§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Isaacs (Southwark, North)
I beg to move, in page 2, line 4, at the end, to insert:Provided that this paragraph shall apply to any such child over the age of fifteen years who is receiving full-time instruction at any educational establishment or undergoing training for any trade, profession or vocation, or unable to receive such instruction or training by reason of physical or mental infirmity.This Amendment has three purposes. The first is that the children's allowance should be continued for those children who are undergoing instruction in an educational establishment. Hon. Members know many instances of men who have been injured and who have children of school age. Some of them continue at an educational establishment until they are 16, and some go beyond that age. Cases come to me of men who are injured, whose incomes are seriously reduced and who are compelled to stop education for their children after 16. Some scholarships go beyond 16 and take 1064 the youngsters up to the universities. I know many cases where the education of such children has had to be stopped. That is not only a loss to the child and a grievous disappointment to the parents, but it is a considerable loss to the State, because these bright children of working-class people who have the ability to win scholarships and to continue their education, often turn out to be useful members of the community.
Secondly, we ask that the allowance should be continued for those who are undergoing training for a trade or profession. Many boys and girls, especially boys, when they take an apprenticeship binding them for seven years or less, receive a very low wage in the early years. It is often not sufficient even to pay their fares from their homes to their work. Nothing is left for their food and clothing. We think, therefore, that in such cases, where no actual benefit to the home is given by the employment of these young persons, the maintenance allowance should be paid. Some children get a professional education by being articled to solicitors, architects and accountants. In those cases the parents have to pay a fee on the articles and the children get nothing for some years. We consider that it is justifiable to ask that these cases also should be eligible for maintenance.
Thirdly, there are those who are suffering from physical or mental infirmity. There is the greatest need for calling attention to this kind of youngster. Some are helpless cripples and some are infirm in mind. They are sad cases and it is fair to say that they are the greatest care of their parents. Parents are more anxious for these children than for those who are more able to take care of themselves. It is not reasonable that they should suffer because the father has met with an accident at work, and the allowance will be of great benefit to them. If the maximum of 5s. is given to the injured worker he will have been earning at least £3 a week. In ordinary circumstances he will get 30s. compensation, and the 5s. allowance will bring it to 35s. Even then he will be receiving 25s. less than he was earning, and the additional 4s. allowance, or 3s. in the case of the third and other children, will be of material assistance to him. If the allowance stops when the youngsters reach the age set out in the Bill, and they go out to employment on a wage that will not 1065 help to maintain them, the hardship on the family will be felt very keenly. I submit with respect that the cost of this addition would be relatively small while the relative advantage to the family would be very great.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Smith (Normanton)
This is not the first time that we have discussed a proposition of this kind. When the principal Act was at the Report stage, about 1923, the House was so interested in the case of children attending secondary schools that there was actually a free vote on an Amendment dealing with their case, and we just failed to carry it, the majority against it being, I think, 22. At that time Members on all sides suggested that it would be an advantage to the State to have children going on to the secondary schools and that an injured workman's children ought not to be handicapped because the father had been injured and was receiving compensation. We lost the case then, and I am not sure about the chances of this Amendment, but I think there are good grounds why it should be accepted. If the Government cannot accept the whole Amendment I hope they will at least meet the case in one respect by agreeing that when a child is receiving education at an ordinary educational establishment, compensation in respect of it should continue to be paid up to 16 years of age. I am sure that if the Members on the Treasury bench at the present time were to express their own views they would accept the Amendment.
In the last 15 or 16 years, there has been a great change in the methods of dealing with children. I have recalled the Debate in 1923, and I also remember that in the Widows', Orphans' and Old Age Contributory Pensions Act we did get a Clause which enabled the allowance to be paid up to 16 years of age, but I do not want the exact wording of that Clause to apply here, because I believe the age limit is 14 years and it only goes up to 16 if they are receiving full-time instruction. People make great sacrifices to send their children to secondary schools, and it is a pleasing feature of our education system that so many people do so, and if a parent falls by the way through being injured at work and the income is on that account reduced we ought to grant this allowance of 4s. a week for any child who is receiving full-time education at, say, a 1066 secondary school. I hope that we shall have from the Under-Secretary for the Home Department not merely sympathy for this Amendment but at least a promise, if he cannot accept the Amendment as it is worded—because it may be too wide—that he will give consideration to those children who are receiving secondary education and that the allowance in respect of them will be continued up to the age of 16.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Tomlinson (Farnworth)
I should like to put in a word on behalf of the children of an injured workman who are between 15 and 16 years of age. I have the privilege of being the chairman of the Scholarships Committee of a large county which provides a good many scholarships for children of the working class. Not only are great sacrifices made to keep the children at school, but the sacrifice called for in the last year at school is greater than at any other period. The Lancashire County Council, along with all other county councils, I think, provide for that in this way, that in the fourth and any subsequent year the maintenance allowance is on a more generous scale; and that points to the need for greater assistance in these cases. The number of injured workmen who have children at school and would be benefited under this Amendment would be small, but that is all the more reason for accepting it. This is not the first occasion on which this particular point has been overlooked. When the war broke out and the children of serving soldiers were being considered, the wording of the first Royal Warrant that was issued was the wording in this Bill, and it was on representations from education authorities all over the country that an alteration was made and children up to 16 years of age were brought in. I think it is true, also, that in the case of unemployment insurance benefits this age is also accepted, because it is "after 15 years" so long as the child is receiving full-time instruction in school that the benefit is continued. If the necessity for it is realised in that case I think there is a good case for it here.
But I would base the claim primarily on the ground that this is the age when the money is most needed. During the last two years I have had many unpleasant tasks, and the most unpleasant 1067 in connection with education administration has been that of signing forms allowing children to leave school on account of the poverty of their parents when they really ought to remain. It is a heart-breaking position when the child has kept at school until 15 years of age and then the economic position of the parents makes it impossible for the child to finish its education and to sit for the school certificate. I never sign that form without feeling that I am doing an injustice to the child. If we accepted this Amendment it would relieve the position in the case of injured workmen.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Kilmarnock)
I rise to reinforce what my hon. Friend the Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson) has said. In my constituency there is no sadder sight than to see at the corner of the rows of mining cottages injured men who have had a lump sum paid to them in compensation and are pretty well destitute for the rest of their lives. I can speak with a little authority on the second point. All over the country to-day children are leaving school at 14 years of age and how much more difficult will it be for those children who have nothing to fall back upon to remain for the extra two years, as they ought to do. The Post Office and other Government Departments are taking them away at the age of 14 and 15. Children cannot stay at the secondary schools, with all the extras which are wanted, without something from home, and the case for the Amendment is a very strong one. The concession would not affect a large number of children. In my own constituency I do not think there are large numbers who go on to the academy and leave; but without this concession we shall deprive a child who has won a scholarship of getting the full benefits which it ought to receive from the secondary education.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Collindridge (Barnsley)
I wish to say a few words in support of the Amendment. This is an excellent opportunity for hon. Members to show that they have no bias against people who are unfortunate enough to have to work in hazardous occupations. In the mining industry before the war, the average accident rate relating to those who were injured sufficiently to receive compensation showed 1068 that a miner was injured once in every four years and five months. Since the war that rate will be higher and will be equivalent to a miner being injured in some shorter period. I would ask the Committee to reflect what that means. Like the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson) I have had the misfortune to have people come to me to release their children from the secondary school because there has been an accident to the breadwinner. They have had to ask for their children to be taken away. When that happens it is a tragedy.
Hon. Members now have a chance to show that they want these educational opportunities to continue. Most workers in the mining industry desire that their children shall be educated to engage in some profession which is less hazardous and prone to accidents than mining. If we have these children embarking upon education up to the age of 14, it is unjust and distinctly unfair that their chances should be taken away because of an accident to their parents. Surely, in these days of war in particular, when we are hoping that the margin between those who are privileged and those who have always been unprivileged may be lessened, we may ask here, not for absolute equality, but merely that children who have shown that they can assimilate a higher education should have an opportunity to continue that education, notwithstanding that their fathers may have been the victims of accident.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Jenkins (Pontypool)
I would like to add a word to the appeal that has been made that the Minister should accept at any rate the principle of the Amendment. There can be no opposition in any part of the Committee to that principle. Those who sit on local government bodies know the effect upon children's education when parents come on to compensation. Many hon. Members have signed those forms and know that they are very objectionable. I would ask hon. Members to consider this matter in relation to a child's life. At 11 plus it sits for an entrance examination, and then goes on to a secondary school for three or four years. A substantial sum of public money will be spent on the child's education. Then the parent may get injured and ask for compensation. 1069 The child gets no payment; that will be the position under the Bill. The result may be that the expenditure for three or four years upon the education of that child, a sum which averages, in our council schools, approximately £40 per annum, will not achieve its object. You may have spent £120 upon the child's secondary school education, and then, because of the injury to the parent, you have thrown it all away. The child has to leave the school without a leaving certificate, and without having matriculated or having any opportunity to proceed to the higher reaches of education.
I cannot imagine that anybody in this Committee would desire to see a child's education impaired in any way because of a refusal to accept this Amendment. The case that we have been putting applies more particularly to the mining districts because of the higher incidence of accidents there than in other fields of industry, but it is equally true of children related to any industry. The effect is the same. I have no doubt that there is a genuine feeling in the Committee that this difficulty and obstacle to children's education must be overcome. We have stated the difficulty, but unless this Amendment, or words which accept the principle of it, are agreed, a number of children will have their education opportunities jeopardised.
§ 7.35 P.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Peake)
I had better make clear to the Committee the general position in regard to the Bill and, more particularly, to this Amendment. The Bill comes before the House of Commons as a Measure which has been discussed with representatives of employers and employés and of insurance companies who are interested in workmen's compensation. Those discussions took a long time. The negotiations were somewhat lengthy, but we eventually arrived at what was substantially an agreed Measure. It is obviously within the power of the Committee to upset any of the terms of this agreed Bill if the Committee so desires, but I think, whenever agreed legislation is brought forward, there must be a strong bias in favour of the agreement at which the parties have arrived. The Amendment, as well as the whole subject matter of the Bill, was the subject of discussion 1070 and of agreement with representatives of the Trades Union Congress. I want to say that at the outset, but I do not in any way challenge the right of the Committee, if it so desires, to upset an agreed Bill.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr)
Can we have that matter cleared up? Are the Committee to understand that all the details that now appear in the Bill were agreed upon in negotiations with the Trades Union Congress?
§ Mr. Isaacs
Would the Minister permit me to ask whether, in those negotiations, this point about stopping the payment at this age for the education was actually discussed, let alone agreed upon?
§ Mr. Peake
It certainly was discussed. I do not remember any exception being taken to the proposals for the Bill. I do not wish to shut out the right of the Committee—and I should not dream of attempting to do so for a moment—to make any Amendment which it thought proper, but I would point out that any substantial Amendment would cut across the agreed Bill. The result of any substantial Amendment would be that I should have to enter into further negotiations in order to arrive at an agreement.
With regard to the Amendment, the wording is obviously open to a good deal of criticism, but I do not intend to take up small points on the wording, because hon. Members who have to draft Amendments have not the advantages or the resources behind them of Government Departments. The Amendment, as the hon. Member who moved it described, is divided into three parts. With regard to the third part, relating to those who areunable to receive such instruction or training by reason of physical or mental infirmity,1071 that provision is taken from the Unemployment Insurance scheme. I honestly wonder whether representatives of miners, and other members of what are usually known as the working classes, think it desirable that, before deciding whether an allowance should be paid or withheld under the Bill, it is really suitable for an employer or an insurance company to make inquiries as to the physical and/or mental condition of a child. I should hesitate a very long time before I put a right of that sort into the hands of an employer or insurance company to make that sort of inquiry. So much for the third part of the Amendment. Looking at the second part of the Amendment, that deals with persons undergoing training for any trade, profession or vocation, and that, of course, on the face of it, without any limit of age whatsoever, would cover a very wide field. When I was reading for the Bar many years ago, before I became a pupil of my right hon. and learned Friend the present Solicitor-General, there were other students whose ages seemed to vary between 45 and 70, and as far as I can read the provision of the Amendment as it stands, if they had an aged father, they would qualify for children's benefit under the provision.
§ Mr. Collindridge
Does the hon. Gentleman think that a coalminer would have his son in that capacity while at the age of 45?
§ Mr. Peake
No, not so old as 45. It seems to me that the part of the Amendment which is deserving of serious consideration is the part dealing with those receiving full-time instruction at an educational establishment. One or two points fall to be considered, and those are the provisions of other schemes which are under the auspices of the State. I have already referred to the provisions under Unemployment Insurance which contain the qualification about bodily or mental infirmity. With regard to Unemployment Insurance, what is laid down is this:A child between the ages of 14 and 16 cannot be regarded as a dependent child "—1072 and, therefore, qualify for the children's allowance under Unemployment Insurance—unless he is under full-time instruction at a day school or is incapable or unable to receive full-time instruction through physical or mental infirmity.So it would seem, with regard to Unemployment Insurance benefit, that the normal age is 14, and the extension of the period for which the child's allowance can be drawn can go on up to 16 if the child is in receipt of full-time education. Let me observe in passing, what I think is rather important, that in this scheme under Unemployment Insurance the child has to be a dependent child. In this Bill we have sought to keep all tests of dependency outside the scope of the Bill, and we have succeeded; and every child, whether dependent or otherwise, will qualify for the children's allowance.
I have referred to the Unemployment Insurance scheme. Now let me refer to the provisions with regard to the Widows' and Old Age Contributory Pensions Act. The hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) referred to this Act. The provision there is that a widow is entitled to an allowance in respect of children while under the age of 14 and for a further period thereinafter specified at the rate of 5s. a week for the eldest child and 3s. for other children. The further period from the age of 14 specified is the end of July next following the date at which the child attains the age of 16, during which he is, or is deemed to be, in accordance with the Regulations made under the Act, under full-time instruction at a day school. Those are two very good precedents. Since those two schemes were drawn up there has been a further scheme, and that is the Personal Injuries (Civilian) Scheme, under which persons injured as the result of hostile action during the war can be compensated. There again, there is a dependency test. Before a child's allowance can be drawn under that scheme, the child must be a dependent child. As I have pointed out, we have no such provision under workmen's compensation. The interesting point is that in the civilian injury scheme there is no differentiation between the age of 14 on the one hand and the age of 16 on the other. There is the middle course of taking the age of 15 without qualification on either side, and that is the proposal which we have put in this Bill in order to 1073 make its provisions as simple as they possibly can be.
In respect of children's allowances, there have to be forms provided by the employer and filled up by the worker. We have sought to keep the facts which have to be proved as simple as possible, and we have avoided as far as possible any inquiries by the employer into the personal status of the worker. It seemed to us, therefore, that there was a great deal to be said, instead of taking this proposal with the age of 14 with an extension to 16, for taking the middle course of the civilian injury scheme, that is, that the age should be 15 with no provision for inquiries by the employer as to whether or not the child was undergoing education.
§ Mr. Peake
I should think that in regard to the civilian injury scheme the desire was to keep the thing as simple as possible. It was thought that there would be a large number of civilian casualties. It was desired to get the compensation and children's allowances paid out as quickly as possible in order to avoid hardship, and I have no doubt that the age of 15 was taken for simplicity of administration.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
Could the hon. Gentleman say whether a scheme of that kind came before the Committee in the form of a Bill?
§ Mr. Peake
It came before the House in the form of a Bill before the outbreak of the war, and subsequently in the form of a Scheme made under the Act, in respect of which hon. Members were entitled to put down a Motion. Of course, I am not suggesting that the civilian personal injuries scheme has been above all criticism. I am only citing is as a reasonable precedent for us to adopt in the case of employers. It seems to me that there is a great deal to be said for not putting upon employers a greater obligation than the State itself is prepared to assume. The State undertook the liability for children under the age of 15, and that is one of the reasons for having adopted the same proposal in this Workmen's Compensation Bill. If there were a strong feeling in the Committee that hon. Members prefer the ordinary age for children's allowances under workmen's compensation to be 14 with an extension to the age 1074 of 16 where whole-time education was being continued, we would certainly consider introducing an Amendment to that effect in another place, but I should have thought there were strong arguments against that proposal and in favour of the age of 15, that is to say, complete simplicity of administration, and no inquiries by the employer into what the child or children of the injured workmen are doing. Moreover, under the proposal for maintaining the age of 15 without any qualification a large number of injured workmen will be able to draw the allowances in respect of the children, even although the children have gone to work and are bringing money into the home.
From the point of view of the cost of these proposals, I believe it would be cheaper to adopt the normal age as 14 with the extension to 16 where whole-time education is proceeding. That would be a cheaper proposal than the proposal that we have put forward in the Bill, and if hon. Members press the point upon those lines, some alteration in the Bill might, I think, reasonably be made. But I cannot go back to the employers after the long negotiations we have had and say to them, "The House of Commons has decided to place a large additional burden upon your shoulders." [HON. MEMBERS: "Large?"] A substantial burden. The proposal in the Amendment would put a very substantial additional charge upon workmen's compensation. If hon. Members pressed for the words of this Amendment, and it were carried, our agreed settlement would, in my view, be upset.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
The hon. Gentleman made the point that the Bill is the result of very prolonged negotiations, in which some Members on this side of the House have taken some part. I am entitled to say for my hon. Friends that when we first came into these negotiations we raised the three points which are contained in the Amendment, and we have raised them continually since. The hon. Gentleman cannot make any charge of bad faith against us. We confine our Amendment to the very points which we have raised at the meetings. What we have pressed for, and what I think the general sense of the House was agreed upon a long time ago, was that there 1075 should be a drastic overhaul of the whole of the Workmen's Compensation Acts. The Government, long before the war, met that demand by setting up a Royal Commission. We had to content ourselves with a Royal Commission, which was given very wide terms of reference. The Commission might now have completed its report but for the war. It is only because it would be impossible for it to bring in a report now, and because, at the same time, the circumstances of the war are pressing very heavily on the dependants of disabled men, that we have this Bill.
The employers and insurance companies are getting off very cheaply. But for the war they would have been faced, not with this Bill, but with a comprehensive Workmen's Compensation Act. The Under-Secretary knows that this leaves grave anomalies in the original Act, which are quite unjustified. Last Thursday I mentioned two of them. The first was the method which has been imposed upon workmen's compensation for calculating the average earnings of men while they were engaged in industry. There the men have been robbed of something which the original Act intended to give them. Then there is the partial compensation system, whereby their compensation is reduced because of wages that they have not received at all. I do not think that we need be very tender with the insurance companies, because they have done very well out of this Bill. So have the employers. I am never convinced by this talk about the enormous charge of workmen's compensation upon industry. I know that the charge of workmen's compensation on industry in South Wales, onerous as it may be, is less than the cost on earnings.
I believe it is possible to meet this question of preventing an educational career being wrecked by a disabled man's misfortune. An accident to a man in the prime of life is a misfortune anyhow. The whole life of a man who contracts silicosis, for example, is wrecked. We cannot do much for him except provide compensation; but why should his misfortune wreck the career of his child, as it will unless some such provision as we propose is made? No hon. Member would like to think that the secondary school career of the child of a disabled man is wrecked for want of such a provision. The Under-Secretary has made a fair 1076 point in saying that the terms of this Amendment are very wide; I admit that at once, but the real case that we want him to meet is that of a child whose educational career might be interrupted. The age of 16 is a very important one in secondary school life. That is the age when children generally matriculate. That is the completion of the first stage. If the child has to leave before that age, the first stage is broken. There are many employers who lay down that they will take a child into their employment if he has matriculated, and I believe I am right in saying that the Royal Air Force lay matriculation down as one of the conditions for a commission. Therefore, I make this suggestion. Cannot we make sure that the child of a disabled man will not be compelled to leave a secondary school before the age of 16? The Under-Secretary has put forward the suggestion that we might make 14 a basic age, and continue the payments to 16 if a child continues at school receiving instruction. Is it not possible to retain the age of 15, as it is provided in the Bill, and to put forward the age to 16 in the case of a child remaining at school. I can understand the anxiety of the Government to see that these schemes compare with one another. At present they are in an awful mess. The Under-Secretary referred, for example, to the personal injuries scheme. He said that the age there is 15. But may I remind him of the difference between the rates provided under that scheme and those provided in this Bill?
§ Mr. Peake
There are two parts to the personal injuries scheme, as the hon. Gentleman well knows. The earlier part is for short-term injuries, and is comparable to workmen's compensation. The rates there are exactly the same as in this Bill. The other part applies only to long-term disability, extending beyond six months.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I should have made that clear; I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. But there is provision made in that scheme for the case of men who are permanently disabled. Here, however permanent and total the disablement may be, there is no further provision made.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I do not think that there is much in that. The allowance for which we are asking is in respect of the child dependent on its parents in attending a day school until 16. I would make a suggestion, which I am sure would be the desire of the Committee, that provision should be made to meet the type of case that we are urging to-night. It may involve further negotiations, but I urge the Under-Secretary to put it before the employers and the insurance companies, as I think they ought to meet a point of this kind.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I am speaking for myself when I say that if the hon. Gentleman would meet the educational point, I believe that we would be prepared to "call it a day."
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr)
All that we have had from the Under-Secretary is a proposition that we should bargain with him. He has been very frank, and says that if we bargain with him, we lose. If we accept the maximum age of the child as being 14, and if we could possibly have a compromise by having the age fixed at 16 where the child is undergoing full-time education, obviously such a compromise would be a loss, generally speaking. We cannot consider that for a moment on this side of the Committee. We notice that the Under-Secretary has been looking over Government schemes which might perhaps be exploited to his advantage in putting up a very weak case this evening. There are other Government schemes in which children are treated far more generously than the hon. Gentleman proposes to treat them in this Bill. I want to make a correction, first of all. He refers to the Unemployment Insurance benefit terminating at 16, but there is running parallel with that benefit the unemployment assistance allowance. Whenever it is to the advantage of a person in recepit of unemployment benefit to avail himself of the scale laid down by the Unemployment Assistance Board, he is legally entitled to take advantage of that scheme. The 1078 position under the Unemployment Assistance Board is that a child between 14 and 16 years of age is entitled to 6s., and if the dependant is over 16 years of age he is entitled to at least 8s. So on that score the Under-Secretary is not correct and is unconsciously misleading the Committee.
I tried to make an appeal very late on the night of the Second Reading of the Bill that he should consider the position under the Royal Warrant. On the one hand, you have a disabled workman, disabled as a result of war service, and, on the other hand, you have a disabled workman, disabled as a result of industrial service. The position is that under the Royal Warrant the first child receives 6s. 3d., and the second and all subsequent children receive 5s. each, and there is nothing in this Bill comparable with that. My hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) mentioned the age of 16 but there are all the qualifications laid down in the Royal Warrant that are laid down in this Amendment. I say that without having had anything to do with the drafting of the Amendment. This is what the Royal Warrant says:Allowances for children shall ordinarily terminate at the age of 16, but may exceptionally be granted or continued after that age where it is shown … that the child:—(i) is an apprentice or in an analogous position receiving not more than nominal wages, or is being educated at a university, or technical or secondary school; or (ii) is incapable of self-support by reason of infirmity … and that the pecuniary circumstances of the family or child are such as to require it.The rates laid down even in this improved compensation Bill will place the family of every injured workman in a very singular position. The hon. Gentleman put it to us whether we would consider it suitable for an employer to inquire whether any child has physical or mental infirmity. The working class to-day are getting so used to inquisitions of all kinds that I do not think they would rise against even an inquisition such as is suggested here if it meant some easement of the position of the injured worker and his family. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will consider the appeal that is being made to him, although, speaking for myself, I would not be satisfied nor would, I believe, my hon. Friends, if he were to fix the age of 16 for children undergoing full time education. I know too well what happens in 1079 so many of the industrialised areas of this country where a very substantial proportion of the children pass from the elementary to the secondary school. In my own constituency approximately 25 per cent. of these children have done so. It will be some encouragement to the workers of this country to realise that at least the law with regard to workmen's compensation is at any rate tending in the right direction. The hon. Gentleman is not establishing any new principle. It has been laid down in other schemes by the Government far more generously than what we are asking from these benches to-day. I come from an area where, wisely or unwisely the working men and women have made a kind of fetish of education. I do not propose that we should try to disillusion them if they have made a mistake. That condition is as alive to-day as it ever has been, and it is a terrible experience when a decent workman is injured after having concentrated his life upon keeping a home together and giving the best education possible to his children. Surely on that basis there should not be placed before Parliament a scheme which is so unkind and so ungenerous as this Bill. I appeal to the hon. Gentleman to raise the age now to 16. If he does so, he can rest assured that at the first opportunity we shall come along and ask for more, as he would naturally expect.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Isaacs
I want to remind the Minister that this, as it stands, is a compromise and that this question of children's allowances turns on the 5s. advance given to injured workmen. It is a most unsatisfactory sum, but it was accepted as a compromise. I think we should be willing to withdraw the Amendment if we could get the educational side of it accepted on the basis of 15, continuing to 16 where necessary. I want to refer to the question of the dependent child, and I want to submit that a child of 14 to 15 who is working is a dependent child. Not one of them earns enough to maintain himself or herself. In the conversations we have had with the hon. Gentleman we have been impressed by his knowledge of the question, and his honest and sincere desire to meet us, but he did say that he could hardly go to the employers and tell them that the House of Commons has increased the cost.
§ Mr. Isaacs
If that can be qualified, I am confident that the hon. Gentleman need not worry about telling the employers. I am also confident that employers are not always so bad as they are sometimes painted and that this is a cost so small that they will not "grouse" about it. I appeal to the Minister to let the Bill stand, with the extension up to 16. If he does so, then I think we shall be happy to withdraw the Amendment.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Peake
We have had a friendly and useful discussion on this Amendment, because it has elicited agreement on the fact that it would be undesirable, generally speaking, to have any inquiry by employers on the question of the physical and mental condition of children. That, at any rate, clears that part of the Amendment out of the field of discussion, and I think the Committee is generally agreed that the second part of the Amendment would open up an unreasonably wide field. The discussion has, therefore, narrowed itself down to the point as to whether we either have the basic age at 14, with extension to 16 where a secondary education has been undergone, or, alternatively, the age of 15 with a similar extension to the age of 16 in the case of those undergoing full-time education. I have explained to the Committee the position in which I am, namely, that this is agreed legislation. The hon. Member for North Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) challenged my statement that this was one of the points discussed with representatives of the T.U.C.
§ Mr. Isaacs
I understand that the question of children's allowances was discussed, but I do not recall any discussion about limiting it.
§ Mr. Peake
I have refreshed my memory as to the course of our discussion. This was not a point which was discussed at great length, but the representatives of the T.U.C. have had the original Bill before them since the middle of April, and we went through the Bill line by line. They took no exception whatever to the proposal in the Bill, and therefore I think I am justified in saying that this was a matter on which we reached agreement. I do not want to quarrel with the Committee, but, on the other hand, I do 1081 not want to promise them I can achieve agreement on something about which I am not sure that agreement is possible. I do not want now, by a concession, to make hon. Members more voracious. It is perfectly obvious that by going to the parties with a long list of demands the prospects of agreement would be less, but what I am prepared to do in regard to this Amendment, if it is withdrawn, is again to discuss with the employers whether they are prepared to make this limited concession in regard to whole-time education up to the age of 16. I cannot promise that I shall reach agreement, but I shall certainly use my best endeavours; and if agreement is reached, an Amendment can then be introduced.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I would like to thank the Under-Secretary for his reply and say that. I think my hon. Friends would be prepared, in view of his undertaking, to withdraw the Amendment. I am sure that when he meets the employers, insurance companies and parties concerned he will say that the request has the full support of every Member in the House to-night and is a House of Commons request.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Smith (Normanton)
I beg to move, in page 2, line 4, at the end, to insert:(2) Where any workman was on or after the eighteenth day of March, nineteen hundred and forty, entitled to a weekly payment by way of compensation as aforesaid and such compensation was redeemed before the coming into operation of this Act, the foregoing Sub-section shall apply to him as though he were still entitled to such weekly payment.You will remember, Sir Dennis, that it was 18th March this year when the Government first intimated that there would be some temporary legislation dealing with this subject. Since that time a good deal of discussion has taken place, both in this House and between the various parties, and we are now in the middle of July. This Amendment is put down in order to safeguard the position of certain injured workmen, and I will quote a case which is the real reason why the Amendment is being moved. In Section 13 of the principal Act an employer can, where compensa- 1082 tion has been paid for total incapacity for more than six months, apply for redemption of those weekly payments, and what is to be taken into account in determining the amount of redemption is laid down there. It also states that redemption can take place by agreement and also by arbitration. I hope the legal profession will not go out of the Committee while we are discussing this Amendment, especially the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor-General, whose guidance I would like on this point. I am told by some hon. Members that they have not heard of any cases since last March where insurance companies have urged or tried to get redemption. On the other hand, I am told by other hon. Members that there have been attempts to get redemption, and I will now quote a case which clearly proves the necessity for this Amendment, although, out of respect for the solicitor and the man concerned, I do not propose to mention names or places.
§ Mr. Smith
I will give an outline of the facts of the case. A workman lost one eye. For some reason he got no compensation. He went back to work at the same place and, unfortunately, last the other eye and is now blind, the most terrible affliction that one can have. He was in receipt of 25s. 10d. a week compensation for total incapacity. Although he himself consulted a solicitor on 15th April, almost a month after the announcement that there was to be amending legislation, the insurance company served on him a notice applying for arbitration. Perhaps I had better read what the solicitor said:However, I was very surprised when the client's wife came in to see me on the 15th instant and handed to me a notice of a request for arbitration and an appointment there-for which had been served on her husband personally on that day.If the original Bill which was brought before the House had been in operation, say, from March, it is calculated that the 25s. 10d. would have been increased by about 11s. When the case had got to court the judge would have been bound to take into account, not the 11s., but the 25s. 10d. As I understand it, he does not take into account what Parliament might do. He has to deal with 1083 what the law is, and he would be compelled to take into account only the 25s. 10d. In ascertaining the lump sum, I am told by this solicitor that, whereas the 25s. 10d. would carry with it something like £800, if this Bill had been in operation at that date the figure would have been between £1,100 and £1,200. So in the case of this poor blind man there was a question of £400 floating about. I believe most insurance companies and employers try to play the game, though I know some who do not. There are men on these benches, including myself, who at one time in our coalfields had absolute hostility towards the indemnity companies. I was pleased when the principal Act of 1923, which was consolidated in 1925, at least safeguarded redemption to some extent. What did they do? They said to a poor man permanently incapacitated by nystagmus, "Would it not be better if you took a lump sum and started in some business, going round as a greengrocer or opening a fish and chip shop? What about taking £15, or £25?" I know cases where we have actually had to threaten men to stop them accepting such terms as that. It is rather different to-day when a totally incapacitated man is safeguarded by Section 13. This is an example of what an unscrupulous insurance company can do and if this was the only case in the country—I believe there are some more—it would be worth while for this Committee to safeguard it.
§ Mr. Peake
Every year there is a certain number of settlements under Section 13 and in some cases, where an employer goes bankrupt or a company goes into liquidation, a settlement has to be made by law. I should like the hon. Member to give me some evidence that some employers or companies have invoked Section 13 where they would not 1084 have done it in the ordinary course. I do not think he can expect employers to forgo the use of procedure which is perfectly normal and proper in a great many cases simply because an announcement of new legislation is made.
§ Mr. Smith
I think that in this case the insurance company applied for redemption, because they knew that, if they waited another six months, they would have to pay more. Of course, they would not admit it. They would say they had followed out the ordinary course and taken advantage of the Act of Parliament, as they were entitled to do. I believe this instance could be multiplied. I have not heard of many cases in my area, but hon. Friends of mine have told me of attempts to get redemption. This case has been handed to me because the Amendment was down. I believe the man who wrote it to be perfectly honourable, I believe the facts are correct, and I honestly feel that we ought to give some kind of guarantee to men who are totally incapacitated as laid down in the Amendment. If the Amendment is not drafted properly, for heaven's sake do not imagine that laymen are the only people who make mistakes in drafting. I remember a case in which the House had to adjourn between half-past eight and nine o'clock and meet the next day because a word in a Regulation had been misspelt. That was not done by a layman on these benches. If the Amendment is not drafted properly, I should like the Under-Secretary to give consideration to the purpose of the Amendment and give effect to it in another place. It would not cost the employers much, and it would be a great advantage to some poor people.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Oliver (Ilkeston)
I appreciate the point made by the Under-Secretary of State that if there had been no Bill contemplated, there would have been settlements under Section 13 of the Workmen's Compensation Act, but during the last few days I have taken the trouble to ascertain whether there have been any manifestations of undue haste to obtain redemptions because of the knowledge that this Bill was likely to be passed within a few days. I have made inquiries, and I think there is rather overwhelming evidence of many cases where redemptions have taken place which would not have 1085 taken place had this Measure not been in prospect.
§ Mr. Oliver
I will quote from a letter which the Under-Secretary of State will be able to check himself. I agree that it is not conclusive, but I think it will give sufficient evidence to show that there was undue haste. The letter comes from Manchester; it is written by a firm of solicitors, John Whittle, Robinson and Bailey, and it is dated 27th June, 1940. The letter reads:In further reference to this matter"—that is, a redemption matter—and as you are aware, the judge, on the adjourned hearing at Blackburn County Court, ordered redemption of the compensation in this case, and fixed the figure at £868. As you are aware, the application for redemption was commended on behalf of the employers"—They are the only people who can institute proceedings. The workman cannot do so; he may agree, but he cannot institute proceedings—and we were bound to represent your member at the hearing, and we asked that the judge should take into account the probability of an increase in compensation which is contemplated by the Workmen's Compensation (Supplementary Allowances) Bill. The judge found that he could not do this, and, therefore, your member has to be content. The judge ordered that each side should pay their own costs, and we enclose note of our charges, which we trust meets with your approval.
§ Mr. Oliver
It must have been, as I think this paragraph from the letter will confirm:In this case, as it happened, the date of the first hearing was your member's birthday, and the employers even took advantage of this. Had the hearing been fixed for even a day before your member's birthday, he would have been entitled to £889 16s. 8d., but because he was 53 on the date of the hearing he was only entitled to £869. If we may say with respect, we consider the employers"—I think he might have said the insurance company—have treated this man very unkindly, to say the least of it. He is practically blind, and has now been compelled to live on a lump sum instead of his 30s. per week. The employers commenced their application for redemption a very short time after the Workmen's Compensation (Supplementary Allowances) Bill had been ordered to be provided 1086 by the House of Commons, and it would appear that they were trying to redeem before your member was entitled to any increase in compensation.I readily confess that this is not conclusive, but I think it makes a very strong prima facie case. If inquiries are made, I think it will be found that this insurance company did manifest undue haste merely to get the settlement before this Bill becomes an Act. The Under-Secretary of State said that he had come to an agreement with the employers and the Trades Union Congress before the Bill was introduced. If the Bill were made retrospective to approximately the time at which it would have become law in the normal process, this case would practically have been covered.
§ Mr. Oliver
I am afraid I cannot say, although I have read the whole of the information that I have. The Under-Secretary will appreciate that the redemptions of this character mean that the lump sum is of an amount which requires an immediate life annuity to bring in approximately 75 per cent. of the 30s. Instead of enjoying 30s. a week, the man will have a sum equivalent to only 75 per cent. of that, because it is the invariable experience that employers do not redeem until they are perfectly satisfied that there is not a scrap of work left in the unfortunate individual. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to ask that this Clause should be made retrospective to the date which is suggested. In these cases, the lump sum settlements of an elastic character are generally arrived at by agreement, but when the employer invokes Section 13, one may rest assured that there is not much likelihood of the man concerned returning to work. For this reason, I hope the hon. Gentleman will accept the Amendment.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Peake
I should like to say a few words about the Amendment, because there may be some misunderstanding about it if I do not intervene. The Amendment appears to cover lump-sum settlements of all kinds, because it says:Where any workmen was … entitled to a weekly payment by way of compensation as aforesaid and such compensation was redeemed before the coming into operation of this Act. …1087 I take it that the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) is aware that lump sum settlements are redeemed in two ways under the Workmen's Compensation Act—under Section 23 by agreement between the parties, and under Section 13 by compulsion on the initiative of the employer. There are something like 26,000 lump sum settlements every year by voluntary agreement, and only a few hundred at the most by compulsion under Section 13. I cannot see any case whatever for applying a provision of this kind so as to upset settlements arrived at by voluntary agreement, and I think I shall carry the hon. Member for Normanton with me in that.
§ Mr. Peake
I am much obliged to the hon. Member. That clears away the greater part of the cases of lump-sum settlements. Our attention is, therefore, directed to only a few hundred cases a year under Section 13. Section 13 deals in two ways with two different classes of case. It provides that in either case the disability must have lasted for six months, and where that disability is permanent the lump sum to be paid to redeem it is calculated by a purely mathematical formula. That is to say, the lump sum has to be an amount required to purchase a Post Office annuity equal to 75 per cent. of the amount of the weekly payments. The second class of case dealt with by Section 13 is where incapacity is not of a permanent character. In that case, although the employer may still apply for compulsory redemption, the amount payable has to be settled by arbitration, and the result of that arbitration is completely binding. Neither party is free to reject the findings of the County Court judge. One of the reasons why the employers are slow to invoke the powers given under Section 13 is that county court judges do not lean very much in favour of employers or insurance companies. In any case it is a matter of arbitration and not a matter of purely mathematical calculation. The employer is taking substantial risks in invoking compulsory powers of Section 13. The amount is absolutely at large, and the arbitrator can find for any amount he thinks to be reasonable.
§ Mr. Peake
Yes, the amount is absolutely at large. He has to consider the age of the workman and the probable future course of his disability. I should not have thought myself that it would have been a reason for upsetting the arbitration, that the arbitrator had taken into account that there was the prospect of increases being granted in workmen's compensation. Therefore, the field of discussion is narrowed down to this, namely, whether employers or insurance companies have made wrongful or excessive use of their powers of compulsory redemption on the Post Office annuity basis. The hon. Member for Normanton cited a case where a man had lost an eye and subsequently lost the other eye. It is a sad case, but it is almost an old friend. It is the same case which was mentioned by his, and my, hon. Friend, the present Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, in the Debate of 30th April. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) gave the case of a person who met with an accident and suffered injury to one eye, but did not claim any compensation. He continued to work, and then met with another accident in which his other eye was injured. He sought compensation and is now totally blind. That case is apparently the only case which the hon. Member for Normanton can now cite. But I asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture to furnish me with full details of that case, and I am sorry to say that I am still waiting for them. The hon. Member for Normanton has quoted a letter, written on 15th April, and I should have liked to have known the sequel, namely, whether the case in fact went to court, or whether a settlement under Section 13 was arrived at.
I have made some inquiries as to whether Section 13 has been used excessively since 18th March. Let the Committee bear this point in mind. On 18th March we announced legislation, but it was not the legislation now before the Committee. It was legislation of a much more limited character, because the only beneficiary was then a married man. That is why I interrupted the hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Oliver) and asked him whether he knew the slants of the man he was quoting. If he turned out to be a single man, there would be nothing "fishy" about the business. I have 1089 made some inquiries as to whether there has been evidence of improper or excessive use of Section 13. It is obvious that there are cases where Section 13 is properly invoked, and there are cases where that Section has to be invoked under the law. I have consulted a number of county court registrars, particularly in the coalmining areas. I have consulted 10 registrars with very large areas where coalmining and other heavy industries are carried on. In the case of seven out of the 10 there has not been a single case of the use of Section 13 since 18th March last, and in the areas where it has been operated the registrars all say there is no evidence whatever to show that employers or insurance companies have been making more use of it during the past five months than they have done in similar periods before. As I have no evidence that this power has been abused in any way, it seems to me to be quite unnecessary to put an Amendment in the Bill. The hon. Member for Normanton agrees that his Amendment would be unsuitable. It would require a different Amendment; but there is no evidence of mischief under Section 13.
§ Mr. Peake
I can assure the hon. Member that it is very easy to acquire, and had I found that in the last five months there were numbers of cases springing up in all places, it would have been clear that the employers and insurance companies were trying to take advantage of their knowledge of the coming into operation of the new conditions.
§ Mr. Oliver
In the case where awards have been made by the Courts should not the Under-Secretary compare the corresponding months of last year, because I am sure that there are many courts in this country where in the course of two months there has not been a single case under Section 13?
§ Mr. Peake
I have told the hon. Member that it is clear that Section 13 is either not being operated at all, or has not been operated expressively in the last five months. There has been no abnormal increase, and there is nothing to show that employers or insurance companies have taken advantage of the knowledge that new legislation was going to be introduced.
1090 The position is that the cost of commuting cases under Section 13, on the Post Office annuity basis, is so great that the ordinary employer or insurance company prefers to take the risk of going on with the weekly payments. For example, in the case of a workman of 35 whose weekly payment is 30s. they would have to pay £1,200 to take the case off their books. Generally speaking, employers and insurance companies would rather take the risk of a case terminating in some other way, by recovery or death of the workman, than to pay large sums on the Post Office annuity basis. If hon. Members can refute the evidence which I have and can convince me that Section 13 has been abused during the last five months, I am prepared to consider an Amendment to meet the position. At present I have no evidence, although I have done my best to obtain it. I have invited the Trades Union Congress and other bodies to provide it, but I have so far not received it.
§ Mr. Lunn (Rothwell)
During the hon. Gentleman's speech he said the county court judges did not usually lean towards employers and insurance companies. Has he evidence of that?
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards (Caerphilly)
The Under-Secretary has told us the result of inquiries about Section 13, but he has made no reference to inquiries about Section 23. In coal-mining districts Section 13 is never invoked. I have not known of a case. Our experience is that the mutual indemnity societies employ full-time agents who are allotted certain areas, and who go round regularly every three months, and, by one means or another, induce workmen to commute their weekly compensation. I have a suspicion that in the last six months that has been intensified. I know of one man who made an agreement three years ago having lost an eye. He went before the county court judge and got him to turn down the agreement. That man has been seen three times by the indemnity society since the introduction of the first Bill. That case is symptomatic of the general policy of 1091 the mutual indemnity societies in endeavouring to inveigle our people into accepting commutations. I know a man who has been on compensation for 10 years and has been declared by the medical referee to be permanently disabled. He was offered £200 odd, and because he refused it, he was served with notice of review in the county court. Answers were put in, but before the case was heard the company came along and again offered the £200 plus additional compensation. We have to decide whether we can take the risk of losing a certain £200, or of going before the judge and taking whatever he may award by way of confirming the compensation or reducing it. I would like to know whether the Under-Secretary made extended inquiries to find out whether mutual indemnity societies in the coalfields have been intensifying their efforts to obtain commutations in view of the extra cost that will fall upon them because of this Measure.
§ 8.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Peake
The hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) appeared to be in complete agreement with me that we cannot reopen the cases of agreed settlement on a voluntary basis. After all, it is not only the employer who has had knowledge of the new legislation. The employé has similarly known about it and has had the advantage of being advised by his trade union officials, his solicitor or his approved society. I have not the slightest doubt that in such cases, where lump sums have been agreed upon, the prospect of the new legislation has been taken into account.
§ Mr. T. Smith
The kind of voluntary agreement I had in mind is not the kind which my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) had in mind. The cases I had in mind were those where a trade union, acting on behalf of the injured workman, had made an agreement with the insurance company and both sides were satisfied. I agree that there would be a difficulty in reopening such cases, but where pressure has been brought upon the man to accept something when he is entitled to much more the cases should be reopened.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
Voluntary agreements are in a different 1092 category from redemption awards under Section 13. The Under-Secretary said that there were 26,000 voluntary agreements in a year. I think a large proportion are cases in which the workman is not represented, either because no trade union was concerned, or because there was no legal representation.
§ Mr. Silverman
I did not say that. I said that of the 26,000 cases there was a large proportion in which the parties were not members of trades unions and a large proportion in which there was no legal representation. I do not know how seriously the hon. Gentleman doubts that, but it is true that there is a considerable proportion of what he is pleased to call voluntary settlements, in which the workman is not advised by anybody. In those cases the insurance company or the employer would have been, in the last two or three months, in a favoured position in the sense that they would have been fully conscious of the contemplated legislation, whereas the workman would not have been conscious of it at all. It would have been easy for the hon. Gentleman to find out how many cases under Section 23 had been settled in the past few months because in each case the agreement, if it had been validly obtained, ought to have been recorded in a county court. The same machinery that gave him his statistics of redemption awards under Section 13 would have been available to him for voluntary agreements under Section 23. It would have been interesting, either from his point of view or from mine, to have been able to ascertain whether the fact that there were no excessive numbers of cases under Section 13 is paralleled by any excess of cases under Section 23. I suspect that the information he would have obtained would not have been the same in the two cases.
One would also have liked to know whether, during the relevant period, there were an unusual number of applications to review and of notices to terminate compensation or to reduce it under Section 12. That is another favourite trick of the insurance companies, particularly where men are not represented or advised by trade union secretaries or lawyers. The employer is entitled to serve notice under 1093 Section 12, and at the end of 10 days to reduce compensation or terminate it and take his chance that the workman will accept it and will not go to court and ask for arbitration. This is frequently done in cases where the insurance company desires an end of the case, desires a lump sum settlement, but does not desire to proceed under Section 13. It puts the workman into a difficult position. In the meantime he has nothing, and the temptation to accept the lump sum, however inadequate, is very great, and I should be greatly surprised if during the last few months there had not been an increase of cases of that kind.
I dissent from the view that these cases can properly be called voluntary agreements, in such a sense as to distinguish them from cases under Section 13, where, after all, there has been a judicial investigation and a judicial award. If there were a sufficient number of these cases to which Section 13 applied—that is, in which there had been a full judicial review—I should have thought the argument was all the stronger for reviewing the so-called voluntary cases in which the agreement was reached on the basis that one party to the bargain knew what was coming on and the other did not.
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I do not want to go into the points which have been dealt with by my hon. Friends. We know perfectly well that the difficulty arises, not in cases that are redeemed, but in cases that are settled in the manner described. I have always discouraged lump-sum settlements, and I hope that when we come to deal with workmen's compensation in a more comprehensive manner we shall take stringent steps to save men from settling disability claims for trifling sums. Cases have been cited by the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) and the hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Oliver) and there may be other cases, and if evidence is submitted of other cases which are assumed to have been voluntarily settled but which were not, I hope the Under-Secretary will look further into the matter.
I am thinking at the moment of a particular case in my own constituency—and similar cases may have happened elsewhere. Coal seams have been worked out 1094 and a colliery company goes into voluntary liquidation. There may be a number of men, either partially or wholly disabled, who have had claims against it. Others who have been working in the pit and who fear the onset of, say, silicosis will, naturally, take the precaution of discovering whether they have claims, because they will have to make their claims before the company is wound up, otherwise their chance would be gone. As soon as the company has gone into voluntary liquidation, a receiver is appointed whose task it is to collect all the assets and to distribute them. Immediately the receiver is appointed weekly payments are stopped. I understand that it is a perfectly legal action, because the receiver has to realise all the assets and get together all the debts, and to pay out in accordance with the financial position, and the men get no weekly payment of compensation until the whole process of winding up the company is complete, and then they get lump sums. What happens to the cases of men who have not had lump-sum compensation and have not got payments? Are they entitled to a reconsideration of their cases under this Bill? That is one case; other hon. Members may have cases of a like kind, perhaps in other industries. The point is that this process is going on, and I hope that the Under-Secretary will look into the matter.
What is the position in cases of that kind? These men are compelled to commute their weekly payments, both full and partial, into lump sum settlements because the company has gone into voluntary liquidation. In some cases the sums have not been paid, but are in process of being negotiated. Are those men entitled to secure some advantage in that case? It would be very unfair indeed if, by sheer accident, these men were deprived of whatever advantages this Bill will bring forth. If the Under-Secretary finds that a case has been made out by us, will he undertake to consider it and, in another place, put in a suitable Amendment? If he will undertake to do so, I ask my hon. Friends to submit to him in full any cases they may have, so that he can investigate them.
§ 9.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I understand that, once a receiver is appointed, the weekly payments are stopped and commuted to a lump sum, and that the lump sum will be paid afterwards.
§ Mr. Peake
I cannot understand the cessation of weekly payments if the employer is insured. We are speaking of the coal industry, and in that industry insurance has been compulsory since 1934. By Section 4 of the Workmen's Compensation Act, where an employer has entered into a contract of insurance, in the event of the employer becoming bankrupt or the firm being wound up, the rights of the employer, in relation to insurance, are transferred to and vest in the workman. Upon such transfer, the insurers have the same rights, and are subject to the same liabilities, as though they were employers. Therefore, it appears that the rights of the workman are maintained against the employer.
§ Mr. Griffiths
The hon. Member knows that there is no absolute obligation upon the employers to insure. The absolute obligation is that they must either insure or make their own provision as a company. The position in the case I mentioned is that provision was made independently by the company.
§ Mr. Peake
I am much obliged to the hon. Member. In the case of the employer who is completely uninsured and is under no legal liability to insure, upon his bankruptcy or liquidation, a lump sum has to be ascertained automatically under Section 13, a procedure which has already been the subject of discussion. I said earlier that the Amendment on the Paper could not for obvious reasons be accepted. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) argued that we ought to provide for certain cases of voluntary agreement. I would represent the difficulty of providing, by legislation, for certain people who have not been represented by a trade union, and of leaving out those persons who happen to be members of a trade union. It is obviously a distinction that it is impossible to draw. 1096 I asked hon. Members for definite evidence of the abuse by the employers of Section 13, but so far I have not been much impressed by the individual cases tendered to me. I will look at the matter again, but what I have so far heard—I am always ready to change my mind if fresh evidence is brought forward—does not incline me to favour the inclusion of an Amendment in another place.
§ Mr. T. Smith
In view of what has been said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw this Amendment. I feel bound to say, however, that I think the discussion has been worth while.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Peake
I beg to move, in page 2, line 29, at the end, to insert:Any reference in this Sub-section to the average weekly earnings of the workman before the accident shall be construed, in a case where the amount of the weekly payment is increased as a result of a review under Subsection (2) of Section eleven of the principal Act, as a reference to the weekly sum which he would probably have been earning at the date of the review if he had remained uninjured.The purpose of this Amendment is to maintain the position of certain young workmen, under the age of 21½, whose wages would have increased automatically had they remained uninjured. We found when we came to examine the drafting of the Bill that the over-riding maximum of seven-eighths was applied to the workmen's pre-accident earnings, and it would obviously have been a hardship in the case of a workman of 16, whose wages were, say £1 a week, if at the age of 19 he could receive by way of compensation only seven-eighths of his pre-accident earnings.
§ 9.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I desire to associate myself with this Amendment, but I also want to draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the very curious anomaly that he is creating. He is limiting this Amendment to Sub-section (2), which provides for a review where a minor is involved, but he does not provide for the same equity in reviews under Section 11 Sub-sections (1) or (3). Where you get a change of physical circumstances and the workman applies to the county court for an increase in his partial compensation and succeeds in obtaining an 1097 increase in his partial compensation, we do not provide the same remedy for him as we provide for the minor. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is following the point. I had better make it quite clear. There are three or four types of cases which can be reviewed. First, there is the case of the infant. At any time up to the age of 21, or within six months after reaching the age of 21, he can apply for a review of his position with a view to establishing a rate of compensation which is related to the earnings which he might have got had he not been injured. You are providing in this Amendment that his allowances shall be increased in accordance with the increase in his compensation. That is simple and straightforward. But take the case of a workman who was injured during a period when intermittent work only was obtainable. His pre-accident average earnings were low as a result. Then there is the period of six months in which work is regular and his wages have risen. If they have risen by 20 per cent. above his pre-accident average, he is entitled to go to court and get a review of his compensation.
§ Mr. Edwards
But the hon. Gentleman expressly provides that any adjustment in the compensation of an infant shall be reflected in the allowances, though he does not provide in this Bill that in any review under Sub-section (1) and Sub-section (3) those alterations in compensation shall also be reflected in the allowances. It seems that, because it provides expressly for the infant, or minor, to get this review and allowances, that automatically excludes others from getting increased allowances. I submit that this is a very curious anomaly, which will deprive some workmen of getting equity, and I suggest that the Under-Secretary might see whether it is not possible, in another place, to insert alterations.
§ The Chairman
Would not the hon. Member agree that what he has said does not really apply to this particular Amendment, and that, therefore, his remarks would come better on the Motion, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill"?
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendments made:
§ In page 3, line 7, leave out from "shall," to "be."
§ In line 8, leave out "those," and insert "supplementary."—[Mr. Peake.]
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ 9.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Tinker (Leigh)
There is one matter which I would like the Under-Secretary to clear up in connection with the part of the Clause dealing with partial incapacity cases. The Clause says:in the case of partial incapacity, to seven-eighths of the difference between the amount of the said average weekly earnings of the workman before the accident and the average weekly amount which he is earning or is able to earn in some suitable employment or business after the accident.The language is rather complicated. We have had the benefit of listening to the Under-Secretary giving us one or two examples. I thought that he might have given those examples on Second Reading, so that they would have been on record. I want to mention an example which, I think, I followed correctly. Take the case of a workman whose average weekly earnings before the accident were £3 a week. His compensation will be £110s. Suppose that he has two children. The supplementary allowance will be 5s. for himself and 4s. for each of his children, making a total, if he is totally incapacitated, of £2 3s.
He gradually recovers, and is found to be fit for light employment. He gets a job at £2 a week. His partial incapacity compensation under the present Act amounts to 10s. That makes his total income £2 10s. As I understand, he is now entitled to the fraction which his earnings constitute of the total—that is, £2 a week, as against £2 10s., making, with his added compensation, four-fifths of his supplementary allowance. Four-fifths of the supplementary allowance works out at 10s. 4d. That, added to the £2 10s., makes £3 0s. 4d. That is in excess of his pre-accident earnings; and it is obvious therefore that that amount will not be paid to him. As I understand, from the explanation which was given, he is now entitled to seven-eights of the difference between £2 10s. and £3. That in this case would mean 8s. 9d., so that 1099 he would be drawing, when on light work with the added supplementary allowance in the case stated, £2 18s. 9d. That is as I understand it from the Under-Secretary, and if I am right, I want confirmation from him, because this is very complicated to the ordinary layman. It takes a long time to explain the effect of this proposal. I have had to go over it several times myself, and when I have been asked to explain the position, I have begun to wonder whether I have been right or wrong. I would like the example quoted to appear in the OFFICIAL REPORT, so that it may be a guide to anybody who may meet with this difficulty. I put the case forward in order to get the matter cleared up and confirmation or otherwise from the Under-Secretary.
§ 9.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I, too, am interested in this part of the Clause and would ask the hon. Gentleman whether or not the formula of "partial compensation over the full, multiplied by the allowance over one" is the simple formula for ascertaining the amount of allowance to be paid in partial compensation. Is not that about the simplest formula one can find for arriving at partial compensation? In Sub-section (4) provision is made for the amount of allowance to be paid in excess of concurrent amounts of weekly payments, such as, for example, where a man is drawing two amounts of partial compensation on account of two accidents received at entirely different periods. You have there the overriding consideration of the seven-eighths of the pre-accident average or the seven-eighths of the loss of earnings in the case of partial incapacity, but where there are two accidents the seven-eighths of each pre-accident average is to be taken. Is it the seven-eighths of the pre-accident average or the loss of wages on the first accident or seven-eighths of the loss of wages on account of the second accident, or is it to be the higher amount? It seems to me that we are providing a very meaty case that will keep the lawyers busy for a long time. Words should be provided to make it clear that, where there are two accidents, each pre-accident average or each set of loss of earnings, must be taken for ascertaining which seven-eighths over-riding figure is to govern both amounts of partial compensation when added to- 1100 gether in these cases. This is an exceedingly intricate thing, and I am afraid that we shall all be paying a lot of money to solicitors, perhaps much more than we shall get out of these concurrent payments.
§ 9.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Peake
The hon. Member has put me a conundrum which I do not think any senior wrangler could possibly explain. He told us that you want to multiply or divide some other fraction by something over one, but my recollection, from what I learned of mathematics, of the effect of putting something over one, is that it did not make much difference to it.
§ Mr. Edwards
I thought the position was very clear. I do not know whether the "over one" has upset the hon. Gentleman, but the point is that it is laid down here that the amount of allowances in partial cases must be in the same proportion as the amount of partial compensation is to the full.
§ Mr. Peake
In the case of a man totally disabled you take the full amount of the allowance, the 5s. flat rate for himself, 4s. for the first two children and 3s. for each subsequent child. In the case mentioned by the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) there would be 5s. for himself and 4s. for each of the two children, making a total of 13s. That is what he would get in the event of total disability whatever his weekly payment worked out at under the Act. In order to ascertain the supplementation he receives, in the case of partial disability you ascertain the proportion between the weekly payment under the principal Act for partial incapacity and the weekly payment for total incapacity. In the case cited by the hon. Member the man had a total disability pension of 30s. a week and earned £3 a week before his accident. After the accident he earned £2 a week so that the weekly compensation is half the difference between the pre-accident and post-accident rate of earnings, that is to say, 10s. In order to ascertain the proportion of the supplementation, of the 13s., due to him, you take his partial compensation 1101 of 10s. and find what fraction it is of the total compensation of 30s. It is obviously one-third and therefore the proportion he gets is 4s. 4d.
That brings the position to this: He is earning 40s. and gets 10s. weekly payment under the principal Act, making an income of 50s. and in respect of his flat rate increase and two children, he gets a further 4s. 4d., making a total weekly income of 54s. 4d. as against his pre-accident earnings of 60s. If he had a big family he might get up to the overriding maximum which in his case would be seven-eighths of the difference between his pre-accident and his post-accident earnings. Seven-eighths of £1 is 17s. 6d., so this man's over-riding maximum in supplementation would be 17s. 6d. a week which, with his post-accident earnings of 40s., would make a total of 57s. 6d. If he had a family of between five and six children he would attain this overriding maximum of 57s. 6d. I hope I have satisfied the hon. Member?
§ Mr. Tinker
No, the hon. Gentleman has not. As I understood it, the fraction was the earnings on night work, added to his partial compensation, which would make 40s. as against 50s., or a fraction of four-fifths, and he was entitled then to four-fifths of his supplementary allowance.
§ Mr. Tinker
I hope the hon. Gentleman will meet some of us and get the point cleared up, because we are entirely at variance as to what he said and what he is telling us now.
§ Mr. Peake
I will certainly communicate with the hon. Member and make the matter as plain as I possibly can, but he will find that the overriding maximum in the case of total disability is seven-eighths of the pre-accident earnings and, in the case of partial disability, seven-eighths of the difference between pre-accident and post-accident earnings. In the case that he has cited the total income will be 57s. 6d.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I agree with my hon. Friend that this is the kind of point on which lawyers can have a very happy time in future. Was this interpretation which the hon. Gentleman has given now agreed upon in the discussions to which he has referred?
§ Mr. Griffiths
In this case, the pre-accident average was £3 per week and the compensation 30s. The man went back and earned £2. Therefore the full difference between the pre-accident and post-accident earnings was 20s. and under the principal Act he was entitled to half of that, which is 10s. In addition, now he is entitled to a proportion of these supplementary allowances, and the proportion is found by finding out the proportion between full and partial compensation. In this case it is very simple. The full compensation is 30s. and the partial compensation is 10s. If the proportion is a third, or whatever it is, that is the amount of the allowance that he gets in the same proportion, subject to the overriding consideration that the partial supplementary cannot be more than seven-eighths of the loss of earnings. The loss of earnings is £1 and therefore in this case the supplementary allowances can be seven-eighths of 20s. It is very desirable that we should get an agreed interpretation of the Clause because we shall shortly have to work it. I gather that what I said is the official interpretation.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I agree that the interpretation which the hon. Member has just given is the one that was generally accepted throughout the negotiations, but the point about which I am concerned is which seven-eighths of the loss of earnings are to be taken as the overriding consideration when there are two concurrent payments. I am referring to Sub-section (4), where there is a reference to two concurrent weekly payments. Both those payments are covered as far as allowances are concerned, but invariably the loss of earnings is different in these cases, and it is important that we should know which is to operate as the overriding consideration.
§ 9.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Peake
I am afraid this is a very complicated matter, but I will give the 1103 hon. Member such information as I have about the operation of this Sub-section where there are two or more concurrent payments of workmen's compensation. I am told that it is possible for a man to be in receipt of three payments of workmen's compensation. Sub-section (4) deals with the special case which some- times occurs when there are two accidents. In such cases the man is entitled to the appropriate supplementary allowances in respect of each weekly payment, subject to a proviso that the aggregate of such allowances is not to exceed the maximum allowances payable under Sub-section (1), that is to say, the 5s. flat rate and the appropriate children's allowances. You apply the seven-eighths overriding maximum to each set of allowances taken separately, but not to the sum of both.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
Would it be possible for the Under-Secretary to produce a White Paper, or something of the kind, in which these things would be worked out very clearly? The Bill will shortly become an Act, and we shall have a great deal of difficulty in understanding what is meant.