HC Deb 17 March 1967 vol 743 cc861-81

As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

11.31 a.m.

Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr Tydvil)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

This is the first occasion in my experience in the House on which I have been directly associated with a Bill in respect of which complete unanimity has been expressed by hon. Members on both sides of the House. Although I see strange faces on the benches opposite today I hope that the same note will be struck, and that the Bill will receive its Third Reading in an atmosphere of complete harmony.

This is a short Bill, but it is a very important one to thousands of miners. In cases where a worker has been certified as suffering to a degree of 50 per cent. or more from pneumoconiosis, and where the disease is accompanied by emphysema or bronchitis, or both, it empowers the Minister to regard either or both of those diseases as being caused by pneumoconiosis—just as in the case of tuberculosis at present. I hope that that is not too complicated.

I am pleased to say that this provision will apply to all existing cases where those conditions exist. Those cases may have come into being under the Industrial Injuries Act or under the old Workmen's Compensation Act. I know that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary would like to deal with that aspect of the matter. I am glad to see him in his place, as he has been almost from the beginning of our discussion of the Bill.

I should like to thank my hon. Friends—especially my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch), who has expressed his regret that he cannot be present today. I know the unavoidable reason that has kept him away. He has been an enormous help to me, because he had long practical experience of industrial diseases before coming to the House. I also want to thank the Minister of Social Security, and, once again, the Parliamentary Secretary. They have shown their desire that the Bill shall be effective.

Most unusually for me, I also want to express my appreciation to hon. Members opposite, and in particular to the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Dean), who has also explained that he cannot be here this morning. He has been a great help. The help of my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite is appreciated not only by my fellow-miner Members of Parliament and myself, but also by thousands of suffering miners. The Bill is an excellent break-through, because, at long last, it has brought within the list of scheduled industrial diseases emphysema and bronchitis.

11.37 a.m.

Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)

I am sure that I speak for all hon. Members present and many thousands of people outside the House when I offer my sincere congratulations to my hon. Friend. I congratulate him, first, for being successful in the Ballot. We are contemporaries, both in coal mining and in Parliament. During my time in the House I have never been lucky in the Ballot. I am still living in hope, and shall continue to put my name down. I also congratulate my hon. Friend on promoting this Bill.

I have a personal interest in this Measure, in the sense that it is an Amendment of an Act of Parliament which I was privileged to pilot through the House—the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act. That was a very big break with tradition. I am glad to know that after 21 years of experience some of the anomalies that have been discovered have been remedied, although others have not. On the whole, the Act has been accepted as making much better provision for sufferers than did the previous Act.

I remember the first time that silicosis was scheduled—not so long ago. I note that my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) has just arrived. It was not until 1928 that the first Regulations were made, and they were very stringent. They covered diseases arising only as a result of silicon dust, although we all know that all dust is harmful.

This has been a very difficult problem to deal with. We have all had cases where two men have come to see us—perhaps living next door to each other—one of whom is certified as being disabled by pneumoconiosis accompanied by silicosis and the other certified by his doctor as being disabled owing to emphysema or acute bronchitis. We know that at the moment one receives benefit under the Industrial Injuries Scheme and the other merely receives sickness benefit—and there is a great difference between the two.

Having been certified, the men are entitled to benefit not only under the Act but also under the miners' supplementary scheme, which it was my pleasure to introduce 20 years ago. Not only do they have extra benefits from that scheme but they have a certain amount of coal at cheap rates. Those of us who know mining areas know that that is an enormous benefit.

This has been a sore point. It is a legal dictum in this country that justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done. I have found it impossible to explain the difference to two men, one covered by the National Insurance Industrial Injuries Act and the other certified as disabled through emphysema. The symptoms are the same.

Very few doctors today question that the incidence of bronchitis and emphysema amongst miners is bound to be higher than among the general population. One of the disappointments to old miners who knew the days of hand cutting and hand filling is that although we hoped when we reached the age of mechanical mining that there would be less dust to breathe. There is, in fact, more. There is provision in the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act to make investigation, and I hope that my hon. Friend will do that. I pay tribute to what the Coal Board and the N.U.M. have done in the supression of dust, but there is still far too much and it remains a big problem.

The Bill will meet a long-felt and deeply-felt grievance. I hope that it will receive the House's unanimous approval and the Royal Assent. Will my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary keep its operation under review? I do not now propose to argue whether 50 per cent. is the right criterion. I gave my view on that on Second Reading.

I noticed the other day that there was some criticism of the medical boards. I have none to offer, but could my hon. Friend ask them to take a special note of these cases and to report to him, say, at the end of two years whether the provisions of this admirable Bill really meet the position? I am sure that before very long people who have not got a 50 per cent. disability but who have emphysema will feel a grievance.

When I was preparing my Bill I said to one of my advisers, "If I put this in I am sure to create an anomaly." He said, "That is how we progress. We remove one anomaly, create another one, and then go on to remove that." There will be anomalies here. But in the meantime I offer my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty, who I brought from the valleys to superintend our workmen's compensation work when I was president of the South Wales miners and he has done excellent work. I also pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Social Security, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary and hon. Friends opposite who helped to get the Bill through.

It is a good step. It is not the last, and I therefore hope that we shall have a full report on how it is working. I give it a cordial welcome and shall vote for its Third Reading with both hands, if that is permissible.

11.44 a.m.

Mr. Harold Finch (Bedwellty)

The Bill represents a landmark in the history of occupational diseases. For the first time, general emphysema and bronchitis in the presence of pneumoconiosis will be regarded as an industrial hazard, if the Bill passes, as I am sure it will. In other words, it is recognised that bronchitis and emphysema, where there is pneumoconiosis, contribute to a man's total disability, which is the general trend of medical opinion today. I regard that as a great step forward, although it is not all that we desire.

Our good friend Sir Barnett Stross, who was a Member of this House for many years, and was held in high respect on both sides of the House, had a wide and intimate knowledge of the subject. In 1961 he said: Every time men cough as a result of breathing noxious dusts they are damaging their bronchial tubes and their lungs. The cough was given to us in the first place as a possible means of protecting ourselves, but prolonged constant coughing over many years damages more than the bronchial tubes. We do not need doctors to tell us this. It destroys the elasticity of the lungs and ultimately prevents the interchange of oxygen and carbon-dioxide in the tissues. This is why men cannot breathe and why they cannot work."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 3rd February. 1961; Vol. 633, c. 1398.] He there summed up the position of both medical men and laymen connected with the coal-mining industry on that important subject.

We are glad that the Bill carries us at least some of the way to recognise these distressing diseases. It has been difficult to understand some cases. In my years of experience I have known men working in pennant rock where there is a high percentage of silica. Some men are certified and others are not even though they show the same symptoms—gasping for breath in the same way as the men who are certified. That has been a cause of dissatisfaction and disturbance in the industry. People cannot see why one man working under the same conditions should be certified while others are not. The Bill should at least eradicate some of the dissatisfaction and discontent which have been experienced, particularly in the South Wales mining industry, over many years.

It is said that the figures are declining. We are happy that they are indeed declining, but of course fewer men are working in the industry. The problem of pneumoconiosis is still large, serious and urgent. The long-term problem is being tackled by the National Coal Board and the miners themselves through research into application of improved methods of dust suppression. Nevertheless, the figures are still very high. A high percentage of men in the later years of their work in the industry are declared to be totally incapacitated. A survey on the prevalence of this disease was made at 93 collieries all over the country and it was found in an average of 12.4 per cent. of those X-rayed. The prevalence in Great Britain between 1959 and 1963 was 12.1 per cent.

In the ageing group, 30.2 per cent. of those aged 55 and over who were X-rayed were declared to be suffering from pneumoconiosis, compared with an average of 2.7 per cent. among younger men. As the years go by, the winning of coal for industry and the country has placed a heavy toll on those who have spent so many years in the coal-mining industry.

Many others show the same symptoms and are incapacitated but are suffering from what has been described as emphysema and bronchitis. We are now at a stage where those declared to be 50 per cent. disabled and over with the presence of bronchitis and emphysema will be declared to be totally incapacitated. There should be further research to eradicate this disease from the mining areas, which is why I am pleased that the Bill should be before the House. We welcome the fact that this will include the old workmen's compensation cases. I congratulate the Government and the Parliamentary Secretary upon this gesture.

Under the old Workmen's Compensation Acts, many thousands of men were declared to be suffering from pneumoconiosis, but when examined by the Board were not assessed to be 10 per cent. or 15 per cent. disabled. There was a choice only between total or partial incapacity. Many of these men may not actually be disabled from pneumoconiosis, but, when they appear before the Board, as is intended, many will be found fit for very little work. If they are 50 per cent. incapacitated from emphysema or bronchitis, they can come within the terms of the Bill. This is of great importance.

Under the old Workmen's Compensation Acts, a man's compensation depended on his earnings, unlike the present industrial injuries benefit which my right hon. Friend put through this House. Under the Bill, they will qualify if they are certified as seriously disabled. Under the old benefits scheme there was no declaration of assessment, but that will now be brought into the Bill. Many men in the coalfields will come within these provisions.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) on the Bill. He has done a great service to miners and has helped to deal with the problems of aggravation and acceleration. The Bill opens the door for other forms of disability, such as arthritis. This is a question of acceleration. Therefore, the Bill is a great step forward. I am glad that I have lived to see the day when emphysema and bronchitis have been brought within our legislation. I also thank hon. Members opposite for their co-operation in seeing the Bill through Parliament.

11.53 a.m.

Mr. Michael McGuire (Ince)

I add my welcome to the Bill. It is a real breakthrough. I was wrongly reported in Committee, probably because of my poor diction, as describing it as a breakout of the wall. I said, in fact, that it was a brick out of the wall.

There has always been this great barrier for a man who is unable to reconcile himself to a severe disability like emphysema and not receive compensation for it. Now, a man with pneumoconiosis, with from 1 to 10 per cent. disability, is given a 10 per cent. assessment. This is a brick out of the wall, as I said in Committee and on Second Reading, and as I grow older I learn that these things are better done gradually. The argument is now put forward: why should 50 per cent. be in the Bill? We will leave that problem until later and get the Bill through first.

I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) on his success in the Ballot and, more important, on his choice of bringing a real measure of social justice to the people we represent, the mine workers. Though this is a wide Bill, embracing also people in the cotton industry and the potteries, and I am glad to see representatives of these industries present on these benches.

The Bill applies to anyone with a pneumoconiosis assessment and to the old workmen's compensation cases. Tribute has been paid to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary for bringing this in and I also congratulate him. The byssinosis victims are also covered. All will benefit. The criterion will be the 50 per cent. assessment. This will be some problem in the old workmen's com- pensation cases, but I do not doubt that it will be overcome.

The Measure is all the more welcome because it is long overdue. The sooner that real results can be seen, and justice is seen to be done, the more we will all like it. This modest Measure does not, as some still wrongly think, schedule emphysema as an industrial disease. It is merely an extension of the paired organs system, so a natural disability for which one is not due to be compensated will be considered with whatever industrial injury one receives.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will not mind, on this St. Patrick's Day—La Padraig, in Gaelic—if I give my hon. Friend a symbol of it. I do not know whether he has a shamrock, but he should have.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths) said that it was generally felt that mineworkers and others in heavy industry suffer more from bronchitis than those anywhere else. Bronchitis is called the English disease. This is borne out by a recent Government Report showing that the incidence of bronchitis, particularly among mineworkers, is twice as high as among the next highest group. This is further conclusive proof that the Bill is a good one.

The Bill is an extension of the 1948 Act, for the introduction of which we owe congratulations to my right hon. Friend. That Act was a milestone in the history of workers' protection. It removed a very unequal contest between an injured workman and an often wealthy employer. This is a brick out of the wall—I hope to be correctly reported—of this insuperable barrier. I hope that, very soon, after the Bill reaches the Statute Book, and with more luck in the Ballot and co-operation from the Parliamentary Secretary, we will remove the wall entirely and justice will be seen to be done. I welcome the Bill.

11.58 a.m.

Mr. Bernard Braine (Essex, South-East)

I rise to express the warm support of my right hon. and hon. Friends for this useful Measure. I join those who have congratulated the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) on having steered his Bill safely through the Committee with so much harmony and light, and on having in the process persuaded the Government to support him. I agree with the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths), whose efforts in this sphere over so many years are well-known, that this is a great step forward.

The hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch), who also has a great record in agitation in this field—that is probably the right word in these circumstances—has recently said that the Bill is a great landmark. As a representative of a mining constituency where, unhappily, pneumoconiosis and the associated diseases of emphysema and bronchitis have been all too prevalent, the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil can feel that he has performed a very useful service not only for his own constituents but for all those who live in such constituencies. I was delighted to hear him pay warm tribute to other hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Dean).

This is not an occasion for long speeches. The Bill is a simple and straightforward Measure. It had a good Second Reading and received thorough scrutiny in Standing Committee. That is not surprising, since to many members of the Committee had intimate and firsthand knowledge of the subject.

On a personal note, I recall that when I first became a Minister and went to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance a large number of hon. Members, some of whom I see here today, pressed me continually for the prescription of emphysema and bronchitis as industrial diseases. At that time I was obliged to say, on the advice given to me, that there was no strong evidence to link these diseases specifically with occupational conditions. I have never been happy about that, although as recently as last year the same view was still held, and was borne out by the expert inquiry conducted by the Medical Research Council at the request of the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance.

There has been and, I suppose, there always will be, some difficulty in amending the Industrial Injuries Scheme in regard to prescription of disease. This requires that a clearly established connection must be shown between disablement and a disease specifically caused by occupation. However, the right hon. Member for Llanelly blew a gust of fresh air into this discussion. Common sense would suggest, I should have thought, that once a man had contracted pneumoconiosis, that would predispose him to bronchitis and lung inflammation.

Some years after I was at the Ministry I saw that Dr. McLellan of the Pneumoconiosis Research Unit, the work of which we all recognise to be of such great value, said, as reported in the Practitioner of December, 1965: There is a possibility that the inhalation of dust and fumes may predispose to this syndrome (bronchitis) without producing radiographic or other signs by which it can be separated from bronchitis of non-industrial origin. In short, it seems that in a case where bronchitis and emphysema are associated with serious pneumoconiosis, this should be taken fully into account—and, in the name of humanity, the benefit of the doubt should be given to the man concerned.

I agree with the comments of the right hon. Member for Llanelly about the 50 per cent. limit. Perhaps one can say with St. Patrick that better half a loaf than none at all. Indeed, it must delight St. David that St. Patrick is on his side today.

Mr. McGuire

He is always on the side of the righteous.

Mr. Braine

That depends on whether Ireland is playing England or Wales at rugby football or something else.

I join with the right hon. Member for Llanelly in pressing the Government—although I am sure that here we are pushing at an open door—to keep the question of the 50 per cent. limit under review. As the House knows, I am particularly interested in health problems. The changes that have been and are taking place in medical techniques are remarkable. All the time we are discovering more about disease generally and it would, therefore, be right for the Government to give an indication that they will not rest on this, but will keep the matter very carefully under review.

Since other hon. Members wish to speak and as other Bills are waiting to be discussed, I will merely add that the Government have been right to accept this Measure. Once again, on behalf of my hon. and right hon. Friends, I warmly congratulate the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil on his success in getting such a swift passage for his modest but, for the people concerned, extremely valuable Bill.

12.5 p.m.

Mr. Gordon Oakes (Bolton, West)

Most hon. Members who have spoken represent mining constituencies. My constituency in Bolton can no longer be so described, although it contains the headquarters of the Lancashire branch of the National Union of Mineworkers. I wholeheartedly agree with the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. McGuire) in that the Bill extends—this is my understanding of it and I trust that I am right—beyond miners and includes, for example, byssinosis, which is the disease of cotton workers.

Significantly, not for the first time, the initiative in this matter has been taken by hon. Members of the Labour Party who represent constituencies in South Wales, and that initiative benefits not only their own constituents and industries but many workers in other industries. I therefore warmly congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) upon the initiative which he has taken and the help which he has given to 3,000 or 4,000 people who are at present deprived of benefit because of the operation of the previous Act. This is, therefore, a useful amending Measure which will be of great help not only to miners but to those outside the coal industry as well.

I warmly applaud the Bill and hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will make it clear that it relates to industries other than coal mining. I appreciate that predominantly we are speaking of diseases which afflict those who work in the mines. It should be remembered, however, that it will be of considerable assistance to those who suffer from byssinosis and silicosis.

12.7 p.m.

Mr. John Forrester (Stoke-on-Trent, North)

I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) upon piloting the Bill through its various stages. I am prompted to rise to make a few remarks of commendation of my old friend Sir Barnett Stross, who spent many years in this House and would have longed to be here today. Before coming here he spent a considerable time in Stoke-on-Trent working on behalf of people suffering from these terrible diseases. It is fitting that on this occasion, after having campaigned for so many years, we have this recognition of the diseases of emphysema and bronchitis.

The Bill will be particularly welcomed in Stoke-on-Trent because, as has been said, it will benefit all workers who suffer from the terrible scourge of pneumoconiosis. Perhaps because of the nature of the pottery industry, we have also suffered a great deal from atmospheric pollution, and this has added to the health hazards faced by the workers in the mines and in the pottery industry. However, it will be a disappointment to many people who are not exposed to the dangers of pneumoconiosis, and those whose disability is less than 50 per cent. that they will not qualify under the Bill. This should not detract from the many virtues of the Bill, which must be regarded as a significant step forward and certainly a step in the right direction.

12.9 p.m.

Mr. J. D. Concannon (Mansfield)

I rise briefly to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) and other hon. Members who have helped to pilot the Bill through. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. McGuire) said, this is a brick out of the wall, but much more remains to be done.

I stress the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths) that today, with mechanised coal mining, the problem caused by dust is still great. Pneumoconiosis sometimes takes years to manifest itself. Until fairly recently I worked in the East Midlands coalfield, and know that it is no longer a question of men getting the coal by hand. Machines do that, but they grind a lot of the coal to dust which makes the dust suppression problem more acute. So much is this the case that I seriously fear that in, perhaps, 10 years' time we shall have a serious outbreak of pneumoconiosis in the East Midlands if we are not careful. At the same time, I recognise that a lot of money and time is being spent on research into dust suppression, and I sincerely hope that we shall see some real achievement in this connection.

I recognise that this Bill is a real breakthrough. I see my duty in this House as being, as an "ex-soldier" as it were, to increase that break-through from 50 per cent. onwards. I congratulate all those hon. Members who have steered this Measure through the House, because to my branch members and my constituents it represents a great step forward. It is something for which we have been waiting for many years. It will stand miners and others in good stead for years to come.

12.12 p.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

I want to add my word of congratulation to my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies). I have known him now for over half a century, but have never before known an occasion on which he has met such universal approval. I speak, not for Welsh miners but for Scottish miners. I live in a Scottish town, and every weekend I walk in the hills in the company of miners. One sometimes sees men ambling along on sticks or walking very slowly because they suffer from this dread disease of pneumoconiosis or one of its allied diseases.

My father began work in a stone quarry in North Wales, and swallowed the stone dust. Then he came to South Wales, and swallowed the coal dust of South Wales. Therefore, in his lungs he had a mixture of stone dust and coal dust, and as the medical authorities of that time did not know how to diagnose his complaint they called it asthma. I have no doubt that it will now be called pneumoconiosis. I am sure that the Bill will be very warmly welcomed by the men in the stone quarries of North Wales and in the coalfields of Scotland, South Wales and other parts.

I also pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths) with whom I have been associated for many years. He has always been connected with this struggle to improve the lot of the working miner. I recall that it is all of 50 years ago that he saved my life. There was a very stormy meeting at which I was not the most popular person on the platform. A mild attempt was made to assassinate me, and my right hon. Friend saved me from a rather savage mob. I am not so sure that he has not been regretting it ever since. All hon. Members who represent mining constituencies, and constituencies in which people suffer from this disease, will welcome the Third Reading of this Bill as an historic occasion.

12.15 p.m.

Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

I do not want to be the only hon. Member present today who does not congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) on introducing the Bill. There are no coal mines in my constituency, but I was at least brought up in a coal-mining area. One of my earliest recollections as a boy in the County of Durham was the pitiful sight of old miners, maimed, coughing and dragging out the last few years of their lives in the most miserable circumstances. I am therefore very glad to have the opportunity to congratulate my hon. Friend, and I hope that it will not be long before this very useful Measure finds its place on the Statute Book.

12.16 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Social Security (Mr. Charles Loughlin)

One of my first notes for this debate was that I must congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies). I thought that this was something unusual, but I find that every hon. Member who has spoken has done just that.

My hon. Friend has been in this House for many more years than I ever will be, and during that time has has been particularly concerned with men engaged in the coal mining industry as well as with his other constituents. He represents a South Wales constituency, where we get more miners than in many other areas of Great Britain. It must be a proud moment for him to know that after all these years he has been able to steer through this House a Bill that will have a marked effect on the lives of at least a limited number of miners.

My hon. Friend has got his Measure through to this stage without, as far as I know, a single speech of any kind being made against either its principle or provisions. It is true that in Committee we had, as a Government, to make some Amendments which were, perhaps, restrictive, but if we have to plead guilty to that we can equally claim credit for the fact that some of our Amendments extended its provisions to some who, as the Measure stood on Second Reading, would have been excluded. I congratulate my hon. Friend, and I congratulate also, some others of my hon. Friends whom I know assisted him in the preparation and piloting of the Bill.

I hope that the House will not think it remiss of me if, with due deference to everyone else who has spoken this morning, I refer to the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch). I am now in a rather difficult situation in speaking about the Bill. I represent one of the oldest coal mining constituencies in Great Britain, but we no longer have deep mines there, although we have some free miners and shallow pits.

The fact that I represent a constituency that has been historically of a coal mining nature does not mean that I know anything at all about the industry itself. It is true that I come into contact with miners who suffer from pneumoconiosis, but I feel a great deal of diffidence in attempting to speak about pneumoconiosis, chronic bronchitis and emphysema when most of those hon. Members who have spoken in this debate have a far greater degree of knowledge of the subject than I can ever hope to have.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bedwelty not only assisted my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil, but on one occasion he assisted me. Although I have an exceptionally good Department and advisers on this matter, but once when he was in my room at the House, and I was trying to sort out a particularly difficult problem, before I could ring up the office to get some advice he was able, off the cuff, to give me the information I required.

This is a small Measure affecting only about 3,000 or 4,000 sufferers from pneumoconiosis with accompanying chronic bronchitis and emphysema, but it may affect others. I hope the number who will be added to those at present concerned will be very small indeed. I shall be delighted if there are no more than 3,000 or 4,000 who are at the moment affected. The fewer people who suffer from pneumoconiosis the more I shall be pleased.

It is a common practice of many journalists to denigrate this House. Today we have spent some of the time in trying to bring into effect an improvement in the lives of a number of people who constitute a small percentage of the total population. It is a tribute to our system of government that we can begin to think in terms of small sections of people rather than devoting the whole of our time to some of the more exciting debates ranging over wide international affairs.

The effects of the Bill have been referred to by a number of my hon. Friends and by the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine), but it might be as well for me to make absolutely clear its precise effect. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. McGuire) said, we have to make abundantly clear that we are not scheduling all chronic bronchitis and emphysema in relation to industries with dust content. It would be wrong if we did not attempt to underline this. I should not like every miner, pottery worker, steel worker, or other worker to imagine that with the passing of the Bill pneumoconiosis accompanied by chronic bronchitis or emphysema would be taken into account in his case. Only those who under the Industrial Injuries Act or the old Workman's Compensation Acts have an assessment of 50 per cent. pneumoconiosis and a condition of accompanying chronic bronchitis or emphysema will have chronic bronchitis or emphysema taken into account in the total assessment of disability. That must be absolutely clear.

The question has been raised whether bronchitis and emphysema are caused by dust conditions in different industries, or whether there are other reasons for those complaints. The reason we chose the 50 per cent. line was that on medical advice that point is associated with the transition from simple to complicated pneumoconiosis. After it changes from a simple to a complicated condition there is marked disability resulting from emphysema or bronchitis accompanying pneumoconiosis.

A number of hon. Members have referred to the causation of bronchitis and emphysema. I do not want to argue to the contrary, although I make clear that in recent discussions some of my medical advisers have argued that bronchitis and emphysema are not complaints peculiar to any particular industry. There is much conflicting evidence about this. I do not want my hon. Friends to be upset by what I am saying, but we should treat this matter in a manner which combines emotion with objectivity.

I get emotional about pneumoconiosis and when I see miners who suffer from emphysema and bronchitis, I cannot get away from the feeling that those men have been in the pits and it is doubtful whether they would have suffered to the same degree from bronchitis and emphysema if they had not been in the pits.

Mr. James Griffiths

I want to cheer up my hon. Friend. There was a time when many doctors would not accept that miners could get pneumoconiosis. The name was invented only in recent years. But doctors change. I urge my hon. Friend on. Argue with them, and they will change.

Mr. Loughlin

It is true that, as we change, doctors and medical opinions change. We should be clear that the relationship between chronic bronchitis and occupation is not yet clearly defined. Both my right hon. Friend and myself are very concerned about this whole subject. In response to a request by my right hon. Friend, an expert committee was called together by the Medical Research Council towards the end of 1965 to consider the rôle of occupation in the etiology of chronic bronchitis, with particular reference to the coal mining industry. With the approval of the Minister, the Council's Report was published in the British Medical Journal on 8th January, 1966.

The Report concluded that chronic bronchitis displayed the same clinical characteristics, irrespective of the occupation of the individual affected, and, in consequence, it was not possible in the individual's case to determine the extent to which employment in a particular occupation had contributed to the development of the illness. Cigarette smoking, atmospheric conditions, geographical location, and other socioeconomic factors were factors in the incidence rate. Intensity of first exposure did not appear to be very significant in determining the prevalence of bronchitis amongst coal miners.

The Report concluded that it was important that research should be carried out into the etiology of the disease and that this research should continue. The results of research were kept constantly under review and it was not considered that a further review at that time would be likely to reveal any other evidence about the rôle of occupation in the etiology of the disease.

My right hon. Friend the Minister has recently discussed this Report with the Chairman and Secretary of the Medical Research Council. The Council has assured my right hon. Friend that, although it concluded that the information to date does not provide evidence on which a causal relationship between occupation and chronic bronchitis could be accepted, it is prepared at any time to consider new findings which may bear on the question.

The Council has stressed to my right hon. Friend, however, that, in a disease as common in the general population as bronchitis, conclusions cannot be drawn from general impressions or individual cases. The evidence must be factually based on fully-documented comparative studies covering considerable numbers of people who have lived and worked in different environmental circumstances. Whenever further evidence of this kind is produced, including the results of the studies currently in progress, the Council will consider it and go into it, as necessary, with the investigators concerned.

The Council added that it would also be prepared to consider well-documented medical evidence which would seem to indicate further possible lines of research on the question of the connection between chronic bronchitis and occupation.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Mr. James Griffiths) asked me whether I would give an undertaking that, once the Bill is on the Statute Book, I will ask the medical boards to keep a careful check and analysis of the cases presented to them and to report on a two-yearly basis. I will draw the Minister's attention to this request, because in the final analysis it is her responsibility. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister will consider the request.

I have been asked whether this covers coal miners and other industries. It covers other industries. I hope that my hon. Friends will not ask me to use a list at this stage. The old cases have been referred to.

Mr. Braine

I am sure that the whole House is very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he has been saying. On the point raised by the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. James Griffiths) and to which the hon. Gentleman has quickly responded by saying that he will ask the Minister to inquire of the medical boards what they can do in this respect, what relationship is there between inquiries of that kind and the wide variation there must be between conditions in particular mining communities and in particular pits?

I agree with everything that the hon. Gentleman has said about the inability to link bronchitis specifically with occupation. There appears to be a very high incidence of bronchitis among miners. Conditions vary between pit and pit and between one mining valley and another. What type of inquiry is going on, not merely into the actual causes of bronchitis, but aimed at establishing the environmental facts in the coalmining areas? Surely research should be going on into this aspect as well?

Mr. Loughlin

Research has been going on for a number of years. There have been a number of reports on this, but there has not yet been a report which has established that bronchitis is in any way attributable to the industry. In one instance, there was a higher incidence of bronchitis in a mining area and, therefore, it could be assumed that there was a causal connection, but it was also discovered that the same high incidence applied to the womenfolk in that area who never went down the mine. This is a difficult problem.

Both my right hon. Friend and myself are conscious of the necessity to determine one way or another, wherever medical evidence is available, any causal connection with mining or the pottery industry. However, although we can be conscious of this necessity and are constantly keeping our eyes upon it, we must be mindful of the fact that diseases cannot be scheduled, unless the scheduling is based upon evidence that there is a direct causal connection between the disease and the industry.

Mr. Braine

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I accept what he says. I should, however, like to raise a specific point. He referred to the survey carried out by the Medical Research Council at the request of his Ministry. The Council's report refers to a point which is of high significance. Referring to a number of special surveys, the report confirms that miners have more respiratory symptoms than non-miners in the same area, but it adds that the difference is pronounced in South Wales. This would suggest that an environmental factor is involved. What I am asking is whether some special effort might be made to follow this up. I ask in a spirit of genuine inquiry.

Mr. James Griffiths

If I may intervene, what the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) said is very interesting. He said that the incidence of bronchitis was heavier in South Wales than elsewhere among miners. Why is this? This is an interesting point. The same applied to the incidence of pneumoconiosis 25 or 30 years ago. It was heavier among anthracite miners than among other miners. This is why I want the Medical Research Council to consider this matter very carefully. I am sure there is a lot to learn about it. Why should anthracite miners be more prone to pneumoconiosis, and not only more prone to contract the disease but prone to have it in a more severe way than other miners?

The time has come to have a fresh review of the whole problem of the relationship of these diseases. I appreciate that my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary can only convey our feelings to his right hon. Friend, but I am sure my right hon. Friend the Minister will look at this problem very carefully because it is very important that we should gather the information as we go along.

Mr. Loughlin

May I tie this up at this stage by telling the House that there are at present about 20 bronchitis research surveys going on including several associated with pneumoconiosis, some of them closely associated with the Medical Research Council and the Pneumoconiosis Research Unit. We shall take whatever steps are within our power to establish in one way or another whether bronchitis and emphysema are associated with the mining industry or any other industry and whether there is a causal connection. Beyond that, however, I do not think that I can even lend myself for a minute to the suggestion that we might reduce the 50 per cent. provision at any subsequent time. I would hope that evidence would establish that it is right and proper for us so to do, but I do not think I can give the assurance which might be desired by hon. Members.

I was about to refer to the old cases. I should like to make clear that the Bill covers those old cases, both the time-barred cases and the supplemental cases—all those persons who have contracted pneumoconiosis prior to 5th June, 1948; I am saying 5th June from memory.

Mr. Braine


Mr. Loughlin

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman; I should have said 5th July, 1948.

The Bill will cover those cases. They will get a bit more compensation because these are the old cases which were not compensated under the old Workmen's Compensation Act. They will get a little bit more as a result of the Bill.

I conclude as I began, by saying that I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil not merely because he got a place in the Ballot, but because he introduced the Bill. I am as grateful to him for, as I am sure are those 4,000 or so people who will obtain benefit from it.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill read the Third time and passed.