§ 5.7 p.m.
§ LORD BOWLES
My Lords, this draft Order makes changes in the contributions and benefits under the Colliery Workers Supplementary Scheme, changes which result from the introduction from October 6, 1966, by the National Insurance Act 1966, of earnings-related supplements to certain National Insurance benefits, and in particular the supplement which will be payable with industrial injury benefit to those entitled.
The Industrial Injuries Act provides that representatives of insured persons and their employers may submit schemes for supplementing benefits provided by 1726 the Act, and the Colliery Workers Supplementary Scheme is the only one made under these arrangements. It was established in 1948, is run by a National Committee representing the National Coal Board, the small mine owners and the mineworkers' unions, and in large measure uses the machinery of the Ministry of Social Security, as it is now called, for administering and paying benefit. The cost of these administrative arrangements is paid for by the scheme—in fact, no part of the cost of the supplementary scheme falls upon the Exchequer. Industrial injury benefit, disablement benefit, industrial widow's pension and the allowance to a woman having care of a child of a colliery worker who died as a result of a colliery accident or disease are supplemented under the scheme, generally speaking, by about one-third of the State benefit.
As a result of the amendments in the Draft Order, earnings-related supplement will to a large extent replace colliery workers' supplement to injury benefit. The colliery workers' supplement will be paid only where and in so far as the earnings-related supplement paid with injury benefit falls short of the normal colliery worker's supplement rate of £2 7s. 6d. a week, subject to an income limit on total benefits. In other words, for anyone who was earning more than £810 a year earnings-related supplement will be more than, and will normally extinguish, the colliery workers' supplement. For lower earnings, producing earnings-related supplement of less than £2 7s. 6d. per week, the balance of colliery workers' supplement will be paid.
Because this will result in a saving of benefits paid under the scheme, the Draft Order also reduces the contributions made under the scheme: the National Coal Board will pay 5d. instead of 61d. per ton of deep-mined coal; men will pay 5d., instead of 60., and women 4d. a week, instead of 4ld. The Government Actuary, who advises the National Committee of the scheme and the Minister of Social Security on its finances, has said that these rates are appropriate in relation to the reduced demands which will be made upon the scheme. The adequacy of the contributions will also be re-examined at the next actuarial review of the scheme which is due as at the end of this year.
1727 The scheme contains an income limit, operating at present after the first three weeks, which restricts the amount of colliery workers' supplement to injury or disablement benefit to the difference between pre-accident earnings and post-accident earnings, if any, plus certain benefits. This limit is brought forward to the date when the earnings-related supplement comes into payment; that is, normally at the end of two weeks, but in some cases earlier. The definition of "pre-accident earnings" is altered so that calculation is related to the relevant tax year instead of to the preceding twelve months. This simplifies administration, since the relevant tax year will usually be the same as that used for earnings related supplementation. The existing modifications, which allow for periods of incapacity or unemployment to be discounted, for changes of grade to be taken into account or for using the appropriate standard wage rate, if that is beneficial, are, however, retained.
One minor technical change, which relieves the National Coal Board of the legal requirement to produce certain statements, has been included because these statements are now not necessary in practice. All the Amendments in the Order have been requested by the National Committee which, as I have said, represents both sides of the industry. I beg to move that the Draft Order be approved.
§ Moved, That the Draft National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) (Colliery Workers Supplementary Scheme) Amendment Order 1966, laid before the House on 27th July 1966, be approved.—(Lord Bowles.)
§ VISCOUNT BRENTFORD
My Lords, may I, as one who in past years has had a certain amount to do with these matters, express my appreciation of the improvements the Government are introducing by means of this Order? I know the very great extent to which the colliery representatives at all grades look towards these particular industrial benefits. I am quite sure, from what the noble Lord has said, that considerable improvements are being introduced and will be greatly appreciated throughout the industry.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.