the Bill seeks to do for the totally disabled.
It is true that the Bill seeks to bring into account the partially disabled. I do not want at this stage to cover the ground so admirably covered by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch), but I would point out that on page 3 of the Report by the Government Actuary (Cmnd. 294) there appears the point which I sought to make in an interjection to my hon. Friend that whereas the benefit introduced towards the end of last year will cost £10 million in a full year, the Actuary indicates that in the first full year the contributions will increase by £22,900,000 and the total extra receipts in future years will be about £27½ million. He goes on to point out that:In 1979–80 the estimated expenditure on benefits and administration will be £81 millions, including £15 millions as a result of the proposed increases.I assume, in the absence of anything to the contrary, that there will still be an increased income to the Fund of at least £22½ million. The additional increase under this Bill will be added to the £15 million, so that in twenty years from now there is an increase from contributions as against a smaller increase of benefits the Fund will have a substantial increase.
What better purpose could that increase be put to than to make some small effort to narrow this gap? I know of two cases in South Wales. Each man lost a limb within fourteen days of the other, one just before 5th July and one immediately afterwards. They lived in the same town, almost the same street, and they were injured in the same colliery, but because of that accident of dates one gets a substantially smaller income per week that the other.
Those of us who have the honour to represent here constituencies where heavy industry preponderates as it does in mine, for example, where there is shipbuilding, steel making, heavy engineering and dock work, will know the proportion of partially disabled people consequent upon injuries in those industries and the inability of those industries to absorb anything like the number that the 1650 light industries in other parts can. One of the tragedies of this country, as seen in the Midlands, for example, is that where light industry preponderates the number of light employment jobs which can be provided is substantially higher than it is in the areas where there is heavy industry.
Some of my hon. and right hon. Friends know more about the mining industry than I, but I know of very few light jobs which can be found in the mining industry for a man who is injured in that industry. I know of very few light jobs in the steel-making industry for partially disabled men. I know of very few light jobs in the docks of this country for partially disabled men—a man bereft of a limb, for instance, or of three or four fingers. The problem we are trying to deal with is accentuated in those parts of the country where heavy industry preponderates and because of the balance of the economy of the country being what it is. In areas of heavy industry we see the problem day after day. I saw it last weekend in my own constituency, when I was urged to support this Bill.
Because I believe that it is absolutely necessary to do something for the partially disabled and wholly disabled people who were partially or wholly disabled before 5th July, 1948, I hope that this Bill will, without too much delay, become part of the law of this land.
§ 3.9 p.m.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. Richard Wood)
One respect in which we all envy the hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Deer) is his continual success in the Ballots. If he is anything like as lucky with ERNIE he will be a rich man in no time. He is quite right, of course, in saying that there have been repeated attempts during the last few years to carry out the kind of objectives which he has set before himself in this Bill. In a relatively short connection with this subject of workmen's compensation, I have found two things; first, that it looks difficult, and secondly, that it is a great deal less simple than it looks. Therefore, I hope I may be forgiven if I tread rather nervously and gently over the ground which the hon. Member himself and the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) and other hon. Members have covered so confidently.
1651 The first comment I should like to make is that I am quite convinced that the basic principle of loss of faculty, which was established by the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, 1946, which I think is still supported by Parliament, is, in fact, a fairer system of compensation than this other system which we are considering today—compensation according to loss of earnings. Anyone who became in any way concerned with the changes involved in the 1946 Act and the transition from the workmen's compensation scheme to the Industrial Injuries scheme must be tempted to examine again the possibility of some merger between the two schemes, and the transition between the two is obviously still very much with us, as the hon. Gentleman clearly showed when introducing his Bill.
I should like to say to the hon. Member for Bedwellty that I have very seriously considered myself in the rôle of match-maker between the two schemes, if not actually the functionary to bring about the marriage. I should myself have liked to see them brought together. I have considered very seriously the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby), whether there could be some permanent way of settling the matter rather than these periodic attempts of the hon. Member and others to deal with it as time makes further changes necessary.
The hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) said that his right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) had investigated this matter very carefully when he introduced the new scheme in 1946. I think that we should all like to pay tribute to the care with which the right hon. Gentleman examined the possibility of making this merger; but, when any of us look at it at the present day, we are bound to conclude that the difficulties which the right hon. Gentleman found at the time, and, I think I am right in saying, found to be insurmountable, have not become any less in the ten years which have elapsed since 1946.
The fundamental difficulty of assimilation seems to be that, on the one hand, we have some men with a small loss of function and a serious loss of earn- 1652 ings, and, on the other, other men with large functional disability, perhaps even 100 per cent., who have suffered very little or no loss of earnings. Therefore, it seems to me that any attempt to try to compensate for loss of earnings those who are at present compensated for functional loss, or to do the opposite and compensate for loss of function those who are at present compensated for loss of earnings, is bound to affect unfavourably many who are at present enjoying the system of compensation which will be the one not chosen in future as the basis for all. Therefore, any attempt at any compulsory assimilation, I think hon. Members will agree, would be bound to be unpopular.
The alternative to that—the possibility of men being given the option of transferring, if it suited them, from one system of compensation to another—obviously is one that raises very great difficulties. In the first place, for those who were trying to improve their compensation for loss of earnings under the workmen's compensation scheme by going to the other method of compensation, the results of the Industrial Injuries Board, which examines them for the purposes of the new compensation, may at first appear to be unfavourable, until the question of the special hardship allowance is taken into consideration.
I think that we would all agree that by the time that that question of special hardship allowance had been considered, it would be very difficult at that point to reverse steps and cancel the whole process of this attempted transfer from one system to another. The question whether there would be a net gain for those people trying to transfer from one system to another would be most uncertain, and, as probably hon. Members would agree, in the majority of the cases it would be very difficult to predict in advance whether a man, by transferring from one system to the other, would in the end be better off than before.
Another problem is that medical boards would have to satisfy themselves as to how much of the disability they found to be present was attributable to the old accident, which might have occurred a long time before; and this at a time in 1958 when no records and possibly no witnesses would be available 1653 to corroborate that degree of disability which was due to the accident. But even if all these objections could be overcome, the position of men on workmen's compensation is a fluctuating one, though it is changing less at present than it has changed in the past.
At one moment there might be advantage to these men to transfer to the Industrial injuries scheme but at another, in changed economic conditions and with varying figures of compensation, the potential compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Acts might be greater than the benefit under the Industrial Injuries scheme. Therefore, as, clearly, it would be impossible to allow continued transfer from one scheme to another and back again according to where the advantage would be, and it would be impossible to find methods by which former employers could commute liabilities which happened to exist at the time of transfer, it would be so difficult as to be impossible to allow this option for these pre-1948 cases to move in the one direction. It would undermine the Industrial Injuries scheme, because those injured after 1948 would not have the opportunity of moving in the opposite direction.
§ Mr. Wood
No, it does not, but this was mentioned not only by the hon. Member but by the hon. Member for The Hartlepools, who discussed the possibility of some means of merging the two schemes. I have only tried to repeat, as I think the right hon. Member for Llanelly has repeated in the past, that the difficulties which were present in the right hon. Gentleman's mind have not become less and a permanent solution on this basis is no easier today than it was ten years ago.
The Bill has a variety of objects, as the hon. Member for Newark has said. It widens the definition of incapacity for employment by increasing the disregard. It also introduces a wife's allowance in certain cases, under Clause 4. But the main purpose is, first, to pay from the Industrial Injuries Fund increased supplementation to the totally incapacitated, and a new supplement of 35s. to the partially incapacitated on maximum rate, and, secondly, to pay a supplement of 15s. not only to the partially incapaci- 1654 tated on less than the maximum but also to the "latents", provided that their disability is 10 per cent. or more.
This question of total incapacity for work undoubtedly represents a tragedy of some kind. It either represents a severe injury or a crippling illness, with which all of us feel great sympathy. There is no one here who does not admire the determination with which the hon. Member for Newark and other hon. Members, with their wide knowledge and experience of these matters, have attempted, and are attempting, to make life a little easier for these men who have suffered grievously in the past. I am sure that none of us wishes that the totally incapacitated should suffer hardship.
As the hon. Member for Newark said, it was in order to relieve hardship which my right hon. Friend believed them to be suffering in 1956 that the Government introduced the supplementation Bill in that year. On that occasion I remember the hon. Gentleman saying that the Bill succeeded an infant which he had tried to bring into the world. Today we see him again in the rôle of a potential parent. For reasons which I shall give in a minute I feel unable to recommend to the House that this baby of his should be allowed to survive infancy. I cannot today give the undertaking, which I am sure he would like me to give, that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions will be able quickly to follow the excellent example of fatherhood which the hon. Gentleman so consistently sets.
I will give the reasons, because it is not lightly that I say it, and I want to make my reasons and my right hon. Friend's thought clear. The rates of workmen's compensation totals were last raised fifteen years ago in 1943. As the House knows the rates were 40s. for the single man, 50s. for the married man and 55s. for a married man if he had a child. Those rates were increased by the 17s. 6d. supplement in 1956 to 57s. 6d., 67s. 6d. and 72s. 6d. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bedwellty quoted from my right hon. Friend's speech on 15th May, 1956, and pointed out that the Minister had said that the payment which the old cases were receiving was out of line, after the previous increase in the rates payable to those who had suffered industrial 1655 injuries, with payments under the Industrial Injuries Act. Hon. Members will no doubt remember, however, that there were two considerations which persuaded my right hon. Friend to take the action he did in that year.
The first consideration was that there was real hardship among the totally incapacitated because of the fall in the real value of their compensation. The second, as he has rightly pointed out, was the consideration that there had become a discrepancy between the workmen's compensation and the industrial injury rates. That discrepancy was, in fact, one pointer to the hardship, and it guided my right hon. Friend in the selection of the figure for the supplementation of 17s. 6d. It is true that the workmen's compensation rates and the industrial injury rates have again become separated as a result of the most recent increases. It is necessary to find out whether, and to what degree, these old cases can be said to suffer hardship. As the hon. Members know, these cases share in changes which were made at the same time in the rates of National Insurance benefit.
I think I should add to what the hon. Gentleman said about my right hon. Friend's speech in May, 1956, by reading a little further. My right hon. Friend said:… we ought not to put on the Industrial Injuries Fund … a charge in respect of an injury not within the scope of that Fund,. except where we are really satisfied that some real hardship or real injustice arises.He finished by saying:In other words, we ought not to do this merely to obtain exact symmetry or equality, but only where there is a point of substance." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th May, 1956; Vol. 552, c. 1912.]The aim of the Bill—I do not criticise it for this—is to achieve this exact symmetry or equality, but on the point of hardship I cannot really say that a married man receiving workmen's compensation and other benefits totalling £7 7s. 6d., excluding the possible £3 10s. constant attendance allowance if he is helpless, and, therefore, completely in need of care —which would bring him to £10 17s. 6d. —can accurately be described as suffering hardship.
Hon. Members will agree that it has never been possible to achieve any kind of parity between workmen's compensation and industrial injury rates. I am 1656 aware that the supplement was guided generally by the 67s. 6d. rate, but there has never been a way of equating these rates because there is no way of equating compensation for loss of earnings and compensation for loss of faculty, and if workmen's compensation rates and industrial injury rates were brought together it would not necessarily be fair because of the dissimilar bases on which the two systems are founded.
Having spoken for some time about the totally incapacitated, I now wish to deal with the partially incapacitated, who were particularly mentioned by the hon. Member for Bedwellty. I know of old his sympathy with them and his great disappointment that they were not included within the terms of the 1956 Measure. It is the second main object of the Bill to pay supplementation to those who are partially incapacitated. Within the maxima of 40s., 50s. and 55s., the rates of compensation for the partially incapacitated are a proportion of loss of earnings due to their injury. The loss of earnings is the difference between what the man would now be earning in his job if he had not had an accident and what he is able to earn after his accident.
The proposals in the Bill are different for the partially incapacitated on compensation at maximum rates and the partially incapacitated on compensation at less than the maximum rates. To take first the problem of the partially incapacitated on maximum rates—it is extremely difficult to be accurate about the numbers, and I was very interested in the figures which were produced by the hon. Member for Newark and the hon. Member for Bedwellty, particularly in relation to South Wales—my best estimate would be that there are about 9,000 partially incapacitated on maximum rates. Most of them, I believe, are married, and so they are receiving 50s. or 55s.—in most cases, probably, 50s.
On the other side, under the Industrial Injuries scheme men may be receiving industrial injuries benefit of 85s. But a very large proportion of industrial injury pensioners are receiving 20 per cent. or less disablement benefit, which with the addition of the maximum rate of special hardship allowance brings them to 51s. at the most, and less according to their lower assessment of disability. 1657 Seventeen shillings or 20 per cent. plus[...] 34s., equals, I hope, 51s.
They, therefore, are among the people who must be compared with the partially incapacitated on maximum rate who are receiving 50s. Under the Bill payments to the partially incapacitated on maximum rate would be increased to 85s.—indeed, 90s. to a married man with a child; either 50s. plus 35s. or 55s. plus 35s. These payments would be increased to 85s. and 90s. however slight the functional disability that the man had.
I am in the difficulty that if the House acclaimed functional disability as the fairest means of compensation in 1946—and I think the House still agrees that it is the fairest—then I cannot believe that it is right to reward a considerable number of people, as the Bill would, whose functional disability is comparatively small, so much more handsomely than those who have a much larger functional disability, especially when those who have the larger functional disability have contributed to the fund which is to make the payments and those who have the less functional disability have not contributed to the fund. That is my fundamental difficulty.
I was very much interested in the arguments of the hon. Member for Bedwellty about the partially incapacitated, particularly their difficulties of employment, but the partially incapacitated, even those on maximum rate, are by definition men not prevented from earning by their injuries. Their injuries may have contributed to their difficulties but they do not prevent them from earning, because had their injuries prevented them from earning they would not have been partially incapacitated.
In general—I underline the words "in general"—these partially incapacitated have benefited by changes in wages since 1943. They have benefited, unlike the totally incapacitated, who have not had the chance of these benefits. Another difficulty is that a supplement as proposed in the Bill for these men would increase the substantial advantage that the partially incapacitated at present have over the totally incapacitated, who have not had the chance to benefit from these wage increases.
As for the other partially incapacitated, on less than maximum compensation—
§ Mr. Wood
I was coming to those later. As for the partially incapacitated on less than maximum compensation they have benefited, like others, through higher wages and increased insurance benefits. I am bearing in mind the point made by the hon. Member for Bedwellty. He spoke about compensation falling below the rise in the living costs because the difference between pre-accident wages and post-accident wages had changed in proportion. But if that has happened because the pre-accident wages have increased less in proportion than the post-accident wages, this surely means, does it not, that the injury is less serious in terms of earning capacity than it used to be? That is the only deduction I can make.
There is the further point that the 15s. supplement which is proposed in the Bill would make a man better off than he was before his injury—if his loss of earnings was anything less than 45s.; I think I am right in saying that, and hon. Members can almost certainly find examples—if the loss of earnings is less than 45s. and therefore the compensation is less than 30s.
I cannot believe that we should be justified in making payments from the Industrial Injuries Fund in order to make those who had not contributed to it better off than they were before their accidents. Moreover, as the right hon. Member for Llanelly remarked a few moments ago, Clause 2 (3) proposes payments of 15s. to all men with a potential claim, even if they have not present loss of earnings.
This brings me to the question of the "latents." The hon. Member for Newark rightly pointed out that many men with latent claims are functionally very severely disabled but are not suffering, at present, from any loss of earnings. If they were they would not come within the definition of "latent." If, as the Bill proposes, those with a disablement of 10 per cent. or more, but with no loss of earnings, were to receive a payment of 15s. a week, they would be receiving compensation according to their loss of faculty rather than their loss of earnings—because the loss of earnings is not present, and the loss of earnings has always been the basis for compensation in the old cases.
1659 The proposal therefore seems to be a very substantial move away from the basic principle established in 1946. I cannot believe that it would be right to accept a proposal of this kind, which must have the effect of weakening and blurring the principle and revitalising and prolonging the inconsistencies which, right from the time when the hon. Member moved the Second Reading, have been at the root of our discussion today.
§ Mr. Wood
I appreciate the hon. Member's point, but I think that he would agree that the proposal in the Bill goes very much wider. In fact, it proposes payments of 15s. to every person with a latent claim, so long as his disability is more than a certain percentage. That is a very wide proposal.
I find it almost impossible to discover how many of these latent cases there might be. I notice that when my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), who was then Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of National Insurance, was speaking in the debate in April, 1953—which was initiated by the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones)—he mentioned a figure of 50,000, but I have no means of knowing whether or not that is an underestimate. I should think that there was a good chance that it was an underestimate. Therefore, on that basis, although at the medical boards which the Bill proposes some of these latents would admittedly be found to be less than 10 per cent. disabled and therefore ineligible, the supplement of 15s. a week to all those with latent claims—if I have calculated it correctly—would add up to about £1½ million a year.
This is not the full cost, or the full extent of the difficulty of the proposal. In order to receive the 15s. supplement, latents must have a disability of 10 per cent. Therefore, they must be boarded. This would not only be costly—as the hon. Member recognises in Clause 6, 1660 which he admits was forced upon him —but would make it extremely difficult for medical boards to assess disablement in regard to very old injuries.
As hon. Members know, the industrial injuries board takes place pretty soon after the injury when adequate records are available, and assessment, therefore, is comparatively easy. Quite apart from all these considerations, the Clause as drafted at the moment would give—and I think one hon. Member mentioned this —the allowance to those who have settled claims against future liabilities by means of a lump sum. If the sponsors of the Bill really intend this—and I gather that they do—it not only raises the question of whether it is proper to reopen settled claims which both sides seem to have agreed were settled some time ago, but also the administrative problems of the proposal, which would be extremely difficult.
I want to say a word about the earnings rule, because the hon. Gentleman particularly mentioned it. As he knows, under the 1956 Act the allowance is payable to those entitled to weekly payments of workmen's compensation who are, because of the relevant injury, incapable of work and who are likely to remain so for thirteen weeks or more. The definition of "incapability" is if the disability prevents a man earning more than £52 a year. This £52 limit, as hon. Members also know, is the limit for the unemployability supplement payable not only with industrial injury disablement benefit, but also with war disablement pensions. It was introduced, so I understand, in order to prevent any severely disabled man being discouraged from taking therapeutic work which would eventually do him good.
This was one of the questions considered by the Piercy Committee of which for some time, until I was forcibly removed, I had the honour to be a member. I had nothing to do with its Report, apart from joining in some interesting discussions in the earlier stages, but I was interested, when the Report was finally published, to see that the Committee came to the conclusion that it did not think that the figure of £52 was too low. I myself have often investigated this problem, and it is a problem about which hon. Members probably know.
1661 Many of those interested in the war pensions provisions feel as strongly as does the hon. Gentleman opposite and as do other hon. Members about this figure which it is proposed to amend in the Bill. I cannot help feeling that the man who is capable of earning £156 in a year cannot really be considered to be incapable of work. I have still to find substantial examples of those who are, in fact, discouraged by the £52 earnings rule. I should be very interested if hon. Members would let me have examples of this kind because it would help me very much in my thinking about the future. I can say that neither the mind of my right hon. Friend the Minister nor my own mind is closed on the subject of the £52 earning limit if that limit can be convincingly shown to be frustrating the object which, as I have just said, it was originally intended to secure.
I propose to stop in a few moments because I believe that some other hon. Members want to speak, but I have been asked one or two questions about the cost. In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge, I calculate—but, again, this is very largely guess work—that the cost of these proposals about which I have been speaking this afternoon and the other proposals in the Bill, such as the wife's allowance, and so on, and the expenses of administration which will be involved, would be between £3 million and £4 million. I believe the cost of boarding alone would be about £250,000.
I hesitate to quote from my own speeches; in fact I do not make many. But in one I made during the Committee stage of the National Insurance Bill last November I explained why the increase of contributions which the Government proposed was necessary to cover the cost of benefits. Various questions have been asked this afternoon about the Industrial Injuries Fund. It is still increasing at a nice rate and the balance at present stands at £150 million. It has always been realised that this balance must be built up so that later on when we have grown older, in the 1970's and 1980's it will be able to stand the greater demand put upon it. I say in good faith, having made inquiries, that it has been estimated that if we are to keep the Industrial Injuries Fund solvent on the new rates of benefit, we must try to produce a balance 1662 ultimately of about £500 million, so that we have still a long way to go.
I said in November that any proposal to reduce the contributions under the Bill —and the proposals in this Bill would increase the obligation on the fund and therefore have similar results—would prevent the fund from continuing to increase and that would mean that early in the next century the fund might be reduced to nothing.
It is difficult to know the precise financial effects of the proposals in this Bill in the years ahead. I admit that they, would be a diminishing liability, but as I said, starting at £4 million they would be far from negligible. Contributors to the Industrial Injuries scheme already provide more than £1 million to people outside the scheme and I find it difficult to justify asking them for more, particularly when they will be placed at a disadvantage compared with a great many who have not contributed to the Industrial Injuries Fund. For the reasons I have given I cannot recommend the House to give a Second Reading to this Bill, but its introduction has enabled us again to discuss the difficulties involved by the existence, side by side, of the workmen's compensation scheme and the ten-year old Industrial Injuries scheme.
The hon. Member for Newark made his strongest case in favour of the totally incapacitated. I need hardly assure him that my right hon. Friend will watch their position closely. At present, he is not convinced that they are suffering hardship in the sense that persuaded him eighteen months ago to make substantial payments out of the Industrial Injuries Fund. But he will watch the position of those receiving workmen's compensation both in relation to economic conditions and benefits available under the National Insurance Scheme. Although We feel unable to agree with the proposals in this Bill, I can say to hon. Members that if my right hon. Friend was convinced that hardship existed he would certainly do his best to relieve it.
§ 3.49 p.m.
§ Mr. R. E. Prentice (East Ham, North)
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary began his speech by saying that he had always 1663 been impressed by the complications surrounding workmen's compensation. Having listened to him, it is obvious that he has mastered them very well and we congratulate him on his erudition. The hon. Gentleman used these complications to mask the principle of this Bill, which is that we should try to get equal terms for those injured before 5th July, 1948, with those injured afterwards. All the details and complications to which the hon. Gentleman referred provide no answer to the strong humanitarian case advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Mr. Deer) and his supporters.
I suggest that we regard this matter in the same way as we regard war disability pensions paid to war pensioners. There are similarities between the two schemes. The industrial casualty and the war casualty are assessed by the medical board on the same principle. There is the same level of pension for the same degree of disability, similar supplementary pensions and so on. The great difference at the moment is that when we consider the war disability cases, we do not make any distinction between the man injured in the 1914 war and the man injured in the 1939 war. It would be indefensible in principle if we made that distinction.
§ Mr. Prentice
I appreciate that point, but that is what makes it complicated and makes the task of trying to do justice to the older pensioner more difficult. The hon. Gentleman went into those complications at great length, but they do not excuse us from making an attempt to get equality of treatment. If we cannot get it, we must get something like equality. That is what my hon. Friend the Member for Newark is trying to do by his Bill. If it was right in 1956 to bring in a supplement of 17s. 6d. for the totally disabled man, it is surely right to bring in a Measure now to bring the totally disabled man up to the rate of the man covered by the Industrial Injuries Act.
1664 The position of the partially disabled people is more complicated still. It might be true, as the hon. Gentleman told the House, that by introducing the Measure some partially disabled people covered by the Workmen's Compensation Acts would get a little more than some people partially disabled covered by the Industrial Injuries Act, but we have to balance that fact against the fact that at the moment we are doing a major injustice to the great majority of people who are partially disabled under the Workmen's Compensation Acts. Unless there is a loss of earnings, they get no compensation at all at present.
The most respectable point in the speech of the hon. Gentleman was when he said, "We are doing quite well already." He pointed out that the National Insurance (No. 2) Act, 1957, which went through this House recently raises the unemployability supplement and the constant-attendance allowance, but will not help those who have not qualified for these allowances. Their number is very small, a matter of a few hundreds in each case. The majority of people do not come into this category and get no corresponding benefits.
The hon. Gentleman went on in that section of his speech to talk about "real hardship." He asked whether there was real hardship in the case that his right hon. Friend had found in 1956. Why should we subject these people, the older industrial casualties, to this special test of severe hardship, to which we do not subject people since 1948, or the war pensioners?
The hon. Gentleman referred to the insurance principle, in one of the arguments that he used and which was also used by his hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby).
The Industrial Injuries Fund was based on a new principle in 1948. I wish briefly to refer to three reasons why I think all the arguments of the Parliamentary Secretary on this matter were wrong. First, the insurance principle has already been breached. When the Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Benefit Bill was introduced, benefits were paid from the Fund to people who had not subscribed to it. Under the 1956 Act again benefits were paid from the Fund to people who had not subscribed to it. This Bill would merely extend that breach in the principle.
1665 There has been a lot of argument about what the cost would be to the Insurance Fund. It would be a tiny amount compared with the scale of the Fund at the moment. My hon. Friend calculated that there were about 40,000 getting benefit at the moment under the workmen's compensation Acts. It is true that he wants to add the latent cases and we do not know how many of them there will be. If the Government were really afraid of the latent cases they could accept the Bill and introduce an Amendment to deal with that provision. I am not saying I want the Government to do so, but that is a course they could take.
If we asked the millions of work people who subscribed to the Industrial Injuries Fund, whose fund it is, their opinion on whether these old cases should be denied the same justice as others are getting, we feel sure that an overwhelming majority of them would agree with the principles of the Bill put forward by my hon. Friend. The standard of life we enjoy today has been built up by the efforts of people working in industry in the past and by the capital development, the development of skills and standards which they have achieved. The casualties caused in that process deserve as much consideration as do war casualties.
In mining, on the docks and in factories thousands have suffered industrial injuries and diseases. Many would not have suffered under modern conditions. Many of them have lost limbs in machinery which, with modern fencing methods, would not have been lost. Many miners have suffered silicosis who would not contract that disease today because of the special measures taken against it.
The House and the community owe a debt to these people. If some of the complications mentioned by the Parliamentary Secretary are valid they are reasons why the Government should accept the Bill and attempt to amend it in Committee. No reason has been put forward this afternoon against the central principle of the Bill, that we should give the old casualties of industry the same treatment as the newer ones.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)
We have had a very interesting debate, and I must congratulate the hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Deer) on bringing 1666 this important question before the House.
At the same time, we must realise that he and other hon. Members who have spoken are trying to reconcile the irreconcilable. Workmen's compensation schemes under various Acts which came to an end in 1948 were based on a very sound principle. The amount of injury a man had suffered had no direct relation to the award made against the employer by whom he was employed at the time of the accident. In my view that was an excellent principle. It was changed for what, speaking entirely for myself, I regard as a worse principle—that little regard should be paid to what the man had lost but that one should merely look to see what he had lost from the doctor's point of view. That is why the whole matter was handed over to medical boards and functional disability was talked about—those long words we are so fond of using to discuss the changes which were made.
Those two systems are quite irreconcilable. I have listened carefully to this debate to see if one could gain an idea of how many of the old cases there are. There cannot be many now, ten years after the Act came into force. One also has to remember that a large number of those cases have been redeemed. That is to say, whether the sufferer wanted it or not, his employer had full power to go to the court and to say to the man, "I am going to give you a lump sum whether you like it or not and there is an end to my liability towards you." With the exception, perhaps, of very doubtful wording in Clause 3, I see no provision at all in this Bill for that type of case. It may well be that persons who have had their claims redeemed would—
§ It being Four o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Friday, 21st March.