HC Deb 26 March 1964 vol 692 cc632-3
5. Mr. Swingler

asked the Minister of Power what research is at present being carried out into dust conditions in coal-mining; how many persons are concerned in this research; what funds are devoted annually to the purpose; and what results have been obtained so far in regard to the causes and incidence of pneumoconiosis, chronic bronchitis and emphysema among mineworkers.

Mr. Peyton

About 220 people are employed in the research into dust conditions in coalmining undertaken by the National Coal Board, the Medical Research Council and my Department. The cost is around £450,000 a year. Information concerning the work is published from time to time.

Mr. Swingler

Can the hon. Gentleman say that a definitive report will be made to Parliament about the results of this research and, in particular, the connection between the incidence of chronic bronchitis and emphysema among mine-workers and the occupational hazards to which they are subject? Is he not aware that there is rising public opinion in mining and other areas that chronic bronchitis and emphysema ought to be recognised for National Insurance payments? Will he not issue a definitive report as a result of the research?

Mr. Peyton

I should not like the hon. Gentleman to think that there was any doubt in my mind about the importance of the problem. On the other hand, research into pneumoconiosis, because of the nature of the disease itself, is necessarily very slow. Certainly as soon as any clear results are available from the research, they will be made available. As I said, information is published from time to time by the bodies which are responsible for research work, and I ought to make it clear that the research work by the different bodies is coordinated.

Mr. T. Fraser

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is a growing belief in mining areas and among mineworkers in particular that men who are disabled by dust diseases and who had formerly expected to be certificated as suffering from pneumoconiosis are now being said to suffer from chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and that these men and their families are convinced that the disability arises from their occupation? Is it not time some further steps were taken to give adequate compensation to men who are so badly disabled in the nation's service?

Mr. Peyton

It is not yet known whether exposure to dust is a significant factor in causing the diseases of bronchitis and emphysema. The problem of diagnosis is frequently raised in the National Joint Pneumoconiosis Committee of which I am the chairman, and was raised at the last meeting. I am always prepared to look at the matter again to see if difficulties can be overcome.