HC Deb 08 December 1952 vol 509 cc8-9W
81. Mr. J. T. Price

asked the Minister of National Insurance if he has now given further consideration to the long-standing grievances of sufferers from Reynaud's disease whose claims for benefit under the Industrial Injuries Act are not admitted by his Department, although such claims were at one time admissible under the Workmen's Compensation Act; if he will make a statement on the matter; and if he is now in a position to pay the claims as from the date on which such claims arose.

Mr. Peake

I would refer the hon. Gentleman to my replies to his Question on 30th June, the present position is explained in a letter I have received from the Chairman of the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council to which it still stands referred. The following is the letterOn 21st March, 1950, your predecessor referred to the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council for consideration and advice the question whether Raynaud's phenomenon of occupational origin (popularly known as "white fingers" or "dead fingers") should be prescribed under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, 1946, in relation to insured persons engaged in any occupation involving the use of vibrating tools. The Council referred the matter to their Industrial Diseases Sub-Committee, who have now submitted an interim Report to the Council. Notwithstanding help and advice in the course of their investigation from several authorities, notably the Occupational Health Committee of the Medical Research Council who convened for the purpose a special conference of eminent physicians and physiologists, the Sub-Committee have felt hampered by a lack of adequate factual evidence on certain aspects of Raynaud's phenomenon and by the difficulties they have encountered in trying to obtain such evidence. Without it, they find it hard to reach a conclusion as to whether or not prescription would satisfy the conditions in Section 55 (2) of the Act. The main problems are, first, that Raynaud's phenomenon occurs widely among the general population from causes unassociated with the use of vibrating tools and that not all vibrating tools can be admitted as causing special exposure to a risk of it; where a worker using a vibrating tool has developed Raynaud's phenomenon, therefore, it may be very difficult to decide satisfactorily whether it is due to the use of the tool. Secondly, it appears that, while the disability caused by Raynaud's phenomenon is occasionally substantial, in the great majority of cases it is trivial, often amounting to no more than temporary inconvenience, and is in any event not easy to assess satisfactorily because the attacks are usually seasonal, intermittent and of short duration—for example, half-an-hour on cold mornings. The majority of the Sub-Committee feel unable to make any recommendation at present, and before submitting a final Report they wish to await the results of a survey of cases of Raynaud's phenomenon which is to be carried out this winter at the instigation of the Occupational Health Committee of the Medical Research Council. Mr. C. R. Dale, however, considers that a sufficient case has been made out for bringing within the Industrial Injuries scheme any cases of substantial disablement from Raynaud's phenomenon which would have qualified for benefit under the "injury by accident" provisions of the Act if the Industrial Injuries Commissioner had not held that occupational Raynaud's phenomenon is the result of a process and not of an injury by accident. In the circumstances, the Council do not consider that any useful purpose would be served by submitting a formal Report to you at the present stage. In view of the time which has elapsed since the question was referred to them, however, they wished me to inform you of the position which has been reached.