HC Deb 02 April 1979 vol 965 cc1122-5

12.15 a.m.

Mr. Harold Walker

I beg to move manuscript amendment No. 5, in page 2, line 29 after "Injuries" insert "and Diseases.".

The First Deputy Chairman

With this we may discuss manuscript amendments Nos. 6 and 7.

Mr. Walker

I apologise for introducing these minor drafting amendments, which correct the proper title of the Act to which reference is made in the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

Manuscript amendments made: No. 6, in page 2, line 36, after "Injuries" insert "and Diseases".

No. 7, in page 2, line 43, after "Injuries" insert "and Diseases".—[Mr. Harold Walker.]

Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Michael McGuire

May I seek confirmation from the Minister that clause 2(2)(b) is a provision which those hon. Members who are interested in industrial injuries legislation have wanted to see for a long time? Am I right in assuming that when, for example, a widow is not awarded industrial death benefit because the pneumoconiosis medical panel pronounces that her husband had not died as a result of a disease for which he was receiving disablement benefit, she will qualify under the Bill?

Under the legislation affecting miners, if the medical panel pronounces that a death did not result from an industrial disease, the fact that the man may have been receiving 100 per cent. disablement benefit is not relevant. If my assumption is correct, we are taking a considerable step forward, and I look forward to a similar provision being introduced in legislation that currently prevents widows or other dependants from receiving death benefit.

Mr. Wigley

If the interpretation of the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. McGuire) is correct, I welcome the provision. However, may I ask the Minister to consider the converse of that position? Will he comment on the situation of a man who dies from the effects of a disease that is not diagnosed until a post mortem is held? Will the dependants of that man be disqualified from the scheme? If so, that is a considerable worry.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

Will the Minister also comment on those cases where silicosis, for example, is not the first cause of death but is a second or third cause? I have details of a case where it was a secondary cause, the primary cause being "natural causes".

Mr. Harold Walker

I am not sure that I can answer the question of the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts) immediately, but the answer to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. McGuire) and the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) is "Yes".

My hon. Friend asked whether, when a man who is receiving disablement benefit dies, his dependants will be eligible under the scheme. I think that the answer is "Yes". The Bill clearly states: In the case of the dependant of a person who, immediately before he died, was disabled by a disease to which this Act applies, the conditions of entitlement are … (b) that death benefit is payable to or in respect of the dependant by reason of the diseased's death as a result of the disease, or that disablement benefit was payable to the deceased in respect of the disease immediately before he died". If a person receiving benefit dies, his widow or dependant would have satisfied one of the tests of the scheme.

The hon. Member for Caernarvon asked about the case of a man who had not had the disease diagnosed before he died and who was therefore not receiving a benefit. If a post mortem revealed that he died as a result of one of the diseases included in the Bill, his dependant would be brought within the scheme under the first part of that condition. It seems that that is covered by the first part of subsection 2(b), which states: death benefit is payable to or in respect of the dependant by reason of the deceased's death as a result of the disease".

Mr. Wigley rose

Mr. Walker

Before the hon. Gentleman shoots me down, let me tell him that I know what he is about to say. No doubt he wishes to say "Yes, but who will be the arbiter if there is a clash of opinion between, for example, the Department of Health and Social Security's own arrangements and its subsequent examination of the organs and a coroner's verdict?" The present practice is that the DHSS or medical authorities overrule the decision of a coroner. We cannot depart from the principle on which the scheme is based and which follows the DHSS's practice. If the hon. Gentleman is about to say that that is totally unsatisfactory, I must say that having outlined to the Committee the way in which we depend on the Department, his quarrel, if he has one, lies not with me but with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services.

Mr. Wigley

I accept what the hon. Gentleman has just said, regrettable though that may be in some circumstances. I wish to ask him how clause 2(2)(b) relates to clause 2(1)(a), the latter stating: the conditions of entitlement are— (a) that disablement benefit is payable to him in respect of the disease". If the sufferer has not had the disease diagnosed before death, it seems that benefit will not be payable. Does such a person come within the scheme?

Mr. Walker

The hon. Gentleman must not link the two provisions in that way. Clause 2(1) refers to a person who is disabled by a disease and his eligibility. Clause 2(2)(b) deals with dependants.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 2, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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