HC Deb 29 October 1985 vol 84 cc800-1
5. Mr. James Lamond

asked the Paymaster General how many claims have been made under the Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers Compensation) Act 1979 for compensation for byssinosis sufferers in the last year.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Peter Bottomley)

In the 12 months to 30 September 1985 there were 66 claims.

Mr. Lamond

Is the Minister aware that that number would be increased considerably if he reconsidered the scheme and changed the rules? If he did that, many hundreds who deserve the compensation, including many in my constituency who are debarred from claiming the lump sum compensation because they once worked for a firm which is still in existence, would be given the chance to obtain it? Is he aware that traditionally in the textile industry people work for a number of firms?

Mr. Bottomley

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his persistence. We exchanged correspondence on this issue earlier in the year. The Act operates when the previous employer is still in business. It is important for people to make claims against previous employers who are still in business.

Mr. Haynes

Is the Minister aware that it is all very well for him to give the number of applications, but that it would be interesting to know the number of rejections? Have not many applications been rejected, yet when the post mortems were carried out the applicants were found to be riddled with the disease? I want the Minister to investigate the problem and do something about it.

Mr. Bottomley

I anticipated the hon. Gentleman's point, and so can tell him that 2,534 cases have been approved and fewer than 500 rejected. More than £16 million has been paid to byssinosis sufferers since the Act came into force.

Mr. Wigley

Does the Minister accept that there is a danger that some people might fall between two stools because they have worked for companies which have become defunct and companies which are still in existence, so that the buck is passed backwards and forwards?

Is the Minister aware that a group of people suffering from emphysema or chronic bronchitis may not obtain full recognition under the 1979 Act? Is there not a case for reviewing the Act to ensure that those people are treated fairly?

Mr. Bottomley

I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for the part that he has played in the implementation of the Act. We intend to extend the range of the Act, but I cannot offer much progress on his other points.