§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, this Bill, which deals with workmen's compensation, is, like many other Bills which deal with the same subject, complicated to understand. Indeed, it may surprise your Lordships that sixty years after the first Act was passed, and the complete reform of the industrial injuries system in 1948, we are still adding to the list of Workmen's Compensation Acts. New cases of workmen's compensation do not arise after July 5. 1948, but compensation payable under the awards already given continue to be made. There has been more than one increase in the awards under the Industrial Injuries Act since 1948, and the purpose of this Bill is to bring the awards in the most severe cases under Workmen's Compensation Acts more into line with those made under the Industrial Injuries Act. Consideration has been given, both at the time of the Industrial Injuries Act and since then, to the possibility of absorbing the old Workmen's Compensation Acts into the new scheme. The fundamental difficulty has always been that the two systems operate on completely different bases, with the result that some people are better off under workmen's compensation than they would be under the Industrial 172 Injuries Act. This difficulty still remains, in spite of improvements in the industrial injuries rate in 1952 and 1955.
This Bill does not attempt to absorb the older scheme in the newer, but tries to bring the rates of award more into line in respect of total disablement. It does this by providing a supplement of 17s. 6d. a week to those who are totally disabled and are receiving a weekly payment under the Workmen's Compensation Act. This is approximately in line with the 100 per cent. disablement pension under the Industrial Injuries Act. Payments will be made not only to those receiving workmen's compensation, but also to those drawing benefit for total disablement under the pneumoconiosis and byssinosis benefit scheme. The effect of this will be that the maximum rates of workmen's compensation will be increased from 50s.—if I may take a standard case of a married man—to 67s. 6d. But this, of course, is not the whole story, because since 1948 there have been one or two important improvements in the position of disabled men and workmen's compensation. They can now draw sickness benefit in addition to compensation, and they can also draw constant attendance allowance. These benefits fall to be added both to payments under workmen's compensation and to benefits under the Industrial Injuries Act.
Perhaps I may give an example just to show how this works out. If we take the 100 per cent. disablement pension, which is 67s. 6d., and the new rate of a married man for maximum workmen's compensation, which is the same figure—when I say the new rate, I mean the new rate under the Bill—there can be added to this 40s. for sickness benefit for a man, and 25s. for a man's wife. This brings the total to £6 12s. 6d. With constant attendance allowance this rises to £9 12s. 6d. I mention this only to indicate that the figures we are dealing with in the Bill are not the whole extent of the benefit which can be made available to those who are injured in the course of their work. I think it is quite striking that this figure of £9 12s. 6d., in an extreme case, is comparable to 50s. which was payable in 1948 when the new scheme was brought into operation. I think it shows beyond peradventure that it has now been put on a much more satisfactory basis.
173 Questions have been raised as to why the partially incapacitated have not been brought into this scheme. The reason is that they are in an entirely different category, and in part are probably better off than if they were brought under the industrial injuries scheme. This is particularly likely to be the case for those on maximum compensation, who would have benefited by any increase in the maximum compensation rates. On the other hand, those below maximum compensation are able to get a review which can bring compensation more into line with modern wage rates. It was therefore felt that there was not the same justification in these cases as in those of total disablement.
It is not possible to give an accurate estimate of the number of people who will benefit under the Bill, but it is probably between 13,000 and 14,000—that is, some 10,000 to 11,000 people drawing workmen's compensation, and nearly 3,000 beneficiaries under the pneumoconiosis scheme. The cost will be met out of the Industrial Injuries Fund, and it is estimated that it will be £650,000 in the first year, though this will diminish as time goes on. It is hoped to bring the scheme into operation before the middle of September. May I add that, in these cases, which almost all involve a measure of personal tragedy in the lives of certain individuals, we can get some satisfaction in that this measure will be of some assistance. I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time.
§ Moved, that the Bill be now read 2..—(The Earl of Selkirk.)
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ LORD PETHICK-LAWRENCE
My Lords, I am glad to be able to give the noble Earl the same assurance that I gave him on the previous Bill: that we support the Government in this measure and, as in another place, we will take every step we can to facilitate its passage into law. Of course, this Bill is quite different from the one to which we have just given a Second Reading, and it affects a much smaller number of people. Nevertheless, they are people who are deserving of our consideration, and the advance which this Bill gives in their benefit is one that will be of great value in tragic cases. I do not think it is necessary for me to add anything further, because the noble Earl has explained the terms of the Bill. Of 174 course, they are highly technical, and only those who have experience in these matters can fully understand them. The broad principle that we should make some effort for people who have suffered different kinds of injuries and are incapacitated and cannot earn their own living, should have our sapport. This Bill goes a long way to do that, and has our support. For my part, and those who sit on these Benches, I am quite sure that we shall give our full assistance and facilitate its passage into law.
§ LORD AMULREE
My Lords, I should like to say a word on behalf of noble Lords on these Benches. I wish to associate myself strongly with what the noble Lord, Lord Pethick-Lawrence has said. I personally have had some experience of these unfortunate people who suffer in this kind of way. I am sure that the provision which is being made for them now will be most welcome and will do away with a great deal of suffering. We shall do all we can to assist in the easy passage of this Bill through the House.
§ 5.41 p.m.
§ LORD BURDEN
My Lords, may I add one further word from these Benches? We welcome this Bill. May I be allowed one personal reference. We have travelled a long way since the main Act of 1906 or 1907—
§ LORD BURDEN
I know there was a very small one in 1897, belt I mean the main Act in 1906. I remember that Act clearly because it contained a definition of "manual labour". There was a struggle, in which I took some part with my Association, to get the word "manual" deleted from the Bill and make it, throughout apply to office workers as well. That was in 1905. We on this side of the House will do all we can (subject to minor details, which I do not think will arise) to facilitate the passage of this useful piece of legislation, which applies, as the noble Earl said, only to small numbers but nevertheless to people who are suffering grievously as a result of gainful employment.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, I should like to thank the House for the welcome it has given this Bill. I appreciate that the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, speaks with great experience in these 175 matters. I should also like to thank the noble Lords, Lord Pethick-Lawrence and Lord Burden.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a; and commined to a Committee of the Whole House.