HC Deb 27 February 1963 vol 672 cc1381-402

Lords Amendment: In page 5, line 9, at end insert new Clause A: A.—(1) The Workmen's Compensation and Benefit (Supplementation) Act 1956 (which provides for the payment of allowances out of the Industrial Injuries Fund in cases of injury or disease arising out of pre-1948 employment and resulting in total disablement or incapacity for work), as amended by section 1 (1) of the Family Allowances and National Insurance Act 1961, shall have effect with the substitution in section 2 of a rate of allowance of 65 shillings a week for the rate of 32 shillings and 6 pence a week. (2) The Family Allowances and National Insurance Act 1961 (which among other things provided for the payment of improved allowances in respect of incapacities arising from pre-1948 employment) shall, in relation to the payment of allowances for periods of incapacity for work falling after the coming into force of this subsection, be amended— (a) by the substitution for section 1 (2) (a) (which altered to 66 shillings and to 50 shillings the monetary references in section 2 of the Workmen's Compensation (Supplementation) Act 1951 which operate to limit the maximum weekly rate of allowance which under any scheme under the said Act of 1951 may be paid in cases of injury or disease arising out of pre-1924 employment) of the following paragraph— (a) shall be amended by the substitution in section 2 (2) and (8) of references to 86 shillings and to 70 shillings for the references to 66 shillings and 50 shillings (which operate to limit the maximum weekly rate of allowance under any scheme); and"; and (b) by the substitution in section 1 (2) (b) and in paragraph 1 (d) of Schedule 1 of references to 30 shillings for the references to 10 shillings (which operate to limit the maximum weekly rate of allowance which under any scheme under the said Act of 1951 may be paid in cases of injury or disease arising out of post-1923 employment). (3) The Industrial Diseases (Benefit) Acts 1951 and 1954 (which authorise the making of schemes for the payment of allowances out of the Industrial Injuries Fund in cases of disease arising out of pre-1948 employment but not entitling the sufferer to workmen's compensation) shall be amended by the substitution in section 3 (2) of the Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Benefit Act 1951 of the words "or, if the disablement is not total, 42 shillings and 6 pence" for the words "or, if the disablement is not total, 27 shillings and 6 pence" (which were substituted by section 1 (3) of the said Act of 1961); and any scheme under those Acts of 1951 and 1954 which is in force at the coming into force of this subsection shall have effect accordingly. (4) If an allowance under the Workmen's Compensation and Benefit (Supplementation) Act 1956 is awarded to a person who has previously been awarded an allowance under the Workmen's Compensation (Supplementation) Act 1951 or the Industrial Diseases (Benefit) Acts 1951 and 1954, and the conditions for entitlement to the two allowances are inconsistent. the decision awarding the allowance under the Act of 1956 shall direct that any sums paid under the other award to which the beneficiary cannot be entitled in addition to the allowance under the Act of 1956 shall be treated as paid on account of the allowance under the Act of 1956: Provided that the award shall be subject to the condition that if there is a requirement to repay any sums paid on account of the allowance under the said Act of 1951 or the said Acts of 1951 and 1954 the direction shall not have effect in relation to those sums.

10.2 p.m.

The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. Niall Macpherson)

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with' the Lords in the said Amendment.

This Clause was introduced in another place in consequence of an undertaking which I gave the House on the Committee stage of the Bill to consider how far it would be possible to carry into effect the principle underlying the new Clause moved by the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) and supported from both sides of the House.

The issues involved in this subject of "old cases" are highly complex and technical, and it has always been considered in the past that they are best dealt with by special legislation such as we had in 1956 and 1961. But after listening to the arguments put forward in Committee, I gave the House the assurance that I would consider their position urgently. I am glad that it has proved possible to deal with them in this Bill, if the House agrees. I should add that it would have been quite impossible to do so but for the work done by my predecessors in keeping the whole question constantly under review and for the machinery which they set up to implement the earlier Measures.

This new Clause increases the existing allowances for "old cases". Its broad effect is to bring the "totals" up to the level of their industrial injuries counterparts on the 100 per cent. disablement pension. It also makes substantial improvements in the provisions for "partials" on maximum compensation and for those coming under the special schemes for "time-barred" old cases. As this is a complicated matter, perhaps it would help the House if I went through the Clause in somewhat more detail.

Subsection (1) increases the supplementary allowance payable out of the Industrial Injuries Fund under the Workmen's Compensation and Benefit (Supplementation) Act, 1956, to totally disabled "old cases". The allowance is payable in the first place to totally disabled people who are entitled to weekly payments of workmen's compensation whether on account of injury or disease.

Secondly, the allowance is payable to those entitled to benefit for total disablement under one of the schemes made under the Industrial Diseases (Benefit) Acts, 1951 and 1954. Those schemes, I should perhaps remind the House, provide allowances for pneumoconiosis, byssinosis and certain slowly developing malignant diseases due to employment before 1948 for those who fail to qualify for workmen's compensation owing to the time limits which operated under the Workmen's Compensation Acts.

The subsection doubles, the existing allowance from 32s. 6d. to 65s. The effect is to bring the weekly amount payable to the totally disabled married man, with the 50s. a week workmen's compensation which he gets, up to 115s., which is the rate of the 100 per cent, industrial injuries disablement pension in the Bill. For other totally disabled men on compensation the amount will go up to 105s. Those who qualify as totally disabled under the Industrial Diseases (Benefit) Acts will similarly receive 105s. For the last two categories the appropriate dependency increases are also payable.

Subsection (2), to which I now turn, deals with certain partially disabled workmen's compensation cases who benefit under the Workmen's Compensation (Supplementation) Act, 1951, as since amended. I should perhaps remind the House that the 1951 Act deals separately with men injured before 1st January, 1924, and those injured after that date, and the subsection follows that pattern.

Subsection (2) (a) provides for partially disabled men injured before 1st January, 1924. It replaces Section 1 (2) (a) of the 1961 Family Allowances and National Insurance Act, which at present provides that for periods of partial incapacity for work the weekly rate of allowance shall not exceed 50s. less the amount of workmen's compensation, and also that it shall not exceed the difference between two-thirds of the weekly loss of earnings and the amount of workmen's compensation.

Certain married men can receive an addition of up to 16s. for a dependent wife, that is, 66s. in all. This increase is not payable where there is title to a dependency increase for a wife under the main insurance schemes. The subsection increases these maxima of 50s. and 66s. by 20s., to 70s. and 86s. respectively.

Subsection (2) (b), on the other hand, deals with partially disabled men who were injured after 1st January, 1924. Section 1 (2) (b) of the Family Allowances and National Insurance Act, 1961, provided an allowance of up to 10s. for these men. This allowance is now increased to 30s. maximum, subject to the restriction that the compensation payable and the allowance together shall not exceed two-thirds of the earnings lost as a result of the disablement. I should add that the effect of the loss of earnings rule is that the increased allowances to which the subsection applies are payable only to those who are at present entitled to the full 10s. supplementary allowance, since those who are getting less than the whole 10s. will already have had their full loss of earnings taken into account by their existing awards. But should the earning power of any of them subsequently deteriorate as a consequence of the injury for which they are being compensated, they will be entitled to an appropriate increase in the rate of their supplementary allowance.

Subsection (3) of the new Clause provides for an increase of 15s. a week in the existing 27s. 6d. a week allowance paid for partial disablement under the benefit schemes made under the Industrial Diseases (Benefit) Acts. These schemes give allowances to persons with one of certain slowly developing industrial diseases who left the employment which gave rise to it before 5th July, 1948, so that they could not qualify under the Industrial Injuries Act, and who were also time-barred from workmen's compensation. The great majority of them have pneumoconiosis. The Industrial Diseases (Benefit) Act, 1954, enabled an allowance to be paid in such cases for partial disablement. To avoid introducing the complicated workmen's compensation loss of earnings rules the allowance was made payable at a flat, "compromise" rate—which, as I say, is now 27s. 6d. This subsection increases that sum to 42s. 6d., and also provides for the change to take effect automatically in the existing schemes without the need for further amendment of them.

Finally, subsection (4) deals with a more technical point. This is the possibility that an award under the 1956 Workmen's Compensation and Benefit (Supplementation) Act may be backdated so that it overlaps with a period for which an allowance for partial disablement has already been paid. The subsection requires that the amount of the earlier award during the overlapping period shall be treated as having been paid on account of the later award.

With this explanation, I commend the new Clause to the House. It is inevitably somewhat technical and complex, but I believe it makes provision for the "old cases" in an appropriate and, I trust, an acceptable way.

Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)

I am sure that the House would wish to thank the Minister for his very full and lucid explanation of this long and complicated Amendment. We have heard a great deal more in explanation of these proposals than their Lordships heard in another place yesterday, where the noble Lord the Earl of Dundee seemed to "blind their Lordships with science" and get away with a fairly brief explanation of what this was all about. Indeed, the Amendment was referred to as an erudite Amendment, because it was so impressive. So it is, but it improves the Bill to the great satisfaction of my right hon. and hon. Friends.

I wish to apologise to the Minister on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch), both of whom are unavoidably prevented from being present at this debate.

The Amendment arises from a new Clause moved in Committee by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty on 6th February. Towards the end of that debate, which was both long and moving, and dealt with these old cases, the Minister made a quite dramatic intervention. He undertook to give the matter most urgent consideration. He said that he was not certain that the Bill would be the proper vehicle for bringing about changes which he might find it possible to make. We must express our great pleasure to the right hon. Gentleman that he so speedily carried out that undertaking, and that he has brought the Amendments that he proposes within the scope of the Bill. It is a great convenience and benefit to all concerned.

The Minister gave the undertaking on 6th February, and on 14th February he was able to reply to a Question on the matter by way of a Written Answer. We wish to thank him for so speedily bringing forward these proposals, and we join with him in thanking the officials of his Ministry who facilitated this speedy work.

Much that is contained in the Amendment we find fully satisfactory. In respect of the totally disabled cases and the old cases of serious disablement we find that the Minister's proposals meet what we had in mind.

I have only one criticism to make. It is about the so-called partial cases. In the debate on 15th February, the day after the Minister announced his intentions, some of my hon. Friends and I referred to this point. No doubt the Minister has seen what I suggested. He was unable to be present during the debate, for reasons which were conveyed to the House at the time. But it appears in the OFFICIAL REPORT in col. 1695. I made suggestions which I hoped would meet the problem presented by the partially disabled cases.

10.15 p.m.

I said that it would be better to sweep away the two-thirds restriction and compensate these partially disabled people fully for the loss of earnings as a result of their accident or disease, subject to the maximum supplementation not exceeding the limit of the special hardship allowance. That seemed to me to make sense of the whole difficult and complicated situation. It would virtually transfer these people to the principles of the Industrial Injuries Act. That Act contains no such restriction as compensation for two-thirds of loss of earning powers.

As the House knows, the principle of the Industrial Injuries Scheme is compensation for loss of faculty, so in many cases no question of the loss of earnings arises. But in that scheme we have what is known as a special hardship allowance, which is intended to supplement the disablement pension for loss of faculty by some extra allowance to compensate also for serious loss of earning capacity. There is a ceiling put upon the amount of the special hardship allowance and there are differences between my right hon. and my hon. Friends and the Ministry about what the ceiling should be.

During the Committee stage we urged that the ceiling should be higher than it is. But it is being improved under the Bill. We thought that up to that ceiling the special hardship allowance could be used as a vehicle for settling these partially disabled cases. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary replied: I should now like to go a stage further, and take up what was said by the hon. Member for Sowerhy. He suggested that we should abolish the two-thirds rule and cover the whole difference, subject, again, to not exceeding the maxima applied under the special hardship allowance rules. We will certainly look at that suggestion, and let him know our conclusions."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1963; Vol. 671, col. 1711.] Usually, the Parliamentary Secretary is zealous and painstaking in letting us know his conclusions. But I regret that on this occasion I did not hear anything about his conclusions. I was waiting hourly to hear from the hon. Gentleman and to know the outcome of the consideration of those suggestions. The next thing I saw were the Amendments to the Bill put down for consideration in another place, and—the the Minister will sympathise with this point of view—when I looked at them I could not tell what conclusions, if any, had been reached by the Minister. I could not discern in the Amendments anything which related to the abolition of the two-thirds rule and the substitution of the special hardship allowance. I was just baffled by the complexity of the Amendments and felt that somewhere or other in words I had not detected the Joint Parliamentary Secretary had done what I had asked and that was why he had not written a note to me to say so. It turns out that that is not so and I have now lost faith in the Joint Parliamentary Secretary. I must desert this work, however, and follow his right hon. Friend's predecessor whom my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has found is unshadowed. My shadow will no longer fall across the path of the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, nor for that matter the path of the Minister, but I have been permitted my last fling on this point about which my hon. Friends have felt so keenly.

Can we be told why the Minister has spoiled this good ship for a ha'porth of tar? The simple point, as the Minister explained, is that a number of partially disabled men will not benefit from the improved supplementation under this Amendment because their heads have already bumped against the ceiling of the two-thirds limit. I do not of course deny that a number of partially disabled men will benefit under the supplementation because they are not at the moment, and may not be in future, restricted in the amount of supplementation by the operation of the two-thirds rule. I also admit that they will be the worst cases because in those cases the difference between the pre-accident earnings—I correct myself, the pre-accident rates of remuneration, which is rather different—and current remuneration is so wide that supplementation of the amount of workmen's compensation can take place within the new limits without hitting the ceiling of the two-thirds limitation.

It is therefore in the less serious cases of partial disablement that the limitation will apply. I am bound to be frank with the House and to say that that is so. Nevertheless, the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that when there is supplementation and supplementary allowances quite a large number of people will not get them. They will think there is some injustice in that they are not being given the full benefit of improvements extending over a wide field of other disablement cases. Not only is there that feeling of relative injustice—and everyone who has to deal with these matters knows that the comparative grievance is the bitterest of all —but they feel, with justice in my view, that there is no justification for hanging on at this date to the limitation of the two-thirds of the difference between pre-accident rates of pay and current rates of pay.

There is, of course, incidentally, another grievance in these cases that the Act defines rates of remuneration as distinct from levels of earnings. The House knows that in recent years basic rates have not in many cases been any index of the level of earnings. Yet, for the purpose of comparison, the pre-accident rates of remuneration are written up to take account of changes since and compared with existing rates of remuneration and not with current earnings. So there is that added sense of injustice that the true comparison in terms of loss of income is not being made. I have made the point and we on this side of the House do not wish to appear ungrateful.

I have given the Minister full praise for speedy and effective action in response to the demands of hon. Members on both sides of the House. At least, I hope that I have. His action was most welcome and, we may as well admit it, most unexpected. We cannot therefore get too angry with him at this late hour and on this point. Yet had he wished to part with the Bill crowned with glory, the recipient of fulsome praise from this side of the House, he would have done this job a little more completely than he has. I hope that we shall be told why he has not done so and what are the circumstances in the way. It cannot be cost. Thousands of people would be affected, but the cost would be relatively small. I can only assume that he has encountered some problems which he has found it difficult to overcome, but we thought that his approach was so bold and so speedy that he would bulldoze all difficulties out of the way and bring forward Amendments which would give complete satisfaction.

Subject to that, we welcome the new Clause and are glad to see it embodied in the Bill. All those concerned will be looking forward to the benefits which the Bill will give. No doubt some of my hon. Friends will wish to say, and certainly they feel, that these changes have brought great relief in many areas in which there are large congregations of old cases affected by the new Clause. I thank the Minister and bid him a fond farewell.

Mr. Edwin Wainwright (Deanne Valley)

Let me first add to the compliments paid by my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) to the Minister for bringing forward these substantial benefits to certain sections of people on partial compensation.

I want to deal with those men on partial compensation who were involved in particular kinds of work, especially in the coal mining industry, before 1948. The differences in the work were very great from pit to pit, district to district, and week to week, and it was always difficult to say what a man's average earnings would be at any given time. A man's wages would vary with the kind of work. One week he might be ripping coal at a reasonable rate of pay and another week he might be machine-minding. In yet another week he might be working at a lower rate of pay.

At the time of his accident he might be at very low rate, and in that case he might be lucky to be paid any partial compensation. In any case, it would be only a small amount of partial compensation because of the two-thirds limit. The difference between his pre-accident job and the rate of pay for the post-accident work might be such as to bring him very little in the way of compensation. He will get no benefit from the increases granted to the partially compensated, and I ask the Minister to look at this again, because it is important that we should be as fair to these people as possible.

10.30 p.m.

These people have suffered an injury and disablement. For years they have had little compensation for it. Consequently they feel embittered. We cannot blame them for that. If they had not suffered an accident, their earnings today would be far greater than they are now getting. I am thinking of men who were young in 1948 and at the peak of their earning capacity. They sustained a slight accident. At that time their wages were probably low. In 1948 many pits were operating in such a way that wages were low. But now they have to work on the haulage or on what we call push-button jobs and, instead of earning £20 a week, they are now earning £1 a week. This is a great loss to them. As their wages were low prior to their accident, the two-thirds limit operates and they are not getting much partial compensation. This increase will be of no benefit to them.

I hope that the Minister will examine this question. There are thousands of these cases, but there are not many thousands. They are entitled to the same treatment as is given under the Industrial Injuries Act. They are disabled. Their enjoyment of life is impaired. If they are not considered now, they must be considered in the near future. I hope it is not too late for the Minister to do something about them even now. I could quote cases of men who have lost a leg. Their wages now are higher than their pre-accident earnings. They lost a leg when men were working short-time in the coalmines. These are men who ought now to be earning a good living in the pits or in any other industry but who do not get a penny even for the loss of a leg.

This is a shocking indictment against society. We should give some consideration to these people. There are men who have lost other limbs and suffered disablement but get no disablement benefit. I meet such men frequently and they deeply resent the fact that nothing is done for them. The Minister has been helpful in making these Amendments to this important Bill, but these people are evidently to be left outside its scope. Men who were injured between 1924 and 1948 feel that they are being left out in the cold and are entirely forgotten. Of course, they are. They are not getting any recompense whatsoever for the injuries they sustained in industry, although other people are now being recompensed and receiving percentages under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, 1948. These people think they are justified in demanding that something be done for them. If he cannot do anything now to improve the lot of these people I hope that the Minister will keep the matter in the front of his mind. If we do not do something for them it will not only be they who suffer but also their dependants.

I am grateful for what the Minister has done, for he has come forward with some valuable Amendments. However, I urge him further to consider the points my hon. Friends and I have made, not just on behalf of those in the coal mining industry, but disabled workers throughout the country in all other industries who are being left out, neglected and forgotten.

Lady Megan Lloyd George (Carmarthen)

I hope that the Government will accept the proposal made by my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton). We welcome the concession that has been made by the Minister in regard to the totally disabled—for previously there was an anomaly and an injustice—but why has the right hon. Gentleman continued to shut out from benefit the community we have been discussing? After all, had they come under the new dispensation the restriction of the two-thirds would not have applied to them. Thus, here again is an anomaly and an injustice.

There is nothing sacrosanct about the two-thirds. It is not inviolable, and if the Government could give way on the totally disabled surely they could make a concession for the partially disabled? The principle of the disabled worker under the old Workmen's Compensation Act was that they were a race apart and that there was a difference between them and the workers who came under the Industrial Injuries Act. That principle has gone and the Government, having made the concession they have, have more or less swept away that principle.

I urge the right hon. Gentleman to consider this second anomaly, for it brings a great deal of suffering to many people. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby said, thousands of workers are affected by this. I understand that 7,000 in South Wales alone come in this category. Why does the right hon. Gentleman not make a clean sweep and get rid of this anomaly? Why does he not think again, for the same good purpose as he did when considering the totally disabled? The men about whom we are speaking have suffered injury and loss of remuneration and it is hard that they should suffer this additional sense of injustice.

Mr. Bernard Taylor (Mansfield)

I rise with mixed feelings, for I must express 80 per cent. gratitude to the Minister for the concession he has made and 20 per cent. regret that he has not gone far enough. There can be no doubt that the insertion of the right hon. Gentleman's Amendments has meant that the Bill of two or three weeks ago is quite different and is now considerably improved. Thus I add my praise to the right hon. Gentleman for what he has done on behalf of the people for who we have been campaigning.

When the Clause moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) was being discussed, there was not only emotion and feeling but there was substantial argument about the fact that these people were being left out in the cold. Be it said to the everlasting credit of the Minister that evidently he was impressed not merely by the display of emotion and feeling but by the arguments that were put forward for these people who were injured or who contracted disease before the operation of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act in 1948. I have heard it said many times that an Englishman's word is his bond, but we have got to go a bit further tonight and say that a Scotsman's word is his bond. Not only has the Minister carried out his promise but he has acted very quickly. We are very grateful to him not only for his action but for the speed with which he has acted in connection with these old cases.

I have no complaint at all about the supplement that is to be granted to the totals under the old Workmen's Compensation Act and under the benefit scheme. I have no complaint about the size of the increase that is to be given. I think it is very good, if for no other reason than that it brings them in line with those who are 100 per cent. disabled under the Industrial Injuries Act. Neither have I a word of criticism to make about the treatment of the partials under the benefit scheme. I remember that when supplement was granted to them for the first time there were difficulties, and the conclusion was arrived at that the best way to deal with the partials under the benefit scheme was a matter of rough justice.

I believe that in the first instance they were granted a supplement of £1 a week, which was later raised to £1 7s. 6d. and under this Clause they are to have a further 15s. bringing the amount up to £2 2s. 6d. For that I am exceedingly grateful and join with my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby in tendering my best thanks to the Minister for what he has done in this respect. I do not think there will be any complaint at all because these people, certainly the totals, are brought into parity with the 100 per cent. disabled under the Industrial Injuries Act.

However, it would be remiss of me if I were not to join my hon. Friends the Members for Sowerby, Dearne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) and Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) and say a word or two about the partially incapacitated who come under the Workmen's Compensation Act. That is the bone of contention. That is really the argument tonight. It spoils the generous gesture of the Ministry in connection with the other cases, whether they come under the Workmen's Compensation Act or the benefit scheme.

I think it is time that we got rid of this two-thirds limit. It operates extremely harshly. I do not know why we should treat this two-thirds limit between pre-and post-accident earnings as a sacred cow. There is nothing sacrosanct about it.

10.45 p.m.

The people who suffer most as a result of the retention of the two-thirds limit are those who are worse off, those who had lower pre-accident earnings. For instance, there are partially incapacitated men under the Workmen's Compensation Act who have reached the ceiling of 50s., I think it is, but they have not exceeded the two-thirds of the difference between pre- and post-accident earnings, and they are to have the additional supplement of 20s. That is fine; no one complains about that. But what about the partially incapacitated man who not only had the misfortune to have an accident, like the other chap, but who had the bad luck to have it at a time when his earnings were very low? Not by any stretch of the imagination can such a man at any time reach the two-thirds difference between his pre- and post-accident earnings.

Many of the men who had their accidents in the 'thirties are getting very old now, Naturally, their number is diminishing. But cases have come to our notice of men injured in the 'thirties when rates of pay were exceedingly low and, more than that, working time was very much below the six days a week customary then. Because of the operation of these two factors, their pre-accident earnings were exceedingly low.

We know of people who have lost an arm, a leg, an eye, or suffered other grave disability, but, because of the circumstances to which I have referred, they can never hope to reach the two-thirds maximum between the pre- and post-accident earnings.

I put this to the Minister in all seriousness and sincerity. I know of partially incapacitated men today who are receiving as little as 1s. a week partial compensation payment. Because that is two-thirds of the difference between pre- and post-accident earnings, they can never get more; neither will they receive this proposed supplement of 20s. On the other hand, I know of men who have reached the ceiling, the maximum amount of compensation of 50s., but that is not two-thirds of the difference between pre-and post-accident earnings. Although these men are receiving the 50s. compared with others, perhaps injured in the same pit, who have only 1s., the former will have the 20s. supplement and the man with Is. will not get a penny. There is an anomaly here.

The Minister has gone a long way in dealing with the old cases. Their number is not great now, and it is diminishing. It would cost very little to do what we ask. I appeal to him, even at this late stage, to look at the matter again and sweep away the anomaly and injustice which exist between man and man, not through any fault of theirs but as a result of their circumstances at the time of their accidents.

I hope also that the right hon. Gentleman has not forgotten the '20s industrial widow and the dependent and semi-dependent parents. If he has not already done so, I hope he will not be long in keeping his promise to submit their case to his advisory committee. Before much more time passes, I hope we shall have from him a similar generous approach to these people.

Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)

I wish to add my congratulations to those which have flowed from this side of the House to the right hon. Gentleman. These Amendments show that perhaps on very rare occasions debate is really effective in this House and has some result. I have no doubt that it was the excellent case put by hon. Members on both sides of this House when we discussed a Clause which we moved that brought the Minister and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to decide that something must be done. I therefore welcome this new Clause as far as it goes.

Now I come to the two-thirds earnings rule. The right hon. Gentleman will already have realised that it is on this point only that there is disappointment on this side of the House. So relatively few men and women are affected that he might have found it possible to include them in the Clause. It may be, on the other hand, that there is some serious technical difficulty to be overcome and that a solution could not be found quickly enough for inclusion in any of these Amendments. We hope that that is the only reason why he cannot at once get rid of the rule and that in a short time he will take the advice tendered tonight and on many other occasions.

You, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, will remember that the constituency which you once represented, and which I now have the honour to represent, contains many mining villages. My hon. Friends have stated two reasons why the working of the two-thirds earnings rule is unfair. You will remember, Sir, that during the time you represented my constituency the workers were on short time. Indeed, earlier than that I can remember my brother being sent by my father to the post office to see the mine owners' notice in the window which would tell him whether they were both to work next day or not. Thus, if a man had an accident when he was working only two or three days a week in the late 1920s or early 1930s, he will be suffering considerably today under this rule.

The same sort of thing applies to a man who was a surface worker when he had an accident. The majority of surface workers eventually go to the coal face to work, where there is more pay. If one considers the wage paid to a man working on the surface, when he had perhaps looked forward to becoming a coal face worker, one sees that this two-thirds rule is very unjust even today.

I do not want to say any more about it, except that the Minister knows that there are many close-knit communities, and that round the corner in the old folk's huts there are men who are affected by the two-thirds earnings rule; men who are time-barred pneumoconiotic cases; and men who receive their benefits under the Industrial Injuries Act. These men talk about the benefits they are getting, and I assure the Minister that there has been real joy in some of these huts and round some of these corners at the decision we are discussing tonight. It has made many of them feel that the Government have some consideration for them. I am tonight echoing their thanks to the Minister, but the fact that so many of them are to be helped under this new Clause makes more stark the plea of those who are not to be helped, and I again stress the necessity for doing something about these people.

This new Clause settles nothing in principle. It will bring many workers up to the level of those who receive their benefits under the Industrial Injuries Act, but if this Government are in office next year and they decide to bring in a new National Insurance Bill they can easily, as as happened before, leave out this type of case. In 1951 we had the time-barred totally disabled pneumoconiotics and those suffering from byssinosis brought in for the first time. In 1954 we had those partially disabled from these diseases brought in, and then, as the Minister said tonight, we had the special legislation of 1956 and 1961 in which we dipped into the Industrial Injuries Fund to bring the type of case that we have in this new Clause almost up to what the Industrial Injuries people were getting under the Industrial Injuries Act.

I can remember as far back as 1955, before the election when I introduced a Private Member's Bill, having been fortunate in the Ballot, and tried to bring the time-barred and old compensation cases up to the level of the Industrial Injuries cases. Perhaps not tonight, but I hope soon, we shall decide this in principle. I know that there are great technical difficulties. I know that this is not an easy matter, but this is something which the Minister could send to his Advisory Committee for examination to see how he could integrate the cases that we have been discussing tonight, those covered by the new Clause, and those left out because of the two-thirds earnings rule.

The Minister should send this problem to his Advisory Committee and ask it to examine how we can integrate these various groups into the provisions of the Industrial Injuries Act to ensure that they do not lag a year, or two years, or perhaps even longer, being those who receive their increases under the Industrial Injuries Act.

I feel that I must once again thank the Minister on behalf of the many people who have expressed their gratitude for the decision he has taken.

11.0 p.m.

Mr. N. Macpherson

If I may speak again by leave of the House, I should like to thank hon. Members for the way in which they have received this new Clause. It is the case that one can never do everything that it would be possible to ask; and I understand the strong feeling that still exists that we have not managed to fill all the gaps. But I think that the House will appreciate that it is one thing to build on successive Acts which have been passed and bring the benefits under them up to the level of the industrial injuries ones. It is another thing to do what the Government has been urged to do, which is to alter a whole type of legislation in order to try to bring it into line with existing legislation.

We are all conscious of this basic difficulty which exists. The old legislation was based on the loss of earnings —and the debate tonight has been on that aspect of the matter—whereas the present legislation is founded on loss of faculty. To slide the legislation based on loss of earnings into that based on loss of faculty would be a very difficult thing to do. I doubt whether it would completely solve the difficulty merely to alter the two-thirds rule. I appreciate that if the rule were altered people would be brought up to the maximum sooner and would be enabled to benefit more readily from the existing legislation. But we should then be basing the terms of the legislation not on loss of faculty, as in the existing legislation, but on the loss of earnings, which is in the old legislation.

Mr. B. Taylor

There seems to be a weakness in that argument. Under the Workmen's Compensation Acts the "totals" are related to their earnings. They are receiving supplements out of the Industrial Injuries Fund. I do not think that it is impossible—and the time has arrived for doing so—that the partials" should be paid under the W.C.A. in the same way as the "totals," and what has been done for the "totals" out of the Industrial Injuries Fund could be done for the "partials."

Mr. Macpherson

I recognised from the start that it would be much harder to deal with the "partials" than with the "totals." We have done our best to deal with the "partials" along the lines of existing legislation. But there is no question of a comparison of earnings in the case of the "totals," because they are not able to earn. They had already reached their maximum, and it was possible to build on the maxima for them. With the "partials" we are working on comparisons all the time between the level of remuneration at the time of the accident and what they are actually earning at the present time. It is this difficulty of trying to assimilate the "partials" to the different concept of the industrial injuries legislation which has baffled the House for so long. Even before 1948 some difficulties arose. In respect of the 1943 legislation the same kind of debate took place. This was before the time of any of the hon. Members who are present except perhaps the hon. Lady the Member fox Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) and the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. B. Taylor). Lord Ingleby—as he now is—then said that he would look into the problem and try to find a solution to what had baffled everyone.

It is not only the existing size of the problem—10,000 people are involved at present. There are also what are known as the "latents"—about 50,000—who, while suffering from a disability which may eventually give rise to a compensation claim, have found employment without loss of earnings at present. The line which has always been taken on this is that with the principle of the relief of hardship it is extremely difficult to assimilate the whole field and put everyone on the same basis, especially when we have this comparison to make between the level of earnings before the accident and the actual earnings at present.

The fact is that the people whom the House has been discussing tonight still have their remedy under the Workmen's Compensation Act. That is not so for men on maximum rates, and this is why we make provision for them. As the earning power of the "partials" and the "latents" deteriorates, so their compensation can be reviewed upwards. Indeed, the Workmen's Compensation Act may be said to have a built-in provision adjusting compensation to changes in the level of earnings. Compensation is directly based on the difference between pre- and post-accident rates. Once these people reach the maximum level of compensation they will also benefit from the new provisions we have been discussing. I quite agree, and no doubt the hon. Member for Dearne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) will say, that one could take a short cut by making it the full difference between the two rates.

Mr. Wainwright

It is not so easy to obtain reviews of cases as the right hon. Gentleman has suggested. For instance, a man can have had an accident and have been receiving partial compensation for a given period and then, because day wages have gone up but contract wages have not gone up, he cannot claim that his pre-accident notional average would have risen. Therefore, if he had not had the accident, he would be earning higher wages, but because of certain other factors, although he has had an accident he cannot get full compensation. There are certain anomalies in the Act. We plead with the right hon. Gentleman to do something about these things, because it was a very harsh and unjust Act which we should abolish in its entirety. It makes a bad impression on people injured in these days.

Mr. Macpherson

The difficulty in abolishing it in entirety would be to find a just substitute for it in the absence of detailed information which would allow us to assess the loss of faculty. That is the difficulty we are in.

I am bound to say that I am not altogether satisfied that hardship of the kind we are trying to alleviate is being suffered merely because those concerned do not receive supplementary allowances.

The point has been made that "partials" on less than the maximum rates have been unable to get any benefit from the provisions for re-calculating loss of earnings. Several illustrations have been given of this, for example, the lower number of hours worked and the effect of technical developments, especially in the mining industry. But this is not a new problem. It was inherent in the provisions of the Workmen's Compensation Acts, and the difficulty is that it cannot be altered without reviving legislation which the House repealed over 15 years ago. There were various types of problems well-known in the Workmen's Compensation Acts days and these problems have always proved intractable.

I must tell the House frankly—because I do not want to leave the impression that in going away to think about it we are any more likely to find a solution than Lord Ingleby was in 1943—that it is highly unlikely that any legislative solution can be found. The House will remember that employers are responsible for compensation under those Acts, and when issues of this kind arise it may be that there is room for a solution by negotiation—I recognise the difficulties and I know that it is not an easy matter —between them and the workers concerned. I am sorry that I cannot be more optimistic this evening, but it is a problem which has baffled the House for a long time.

I am glad that we have been able at short notice to make undoubted improvements, and I am grateful to the House for the welcome which it has given to the new Clause.

Mr. B. Taylor

Can the Minister answer my last question about industrial injuries widows and parents?

Mr. Macpherson

That is really outside the new Clause.

Question put and agreed to.

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