HC Deb 04 December 1973 vol 865 cc1063-4
2. Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether, in view of the report by the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council on occupational deafness, he will introduce a scheme for the pre-employment measurement of hearing levels among persons working in manufacturing industry.

Mr. Dean

No, Sir. My right hon. Friend accepts the council's view that pre-employment tests of hearing levels would not be warranted for the purpose of compensating industrial deafness.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

I accept my hon. Friend's statement that the report related to compensation. But surely pre-employment tests would allow one to define the level of hearing of an employee before he was subjected to noise in manufacturing industry and would allow one to withdraw a person from that noise if subsequent tests warranted this. Surely prevention of hearing loss is more important than compensation for it.

Mr. Dean

I agree with my hon. Friend's last point, but this is a matter of how best we can use the technical and medical facilities available. We felt that the first priority was to get the scheme into operation. That will take time and will make a considerable demand on the medical and technical resources available.

Mr. Pavitt

Will the Minister take a much wider view and consult his Department about health hazards and the manpower available? Is he aware that, unless something is done rapidly to monitor factories, particularly in areas where the decibel rating is a health hazard, there will in some years' time be a considerable impact on the health service in providing aids and services for the deaf? Should not there be monitoring in areas of high risk throughout the whole of a worker's life?

Mr. Dean

The report represents a significant advance in this area, where perhaps not enough has been done in the past. We must consider how best we can use available resources. We felt that the first priority should be those who are employed at present and who are known to be suffering deafness as a result of their employment.