HC Deb 24 May 1965 vol 713 cc13-5
15. Mr. Harold Walker

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance in how many cases the pneumoconiosis medical board has rejected the evidence of coroners' courts that pneumoconiosis has been a contributory factor where death has occurred from lung cancer.

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

Decisions on claims for industrial death benefits are made by the lay statutory authorities who take into account all the available evidence, including any evidence of the coroners' courts and the opinion of the pneumoconiosis medical panel, in deciding whether death was caused or materially accelerated by pneumoconiosis. No question of rejection of evidence by the pneumoconiosis medical board therefore arises.

Mr. Walker

Would my hon. Friend care to look at the recent evidence provided by the executive committee of the Yorkshire miners, when he would find that such evidence provided for coroners' courts has been rejected? In industrial areas, particularly in Yorkshire, there are many embittered widows who feel themselves unjustly deprived of widows' pensions because of the rejection by the pneumoconiosis medical panel of such evidence provided by highly-qualified pathologists before coroners' courts?

Mr. Davies

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that supplementary question. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Certainly I am, because we are concerned with the problem of pneumoconiosis and lung cancer among miners. We are very much concerned with it. This Question deals with the incidence of cancer and its link with pneumoconiosis. The facts are that on the research we have had up to date—I think my hon. Friend has already had this answer—of 1,506 cases 67 had lung cancer but to establish a real link has not really been possible. I took my hon. Friend's Question to be immediately on that point. If he has any particular evidence he would like to bring before me or the House I will certainly consider it my duty, as most of us on both sides of the House would, to give it my attention, because of the importance of this question.

Mr. Sharples

Will the hon. Gentleman ask his right hon. Friend to have a look at the whole of this part of the industrial injuries scheme, because I think that many of us know that diagnosis of pneumoconiosis in these cases where it is related to other diseases causes a great deal of difficulty?

Mr. Davies

Yes. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, because on both sides of the House there is real concern about this, and our predecessors were concerned about it, too. I will certainly draw my right hon. Friend's attention to what the hon. Gentleman has said; but she has heard his question herself. We are already considering this problem.

Mr. Kelley

When considering this question of the incidence of lung cancer among pneumoconiotic miners will my right hon. Friend take into consideration that it is probably higher among them than it is in the rest of the industrial community and that it should not be related simply to miners, but to pneumoconiotic miners, and that probably some evidence to correlate the two conditions will then be found?

Mr. Davies

Yes, certainly. I take the point clearly. I am aware of what my right hon. Friend has said, and I thank him.

Mr. McGuire

Would my hon. Friend agree that the right way to approach this is to schedule emphysema as one which would qualify a man, because we in the mining community feel that though with cancer there could be an argument about whether a miner has pneumoconiosis; whether he has cancer or not he has emphysema? Every miner is aware of this. Surely that is the right way to tackle the question?

Mr. Davies

I am inclined to suppose that I should be ruled out of order if I were to pursue that question now, but perhaps my hon. Friend would like to put down other Questions about it.