HC Deb 22 November 1960 vol 630 cc976-1023

3.41 p.m.

The Chairman

The Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), in page 2, line 5, at the end to add: (4) Allowances or other benefits payable out of the Industrial Injuries Fund under any scheme authorised by the Industrial Diseases (Benefit) Acts, 1951 and 1954, shall be increased by thirty-one and one quarter per cent. is out of order.

Perhaps I should explain that this is a two-purpose Bill. The first purpose is to alter the rates of contributions and benefits, and the second purpose is to amend the law in respect of entitlement to benefit under the National Insurance Act, 1946. I am bound to reject any Amendment which goes beyond the scope of those purposes.

Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)

On a point of order. I am puzzled by the fact that you, Sir Gordon, have ruled the Amendment out of order. I know that we are not expected to question that Ruling, and I am grateful for the explanation which has been given. But, in spite of the explanation, I am still extremely puzzled, for reasons which I hope that you will allow me to give. In 1957, we had a National Insurance (No. 2) Bill, which was not unlike this Bill, and on that occasion a number of us had an Amendment on the Notice Paper very similar to this Amendment. At that time it was accepted as in order, it was moved, many hon. Members spoke to it, and the Minister replied to it. Although the Minister rejected the Amendment, it was not ruled out of order. For that reason I am extremely puzzled when a similar Amendment to a Bill which is almost the same, and which has almost the same purposes, is ruled out of order.

The Chairman

I am obliged to the hon. Lady. Perhaps I can help her. The previous Bill dealt with many more matters than does this Bill. This Bill is far more limited, as I think she will agree if she looks at the Long Title.

Mr. Harold Finch (Bedwellty)

This Amendment seeks to deal with payments under the Industrial Injuries Fund. I do not understand why it has not been accepted for debate, because the Bill deals with benefits under the Industrial Injuries Fund.

The Chairman

To amend the Industrial Diseases (Benefit) Acts is not one of the purposes of the Bill.

Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)

Would you for a moment, Sir Gordon, look at the Long Title of the Bill? It says that the Bill is to amend the rates or amounts of contributions and benefits under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Acts, 1946 to 1959 …. I presume that that includes all the Acts which have been passed since the original Act of 1946, and that under the Long Title any provision in the Acts between those two dates can be discussed and be the subject of amendment.

The Chairman

This Bill refers to contributions and benefits under the Acts, but not to the whole Acts.

Mr. Griffiths

But the Amendment deals with a provision in one of the Acts passed between those two dates. That is why, with respect, I submit that the Amendment is in order in accordance with the Long Title to the Bill.

The Chairman

But it arises from another Act altogether.

Mr. R. E. Prentice (East Ham, North)

The intention of the Bill is set out in the Long Title, and it is to increase the benefits for people who have suffered from industrial accidents or have contracted industrial diseases. The purpose of the Amendment is to increase the benefits to people who have had industrial accidents or who have suffered from industrial diseases but also to cover those who had their accidents or contracted their diseases before 5th July, 1948, instead of after that date. Surely it is in line with the general purposes of the Bill. It seems to me wrong that these people have been excluded from the Bill. We wish to improve the Bill by including these old cases.

The Chairman

That would require another Bill.

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

Further to that point of order. Is it not a fact that these payments are payable out of the Industrial Injuries Fund and that if there were no National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Acts, there would be no Industrial Injuries Fund? In that sense, therefore, they are certainly payments which are payable by virtue of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Acts having been passed. It is true that there are also payments by virtue of other Acts having been passed, but I suggest that there are payments under both sections—under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Acts, since they are payments out of the Industrial Injuries Fund, and no doubt also under other Acts which authorise various payments. Are they not, therefore, payments under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Acts, or at least payments under those Acts and for purposes connected with those and other matters?

The Chairman

I understand that that is not the case.

Miss Herbison

I have again examined the 1957 Act and the Bill before us. The Amendment which was moved to the 1957 Bill dealt with a Clause to which the rubric was, Higher rates, etc., of contributions and benefits under Industrial Injuries Act". The rubric to the Clause which we hope to amend today is, Lower rates of contributions and"— almost the same words as in the 1957 Bill— higher rates or amounts of benefits under Industrial Injuries Act. It seems to me that if it were in order to move that Amendment to the 1957 Bill and to that Clause, it is manifestly in order to move an Amendment to this Clause.

There is also the further point that we are dealing here with industrial injuries, and all the money for payment for industrial injuries, whether under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Acts or under other Acts, comes from the Industrial Injuries Fund. If the Amendment were found to be in order, and money had to be paid as a result of its being accepted, it would come, as in the 1957 Act, from the Industrial Injuries Fund. For this reason, in spite of the explanations which have been given, I am still genuinely puzzled why the Amendment has been ruled out of order.

Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)

Your decision to rule the Amendment out of order, Sir Gordon, puts us in a very awkward position. In the Preamble of the Bill we are told that it is to amend the rates or amounts of contributions and benefits under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Acts, 1946 to 1959.… It goes on to refer to the National Insurance Acts. If that is the objective of the Bill, surely we are entitled to put down an Amendment to the Clause.

If you rule the Amendment out of order, we shall have to accept your Ruling, but it will not go down very well with representatives of industrial workers, and particularly in my constituency, where we have a very high percentage of people suffering from industrial injuries and diseases.

I cannot quite follow your Ruling, Sir Gordon. I object to the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act being amended by the Bill. It ought not to happen. It is manifestly unfair to those who are unfortunately disabled by industrial injuries that we should not have an opportunity of discussing an Amendment to Clause 1.

Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)

Further to that point of order. The Long Title of the Bill reads: To amend the rates or amounts of contributions and benefits under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Acts. As the Bill seeks to amend the original Act, it is proper that the Amendment should be discussed. The money comes from the same source. It is from the Industrial Injuries Fund. Either the Long Title to the Bill is right or wrong. If it is right in its statement of the Bill's intentions, the Amendment is in order.

Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)

Sir Gordon, may I give you further cause for reflection on your Ruling? We want to proceed with the business before us this afternoon, but your Ruling has caused great disappointment to my right hon. and hon. Friends. We were anxious to be able to deal with these benefits under the Bill.

Your Ruling appears to be based on the very narrow point that the benefits dealt with in our Amendment are covered by separate Acts—the Industrial Injuries Act. 1946, and subsequent Industrial Injuries Acts. Is not that too fine a point when, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) said, these benefits are chargeable to the Industrial Injuries Fund? They are dependent upon the contributions and the other benefits payable out of the Industrial Injuries Fund.

It seems strange that we can deal with the main Act, its contributions and benefits, but are debarred from dealing with other subsidiary benefits which have the same claim on the Industrial Injuries Fund as the main benefits dealt with in the Bill.

Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)

Sir Gordon, I am sorry to be tenacious about the point, but you will have gathered from the submissions already made by my hon. Friends that we feel that far too narrow a construction is being placed upon these Amendments. I hazard the guess that that view has been taken because the first Amendment to page 2, line 5 includes these words any scheme authorised by the Industrial Diseases (Benefit) Acts, 1951 and 1954". It has been overlooked, in deciding this issue, that that piece of legislation is subordinate to and an essential part of the industrial injuries legislation which is quoted in the Long Title.

Without those subordinate pieces of legislation it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to administer all the changes which have taken place since. I earnestly submit to you, Sir Gordon, that if we are to be estopped on an issue like this—you are obviously within your rights to rule that Amendments are out of order—it strangles our capacity, ability and right to raise issues which we regard as important. Those of us representing industrial constituencies have to deal with the wreckage of industry. We feel very strongly that we should be given the opportunity to raise these issues for a section of disabled persons who will not be properly considered in the debate today.

I appeal to you, Sir Gordon, to give further thought to this, even if we now proceed to discuss Amendments which are in order. This Amendment ought not to be arbitrarily ruled out of order. Perhaps you will agree to take further counsel on this matter so that the Amendment can be discussed at a later stage.

Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

Further to that point of order, Sir Gordon. We cannot discuss whether your construction of the Amendment be narrow or broad, but I want to bring your mind back to the submission made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison). She put to you what, in my submission, is an actual precedent in regard to the 1957 Act and the Amendment suggested to it. My hon. Friend submitted—I support her in this—that that was an actual precedent with regard, first, to a Bill which was before the Committee and, secondly, an Amendment which was sought to be made to it. The Amendment was allowed on that occasion. There is no difference in principle between the two. I therefore submit that that is an actual precedent which should govern you on this occasion. I ask you to allow the Amendment to be discussed.

Further, is it right that in a matter of principle of this kind, affecting so many poor people, discussion of an Amendment should be barred on a technicality? That is what it amounts to. I ask you, Sir Gordon, to look at this in a broad way and allow the Amendment to be discussed.

The Chairman

I am sorry that my decision has caused disappointment to some hon. Members. I very much regret that that should be so. I have listened with great care to the points which have been made to me, but the matter is wholly dependent on the scope of the Bill. The 1957 Act was an omnibus Act and quite different from this Bill, which is a two-purpose Bill. It is well recognised that new matters cannot be introduced into a two-purpose Bill. The same rule has always been applied in the past, and I am bound to accept that Ruling.

I have taken the best advice I can on this matter and I am acting in accordance with that advice. Therefore, my decision must stand.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Of course, we accept your Ruling, Sir Gordon, but may I ask you to consider one proposition between now and the remaining stages of the Bill? The First Schedule proposes to reduce contributions to the Industrial Injuries Fund. If the Committee felt it desirable to put back the penny which is taken off and ensure that it is used in part for the purposes covered by the first Amendment, would you, between now and the remaining stages of the Bill, consider admitting an Amendment to increase the contribution by one penny, in other words, to restore the contribution to its present level and use that money for the purposes enumerated in the first and other Amendments, all of which come from the Industrial Injuries Fund?

The Chairman

Of course, I shall consider any Amendment which is tabled.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.

Miss Herbison

I oppose the Clause, because it does not go far enough to deal with all those who are affected by industrial injury or industrial disease. That view is shared by many of my hon. Friends. The benefits for those who are covered by the Clause will be increased. Industrial injury benefit and 100 per cent. assessment for disablement benefit are being increased from 85s. in both instances to 97s. 6d. in both instances.

We welcome that increase, but we want to deal with the people that the Clause will not help at all. It is because there are so many who will not be helped by the Clause that I oppose it. As I oppose it, and am ready to take the matter to a Division, I feel that I must give reasons for my strong opposition to it.

4.0 p.m.

I want to compare the position of people getting the 97s. 6d. with that of those who will not benefit at all under the Clause. If we take the old compensation cases, and what were termed the time-barred pneumoconiotic cases, we find that by the 1956 Act those who were 100 per cent. disabled had the amount increased from £2 to £2 17s. 6d.

At that time, the Minister gave very sound reasons for that increase. He said: 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 Acts. That was said by the present Minister himself. He went on: As time has gone on, the amounts payable under the one scheme, certainly in cases of total incapacity, have diverged substantially from the other. There has been felt to be, therefore—I think that the feeling has been pretty general—some considerable element of hardship, at any rate in the case of certain of these old workmen's compensation cases, because the payment these men receive is now out of line with what would have been received by a man similarly injured since the Industrial Injuries Act came into effect."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th May, 1956 Vol. 552, c. 1912.] I could not put the case better than the Minister put it in 1956.

The purpose of that Measure was to raise the amount received by those old workmen's compensation cases and the time-barred pneumoconiotic cases to the same level as the industrial injury cases. When the 1957 Measure came before the House we sought so to amend it as to ensure that, no matter when the disablement took place, there would be no difference in the treatment of the 100 per cent. disabled. The Minister's answer then was to the effect, "After all, in 1956—only a year ago—we raised these people's benefits, and in 1957 we feel that it is far too early to do anything about it."

We are now in 1960, and I understand that these provisions will not operate until 1961. Five years have elapsed. Has £2 17s. 6d. the same value today as it had then, or will it have the same value in 1961 as it had in 1956? The Minister knows that it has not, and that it will not. It is because there have been increases in the cost of living that on a number of occasions National Insurance and industrial injuries benefits have been increased, and we feel that it is most unjust that those people, who are now already in receipt of much less than their friends who benefit under the industrial injuries legislation, should, on the passing of this Measure, have the gap made even wider.

Those of us who represent heavy industrial areas, and particularly those who represent mining areas, have these injustices brought to their notice every week. Not a week passes but a miner calls on me on the subject. They just cannot understand any Government deciding that those who have a bigger benefit should have it increased, but that there should be a standstill for those with the smaller benefit. I can understand that feeling of injustice, and it is because I understand it that I am ready to vote against the Clause. I can then register the very strong feeling of injustice felt by those men and their families in my constituency, and in every constituency where there is heavy industry.

That deals with those 100 per cent. disabled but, in 1954, an Act was passed for the time-barred pneumoconiotics, giving those who were partially disabled a flat-rate increase of £1 a week. That was in 1954—not a penny of an increase has been given to the partially disabled since then.

Who are those partially-disabled pneumoconiotics? Almost all of them are men who, as a result of suffering from this disease, are now unable to work. Very few of them are in a job. Even if they were able to work, the majority of them are in areas where work is not available for them. In addition, the taking away of Section 62 of the National Insurance Act means that many of them have lost unemployment benefit. The men for whom I am talking, and for whom I hope some of my hon Friends will talk, have been hit in every way. They got £1 in 1954 but, in 1960, the Government come forward with [...] Bill that will begin to operate only in 1961 yet yields not a penny of increase over that £1.

The Government's decision to keep these men out of the Bill is one of the meanest I have ever come across. I know that some of my hon. Friends have very great knowledge of the working of the old Workmen's Compensation Acts, and I hope that they will deal with this position in the strongest possible terms. I hope that they will tell the Government that their decision has left a class of men, severely injured either by disease or accident, to live on a pittance of a weekly allowance—and what the Government themselves must feel is a weekly pittance.

The Chairman

I am very reluctant to interrupt the hon. Lady, but I think that I should remind her that the present debate is on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill" and that she is ranging rather wide of that Question.

Miss Herbison

I have finished what I had intended to say, Sir Gordon, but, as I have every intention of voting against the Clause, surely it was in order for me to give my reasons for voting against it.

The Chairman

It must be related to the Question before the Committee.

Mr. J. Griffiths

What we are considering in this Clause, Sir Gordon, is the Minister's proposal, for the first time since a National Insurance Act came into operation, that the contribution should be reduced. Is it not in order for hon. Members—I hope at some point to catch your eye myself—to argue that this reduction should not take place because there are existing difficulties and hardships that could be met if this contribution was kept at its present level? We could say that there is so much that could be done with the extra penny, and we could reject the proposal to reduce the contribution and put it at the present amount. Surely, it is open for us to argue that.

The Chairman

The right hon. Gentleman is, of course, entitled to advance reasons against lower contributions.

Mr. T. Brown

As we thought, the difficulty now confronting the Committee as a result of the rejection of our Amendment is becoming intensified, and it is extremely difficult for those with long experience in dealing with men who have been overtaken by industrial injury and disease to contain themselves. I have argued before that when we are improving the conditions which govern this class of case we should not leave any men by the wayside. This Clause leaves a large number of incapacitated men there. It gives them nothing at all.

I know that the right hon. Lady the Joint Parliamentary Secretary has tried to make out that the Government are treating those men very handsomely, but she overlooked the large number of them who are not dealt with at all. It is all very well for the Government to tell us that these men can claim constant medical attention, hardship allowance and the like, but that does not compensate them. I live in a mining area, and I see these men every week. The Government boasts that they are treating these men generously, but it is an idle boast.

We are now nearing the end of 1960. I have kept a record of Press reports and have found that, without exception, not a week has passed when there have not been three, four or five men—as my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) will confirm—who have died from pneumoconiosis. The Government claim that they are dealing generously with these people. Had our Amendment been accepted we could have commented on that but, at the moment, we are confined to Clause 1.

Let us see how much fairness and equity there is in the Government's present attitude. How much do the Government pay towards this fund from which we are asking that the benefits and compensation paid to these unfortunate men shall be increased? They pay onefifth—that is all. The other four-fifths are paid by the employers and the workmen. Therefore, on the basis of equity and fair play alone, the Government are not entitled to act in this way.

Many of my hon. Friends, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), know something of the old compensation laws and of how unfairly they operated. When men have sustained accidents in the pit and have been incapacitated for months or even years, one looks rounds to see how their lot can be improved. That is what we now seek to do, but the Clause as it stands does not help us in that direction.

I would respectfully draw attention to the rubric to the Clause, which reads: "Lower rates of contributions and higher rates or amounts of benefits under Industrial Injuries Act." The trouble is that we have not had any opportunity to do that. Why? It is because someone, somewhere—and I do not blame you, Sir Gordon, at all—has said that the Amendment must not be accepted.

From time to time, when this matter of totally incapacitated men has been discussed here, I have invited the Ministry to send some of its members into the mining districts to see how these men live. The Minister may seek to refute that statement, but his Department has been so invited. If any official of the Ministry were to go to a mining area such as the one I represent he would see these men, and would learn how others like them had died painful deaths.

I was talking to a man this weekend who had not been in bed for nine months. He cannot sleep lying down and at night he has to sit up in a chair. Do the Government mean to tell me that they are playing fair by this man? Have they any human feelings towards these men? He is only one of many cases that I could quote. When we live among these men, listen to their stories and are aware of the anxiety through which they pass, and see the distressing circumstances under which they and their families live, surely we are not asking too much when we ask that at least some consideration should be given to them to make life a little easier for them.

If we could have retained the contribution paid to the Industrial Injuries Fund we should have been able to do something for them. But that ground has been cut from under our feet. The mining fraternity—I know that there are many other industries interested in this—has played its part, and played it well, in trying to secure some alleviation of the suffering, unhappiness and distress which these men experience. We ask the Government to have another look at this Clause and enable us to bring to these men at least a degree of comfort which has hitherto been denied to them by previous Governments.

I repeat that true statesmanship and true social reform can never be accomplished if we leave by the wayside any unfortunate person who has given years of his life to industry and the nation.

4.15 p.m.

Mr. Prentice

The point that we are making from this side of the Committee can, I think, be boiled down to one simple proposition. It is that people who were injured before 5th July, 1948, should not be treated any worse than those who were injured after that date, and that those who contracted industrial disease before 5th July, 1948, should not be treated worse than those who contracted industrial disease after that date.

Our objection to the Clause as it stands is that it actually widens the gap between those covered by the Industrial Injuries Act and those later casualties of industry who, we think, should be helped by this Measure. For some years there has been a gap between them, and the Clause which we are now discussing widens the gap instead of narrowing it.

I should like to ask the Government to consider the point that those who were injured a long time ago were injured under conditions very often much worse than those obtaining in industry at the present time. Safety precautions were less and the risks were greater. The prosperity which the country now enjoys, despite the economic policy of the Government, has been built upon the hard work and sacrifices of those who have been in industry in the past. Part of the cost of that has been the large number of industrial accidents and the incidence of industrial diseases which have been suffered by previous generations of working people. We should like the Clause to help these older people, many of whom are getting very old. Indeed, their numbers are getting less, and these people are being left farther and further behind.

I want to make a special point about pneumoconiosis cases. Pneumoconiosis is a very distressing disease, one which tends to get worse as the sufferers from it get older. Therefore, the older pneumoconiosis cases are, on average, suffering more than the newer cases which are helped under the present legislation. For a very long time, many of these cases have had no compensation at all. There is the old artificial five-year rule under which no one could be compensated if he had not worked in industry within a period of five years. It was not until 1951 that anything was done to bring some of these cases within the scope of compensation. Consequently, we are talking about people many of whom had no compensation in respect of this very serious disease for many years.

I should like to know how the Government can justify a different treatment for industrial casualties compared with war casualties. When war pensions are increased, we do not say that we will increase them far those injured in the 1939–45 war but leave out those injured in the 1914–18 war. That would be quite unacceptable. We treat the older war casualty in the same way as we treat the newer war casualty. Industrial injuries benefits are on the same scale as war pensions. For instance, the 100 per cent. disability pension is the same in both schemes. Therefore, why, in this context, should the older industrial casualties be left out? Perhaps it is because they have no very powerful pressure group behind them.

If the older war pensioners were to be left out, the British Legion and all its branches throughout the country would create such an uproar that the Government would never dare to do it. We are now speaking about a fairly small number of people who have not got a large organisation behind them. They could be helped if the Clause were taken back by the Government and a small Amendment written into it.

The only reason the Government have given in the past for not doing this is that it would be some sort of breach of the insurance principle. They say that the 1946 Act introduced an Industrial Injuries Scheme, that the older casualties were not insured under that scheme and, therefore, that they cannot be expected to be treated in this way. I would ask the Government to consider a number of points in relation to this.

First, the insurance principle has already been breached. Since the supplementation Act was passed and payments were made out of the Industrial Injuries Fund to the older casualties of industry, the insurance principle has already been breached. All we are asking now is that the logical step should be taken of increasing that supplement at the same time as the main benefits under the Act are increased.

Secondly, all those who contribute to the Industrial Injuries Fund—the mass of our working people, and also the employers—would not object to this small payment being made from the Fund to bring the older cases in. I feel that they would regard it—as I and my hon. Friend do—as being particularly mean of the Government not to include these cases as a matter of course.

Thirdly, I urge the Government to realise that the cost of meeting what we are suggesting would be very small. The numbers involved are small. According to the Ministry's Report for last year, the figures for October, 1959, showed that the number of people under the pneumoconiosis and byssinosis benefits scheme who were totally disabled and getting grants accordingly was 2,270, and the partially disabled 6,269. There were just over 2,000 receiving workmen's compensation supplements under the 1951 scheme, and under the 1956 scheme about 7,000. That is a total of just over 17,000, and the number is getting smaller every year. In fact, the real total is probably less than 17,000, because some people who are covered by the pneumoconiosis scheme are also getting a supplement.

The Industrial Injuries Fund is in a healthy condition, so healthy that the Clause proposes to reduce the contributions to it. What we propose could easily be afforded. A new principle is not involved. The Government's failure to do something about this seems to be absolutely indefensible. We ask the Government either to give a new and convincing reason to the Committee for not doing so, or to take the Clause back and ascertain what they can do to bring the old cases into line so that they are treated as well as the newer cases are.

Mr. J. T. Price

I strongly support the arguments which have already been put forward in this short debate. I shall restrict my remarks to purely practical aspects of the proposition and not cloud them with the emotionalism which we could all bring to bear on these questions if we were so minded. To a large extent they are emotional questions with which we are dealing—seriously disabled people who have suffered over a long period.

There are one or two practical points which I should like the Minister to consider when the matter is being taken further. The old industrial injury and industrial disease cases, the pneumoconiosis and byssinosis casualties going back before the 1946 Act, were dealt with under old legislation which is not clearly linked with the present Industrial Injuries Act. I am willing to concede that, but who in his right senses would maintain the argument that people who have been extremely and especially unfortunate in their industrial experience should be excluded from all the benefits of the rising prosperity of the nation?

If we are inclined to employ in all its harshness the principle of strict insurance, and nothing but insurance, we should exclude about nine-tenths of the old-age pensioners to whom we are proposing to give a long overdue benefit and a bonus in a few months' time, because they are not covered by the old insurance schemes. As to the disparity which I wish to pinpoint in this connection, the longstanding cases from before the 1946 Act to which I have referred—the Workmen's Compensation Act cases—are also gravely at a disadvantage in other respects. If these conditions had been sustained under the present Industrial Injuries Act, a totally disabled man could have claimed not only his full, amended benefit but also an unemployability supplement, a constant attendance allowance and all the additional benefits which are available to the 100 per cent. disabled man under our present legislation.

I submit that when we are trying to consider this matter in perspective we have here a relatively small segment of insured people, many of them in middle life and likely never again to work, who have been placed constantly in an inferior category in which, as citizens of the realm, they ought not to be placed. Without wishing to be disrespectful to the right hon. Gentleman, I strongly maintain that the Minister, who has accepted professional advice on these matters, has been quite wrong in agreeing that 2d. of the contributions should be abated because, apparently, all the contributors in the country have been overcharged 2d. in respect of the benefits which they might receive.

If we have here a group of people who ought to be enjoying the higher benefits from State insurance, the 2d. ought, if necessary, to be applied to the benefit and welfare of those people. I can give an assurance on behalf of the people whom I represent in my part of Lancashire, and certainly on behalf of many trade unionists and societies with which I am connected, that they would not quibble about the 2d. being retained and so applied.

Adam Smith once said that an old tax is no tax at all. If a person is used to paying something, the mere taking off of a penny or twopence is not noticed. However, I give the Minister an assurance that if he begins to put on 1s. 7d. a week for those people who contract out next April, he will bear about that. That is something which I should be out of order if I discussed now. However, I make the point that the 2d. is already in payment and that if it remained in payment the margin of income, which is estimated by the Government Actuary to be about £7 million a year, would be amply sufficient to do the ambulance work that we are suggesting Should be agreed under Clause 1.

I hope that I have not exaggerated anything. The suggestions which have been made from the Opposition benches this afternoon have real substance. They have been made on behalf of a very deserving section of the people who are suffering grave hardship and who, if the Bill is carried through, will be relegated to a position of inferior citizenship, a position which we think ought not to be entertained or supported by hon. Members, as the representatives, as we claim to be, of the people.

4.30 p.m.

Mr. Bernard Taylor (Mansfield)

There is genuine and sincere disappointment on this side of the Committee that special classes of disabled workmen are left out of the proposals to increase industrial injury benefits. Those classes include the time-barred pneumoconiotic cases. My hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) has spoken about those, and I will not repeat what he said. The others include not only post-1924, but pre-1924 totally disabled workmen's compensation cases. That is a very small class, 17,000 in all.

When hon. Members go to their constituencies, they will be asked how in justice it can be explained that some workmen should receive greater benefit than others who have been similarly injured. As an act of humanity, those 17,000 people, many of them now getting old, should be included. I understand that there are about 2,000 pre-1924 cases and for them weekly compensation payment is 50s. There is no need even to increase contributions to deal with those cases as we ask, because the amount of money involved is "chips in broth" and yet the comfort which would be brought to many of those people is of inestimable value.

The Minister cannot argue that the Fund cannot stand the cost, for in the twelve years since the inception of the Industrial Injuries Scheme, the Fund has risen to £205 million, and yet here we are discussing the sad cases of those who are denied even the ordinary benefits received by the post-1924 cases. I appeal to the Minister, in the interests of justice and humanity, to introduce an Amendment to include all those cases and, at any rate, to give them a rise in benefit similar to that which the post-1948 cases are to have.

Mr. Finch

I am disturbed about the Clause and I hope that the Minister will assure us that he will try to rectify what will prove to be a seriously anomalous position for the industrially disabled. Without an Amendment such as we seek, there will be three or four classes of payment for men suffering from the same sort of disease. One man suffering from pneumoconiosis will get £3 7s. 6d. a week while another similarly disabled will get 97s. 6d. a week, a difference of 30s. It is outrageous that one should get 30s. a week less than another with the same disability and such an anomaly will create serious discontent in the coalfields.

It would have been better to have maintained the contributions than to have left men with as little as £3 7s. 6d. a week, especially bearing in mind the cost of living and the general change in circumstances. The right hon. Gentleman cannot justify allowing disabled men only £3 7s. 6d. a week. Among the partially disabled pneumoconiosis cases there will be three or four classes, some getting £1 a week, others getting two-thirds of the difference and some even getting nothing. That is the result of having a variety of payments under different pieces of legislation.

I had hoped that the Government would co-ordinate the different payments which are creating so much unnecessary trouble and difficulty. The cost could be met from the Industrial Injuries Fund and there need not have been all this trouble and antagonism. Why should one man be paid less than another with the same disease? Can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that before we part with the Bill those anomalies will be rectified, so that men who are suffering from similar disabilities shall not receive a wide variety of payments?

Mr. Morris

I am opposed to the Clause as it stands, because I oppose the lowering of contributions at this vital time when so many different classes are suffering hardship to varying degrees. One of the terrible features of the Clause is that it will add to the injustice. Those of us who represent mining and steel constituencies, or other heavy industries areas where men are injured every day in the performance of their task—that is the price which they have to pay to the industry in which they work—will have to explain to men who come to our "surgeries" why one man is paid less than the man who lives next door to him even though both are similarly disabled. It is the weakness of the Clause that it adds to the number of classes and to the differences.

While I welcome the increases, I think that they are not enough. The cost of living has risen and some areas are experiencing prosperity for the first time for many years. In my constituency, wages generally in the steel industry are higher than in many other parts of the country, but men who have been injured see everyone else prospering while they themselves sink lower and lower in the scale.

The partially disabled pneumoconiosis cases have given their best to the industry in which they have worked all their working lives. In the old days, especially, they got no compensation and now they get some, but the Clause will make their position relatively worse. In the valleys of my constituency there is no employment for the partially disabled and nowhere else for them to go. That is especially the case when a pit is closed, because some partially disabled have enjoyed sheltered employment in existing pits but have found no provision for them when their pits have been closed. They are now unable to do any work and the Clause will make the differences worse than they were.

The Clause creates different types of citizenship. There will be first-class injured people, second-class injured people and third-class injured people, each drawing compensation at different rates. Paraplegics are the most tragic cases in mining and industry generally. They have paid almost the ultimate price—and what may be even worse than the ultimate price when one thinks of the inconveniences in their lives and their inability to do anything for themselves. We are told that we are living in an era when prosperity generally is increasing, in some area more than in others, and yet the Clause penalises the people I have mentioned.

Mr. E. H. C. Leather (Somerset, North)

I should like to reinforce the pleas to my right hon. Friend which we have heard. I represent a mining constituency, and I have had something to do with compensation for pneumoconiosis and partial pneumoconiosis cases for quite a long time. In particular, I take the point made by the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) about the numerous categories which there are. There are too many different grades and categories. If I understand the Clause correctly, it will create more categories and more anomalies and difficulties.

My right hon. Friend may have an answer to the point which has been raised, but I do not know what it is. I hope that he will say that he will look at this matter again, because if there is one thing in a small mining village, above all else, which creates bitterness and social friction it is a sense of injustice. It may be based on a misunderstanding, but these are complex matters and every miner cannot take part in our debates. It is difficult for us to explain every detail to them. It is difficult to explain to people living side by side why one person should get one rate, one another rate, and someone else yet a third rate. Without having regard to the cost of benefits, there is a strong case for trying to make these things as simple as possible and the benefits as uniform as possible.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will give this point his most earnest consideration.

Mr. J. Griffiths

We are discussing the very sad cases brought before the Committee by hon. Members on both sides which arise from the fact that the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act established payment for people injured in industry upon an entirely new basis. If we had not departed from the old principle, this difficulty would not have arisen.

In 1946, the House unanimously passed the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, which came into operation in 1948. Under that Measure, instead of compensation being based on the basic principle of loss of earnings, an Industrial Injuries Scheme was set up based on the basic principle of loss of faculty, together with other supplementary provisions. In the two years between the passing of the Act in 1946 and its coming into operation in 1948, I gave a good deal of time and thought to the possibility of bridging what I could see would turn out to be a very difficult gap which would give rise to no end of anomalies.

With the aid of the skilled advice which was available to me, and which is now available to my successors, I tried to find out whether it would be possible to make an arrangement under which the Ministry would accept responsibility from the new Fund for all the old cases under the Workmen's Compensation Acts. It was very difficult for us to make sound estimates and to be able to say that we were absolutely certain how the scheme would work out, and I was anxious not to overburden the new Fund. That was my problem. I wanted, if possible, to arrive at a settlement between the Ministry, which was to be responsible for the new Act and the administering of the Fund under it, and the employers, who were responsible under the old Workmen's Compensation Acts, or the mutual societies and insurance companies which acted for them.

There were negotiations, but, unfortunately, they failed. I did not feel that the Fund should shoulder the burden which belonged to the employers. From the beginning we made provision by which some of the benefits under the new scheme could be made applicable to old cases. It is very difficult to translate a benefit based on loss of earnings into a benefit based on loss of faculty All that I can say for myself, as one who was Minister at the time, and for those associated with me in the Department, is that we tried to do our best, but we failed.

4.45 p.m.

Now, twelve years after the passing of the 1948 Act, there are under 17,000 people left for whose provision we have to fall back on old Acts, or Acts passed since 1946. I do not propose to discuss those Acts, because an Amendment which would have dealt with them has been ruled out of order. I think that it is time that we ended this transition stage. As I said, there are less than 17,000 old cases which fall outside the provisions of the 1948 Act. Cannot we settle this matter once and for all? The cases get fewer every year.

I agree with hon. Members who have said that it is extraordinarily difficult for people living in the closed community of a mining village to understand these different rates. I have had a job to explain them in my own constituency. People have said to me, "We have the same disability," or, "We have the same disease. It is only a matter of date, and it is time that you cleared it up".

As I said in an earlier intervention, by subsection (1) of the Clause we are reducing the contribution. I am very sorry that the Minister is reducing the contribution. I think that it is a mistaken policy. I rejoice in the fact that the Fund is so well off and that there is such a substantial surplus in it. I should like there to be an investigation into why the Fund is better off than we thought it would be. I have some ideas about the reason for this. What has disturbed me from the beginning is this. I am convinced that the assessments are on too low a scale. We have never had a full review of the assessments. We have not had any experience of using this method of assessing loss of faculty except in the case of war pensions. With every respect to that class of pensioner, I say that the range of injuries sustained during war time is much narrower than the range of injuries and diseases sustained in industry.

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

Mr. Griffiths

I am sure that it is. It is simple to fix an assessment for the loss of a finger, an arm or an eye, but it is a very different matter to make an assessment in respect of the injuries which are sustained in the pits and on the railways, and so on.

The Fund is now in clover, with a surplus of £200 or £300 million. I should have preferred to see the increase in contributions used for the purpose of reviewing the whole of the benefits and, in particular, for clearing up these old cases. After twelve years we should be able to do it. Apart from whether we should allow the Minister to have the Bill by which the contribution will be reduced by 2d. in respect of industrial injuries, I am sure that the Minister, with his advisers and advisory committee, can find ways and means by which we could provide for these 17,000 people an increase in benefit at least equivalent to that given to everyone else. Do not let us make the gap wider, which is what will happen if the Bill goes through in its present form.

I hope that now, twelve years after the 1948 Act, when it is proposed for the first time to reduce contributions and with a substantial sum in hand, the Minister will promise that, if a new Bill is necessary, he will consult the T.U.C. and the British Employers' Confederation. The Industrial Injuries Act has not been too bad a thing for some of the employers. For the National Coal Board the liability is much less now than it would have been if the old Workmen's Compensation Act had been retained.

For these reasons we ought now to be able to satisfy the legitimate grievances of these old people who were unlucky enough to be injured before 5th July, 1948. I add my plea to those made by my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite that the Minister should think about this matter again and provide, either in the Bill or shortly afterwards in a later Measure, some ways and means by which we can remove this deeply felt grievance among what is now only a very small number of men.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. Bernard Braine)

It might be for the convenience of the Committee if I intervened now. In doing so, I want to say that I recognise the wealth of experience which has informed the speeches of hon. Members, including the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison), on a subject of this kind. My right hon. Friend and I fully understand the sincerity of their desire to help our fellow citizens who were injured in the service of industry. I have been at the Ministry only for a short time, but I have already learned something of the complexity of the matters that we are now discussing and shall probably be discussing for the next three days. I hope that the Committee will bear with me if I approach these matters with some degree of caution, and will excuse a little nervousness on my part.

There was no intention on the part of my right hon. Friend or myself to shy away from the important questions which the hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North and others sought to raise this afternoon, although I would point out that the Committee has had many opportunities over the years to discuss problems which arise out of the differences between those who were injured industrially before 5th July, 1948, and who were covered by the old Workmen's Compensation Acts: those injured after that date, who were within the scope of the Industrial Injuries Scheme, and those who were, unfortunately, covered neither by one provision nor the other, for whom we had to make special provision.

It might be helpful if I made some brief reference to these differences. Under the Workmen's Compensation Acts an injured workman claimed compensation from his employer, and that compensation depended upon the loss of his earning capacity. In the last resort disagreements had to be settled by the courts. As was pointed out quite rightly by the hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North and the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown), the Industrial Injuries Acts, on the other hand, provided benefit under a State insurance scheme. Benefit for a long-term disablement depends primarily upon a medical assessment of loss of faculty, and claims are decided by independent statutory authorities. We all agree that this is an enormous improvement upon the old scheme. Even when the original Industrial Injuries Bill was under discussion the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths)—who has enormous experience in this matter—reminded us that thought was given to the possibility of bringing the old cases within the new scheme.

The hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) asked why a distinction was drawn between, on the one hand, war pensioners of both World Wars, who were covered by similar provisions and, on the other hand, the old workmen's compensation cases and the industrial injuries people. The answer is that the war pensioners in both wars were compensated on the basis of loss of faculty. It was not difficult in that respect to get a co-ordinated scheme. The question of bridging the difference between the old workmen's compensation cases and those who were excluded from it and from the Industrial Injuries Scheme has been re-examined on several occasions since the right hon. Member for Llanelly spoke about it, but because of the fundamentally different nature of the two schemes—one being based on a loss of earnings and the other on a loss of faculty—their assimilation has always been rejected as impractical.

Mr. Prentice

I appreciate the complications of trying to assimilate one scheme with another, but in 1956, in a supplementary scheme, the attempt was made. A supplement of 17s. 6d. was fixed to bring the old cases into line with the new ones, as far as possible. Part of our case is that nothing has been done since 1956 to bring the position up to date. A further increase is now to be given to the new cases, and this will widen the gap. Why cannot the formula of 1956 be applied and a further supplement be granted?

Mr. Braine

I was proposing to come to that question, which I know is very much in the minds of hon. Members opposite.

But I want to get to the hard core of the problem which is concerning the hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North and the hon. Member for Ince most of all, namely, the third category of men who were not covered by either main scheme that is to say, those who had contracted pneumoconiosis or byssinosis, or one of the few other malignant diseases arising out of certain kinds of employment which they had left before 5th July, 1948, who were debarred from compensation because of the time limits within which claims had to be made under the Workmen's Compensation Acts. I am advised that the overwhelming majority of these unfortunate men were pneumoconiosis cases. Some were disqualified because they had last worked in an occupation in respect of which a disease was ultimately prescribed, but had not been prescribed when they worked in it. Others were time-barred because they had not made their claims within the time laid down, which I believe was a period of five years after leaving the prescribed occupation.

My right hon. Friend and I fully understand that the exclusion of these men, both from compensation under the old scheme and benefits derived from the Industrial Injuries Scheme, was particularly hard. The dividing line between the two schemes was so drawn that if a man had no further employment in the relevant prescribed occupation after 5th July, 1948, and had not claimed or qualified for any compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Acts, he could not qualify for benefits under the Industrial Injuries Acts. This undoubtedly gave rise to a feeling of unfairness and inequity in the minds of the people concerned and those who have spoken so eloquently for them in the House over the years.

This is precisely the reason why the Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Benefit Act of 1951, and the scheme made under it in February, 1952, were enacted. They provided benefit in respect of death or total disablement from either of these diseases for persons who were time-barred from workmen's compensation. This is why the Industrial Diseases Benefit Act, which followed in1954, was enacted. It extended the provisions of the 1951 Act to certain other malignant diseases and provided benefit for the partially disabled.

5.0 p.m.

The purpose of those Acts and the schemes made under them was to fill the gap in the workmen's compensation provisions. That is the reason why the personal allowance for the totally disabled is the same as the maximum rate of workmen's compensation for a single man, 40s., although I concede the point that provision for wives or children is on the insurance scheme basis in preference to that of the Workmen's Compensation Scheme. I believe that the 20s. rate for the partially disabled was selected for simplicity, and was a concession at the expense of the Industrial Injuries Fund, for men who were entitled to nothing at all under the 1951 Act which did not apply to their circumstances.

Clearly, it would be impossible to bring those categories of men, whose entitlement to benefit rests on events and circumstances which occurred before 5th July, 1948, before the industrial injuries scheme came into existence, into the scheme now, without opening up the whole question of workmen's compensation cases. This is the point which I want to make with all the emphasis at my command—that however much it excites our sympathy on both sides of the Committee, and my right hon. Friend's, too, it is not a matter which is within the scope and purpose of this Bill.

Mr. J. T. Price

Let me remind the hon. Gentleman while he is still continuing to do his homework and showing such results in doing it, that we are indeed dealing with a class of pre-1948 cases for whom indemnity was given through a large number of insurance offices many of which redeemed the indemnities by lump sum payments and many of which did not. Therefore, the old liability, apart from supplement, still rests where it originally rested, that is, upon the insurance companies or indemnity companies issuing the policies for the employers before the date of the Act. I would remind the hon. Gentleman that every year, according to my understanding of the law, insurance companies, tariff offices and non-tariff offices, and all the people who transact this business—the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) will know what I am speaking about—have got to make returns to the Board of Trade. Every year they have to make returns showing the amount of reserve capital they have placed in their accounts in respect of outstanding liabilities which have not been redeemed under the old Workmen's Compensation Act. I have never been impressed by the argument from the Government benches that the Government have difficulty in estimating what the liability is. They have only to look at the Board of Trade returns, and to that section under which every one of the companies has got to make a return. I am sorry to have gone on so long, but I wanted to remind the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Braine

I do not think the hon. Gentleman need apologise at all because he has illustrated the extreme complexity of this problem. He has illustrated the very problem which, if any problem ever did really baffle him, baffled the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly, or helped to baffle him, in 1946. If I followed the hon. Gentleman down the tortuous path he has opened up on this subject, I think, Sir James, you would very quickly rule me out of order. But I know what is at the back of the mind of the hon. Gentleman, because in an earlier speech he used the word "exclude", I think, when referring to the old cases; he implied that they were excluded from the social provisions of our modern Welfare State. I think I know that hon. Gentlemen opposite do not really mean to imply this. If one had no knowledge of the subject whatsoever and listened to them very carefully, one would get the impression that these people had been completely left out in the cold. That, of course, is just not true.

First of all, let me repeat that it does not mean that nothing at all can be done for these men. It was precisely to meet the possibility of hardship being caused to the totally disabled that the Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Scheme was introduced in 1952 and that was the reason why my right hon. Friend introduced his 17s. 6d. supplement under the Workmen's Compensation and Benefit (Supplementation) Act, 1956. I think that my right hon. Friend put the matter perfectly clearly at that time on Second Reading of the Bill, when he said that 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. 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.] I suggest that in 1956 there was a point of justice. It was necessary to introduce a supplement in order to relieve a condition of hardship, but the old cases today are not a segregated group of people for whom modern schemes do nothing. Those who are sick or out of work or retired—and, of course, a very large proportion of them will be elderly and retired, and these are the people with whom, obviously, one must have the most sympathy—will benefit from the very substantial advances made in this Bill.

An advantage to those injured before 1948 is that it helps them now when they are ill. It helps those who commuted their compensation—which is the point the hon. Gentleman made—or who were unable to secure it owing to the bankruptcy of their employers or some other reason, two features of the old scheme which, I think, everyone who has studied this matter deplores. For certain categories of old case where there is hardship special help has been given out of the Industrial Injuries Fund, for example, those in need of constant attendance, or those who are unemployable. Most of the totally disabled and many of the partially disabled will receive higher retirement pensions which are to come next year or higher sickness benefit or, it may be, higher unemployability supplement in addition to the personal allowance they receive under the relevant benefit scheme.

Miss Herbison

The hon. Gentleman is pointing out the benefits in other insurance matters which will come to these people, but does he not realise that those very same benefits which he is outlining will go to those who are getting their industrial injuries disability pension under the Industrial Injuries Act? What we on this side of the Committee are concerned about is the injustice which we find to those who are under the Acts of 1951 and 1954 particularly.

Mr. Braine

With great respect, I think the hon. Lady is getting away from the hardship point. Those who derive benefit under the Industrial Injuries Act are doing so in the main from a fund to which contributions have been paid. The fact that some people are in the insurance scheme and some people are outside it does not in itself give rise to hardship. I have tried to illustrate to the Committee that a great deal is being done and a great deal more will be done under this Bill for the category of person the hon. Lady has in mind.

Let me say at once that I concede—I think we all concede—that it may seem very hard that there should be these distinctions between those who were injured before 1948 and covered by the work men's compensation scheme and those injured after 1948 and covered by the Industrial Injuries Scheme and those covered by neither the one nor the other but for whom we have made special provision in the way I have described. However, appearances are deceptive, and I say again that, however sympathetic we may feel, I am absolutely certain that the proper approach is not to upset the present balance of what is and what must surely remain an insurance scheme. I feel that it is quite wrong to put upon an insurance fund any charge for meeting provisions which the fund was not designed to bear.

I concede at once the point which was made earlier in the debate that this principle has been breached. I accept that.

Mr. T. Brown

The hon. Gentleman does not.

Mr. Braine

It was breached by the setting up of the Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Benefit Scheme I mentioned. It was breached by the workmen's compensation supplement. But once again I emphasise that the reason for that, given at the time—and nobody denies this—was the special condition that the provisions were to meet hardship, and the Fund at that time was sufficient to bear the burden. I think, quite frankly, that to go further down this road would be wrong in principle. In any case, in my view, it is not possible to deal with this matter in a Bill of this nature which is a rates Measure.

Mr. J. Griffiths

I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman said and thank him for his personal references to me. He raised a point which he said had baffled me. At least it was a point which I had had to consider. The point was that the Fund should not have to take the burden that belonged to the employers. These old cases are the employers' liability and the employers are being given a 1d. bonus under the Bill. I am perfectly sure that if the Minister or the hon. Gentleman went to the British Employers' Confederation and asked employers to give this 1d. to enable these cases to be dealt with they would agree to do so. Perhaps this cannot be done under the present Bill, but I hope that this suggestion will not be turned down.

The Minister should say to the employers, "The Industrial Injuries Fund generally has lightened your burden in these cases as compared with your burden under the old Workmen's Compensation Act and therefore you have not had a bad deal. You should give the 1d. back." I am sure that they would respond. I agree that it is no good trying to marry the two schemes, but I submit that it is possible to make a supplementary provision and I hope that the hon. Gentleman does not turn that suggestion down.

Mr. Braine

I am not turning down anything that the right hon. Gentleman says that would be within the rules of order. He has made an interesting proposal of which, no doubt, we shall hear more later, but if I follow him in his remarks now I shall be out of order. All I would say in passing is that it would have been fully in order, I understand, for Amendments to have been tabled so that the Committee could have had an opportunity of informing itself about this matter and of doing something about the rate of contribution, but this was not done. Therefore, I do not think that it falls to me to try to answer the point now, though I do not wish in any way to close any doors on the right hon. Gentleman's argument.

We have such an enormous amount of ground to cover that I do not wish to delay the Committee unduly, but I must add that we ought to keep this question in perspective. I am afraid that it is a fact that there are some men who are drawing workmen's compensation who are better off than those who have exactly the same disability but who, because the disability was not caused in pursuit of their employment but was caused in some other way, are not receiving any kind of workmen's compensation.

It is extraordinarily difficult to draw the line, but if we are to spend money to meet hardship—and in this context it is suggested that we should draw it out of the Industrial Injuries Fund which was designed for other purposes—the criterion is that the money must be used primarily to meet genuine hardship measured by an objective standard.

Provision has already been made for this outside the Bill, by a benefits scheme and a supplement to workmen's compensation. The Bill itself, by increasing the standards of sickness and unemployability benefit, allowances for dependants, and retirement pensions, does this. Clause 1 raises insurance provision in this country to greater heights than we have ever known it before. I am bound to warn the Committee that if the Opposition vote against the Clause, as the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North has threatened, they will be voting against improved industrial injury benefits. I am sure that they would not wish to do that.

5.15 p.m.

Mr. Houghton

My first pleasant duty is to congratulate the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance on his new appointment and to express to him the warm good wishes of my hon. and right hon. Friends for a satisfactory and successful term of office. We should also congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his maiden Ministerial speech. This is an unexpected baptism of fire for him. We were not surprised when he started his speech by asking for the Committee's indulgence owing to his nervous condition, but he soon gained in confidence and for a moment or two I thought that I saw a glimpse of the pugnacity that we are accustomed to see in the right hon. Lady the Joint Parliament Secretary.

I should like to warn the hon. Gentleman. It is quite obvious that he has already become enslaved by the intricacies and complexities of his new job. Unless he can reduce these issues to simple terms he will get just nowhere. It seemed to me that the hon. Gentleman was telling us what we already knew at the beginning of his speech in order to say at the end of his speech how difficult it would be to do anything at all about these problems. We, of course, know that compensation was based on loss of earning capacity and that the Industrial Injuries Scheme was based on loss of faculty. We, of course, know the difficulties of marrying those two and the transitional difficulties in going from the one old basis to the new.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), the founder of this scheme, appreciated those difficulties very much in his own remarks, but I want to stress that despite all the difficulties and complexities an attempt has already been made in past legislation to bridge this gap. What is more, it has been done in money terms. All we are asking now is that the money terms shall be written up in harmony with the present improved benefits.

We have not asked the Government to go back and start all over again. If the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will look at what we were hoping to do in the two Amendments which have been ruled out of order, he will find that we were restricting our proposals on the Bill to revising the money benefits under the three schemes mentioned in those Amendments. Towards the end of his speech, the hon. Gentleman gave some reasons against doing that. He suggested that when an uncovenanted benefit of this kind has once been given, when it is no legitimate part of the charges on the Industrial Injuries Fund, one should restrict such an insurance principle to cases of hardship. The hardship factor must be present. This was the argument used in revising or creating benefits which were intended to meet the particular difficulties of those who were injured in earlier days.

But if hardship was recognised in money terms four years ago, why cannot the same hardship be recognised in the relatively higher money terms of today? Is not this the issue? We do not need any more money in the Industrial Injuries Fund to meet this comparatively small number of cases. It can be done within the present income of the Fund. The sole issue here is whether the Minister feels able to revise the benefits which have been given under this Act of Parliament to bring them into harmony with the new set of proposals that he is making along the whole front of industrial injuries benefit and National Insurance. In short, this is a tiny bit of the pledge that people enjoying welfare or social benefits shall have their share in the country's increasing prosperity. We are very disappointed about all this.

Sir Spencer Summers (Aylesbury)

The hon. Member has quoted the pledge erroneously. It referred only to the old.

Mr. Houghton

There are always so many reasons for doing nothing. This could have been done. We are disappointed that the two Amendments have been ruled out of order, but with great respect to you, Sir James, we cannot blame the Chair, but must blame the Government. They have drawn up this Bill and its Long Title, and have been responsible for it throughout. It is clear that these benefits and allowances were not excluded inadvertently from its provisions. They have been left out deliberately and that is what we complain about.

We have no means at the moment of bringing our protest to an understandable conclusion. I agree with the Joint Parliamentary Secretary that it would be a mistake to vote against this Clause, however strongly we feel that we want to protest about the exclusion of these people, because it is the statutory authority for Schedules which contain a very large number of improved benefits. If the Clause were to be deleted from the Bill, then those Schedules would be deleted also, or become non-affective.

I therefore ask my right hon. and hon. Friends not to vote against this Clause. I suggest that when we come to the Schedules we may return to this matter, because Part I of the First Schedule deals with the reductions in contributions. We could object to reduced contributions so long as these people are excluded from the Bill Part II of the Schedule contains the range of benefits proposed in the Bill, and we may complain then that the range is not wide enough.

The Minister himself could set our fears at rest, and enable us to get on with further business very quickly now, if he would say that he would reconsider the matter and see whether legislation could be introduced under the Industrial Diseases (Benefit) Acts, 1951 and 1954, the Workmen's Compensation (Supplementation) Act, 1951, and the Workmen's Compensation and Benefit (Supplementation) Act, 1956, in order to bring the moneys provided for in these Acts up to date and in harmony with the new range of benefits proposed in this Bill.

If he will say that he will reconsider the matter, I am sure that we on this side of the Committee will be satisfied, and we can get on with our consideration of the Bill. We may not come to some of the later stages of the Bill until tomorrow, which will give him an opportunity for further reflection. But it is obvious both to the Government and to the Committee that feelings are running high on the benches behind me.

It is also disappointing that only one hon. Member opposite has risen to his feet and commented on the matter. Sometimes Members opposite make the impudent claim that because of the "incompetence" of the official Opposition they are having to do the opposing themselves. There has been precious little evidence of that today. [Interruption.] My comment is justified in the light of some of the claims of the benches opposite.

We are frustrated and angry, but all that we can do at the moment is to protest. It would be a mistake to vote against the Clause, and we hope that the Minister will reflect on the matter between now and the later stages of the Bill.

Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)

The hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) said that nobody on this side of the Committee had said a word. I apologise to the Committee for not having been here at the beginning of this debate, although I have heard a good part of it.

I am not prepared to accept the arguments of the benches opposite for two reasons. A pledge is intended to cover the generality of the country, the aged and the infirm. However, it does not for one moment prevent a proper argument that we must assess What is an appropriate grant to be paid in respect of industrial injuries. I do not think that industrial injuries benefits can go up or, indeed, down according to the state of the properity of the country. They do not fall into the group—the aged and infirm—for which we had a specific pledge from the Government both this year and last year.

I want to try to put my point in an all-party spirit and not in a partisan way. I ask bon. Members opposite to listen to me for a few minutes and not to be partisan about it, at least until they have heard what I have to say. I have no doubt that I shall carry the views of this side of the Committee with me and I believe that there are some on the benches opposite who will agree.

When hon. Members decide to ask for a substantial increase or a revision in the expenditure on industrial injuries benefits, and particularly when they ask for it in relation to those injured before the scheme came into effect in 1948 or earlier, this immediately also raises the question of the position of the war disabled.

The right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), who is not in his place at present, will remember the position at the time of the inception of the Act in which he had a great part to play. At that time, the trade union movement wanted the amount allowed per week up to 100 per cent. for those suffering from industrial injuries to be treated on the same basis as for those who suffered from war disability injuries.

I wish to argue that whereas that decision may or may not have been right at the time—I do not propose to challenge it now—it is not right today, 15 years later, in view of the changed position. On this side of the Committee, among some hon. Members opposite, and in the country generally, there is very strong feeling that, as a matter of sympathy, those who suffered in the war should be entitled to a higher rate than those who suffer from industrial injuries.

I do not say that that view would find support in all quarters of the Committee, but as part of the argument, I want to look at the position as it exists today. Those who suffer from industrial injuries are able to make a claim at common law which may lead to their receiving hundreds or thousands of pounds, whereas those who are war disabled——

Mrs. Harriet Slater (Stoke-on-Trent, North)

What about the miners?

Mr. Rees-Davies

I shall deal with that point. As the Committee knows, war disabled are often conscripted men who had to serve, and did serve the nation.

Mr. T. Brown rose——

Mr. Rees-Davies

No, I cannot give way. I want hon. Members opposite to listen to this argument. No doubt they will destroy it later if they can. Those who are conscripted to serve in war have to do so, and, in doing so, they are not following their voluntary occupations.

I shall now deal with the interjection of the hon. Lady the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater). I want to point out the total difference between a miner and a war-disabled man. A miner makes a contribution and the National Coal Board makes another. As a result, he gets a very much higher rate of injury benefit. If he has a common law claim for the loss of an arm or a leg, he will get a couple of thousand pounds or more as a capital sum which he retains and from which he derives income.

5.30 p.m.

If he remains a miner—and good luck to him if he does—the contribution which he makes, and the contribution which is made by the National Coal Board out of the nation's purse—I am not criticising that—put him in a position in which he gets a differential benefit which does not exist in the case of the war disabled. Therefore, the war disabled are in this situation.

Mr. J. T. Price

On a point of order. Presumably, Sir William, we are at the moment discussing the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." I should like your Ruling as to whether any hon. Member is entitled to introduce a wide-ranging debate on war service pensions which are mentioned neither in the Clause nor in any of the Amendments on the Order Paper.

The Deputy-Chairman (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)

In reply to that point of order, I think that the hon. Member is strictly correct. I have not been in the Chair all the time, but I understand that the debate has ranged very widely and I do not want to be too severe. However, I am certain that we should restrict ourselves more closely to what is, in fact, in Clause 1 of the Bill.

Mr. Price

Further to that point of order. Forgive me, Sir William, for being a little contentious about this, but with great respect to what you have said I would point out that a previous Ruling has been given of a very narrow character as far as the Amendments on the Order Paper are concerned, and some hon. Members on this side of the Committee take a dim view of the fact that this wide-ranging debate is allowed when the debate was previously restricted by a Ruling from the Chair.

The Deputy-Chairman

I understood—it will be in the recollection of the Committee—that the Amendments were ruled out of order, but I understood that after that the general discussion on Clause 1 did, in fact, go rather wide.

Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)

Further to that point of order. As the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) has introduced into the debate not only something which in the opinion of some of us is very remotely connected with Clause 1, though an issue of profound importance—the relative merits of the war disabled and the civilian disabled—will it be in order for us to pursue the debate and discuss the question which the hon. Gentleman has raised?

The Deputy-Chairman

There is no doubt in my mind that the hon. Member who has the Floor of the Committee should confine himself to the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Mr. Rees-Davies

I have not had an opportunity of saying a single word in reply to the interjections made on the points of order, but with the utmost respect, Sir William, what I am saying must clearly be in order, for the following reasons. The debate has been around the scope of the Industrial Injuries Scheme. It has been suggested to the Government that the sums of money in that respect ought to have been increased. So far as that is concerned, I am replying by saying that, whether that be so or not, the whole essence of the matter turns upon considering whether those who would otherwise draw the equivalent benefit, in this case the war disability pensioners, should be entitled to receive a higher percentage in relation to the amount.

I am arguing that this is directly relevant to the amount that would be granted in industrial injuries cases. With respect, therefore, I am saying that before the Government—having made a very substantial increase in the amount of money available for industrial injuries—should consider any further increase for industrial injuries, a far more paramount consideration should take first priority. It is that they should now consider giving a percentage differential increase—I suggest about a 10 per cent. differential—to war-disabled pensioners.

The Deputy-Chairman

Order. The hon. Member is quite out of order in introducing that point on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

On a point of order. May I point out Sir William, that your predecessor in the Chair gave a Ruling, and, after a sharp controversy, we accepted it? He gave an explanation which was very clear and which we accepted. Then one of my hon. Friends on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill", raised a very narrow though a very important issue. The Chair saw that this was a narrow issue and as long as my hon. Friends confined themselves to that narrow issue the debate was allowed to proceed, and it has now gone on for two hours. What is taking place is very unfortunate, because my hon. Friends made some very well-informed speeches. The Minister has sat on the Government Front Bench for over two hours and has left it only once to consult those who advise him. I have been watching very closely and I got the impression that the Minister had been impressed with the well-informed speeches which had been made. We were looking forward to the right hon. Gentleman, following on the Parliamentary Secretary and in reply to my hon. Friends—this is the Committee functioning as it should—making a statement, whereas now we are having a debate ranging over a very wide field which is no help to the Committee at all.

The Deputy-Chairman

I appreciate very much what the hon. Member has said. There is little more for me to say except to rule, as I have done, that the hon. Member who has the Floor of the Committee is going too wide. I ask him please to restrict himself to the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Mr. Rees-Davies

I have said what I had to say on the matter, and I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will give it fair consideration. I believe that they will. I want to draw attention to the fact that when we are dealing with industrial injuries at a time of a very substantial increase in the rate, I think it important for a great many reasons that the question of what the proper allowance should be for industrial injuries and things of that nature should not become too linked with what is paid to the old-age pensioner and the infirm. The day may come in 10 or 15 years from now when the problem of the increase for the aged and infirm is not, and ought not to be, linked to what might perhaps be the problem which arises under industrial injuries.

Injuries which people sustain whether in industry or in war are a separate issue from other matters. I would like them to remain separate and to be considered separately. However, I would urge the Committee to realise that those injuries which men sustain, be it in industry or war, must be carefully considered. We must see that a fair and right consideration and a fair and right differential exists.

It is now fifteen years since the end of the war. Whether we are looking at the old workmen's compensation cases or at the war injuries cases, if we look at the matter in the realities of today we shall realise that very large sums of money are today being awarded in the courts by way of damages at common law and that a large number of people are themselves making contributions through insurance, mining funds, through the National Coal Board and in many other ways with a view, quite rightly, to protecting themselves against injury.

Let us remember that that is a quite separate matter and that it ought not to be looked at by the House of Commons in any partisan spirit, but looked at purely as an investigation of fact. If we do that, I think it will be agreed that what I said earlier in the debate is certainly worthy of consideration, even if everyone may not wholly agree with it, and that it is time that it should be so considered.

Mr. T. Brown

It is rather regrettable that the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) was not present when the debate began—I know that he apologised for not being here—because the whole debate has ranged particularly on unfortunate men who are disabled through industrial injuries and diseases.

I want, first, to congratulate the Joint Parliamentary Secretary on his first innings at the Box. He did very well. He was on a sticky wicket, because the question of compensation in all its aspects is a very complicated and confusing subject. I listened carefully, as I always do to speeches from the Government side, but I failed to detect any reference in the Parliamentary Secretary's reply to the anomaly that was caused by the Workmen's Compensation Acts. It is a certain aspect of the pneumoconiosis and silicosis cases which arose in 1922. That was thirty-eight years ago, a very long time. We have travelled along the road since then trying to bring these men within the scope of our legislation, but it is because we have failed to bring them in that we feel so strongly about the acceptance of Clause 1.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) that we should not divide the Committee. I am not anxious that we should divide on this Question, but I ask the Minister to have regard to all the circumstances which have been described from time to time, not only in this debate but in debates in the past when we have tried to bring in these unfortunate men who have hitherto been left out.

I failed to detect in the speech of the Joint Parliamentary Secretary any reference to the anomalies which were created merely by the geological conditions in which the men worked which debarred them from receiving compensation. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister will understand what I mean. There were many men before 1930, and that is thirty years ago, who were debarred from receiving the compensation to which they were entitled because they did not work in the processes which led to the disease of pneumoconiosis or silicosis.

In December, 1929, the Home Secretary scheduled pneumoconiosis and silicosis as industrial diseases. That regulation became operative on 1st February, 1930, but in it he specified that the rock strata in which the men worked should contain 50 per cent. of free silica compound. We had, on that account, much difficulty in proving cases of silicosis because the rock strata did not contain that 50 per cent.

Since then, the law has been altered. The time limit has been altered and the processes have been altered. All these things have been changed since 1930, by stages, but there is still this anomaly that the men who before 1930, before 1924 and even before 1908, were debarred from receiving any assistance under the reforms which have been brought in are still so debarred.

This matter has been discussed from time to time on the Floor of this Chamber and in the Committee Rooms. We have tried to convince the Minister and the Department that these men have a claim for an increase in their compensation. Here is an opportunity. It may be the last opportunity confronting the Minister to do something for them. That is all we ask.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary said that he did not want to upset the balance. If he concedes the point we are making, he will not upset the balance. Indeed, he will give a better balance for the unfortunate men who hitherto have been denied their compensation. The Minister and the hon. Gentleman will agree that the number of these men is limited, but, as I have said, they have hitherto been denied that to which they are justly entitled. The new point I put to the Joint Parliamentary Secretary arising out of his speech is this. Will he consider not the anomalies in amounts of compensation which have been thrown up—I do not put that point now, although, naturally, I am concerned about that, too—but the unfairness and inequity in the administration of the scheme as it affects those men who have been denied their entitlement not simply because of OUT legislation but because of the geological circumstances in which they worked?

5.45 p.m.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby referred to the lone voice on the Government back benches of the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather). We all know why his voice has been raised. We all know from our experience in the House that he promoted a Bill which the Government themselves did not like. The hon. Gentleman raised his voice again today because he represents a constituency where many pneumoconiosis cases are to be found. I apologise to the Committee for speaking a second time, but we on these benches feel very keenly about this matter. Our keenness is born of the fact that we see these people every week. They are not just casual, occasional callers; we see them every week walking about, half-dead, and many of them are not receiving the compensation to which they are entitled.

I appeal to the Minister. Let us not leave this subject naked, so to speak. Let us give it further consideration. I know that the right hon. Gentleman is possessed of a great deal of sympathy and of a high degree of humanity. I appeal to him to give the undertaking for which my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby asked, that between now and a later stage he will listen again to what we have to say on behalf of these men and act accordingly. I hope that he will respond to the request which has been made by so many of us on this side. Let us not leave these unfortunate men by the wayside. Let us take them with us. In all the reforms which we try to bring about, they must not be left as they have been left hitherto. Let us remember that The mills of God grind slowly, Yet they grind exceedingly small. They have been grinding upon these men and they have ground slowly and hard. From the depth of my heart, I appeal to the Minister to have some consideration for these unfortunate victims of industry who are now crippled through no fault of their own.

Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

Very briefly, I wish to add a little of my own experience of these cases to the very moving plea just made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) to the Minister. From personal experience, I know that the Minister understands this problem and is very sympathetic towards it. It has been made apparent that Amendments connected with this matter were not in order, but I think it is in order to ask the Minister to look at the matter again, for several reasons.

Some of the reasons have been given already. We have heard the history of the difficulty that these men had in the early days in being certified at all. That situation has been changed and no one would for a moment wish to revert to it. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ince knows well, it was a situation which sometimes led to very remarkable shifts on the part of men, to find pieces of rock which would satisfy the condition of 50 per cent. silica. They knew only too well that if there was 48 per cent. or 47 per cent., although they were rotten with pneumoconiosis or silicosis, their claim would fail.

Many men whose cases were doubtful left the industry. Then came the war, and there was a five-year extension period. But men were not offering themselves to pneumoconiosis panels at intervals to be examined after having been rejected in the first place, and some of those men are included in the 17,000 we are now considering. For reasons none of which can be ascribed to them as their fault, they are denied anything except this rather low rate of compensation for a serious disability.

I began my work on this in 1926 on behalf of the pottery workers in North Staffordshire, and later on behalf of the miners. Every word spoken by my hon. Friend the Member for Ince is true. It is quite easy to be sentimental about cases of this type. I think that we should all feel some guilt at their having been left out of full benefits, and I Chink that we all carry some responsibility for that.

All that we are asking the Minister to say now—and I am sure that it is all he can say—is that he will bear this matter in mind. It will not be expensive. The men are dying, and in a few years' time there will be no problem, either financial or otherwise. If we are to forget these men, let us forget them knowing that at the end we recognised their claims and offered them a little justice.

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

I hope that the Committee will be prepared to come to a decision on this Clause, certain aspects of which have been debated quite fully in the last 2¼ hours. It is, as the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) reminded us, the Clause which gives operative effect to those Schedules which make substantial increases in the general level of industrial injury benefits.

I rise, first, to suggest that we have a good deal of work ahead of us, and that we hope that it will not be necessary for the Committee to sit to inconvenient hours on other days to deal with that work. Secondly, I want to say a word or two in addition to what my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary said so well in his maiden speech at the Box on the points which have exercised our minds for the greater part of the debate.

The hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) and the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) raised the rather special point, perhaps not very closely related to this Clause—I do not say that offensively—of men who left the industry before it was scheduled by the Home Secretary. It was the purpose of the Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Benefit Act, 1951, and of the Industrial Diseases (Benefit) Act, 1954, to pick up those cases, and I do not think that on this Clause I can carry that matter further than to remind hon. Members that that was the intention and, as I understand it, the effect of those Measures. If, nevertheless, it is the view of hon. Gentlemen that some people have been overlooked, that is a matter which, if they care to do so on some suitable occasion, or perhaps in a personal discussion, they can draw to my attention, and I shall be very happy to look into it.

On the main point which has been raised, as my hon. Friend said, whatever the merits or demerits at this moment of using the Industrial Injuries Fund to supplement the payments made to men in that category, I do not think that this is a suitable proposal for the Bill. As the Chairman of Ways and Means reminded us in ruling on the Amendment, this is in fact, a two-purpose Bill. Its purpose is to raise rates and to deal with urgent difficulties in respect of the retirement condition. It was framed in that way, and I doubt whether, even if we thought it right, it would be possible at this stage, and on this Bill, to deal with this matter in the way hon. Gentlemen suggest.

However, I would not like it to be on record that we have, even within the relatively narrow confines of the Bill, left these people out of account. In so far as they are old, sick or disabled they will benefit from the Bill in respect of the improvements in retirement pensions, sickness benefit, or unemployability supplement under the Industrial Injuries Act.

Therefore, whether what we are doing meets the particular point raised by hon. Gentlemen is a matter that can rest between us as something on which there is genuine disagreement. The fact remains that they are sharing in the benefits which we are seeking, with the authority of Parliament, to improve in this Measure.

Dr. King rose——

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I am sorry I cannot give way, I want to finish this point. On the main question, I think that there is a genuine difference.

My hon. Friend quoted what I said during the Second Reading debate on the Measure which I introduced in 1956 to make these supplementary payments. I made the point that I thought that it was right at that time to impose this charge on the Industrial Injuries Fund because there was hardship to be remedied.

It is material that at that time there were no proposals before the House, such as there are now before the Committee, for improving all these other benefits to which I have referred. The men in that category were not only suffering hardship but were not having that hardship relieved by improvements in National Insurance benefits such as, if the Committee approves, they will now receive. That is important.

I say frankly that I made it clear in 1956 that I was not proposing complete symmetry between those injured before the schemes came into effect and those injured afterwards because that is a point on which I differ from what has been said this afternoon.

Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)

When the right hon. Gentleman brought in the Bill in 1956 he made a comparison of hardship. These people were at that time getting the same rate of unemployment benefit and the same rate of sickness benefit as everybody else. The only people compared with whom he considered they were having a hard time were those on industrial injury benefits. He raised their benefits to bring them into line with those on industrial injury benefits because they were already on a par with the rest of the people.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

We did not raise the benefits to bring them into line with anybody. We raised their benefits to deal with hardship. What the hon. gentleman has forgotten is that since then the main rates of benefit have been increased by the Act of 1957, and that they will be raised again by this Measure if it is approved. It was therefore a quite different reason.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock) rose——

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I rose only to make my position on this clear after we had thrashed this out pretty fully.

Mr. Ross

The right hon. Gentleman is basing the justification for his attitude on the question of hardship and what he said during the debate on the 1956 Act. Will he remember what he said about the question of disparity? He thought it right to reduce the disparity at that time, which is exactly the case that we have been making this afternoon.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I have reread my speech, having seen the Amendments on the Notice Paper. With respect, I think that what I said was quite clear. What I said then makes sense in this situation too, namely, that the essence of this is not to measure precisely whether everybody gets the same amount if injured before or after the scheme. I do not believe that that is feasible. I was concerned to ensure that no one suffered hardship, and I took into account that at that time there were no proposals before Parliament for increases in the other benefits. I think, therefore, that on that point we must be quite clear.

My hon. Friend put the case very clearly. It is not possible, either by way of industrial injuries benefits or by way of National Insurance benefits, to treat everybody who suffered injury before the scheme came into effect on the same basis as those who suffered injury afterwards. If one did, those who pay contributions might not think that that was wholly fair. What we are anxious to do, and what we shall continue to be anxious to do, is to secure that those for whom the occasion for such payments arose before these schemes came into effect do not suffer from hardship.

6.0 p.m.

I propose to keep that aspect of the matter under review and I hope that the Committee will take it from me that that is a sincere statement when hon. Members remember that I had the privilege of being responsible for introducing the 1956 Measure. I must, however, say with equal frankness that I do not consider this an appropriate matter for this Bill, nor do I think that on this occasion the case has been made. I will, however, study it and I will be very happy to have the co-operation of hon. Members in drawing to my attention individual cases, in support of the view that hardship is being suffered. I shall find that helpful and will be grateful if hon. Members will do that. I must repeat, however, that on this Bill we cannot, and I do not think we ought to, deal with this matter. I hope that we may be able to continue with the Bill so that we can discuss the benefits and improvements in other directions which it is making.

Mr. T. Brown

I am grateful to the Minister for that assurance. If my memory is correct, there are nine regions under his Department. From them he can get all the information which he requires to enable him to formulate proposals to help the men who have been denied compensation of benefits under the Industrial Injuries Scheme.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.