§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, in moving that this Order be approved, may I say a word or two about it, because it is the first of these supplementary schemes which has come before your Lordships? Your Lordships will remember that in the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, 1946, a section was included, with the unanimous approval of all Parties, under which supplementary schemes—that is, schemes supplementary to the general scheme provided by the Act—may be brought into operation with the approval of the Houses of Parliament. As this is the first scheme which has been brought forward, I think I should bring that fact to the attention of your Lordships. I need not go into any detail about it.
869 As its title suggests, it is a scheme under which the colliery workers and the employers—which, of course, means the National Coal Board—have arranged for valuable supplementary disablement payments and compensation. As your Lordships know, the mining industry is one which is particularly dangerous, and the accident rate in it is very high. Moreover, it is an industry which is most vital to the economic progress of the country. Therefore, I think your Lordships will agree that it is very useful that there should be this scheme, and that it should have been drawn up so quickly. The scheme is contributory, a fact which I think is a very important feature. The colliery workers will pay 4d. each per week towards the cost of the scheme, and the National Coal Board will pay on the basis of 4d. per ton of saleable deep-mined coal. I do not think that it is necessary for me to go over the terms of the Order which set out in very considerable detail the benefits which are to be provided. I beg to move that the Order be approved.
§ Moved, That the Special Order as reported from the Special Orders Committee on Tuesday last, be approved.—(Lord Chorley.)
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER
My Lords, perhaps I may be permitted to make some observations on this Motion which, as the noble Lord has said, is one of some importance. As I understand the purpose of this Statutory Order, it is intended to give effect to an agreement made under Section 83 of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act between the National Union of Mineworkers and other bodies mentioned in the scheme, and the Coal Board. It seems at first sight that the House might be well advised to accord an affirmative Resolution to this scheme which has been mutually agreed between the two parties, but, before doing so, I think it is of some importance that your Lordships should have an opportunity of understanding quite clearly what is entailed in this draft Order. Under the proposals which are contained in this Order, the miner, if he is injured in the course of his employment, will be in receipt of an additional disablement pension; that is to say, he will receive benefit additional to that 870 which will be granted to him under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act. In point of fact, a 100 per cent. disablement will mean an extra £1 a week over and above the basic figure of 45s.
I think your Lordships will remember that it is open to the representatives of all insured persons in employment to submit a scheme similar to this to the Minister for his approval. This, of course, applies to all industry, including those basic industries which have been taken over and nationalised by the Government. I think it would be expected that in an industry remaining in private hands the representatives, of the employers and workers could, and would, reach an agreement on a fifty-fifty basis on the contributions which each side would be called upon to pay, as is laid down in the principal Act. Nobody could possibly take objection to a scheme of that character. But here we are faced with a proposal which is entirely different, and which departs absolutely from any scheme which might be expected to operate in a reasonable manner in an industry in private hands, as distinct from a nationalised undertaking. As I understand it, under this scheme—and I hope that in the course of his reply the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, will be able to confirm my interpretation—the Coal Board will be called upon to pay a five-sixths contribution to the one-sixth which the colliery worker will pay. My figure is based upon an output of five tons of coal per man per week—perhaps!
It is reasonable to assume that in view of the dangerous work which is performed by the mineworkers, and especially in view of diseases which are prevalent in the industry, some special provision should be made for those who are engaged in the industry. But it is well to recall, in passing, that a scheme such as this, with the employer paying five-sixths and the employee one sixth, could not possibly operate in the merchant shipping industry, for example, where the rate of accidents is nearly as high as, perhaps even higher than, in the mining industry. I am sure the House generally will agree with me, and so will the noble Lord opposite, that it would be utterly impossible for private industry, and particularly the employers' side of private industry, to contribute comparable amounts to a similar scheme. In point of fact, the contribution of 4d. per ton which is to be paid by the Coal Board is clearly 871 a charge on the taxpayer, or, perhaps I should say, upon the user of coal. I do not wish on this occasion to argue whether or not it is right and proper that a nationalised undertaking should be subsidised in a manner which is utterly impracticable and impossible in the case of private industry, but it is nevertheless one of the most important facts which must constantly be kept in mind and, indeed, faced in all additional contributory industrial injury schemes.
I hope I have touched upon the principal questions connected with this scheme, but my real purpose in rising was to ask the Government to withdraw this Motion to-day in order that consideration might be given to the very important question of disabled ex-Service men. I reminded the House earlier that a scheme of this character can be submitted to the Minister for his approval by the representatives of any class or classes of insured persons, in conjunction, of course, with their employers. But disabled ex-Service men, who, I believe, deserve every benefit which it is possible for a grateful country to give them, are not, as such, members of any trade union organisation. We are all aware of the untiring energies of the British Legion and other similar bodies on behalf of disabled ex-Service men, but the fact remains that a scheme such as we are considering to-day cannot be made for disabled ex-Service men. It follows, therefore, that Parliament must take on itself this responsibility as a duty and as a right. It is somewhat surprising that the Government appear to have overlooked their obligations in this respect. Accordingly, we on these Benches feel—and feel deeply—that the Government should not press this Motion until such time as they can lay before Parliament a scheme which will apply in an equally generous fashion to those who were wounded or disabled in the service of their country. I would ask the Government to agree to that proposal not to move this Motion to-day, but to postpone it until to-day week, in the hope that on that occasion they will be in a position to give us clearly some indication of what they intend to do for that very deserving class of person.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ LORD BEVERIDGE
My Lords, I would like to take the opportunity of supporting 872 what has been said by the noble Earl, Lord Munster, and to ask the Government to reconsider what they are proposing in this Order. I would begin by saying that to me it is clear that workers in the coal mining industry ought to have certain advantages and privileges which do not go to all industries, because they work underground. Not all of them work underground, but some of them do, and the others have to follow their way of working. For that reason, I personally am strongly in favour of the five day week for the coal mining industry, and as strongly against the five day week, under present conditions, for many of the other people who are clamouring for it. There is a definite reason why coal miners should, because of the nature of their occupation and because of its importance, have special consideration. I say that before I raise the doubts which I do raise upon this Order. The first doubt I have is as to the great ultimate benefit which, as a result of this Order, a man may be able to get when he is disabled. As your Lordships know, he gets 45s. as a single man, and 16s. in addition if married, making a total for the married man of 61s. If presumed to be wholly unable to work, he may receive another 20s., and now he is to be paid another 20s. I leave out the additional benefits he may get if he has dependants. I would like to raise the question whether one is not getting to a level of benefit which will ultimately be a discouragement to a rapid return to work. That is a question which ought to be raised before we go much further with supplementary schemes.
My second point is much the same as that made by the noble Earl, Lord Munster, but I should like to stress it very much more. It relates to the description of this scheme as a contributory scheme. That is really playing with words. The contribution is to be five-sixths by the employer (which in this case means the consumer of coal, because the National Coal Board will get the money back from the consumers) compared with one-sixth by the employee. We have had contributory insurance for many years in this country, and what we have always meant by "contribution" is roughly an equal division of the contribution; half and half—not five-sixths by the employer and one-sixth by the workman. I suggest it is playing with words to call this 873 contributory. It attaches to "contributory" a different meaning from any we have attached to it before.
I want to come back to that point, which is my main point, after saying a few words on a small matter of detail which I think needs consideration. It relates to Clause 14 of the Order. Those who took part in the discussions on industrial injury insurance at the time of the issue of the Coalition Government's White Paper in 1944 will remember that that White Paper marked a great departure from anything that had been done previously in regard to industrial injury, and, indeed, from anything that was proposed in the so-called Beveridge Report, by breaking away altogether from the principle of relating benefit to the earnings of the man. The object of that was that a man should not be discouraged from trying to do as much work as he could, while he was injured but could still earn something, by the fear that if he did so he would lose some of his benefit. That is why the Coalition Government made a new departure (I think it was a most interesting and important new departure) in saying that the benefit the man should get should in no way be related to what he was actually earning, but should be based on the extent of his physical injury. If your Lordships will look at Clause 14, you will see that we are now bringing back what the Coalition Government, after careful consideration, tried to drive out of this system. That is a point of detail, but I suggest that it needs further consideration.
I now return to the main ground why we are asking the Government to reconsider this matter—namely, the division of the cost as to five-sixths from the employer (which means the consumer of coal) and one-sixth from the employee. As the noble Earl, Lord Munster, pointed out, it will be very difficult for any other industry to adopt this scheme unless the employers are willing to contribute on the same basis. There are other industries (the shipping industry has been mentioned) which are just about as dangerous as coalmining, and just about as important. There is another industry, which is perhaps not so dangerous but which is rapidly becoming a dangerous industry as it becomes mechanised, and which is just as important as coalmining from the point of view of the economics of this country— 874 namely, agriculture. Are we to have supplementary schemes in these other industries? And are we to ask the farmers and the shipowners to pay five-sixths? I suggest that if they do, and in so far as they do, we shall have driven another nail into the coffin of the contributory principle. I believe that the contributory principle is one of the most important things we have in this country, because if employees, when they are sock, injured or old, are to be given benefits for which in fact they do not feel they are paying, one of the barriers to the great pressure to raise continually the rates of benefit, and to pay people more and more when they are not working at the cost of what they earn when they are working, will have been removed. I believe that to be a dangerous tendency. Your Lordships will see that that point was carefully and fully set out in the Report which I wrote on this subject. I ask the Government to reconsider whether they really want, without further consideration, to set a precedent which will create so much difficulty from so many points of view.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ LORD KERSHAW
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, speaks on this subject with great authority, but he appears to have overlooked the fact that the Workmen's Compensation Act, which this new scheme has replaced, was non-contributory. Therefore there would be no new principle involved, even if this were entirely non-contributory. The main point that I want to stress is that this is a case of industrial accident. The man is asked not only to endure the consequences of his injury, his sickness or whatever it may be. When I speak of sickness, I am thinking for the moment of silicosis and diseases of that nature which arise from work in the mining industry—a slow process of drowning, so to speak. The man not only has to surfer the injury, but must pay for any recompense to which he may become entitled, or which he may need. There is nothing very dreadful about the industry paying in consequence of accidents. There is no virtue in the one-sixth or five-sixths, even if those proportions are true. The fact is that a man has suffered an injury as the direct consequence of the industry he is following. It does, not matter whether it is the mining industry or the Mercantile Marine. It is not like 875 the ordinary contingencies of sickness to which all of us are subject. These are accidents—and I want to stress this point—which arise as a consequence of the man's following that particular industry. It is entirely wrong, in my judgment, to cavil about how the compensation should be paid for.
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER
Does the noble Lord mean how the contributions should be paid, or how the compensation should be paid for?
§ LORD KERSHAW
I say that the industry should pay the compensation. It does not matter much whether it comes from the worker's wage or directly from the employer. Ultimately, it comes out of the proceeds of the industry. You cannot get away from that, however you approach it.
§ LORD BEVERIDGE
Does the noble Lord mean to discard the provisions of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act in making compensation for industrial injuries part of the contributory insurance? That is a deliberate change of principle. Does the noble Lord object to the fundamental principle which is embodied in the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act?
§ LORD KERSHAW
If it is any comfort to the noble Lord, I would assure him that I am entirely in favour of the contributory principle, because I feel that the workmen should have an interest in whatever benefits they are getting. But there is no virtue in the particular proportions which should come from the workmen or from the industry.
I will come now to the comments made by the noble Earl, Lord Munster. I detected in his argument, I thought, a feeling, not that he has any particular objection to the scheme but that he wants to use an objection to this scheme as a lever to obtain something for the ex-Service men—a form of blackmail. I do not mean that in any other sense than this, but I had never heard before in this House such an argument as the noble Earl used. He says, in effect, "We will oppose, or are opposing, your present scheme because we want you to do something in connection with another body of people." I suggest that, on the merits of this scheme 876 alone, and divorcing it completely from the other very deserving case that he put up for the ex-Service men—a case with which we are all in sympathy and agreement—this scheme deserves the full support of the whole House. I do not think we should be bound by the arguments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
My Lords, may I ask just one question on this matter?—because I have an open and rather uninformed mind about it at the present moment. I do not follow the noble Lord, Lord Kershaw, into the rather doubtful economics of his contention that everything comes out of the proceeds of a particular industry, a point which is not strictly relevant to the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge. I understood Lord Kershaw to say that the industry should pay because this proposal is the equivalent of the old workmen's compensation. But, as I understand it, it is not. The old workmen's compensation insurance has been superseded by the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act which deals more generously—and rightly so, because it gets rid of rather difficult anomalies—with workmen's compensation, and imposes on industry the new equivalent. There is no question that that is quite right, but what has been done here is additional.
I take the view that it is important in industry, whether it is nationalised industry, or whether it is not, that the industry should try, by partnership schemes, to make a contribution for security in old age and for sickness. But I think there is great merit that those additional schemes should generally be of a contributory character. I do not say what the contribution ought to be. I doubt whether the contribution can be uniform for every industry. Some industries work on a narrow margin, and some are fairly secure. Nor do I think that the contribution should necessarily be the same every year. If you have a good year, then you should plough back into the reserve; you should give better dividends to your shareholders and give something more to the old age pensions funds which exist in so many of our well-run businesses. If I am right in my premises, all I join issue on is the argument that this is the exact equivalent of the old 877 Workmen's compensation: as I understand it, it is not—it is something additional. In that case I should have said that the basis of reasoning lay rather with the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, than with the noble Lord, Lord Kershaw. On the point of this accusation of "blackmail," I do not think that that accusation is well-founded. As I understand it, all that my noble friend is proposing to do is to follow the course adopted by another place. Though we do not necessarily always follow what is done in another place, if the other place is in fact withholding the final consideration for a week, or whatever period it is, then I think that, in this particular case, we should follow the same course.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, perhaps I might deal with the question of whether this is really a contributory scheme or not. It is obviously a contributory scheme. The miner is to pay 4d. a week. It is quite true that the contribution from the Coal Board is substantially larger. I would not like to say that it is the exact five-sixths which the noble Earl suggested, but it is certainly something in the neighbourhood of that figure. The suggestion that it is to come entirely out of the pockets of the consumer, I submit is quite wrong. The noble Lord, Lord Kershaw, is quite right in referring to the position as it existed until a week or two ago under the Workmen's Compensation Act. The noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, is one of the greatest authorities on the coal industry, and he knows quite well that the cost of workmen's compensation in the form of premiums in the coal industry was one of the heaviest, if not the heaviest, in the whole country. Indeed, it came to as much as 13d. per ton of coal mined, and that, of course, came out of the price of coal and was, in fact, paid by the consumer of coal.
Under the present scheme, the amount contributed under the Industrial Injuries Act is three-farthings per ton of coal. The increased contributions under the National Insurance Act amount to 4d. per ton, and under this supplementary scheme, if it comes into force, there will be another 4d. a ton. Therefore, the result is that the total cost to the National Coal Board will be something like 4d. a ton less than it was under the old scheme, under which the premiums of work- 878 men's compensation had to be paid. Obviously, there is on balance a distinct saving to the coal consumer, and surely it is perectly clear that this is the sort of industry in which there ought to be a supplementary scheme. It is a very dangerous industry and one which is absolutely vital to the future interests of the country. I suggest that it is a very proper case for a scheme of this kind. The noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, suggested that we were getting to the point at which people would not work. I hope he will not suggest that this extra 20s. a week on top of what is rather a small benefit will result in miners not working. It will still be far short of what they could earn in an ordinary five-day week in the pits. By and large, the miners are a decent, hard-working body of men, and I hope the noble Lord will not press that point. The argument about injured ex-Service men really has nothing to do with this particular Order. They come under the Royal Warrant, and it may be that the noble Earl has a case for suggesting that there should be increases under that Royal Warrant. It does not come under this scheme, however, and if the noble Lord wants to raise that matter he should raise it in what he knows to be the proper way.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
Surely, the proposition is a sensible one. It may be that, as a result of further consideration, it will be seen not to be suitable to raise the question of injured ex-Service men in this connection. But if the arrangement in another place is, as I understand it to be, that these Regulations are to be withdrawn for a week, it is surely a sensible thing to withdraw them here for a week. Suppose that, as the result of conversations that will take place it is decided that these Regulations should go through without more ado, then we shall not need to have any further discussion here and we shall be perfectly happy to let them through. If, on the other hand, some modification is made and the ex-Service men are brought in, or the matter is deferred for further consideration, it would be very inconvenient that we should have parted with the Order and then—I do not know by what means—have to return to it again. The sensible thing would appear to be for both Houses to deal with it at the same time, and, if no point arises, it can then go 879 through without further consideration here.
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
My Lords, I confess that I had no notice that this particular issue would be raised, but I understand that there is no question of the scheme being modified, or anything of that kind, or of further discussions on its details. It is, so far as I know, purely a question of the convenience of the Parliamentary time-table. I hope, therefore, that noble Lords will not press the point. I do not think it matters much provided we get agreement.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
With great respect, I do not think it is purely a matter of the Parliamentary time-table. Like the noble Viscount, I am not speaking with great knowledge of the subject, but I understand that a request was made through the usual channels—not merely with the convenience of the Parliamentary time-table in view but on the very point that my noble friend has raised here. If the noble Lord is right (and I dare say he is) that it would be quite irrelevant to raise the question of the ex-Service men on this occasion—and that was the point on which this discussion was adjourned in another place—then we should be perfectly happy to have this Motion put down for another day and let it go through without any further debate. I think it would be more convenient to withdraw it now and put it down again, when the noble Viscount the Leader of the House and I can be better informed about what has happened in the other place. It could be put down on a suitable day and we could then pass it sub silentio.
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
As the noble Viscount knows, I am a very reasonable person. If there can be that general understanding between us, I shall not raise any objection to the postponement of this matter—but not on the ground that it should be tied up with the introduction of a scheme that brings in another set of persons. I could not accept that as part of the understanding between us.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I quite understand, and we are prepared to give such an undertaking, assuming that it is agreed in both Houses that this ex-Service men aspect is not relevant. I am not arguing 880 that it is. If the other place are going to raise a debate we ought to have an opportunity of raising one here; but if it is agreed that there is nothing in it, we certainly shall not want to debate the matter, and it could go through without more ado. We should just adjourn it for the present.
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
I am not quite sure where I am with the noble Viscount. I am sure it would be a tragic mistake for Parliament to obstruct the coming into force of this scheme, agreed to between the two sides of the industry—an exceedingly perilous industry. It is an agreement made in accordance with an Act of Parliament. So long as we do not stand in the way of its coming into effect, as far as the Parliamentary timetable is concerned I should be quite happy to discuss it with the noble Viscount. On that understanding I am quite agreeable to the adjournment of the matter.
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER
If I may intervene for one moment, I would point out that the scheme is retrospective, and so long as it comes into force on August 2 next nobody will be any the worse off, and many people may be much better off.
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
In those circumstances we will withdraw the Motion. We will put it down for another day.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.