HC Deb 02 April 1979 vol 965 cc1120-2

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

12.10 am
Mr. Jopling

I was invited by the Under-Secretary to intervene at this stage after he gave way to me during his opening speech on Second Reading. He invited me then to intervene in the general debate on clause 2, but having considered what he said I think that perhaps it might be to the convenience of the Committee if I were to ask him a question in the general debate on this clause.

That brings me to the question of the effect of this Bill on those constituents of mine who are engaged in gypsum mining. The Under-Secretary was kind enough to respond to my hon. Friend the Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts) when he was asked about the impact of the Bill on gypsum miners. I have shown an interest in this subject over many years and in the Adjournment debate to which the hon. Member for Whitehaven (Dr. Cunningham), who is temporarily out of the Chamber, replied on 1 March 1976 I intervened when the hon. Gentleman wound up for the Government. I drew attention then to the fact that many of my colleagues in the Conservative Party were interested in this matter.

I would like an assurance from the Under-Secretary about the definition in clause 1(3). He told us that the word "pneumoconiosis" covered a number of diseases, including silicosis and kaolinosis. I should like an assurance that respiratory diseases caused by gypsum mining are caught under the three headings which appear in clause 1(3). I want to be certain that in future we avoid the possibility of some clever doctor, working for the Department of Health and Social Security, saying, in the case of a miner suffering from a disease caused by gypsum mining, that that disease was technically different and was not covered by the three definitions.

I know that the Under-Secretary may find it difficult to give me the assurance that no respiratory condition caused by gypsum mining will not come within this cover, but I should like his assurance that there is no respiratory condition caused by gypsum mining which does not come within the cover.

If I am assured that so far as the Department is aware all the conditions of respiratory disease caused to gypsum miners will be caught by the definition, I shall be satisfied. I understand that events may show a currently unknown medical condition which may fall without the definition. We never know what may happen in the future.

I am thinking of gypsum miners who work at the British Gypsum plant at Kirby Thore, in the north of my constituency, which is one of the largest plasterboard plants in Europe. Most of these workers will be covered because they work for a prosperous firm which creates many jobs. But the Boazman firm, which was an employer of gypsum miners, has gone out of business and the family is now divorced from the company.

I am worried about clause 1(3). I hope that I can be assured that gypsum workers will be treated as fairly as slate and iron ore workers. If the provision is sufficiently wide, I shall not delay the Bill.

Mr. Harold Walker

I can assure the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling) that the gypsum workers in his constituency will be treated fairly under the scheme. I cannot assure him that a gypsum worker who suffers from a respiratory disease which is incurred in the course of his employment will necessarily qualify or pass the first test laid down in clause 2. He will have to qualify for an industrial injury disease benefit from the DHSS which falls within the pneumoconiosis category.

I do not know which respiratory diseases are caused by gypsum. For all I know, a disease such as farmer's lung might be caused by gypsum, and I said earlier that that would not fall within the scheme. On the other hand, gypsum may cause the fibrotic condition which is generally diagnosed as pneumoconiosis and, therefore, it will fall within the scope of the scheme.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman does not think that I am being unhelpful. It would be unhelpful to mislead the hon. Gentleman and his constituents. I shall reflect on and discuss the matter with officials. I shall write to the hon. Gentleman soon.

Mr. Jopling

I know the Minister well enough to know that he will honour his undertaking.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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