§ FINDING OF FACT TO BE CONCLUSIVE
§ "The provisions contained in section 75(1) of the National Insurance Act 1965, and the corresponding provision in section 50(1) of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act 1965, that the decision of a claim or question as there mentioned is to be final shall make any finding of fact or other determination embodied in or necessary to a decision, or on which it is based, conclusive for the purpose of any further decision".—[Mrs, Castle.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)
With the new Clause I think it will be convenient to take the following: new Clause 5, "Decision on origin of injury or disability".
Government Amendment No. 2, in page 7, line 36, at end insert:(2A) Notwithstanding anything in subsection (1) or (2) above (but subject to the provisions of Part III of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act 1965 as to appeal and review), where for purposes of disablement benefit in respect of an accident it has been found by a medical board or medical appeal tribunal, on the determination or last determination of the disablement questions, that an injury resulted in whole or in part from the accident, then for purposes of death benefit in respect of that accident (including benefit on a death occurring before the passing of this Act) the finding shall be conclusive that the injury did so result.The reference in this subsection to a medical board includes a medical practitioner determining disablement questions on a reference under section 41 of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act 1965".Opposition sub-Amendment (a) thereto, leave out "purposes of death benefit in respect" and insert:any further claim or assessment arising out".Government Amendment No. 3.
§ Mrs. Castle
I understand that we are to have a general debate now, but I wish to make it clear that we shall wish to vote separately on new Clauses 4 and 5 and sub-Amendment (a) to Government Amendment No. 2.
We had a long debate in Committee on this important matter in the course of which the Under-Secretary of State, who was clearly impressed by the weight of our arguments, promised to consider carefully all our points. Amendment No. 1434 2 meets one of the points we raised with the hon. Gentleman, but only a relatively minor point. I hope that as a result of this debate we shall persuade him to meet all our points. The issue is whether we should clarify the law on industrial injury to the benefit or to the detriment of thousands of workers.
In the debate on new Clause 3 the Secretary of State said that the time was not right to introduce that new Clause. The right hon. Gentleman had no other argument against it whatsoever. When he said the time was not right, he was presumably referring to the industrial relations situation. I suggest to the Undersecretary, as his right hon. Friend is not here, that one way to make the time right would be to withdraw Clause 5, to which new Clauses 4 and 5 are a positive alternative. Or are the Government to go on endlessly compounding their calculated provocativeness to ordinary men and women and their trade unions?
Clause 5 is an alien intruder into what should be a normal social security uprating Bill. It represents the furtive theft of the rights of thousands of injured working men and women. Not surprisingly Clause 5 slipped through the House with barely a mention on Second Reading, because the Secretary of State's references to it at that stage were obscure and complicated and no right hon. or hon. Member understood its implications.
It is essential to make it clear that Clause 5 in this uprating Bill has only one purpose: to reverse two recent decisions of the House of Lords in the cases of a Mr. Dowling and Messrs. Jones and Hodson which went in favour of the workmen and their unions. If those House of Lords decisions stand, the interpretations put by their Lordships on the meaning of the Industrial Injuries Act will be quoted in favour of future claimants by their unions. In order to reverse those favourable decisions the Government have to alter the law. I repeat, that is the sole purpose of Clause 5.
These are complex, legal issues and I will try to simplify them, as indeed a number of their Lordships who considered the two cases to which I have referred managed to do, while others of them, I must say, managed to obscure them wonderfully.
1435 Under the industrial injuries legislation introduced by the Labour Government in 1945, a worker in insurable employment who suffers personal injury by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment is entitled to three forms of provision from the State. First, a short-term industrial injury benefit payable while he is incapable of work as a result of the accident. Secondly, a long-term disablement benefit if he is suffering a continuing loss of faculty as a result of the injury. Thirdly, death benefit for his widow if he dies as a result, directly or indirectly, of his injury.
Up to now hon. Members on both sides of the House have made the common sense assumption that none of those benefits would be payable unless a personal injury by accident had occurred, and that fact had to be established at the first stage of the whole process by the insurance officer with a right of appeal, if necessary, to an appeal tribunal or commissioner. Those three provisions form what we call the statutory authorities.
We also made the common sense assumption—because it is spelled out in the Act—that once the existence of a personal injury arising from the accident had been established the decision on that fact was final. The disablement question—that is the assessment of the degree of the loss of faculty which the worker continued to endure—was the only one to be referred to the medical authorities, to the medical board or the medical appeal tribunal.
As Lord Reid put it in the House of Lords discussion in the case of Jones and Hodson:So (subject to appeal) it is for an insurance officer to decide (inter alia) whether there has been 'personal injury caused by accident'…But before anyone can get any benefit an insurance officer (or on appeal a tribunal or the commissioner) must decide that there has been personal injury caused by accident. Under the scheme of the Act a medical board is not charged to reach a decision as to that matter…Subject to appeal or as provided by the Act, 'any decision of a claim or question' is final.That has been the assumption on which we have all proceeded since the Labour Government introduced the original Industrial Injuries Act in 1945. Indeed, if one reads the Explanatory Memorandum 1436 which was issued with that Act one sees running through it the refrain that the decision shall be final. Apparently, we have all been labouring under a misapprehension. Apparently, unbeknown to the House, injured workmen and their unions have been forced to fight lengthy legal battles, first with the Ministry and then with the Department of Health and Social Security, to establish the basic points which we all thought were self-evident.
In 1966 an injured workman and his union won a notable victory in the Dowling case, and it is to reverse that victory that the Government have introduced Clause 5. I want to quote one reference from many which I could quote from what the union's solicitors said about the effect of passing Clause 5. It said:If Clause 5 is passed such decisions will not be binding and injured persons may be compelled to fight the same battle time and time again before one tribunal after another, year after year, until the Department of Health and Social Security can find a tribunal to give them the decision which they"—that is the Department—require.Let me turn to the Dowling case which precipitated the insertion of Clause 5 into the Bill. Mr. Dowling was a workman in insurable employment who lifted a heavy flagstone in the course of his employment and while he was doing so he felt a pain in his chest which later became acute. The diagnosis revealed that he had a hiatus hernia so he applied for industrial injury benefit. He did so on the obvious assumption that the pain he felt in the chest and the lifting of the flagstone had some connection.
He was refused industrial injury benefit by the insurance officer, so the union took the case up and fought it through the appeal tribunal up to the Commissioner. The Commissioner heard extensive medical evidence for and against the claimant. I ask the Under-Secretary to take particular note of that fact, because no doubt he will repeat all the arguments we heard from him in Standing Committee, that industrial injury cases are always dealt with perfunctorily. In this case I have the Commissioner's statement if the Minister wishes to see it.
§ 9.30 p.m.
After hearing the medical evidence he found in the claimant's favour in a finding
which Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest described in the House of Lords as
a careful review of the case.
So much for the argument about perfunctoriness. The Commissioner therefore awarded Mr. Dowling industrial injury benefit and he gave him an accident declaration to which he was entitled under Section 48 of the National Insurance Industrial Injuries Act, 1965. The 1965 Act is merely a consolidated form of the original Labour Government Act and subsequent minor amendments to it. The reason for Section 48 was the importance of the declaration that an industrial accident had occurred for the subsequent claims that a workman or his defendants might have to make. The Section says:
any person suffering a personal injury by accident shall be entitled, if he claims the accident was an industrial accident, to have that question determined, and a declaration made and recorded accordingly".
Later it says:
any declaration under this section that an accident was or was not an industrial accident shall be conclusive for the purposes of any claim for benefit in respect of that accident".
§ I should have thought the intentions of Parliament as to the need to secure finality of decisions was there evident because the alternative is so frightening for the workman, particularly if he is alone and does not have a powerful union to fight his case. Therefore the Commissioner's granting of an accident declaration to Mr. Dowling would seem to any ordinary person to have settled the matter, particularly as Section 50 of the 1965 Act expressly provides that decisions shall be final in order, presumably, to protect workmen from the endless litigation which people like Mr. Dowling have had to face. I should have thought that if there had been discussion of the 1965 Act, which there was not, the whole House would have assumed that that was the intention of the Act, and that Mr. Dowling had therefore established that he had suffered personal injury by accident. Otherwise, what does the declaration mean? Why the award of industrial injury benefit? But not a bit of it, according to the Department of Health and Social Security, because when Mr. Dowling applied for disablement benefit he was turned down by the medical board and the medical appeal tribunal on the grounds that the hernia was due to 1438 natural causes and that there had never been an accident.
The union took the case up. Thank heavens the man had a union, or he would not now be drawing disablement benefit and special hardship allowance. Imagine the condition he would be in now. His union took it to the House of Lords on the explicit ground, the point of law, that the medical appeal tribunal had exceeded its jurisdiction in rejecting the Commissioner's finding that there had been an accident, and the union won. As we shall no doubt hear some very irrelevant and distracting arguments by the Under-secretary, let me read the reasons given by two of their Lordships in that case. Lord Morris said:
Mr. Dowling claimed disablement benefit in respect of the period after that, for which he was held entitled to injury benefit. Reverting to s. 7(1) of the Act,"—
the 1946 Act—
it is seen that (subject to the provisions of the Act) where an insured person suffers personal injury caused by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment (being insurable employment) then disablement benefit is payable to him if (after the injury benefit period) he suffers, as the result of the injury, from loss of physical or mental faculty. It would seem natural to suppose that, having obtained a decision that he had suffered personal injury caused by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment, the only further matters that would arise in relation to a claim for disablement benefit would be whether the accident had resulted in a loss of faculty and as to the degree of disablement and for what period it should be assessed. These were 'disablement questions'. They were to be determined by a medical board or medical appeal tribunal. Accordingly, Mr. Dowling's claim for disablement benefit was considered by a medical board. They presented a report which was dated Apr. 29, 1963, in which they decided that the accident had not resulted in a loss of physical or mental faculty. Their reasons for that finding were…as follows:
'The commissioner's decision is noted. The board have studied the reports from Mr. d'Abreu and Dr. Capper.'
—The two medical authorities—
'They find Dr. Capper's report and reasoning unconvincing and accept that from Mr. d'Abreu which they consider is more in keeping with informed surgical opinion at the present time'.
That meant that they refused to accept the commissioner's decision. It meant that they were saying that Mr. Dowling had not suffered personal injury by accident, although the commissioner had decided that Mr. Dowling had suffered personal injury by accident. It involved that Mr. Dowling ought not to have had any injury benefit.…If Mr. Dowling's
hernia was not the result of lifting the flagstone, then it followed that there was no injury by accident; in other words, that there was nothing which within the scheme of the Act could be regarded as an accident.…Any decision of the commissioner whether there ever was an accident will, in my view, be final. So also, in my view, any decision of his whether personal injury was caused by any such accident.
§ That was the sort of common sense reasoning which the House would have applied. However, it is that simple interpretation of the present law, as we on this side have always understood it, which the Government seek to reverse in Clause 5.
The Government seek to maintain that the medical authorities, whose job it is to assess the extent of the loss of faculty, can re-open the question whether there has ever been a personal injury accident, even where an accident declaration has been obtained. They argue that an accident declaration does not mean that there has been an accident, merely—I apologise to the House for this gibberish but it is not mine; it is the Government's—that if there had been an accident it would have been an industrial accident. Lord Hodson, in the same House of Lords finding, made short shrift of that line of argument. He said:
Much discussion has ranged round the language of Section 49 of the Act.
That was the accident declaration Section in the original Act.
This section is concerned with declarations that an accident is an industrial accident. The section and, indeed, the Act itself, always deals with real accidents and not with hypothetical accidents, and I cannot accept the contention of the Minister that this declaration to which the claimant is entitled, is only a declaration that, if there were an accident, it would be an industrial one. Such a declaration would be of scant value to a claimant who, while having had his declaration recorded, would be put in the position at a much later date, when his evidence might no longer be available and records destroyed, of trying to establish the necessary fact to support his claim.
§ Of course, Lord Hodson was right because this situation has arisen in a number of cases when the accident declaration has proved valueless because it has been contested by certain of the authorities, including the Department. It arose in a second hernia case which I quoted in Committee, which is set out in Decision R.111(61) where an injured workman 1440 was awarded 100 per cent. disablement benefit by a medical board, yet when he died, as a result of an operation for the hernia, the Commissioner, a statutory authority, not a medical authority, refused his wife industrial death benefit on the grounds that the accident did not cause or aggravate the hernia.
§ That makes a nonsense of the Government's claim, of which we heard so much in the Secretary of State's speech in Second Reading and endlessly in Committee, that medical authorities are so all-knowing and reliable that they should not have their freedom of decision restricted in any way by a previous finding of a non-medical authority. Here, of course, that does not hold good because it was a medical appeal tribunal which awarded the disablement benefit and a commissioner, a statutory authority, who refused the industrial death benefit. Lord Hodson dismissed that argument as having no kind of validity.
Lord Reid, taking up this point in the case of Jones and Hudson, dismissed that line of argument put forward by the Ministry even more vigorously. He said:
It was strenuously argued in Dowling's case that the scheme and policy of this legislation is that medical questions should be decided by medical tribunals. That is no longer maintained by the respondent
—the respondent was the Department—
because it is clear that in dealing with injury and death benefit, the statutory lay tribunals have to consider and determine just as difficult medical questions as those which the respondent maintains are reserved for medical tribunals in disablement cases. They do it as courts, of law do it: they receive medical evidence or reports and adjudicate on them. No one suggests that they are not adequately equipped to do that. It appears to me that the main purpose of bringing medical boards and tribunals in to deal with disablement cases is to deal expeditiously with the highly technical matter of assessing percentage of disability.
§ 9.45 p.m.
He goes on to point out the serious dangers to an injured workman if he has to reargue the whole case whether he ever had an industrial accident before a medical tribunal because, he says,
are not equipped to deal with more general questions involving matters not purely medical although sometimes they may have to. Before the medical board the claimant is not represented, he is only medically examined. Before the medical appeal tribunals there could be
argument but it appears that there seldom is. These cases and a number of other reported decisions to which reference was made in argument illustrate the difficulty. It has happened in several cases that a man with no previous record of heart trouble has suddenly become ill under strain at work and quite soon afterwards myo-cardial infarction or some similar condition has been diagnosed.
This, of course, was the case in Jones and Hudson. Lord Reid went on:
Of course it could be a mere coincidence that a man suffers strain at work and that soon after he has heart trouble for the first time in his life although the two are unconnected. But the odds against that must be very high. And if you get a series of coincidences the odds become astronomical if the two are never connected. But there is no means of submitting this powerful argument to medical boards or tribunals and no indication that it has ever been considered by them. I am very far from being convinced that it can have been the intention of Parliament or it would be to the advantage of the claimant to give to these medical authorities the power to over-rule considered decisions of the statutory authorities.
That is Lord Reid, one of those who gave a favourable judgment in the Jones and Hudson case. I suggest that it totally disposes of the Government's argument.
§ We heard in Standing Committee from the Under-Secretary of State that Clause 5 is intended to be in the claimant's interests. His argument was that industrial injury benefit cases must be dealt with expeditiously in the interest of the workman and that by new Clause 4 and new Clause 5, seeking to assert that the decisions of these industrial injury tribunals cases shall be binding as questions of fact arising from the cause and nature of the accident, we should disadvantage the workman because we should hold up the examination of his industrial injury benefit claim because very much more rigorous standards would have to be applied. The implication of that is that there is a far more thorough examination by the medical appeal tribunals before they give disablement benefit.
§ I ask any hon. Member who has had disablement benefit cases in his constituency to say whether he has ever had a constituent telling him that the medical appeal tribunal has examined his case thoroughly. I am sure that the experience of other hon. Members has been the same as mine—that a man who has appealed in a disablement case comes back and says, "I was in and out in three minutes". That has been established in case after case.1442
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
My right hon. Friend is putting a powerful case which I am following closely because I have more than a passing interest in this matter. She has asked a rhetorical question about constituency cases. I have had long personal experience of this branch of administration, and I can only say that where an injured workman goes to a tribunal unrepresented, the general result may be as she says—in and out very quickly—but that if he is represented properly by a professional advocate, either from his union or elsewhere, then the case is quite the opposite in that he gets a proper hearing. It is only if the workman is represented and does not go there as an amateur playing a team of professionals that he stands a real chance.
§ Mrs. Castle
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that if a man is sensible enough to be in a trade union and his union is taking up the case, the union will never let go, even to the point of taking it to the House of Lords, as in some instances.
But there is massive evidence that the tribunals act perfunctorily, and I will give some examples. There is the case of Mr. Dowling. As Lord Morris said, the commissioner in the Dowling case made a careful review of the medical evidence, having heard high medical authorities from both sides—I have the finding. That was on an industrial injury benefit claim which Mr. Dowling won. But when Mr. Dowling applied for disablement benefit and was turned down by the board, he went to the medical appeal tribunal and no careful review was made. The tribunal said:On the balance of probabilities we are not satisfied that the hiatus hernia was either caused or aggravated by the relevant accident. We therefore confirm the decision of the medical board".If Mr. Dowling had not had a union to take it to the House of Lords on a point of law, he would not have won. I hope that the Minister will not tell me that that is the sort of lengthy examination that we cannot afford to have in an industrial injuries case.
I have other instances. One is of a myocardial infarction where the commissioner, the statutory authority, considering the claim for industrial injury benefit, considered reports of two eminent 1443 cardiologists. Nobody will tell me that that is a perfuntory finding, yet according to the Government it should be possible for the finding of the commissioner in that case on the decision of fact to be overthrown endlessly by successive medical authorities, endlessly placing the man at risk.
The commissioner who adjudicated on an industrial injury benefit claim in another case, that of Mr. Powell, Mr. Commissioner Lazarus, said:In my judgment the only possible criticism of the proceedings is that they were conducted too speedily".This was a medical appeal tribunal case. There had been an appeal to the tribunal on a question of law. He went on:However, if I were to hold that their brevity constituted a failure of natural justice I would in effect be holding that most hearings of medical appeal tribunals fail in that respect. The brevity of the proceedings is a commonplace in this jurisdiction. I understand that normally a medical appeal tribunal undertakes a session lasting three hours and in that period they may deal with up to 12 cases. (At the session at which the claimant's case was dealt with, there were 8 cases). Thus the average time taken over each case is probably less than 20 minutes. This is certainly very brief, but appears to be inherent in the system of adjudication by medical authorities established by Parliament.It is that system of adjudication that the Government want to be given pre-eminence over hours of consideration by a statutory authority, the commissioner. That is what Clause 5 would do and it is what our new Clauses 4 and 5 seek to prevent.
It was said earlier that some of their Lordships in the two hearings in the House of Lords said that the position should be clarified by Parliament. So it should. We accept that. That is why we have put down new Clauses 4 and 5—to prevent this endless and expensive litigation. It should be clarified—but in what way? Should it be clarified in the common sense way advocated by Lord Morris, Lord Reid and Lord Hodson, or in the Ministry's way, which Lord Diplock supported? It was only Lord Diplock that the Minister quoted as an authority. Naturally the Department's whole attitude is that those who agree with it must be superior and must be right. In any case this evening this House has to decide how it wants to clarify it.
1444 The Minister says that he is merely restoring the position to what it was originally believed to be. As I asked in Committee upstairs, "Believed by whom?" By the Labour Government when they introduced the 1945 Industrial Injuries Bill? Does anybody think that we really believed that it was worth while putting a Section into the 1946 Act to give a man an accident declaration in order—in the words of Lord Hodson—that the accident declaration should be valueless? The Labour Government of 1945 was manned—and womanned—by people who really understood about industrial injuries—who understand about industrial appeals, and what takes place on the shop floor. They were not going to fall for the legal complexities and hairsplitting of Lord Diplock. The language of Lord Morris and Lord Reid is far nearer the sort of thinking of that Labour Government.
If the Minister really believes that it was originally intended by the authors of the 1946 Industrial Injuries Act that there should not be finality of decision—that it should be open to a medical authority at every subsequent stage to challenge whether a man originally had an industrial accident—why is the hon. Member introducing Amendment No. 2, dealing with industrial death benefit? Of course we welcome that Amendment. We pressed for it. It was our exposure of the way in which the law works at present that compelled the Minister to put down that Amendment.
We welcome the fact that the Government now admit that where disablement benefit has been paid to an injured man and he dies, directly or indirectly as a cause of his injury, his wife should not have to face the reopening of the issue whether an accident took place at all. That fact should be considered established for the purposes of death benefit.
But what happens to the hon. Member's argument that lack of finality was always the original intention of Parliament? Does not he realise that he has given away his whole case? What about those other cases that were quoted upstairs—the case of Mr. G. T. Jones of Maesteg and of Mrs. Kingsnorth—where, disablement benefit having been awarded to those two claimants or beneficiaries by one medical appeal tribunal, their 1445 cases having gone to another medical tribunal on the ground that their disability had been aggravated they found the second medical tribunal reopening the whole issue whether they had ever had an accident at all.
If it is right to have finality of decision when the medical tribunal has established the case for disablement benefit and for the award of death benefit, why cannot there be finality of decisions at the very least for the subsequent consideration of aggravation claims? That is what our very important sub-Amendment (a) asks.
We want the total repudiation of the Department's approach. What we seek to do in new Clauses 4 and 5 is to clarify the law positively on the lines of the favourable verdict of the House of Lords in the cases of Dowling, and Jones and Hudson. At the very least we say to the hon. Gentleman that he cannot in logic reject our sub-Amendment (a) because I do not know what possible argument he could find for doing so. We say, let us clarify the law by all means, but let us do it in a humane and sensible way.
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Question again proposed, That the Clause be read a Second time.
§ Mrs. Castle
Let us clarify the law by all means, but let us do it in the humane and sensible way intended by the Labour Government. If we do not do so we shall still further deepen trade union suspicion of this Government and intensify industrial bitterness. How can we call on trade unionistts to obey the law when the Government, faced with an interpretation of the law which they do not want, do not accept that interpretation bu seek to overthrow and reverse it as they do in Clause 5? I beg the House to support all of our propositions.
§ Mr. Boscawen
The right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) made a powerful and clear case for the principle of finality which we discussed at length in Committee. She rather undermined it by giving no credit at all to my right hon. Friend for opening the door slightly with regard to the findings after the death 1446 of an individual who has been in receipt of disability benefit whereby the statutory authority has to accept for the purpose of the death benefit the condition for which he was receiving the industrial benefit. That was a change in what was thought to be the law and the right hon. Lady rather brushed that aside and said that she had forced it on my right hon. Friend. He has given that concession and has also undertaken to look at the whole question, including the Diplock case very carefully. I have sympathy with the right hon. Lady on the finality point but she would have made a better case had she given credit to my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Lewis Carter-Jones (Eccles)
I am grateful to the Under-Secretary for writing to me about one of my cases. Having given me the reply he took me back 45 years to when my uncle died of silicosis. He coughed his lungs up but it was not accepted as an industrial disease. Everyone in Gilfach Goch knew that he had it.
Now I have the continuing story of one of my constituents. I was brought up in a South Wales mining village and I now live in a North Wales mining area, with a constituency at Swinton. The Under-Secretary and I have battled about this case for some time. It concerns a Mr. Barnes and his widow. Mr. Barnes felt convinced that he had pneumoconiosis. So did his family. So did his doctor. He went before the panel. It said, "No Mr. Barnes you have not got pneumoconiosis." Mr. Barnes appealed and before the appeal took place Mr. Barnes died. The family said, "Let us have an autopsy". The medical expert had said that he did not have pneumoconiosis, but the autopsy revealed that he had. The pneumoconiosis panel said that it would give a 20 per cent. disability benefit—10 per cent. for pneumoconiosis and 10 per cent. for emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
That is not the end of the sordid story. Mrs. Barnes has been given the arrears amounting to £92—and God bless the panel for that. But she made an appeal for death benefit, and the insurance officer, in all his wisdom as a layman, said that the disease was not the cause of death; it did not contribute in any way to it. So Mrs. Barnes went before the local tribunal which allowed her 1447 appeal. It said that it was a contributory factor. Now the lay insurance officer wants to query that decision as well. How mean can one get?
Why cannot the Ministry give people the benefit of the doubt in all these cases? It is clear in my mind and in the minds of people living in mining valleys that men are suffering from pneumoconiosis, emphysema and bronchitis as a result of working in the pits and associated industries. Why cannot the worker have the benefit of the doubt for a change? Why are the authorities always on the side of saving money?
This is a continuing problem which will get worse. In Committee, the Under-secretary of State promised to look at five other questions. While he is looking at those five questions, why not have a moratorium in all cases and come down on the side of the injured or disabled person until the diseases are clearly classified?
The Under-Secretary of State will be presented with future problems. Under the headingWhat is wrong with the system?the Robens Report entitled "Safety and Health at Work", published last week, states in paragraph 456 on page 151:The toll of death, injury, suffering and economic waste from accidents at work and occupational diseases remains unacceptably high".I have been hearing that since I was a boy, and my grandfather used to hear it. It is about time that we made a positive decision in this connection. The Government should accept the new Clause and give the benefit of the doubt to people who are suffering from these diseases.
In the same paragraph, the Robens Report goes on to say:New hazards and problems are emerging.Therefore, even if the five matters which the Under-Secretary of State is to consider 1448 are resolved, fresh ones will emerge which are not being properly monitored. My hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. David Watkins) and I have raised this matter in the House time and again. We are always waiting for somebody—as in the theatre, "Waiting for Godot". Now we shall be waiting for action on the Robens Report.
The same paragraph of the Robens Report states:Apathy is the greatest single obstacle to progressive improvement.Let me say, without being hurtful or insulting, that civil servants do not have many industrial injuries. They may die from inhaling ink but they do not die from emphysema or pneumoconiosis or silicosis or other of these diseases. Perhaps there would be a greater sense of urgency if they had more risk.
Robens also said that apathycan only be countered by an accumulation of deliberate pressures to stimulate more sustained attention to safety and health at work.One final word. A large number of people have been knocking the accident book. Before I came to this House I spent a large amount of my time training shop stewards, and one of the things we stressed to them was that, since it seemed that authority always came down against the worker, if there should be an accident they should make sure that the accident book was completed, make quite sure that details were recorded, make quite sure that the names of witnesses were recorded. My union has a boast that it wins more cases and by way of industrial injury benefit get back more money for its members than is spent in contributions. However, all this is blood money. Prevention is important.
For where we cannot have prevention, for where the unavoidable happens and there are industrial diseases, please accept new Clauses 4 and 5.
§ Mr. J. T. Price
I feel constrained to offer on this subject of industrial injuries a few observations o the House even at the present hour. I do so not from any theoretical point of view but as a result of more or less a lifetime's practical experience of these problems, at trade union level and in many individual cases.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) made a very powerful case for this new Clause, and I would reinforce it. The Under-Secretary of State knows my views on these matters. I would acquit him of any malice or bad intention in these matters, but I will repeat to him and to the House what I have said on many occasions, that I have never had any abiding faith in departmental justice.
Under the old workmen's compensation legislation which stood on the Statute Book for years, from the last century, and from the Act of 1925 onwards, until we had the new National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, 1948, the only thing I ever found to complain about was the scandalously low benefit available under the legislation. Long before the whole of this business was translated into some quasi-judicial procedures under the present Act, by and large every county court judge, almost without exception, would lean over backwards to give the benefit of the doubt to the workman in the way my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) referred to. There were exceptions in the mining industry, I know, but it was my experience that, by and large, all the enlightened county court judges, who had the handling of thousands of these cases—if they were contested—leaned over backwards to give the benefit of the doubt to the injured worker.
Once we broke with that system—and I have maintained this in many debates in this House and elsewhere—and erected this tremendous edifice of highly complex administration of justice in all kinds of tribunals, then, if the workmen were no trepresented, he might as well have been playing for the Sunday school XI against the County XI for all the chance he had of succeeding, if the case were in any way debatable or controvertible.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ I remind the hon. Gentleman of a case that came to my attention some years ago. A lady constituent of mine, a Mrs. Dickinson, of Horwich in Lancashire, wrote a pathetic letter to me. She had severely injured her back while engaged in domestic service. She was not a trade unionist and she had no one to assist her. The injury was accepted as an industrial injury by the insurance officer, and she was granted industrial injury benefit of 100 per cent. After enjoying this benefit for some months she had to go to the medical board to be re-examined. Quoting from memory, after six months her benefit was reduced from 100 per cent. to 80 per cent. That payment continued for eight years, during which she was required at intervals to appear for medical examination. During that time she had several serious operations in the Manor House Hospital in London.
§ At the end of eight years she was still receiving benefit of 60 per cent. The amount had been varied from time to time without any challenge being made on the central question of liability for the injury which had been determined by the insurance officer. At this time the local medical board recommended that Mrs. Dickinson should be given a final award of 80 per cent. for life, which meant that her case could not again be reviewed. The Ministry of National Insurance, as it was then, appealed on the quantum of benefit to the medical appeal tribunal on the ground that 80 per cent. for life was too high.
§ Mrs. Dickinson, having just come out of hospital after a serious operation resulting from the injury, was taken in an ambulance from Horwich to the medical appeal tribunal in Manchester, 25 miles away, accompanied only by her husband. She had no one to represent her before the tribunal, which decided not reduce the 80 per cent., but to give her no benefit at all. The tribunal was not satisfied that the lady's present condition was due to the accident.
§ I was so annoyed that Mrs. Dickinson had no one to represent her that I decided on my own responsibility and at my own expense to appeal to the commissioner on a point of law. It was a denial of 1451 natural justice, and I sat in the commissioner's office and argued the case with him for about three hours. He agreed with most of what I said, but in a reserved judgment delivered some time afterwards he said that he had no authority to interfere with the decision of the medical appeal tribunal, although this related to a question of fact in regard to eligibility for entitlement to benefit.
§ However, we did not let the case stay there. I began the case de novo by making a new claim which went to the medical tribunal, who refused it, and then to the medical appeal tribunal. Eventually the chairman of the London medical tribunal not only had the woman fully examined, but reversed all the previous decisions. The woman was awarded 80 per cent. for life and in addition was given back pay for the two previous years, which amounted to several hundred pounds.
§ I tell this story because it relates very much to the provisions of the new Clause. I acquit the Ministry and its officials of having any bad intentions or of being malicious or malevolent. Unfortunately, the edifice has become so complex that I believe that it would be far more just to scrap the whole system. I would rather see cases going before the courts than that they should be dealt with in the way I have outlined. In the old days, when I dealt with them in a previous incarnation in relation to the workmen's compensation law, these matters were capable of adjustment by commonsense negotiation without recourse to litigation. Only about 1 per cent. of cases ever went through the sausage machine of the county court or High Court.
§ I hope that the hon. Gentleman will pay serious attention to what has been said because this is by no means a trivial matter. Many people are being juggled about with and are suffering humiliation and anxiety. These bodies are not judicial but only quasi-judicial and I should like to see them abolished; though that is perhaps too large a step for this House to bring about tonight.
§ Mr. Edwin Wainwright (Dearne Valley)
I intervene because I have tremendous experience as a National Union of Mineworkers' branch official of many cases that have failed to succeed. 1452 I do not know how much weight the Government want to make certain that one or two people do not slip through the net and get benefits to which they are not entitled. It appears that the amount of weight that they want is so great that many innocent people will be deprived of payment.
In Committee on 11th July, 1972,the Minister said:The Government maintain that this Clause restores the position to what it was originally believed to be…".—[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 11th July, 1972; c. 412.]Did the Minister mean before the Act which came into operation on 5th July, 1948? Are we talking about the old system of workmen's compensation? Do we want to go back to those days when, as those of us connected with the mining industry know too well, it was extremely easy to make it impossible for a person to claim benefit? About what stage is the Minister talking? It is very important to know.
It is very easy for an applicant to lose his claim to benefit. The weight is so heavily in favour of the Government. I take an example of the first stage when a man makes a report about an accident that he has sustained. When the Act came into operation on 5th July, 1948, I remember how we recommended every workman in the mines to record every accident that he had. We were cluttered up with claims in no time. They came in from men who had never claimed before but who began to record accidents because of their fears about the future. We all know that it is not at alluncommon for a man working in heavy industry to have a slip or some other slight injury. Some report their accidents. Others do not. However, when men began to see how badly cluttered up the records were, they gradually did not bother to report accidents.
The result was that we had a number of delayed claims to take to the National Insurance officer. Many of them were lost because of the lack of evidence. However some went through. In others the national insurance officer opposed the claims and they had to go to the local appeals tribunal. That, too, is heavily weighted. As a rule the chairman is a member of the legal profession and he sits with a representative of the employers and a workers' representative. However, 1453 the chairman is the dominating factor. I have been before appeals tribunals many times, and I know what happens.
I remember a case that I had of a man with a slipped disc making a delayed claim. I accompanied him to the local appeals tribunal to ask for a deferment because I wanted a consultant's opinion. I was successful, and I took the man to a consultant. His report was not in the man's favour. At the next sitting of the local appeals tribunal I asked for another deferment since I had not had the time to get another consultant's opinion. My application was unsuccessful, so the man lost on that day. Between the two hearings I had discovered that the consultant concerned also advised the National Insurance Department on cases of this kind. As a result I sought another opinion and found a consultant who was in my member's favour. I then sent it to the commissioner whose criticism was: "Why was not this consultant's report placed before the local appeals tribunal?".
I am pointing out that even consultants vary in their opinions and views, but the insurance officer does not pay their fees. They come from the National Insurance Fund as the cost of the consultant's opinion on behalf of the National Insurance. However, the consultant's fees for the applicant come either out of his own pocket or from his trade union—and some trade unions cannot afford them. Therefore, they find it impossible to compete with the National Insurance office and its determination to make sure that not one shall slip through the net.
What happens to the poor individual on his own? I wonder how many cases have been lost because people have not had the money to fight the State. That is what it means. If Mr. Dowling had not had a union behind him, he could not have gone as far as he went. However, there is no limit to what the State can afford.
Do the Government want us to go back to the unfairness and injustice which took place years ago? Are they afraid that one or two might get through the net and do they feel that that is unfair because they cost the nation a few pounds? If so, it means that many thousands of people will receive no payment because of the power of the State. 1454 This is what we are fighting. We are not fighting the insurance officer or even the local appeals tribunal in that sense. We are fighting the State, because at the end the Minister can say that this or that case goes right to the top regardless of whether the man concerned can afford it.
Time and again on behalf of applicants I have placed consultants' reports before medical appeals tribunals. The members of medical appeal tribunals are not consultants, but doctors, usually with a member of the legal profession as chairman. Matters reached a stage at which time and again they ignored a consultant's report.
I do not know how much weight the Government want against an applicant. I always thought a man was held to be innocent until the charge against him had been proved. In this instance a man is condemned not to succeed until he can prove that he has a good claim. However, in trying to prove that he has a good claim he does not have the legal advice which is available in our courts. Often he does not have the advice of people who are competent to help him to win his case. One of my hon. Friends mentioned the civil servants who advise the Minister.
Men working in heavy industry sometimes sustain accidents which it is difficult to define until days or often weeks later. I refer to delayed hernias and slipped discs. Has any comparison been made between those who suffer slipped discs or delayed hernias working in heavy industry and those who do not work in heavy industry? I wonder whether I may have the Minister's attention. It seems that the hon. Gentleman intends to ignore what I am saying. This is insulting. I never thought that a Minister would be so disgusting as not to listen to the debate on a serious issue. If the Government carry Clause 5 through, it will mean that they intend to take advantage of their strength, with the result that many people who ought to qualify for benefit will not do so. It is disgusting that the Government should be allowed to gain a few pounds in this way.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)
I think that when my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) produced her barrage in 1455 making her case she was a little charitable to the Minister, because she could have quoted what the hon. Gentleman said in Committee:The object of the Clause is to enable justice to be done and to ensure that cases are dealt with on their merits. I hope to show that the position restored by the Clause is in the interests of claimants generally and the speedy settlement of claims."—[Official Report, Standing Committee D; 6th July, 1972, c. 387.]The wealth of experience of my right hon. and hon. Friends who have been actively engaged in many of these cases enables them to show that there have not been speedy decisions in the interests of claimants and that very often justice has not been done, and has been seen not to be done.
My right hon. Friend referred to the cases of Dowling, Jones and Hudson, and my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) referred to one case which proved two things—first, the value of belonging to a trade union which is capable of fighting and taking cases to the top courts in the land. That is one of the peripheral benefits of belonging to a trade union. The second is the difficulties facing a person who is unorganised, who is weak, who does not have any particular friends and who has to wait for a sympathetic bystander like my hon. Friend or a constituency Member who is prepared to take up his case. If it is possible to cite a large number of instances in which people have won their cases only after taking them to the top, one is entitled to ask how many cases have failed because of the whim of an insurance officer?
My hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) referred to the narrowness of the definition in pneumoconiosis cases. My trade union has started taking into membership a number of former miners, and the legal department of the union is having to cope with miners who have developed bronchitis and emphysema, on the basis of what is laid down for pneumoconiosis. The legal department is finding that the narrowness of definition adopted by the Government Department, as exemplified by the examples given by my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles, is causing considerable difficulty. And what is true of pneumoconiosis is true of asbestosis, 1456 a disease about which our legal department has a particularly sad expertise.
Industrial deafness has developed to a considerable extent among workers in car and engineering factories. This is an industrial disease, but we have not tried to define it or to examine its cost in terms of human suffering and unhappiness. Industrial deafness is an increasing problem and one from which the Department seems to be shying away. Many of the frustrations from which the legal officers of trade unions suffer arise from the fact that everything seems to depend upon the whim of a particular official in the Department or a particular insurance officer.
The Under-Secretary must explain to us precisely the procedures which are followed when an insurance officer or someone else in the Ministry decides to contest a case. What is the status of the medical officers in the Department who decide to contest a consultant's opinion which comes down in favour of the claimant? What is the status of the insurance officer? What instructions are given to him? There is a great deal of suspicion among trade union officials that the decision to contest is often one which is taken purely and simply on the whim of a particular individual. They feel that where a union has recourse to the law and is successful, if the Ministry does not like the decision it changes the law and creates injustice and detriment for ordinary trade union members.
§ Mr. McNamara
Where the case goes in its favour, the Ministry is only too keen to cry wolf and to talk about trade unionists breaking the law. There cannot be a double standard in these matters. It seems that the Clause has been slipped in to meet a particular decision of the House of Lords, a decision which the Government did not welcome. They felt that their prestige had been damaged and that they had been offended. It is a nasty piece of legislation.
§ Mr. David Watkins (Consett)
Almost every hon. Member with trade union experience or who represents an industrial constituency can tell of cases of people who have been to all intents and purposes 1457 "pursued" while seeking to make a justifiable claim in respect of industrial injury. My hon. Friends the Members for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones), Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) and Dearne Valley (Mr. Edwin Wainwright) have all told of their experiences. But because of the late hour I will not describe any individual cases. Suffice it to say that every hon. Member with industrial experience knows of cases where the law has been loaded against the claimant. Some of my hon. Friends have had harsh words to say about the Under-Secretary. I shall not echo those comments. I can speak only as I find and in my experience of bringing cases forward the Under-Secretary has always shown a humane personal interest in them.
§ Mr. Watkins
I can quote a particular case not concerned with industrial injury but with a claim for a constant attendance allowance where I would say that the Under-Secretary has followed the case through "beyond the call of duty".
I was not a member of the Standing Committee but I have read the Official Report in considerable detail. In defending Clause 5 the Under-Secretary seems to have been a victim of departmental gobbledy-gook. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) quoted at considerable length from the Dowling case. That was a case of departmental gobbledy-gook being used to say that if someone had had an accident which he did not have, it would have been an industrial accident. To all intents and purposes that is what was said. It was a case where an individual suffered an industrial injury and was pursued for no less than 11 years. That was under successive Governments. The Department even ultimately took the case to the House of Lords, to appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal. Their Lordships rightly dismissed the appeal.
§ 10.45 p.m.
§ The importance of the Dowling case was that it established a precedent which has affected a number of cases since. That is why there was in Committee, and again in the House tonight, so much concentration on that case. I speak as the secretary of the parliamentary group and the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers. It was my union's 1458 solicitors who pursued that case and who drew it to the attention of the parliamentary group. Not only the union but its solicitors are gravely concerned about the effects of Clause 5. I have read and listened to the arguments for and against the Clause. I cannot see that it would do other than to enable people to be pursued indefinitely, as Mr. Dowling was, until the Department achieves the result it wants rather than a result in the interests of the claimant. I am not throwing any dirt at the officers of the Department, but I believe that is what Clause 5 would bring about.
§ I urge the Under-Secretary to accept our Amendments. As I understand it, his argument has been that Clause 5 clarifies the existing position. I am not disputing that, but it does so not in the interests of the claimant but in the interests of bureaucracy. Where there is any doubt the benefit of that doubt should always be on the side of the claimant not in the interests of bureaucracy. Where there is any doubt the benefit of the doubt should always be on the side of the claimant. I am certain that that has been Parliament's intention throughout the post-war period. I believe that it is still parliament's intention, but that as the Clause stands it will produce precisely the opposite effect.
§ Mr. Dean
We have had a long, very helpful and interesting debate on this matter, as we did in Committee.
Two points have come out during the debate—what the position has been since the 1946 Act and what the position should be in the future. What the position should be in the future is of most practical interest to the House. The Government Amendments are directed to that, as are the proposals of the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle). I want to deal much more with that than with what the position has been since 1946, but as she referred a good deal to the previous position I should perhaps deal with it first.
Before doing so, may I repeat what I said in Committee and what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said on Second Reading, that the intention of Clause 5 is to restore the position as it was previously thought to be by Governments of both parties. I strongly deny that there is any intention of depriving working men of their rights. Far 1459 from that, the intention is to clarify the law and to see that, particularly in industrial injury benefit claims, which are the largest proportion, there is the speedy settlement which takes place now and which is so important to men when they have suffered an injury. It is necessary that payment should be made available to them as fast as possible, and I think the present arrangement helps to achieve that.
Cases have been quoted during the debate. Of course, in any system, be it industrial injuries, national insurance or anything else, it is always possible to quote hard cases. The case of Dowling has been quoted, but that was in many respects an exceptional case in that there was no separate event apart from the injury, which was a hiatus hernia. The case of Jones was also quoted by the right hon. Lady. That was a case not so much of assessments as of points of law which were properly pursued on behalf of the claimant by his own solicitors.
The right hon. Lady has also quoted some legal judgments which were adjudicated in the House of Lords or the Court of Appeal. She fairly and understandably quoted their Lordships who suited her case. What she did not do was to quote Lord Diplock, Lord Wilberforce, Lord Simon or Lord Dilhorne, who disagreed with the judgments which the right hon. Lady quoted. I shall quote from one passage which shows that there was a distinct difference of view when these judgments were made as to what the 1946 Act did say and intended to say. Lord Diplock said:…provided that the insurance officer is satisfied that the incident occurred and that it resulted in the incapacity for work, there is no need for him to be satisfied as to the precise medical nature of the personal injury which constitutes the intermediate link in the chain of causation. Parliament must have contemplated that the insurance officer would normally accept as sufficient without further inquiry, whatever description of the incapacitating injury appeared upon the medical certificate signed by the claimant's own doctor, however detailed or summary as a diagnosis that description might be. But Parliament can hardly have contemplated that the acceptance of that diagnosis as justification for payment of injury benefit, it may be only for a single day, should affect conclusively the claimant's future rights to a different kind of benefit, disablement benefit, which might endure for the remainder of his life and which had not yet been the subject of any claim.1460 Another point which has been made in some of the fairly hard things which have been said about the Department is that the Department is constantly trying to get at claimants to try to see that they do not get their due rights under the Act. I assure the House that that is not so. It is true that there are occasions when the Department refers cases to the independent adjudicating authorities. It has as much right to refer cases as has any individual. When the Department does refer cases, it is usually to try to ensure consistency of decisions. The reference may well result because the Department feels that the assessment is too low rather than too high.
Some of the arguments which have been used tonight either have not been borne out by the facts of the case or the position is not as has been painted by some hon. Members. The fact is that if the Act had been administered over the years in the harsh, unfeeling way which some hon. Members have suggested, surely there would have been proposals for amendments. The Act was passed in 1946 and it has been in operation a long time. But there has been no concerted movement of any kind on either side of the House for it to be amended. If it were working as badly as some of the speeches have suggested, surely there would have been pressure for amendment which would have been reflected in the House.
Equally, one must consider the number of appeals made, and here again the position does not suggest that it is as bad as has been painted. For example, the figures for 1971—the latest available—show that there were 135,000 disablement benefit claims, with appeals in 9 per cent. of the cases. There were 1,900 death benefit cases, with appeals in only 3 per cent. I suggest that if there were the unrest that has been suggested, the number of appeals would have been substantially greater.
The new Clauses would bind the medical authorities to accept as due to the accident whatever condition or conditions the insurance officer or other statutory authority considered resulted from it. As worded, they could have wider repercussions than those which appear to be intended. They could be taken as meaning that any injury or disability from which the claimant was suffering would have had to be taken 1461 into account for disablement benefit by the medical board as having resulted from the accident, regardless of its real origin—in other words, including any pre-existing constitutional conditions.
Prior to the Lords' decision in the Dowling case, the fact that a decision of the social security determining authorities on a claim or question was final was not regarded by those authorities as making a finding of fact or other determination, embodied in or necessary to such a decision, or on which a decision was based conclusively as a matter of law for the purpose of any further decision. The effect of the Dowling decision, explained in the Jones and Hudson decision, is that a finding of the statutory authorities on a claim for injury benefit binds medical authorities when determining a claim for disablement benefit.
The procedure for determining injury benefit claims is based on the need to pay benefit quickly, and accordingly the inquiries are kept to an essential minimum. The insurance officer usually accepts as sufficient without further inquiries whatever description of injury appears on the medical certificate signed by the claimant's own doctor. If acceptance of that notice had to be regarded as accepting conclusively the claimant's future right to a different kind of benefit—namely, disablement benefit which might endure for the rest of his life—it would be necessary for the insurance officer not to arrive at his decision until he had gone into the case more fully. This would mean that the speedy process in injury benefit cases, which is one of the attractive features of the scheme, would inevitably be held up because it would be necessary to ensure that the decision made at the early stages was made on very much fuller medical judgment than is the case at present.
§ Mrs. Castle
What about the case where there has been an appeal to the commissioner, and the commissioner has had detailed medical evidence, some of it oral as well as written, has examined it and has made a finding of fact in the claimant's favour? Is the hon. Gentleman justifying that being challenged later along the line when disablement benefit is claimed?
§ Mr. Dean
If there is new medical evidence, clearly it is appropriate that it should be taken into account. One of the difficulties in pushing finality to the conclusion to which the Opposition appear to want to push it is that new medical evidence coming along later, which can often work to the advantage of a claimant, would be excluded from consideration. That would be one of the big disadvantages of doing what the Opposition propose.
§ 11.0 p.m.
§ Mrs. Castle
The hon. Member cannot leave that mis-statement on the record unchallenged. He knows—as we made clear in Committee—that our new Clauses would not in any way affect the review Clause. That stands. Where there is fresh evidence, and new facts not previously taken into account, a review should and could take place, as in the case of Dowling. We are not talking about fresh evidence. We are talking about the initial evidence put to the tribunal where there had been personal injury because of an accident and there were two reports in front of the Commissioner, exhaustively examined—one orally—and the Commissioner found in favour of the claimant. Yet the Minister now says that is legitimate—and it will be possible, under Clause 5—for that careful finding and weighing of the medical evidence to be challenged eternally to the end of time, every time a man makes a claim for disablement benefit or a new assessment of disablement benefit.
§ Mr. Dean
Certainly not. It will not be challenged eternally as the right hon. Lady knows. Dowling was an exceptional case. It is always possible to quote exceptional cases in support of an argument of that kind.
What matters is not only what I have said about the effect of the new Clause but also the pledge which I gave in Committee and which is embodied in the Amendments in my name on behalf of the Government. It might be convenient—as we are discussing this batch of Amendments together—if I briefly explained what the effect of Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 are. These Amendments fulfil a commitment that I gave in Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Boscawen) was good enough to refer to the fact that the effect 1463 of the Amendments is to bind the lay statutory authorities to accept for the purposes of death benefit a condition for which the deceased is entitled to a disablement pension at the time of his death or, where there is no current title to disablement pension—for example, because a disablement gratuity was paid—a condition which was accepted as resulting from the relevant accident on the last occasion when the medical authorities determined the disablement benefit question.
Similarly, a decision by the medical authorities that the deceased was suffering from a prescribed disease will be binding for death benefit purposes. That will be achieved by an amendment to the Prescribed Diseases Regulations.
There is power to review a decision on death benefit made before the date the provision comes into operation—which is intended to be the date of Royal Assent—to give effect to it, and on a successful review benefit will become payable from a current date.
The Amendment does not affect the fundamental requirement for industrial death benefit that death must have been the result of the accident or prescribed disease. Thus, although the lay statutory authorities considering a claim for death benefit will be bound to accept as relevant conditions which the medical authorities considering a claim for death benefit will be found to accept as relevant conditions which the medical authorities have accepted for a claim for disablement benefit, the death benefit claim will still fail if it is decided that death resulted from other conditions which were unconnected with the accident or disease.
The Amendment, though it will cover only the rare case, is entirely beneficial. It does not operate in reverse; the fact that the medical authorities for the purpose of disablement benefit have decided that a certain condition did not arise from the accident will not prevent the lay statutory authorities from regarding it as relevant when they come to decide the death benefit claim. I hope that the House will think that this is a major advance from the position which has existed with regard to the death benefit since the 1946 Act. It will deal with only a small number of cases, but it is a valuable step forward.
§ Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)
I am extremely interested in the effect of the Amendment. I accept that it will apply to only a minority of cases, but would the hon. Gentleman give examples?
§ Mr. Dean
It will apply in every case where there is disablement benefit and the person concerned then dies as a result of the condition for which he has been receiving disablement benefit. Death benefit will follow automatically in those cases irrespective of what the disease is. The Amendment will cover all the prescribed diseases and any condition, disease, or injury, for which a disablement benefit is in payment, provided that the person concerned died as a result of that condition or disease.
In addition to this step forward, which resulted partly from our useful debates in Committee, I gave a firm commitment, which I now repeat, to continue to examine the matter to see whether there were any other situations, apart from that covered by the industrial death benefit concession, where a greater degree of finality would be justified, particularly changes in disablement benefit awards that could occur when one medical adjudicating authority took a view of the relevance of a condition different from that taken by a previous board or tribunal. This sort of situation has caused more concern than anything else, particularly to hon. Members with great knowledge and experience such as the hon. Member for Westhoughton.
I committed the Government to examining this matter to see whether further steps are possible. These are complex issues and it has not been possible to complete the examination in the short time since our debates in Committee. However, I repeat that commitment about that examination.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) asked about prescribed diseases and mentioned asbestosis and industrial deafness. We are firmly committed to pushing forward the frontiers in respect of prescribed diseases, too. Many would probably feel that this is as important a feature as anything else.
As the House knows, brucellosis was recently prescribed and that prescription 1465 comes into operation at the end of the month. Certain aspects are being considered in five other instances—pneumoconiosis, the vibration syndrome, occupational deafness, lung cancer for workers engaged in the production of chromates, and certain types of poisoning. This shows that there is examination all the time in the light of new hazards which come along as a result of new processes, and we are anxious to push these frontiers forward.
§ Mr. Albert Roberts (Normanton)
Is the hon. Member satisfied that there is sufficient research into industrial diseases?
§ Mr. Dean
A great deal of research is going on, but if the hon. Member has in mind any question arising from his experience and thinks that it should be examined, I hope that he will let me have the necessary information so that I may have it looked into.
I hope, therefore, that the House will accept that in this Clause we are restoring the position to what it was believed to be as a result of the 1946 Act and that in the Government Amendment concerning industrial death benefit we are making an advance on the position which existed then. In addition, I have given the commitments on the points made here and in Committee. They will be fully examined by the Government to see whether further progress is possible.
§ Mrs. Castle
I must tell the Under-secretary that his reply on Clauses 4 and 5 is totally unsatisfactory. We do not accept that it is restoring the position to what it was believed to be and we do not accept that it is to the benefit of the claimant. The hon. Gentleman has not given us a single argument why he is not accepting our sub-Amendment (a).
§ All his arguments are in favour of his doing so. Even the quotation from Lord Diplock is a quotation which has no relevance to his Amendment because we are not talking about industrial injuries benefit. We are saying that where a disablement benefit has been awarded the fact that a personal injury, by accident, took place should be accepted as final for the purpose of future assessments of the disablement benefit. The Minister's Amendment will not cover the case so eloquently put by my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price). Our sub-Amendment would.
§ There was the case of a woman who got disablement benefit but when she went for re-assessment the panel tried to knock it off altogether and to open the original findings of fact. The House was shocked by that case but there are many hundreds of such cases. If our sub-Amendment were accepted such cases would be covered. Will the hon. Gentleman at least get up and say that he will accept that? That will keep us going until we have a Labour Government when we can reform the whole procedure. Will he not accept sub-Amendment (a) on the basis of his own argument?
§ Mrs. Castle
Will the hon. Gentleman at least consider introducing sub-Amendment (a) in another place?
§ Question put, That the Clause be read a Second Time: —
§ The House divided: Ayes 126, Noes 151.1467
|Division No. 313.]||AYES||[11.15 p.m.|
|Albu, Austen||Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Carmichael, Neil||Deakins, Eric|
|Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)||Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles)||Dempsey, James|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Doig, Peter|
|Ashton, Joe||Clark, David (Colne Valley)||Dormand, J. D.|
|Atkinson, Norman||Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Concannon, J. D.||Driberg, Tom|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Conlan, Bernard||Dunn, James A.|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)||Eadie, Alex|
|Bishop, E. S.||Crawshaw, Richard||Edelman, Maurice|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.)||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)|
|Booth, Albert||Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven)||Evans, Fred|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Dalyell, Tam||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)|
|Buchan, Norman||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Foot, Michael|
|Ford, Ben||McNamara, J. Kevin||Skinner, Dennis|
|Gilbert, Dr. John||Marks, Kenneth||Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||Marsden, F.||Spearing, Nigel|
|Grant, John D. (Islington, E.)||Marshall, Dr. Edmund||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Hamling, William||Meacher, Michael||Stallard, A. W.|
|Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)||Mellish Rt. Hn. Robert||Steel, David|
|Hardy, Peter||Mikardo, Ian||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Millan, Bruce||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)|
|Hattersley, Roy||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Strang, Gavin|
|Hooson, Emlyn||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Horam, John||Moyle, Roland||Taverne, Dick|
|Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Ogden, Eric||Thomas, Rt.Hn.George (Cardiff,W.)|
|Hughes, Mark (Durham)||O'Halloran, Michael||Tinn, James|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)||O'Malley, Brian||Torney, Tom|
|Janner, Greville||Orme, Stanley||Urwin, T. W.|
|Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)||Pavitt, Laurie||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Wallace, George|
|Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)||Pendry, Tom||Watkins, David|
|Judd, Frank||Pentland, Norman||Weitzman, David|
|Kaufman, Gerald||Perry, Ernest G.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Lawson, George||Prescott, John||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Lomas, Kenneth||Reed, D. (Sedgfield)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Loughlin, Charles||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Woof, Robert|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Roper, John|
|McCartney, Hugh||Rose, Paul B.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|McElhone, Frank||Sillars, James||Mr. John Golding and.|
|Maclennan, Robert||Silverman, Julius||Mr. Joseph Harper|
|McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)|
|Astor, John||Gurden, Harold||Parkinson, Cecil|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Benyon, W.||Haselhurst, Alan||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Hayhoe, Barney||Prior, Rt Hn. J. M. L.|
|Blaker, Peter||Heseltine, Michael||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Hiley, Joseph||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Boscawen, Robert||Hill, James (Southampton, Test)||Redmond, Robert|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Holt, Miss Mary||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)|
|Bowden, Andrew||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Braine, Bernard||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)||Roberts. Michael (Cardiff, N.)|
|Bray, Ronald||Iremonger, T. L.||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||James, David||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Sharples, Richard|
|Campbell, Rt. Hn. G.(Moray & Nairn)||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Shelton, William (Clapham)|
|Carlisle, Mark||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Speed, Keith|
|Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine||Spence, John|
|Churchill, W. S.||Kilfedder, James||Sproat, Iain|
|Clegg, Walter||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Stainton, Keith|
|Cockeram, Eric||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Cooke, Robert||Kinsey, J. R.||Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)|
|Cordie, John||Kitson, Timothy||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Cormack, Patrick||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom|
|Costain, A. P.||Knox, David||Sutcliffe, John|
|Crouch, David||Lamont, Norman||Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Crowder, F. P.||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Dean, Paul||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Tebbit, Norman|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Longden, Gilbert||Temple, John M.|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Loveridge, John||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)|
|Dixon, Piers||Luce, R. N.||Trew, Peter|
|Drayson, G. B.||MacArthur, Ian||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Dykes, Hugh||McCrindle, R. A||Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||McLaren, Martin||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Madel, David||Waddington, David|
|Emery, Peter||Mather, Carol||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Eyre, Reginald||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Wall, Patrick|
|Fell, Anthony||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Warren, Kenneth|
|Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)||Mitchell,Lt.-Col.C.(Aberdeenshire,W)||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Fortescue, Tim||Moate, Roger||White, Roger (Gravesend)|
|Fowler, Norman||Money, Ernle||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Fox, Marcus||Monks, Mrs. Connie||Wilkinson, John|
|Fry, Peter||More, Jasper||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Goodhart, Philip||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Goodhew, Victor||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|Gower, Raymond||Mudd, David||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)||Murton, Oscar||Worsley, Marcus|
|Gray, Hamish||Neave, Airey||Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.|
|Green, Alan||Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally||Younger, Hn. George|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)|
|Gummer, Selwyn||Page, Graham (Crosby)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES|
|Mr. Kenneth Clarke and|
|Mr. Micheal Jopling|
§ Question accordingly negatived.