HC Deb 17 December 1996 vol 287 cc531-2W
Ms Harman

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a statement on proposed reductions for higher deafness pensions; and how many war pensioners will be affected. [8665]

Mr. Heald

No reductions in war disablement pensions awarded in respect of a hearing disability have been proposed. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has been advised that there has been a change in medical opinion on the effect of noise-induced sensorineural hearing loss on a subsequent hearing loss due to other causes such as aging.

Where medical matters need to be determined on a claim for, or application for review of, an award of a war disablement pension, the law requires that part of the claim to be determined by a medical officer appointed by the Secretary of State. The medical officer certifies whether or not the disablement is due to or aggravated by service in the armed forces, and also the degree of disablement due to service. The Secretary of State is required to make payments of war disablement pension in accordance with the certified level of disablement.

It was previously thought that a service-related noise induced hearing loss could intensify the effect of a subsequent hearing loss due to other causes such as aging. Authoritative medical opinion is now that such interaction does not occur and that the maximum effect of service-related hearing loss is at release from service. Medical officers must apply current medical opinion. For them to do otherwise would be unlawful.

It is estimated that, in 1997–98, some 10,000 claims by existing war pensioners for deterioration of their hearing loss, and about 1,000 new claimants may be affected by the change in medical opinion.

Mr. Rogers

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many claims have been made for industrial deafness from people employed or formerly employed in the mining industry; how many have been resolved; and how many are waiting for assessment. [8528]

Mr. Roger Evans

The information is not available in the format requested and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

However, we estimate that as at 1 April 1995 there were more than 2,000 industrial injuries disablement pensions in payment for occupational deafness to people employed or formerly employed in the deep coal mining, opencast working and the manufacture of solid fuel industries.


Information is based on a 10 per cent. sample with an allowance for late returns.