HC Deb 19 December 1975 vol 902 cc846-7W
Mr. Golding

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she is satisfied with the operation of the Central Pneumoconiosis Panel.

Mr. O'Malley

The Central Pneumoconiosis Panel was introduced in 1967 to provide an opportunity, which did not previously exist, for cases where the diagnosis of pneumoconiosis is a matter of special doubt or difficulty to be considered by a special board of highly qualified experts. These arrangements have worked well, but they have been criticised as being too restrictive and less satisfactory than a formal right of appeal would be. I have accordingly carefully reviewed the position and have reached the conclusion that the Central Panel system should now be replaced by a statutory right of appeal on diagnosis to medical appeal tribunals—MATs—whose members have special knowledge of chest diseases. Because of the large number of potential appeals and the limited number of doctors with the necessary knowledge and experience there will need to be certain limitations to the right of appeal, but nevertheless considerably more cases will be considered by MATs than are at present dealt with by the Central Panel.

The normal provision for the Secretary of State to refer cases to the MAT will be available as will the right of appeal from the MAT to the Commissioner on a question of law. It is intended to introduce the new right of appeal as soon as the necessary arrangements can be made and the draft amending regulations will be submitted to the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council early in the new year.