HC Deb 21 November 1968 vol 773 cc1681-3

9.58 p.m.

The Under Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Security (Mr. Norman Pentland)

I beg to move, That the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) (Colliery Workers Supplementary Scheme) Amendment (No. 2) Order, a draft of which was laid before this House on 8th November, be approved. The Order amends the Colliery Workers Supplementary Scheme which is set out in Statutory Instrument 1963/934. The power to make or vary the scheme is in Section 82 of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act of 1965.

Before dealing with the effect of the Order, I should like to explain briefly the background of the scheme.

The scheme has existed since 1948, and was brought about at the request of both sides of the coalmining industry. It is contributory on both sides, and is run by a national committee on which both employers and colliery workers are represented. It provides supplements to benefits awarded to colliery workers and their dependants under the industrial injuries scheme.

The rates of benefit for dependants of those who die as the result of a colliery accident or disease are fixed as set sums in the main Order. So too are the rates of contribution. The rates of supplement for those who are incapable of work or disabled are expressed as a proportion of the corresponding industrial injuries benefit. That proportion is one third.

Before 1967, upratings of industrial injuries benefit have involved an automatic increase in the rates of supplementary injury and disablement benefit. The increase in dependants' benefits and, where necessary, in contributions, has been achieved by an Order under the affirmative Resolution procedure.

At the time of the 1967 uprating, which was provided for by the National Insurance Act, 1967, both sides of the industry requested a standstill on the rates of colliery supplement. This was achieved for contributions and survivors' benefits simply by not making an Order to increase them.

For supplements to injury and disablement benefit it was necessary to amend the scheme at the point where it provided for a proportion of the industrial injuries benefits to be paid. This was at Article 12.

Consequently, Statutory Instrument 1967/1550 suspended this provision, though only until 26th January, 1968. Statutory Instrument 1968/83 carried the standstill up to 3rd December, 1968. The present Orders seeks to extend the standstill until 3rd June, 1969.

In conclusion, the extension has the support of both sides of the industry; and I commend it to the House.

10.2 p.m.

Mr. Marcus Worsley (Chelsea)

The Under-Secretary has assisted the House by explaining the Order and the necessity for it. It is an unusual Order. The colliery industry was the only industry to take up a scheme under the Industrial Injuries Act. We are, therefore, discussing something unique to the industry.

This is the third time that this increase has been postponed. It was first postponed to a date at the beginning of this year; then it was to have been postponed to a date next month; now it is going on to June, 1969. I appreciate that this has been done by agreement and that there is no controversy within the industry.

On the other hand, certain people are receiving smaller benefits than they would otherwise be as a result of the Order. This process has been going on for over a year. The House would like to know how much longer it is to go on. Can the hon. Gentleman tell the House that this will be the last time the Government will seek a further prostponement? Can he give an undertaking, in other words, that June, 1969, is the final date to which these provisions will be postponed? Will the revised scheme be brought in on that date?

10.5 p.m.

Mr. Pentland

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I should like to reply to the points raised by the hon. Member for Chelsea (Mr. Worsley).

I take up first his mild criticism about the timing. What he says is true—that there is only a short time before the Order comes into effect. However, I feel sure that he will accept my assurance and that of my right hon. Friend that no disrespect to the House is intended. As he probably knows, the House and my Department are living in times which may be fairly described as hectic. I am afraid that this Order has, to some extent, been a casualty of the situation.

Secondly, I cannot give the hon. Gentleman a firm assurance of the kind which he seeks. Nevertheless, my Department will bear in mind what he said. With that assurance, I hope that the House will accept the Order.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) (Colliery Workers Supplementary Scheme) Amendment (No. 2) Order, 1968, a draft of which was laid before this House on 8th November, be approved.