§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [10th October],"That the Bill be now read a Second time."—[Mr. James Griffiths.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ Colonel Ropner (Barkston Ash)
There is an old story which every Member of the House will have heard, of a proud mother who, watching a parade in which her son was taking part, remarked that everybody on parade was out of step except her son. I remind hon. Members of that story for I am very conscious that, as a result of the remarks I wish to make to-day, I may be accused of thinking that I am the only hon. Member in step.
There can be no hon. Member who has not given careful thought to the whole question of social insurance during the last few years. The main scheme is dealt with in Command Paper 6550, "Social Insurance, Part I," and I think I shall have the agreement of all hon. Members when I say that the proposals made in the general scheme commend themselves in all quarters. There is certainly unanimous support for the remarks which can be found in paragraph 6 of the White Paper, under the heading "The Underlying Principles," where it says:
Freedom from want must be achieved in the first instance by social insurance—benefits must be earned by contributions.So far as I know, there is also general agreement with the principle of universality. The scheme as a whole, it says in paragraph 8 of the White Paper,will embrace, not certain occupations and income groups, but the entire population.I do not think any Member will disagree if I add at the end of that sentence, "on equal terms.In paragraph 33 of the White Paper, dealing with why the scheme should be universal, I find these words:In a matter so fundamental it is right for all citizens to stand in together, without exclusions based upon difference of status, function or wealth.I would like the House to note the words "without exclusions." I hope hon. 462 Members will agree that there might be added after those words such words as, "and without favour," or "and without special privilege," for they would still be within the spirit of the White Paper.
I have drawn attention to some sentences in the White Paper which deals with the main scheme because I believe that the Bill we are now considering cuts right across the principles to which I have drawn attention and which are so clearly laid out in the Paper. This Bill makes special provision for certain citizens. It treats more generously a certain section of the community, if, indeed, it does not contravene the principle that there should be no exclusions. The Bill discriminates, and the discrimination is based on status or on function. I submit that the discrimination is purely arbitrary. My right hon. Friend the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) pointed out yesterday that the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Minister of Health had foreseen in 1940 what would be the result of certain suggestions which were made during a Debate upon workmen's compensation. On this occasion I will venture to foretell the future, and, assuming the mantle of prophet, I want to say that I believe it will be utterly impossible to defend for long a scheme of National Social Insurance which will give much more generous treatment to a man injured at work than to a man injured in other circumstances. If two men are injured, one when at work, the other when not at work, in spite of the fact that the injuries and the circumstances surrounding them may be precisely the same, the two men will be treated, so long as they live, on an entirely different basis. The Command Paper which deals with Part II of Social Insurance says, referring to the Beveridge Report:As the report observes, if a workman loses a leg in an accident, his needs are the same whether the accident occurred in a factory or in the street. If he is killed, the needs of his widow and other dependants are the same, however the death occurred.I believe completely in that statement and all that it implies.
While, therefore, I cannot agree with this Bill, I do not want it to be thought, indeed, it must not be represented, that I oppose voluntary or even compulsory insurance, over and above the main scheme, to cover certain sections of the 463 community which are liable to peculiar misfortune, peculiar in the sense that it is exceptional. I noticed that when my right hon. Friend the Member for North Leeds was speaking yesterday, he used the expression "supplementary scheme. "I do not know whether he coined this expression, but it is very apt and I and other hon. Members would certainly support a supplementary scheme. The legislative history of workmen's compensation, which dates from 1880, or earlier if we consider the Common Law, the customs which have grown up under legislation dealing with industrial injuries, the very existence of enactments dealing with these questions, and the fact that they have existed for a number of years, make this whole question in some senses exceptional and would justify a compulsory supplementary scheme for industrial injury.
I suggest that in all supplementary schemes the individual who stands to benefit should pay the whole contribution. If he did that, the supplementary benefit would be completely and exactly justified. It would, in the proper sense of the word, be a supplementary scheme. I conceive that neither Sir William Beveridge nor the Coalition Government nor this Government have been able to divorce themselves from the past and make a new start, as was pleaded for yesterday by more than one hon. Gentleman on the Benches opposite. I believe that if we were considering workmen's compensation or industrial injuries ab initio, we could find no reason which would justify the State, the Exchequer, to compel the taxpayers to subsidise the insurance of one section of the community so that that section, which is arbitrarily defined, should receive preferential treatment.
With regard to the contributions by employers, I have had more hesitation in coming to a decision, but, after careful thought, I do not believe that there is any valid reason why employers should make contributions to a supplementary scheme of this sort. I will have something more to say on the effect on wages of the suggestion which I have just made. To justify the plea that employers should make no contribution, I must tell the House that I dislike, and have disliked for a number of years, the current conception of the relationship between employers and employed. It is a relic of 464 feudalism. I do not think that it is any more true, or any less true, to say that an employee works for an employer than to say that an employer works for an employee. Both are working for themselves and for the benefit of the community. I am certain that there are trade union leaders opposite who feel in no position of inferiority when negotiating with representatives of the employers.
It is recognised in the vast field of industrial negotiations that employees and employers work on terms of exact equality, and I want hon. Members on both sides to consider whether we are not wrong in continuing to assume that an employed man is working for his employer in the sense which has been generally understood for a number of years. In passing, perhaps I should remind the House that in nationalised industry the employers' contribution becomes a second contribution by the State, or in other words a second contribution by the taxpayer.
There does remain, and I am well aware of it, the question of the effect on wages of the proposal that employees in industry should pay the whole of any contribution necessary to effect an additional and effective supplementary insurance scheme. I, in general, oppose the statutory fixation of wages, but in the initial period after the inauguration of a scheme under which the total contribution, as I suggest, would be paid by the employees in industry, I would have no hesitation whatsoever in advocating and supporting legislation which would have the effect of raising wages in all industries by the amount of the additional employee's contribution. The period during which that statutory increase in wages is enforcible should be limited, but I am certain that it could and should be long enough for the increased wage to become the current and recognised wage in the industry, so that it could not be reduced except by following the ordinary process of negotiation for an adjustment of wages which is normally followed in the industry concerned. If the burden of what may be called the double contribution is to be placed on the employee, I most sincerely desire—and I believe it could be achieved—that his wages should be raised by that amount.
Hon. Gentlemen may say, "Well, why make the change?" My answer to that is that in all supplementary schemes—and 465 I believe every encouragement should be given to as many as possible—we should recognise the principle that those who expect to benefit should make the payment, and I believe that in that way the provisions of the main scheme will be safeguarded. I am interested, as is every other hon. Gentleman, in safeguarding the provisions of the main scheme, which will be endangered by the proposals we are making to-day because of the anomalies which will arise. Instead of creating anomalies, which I believe this Bill will do, we should, if we made the change which I suggest, get rid of anomalies, and get justice as between one citizen and another. Perhaps more important than any other consideration, the objects of the Bill would be achieved without in any way worsening the position of any one engaged in trade or industry.
I think that this is a timid Bill. We ought to forget the past in so far as industrial injury legislation is concerned. I think we ought to recognise that the main scheme when it is introduced will give us an entirely new background which would justify a fresh start. I believe that we are missing a unique opportunity to make a new start, and I am fearful that if, as I imagine will be the case, this Bill receives a Second Reading, we shall be embarking once again on a series of unhappy Debates such as have occurred in the past in this House when dealing with questions of industrial injury. I have come to the end of my remarks; some hon. Members will think that what I have said is either ridiculous or revolutionary, but I hope that they will nevertheless consider again what I have said and in particular will remember the warning I have given, that this Bill will in fact endanger the provisions of the main scheme of Social Insurance.
§ Mr. A. Edwards (Middlesbrough, East)
Do I understand the hon. and gallant Gentleman to argue that a section of the community should not enjoy privileges unless that same section has made the sole contribution? How does he reconcile that with the arguments put forward a few years ago for his own privileged position connected with shipping subsidies?
§ Colonel Ropner
I do not think there is any connection between the two. In any case I did not put those arguments; I was not in the House at the time.
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Sunderland (Preston)
I beg the indulgence of the House, in case I should be overcome by the radiance of so many oratorical stars around me, and repeat the performance of a past Member of this House whose unfortunate experience was recounted by the Chairman of Ways and Means over the wireless on Saturday last. I take it that I am not expected to follow the intricacies of the argument of the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite, but I can assure him, when he says we may think his observations are either ridiculous or revolutionary, that I do not think them revolutionary. The Bill is only one of many which will have to be passed before we get that social security for the wage-earning classes which is fundamental to the social life envisaged by the Party to which I belong. Disablement that comes to a person through an accident sustained in the course of his employment—usually whilst he is creating wealth for the nation—has always seemed to me to be most tragic, and I cannot follow the argument of the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite when he suggests that no special consideration should be given to a person who suffers disablement from that cause. Something has already been done to provide opportunity for rehabilitation and resettlement for persons so injured, and I think the House will be glad to learn that considerable progress is being made in the application of the legislation which has been passed previously. We know, too, that consideration is now being given to another Measure which will provide for comprehensive medical and surgical treatment of the best possible type, and by the simplest possible procedure, for the casualties of industry, and we hope the time will not be long delayed before we can receive the benefits of that comprehensive Measure.
The prime purpose of this Bill should be to remove the fear of economic insecurity which is often consequent upon an industrial accident. A man or woman who is sensitive about these things—and there are many such—suffers considerable anxiety from the fear of economic insecurity. Only recently, in conversation with a professional gentleman engaged in one of the most secure of professions and for very many years in an established post in the employ of a local 467 authority, I was told by this gentleman that he felt to have been constantly battling against the financial consequences of a possible breakdown in health or disabling accident, and that he had only just been able to wean himself from the fear that he might lose the battle When I say that that gentleman, for as long as I have known him, has enjoyed a salary of over £1,500 a year, and is now getting a salary of over £2,500 a year, you will appreciate my astonishment at his confession. If that can be true of a person in such a secure financial position, what is the position of the modest wage-earner?
The fear of poverty may be an active propelling agent on the ladder of success, but it is also the most distressing burden that a member of modern society can experience, and unfortunately, for every man who is able to climb the ladder of success, very large numbers remain chained hand and foot to wage-earning employment upon the plane on which that ladder stands. The present workmen's compensation laws contribute insufficiently to the liquidation of the fears to which I have referred. This Bill, quite contrary to the observations of the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite, does strike out a new path along the road to that objective. It takes us a very long way along that road, but I doubt whether I can say honestly and sincerely that it takes us so far along that road that we can see the actual objective at which we are aiming. The principle of standard rates of compensation does however tend towards greater equality and greater security. I know that to relate injury payments to wages is a very attractive proposition, but experience of the operation of that principle has not made for security. I have plenty of experience of that. The application of the 12 months' average earnings rule, for instance, has been disastrous in that connection. I remember that yesterday the right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Osbert Peake) referred to certain principles which were contained in the 1897 Act—the second to which he referred being, to use his own words:compensation equal to half the pre-accident earnings, that is to say, a sharing of the financial loss resulting from the accident."—[Official Report, 10th October, 1945; Vol. 414, c. 285.]468 That seems to me to be a typical example of the point of view of hon. Gentlemen opposite on matters of this kind. But the operative did not get half of his pre-accident earnings, first, because of the operation of the 12 months' earnings rule, and secondly, because of the operation of the maximum payment rule. Very rarely, if at all, did he actually receive half of his pre-accident earnings, and if he did, it was only because his average earnings had been on a very low level. All that the employer lost was half of what the operative might have earned, but what the injured person lost was at least half, and probably more, of his actual income. The loss to the employer was insignificant, but the loss to the injured person was extreme indeed.
It has been my privilege over a period of years to handle a large number of workmen's compensation cases that arose in the cotton weaving and winding industry. For very many years there was scarcely ever a case in which an injured weaver or winder qualified for the maximum payments. If hon. Members will have regard to the long experience of under-employment and unemployment in that industry, that will be easily understandable. Perhaps I may be forgiven for quoting my own experience when young. My father, who was a cotton weaver, suffered an accident to his eye. The amount of compensation which he received, after tens of years of employment in the trade, was no more than 21s.a week. I remember walking three and a half miles to visit an aunt for the specific purpose of begging a loan from her to tide us over that unfortunate experience, and if I tell the House that it took us some years to redeem that loan, I am sure some hon. Members on this side will understand it.
The principle of standard rates to ensure a minimum standard of living below which no one should be permitted to fall will strike a note in the minds of hon. Members opposite who have read a pamphlet entitled "Let us Face the Future. "The addition of supplementary payments for those who are rendered virtually unemployable by their injury, and of further increases to meet expenditure when the injured person is in need of constant attendance, are admirable in themselves, although I would like the Minister, when he replies, to say whether 469 or not it would be possible to begin to make those payments before the end of the period for which injury payments are made. I think there ought to be cases when qualification for such payments can arise a comparatively short time after the occurrence of the accident. I would also like the Minister to give some indication of what is meant by the word "constant." That word might be interpreted very narrowly. It might mean that a person must be bed-fast, or it might mean that a person must not be able to move any limb and that everything he desires to do must be done for him or he must have aid in doing it. I hope that such a narrow interpretation will not be put upon the word "constant."
I believe most sincerely that the success of this Measure will depend mainly upon the Regulations that are made under it and the interpretation of them. I have had considerable experience of the Unemployment Insurance Acts and the National Health Insurance Act; the Regulations that have been issued for the implementation of those Measures have meant the employment of most restrictive practices. I hope and believe that the Regulations under this Measure will be as humane as is the conception of the Measure, and further, that the personnel to operate the Measure will be chosen so carefully that we can be sure of the most humane consideration in its administration. Will the Minister be careful about the Regulations and see that when the Bill becomes an Act they do not mar it but make it?
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Solley (Thurrock)
As this is any maiden speech, I am conscious of the fact that I am to some extent bound by tradition in the form and content of the speech. But I am also conscious that this Bill is of such serious consequence to most of my constituents that, if I am to attend to their interests, I must permit myself a wider latitude in discussion than is usually the case in a maiden speech. Therefore, if I trespass a little bit beyond the confines set me by tradition, I hope the House will not deal too hardly with me.
There are many matters to which I would like to refer, and I will start with what probably is the most important point to hon. Members on this side of the House, namely, the question of bene- 470 fits. The Minister said, quite frankly, that this Bill, as far as the ascertainment of benefit is concerned, is a radical departure from the practice which obtains to-day under the Workmen's Compensation Acts. As most hon. Members know, under the present Acts, the consideration for the ascertainment of compensation is, broadly speaking, the loss or diminution of wage-earning capacity. That now goes completely by the board, and in its place the Government erect a very different system. In the first instance, they measure benefit by the claimant's incapacity to work—not his incapacity for work. The expression in the Clause is, "incapable of work," which means that he is quite incapable of any sort of work. Once the claimant gets over that stage and is able to do some sort of work, even of a light nature, the second aspect of the payment of benefits comes into operation, namely, the payment of a disablement pension in certain circumstances.
I think it is a fair way to put the argument to the Minister if I take a specific case which is typical of thousands of cases and test it in the light of the proposed benefits, and come to a conclusion. If in fact, the benefit under the new system is less than the benefit which obtains under the Workmen's Compensation Acts, then, to that extent, in spite of the other great advantages which the Bill possesses, the Bill ought, in my respectful submission, to go by the board in this most important and fundamental respect. There are two alternative conditions precedent to the obtaining of disablement benefit. The first is loss of physical or mental faculty, whatever that may mean. I can well imagine a number of wrangles as to the true meaning of that. Secondly, the loss must be likely to be permanent. I do not think statistics are available as to loss of physical or mental faculty, because under the old Acts the question was one of a loss of wage-earning capacity; but in so far as I can speak from my own experience as counsel who has dealt with many cases of workmen's compensation, I would say that it is not probable that more than one-third of all the cases which have to be considered for the purpose of disablement benefit are likely to be cases in which the loss of physical or mental faculty is likely to be permanent. Therefore, we are faced with this, that before disablement benefit is paid, with respect to two-thirds of the 471 cases, it has to be substantial within the definition contained in the Bill, namely, disablement of 20 per cent. plus.
What happens then? The man who has lost his full wage-earning capacity is able to do some sort of work. He says, "I want a disablement pension." It may not be one of the cases of a permanent character; it may be, for example, that he has a hernia which has been successfully operated on. That might well be regarded as a physical injury which is not of a permanent character. The man says to the appropriate officer, "I have lost my wage-earning capacity." The officer asks, "Is it substantial?"—that is to say, can the man show that it is 20 per cent, plus? It seems to me obvious that the whole question of whether or not the Bill is a progressive one from the point of view of benefits stands or falls by what the Government decide shall be the nature of assessment of disablement. There are several tests one can apply to see whether this Bill is likely to work in practice. Yesterday, the Minister said that:The whole industrial injuries scheme has been framed with the war pensions scheme in mind."—[Official Report, 10th October, 1945; Vol. 414, c. 277.]But he added that, although he would be influenced by the schedule of assessment used by the Ministry of Pensions, he would not be bound by it. If we turn to the schedule as a test, we find, for example, that at the present time the loss of three fingers of the right hand gives rise to an assessment of 30 per cent, disability. Let us take the case of a skilled engineer, of whom there are many in my constituency, earning, say, £6 a week. If he loses three fingers of his right hand, he finds that his wage-earning capacity has been reduced to, say, £3 a week; he can no longer undertake the skilled jobs that he previously did. He finds that if the present schedule operated he would be getting a 30 per cent. disability pension while under the present system he would get 40s. a week full workmen's compensation—that is to say, after the expiry of 13 weeks—plus the usual allowances, which on the basis e the present Bill would amount to an 87 per cent. disability. The Minister has said that he will be prepared, when the Bill goes to Committee, to add by means of some formula 25 per cent. to the assessment of dis- 472 ability. Even so, in this particular case, in order to give a benefit of at least that which obtains under the Workmen's Compensation Acts, the Minister would have to say that the loss of three fingers of the right hand carries a disability rating of 62 per cent. I ask the Minister frankly, Is he prepared to say that in this particular case, which Members certainly on these Benches know to be typical of many thousands, that the Government will so frame their Schedule of disabilities that the loss of three fingers will step up the disability from some 30 per cent. to some 60 per cent.?
§ The Minister of National Insurance (Mr. James Griffiths)
I know that this is a maiden speech and I hesitate to interrupt my hon. Friend, but is he basing his case on the view that the loss of three fingers will, under the existing Act, carry permanent disablement?
§ Mr. Solley
I am basing my argument on the facts under the present Act—and I speak, with great respect, with some considerable experience as counsel in these matters. Take the case of a skilled engineer, such as the tool maker and watch maker, who earns £6 per week because he is able to manipulate every one of his fingers on his right hand, but who loses three fingers. Before the war the average county court judge would have said that the man was an odd lot on the labour market and might assess his earning capacity at 30s. or £2 a week, and to-day in almost every county court in the country, assuming that the man had not gone to work and it was a question of deciding his earning capacity, it would probably not be more than £3 a week. Even in that particular case, which is symbolic of thousands—and I will deal with certain other cases—that man will not be the gainer by the provisions of this Bill as far as benefit is concerned.
But the matter goes much beyond that. It is important to note that a person does not get a disablement benefit where the resulting disablement is less than 20 per cent. There are Members present here who probably know that there are main cases where, for example, a man receives what appears, in the first instance, to be a permanent injury, which produces permanent loss of wage-earning capacity. Take the example I gave a moment or two 473 ago—the case of hernia. In a middle-aged man hernia may well produce a very substantial drop in wage-earning capacity; certainly it would be so in the case of a stevedore—and there are many stevedores at Tilbury Docks in my constituency—a drop from £6 a week to the wages of an unskilled labourer of about £3 a week and less. If we were to ask the average doctor who gives evidence in war pension cases he would say that the disability in respect of this particular complaint would be between five and 10 per cent, and might, in a serious case of a middle-aged man, make it 15 per cent. In the case of disability the result of hernia the applicant would not come within the definition of Clause 11, because his disability would be less than 20 per cent, and he would not get a penny by way of compensation, but he would be entitled to a gratuity of not more than £100. In that case, I put it to the Minister that the stevedore would be better off under the present arrangements than he would be under the Scheme before the House.
I could go on and give example after example but I think I have made this point at all events, so that Members of the House can examine it at their ease. It does not necessarily follow that, because the benefit provisions of this Bill operate in favour of many applicants compared with the position which obtains to-day, the same advantage would obtain in all cases. On the contrary, there is a wide field in which there are many thousands of applicants who would not be able to get disablement benefit or if they got it, would get a benefit which would be less than that which they could obtain under the Workmen's Compensation Acts.
I now propose to refer to another point which is of fundamental importance and that is the method of the determination of questions under the Bill. I hope to bring to the attention of the Minister a matter which has apparently not been raised so far in the Debate and one which may well have been overlooked by the Minister or his advisors. I am not going to say a word at this stage on the advisability of taking very technical questions of fact and law out of the hands of county court judges. There is a great deal to be said for it and a great deal against it, but I do not think I could usefully add anything to that aspect of the Debate at this stage. I would like to say a word 474 about the question of appeals. There is machinery provided in the Bill for appeals in connection with such matters as whether or not a person is employed in an insurable employment. There is machinery which applies to appeals in respect of questions as to whether or not a person is of compulsory school age and the like. There is certainly machinery for appeals in respect of medical questions and of general questions arising out of this scheme, but there is no machinery to provide for an appeal against the determination by the Minister—and I will say a word as to what that means later—as to whether or not an applicant should be granted an unemployability supplement or an increase of disablement pension. I may be wrong and I would be glad if the Minister would correct me here and now.
This is a maiden speech, but, as I have said, I am really trespassing beyond the traditional limits of a maiden speech, because of the importance of this question to my constituents. How does the matter work out in practice? The decision isthe decision of the Minister. I have had unfortunate experiences of decisions, not of the present Minister, but of other Ministers in similar circumstances. It is, in fact, the decision of a civil servant, frequently given without formal evidence before him but merely on the evidence of a written report, a decision which is given frequently without reasons. It is decided in secrecy within the confines of some room in Whitehall. And it is from that judgment, where a man's mates are not allowed to hear how his case is being handled, that there is to be no appeal. That is one of the most vital aspects of the question of benefit and of the question of a man who because of his injuries cannot earn more than £52 a year and, therefore, ought to be given an extra pension. I say to the Minister with great respect that it is a matter which possibly had not occurred to his advisers or, it may be, it is a matter which his advisers thought of no consequence. I think I can speak on behalf of the Tilbury dockers in my constituency and the Grays cement workers and the oil workers of Thames Haven. It is of great importance to them, and they desire to be heard publicly on this important question, and to have a public right of appeal should they feel the decision was given on wrong grounds. 475 There are many other matters that I would have liked to have dealt with, not because I like to speak at length, but because I feel that it is a subject on which I can speak from a wide experience. But I will not weary the House at this stage. Maybe I shall have the honour of addressing Members when this Bill goes into Committee. I would like to end on this note. We are a Labour Government—a Labout Government with political power for the first time in our history. We must approach these problems not from the viewpoint of the past, but from the viewpoint of what is in the best interest of the working classes. We have been elected by the working classes; certainly that is so in my constituency. I have no second thoughts about it. My constituents look to me, as they look to other Labour Members in this House and to the Government, to see that a 100 per cent, progressive policy is initiated not merely with respect to other matters, but with respect to questions in this Bill. I say to the Government that what I have said has not been said in any way as destructive criticism but because I feel deeply on the matter and upon the great urgency of this reform. I assure the Government—and I feel that I can speak in this respect forback-benchers—we shall do everything we can to assist them in the great cause of achieving a really Socialist Bill in respect of a matter which affects every working man in this country.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Moyle (Stourbridge)
I am sure that on the occasion of my maiden speech I can count on the generous consideration of this House during this somewhat trying experience. I want to add my congratulations to those which have already been expressed to my right hon. Friend upon being responsible for such a Measure as this. I think that historic justice has been done on this occasion. I cannot imagine, knowing his origin, his work as a miner and his experiences of the mining industry, that anyone could have been more fitted to have introduced a Measure of this kind than my right hon. Friend. I am reminded of some of the harsh criticisms of the legal profession that were made yesterday by some of my hon. Friends but there are some exceptions. I am also reminded that another Welshman, a learned judge, published a 476 book in 1914. It was called "The Law and the Poor." He dedicated that book in the following words:I dedicate this book to the man-in-the-street in the pious hope that he will take up his job and do it.The job that he wanted the man-in-the-street to do was to take up the cudgels and fight for the pressing reforms that he had urged in order to bring about more humanity and a greater degree of equity in the administration of the Workmen's Compensation Acts of his day. I refer to the late Sir Edward Parry, than whom, I think, no single man ever did more to arouse the public conscience of this country to the pressing need for reform in workmen's compensation. I think it is fitting that my right hon. Friend, whom I shall describe as a representative of the "man in the street," should have conferred upon him the opportunity of fulfilling the hope expressed by Sir Edward Parry in that famous book.
I want to make reference to Part I of the Bill. As I understand it, the contract of service is the basis of eligibility concerning the personnel who will come within the scope of the Bill. I am in some sympathy with the view expressed by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. Clement Davies) when he referred to certain difficulties that will arise if this basis of the contract of service is rigidly adhered to. My hon. and learned Friend referred to rural craftsmen. My own father died of silicosis, a disease which he contracted as a result of following his occupation of stonemason, but he worked for himself and for several contractors in the building industry, but he was never able to claim compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Act because he was never, within the strict sense of the term, on a contract of service.
I do not want to pursue that point, but, instead, to relate it to the nursing profession. I do not think for a moment that I need unduly press upon the Minister the claims of the nursing profession, but I would like him to examine one or two of the peculiarities of that profession. There are nurses who are directly employed, either by voluntary hospitals or municipal authorities. There will be no difficulty under the Bill so far as they are concerned, but I would like the Minister to examine the position of those nurses, who represent a substantial body of the profes- 477 sion, who work as private nurses, either for themselves or through co-operative agencies having some control over their activities. They are pursuing their ordinary work as nurses for gainful employment, but the difficulty will be to say who their employer shall be, and, for example, whether the terms of their employment come within the scope of that contract of service which is laid down in this part of the Bill. I should like the Minister to examine that aspect of the question, because it would be regrettable if it were found, in the administration of the Act, that a substantial body of nurses were excluded from the provisions of this scheme.
I now want to say how deeply grateful hon. Members on this side of the House are to the Minister for getting rid of some of the vexatious provisions with which we are unfortunately too familiar in relation to the Workmen's Compensation Acts. I refer to the history that we have experienced of the vexatious litigation arising from what is called, by the legal profession, the doctrine of common employment. I would like the Minister to give us an assurance that he has liquidated that part of the Workmen's Compensation Act in relation to this Measure, because it appears to me that the purpose of the Government, through the Bill, as it was, originally, the purpose of the late Mr. Joseph Chamberlain when introducing the first Workmen's Compensation Act, is to see that if a workman should have an accident that man is entitled to compensation. I want to ask the Minister does it matter, for the purpose of this Bill, whether the accident was due to the negligence of his employer, his own negligence or the negligence of the workpeople, as regards his right of benefit under this Bill? I would like the Minister to give an assurance that the unfortunate experience that we have had in relation to the administration of workmen's compensation in this respect has been completely liquidated by this Bill.
There is one other aspect of the matter. The Minister knows that a great deal of vexatious litigation has arisen in relation to the question whether an accident was sustained by a workman during the course of, or arising from, his employment and in relation to his obligation to get to and from work. In other words, the question is whether the workman is entitled to compensation if, in the course of travel- 478 ling to or from work, he sustains injury. The Minister has, and I very much appreciate it, extended the provisions to make it less difficult for workmen to establish their claim to compensation in regard to that condition of employment of proceeding to or from his work. I would like to be satisfied, and I feel sure that the Minister will give his attention to the point. My remarks are based upon my own experience as a trade union leader with some responsibility to a large and important body of workers. I refer to land drainage workers, county road workers and so on.
Suppose, for example, a land drainage worker is returning from work along the public highway, and let us say the distance between his home and his place of employment is three miles. He has to get home and he knows a short cut to his home which means going across the fields and taking a ferry boat across a river. It may well be that the ferry boat is the private property of a local farmer or that it is a public conveyance. I want to ask the Minister whether, if a workman sustains an injury while being transported across the river in that boat, in such circumstances he would be entitled to benefit under this Measure. I put that question because it is a common experience of rural workers to take the shortest cut home, and I do not think that it should be held against a workman that, if he gets home in the quickest way and provided that the means to get him home expeditiously are what are commonly used by people generally, he should be excluded from the benefits of the scheme. Therefore, I feel sure that the Minister will go into this case and let the House know his views.
I want to say, speaking with some experience of the Minister of Health as the final arbiter of disputes under the Local Government Superannuation Acts, that I have a great deal of sympathy with the view expressed by a previous speaker. I think there is a case, and, without emphasising it unduly, I would like the Minister to examine it, for broadening the basis of appeal from the Minister's decisions, and, particularly, broadening them from the present limited rights which exist on certain questions of benefits to questions of law, and I see no reason why the Minister should not sympathetic ally consider it. All disputes which are finally determined under the Local Government Superannuation Act are referred 479 to the Minister and a decision is reached, but no one knows the grounds upon which that decision is made, and I would ask my right hon. Friend to consider whether it would not be a good thing that, even in spite of the very heavy responsibilities which are to rest upon the Industrial Commissioner, it should be an obligation in the Bill itself that, not only should the Industrial Commissioner issue his decision but that it should be an obligation upon his office that the decision should be made known and the reasons for it should be made public also. I think that is very desirable, and, with great respect to the humble and learned representatives of the legal profession on both sides of this House, that we should realise the value of the old maxim, "It is not sufficient to see that justice is done; but that it should be manifestly done." Moreover, I am not at all sure it is right that the last word should rest with the State in connection with disputes arising from the administration of its own scheme.
One other word with further reference to the nursing profession. I refer to Part IV of the Bill and the extended provisions to cover industrial diseases. I want the Minister to visualise that the patient is to a nurse what mining is to a miner. The nursing of a patient is the nurse's industry in precisely the same way as coal mining is the miner's industry, and the nurse has, in the course of her duty, to nurse patients suffering from all kinds of diseases—tuberculosis, fevers and other contagious diseases. I would ask the Minister to look again at this question of the scheduling of industrial diseases in relation to the nursing profession. During my experience in dealing with public health workers in the local government service, I came to know only too well of the number of cases where our health workers, including nurses, have broken down in health suffering either from tuberculosis or other contagious diseases, but it has been impossible in law to establish their claim to compensation in spite of the fact that we know their illness is as a result of the risks in which they have to run in the public health services. Their danger of injury from industrial diseases, such as tuberculosis, is greater than that which is experienced by the general public. 480 In this connection I would draw the attention of the Minister to the Prophitt Trust Report which was published last year. The enquiry was carried out by a body of medical experts and dealt with the question of investigating the average percentage of tubercular cases amongst the nursing profession. The Report states that the rate of tuberculosis amongst the members of the nursing profession is substantially greater than the percentage of cases amongst the general population. Would my right hon. Friend be good enough to review this question of the experiences of nurses in relation to the diseases which affect them in the course of their employment, and do something at least to ensure that if a nurse or other public health worker breaks down in the course of his or her employment as a result of tuberculosis or any other disease, that workman or nurse shall be entitled under this Bill to make his or her claim for benefit as a result of the illness sustained by that person, and that such a claim can be referred to a competent medical body and decided according to the history of the case? Those are the points I would like the Minister to consider, and I hope his Bill will have a sucessful conclusion in this House.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Derek Walker-Smith (Hertford)
It falls to my unusual but very pleasant lot to compliment no fewer than three successive maiden speakers. The speeches made by the hon. Members for Preston (Mr. Sunderland), Thurrock (Mr. Solley) and Stourbridge (Mr. Moyle) have fully maintained the standard of speeches made in this very interesting Debate; and it is very gratifying to me to have this opportunity of expressing the appreciation that I am sure is felt in all quarters of the House at these speeches. Two of the hon. Members are trade union officers and the third is a member of the legal profession. These are two callings which, each from their own angle, are peculiarly well informed in regard to questions of what was known as Workmen's Compensation and will now be known as Industrial Injury Insurance. These Members have brought to the House the benefit of their own experience of these matters, and I am sure the House has listened to them with attention and interest and will so do again when they next address it. 481 I speak in this Debate without having had the advantage or, indeed, the possible embarrassment, of having participated in the Debate on the White Paper in November of last year. I have, however, had the advantage of reading those proceedings and have noted with interest how many of the main critics in that Debate have now been incorporated into the Government. It is gratifying to observe, in this House, as elsewhereThat men may rise on stepping stones Of their dead selves to higher things.I shall not, more than is necessary, disinter their corpses, but I would remind the House that in the Debate on the White Paper there was a good deal of criticism. There was criticism, for instance, from the hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Oliver), now Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Southwark (Mr. George Isaacs) was able—if I may borrow a phrase from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition—to restrain within the bounds of decorum his enthusiasm for the machinery of this Bill. Now, whether or not due to the incorporation of some of these critics in the Government, certain concessions have since been made, notably the two announced by the right hon. Gentleman in opening this Debate yesterday afternoon. My right hon. Friend the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) had something to say upon the occasion of the timing of the concessions in this Bill. I welcome, as much as any hon. Member opposite, the advance in rates announced by the right hon. Gentleman yesterday. It was suggested that this was due to the visit paid by the Prime Minister to the Trades Union Congress at Blackpool, and my right hon. Friend likened this pilgrimage to that of the Emperor Henry IV to Canossa. This, I thought, a happy simile, and I say that in all greater sincerity because I myself made the same comparison in print some weeks ago when the pilgrimage actually took place.
I mention this now, not in order to make a party point but to make this point: if the change in the rate is due to the advice—if I may use a neutral word—which the Prime Minister received from the Trades Union Congress, we on this side of the House want to be satisfied that equally deserving persons, not so well and strongly organised, will have the same 482 consideration from this Government. I refer to the question put to the right hon. Gentleman yesterday by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lonsdale (Lieut.-Colonel Sir Ian Fraser) as to what were the intentions of this Government in regard to the casualties of industry and the casualties of war. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to say that he can only be concerned with matters falling within the purview of his Department; but that cannot be the answer of the Government. And I am very glad to see the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal here in order that I may remind him that this point is of great importance to us on this side of the House, and if the right hon. Gentleman the Minister is unable to give any assurance on the matter, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal will direct his attention to it?
Now in spite of these concessions, which as I say we applaud for themselves, there is not a complete harmony existing among the ranks of Tuscany. The speeches yesterday of the hon. Members for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Blyton), Wallsend (Mr. McKay) and Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) made it clear that there are still elements on the Government benches which are not wholly satisfied with the Bill as it stands. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to have that endorsement of my view. In those circumstances it might be well for those of us on this side of the House, while claiming our share of the credit for the good things of this Bill, to stand aside and watch the controversy which may perhaps develop more keenly during the Committee stage of these proceedings. [An Hon. Member: "You will be disappointed."] We might be warned perhaps by the fate of Mr. Pickwick, whose intervention in the quarrel of Mr. Pott and Mr. Slurk will be within the recollection of the House. It will be recalled how these two fiery contestants, when Mr. Pickwick tried to intervene, turned on him with a unanimity which a few minutes before would have seemed quite impossible, and concentrated in happy unison their blows upon his amiable and adventurous person. I do not wish to assume the role of Mr. Pickwick, and my observations are not directed to soothing any disharmony that may exist in the Government benches, but merely to make some comments upon the Bill with a view 483 to making what I consider a good Bill a better Bill.
I would extend to this Bill a qualified welcome because I think that is the appropriate greeting to a Bill which is good in the sense that it is a great improvement on existing conditions and machinery, but which could be a better Bill. I think this could be a better Bill for three reasons. The Bill as it stands makes no provision for the principle of relating compensation to earnings; secondly, the Bill makes no provision for the possible voluntary inclusion of the self-employed small man; thirdly, it is my view that the dice are loaded in the machinery of this Bill on the side of the official and against the individual. Those are the three respects in which this Bill falls short of the perfectability which we hoped it might attain.
Just before saying a few words on those points, might I make one reference with regard to the rates of benefit? I have said that I welcomed the increase in rates announced yesterday. I, as much as any hon. Member opposite, am anxious that the highest benefit should be paid that can be paid; but, in particular I would refer to the case of the post-injury wives who, according to the announcement of the right hon. Gentleman yesterday, will have benefit only where the marriage is contracted to an injured person in receipt of unemployability supplement.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to extending the right of benefit to post-injury wives. The refusal to grant that seems to me to be based on a somewhat low view of human nature and human motives which I, for one, am unwilling to accept. I do not believe that in the majority of cases women who marry disabled men do so from the sordid or mercenary motives which, by implication, are attributed to them in this Bill by a refusal to include them in its benefits. The right hon. Gentleman made certain references to humanity yesterday, and I know that he enjoys a wide reputation as a humanitarian which I am sure he well deserves. I hope that on reconsideration he will be true to himself and his reputation, and extend the right of benefit to cover all post-injury wives.
Now, in regard to the question of relating compensation to earnings, under the general scheme of social insurance the 484 flat rate of benefit by itself may be enough, because the aim and intention there is to provide a subsistence level of benefit. But in industrial injury insurance we are not starting an insurance scheme de novo; we are replacing the workmen's compensation scheme, a non-contributory scheme so far as employed men were concerned, by a contributory scheme. From the point of view of the higher paid workman, whatever the administrative difficulties—and we are familiar with them in workmen's compensation procedure—his compensation was related to his earnings, under that Act. From his point of view the change will mean this: He is passing from a non-contributory scheme to a contributory scheme, and he is losing the benefit of the principle of relating compensation to earnings. No wonder the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Barstow)—whom I do not think we have heard in this Debate—said in the Debate on the White Paper that this scheme was catering for the lower paid worker, but not for the higher paid worker.
I would like to refer to the scheme put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg), namely, the "double-decker" scheme which has been referred to in this Debate. This appeared to me to be rejected perhaps rather for administrative reasons than on principle. But if the principle is sound then the administrative difficulties should be overcome. I am satisfied that in the case of the higher paid worker the principle is sound. This matter was referred to by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry in his reply last night, when he said:This Bill gets away from earnings, it makes a payment on account of injury or loss of faculty.I agree that the Bill does get away from earnings, but I do not think that in principle it should. The Parliamentary Secretary went on to give higher paid workers the advice that they should go to a private insurance company. Surely, it is a very defeatist inauguration for the Socialist era if, in his maiden speech from the Despatch Box, the hon. Gentleman gives advice to the higher paid worker to go to a private insurance company to do for him what the old law of workman's compensation was intended to do without costing him financial subscriptions. The "double-decker" scheme was a social 485 insurance scheme on its lower deck, but was a continuance of workmen's compensation on its upper deck. It was the intention of my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford that compensation up to two-thirds of earnings above the flat rate benefit should be obtained by workmen's compensation from the employers. I do not understand how the Parliamentary Secretary, who is a Minister in a Labour Government—or, in the circumstances, should I say a so-called Labour Government?—can say it is administratively impossible to get workmen's compensation from employers for the benefit of workmen. Therefore, I say that the case against including provision for compensation in relation to earnings for higher paid workers has not been made out by the hon. Gentleman, and that it is a matter for regret that this does not figure in the Bill.
The case of self-employed people has also been referred to in this Debate. In rejecting the "double-decker" scheme the Minister has perhaps erred by wishing to make too definite a cleavage with the workmen's compensation procedure of the past. I consider that self-employed people fall into exactly the opposite error in basing this scheme too nearly on the precedent of workmen's compensation. The scheme which is now before the House is different in this respect: It is an insurance scheme to the fund of which the State contributes and, therefore, the small self-employed man has to contribute, as a taxpayer, to this fund. He has to contribute to a fund which, at the moment, operates exclusively for the benefit of people employed by large concerns who may be economically as well, or better, off than himself, and is denying him the possibility of inclusion. Therefore, I think the Minister should think again on that matter. The Parliamentary Secretary also said last night:It is very difficult to bring those men in.But difficulties are made, are they not, to be overcome, particularly by a Government with so large a majority?There is not the obvious arrangement that can be made with the normal employee and there is not the responsibility.I confess to not being clear about the precise significance of the words, "there is not the responsibility." I am not clear as to what responsibility is there referred to. It is apparent that the self-employed man will have to pay both his contribution 486 as an employer and as an employee, but there is the third element of the State contribution, on which I base my claim that the man should not be excluded altogether. The Parliamentary Secretary says that he comes under the general scheme of social insurance; and so he does, but not for such good benefit. He also says that the man may go to a private insurance company, and there insure himself. So he may, but if this scheme is as good as the hon. Gentleman would have us believe, and as we all hope it is, it is manifestly impossible that he could get the same rates at the same premium from a private insurance company, rates which were as good as those in the Measure which the hon. Gentleman is sponsoring in this House. So, I say that the continual exclusion of the small self-employed man from this scheme is the second grave error of omission from this Bill.
The third matter I want to refer to briefly is the machinery of the Bill. A good deal has been said in this Debate, and in the Debate on the White Paper, as to the jurisdiction of the courts. I think the Parliamentary Secretary considered that he was driving a wedge in our ranks on this side of the House when he was differentiating the positions of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chester (Mr. Nield) and my hon. Friend the Member for Wavertree (Mr. Raikes), who are now, I am happy to say, sitting aide by side to illustrate their unity. This point is based on a misconception. It is not that people necessarily want to retain the jurisdiction of the courts. I think myself that the jurisdiction of the county courts, which was suitable for the entirely different procedure of workmen's compensation, would not be suited to the operations of this Bill. But what is desired by both my hon. Friends on this side are those things which it is commonly thought by lawyers, at any rate, go with the jurisdiction of the courts, that is to say, reasoned findings, publicity, the right of appeal, and the right of representation. Those four things I consider to be fundamental to our normal conception of justice. They are things which ought to be provided for in this Bill, but which are not.
We have heard from all quarters of the House Members expressing their dissatisfaction with the setting-up of a system which does not provide those fundamental 487 things. Here, again, I do not think the Parliamentary Secretary was entirely satisfactory when he said:
It is very questionable whether public tribunals are altogether the blessing which some people think they are."—[Official Report, 10th October, 1945; Vol. 414, c. 355–358.]That is a matter of opinion. I take my stand on a public hearing as against a decision by officials behind closed doors, and without reasoned findings. What I ask is that provision should be made for the right of representation at local appeal tribunals, including medical appeal tribunals, and that that right of representation should be wide. At the moment it is confined, apparently, to trade union officials or next friends, advocates being excluded. There may be various opinions about lawyers. The right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal remarked a short time ago that his party was a cross section of the community. While welcoming that description I think that any reasonably objective political geologist would quickly detect rich layers of trade union officers and lawyers in the ranks of hon. Members opposite. My own view about lawyers is that the great thing in their favour is that there is generally more than one of them. [An Hon. Member: "That is the trouble."] If lawyers subscribed, as do officials and doctors, to the humanitarian principle that dog does not eat dog, that would be the trouble; but so far from that they fall upon one another with a zest and voracity of appetite, out of which it is hoped that justice will come to the common man. If people do not want to employ lawyers, or if they think they are too expensive, let them not employ them. Let them be represented by next friends or a trade union officer, but do not let us unduly restrict their rights in the Bill. Let that be a matter of choice for the injured party.
With regard to appeals, I do not like the system upon which they are based. They should be, and normally are, upon a broadening basis. They should be heard by more, and more highly qualified men, than sat on the tribunal, from which appeal is made. Here we have a system under which the rights of appeal narrow down to the pin point of a single Commissioner. I know that under the permissive regulations he may associate 488 others with him, but that is not enough. I would like to see the principle of appeal widened, and under the terms of the Bill, not under the terms of permissive regulations. There is one other point on the matter of appeal which has not yet been referred to in this Debate, and that is under Clause 45, which, as at present drafted, gives an unqualified right of appeal from the local appeal tribunals to the Commissioner, to the insurance officer, but gives an appeal only by leave and under certain specified conditions to the injured claimant or the association, which means the trade union, which is undertaking his case. That seems to me to be a reversal of the ordinary concept of justice that appeals should be given equally and freely to the subject claiming as well as to the executive. The late President Roosevelt might have added a fifth freedom to his famous four freedoms—freedom in the face of officialdom; a freedom which is dear to the heart of the common man, and a freedom of which we shall hear more in the coming years. I think that the machinery of this Bill was drafted so as to give the balance of advantage, in every case, to the official as against the injured claimant, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give further consideration to this matter of which we shall, I am confident, hear more in Committee.
Finally, let me say, that while I welcome this Bill as a good Bill in most respects, I believe if attention can be given to these things this would be a better Bill, more calculated to meet and to satisfy the legitimate aspirations and requirements of the great mass of the employed people whom it is designed to benefit.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Haydn Davies (St. Pancras, South West)
I rise with some diffidence to address the House for the first time, the more so because, although a new Member, I am an old inhabitant of the Palace of Westminster by virtue of my membership of the Press Gallery. In order to achieve my position on these benches I, hand in hand with the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Maurice Webb), had to make the perilous descent from the upper Lobby of the recording angels, to be with the angels that have to be recorded. I am finding the geographical change slightly embarrassing, and I had not realised that 489 a seat in this House could look so uninviting. I am glad to have the opportunity of saying my first words in this House on this question of workmen's compensation, because like so many other Members of my party who have spoken already, we know of this subject from personal and bitter experience. I was born and brought up among the miners. My father was smashed up in the pit, and incapacitated for life, with all that means in human degradation and misery. The person I went to for advice on that occasion was the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of National Insurance. I am, therefore, particularly happy that it was my privilege to be in this House to hear him introduce this Bill, because I know the amount of care and attention he has given to the study of this problem over a long period of years. While congratulating him on this Bill, I must confess to having regrets that there is not sufficient of his imprint upon it, and far too much imprint of Conservative Ministers in the late Coalition Government.
I am not prepared to accept this Bill as the last word on workmen's compensation, because it is not. I regard it merely as a first step. I would be a more enthusiastic supporter of a Bill that really belongs to the Minister of National Insurance than I am to this agreed Measure, which, after all, is bound to mean compromise. A good deal has been said during this Debate of the benefits this Bill will confer on the workpeople, but no-one has yet stated the benefits which it will confer on the employers. At the moment, workmen's compensation is the employers' liability and they have to bear the full cost of it. Under this Bill they get a very good bargain. Under the present system the worker pays nothing towards the cost of workmen's compensation but under this Bill he will pay half of it. I was disappointed, for example, when the Minister announced increased rates that he also announced increased contributions from the workpeople only. It seems to me that we shall have to look pretty closely at some of these points in the later stages of the Bill. The position really is weighted against the workman. So, while I welcome all the general provisions, which, I hope, will lift this subject out of litigation and the unequal fight between the man and his employer, at the same time, I feel that 490 certain of the provisions of the Bill will need very careful examination.
There is only one reference in the whole of the Bill to safety, and that is the Clause which gives the Minister power to make contributions to research into safety. Surely, if this scheme is to be a success, its financial success will depend upon the prevention of accidents, because the fewer accidents the more there is bound to be in the fund which is being created, so you can either then reduce contributions or increase benefits. It is in everyone's interest to keep the accident rate down. At the moment, I would say from my experience in industry that the greatest single incentive to the provision of adequate safety is the fact that the employer is liable to pay workmen's compensation in the case of accident. You are now going to remove that. What incentive are you going to substitute to make sure that the employer provides adequate safety in the mine, factory and workshop? Something will have to be substituted. You will either have to strengthen the statutory obligations for safety, because, believe me, if this matter cannot be achieved by common law it will never be achieved by common humanity, or you must substitute some sanction for the one you are taking away, namely, that the employer is liable for accidents to his workpeople.
I have no desire to detain the House at any length on this important matter, but another point that will have to be looked at is the drafting of the new Clause dealing with the point raised yesterday of adding 25 per cent, additional benefit for a man who cannot get back his old job. I know that the intention of the right hon. Gentleman is good, but when it comes to a matter of drafting, we shall have to look at it very carefully to make sure that the point we want to get over is covered by the new Clause. So, while giving general welcome to this first attempt to deal with this awful problem of workmen's compensation, I must insist that I regard it only as a first attempt, and I hope that very soon the Government will produce a better one.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Wilkins (Bristol. South)
I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity which I am now afforded of addressing myself to this House on one 491 specific Clause in this Bill, to which I think only very slight passing reference has already been made. I characterise this Bill as one which must appeal to anyone who is associated with highly-mechanised industry, or industry which is not free from industrial disease. I have noticed in the maiden speeches delivered since the re-assembly of Parliament this week a conspicuous absence of claims to fear and trepidation, which were a marked feature of the pre-Recess efforts, I feel that this is fully justified, because I have noticed, with growing confidence, the tolerance and indulgence which Members on both sides of the House have shown to anyone making his first speech. I am certain, that that indulgence and tolerance will be accorded to me.
I want to address myself very briefly to Clause 70. I would say that every Clause in this Bill is to be welcomed. I think that each marks a milestone on the road to the economic security of the disabled or diseased incapacitated worker, but this Clause, I suggest, is the key which unlocks the door to the elimination of preventible accidents and of industrial disease, and, I think I may say, in some cases at any rate, of unnecessary and untimely death. I represent the constituency of South Bristol, which is not merely a very highly-industrialised area of my native city, but one in which many industrial workers in the city of Bristol itself reside. The industrial population is approximately 57,000 and it is almost entirely connected with the industries of the great City of the West. During the General Election I made a very specific feature of my programme a National Health Service in which the bias was heavily weighted in favour of positive health measures as against negative health measures; in favour of research into the causes and prevention of disease rather than its cure.
It seems to me to be the negation of progress that in this great scientific age the medical profession are still primarily interested in us when we are ill. This is a time in our medical and scientific history, when all our resources and all their skill and knowledge, should be harmonised in a determined effort to destroy the germs of disease at their roots rather than in seeking their destruction after they have got a firm grip of their human victims. In Clause 70 of this Bill, the 492 Minister of National Insurance secures for himself the greatest opportunity ever presented to a Minister of State within my recollection of making an outstanding contribution to the positive health and well being of the industrial workers of this country. How will he use the opportunity so afforded to him? Does he propose to encourage research into industrial diseases through the channels at present available, which, some of us think are not sufficiently democratic in their make-up—the Medical Research Council and its subsidiary, the Industrial Health Research Board, which deals with a whole series of industrial maladies, but whose preventive recommendations are all too often restricted by the Factory Acts? Further, any advice which it proffers need not necessarily be followed.
To quote just one example, industrial dermatitis is a scheduled disease, but only partially so, because the victim must prove long and continued exposure or total incapacity. The figures for this particular disease have risen steeply during the past ten years from something like 800 per annum to over 4,000, probably due in the main to the use of new chemical substances in industry. We know that there are new devices freely available, produced by firms in this country, which are capable of protecting the hands and skin of the workers against particular types of chemical substances, but no regulations exist to enforce their use in those special processes in which dermatitis may be rampant. It is estimated that it would not cost more than 2d. per man per week to protect him against dermatitis in most of the industries in this country, a complaint which he often finds extreme difficulty in proving to be a result of his particular occupation.
I appeal to my right hon. Friend the Minister to use the power which will be vouchsafed to him in Clause 70, not merely with courage and determination, but with some vision. I understand that at the moment the Government provides something like £250,000 a year for all forms of medical research. I believe that £2,250,000 would not be too much to allocate for this purpose. If this money were wisely spent, it would pay handsome dividends, not merely to industrial productivity or to national wealth production, but it would also pay a hand- 493 some dividend in the greatest of our national assets, a healthy, happy and contented people.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Bottomley (Chatham)
I rise with some trepidation to address this Assembly, the Mother of Parliaments, for the first time, but I take comfort in the knowledge that the House is kind and considerate to one who is making his maiden speech. The people in the ancient city of Rochester and that famous town of Chatham, which I represent, will be particularly pleased that this Measure is before the House of Commons and will in due course become the law of the land. They welcome this Bill as a contribution to the wider social services that will be expected from a Labour Government. The principle upon which the Measure is founded, co-operation between the Government, the employers and the workpeople, has been very well developed in the area I represent. A Full Employment Council representing the varied interests in the town has been established, and in the dockyards and the aircraft industry as well as other industries in the district this principle of the Government, employers and workpeople through their trade unions working together has achieved great success. For this reason, the people there will be very pleased with the principle upon which this Bill is founded. For myself, I conceive the principles of the Measure as a basis which will enable us to socialise industry by an orderly and good method.
I welcome the Bill because, in the past, far too much piecemeal legislation has been passed in this House of Commons when it has been dealing with workmen's compensation. Committees have been established with limited terms of reference to consider only small items. But this Measure is all-embracing. It is a Measure dealing with workman's compensation as a whole, a foundation upon which we can build in order to be certain that there will be a law that is suitable to deal with this great social evil, which has been mishandled for many years past. I welcome the Measure also because to put it off for something better would only lead to conflict between the need for this legislation and other social legislation later. I do not think we can afford to delay dealing with workmen's compensation. 494 Many stories have been told by Members of personal experiences. I can cite one, concerning a person I know, which I think is an indication of the benefits which will be achieved if the Measure is passed now and not left until later. A man who lost his eye was able to go back to his normal employment, and was paid his full wages because he could carry out his work as usual. Due to circumstances unconnected with the accident, he subsequently lost the other eye. Consesequently he was left unable to follow his employment, penniless and blind, without any recompense which would help him to face the terrible trials ahead. I hope that we are not only going to consider this subject of workman's compensation from a humane standpoint. We have to look upon it as an economic loss when any workman goes out of industry. There should be systematic attempts at rehabilitation, there should be special treatment and diagnosis. There ought to be the provision of hospital expenses and surgical appliances. In short, we should do for the insured workman what we are compelled to do for the wounded soldier in time of war.
I also welcome the use of the scientists and research workers to see how accidents can be avoided. I am confident that given the facilities and the same help, they will be able to do as much to avoid workmen suffering injuries as they were able to do in producing the atomic bomb. I hope we shall not only be concerned with the provision of payment but that, as a previous speaker has said, we intend to see what can be done to prevent accidents. In the course of my employment in the war, I had occasion to go down a coal mine in Kent. The surface of that mine leading to the face was uneven, the ceiling was low; I tripped several times myself. What happens when a man becomes very familiar with the job is readily understood. Therefore, I suggest, although we may have some levy for hazardous employment, as one speaker suggested yesterday, we certainly should encourage employers to make proper provision for the welfare and protection of their employees.
One item which to me is really important is compensation for disease. We know that diseases are somewhat different from the ordinary accidents that occur. Anthrax, for example can strike suddenly 495 like any accident. Silicosis, on the other hand, can be long and lingering. I desire, if it is possible, to extend the list of diseases caused by employment in industry. In 1905–6, six diseases only were listed. Before the present Bill was introduced the Secretary of State—and it is again suggested in this Measure—had power to add to the list. Yet to-day there are still under 50 listed diseases, although those of us connected with industry know there are some 2,000 diseases which can to some extent be attributed to a man's occupation. The conditions for listing diseases are that a disease must incapacitate a man for a week, that it must not come within any accident clauses of the Act and the disease must be so specific to the industry or industrial process that it can be distinguished from anything else by the symptoms. But there are some diseases which, to the best of my knowledge, are not listed to-day, which are accepted by many responsible authorities in industry as being due to industrial conditions. For instance, there is cardroom workers' bronchitis, a cancerous tumour caused by working with chemicals, silicosis contracted by dustmen in council employment and by men working at electricity generating stations.
I hope the Minister will do his best to see that the failure on the part of past Secretaries of State to add to that list will be rectified as a result of his ministration. I hope the Measure will be administered in the way which has been indicated by previous speakers—including one Member of the Front Bench—with humanity, as the real basis for consideration. I would remind the House that that was the basis upon which we accepted the 1934 Assistance Act. Many of us know that the Assistance Board, although doing a very good job, is not looked upon as we would desire, and I hope this workmen's compensation scheme will not be just a case of stamps, cards, rules and regulations, but will be administered with full concern for the human being. I welcome the Bill and, if I may be permitted to do so, congratulate the Minister and particularly my colleague the Parliamentary Secretary with whom I have worked so closely in the course of the war. I think he has done an excellent job. Finally, I welcome the Bill as a first instalment of a wider plan in which workmen's com- 496 pensation will fall into its place in an all-embracing scheme of Social Insurance.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)
I think the House will join with me in extending hearty congratulations to the three previous speakers on their maiden speeches. They have shown a wealth of experience on the practical side of the administration of workmen's compensation, and I express the hope that they will not keep the House very long before they make further contributions to this, or some other important matter. I would like also to congratulate the Minister of National Insurance on the very lucid explanation that he gave in moving the Second Reading of the Bill. I think it is true to say—and it is well known to most of us in this House and outside—that the Minister of National Insurance is possessed of an intense humanitarian feeling, and because of that he is quite capable of pioneering and carrying this Measure to the Statute Book.
The Debate yesterday was opened from the Opposition Benches by the right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake). He was somewhat critical because in this House on 8th and 9th November we happened to criticise the White Paper which was then submitted to the House. I recall very vividly some of our criticisms. I think it ought to be understood that whether the Bill comes from this side or the other side, we have the right to criticise it if we care to do so. The right hon. Gentleman criticised us apparently for adopting a change of front, but be it remembered that two of the criticisms which we made on 8th and 9th November during the 12 hours' Debate have now been altered by the present Minister of National Insurance. One of the complaints that we made was the fact that the White Paper fell very far short of bringing in what we call the pre-1924 cases. In the Measure now under discussion, pre-1924 cases are to be dealt with. That is one of the happy features of the Measure before the House. I sometimes wish that I possessed a magic wand and by the waving of that magic wand I could transfer some hon. and right hon. Members of this House to some of our mining villages. There they would see the tragedy of those men who were injured prior to 1924. I have in my own constituency men who were injured pre-1924 497 and the total amount of compensation that they have received since the date of their injuries amounts to the meagre sum of 22s. 10d. They have been living on that meagre, paltry sum of 22s. 10d. since before 1924.
The other point of criticism that we made was that it was suggested in the White Paper that certain benefit payments should be paid before 13 weeks, and at the end of 13 weeks if that person had not returned to work his compensation should be increased. I am glad to know that that defect has been remedied and compensation will now be payable as and from the third day of the accident. There are many other features about which we complained during that Debate and which I am happy to know have been eradicated. Therefore, I welcome the Bill because it does at least lay the foundation upon which we can build in the future. It ought to be remembered that this is not the last word that is going to be said on personal injuries but it is the foundation upon which the greater edifice can be erected. It does, in effect, pay for personal injuries and the whole idea of the relation of wages to compensation payable to the partially incapacitated man is now wiped out. That is a remarkable step forward, because I know in my own county of Lancashire, many of our men who were injured when their pre-injury earnings were very low, and consequent upon the advancement in wages brought about by the changed conditions their partial compensation has completely gone. Still the partial incapacity or the personal injury remains.
I have here a photograph of eight brothers, all working in the pit. With one exception, all of them have sustained accidents. I read from the photograph left to right. Case No. 1, lost his right eye; returned to work, got no partial compensation. Case No. 2, lost the left eye, went back to work at the coal face and because his post-injury earnings exceed his pre-injury earnings he was debarred from receiving compensation. Case No. 3, a victim of miner's nystagmus. Case No. 4, suffered from boils. Case No. 5, miner's nystagmus. Case No. 6, suffered from what we call beat knee. The doctors call it "subcutaneous cellulitis of the patella of the knee"; I do not wonder that they will not agree to a National 498 Health Scheme with words like that. Case No. 7 fortunately escaped accident, and he joined up and has been a prisoner of war in Germany for 3½ years. Case No. 8, suffered from miner's nystagmus. There you have eight brothers, all working in the pit, all of them victims of accidents, but they have failed to get any partial compensation for those accidents because their post-injury earnings exceeded their pre-injury earnings. This Bill, if it does nothing else, does remove that injustice and I welcome it because of that.
There is another important factor upon which I want to touch, and that is the dreaded disease of sillicosis. As I walk about in the mining villages in my constituency I see men suffering. They know their day is coming very quickly. In my judgment, we cannot do too much in the way of compensating them for the disease which they have contracted and which makes it so difficult for them to live. If there is one thing that we, as representatives in this House, ought to do, it is to care for those unfortunate victims of industrial diseases, and in particular sillicosis. I made a statement many months ago when I attended an inquest on an unfortunate man who had passed away from sillicosis, that when a man has been certified by the Sillicosis and Asbestosis Board, it is to a very large extent a sentence of death on that man. I will not weary the House with all the cases I have met, but I want the House to get a clearer conception of the picture as we see it in the minefields. Case No. 1, aged 60, date of disablement 29th May, 1937, date of death 5th January, 1939. He lived 84 weeks after the date of disablement. Case No. 2, aged 59, date of disablement 7th December, 1937; he died on 11th June, 1938. He lived 27 weeks. Case No. 3, aged 43, date of disablement 1st November, 1939, date of death 25th February, 1941; he lived 69 weeks. Case No. 4, aged 51, date of disablement 23rd November, 1940, date of death 10th February, 1941; he lived 11 weeks. The approximate time that those men lived—and I can go on with case after case—after the date of disablement was 48 weeks—less than twelve months. Therefore, I contend that we cannot pay these men too much when they are passing into the grave; we cannot do too much for them to make their lives as comfortable as possible. 499 The Minister in his opening speech—I will quote his exact words—said:We want if we can to dispel the cloud of bitter feeling which has gathered round the subject of Workmen's Compensation, and to make these injuries a matter for settlement on the basis of fixed benefits to be paid for a fixed premium."—[Official Report, 10th Oct., 1945; Vol. 414, c. 268.]Not only do we want to dispel the cloud of bitter feeling but, having done so, we want to bring in the sunshine of economic and social security. I therefore welcome the Bill for those reasons.
There are certain disadvantages connected with the Bill. I have said in this House before, and I repeat it now, that when you find a perfect Measure you will find the perfect nuisance. The Measure is not perfect, and we do not profess that it is, but we do profess that it is a remark able step forward towards a better life for our injured workmen. It is true to say that since the original Bill was presented some concessions have been made, and we welcome them, particularly the increase from 40s. to 45s. in the Third Schedule. Others will be pro rata, but there is another alteration, the increased contribution of the workman by one penny in order to cover the extra 5s. I want to ask the Minister to think and act again, and to see whether he cannot increase the figure in the Third Schedule in regard to the rates of disablement benefit. That would go a long way towards arresting the dissatisfaction which has been expressed in various quarters regarding the benefits to be paid under the Bill.
What does the penny bring in which has been put on to the workman to equalise the contribution paid by the employer? It brings in £3,000,000. That is a considerable sum of money, and from it I think greater benefit could be paid to our injured workmen in the shape of disablement benefit. The Third Schedule is based upon the Royal Warrant. I challenge the Minister to deny my statement that the Royal Warrant governs the payment of pensions to those who unfortunately suffer wounds or injury in the Army, Navy and Air Force. It is admitted on every hand, to whatever political party we belong, that the Royal Warrant is in need of complete overhaul and revision in order to raise it to a much higher standard. Because of that fact, if we accept the Third Schedule as it 500 stands, with 100 per cent, disablement benefit standing at 45s., and then, at a subsequent date, the Royal Warrant is revised—it requires no special warning from me, because that revision is bound to come—we shall not be able to rest satisfied with that figure, if we are to play our part to the people who have sent us here.
Having regard to the vast multitude of men and women in the Forces, the rate of pensions that are now being paid to the wounded will have to be revised. If it is revised beyond a 45s. maximum for total disablement, we shall then have at a subsequent date the anomaly presenting itself to us that the workman injured in industry is below the standard for people in the Forces who have had the misfortune to suffer total disablement. We ought to give very careful consideration to the Third Schedule, and at the same time we shall be in duty bound to give careful consideration to the contributions which are made. I beg the Minister for Social Insurance to see to it that the standard of the injured workman shall be equal to the standard of the man wounded on the battlefield. If we can get equity of that character we shall be marching along the road towards a new era.
I have gone over the points very hurriedly, but there are still two points that I want briefly to mention. I want to support very strongly the thought that was expressed by the hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Clitherow) and the hon. Member for Barnet (Dr. Stephen Taylor), in regard to tuberculosis in the nursing profession being scheduled or mentioned in the Bill. I want to put forward another point, which is that there is a disease in the minefields which is very rarely spoken of and it is called Dupertron's contraction. Many men are suffering from it, but it may not be known to many hon. Members here. It may be news to hon. Members that men suffering from it do not receive compensation for the incapacity with which they are afflicted. It is about time that this matter had the careful attention of the Ministry. While the Bill has certain advantages over and above the old compensation law and is trying to lift that law on to a higher plane, I believe it is still within the realm of possibility to lift the whole matter up to an even higher standard which will give to 501 men injured in industry the sunshine of social security in their homes when suffering from injury.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Monslow (Barrow-in-Furness)
I rise with some timidity at this stage, having regard to the forensic eloquence which has been displayed during the last two days in this House. I would like to congratulate the Minister upon his lucid exposition of the Bill, but I want to express a measure of disappointment about the benefits contained in the Bill. I am not unmindful that the Bill will change the conditions of those who may have to face misfortune because of injury, and I naturally hope that these proposals will lead at least to increased pressure from this House to make those conditions better still.
I am not content with the minimum. I am not unmindful that the scheme offers opportunities for laying the foundations of a real social service, but no social service can be rightly achieved unless the benefits are increased. I express the view that it would have been preferable for Part I and Part II of the Bill to have been taken in conjunction, so that we might have had a clearer picture of all that is involved. I am grateful to the Minister for the additional 5s. upon which he has decided as a result of representations made to him, but I submit that there are those on this side of the House—and I say it in all solemnity—who take the view that this figure is a niggardly and miserly pittance and that the figure might have been increased to 55s. as a minimum, having regard to the purchasing value of the £ to-day.
While it is true that the compensation is fixed at a higher level, we must remember that wages also stand at a higher level; that relationship ought to be considered when benefits are decided upon. We, and particularly hon. Members on these Benches, ought to have made a clean break with the past. I submit that this is only a partial break. I know it is said that we are in the unenviable position that we cannot improve the payment in regard to social services, but I would remind the House of the tremendous, even colossal, expenditure during the last six years for non-productive and destructive services, and I say that if even one-tenth of that expenditure were used for social and productive services, a wonderful 502 transformation could be effected in our social, industrial and economic life. The Government should get out a bold, comprehensive Measure. We should no longer hedge and tinker with this matter. We were returned to this House for fundamental and major change and I hope we shall carry out the promises and the pledges that we gave that our people shall at least have subsistence. I hope we shall remember we have a contribution to make to that end, particularly those of us who have given expression to this philosophy of life.
I urge the Government to amend the figures and to give us a real standard of life. I need hardly remind the House that the figure fixed for the injured workman makes the possibility of rehabilitation remote. I ask for sympathetic consideration to the representations which have been made, particularly in regard to the past cases, and that a figure shall be fixed on the higher level, so that our people may enjoy their rightful heritage and that standard of life which they have for so long been denied.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Mr. House (St. Pancras, North)
I have great pleasure, on this, the occasion of my first addressing this House, in dwelling upon a Bill in relation to workmen's compensation, because I have been deeply interested in the matter for many years. My own trade has been that of a constructional steel girder erector, a trade in which accidents are very frequent. Indeed, possibly they are as frequent in that industry as in the mining industry. In my long experience of handling workmen's compensation claims in this industry I have met some very distressing cases. It has been very sad, in the years between the wars, to know that men who have been badly injured have had an income of only 30s. a week under the old Act, although they might have a wife and five or six children to keep. I can leave the House to imagine the difficulties of trying to exist on such a low income.
My mind goes back to the comparable time immediately following the first world war. At that time an economy Measure was introduced in this House, and we soon had the distressing spectacle of workmen's compensation being reduced from 35s. to 30s. per week. I feel that that was a most appalling example of a sup- 503 posed economy, and it is very refreshing, at this juncture, immediately following the second world war, to find this Labour Government taking a step in the opposite direction, namely, increasing the amount of compensation paid to injured workers. It is a very fine symbol of progress.
In the hope that I can give some help to my right hon. Friend the Minister, I would like to refer to the experiences I have had of compensation cases under the old Act which may be of benefit in future cases. When, in some of the cases I have handled, where the workman has been fatally injured, I have gone to the widow, as I thought, with regard to the claim for payment for fatal injury benefit and asked for the marriage lines, I have been astonished to find that these did not exist. The effect of this was that the person concerned, although she had cohabited with the deceased workman over a number of years as his wife, and although there was a family, there being no marriage lines, was notable to take the benefit. The man and woman had been living quite a reasonable life, the home conditions had been perfect, and there must have been some reasonable explanation for the absence of the marriage lines. Indeed, because of the decent condition of the home I very often did not inquire the reason for the absence of the marriage lines. It was very distressing to me in such cases that payment could not be made.
I see that, under this Bill, illegitimate children are to receive payment, and I would like the Minister to give some consideration to the mother of such children where the home and living conditions have been reasonable and decent. It is very difficult for me to express exactly what I have in mind in regard to such cases, but, as I have said, I would like to see the Bill widened to cover such cases.
I noticed that the Minister stated that, with regard to the continued existence in the new Bill of the Clause dealing with accidents arising "in the course of employment," he intends that that Clause shall have, in practice, a wider interpretation. I was very pleased to hear that, but I wonder whether the Minister has in mind giving that Clause a sufficiently wide interpretation. I have known of cases where workmen, in a factory or a workshop, have been working, for the 504 time being, by the side of persons employed by another contractor. We can picture, for example, men in a steel works. working, as furnace hands for a steel employer, side by side with other workmen employed by an outside contractor. The employees of the contractor need some temporary assistance, and an employee of the steel employer gives that assistance. While giving that assistance an accident occurs to the man employed by the steel employer, and the interpretation of the Act, in such circumstances is that the employee of the steel employer was not acting "in and about the course of his employment." I am afraid that in the present drafting of the Bill that weakness will still apply, and I would like to think that the Minister would give it consideration.
My trade union has had some difficulty with regard to injuries occurring to workmen arising from what I regard as a new trend of industry, and I would like the Minister to keep in mind that the trends of industry might alter, and the Bill should be wide enough to make allowances for such possibilities. The type of injury I have in mind is that known as "dead-hand" or "dead fingers," and it occurs to workpeople who, for long periods, are using hand-vibratory machinery. The continued vibration of these machines gives a deadening, clutching feeling to the hand and results in very serious, and oft-times permanent incapacity. My trade union, the Iron and steel Trades Federation, has made exhaustive inquiries into this disease, or injury, but has not been able to get it scheduled under the existing Act. Nevertheless, it is a serious injury, and one definitely arising from employment. Therefore, with other hon. Members, I would plead that the terms of the Bill should be broadened to allow of the easier scheduling of industrial diseases.
I would like to point out that some of the Regulations under the present Act need very careful consideration by the Minister. I refer, for example, to one anomaly which exists in the Regulations applying to buildings under construction. Under those Regulations, a contractor is required to supply a reasonable amount of suitable scaffolding. Obviously, one would expect a contractor to supply a reasonable amount of suitable scaffolding. But those Regulations have been interpreted as 505 meaning that, so long as a contractor supplies such scaffolding, he is meeting the requirement, even though that scaffolding is left lying on the ground during the whole time that the building is under construction. A contractor, for reasons of safety, should supply a reasonable amount of suitable scaffolding, and should also see that that scaffolding is put in the required place during the construction of a building. But the Regulations, as they stand, do not protect the workmen to that extent, and, I suggest that is an indication that the Regulations need careful and periodic overhauls.
My intention has been to give the Minister some information, arising from my own experience, as to how the Bill might be improved. He has a great reputation for sympathy with the common people in regard to this matter of workmen's compensation, and I compliment him on the draft of the Bill and on his presentation of it. I am glad to think that, at last, we are going to have a Bill which will improve the compensation given to workmen for injuries received while serving the cause of the people in general.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Ewart (Sunderland)
I must confess that it is with some nervousness that I address this House in my maiden effort, having regard to the traditions of this great place. In connection with this Bill, which is before us for its Second Reading, I would say that, after a considerable experience as a trade union officer of dealing with workmen's compensation cases, I look, first and foremost, to the basic principle and structure of the Measure to see whether any advance is being made on the earlier Workmen's Compensation Acts. Some criticism will be offered by me of the Bill at a later stage, but I feel that the Bill is a great step forward in social reform. It is a credit to its pioneers, and to the Minister for National Insurance.
We have had experience of the devastating effect of the operation of the Workmen's Compensation Acts hitherto, particularly around the period prior to 1940, before the passing of the Temporary Increases Act. The people with whom I was actively and intimately concerned, were often put to great hardship, not only financial, but mental, by the trials through which they passed when they wore subject, in 1937, 1938, 1939 and 506 1940, to the difference in their pre-accident and post-accident earnings. Owing to sickness and unemployment, though no fault of their own, their earnings were computed at a lower rate, which was not commensurate with the demands made upon them in their post-accident days. I feel that, if the Bill has done nothing else, it has eradicated "at one fell swoop," one of the major anomalies that exist in the Workmen's Compensation Acts. I shall refer to some others in speaking of the general structure and basic principles.
The Industrial Injuries Bill will lift workmen's compensation, or payment for injury, from the wrangle of the law courts and from the maelstrom of medical and legal difficulties and argument, and that, in itself, is a great step forward. It will bring satisfaction to the many thousands of people employed in the heavy industries, particularly in the division that I have the honour to represent.
The effect of the Workmen's Compensation Acts on disputed cases meant that the full responsibility—after the medical examination was taken advantage of by the employers under Section 12 of the Act and the medical evidence was used in reducing the amount to what the insurance companies considered was commensurate with the disability to which the injured workman was subject, which had no relationship whatever to the demands made on the injured workman—rested on the injured man to dispute the matter with further medical evidence, which was costly. He had to proceed to the point of litigation and, in many cases, without the valuable help of the great trade unions, many millions of workers would never have got justice under the Workmen's Compensation Acts although, in theory, justice was there for the mere asking. I believe that we are lifting workmen's compensation, or payment of pensions to injured workmen, out of the days of difficulty to the great advantage and benefit of the industrial workers of this country.
I am glad to know that in this Bill the matter of commuted weekly payments by lump sum settlements obtains no longer. I can instance many cases where workmen who, whilst not actually under threat, were under great persuasion by insurance companies, commercialising workmen's compensation to their own advantage, to accept lump sum settlements which were 507 totally inadequate as compensation for the injury received. I am sure that many Members can readily bring to mind many of the hundreds of thousands of cases that have been treated thus and of the fear which has been instilled into the mind of the insured workman if he did not take a lump sum settlement. They can speak of the risk he ran of taking some suitable employment because his compensation payment would be for ever in jeopardy, and how he was subjected to threats of county court action and to inevitable medical examinations in order to determine lower payments than those to which he was qualified even within the Act.
One of the great strides in this Measure is that the male and female workers have been treated on an equal basis and that their dependants will receive benefits without sex discrimination of the worker. I feel that that is one of the anomalies which has glaringly existed, and it has been the concern of everybody who has any responsibility to injured workmen under the Workmen's Compensation Acts. While there has been some criticism of the waiting period, which has been reduced to two days, I feel that the benefits on the credit side of the Bill far outweigh what we might term the anomalies in the Bill on the debit side. After the Bill has had its baptism in the Committee stage and has been clothed in Regulations, and possibly by Committee stage Amendments, I feel that many of the misgivings that we have, even on this side, will be eliminated and that we shall get a measure which will be not only a credit to the Department concerned, but a credit to His Majesty's Government. The Bill provides for payment of pensions for injuries, and I think that there, again, a greater stride has been made. The present basis of assessing payment to the partially injured workman on half the difference between actual or notional earnings makes him feel that there is no incentive to take on employment for which he might be physically capable. It makes him feel that the inevitable consequence of taking such employment is to run the risk of having his compensation determined without any possibility of restoration if there is a subsequent breakdown. That fear will be eliminated by the payment of a pension instead of a payment based on notional or actual earnings. That in itself 508 is a great stride which the industrial workers will readily welcome.
I am going to proceed to one point of criticism. We are endeavouring to equate pensions to physical disability caused by industrial injury. The only adequate type of pension will be actual loss of earnings as represented in the benefit payment. In this Bill, while the 40s. has been increased to 45s., we have still a standard which, to all intents and purposes, must be considered a sub standard, having regard to subsistence demands and the current cost of living. I would urge that the Minister should explore all possible avenues with a view-to increasing even the 45s. proposed to a higher level, thus determining a higher pension payment for partial disability, and thereby giving adequacy in pensionable form for loss of earning capacity through industrial accidents. That is the most pregnant criticism I want to offer. During the discussion on the Bill all points and phases of argument, covering every section of the Bill, have been voiced. In the main, we are agreed in all parts of the House that this Industrial Injuries Bill is a Measure which has been determined by absolute necessity through the experience of the workings of the other Acts. The refreshing feature of the Bill to my mind is that the workman will be put into a more comfortable position, knowing that he will not have to prove the actual accident, but will be covered for accidents at work and while travelling to and from work. The technicalities which have caused so much concern to the industrial worker in proving the point of accident will be eliminated, and thus the Measure will be a fuller and freer one and will embrace every phase of industrial accident.
I urge that some consideration be given to increasing the basic payment, and, in doing so, I am influenced by the fact that workmen's compensation is the responsibility and liability of the employer. It is at the moment the responsibility of industry. By this structure we put it within the framework of a great national scheme of Social Insurance, in which the worker is paying 50 per cent. of the cost, apart from the Exchequer contribution. For the first time in his history, he is making a payment for insurance against industrial accident, and I think that the employers' side will look 509 upon this as a very good bargain as far as they are concerned. They will now be in a consolidated scheme without regard to serious fluctuations in employment personnel, and they look upon it as though they have got a very good part of the bargain. Some consideration should be given to raising the employer's contribution in order to meet the demands which would normally have to be met even if this Bill did not come into operation. Furthermore, as the scheme is within the framework of a comprehensive social insurance scheme, the Government should look at the Exchequer contribution with a view to making payments of benefit which will be adequate to meet the demands under existing conditions of injured workers, so as to give them a decent subsistence and standard of living.
Having criticised the Bill from that point of view, I would say that I welcome it, for I feel that it is the basis of a framework on which a larger Measure can be built to meet future social needs. I was interested in a statement of the Parliamentary Secretary yesterday about the absorption within the administrative scheme of the Bill of people with experience of insurance. I hope that he will have serious regard to that point and will look to the wealth of experience that exists in these matters and that will become redundant when this question is transferred to a Government Department, for the administration of this scheme can only be carried out by men of experience in the field of insurance. I would ask him to have regard also to the personnel who have reached the later years of employment, for whom redundancy will have serious consequences, and I trust he will look at this question not entirely from the point of view of employment, but from that of giving some compensatory measure to those who would be effected by the change-over from private to National Insurance.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels (Gloucester)
My first very pleasant duty is to congratulate the triplets of the maiden class. I have to say to the hon. Members for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Monslow), for North St. Pancras (Mr. House), and for Sunderland (Mr. Ewart) how very much the older Members of this assembly enjoyed the efforts which each in turn has made in contributing to the Debate on this Bill. 510 They are, we realise, batting on a wicket that is well known to them, and I think that it is probably because they have been caught out once or twice that we are now debating this Bill. I am sure that we all hope to hear their voices again and again in the Debates in this Chamber, because the foretaste we have had from their speeches indicates abundantly that they will make contributions of some considerable value.
Whilst I am in a congratulatory mood I would like to say to the Minister of National Insurance how very much we all appreciated the way in which he introduced his Bill with such eloquence, lucidity and conviction.
We all of course recognise that this is not a perfect Bill, and, contrary to the view that it would be a nuisance if it were, I am one of those who think that it is a nuisance because it is not. However, the Bill is undoubtedly a first instalment, and I am quite satisfied that the Minister will accept that view. It is a first step towards the ultimate goal of a much wider and a much tighter form of insurance against industrial injury and disease. It has been overlooked, in contributions made from the opposite benches, that this Bill puts workmen's compensation on an entirely new basis, and makes an entirely new approach to the question. Perhaps, while still in the congratulatory mood, I should have added that it is not only the Minister who is to be praised for the advent of this particular piece of legislation; we should also pay a tribute to the work done by the T.U.C. in developing and influencing workmen's compensation. I do not need to add my recognition to that which has already been voiced from the Opposition Benches of the Lord Privy Seal, who was, of course, instrumental in bringing in the White Paper which is the source and the spring from which this Bill is derived.
The main element in this Bill is of course its scope. First, there is to be no wage limit, and that is an important factor in regard to which I should like to say a few words presently. Its second purpose is insurance against the risk of injury. We on this side of the House are not satisfied merely to recognise insurance against risk of injury, we would like to see provision for a benefit commensurate to the risk experienced by a man who suffers the injury. It is upon that point that will 511 probably arise the widest divergencies between what we on this side of the House would like to see in the Bill and what is actually in it. There are five essential tests in connection with this Bill which determine whether it will really serve the purpose for which it is designed. The first is that it should produce, on all the questions with which it deals, a speedy decision. That, I think, is one of the prerequisites of this type of legislation. The second, which I think is logically derived from it, is that there should be elimination of legal processes. It has been said by an hon. and gallant Member on the other side that this particular legislation is devoid of the rights of trial and going to court, of having appeals, and all sorts of legal paraphernalia. I suppose, speaking as a lawyer, I ought to speak regretfully, but speaking as a person who was sent here to advance social legislation, I must speak cheerfully of the passing of all that paraphernalia which, everyone knows, was a source of delay and expense and was not always a spring of complete justice.
This is a vital point. It is a lynch-pin in the working of this Bill, because the nature of the subject for which we are providing is such that it can submit itself as simply as can be to common sense. If it cannot submit itself to the processes of common sense, the purpose and usefulness of this Bill are non est. This is not a case in which two people will go to court with some dispute which requires a judge to settle it. Actually there will no longer be two parties to a dispute—a point which some hon. Members opposite apparently overlooked. This is a matter in which the main interest is unilateral, that is to say, the main interest resides in the workman who has sustained the injury. It is not for the Minister to try and find out means of thwarting a man's rights to compensation, it is the duty of the Minister to see that the man qualifies, according to the provisions of the Act, to receive that compensation. Therefore, the need for litigation is completely eliminated and presently, if I may, I would like to criticise even those provisions in the Bill which still make it possible to submit the matter to judicial decisions. I have said that it is purely a matter of a common sense interpretation. Either the man has sustained an injury in his industry or 512 he has not, and that does not seem to me to be a matter requiring all sorts of quibbles about phrases like "arising out of or in the course of his employment." In my submission, if a workman is injured while doing anything involved in his work, or, I would add, while going to or from his work, that should be regarded as an injury arising out of and in the course of his employment. That is a matter which the Minister or his officers, or such machinery as his Department has, can well decide without all the complexities—and, to the man, perplexities—of legal procedure.
If I may turn to the question of benefits, I think there is only one test to apply to them, and that is: Are they adequate? The only common sense definition that can be given to industrial insurance or compensation, in the case of a man who is prevented from earning his living because he has suffered injury, is that it should be adequate and such as will provide him with a real standard of living. I do not see how it can be said that the compensation or insurance money is adequate unless it provides the recipient and his family with a reasonable standard of living. Of course, one understands that the matter must be subject to review from time to time and in different circumstances. For instance, a man when he sustains an injury may be responsible for a young family, and in those circumstances, in order to enable him to maintain a reasonable standard of living for himself and his family, he will receive a certain amount. It may happen that in due course some members of the family will become capable of earning money, and it is common sense that it would be necessary to make an adjustment of a relevant amount in the sum that is being paid; but there would still be the same principle operating, that the sum which the man and his dependants receive must give them a reasonable standard of living.
I ask the question, Does this Bill satisfy that principle? I say without hesitation that, in my view, 45s. is not enough as an initial payment. It does not conform with the principle that I have postulated, and I insist that the sum should be such as will give the man and his family a reasonable standard of living. The 100 per cent. disablement pension should be made higher. I say to the Minister with all respect that 45s. in discharge of the 513 100 per cent. disablement pension is not high enough and should be substantially increased. Another defection regard to benefits is that there is no machinery for and no concession of any review in cases where the cost of living increases. If the principle which I have stated is right, there must be a sliding scale to operate according to whether or not the cost of living increases, and to meet any other changes of circumstances, so as always to maintain for the injured man and his dependants a reasonable standard of living.
There is another matter which relates to the present Acts and which is, I think, omitted from the Bill. I ask the Minister to consider this matter so that it may be dealt with further in Committee. Under the present Acts a rise in wages which the workman would have had if he had not been injured gives him a right to an increase in compensation. I ask why this principle is not to be found in the present Bill? In the same way as there should be an automatic rise if there is an increase in the cost of living, there should be power for the man to have a review in order that justice may be done to him in regard to the benefit which he receives. The importance of this matter is accentuated by he fact that in this Bill pre-accident occupation and the wages in that occupation are not taken into account in the assessment of benefits, and therefore, one may get a case of a man who is sustaining the greatest hardship because of a rise in die cost of living but is unable to get a review of his case or to get an increase in the support which he ought to have.
I pass now to the very much litigated phrases "arising out of" and "in the course of employment." Speaking from many years' legal work in connection with the Workmen's Compensation Acts, I should have thought that one of the things that would have been completely cut out here would have been any difficulty about deciding what those phrases mean. That problem will arise under this Bill when it becomes an Act. The problems that arise under those phrases are still there. Who is going to decide the problem now? Apparently it is not the Minister. Clause 34 sets out what the Minister is entitled to do, and there is no suggestion that a decision on this very vital and very difficult matter comes within his jurisdiction. Whether an accident arises out of or in 514 the course of employment is purely a question of fact, and it should be kept as a question of fact. The great thing is to prevent it from becoming entangled in a whole complexity of legal problems and decisions. If that question is to go to a commissioner or to three commissioners, under Clause 40 or Clause 43, which it looks as if it will—although, to be frank, I am not clear whether that is the meaning of the Clause or Clauses—we shall have a repetition of all the old legal delays, controversies and struggles. I ask hon. Members, particularly on this side, who will be responsible for the Measure when it goes to Committee, to see that at all events we are safeguarded from that repetition, and that this Bill carries out what is supposed to be its central principle, namely, the elimination of controversy and legal delays.
In addition to that, certain confusion is bound to arise on Clauses 35 and 40. In Clause 35 the Bill allows a decision of the Minister to go to the High Court if the Minister himself does not refer the question to the High Court. Whereas under Clause 40 a specially difficult question of law goes to commissioners, if there is a difficult question of fact, it goes to commissioners, with the assistance of assessors. Here we have a duplicity of methods of dealing with questions of difficulty that arise. Either the Minister himself may send a question to the High Court, where, I suppose, it would come before a single judge, or, under the other Clauses, if there is a point of law or of fact, it has to go to commissioners, with assessors. I ask the Minister to re-examine that decision because it introduces not only an unnecessary confusion but one which appears to be very dangerous indeed.
As a footnote to that I ask myself: What questions are going to crop up under Clauses 35, 40 and 43? What will be the consequence in delay and difficulty to the workman before he gets his benefits, if he is going to get them at all? Are we to have another 3,000 cases about which we heard yesterday in consequence of the phrasearising out of and in the course of employment,not because it is going to the courts, but because it is going to an entirely different form of tribunal? I ask the Minister to scrutinise this closely before it gets to 515 Commitee and I hope that Members will do the same.
There is another point in the Measure to which I think attention must be drawn. Take the phrase:Any contract of service or apprenticeship.That is the phrase used in the First Schedule as a sort of definition of the person who comes within this particular legislation. Under the present law, the workman who is brought in is described as "any manual, clerical or other worker," and under the Bill any contract of service, expressed or implied, written or oral, is included. Under the old law contract for services, as distinguished from contract of service was not included. There is a very important point here from the workman's point of view. A contract for services, as far as I can see, is not included in the present legislation; and it is apparently not in the Bill. Let me illustrate that. Supposing a contractor in a small way undertakes work for another, and sustains accident, he is not included under the present law, and from my reading of the Bill he would not be included under the Bill. Take another case, say that of the foreman of a gang of tree-fellers. He would not be included under this Bill. A journeyman slater under contract with a firm to do work for a fixed price would not be included under the Bill as it stands at present. Is it right, considering the aim we have in view in this legislation, that these people should still not be included?
We are told that this is a Measure of universal application where there is no exception either of status or of work, and here are one or two examples of where that is absolutely contradicted and does not operate. I ask the Minister to consider that point, because if a Bill seeks to change the basis of workmen's compensation to include employment without limit of earnings, it must logically cover all cases where work is undertaken whatever its character. I will further illustrate that. Why should work of a casual nature be excluded merely because it does not happen to be in the employer's trade or business? Why should that be so, when the test of employment is the fact of employment and not its nature or degree? If there is a contract of service, why should it make any difference whether the service is in the employer's trade or busi- 516 ness or anywhere else. The man is employed and, having regard to what we have been told is to be the broad basis of this legislation, work of a casual nature ought not to be excluded. It is illustrated by the case of the outworker. Outworkers have been brought in. That is the case where the employer has no control over the workman at all. The workman merely gets the employer's materials and articles and works on them at his own home and on his own premises. Therefore, there is no distinction between those two types of work at all.
There is also the question where there is employment by the employer of members of his family, and there again I would like the Minister to look further into the matter and perhaps go into it on Committee. I do not want to take up any more time. There is the question of going to and from work. There are a number of things which I must reserve until the Committee stage. What I have said is merely intended as helpful criticism. It is not in the least, condemning the Bill. The Bill has many good qualities. Therefore I conclude by saying that the Bill is good now, and I hope the Minister will find it possible to make it still better.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Harrison (Nottingham, East)
This is the first time I have had the privilege of addressing this House, and I desire to make one or two general comments on this Bill and also to indicate certain of its implications. Quite a number of our people have a cherished ideal of what should constitute a comprehensive industrial insurance Bill and we believe that, apart from the injury suffered by the workman on the occasion of an accident, he should not be called upon to suffer any other injury whatsoever. By a further injury, I mean an injury in the direction of being deprived of monetary income because of the accident. That is our ideal, and one which we cherish very much, but we accept this Bill as a step in the right direction. I think that, even at this late stage in the Debate, it would not be a bad idea if we re-stated what we ultimately hope to achieve. I would also like to press the Minister to consider again the provision relating to old cases. It is not at all clear in the Bill as printed that the old cases will be brought under its provisions, and I would suggest that the word "must" should be inserted when we come to con- 517 sider the old cases that are outstanding, and which will be left out of consideration under the new Bill, unless we make that alteration.
I recognise that this Bill is a new departure and that we have before us now a State scheme as described by the Minister, and, because of the fact that it is a State scheme, I think the implications involved in it are very important indeed. When we are considering the benefits for total incapacity, I think we should insist on a relationship between the money paid to a man under this legislation, and the amount of money paid to a Service pensioner. I recall the statement made by the hon. Member for Wavertree (Mr. Raikes): "I, as a workman, will receive a certain figure for total incapacity. I, as a soldier, should receive a figure that has some relationship to what I receive as a workman." I would take that argument one stage further, and say that, if I have the good fortune to reach an age when I am entitled to the old age pension, the same principle should apply in that direction also. There is a relationship between the amount paid to old age pensioners and the amount paid to permanently disabled workmen. I would also point out, in connection with total incapacity and the condition that it must be arising out of or during the course of employment, that this amount will have an important bearing on the amounts which we arrive at when we are considering the figures under the other schemes of social service, such as sickness benefits. It is only by keeping a relationship between all these total incapacity payments that we can hope to settle some of these unsolved problems as they exist under the present law.
I would also ask the Minister, very earnestly, to continue the schedule of industrial diseases. That seem to me to be highly important in relation to a Bill of this kind. We have had no assurance, that this will be done under the provisions of the new Bill. I hope that the Minister will consider that aspect of the matter. I think he should take into consideration the necessity for a harmonious development and dove-tailing of the various rates of benefit, not only under this Bill, but under other Measures that come before this House, and I would also remind him that the question of contributions is a very serious factor from the point of view of the working man. We should consider 518 very carefully the wisdom of continuously increasing the contributions necessary from individuals employed in industry. That is a most limiting factor, and I suggest that it should be looked into very closely, in connection with the Government's comprehensive social insurance proposals, in order to avoid any possibility of the contributions by the individual workers being increased to such an extent that they become a burden week by week as the different Acts are brought into being.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Hale (Oldham)
I have observed with some surprise that, although there appears to be universal rejoicing at the obsequies of workmen's compensation, there appears to be a great deal of gloom at the christening of the National Insurance Act. It is a child born of mixed political parentage, conceived in time of strain and stress and, in my respectful opinion, prematurely delivered to the House this week. Let us be quite frank about what we are doing. We promised to give the workers additional social insurance. We are not giving it to them, but selling it to them and selling it at a fairly high price. The whole of the additional benefits under this scheme are being paid for by the worker and paid for in advance.
Having said that, I want to say a word about the rates of benefits. I congratulate the Minister, as we all do, on bringing forward any Measure to amend the Workmen's Compensation Acts and any Measure that will increase the benefits, but I say with respect that, when particulars of some of these benefits go forth, they will cause a great deal of disappointment. Let me take an all too common case from the colliery district from which I come. A miner, newly married, has founded a home. His wife is expecting her first child when the news comes through that the man has met with a sudden, and, very often, preventable, death in the course of his work. I want to ask the Lord Privy Seal, who I understand is to reply to the Debate, to tell us just what immediate benefits the widow will receive during her period of pregnancy. If I read the Bill aright, her benefit will be 20s. per week, or approximate equivalent to 8s. a week at the rates prevailing when the first Acts were passed, and I say with respect that that is not satisfactory. 519 There is one other feature of the Bill which also, in my view, is most unsatisfactory. It is another example of delegated legislation—another example of a scheme the major details of which are going to be put forward in the form of Regulations. I see motions on the Front Bench opposite of some surprise that there should be criticism of delegated legislation from this side of the House. Let me say at once—By all means have your delegated legislation as long as you have control. Without that, the Minister is going off to his private suite downstairs to make his Regulations, and he will place his fledglings on the Table and say "Kill them if you dare."
What is the scheme that is proposed? I referred to the widow with all the responsibilities which are before her, and with the sadness of death hanging over the household. What scheme is provided for her? According to the scheme, she has to fill in the prescribed form or notice, give it to the prescribed person at the prescribed place, then give a prescribed notice of claim giving the prescribed particulars to the prescribed person who has not yet been appointed. I say that this House is entitled to more details of how a scheme of that kind will work.
There is a further item that I believe has not yet had attention and, in my view, represents a really grave defect in the Bill. I refer to Clause 23. One of the privileges that has been fought out in the law courts has been the question of the workman who has been compelled, or whose employers have sought to compel him, to undergo a serious operation to remedy the injury from which he is suffering. All too often, workmen have been compelled to have an operation which has left them more severely crippled than before, but this Measure goes much further than the old. It not only provides that the workman shall comply with every form of medical and surgical advice that is prescribed by the medical officer in charge of the case, but in Clause 23, it provides that he shall observe any directions given by the medical practitioner in charge of the case and any prescribed rules of behaviour. I know the Minister is most sympathetic, I know that there is no one in this House more capable of being in charge of a Measure of this kind, but this Government may not always remain in office, 520 and, with respect, unless it provides some better Measures than this, it probably will not.
Under that Clause the man can be told to go to bed at 8 o'clock at night; he may be told that he must abstain from liquor, and, if seen in a pub, he may be refused compensation. Or, if he happens to have a bibulous doctor, he may be forced to have a bottle of port after dinner every night. And if hon. Members think I exaggerate, let me put the one point of major importance. Under this Clause he can be prescribed light work. It is a very common prescription for a medical man to give in workmen's compensation cases, particularly in cases of neurasthenia and neurosis which one often associates with miners. A doctor may say, "Go back to light work" and how many times has one known of medical men prescribing light work at a colliery, although every one who knows anything about a colliery knows there is no light work there? This is not the whole of the difficulty. I am a little surprised that in this House, where the law is made, I should begin to feel almost a little ashamed at belonging to the profession that produced Lenin and Abraham Lincoln and Gandhi and Pym and Danton and, if you like, the Prime Minister and the President of the Board of Trade. But the remarks that were made yesterday about lawyers were of the type that I have frequently heard lawyers make about legislators—they were not complimentary.
I hope, Sir, you will give me one more minute to refer to a great class of public servants not previously referred to in this Debate—the county court judge—a tribunal which has given to workmen's compensation cases the most sympathetic and kindly attention. If a case is urged against the county court judge, it is frequently urged by insurance companies that they have leaned to the side of the widow and the orphan. They have given to these cases a wealth of learning and a wealth of industry, and they are there, appointed, ready to do the job with a wealth of knowledge, and you say, "No, we will appoint new tribunals after the type that administered the pensions after the last war, and after the type that administered labour problems in this." I have had some experience of both. I remember one case where an employers' representative, after being kept waiting one and a half 521 hours by one of these tribunals, was told that the case had been disposed of and that the appeal had been dismissed. As he was there to secure the dismissal of the appeal, he left satisfied with the law, but next day he had a telephone message to say that there had been a mistake—it had been thought that the employer was appealing and not the worker. Is the Minister satisfied that this type of tribunal is the best way of dealing with the type of question likely to arise?
Members have too often assumed in the course of this Debate that the question that is to be decided is the initial question of capacity; it is not. The Minister referred in his speech, when he talked about having got rid of the law, to the 3,000 cases, many of which are not cases of workmen's compensation at all and many were decided long before 1906. They have taken 40 years to accummulate and then only because an enterprising firm of legal booksellers thought it a good thing to report every case, whether of the slightest importance or not. But two minutes afterwards the Minister, when he found himself in a corner because those wretched wordsout of and in the course of his employmenthave been used in this Act, said that we should not have difficulty in interpreting those now because we had the help of Willis, or of the judicial decisions, and it is now decided and we now understand what it means. But you are going to have that in every case and, in point of fact, you are formally abolishing all this law, law which is of real importance.
May I refer to the case of the man with miner's nystagmus, about which a grant legal battle is always fought? Is that man to be forced underground to catch the disease again? It has been a great battle, and I was amazed when I heard the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) refer to these palladiums of our liberties in the courts, which have been the pride of our Constitution, as "quibbles and the paraphernalia of the law." At this moment in Luneburg and Nuremberg, we are giving the wealth of our legal talent free to men who, if their guilt is proved, have been guilty of the worst crimes that civilisation has known. Yet we are told that we cannot give it to the workman who is fighting a battle for his compensation. There are over 80 522 members of our profession in this House of varying degrees of political enlightenment—some on the benches opposite, right across to myself. If the Minister wants a scheme devised that will take the cost out of the law, which should be done, and which will abolish the wretched anomaly that a workman should have to risk his life's savings to try to establish his right, we will do it for him and we will put a scheme of law reform before him which will give him and his colleagues the thanks of posterity. That can be done. By all means remove the cost at once. If you leave the right of appeal to the county court judges, you have only to say that no costs shall be awarded to either side. You can if you like—I will raise no objection—extend the right of representation, but these are problems too difficult to be decided in hole and corner; too difficult to be decided by a method that in one village one decision will prevail, and in another, another decision.
I yield to no one in my respect for the medical profession, but its members are not competent to decide legal matters. They are not competent for this reason, that the medical question is not the legal quesion—the problem that comes up time after time—was death due to an accident? From a medical point of view it was not, and from a legal point of view it was. There is a whole body of decisions which you are abolishing now to say that a workman who drops dead from over strain, from aneurism of the aorta, or from one of the various ills from which man suffers, can get compensation if the court is satisfied that he died five minutes earlier than he would have done because of stress of work. You will never get a doctor to say that.
I have had the good fortune to be associated with the miners' unions for many years. I know of the respect and the affection in which the Minister is held in the mining world and I know his knowledge of these problems. I have had the good fortune to be adviser of two large miners' unions and many other unions for some time, and they have brought to me some of the happiest relationships of my life and some of my greatest friends. I want to say this: one of the great works that the unions have done in the past is the work of compensation, and it has been a great cause of recruitment of membership to the unions. It is 523 one of the jobs they have done supremely well, and I hope that the Minister, through them, will preserve to the workman—by all means eliminate the cost, by all means have initial inquiries, but I hope he will give the workman a right of appeal, and a final appeal, if he likes, to the local county court without cost and allow the judge to determine these very vexed and difficult questions which are not legal quibbles, but which are intricate questions affecting one section, raises another matter and gets on to dangerous ground.
We are proposing State ownership of the mines which I wholly support; we are proposing nationalisation of the health services, and I wholly support that. But I want hon. Members to understand that when a workman has to go to a State doctor, after an accident incurred in the service of a State employer, and then has to go to a State official to decide whether he is entitled to compensation, there will be a great deal of dissatisfaction about the result. In my respectful view that is not a Socialist dream but a Marxist nightmare, and I appeal to the Minister to co-operate in this matter, by reconsideration, so as to preserve some of the liberties of which we have boasted in the past, and which are so valuable.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Dr. Barnet Stross (Hanley)
May I, first take the opportunity of congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale) and say that eloquence and ability such as he has shown, combined with sincerity, must always impress the House? We shall expect to hear him often in the future, to our advantage.
I read this Bill with great interest and considerable pleasure. There are certain principles in it which I find attractive, as compared with the somewhat unprincipled state of affairs that exists to-day. I speak as a medical man, not a lawyer, and as one who has had, perforce, to live among lawyers for 20 years. I like the principle—and here I differ from my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan)—that there should be complete dissociation between compensation and earnings, for the people who have been penalised in the past have been those whose earnings have been low, either because of trade depression, or sickness or physical, or mental incapacity, which 524 has prevented them from earning a high rate of wages. That penalty has passed, inevitably, from the breadwinner to his wife and children, so that we have helped to create a class of people vulnerable, through sickness and malnutrition, to every type of disease, a class of people who should never have to exist in a civilised community under the sufferings with which they have had to contend. I am glad that the worker-employer association has now been broken for ever. We have discussed the bitterness and difficulties associated with that relationship, but we have not been able to assess how much wealth has been lost to the country by that bitterness and conflicts.
Not all of us can concur with the expressions of opinion we have heard from many quarters that the county court is the ideal place for the workman to obtain justice. If that were the case then those of us who are interested in the law, whether as doctors or lawyers, would not speak, as we do, of county court judges belonging to one of two classes; we should not be saying, "He is a workman's judge," and, "He is an employer's judge." My own experience in North Staffordshire has been that the workman has been carefully defended, and that justice has been done so far as the law could possibly give it to him—and there is all the difference in the world between justice and law. But there are other areas in the country, where I have given evidence, where the picture is very different, where the county court judge has not always been conversant with the type of work as he might have been, and not always as sympathetic as he might have been to the injured workman. The injured workman often realises, after being "rubbished"—a technical term used in the Midlands—that he is not getting justice, but is undertaking a gamble as to how much he will accept as a lump sum as he shakes and trembles at the ordeal that confronts him. Whatever else might be said about the tribunals which will be set up he will not be frightened in that way.
If there were time—and there is not—I would make certain suggestions to the Minister. I will conclude by saying that the Bill opens the door to a better method of dealing with this very vexed problem. The weaknesses and anomalies that some of us see in the Bill are of minor import- 525 ance compared to the fact that we have, at last, attained a real principle. I sincerely hope that we can bring this to full fruition, and that in doing so, we shall be able to contribute in some way to relieving the tension and diminishing the bitterness which has existed between those who have to work and those who employ them.
§ 7.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller (Daventry)
I think the House will agree that the two days' Debate we have had on this Bill following, as it does, the two days' Debate we had on the White Paper almost a year ago, have by no means been wasted. Indeed, we have had, as we had then—and I sat through the greater part of that Debate, as I have of this—a considerable amount of criticism of the scheme in various directions, although, on tile whole, there has been general acceptance of the main alterations that are contemplated. To-day, in a differently constituted House from that which discussed the White Paper, this Debate has taken much the same course. I myself am in considerable agreement with the hon. Member for South-West St. Pancras (Mr. H. Davies) when he said that this Bill is not the last word in dealing with the problems of those who are injured in industry.
I feel, also, that the reception which this Bill and the White Paper have had, augurs well for the acceptance of this Measure at first throughout the country, for its acceptance by the majority of those whom we represent. But in my opinion its lasting acceptance by the people depends on a consideration of three factors—first, the scope of the Bill, second, the benefits that are given and third, but by no means least, the manner in which it will be administered when it becomes an Act. I want to deal with these three topics one by one.
First, with regard to the scope. The hon. and gallant Member for Barkston Ash (Colonel Ropnor) and the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), who seemed to think that although the Liberal Party were partners in the last Coalition Government, the Bill produced by that Government was solely the product of the party opposite and the Conservative Party; both these hon. Members drew attention to the discrepancies that resulted from the different 526 treatment of a workman who receives an injury when not employed and one who receives an injury in the course of his employment. Of course, there will always be, while you have different treatment for those injured in industry to the ordinary population of the country, a border line. That must be drawn. Indeed, you will have hard cases on one side of the line. It is a difficult matter to know where to draw the line. I must confess I, personally, feel some doubt whether the Minister—whom I would like to congratulate on a most lucid and convincing exposition of this Bill—has drawn the line here in the right place. He said that a man going to work—I am not reading his actual words but I think I can give the gist of them, and I am sure he will correct me if I am wrong—in a vehicle engaged by his employers would be covered, but a man using a public conveyance along the same road would not be. He said that the risk was not the same, but I should have thought the risk was the same whether the workman was travelling in a public conveyance or in a bus hired by his employers. That is the difficulty—where to draw the line—and it may be that in years to come a further Bill will be introduced, possibly by the party on this side of the House carrying this matter a little further.
Another significant matter with regard to scope is the number of people now brought in—the number of people who will be included in this National Insurance Scheme. In that respect, one must not disregard the numbers of black coated workers and other employees who will be embraced by the scheme, and who will be paying contributions with a lower expectation of benefit than those engaged in more hazardous industries. I had the good fortune to catch Mr. Speaker's eye in the Debate on the White Paper, and I suggested then, and I repeat now, that I am sure those who are engaged in the more sheltered industries, whether they be employers or workpeople, will gladly contribute some part of the premium necessary for the proper insurance of those engaged in the more risky industries.
With regard to benefits, the biggest change seems to me to be that no longer are the benefits related to the man's pre-accident earnings. I regard that change as, perhaps, the most important in this Bill. You can never have a really equit- 527 able system if a man's compensation, which may endure for many years, was just to depend on what the rate of wages were at the time he sustained his injury. A man losing a leg at a time when wages were low would get a rate of compensation much lower, it may be, than the man who was injured in time of war, or some other time, when wages were high, and the two men might be doing the same job. I think that the fact that this Bill rules out that inequality is a great and strong argument in its favour. I want to ask the Minister about one other matter. I myself, and I think I can say hon. Members on this side of the House, regard it as of vital importance that those who have suffered in this war in the service of the country should not receive a disability pension which is lower than that granted to the casualty of industry.
I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown), in a most eloquent and convincing speech, raise the same point, and I do ask that before this Debate is concluded we should hear a clear and unequivocal statement on that question. I ask that the principle that disability pensions for war efforts should be related and equal to the pensions granted to those who suffer in industry should be clearly recognised. I must confess I was somewhat surprised to hear the Minister—in fact I think it is the only criticism I make of his speech—give such a very weak and non-committal answer when he was asked a question on this point by the hon. and gallant Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser). His answer was that he was responsible for the Bill, and that a question that affected another scheme was not one to which he could be expected to reply. I sympathise with the Minister introducing his first Bill, but I hope that the Lord Privy Seal, who is a member of the Government, and who is going to reply to this Debate, will be able to carry the matter further, because, I think, this is a matter that should be put beyond doubt before the Second Reading is given to this Bill. Surely, the Government have made up their minds by now on that question—a question which was bound to be raised.
I should like to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary, if I may, on the manner in which he overcame a great ordeal, a greater ordeal than I have ever had, of not only just making a maiden 528 speech but of making one from the Front Bench, and I must say that I think the manner in which he conducted himself was very gratifying to me as representing a neighbouring constituency. I thought his statement on this was a little disappointing. He said that we might hear something satisfactory on the Committee stage. Rather, "jam to-morrow but none to-day." I am rather doubtful in view of what the Minister said whether the jam to-morrow on the Committee stage will be of very good quality. For the Minister said that while he would be influenced by the schedule of assessment used by the Ministry of Pensions he would not be bound by it, and he would vary it if need be.
Does that mean that a man who loses an arm in the service of his country is going to be assessed at a lower degree of disability than the man who loses an arm in a mine? We ought to have that cleared up, because, in my belief, it would be monstrous if there were any discrepancy at all between the degrees of disability, whether you lose your arm in the Services or in the mines or in a factory. I hope the Lord Privy Seal will put beyond doubt that no matter whether the schedule of assessment is altered from what it has been up to date under the Ministry of Pensions, that these schedules on disability will always be kept similar. May I ask what is proposed to be done with regard to those who are receiving payments under the Civilian War Injuries Scheme. For100 per cent. disability they receive a pension of 40s. a week. Is that going to be raised? Are they going to have a different schedule of assessment? I would like to have answers to these questions. It has been said in the course of this debate that the employers by this Bill are getting away with millions.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
The hon. Member for West Fife says £7,000,000. Some talk about that as an argument why employers should now be expected to pay higher contributions. I take the view that that statement is inaccurate, and the argument fallacious. I say so because the premiums the employers have paid in relation to workmen's compensation have really been premiums paid for, and on behalf of and for the benefit of, 529 the employees, it is a very good thing that the old litigation between the injured workman and the employer, the employer being controlled by the insurance company in the background, will now become a thing of the past. One of the great advantages of this Measure is that instead of the employers and employees being at arm's length over these matters they will have a joint share and be joint partners in its proper administration. I welcome that. I would remind hon. Members opposite of what the Lord President said in opening the Debate on the White Paper, that at the time workmen's compensation started it was thought that the employers would be a convenient channel for passing the money on from the insurance company.
Some injuries may result from the negligence of employers. In those cases there is still the common law action available, but in the case of many accidents it is hard to say whose fault it is. It may be due to a latent defect in the machinery; it may be an error of judgment on the part of another workman. It is hard to say that in every case the employer is at fault, it is hard to establish liability on the part of the employer, but from now on, it is not a question of establishing liability on the part of the employer. Under this Measure we can go some way towards carrying out what I believe was the original intention of the first workman's compensation law, that those engaged in industry who suffered industrial injury should receive benefit.
I would like to ask the Lord Privy Seal what is to happen to those employees of insurance companies whose jobs will be destroyed by this Measure. The Parliamentary Secretary said he wanted them to offer themselves for employment under his Ministry. If that be so, I would ask that the terms of employment which they will receive should be made public at the earliest possible moment. Many of these employees have spent the greater part of their life administering workman's compensation. The Minister will agree that they would be valuable in his Ministry. Are they to be admitted as established civil servants? What is to happen to their pensions? It would give great comfort to them if, at an early date, something of a concrete nature was said, something more definite than was said by the Parliamentary Secretary. 530 As regards rates of benefit, it has been indicated in the course of this Debate, quite wrongly, that we on this side of the House are only interested in trying to keep down rates of benefit. That is not so. I do not think there is anyone in this House who does not want to see the workman receive proper compensation. The difficulty is that under an insurance scheme the amount divisible in benefit must depend upon the extent of the contribution or premium paid. I hope that if we pursue all possible means of accident prevention and for the prevention of disease, the incidence of industrial casualties may fall, and we may find in a few years' time that it is possible to increase the rates of benefit without increasing the rates of contribution. It will all depend upon the balance which remains in the Fund. One must bear in mind that although a great section of the community will be prepared to subscribe for the benefit of those in more hazardous employment, the burden cast upon that section cannot be too great, it must not be raised too high, otherwise there will be trouble.
I do not propose to comment to-night on the Minister's suggestion that those who are incapacitated from following their pre-accident occupation by reason of their injury shall get an increase of 25 per cent. I do not propose to comment upon that now because we have not seen the actual terms of the proposal. I hope that they will soon be put on the Order Paper, so that we shall have ample time for their consideration. My hope is that the cases in which that increase will have to be given will be small, for the reason that I hope that by rehabilitation we shall be able to find employment of a similar character may be not in the mines, may be somewhere else, where those injured people can earn just as much as they were previously earning. It is far better that they should, and they will be far happier if they can do that than if they feel they have to make out a case for a 25 per cent. increase.
In referring to claims, I come to the third part of my speech—administration. It is a most important part of this system. A great responsibility will rest upon the insurance officers. They will not only have to administer this Measure in a humane and sympathetic manner, they will, at the same time, have to elicit the 531 facts, and let there be no mistake about this, they will be bound by the law just as much as any county court judge, and they will be bound by the regulations which the Minister makes. I wish them well, and I hope that they will work satisfactorily. They will have to face a most formidable problem. We have heard the Minister say that under this Bill the onus of proving that the accident did not arise out of employment would rest on the insurance officer. In the first place the insurance officer will have to determine whether that onus has or has not been discharged. That will be a question of law. There are very difficult questions which he will have to consider, for instance, whether under Clause 7 the accident happened while a man was acting in breach of regulations but for the purpose of his employment, questions which a county court judge has, up to now, had to consider. I do not feel that we must underrate the task that confronts the insurance officers, or the burden that will fall upon them, and I hope that the Minister will be able to secure the people capable of discharging that burden throughout the country.
It is right that there should be a right of appeal by the workman from his decision. The appeal here is rather modelled on the appeal to the Pensions Appeal Tribunal and the appeal is to the local appeal tribunal. What should be the considerations affecting our minds regarding the setting up of any appeal tribunal at all? It seems to me that you can say there are three. First of all, the tribunal should be as impartial as possible, favouring neither one side nor the other; secondly, all available evidence and arguments should be put by each side before the tribunal—in the case of the workman by him or his representatives, and in the case of the insurance officer who has refused the claim, by him. There should be opportunities of testing the evidence to see whether it is true, and that is done, of course, by cross-examination. Finally, if there is to be a satisfactory tribunal there must be a reasoned decision, and the decision and hearing must be in public.
If the House accepts those as the criteria for the sort of tribunal which should be set up, let us examine what is going to be set up in the light of those principles. 532 First of all, can it be said that this tribunal will be the most impartial? I feel a little doubt on this matter. I rather like the idea of the employer and the workman participating because they are joint partners in the execution of the scheme, with the State as a third party. At the same time it seems to me that difficulties will be presented. Will it be quite such an impartial tribunal when you have a trade unionist applicant and a non-unionist workman on the tribunal, or vice versa? I do not know. I am not quite sure. That is a matter which we ought to consider in detail when we reach the Committee stage. There is one matter which I am sure is of the greatest importance, and it is this. It is a matter to which attention has been drawn earlier in this Debate, and particularly, if I may say so, in the excellent and well delivered speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Lieut.-Colonel Walker-Smith), and that is as to the matter of representation.
I was sorry to hear the Parliamentary Secretary say that this Measure was drafted with the intention that lawyers should be excluded from representing workmen, because that is the effect of what he said. I do not welcome that at all, not on the ground that I belonged and still belong to the legal profession but because I believe that is an unfair discrimination and not to the advantage of the applicant. I take the view that the claimant should have the right to be accompanied by his own chosen representative, whether a trades union official or a member of the legal profession. This scheme, it should be remembered, is to cover the managing director as well as the sweeper downstairs, and the managing director might not have an appropriate trade union to which he could belong, or rather, there might not be a trade union willing to accept him. We want to have the full right to have the advice and assistance of the gentlemen of the legal profession if we wish to use them. Those are not my words; those are the words of the Minister of Labour in the Debate on the White Paper. I agree with the Minister of Labour, and I am sorry that the Parliamentary Secretary in his excellent speech thought that one of the purposes of this Bill was to exclude trades unions from having such representation as they desire before these tribunals. I hope that decision will be 533 reconsidered because it is recognised in this Bill that on big and important matters of principle the cases may go to the High Court for decision. I think that is right. But those who have taken part in any legal case will know the importance in a case of that sort of having adequate representation the first time the case comes to the court. I am not seeking any particular advantages for the legal profession, but I urn asking that before that matter is finally decided it should be considered again, and I am asking that whoever may be the claimant—there is no employer respondent in this matter—he should have the right of being represented by whomsoever he wants in his endeavour to secure a benefit or a pension for the disability that he alleges he has suffered in his industrial employment.
In connection with that, I would like to say this final word. I know that trades union representatives have developed great skill and knowledge in these matters. Is the non-trade unionist going to be deprived of adequate representation before these tribunals? Is he to be compelled to join a trade union to get adequate representation, or is it going to be left for him to be represented by whom he chooses? Those are the final observations that I desire to make on the particular points on this Bill. I welcomed the White Paper and I welcome the Bill. I do not regard it as a perfect Bill. I think it is one of those Measures which will need careful consideration in Committee, and I hope the Government will give ample time for that careful consideration of all the different problems involved. I trust that when it emerges from Committee, although it is a Bill that I welcome now, I shall be able to look upon it in an even more favourable light when it has survived that ordeal.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Arthur Greenwood)
His Majesty's Government have no cause for complaint about the reception which this Bill has had on both sides of the House. After all, while hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite might have their points of view they are as much committed to the principle of social security as hon. Members on this side, and I am very glad that they have tried to live up to it yesterday and to-day. So far as I appreciate this Debate, I think most of the points raised have been really 534 Committee points. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman opposite has expressed the same view to-night. If there are any differences of substance, I think there are only two. One is the question of relating earnings to benefits, and I am not so sure that the party opposite are quite clear in their minds even about that. When the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Hertford (Lieut.-Colonel Walker-Smith) spoke about the ranks of Tuscany, saying there were differences of opinion on this side of the House, I am bound to say that I am not sure that the Conservative Party itself is agreed about relating earnings to benefits. Indeed, I have heard two points of view expressed. I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Gentleman referred to these as the ranks of Tuscany because—my verbal memory is very faulty—if I remember the "Lays of Ancient Rome," when Horatio was defending the bridge:Even the ranks of Tuscany Could scarce forbear to cheer.In this Bill we are facing a new conception of how to deal with a very vexed and tragic problem. The broad conception is accepted on all sides of the House. If I may be reminiscent, in the best part of 40 years I have been a close student of our industrial legislation. Since the days of the Lloyd George Act, I have followed all our schemes of social insurance. I have for a long time felt that we cannot avoid building it up bit by bit, rather higgledy-piggledy and in a way illogically, but I came to the conclusion years ago that the time would come when we should conceive a plan, a great scheme, to provide broad equality of treatment for all people who fall on evil days of want, through adversity.
Members of the previous House of Commons will have heard me speak on more than one occasion on this subject, which is so dear to my heart. It is right that we should overhaul not merely contributions and benefits but the principles which govern our system of social insurance. Sir William Beveridge made his contribution. I am only too sorry that, at the time I appointed him, I was not free enough to undertake the job myself. I would have preferred to do it that way. However, Sir William Beveridge did produce a scheme which was an attack on one aspect of one of the clauses of the White Paper and of the Atlantic Charter to which the world was committed— 535 Freedom from Want. I set myself, almost unconsciously, years ago to do what I could during my political life to establish a basis for an ultimate standard of life. If you look after those who are in adversity, the standard of life of those who are not will look after itself. I wanted to get a scheme somehow by which people who fell on evil days through no fault of their own, but because of the misfortunes of life, should receive the decent and humane treatment fitted to a great democratic nation.
We are working towards that goal now. I am not going to pretend that my right hon. Friend's Bill is perfect. Perfection is not given to humankind. We have now got a broad plan, the plan first submitted by Sir William Beveridge in his Report, the plan of the White Paper, which, in days before the war ended, caused a little heartburning in the House of Commons. I remember being in difficulties in those days with His Majesty's Government when I sat on that side of the House, because of the Beveridge Report. We have marched to this extent, that there is no party in the House can deny to all people who fall on evil days the claim to reasonably humane treatment. I have always believed that we should have to tackle this job piecemeal. When I sat opposite the other Box in the old House of Commons, I have pressed for the introduction of legislation in order to implement the scheme. Well, we have had Chapter I, in the Family Allowance Bill in the old House. Now my right hon. Friend has introduced his Industrial Injuries Insurance Bill, largely, let it be said, a legacy, or shall we say a heritage, something that we have derived, from the previous Government, and something which has been improved by the experience and knowledge of some of us who were not in the Government.
We march on from that, I hope, to what we call the main Bill, dealing with health insurance, unemployment insurance, old age pensions and death benefits—I almost tripped up to say "death penalties." Then we shall have got the general scheme on the Statute Book but, believe me, that does not finish the problem. We shall have got these various structures and various detailed plans on the Statute Book and then we shall have to look at the broad picture. What I 536 would like to see is—and I am not committing anybody except perhaps my right hon. Friend—before many years, for the first time in this country, a complete code of social insurance for the people of our land. That means that what we are doing to-day, and what many hon. Members will be engaged in doing in Standing Committee, is not final. It is a beginning.
One aspect of the proposals, inherent both in the Beveridge Plan and in the White Paper, is that it is as important to prevent the misfortunes and to treat the ills of life as it is to provide reasonable scales of relief. When we come, as I hope and trust we shall early next year, to a discussion of my right hon. Friend's Health Bill, we shall have to regard all these proposals in relation to health insurance. The real and vital value of this Bill is not to be found in its rates of benefit—although I shall have something to say about that—but in the new attitude towards industrial disease and rehabilitation. I remember when my right hon. Friend who is now the Foreign Secretary started, early in the war, a temporary scheme for rehabilitation of workpeople who had been laid aside for a long time, he achieved most marvelous results. Men in the coalfield who had not been down a pit for years were rehabilitated. My right hon. Friend and I, when I was in office, set up an inter-departmental Committee, under the chairmanship of the present Minister of Works, which did excellent work, which provides the basis to put rehabilitation henceforward even before scales of benefit.
The whole purpose of workmen's compensation and industrial injuries insurance is to bring people back to a position of maximum employability. We have had heartbreaking cases described to the House, like that of my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) of the eight brothers. They are terrible tragedies. The people of this country do not know the risks of industrial life. The casualties have been the forgotten people of this country. When the insurance companies had tossed out the benefits to a man they cared little about him. When, after a time, the husband or the wife was hounded by the insurance companies to accept a lump sum payment nobody cared. Now, for the first time in our history there will, I am glad to say, be no forgotten industrial casualties. It will be our pride to do everything we can to 537 bring these people back into full employment with renewed vigour and renewed pride and with no hopelessness such as has dogged hundreds of thousands of people in this country in years past.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) talked about this as a Victorian Measure, and said it was not bold enough. I am sorry he is not here. No Measure is too bold for me, but I would say that this is not a continuation of workmen's compensation—this is the end of a chapter in our industrial history. We open a new chapter now with an entirely new conception. We are, as the present Lord Chancellor said, on an uncharted sea. This is not the end, it is the beginning, and, so far as we are concerned—and I can speak for my right hon. Friend in this—if it does not work right, we will amend it to make it work right. During the Committee stage my right hon. Friend and the Parliamentary Secretary will give all the suggestions that have been made to-day, and all the Amendments that go down on the paper, really sympathetic consideration. I hope the House will accept that. I am not very forthcoming at giving pledges; I never like to make promises that I cannot fulfil—[Laughter]. If my hon. Friends, in their spirit of levity, can produce some, I shall be glad to hear about them. I have been one of the most cautious men who ever stood at that Box—a product of a bitter experience—but I can say quite sincerely to the House that we are anxious now to get a scheme that will work.
Some hon. Members still think that the basis ought to be a relation between earnings and benefits. Some hon. and hon. and learned Members think that the administrative machine is not right. If it proves not to be right, my right hon. Friend and I will come to this House and say we are sorry, and we will try another one, but what we are desirous of getting—and I am not in any way being discourteous to lawyers—is a sort of tribunal which is rather in the family atmosphere than in the atmosphere of legal argument. Hon. Members on this side of the House have had a long experience of the courts of referees. We do not need lawyers there, except to take the chair, and it has worked very well. Why? Because it was a homely talk about the problems of the man who was there, and the people on the court understood. I 538 hope that the tribunals which are now going to be set up, where the employer and the workman are both there in the common interest—no insurance money in this business, no mutual insurance, or large scale insurance, company trying to beat the man down to the minimum he can be forced to accept—a human employer and a human workman's representative will be concerned only to see that the injured man gets back to work as soon as possible in the best conditions, and is not going to be dishonoured during the period before he gets back. If that does not work, we will try something else.
We have had a most astonishing proposal about adding to wages the workman's contribution and the employer's contribution. I am bound to say this is a new proposal to me, and, I would say, a terribly dangerous one if it were ever accepted. I am bound to say we could not accept such a suggestion in any circumstances. It is true that, originally—and this has been used in the Debate during these two days—workmen's compensation was non-contributory, and I would say that, on the whole, there is a good deal of logic in making the responsibility for industrial accidents rest on the should as of the employers. Twenty-five years ago, when we had the first murmurings of the all-in insurance, invented, I think, by Sir Alfred Mond as he then was, I opposed it then in official documents, with the organisations with which I was connected, and on the platform, and I thought it right that the employers should carry that responsibility. But, speaking as one who has been thinking about these problems for many years now, I came to the conclusion, before the war, that it would be better if we altered the whole basis of workmen's compensation, bringing in the workman as a contributor. I know it is done for the first time, but the Trades Union Congress accepts it now for two reasons. It makes the workman part of the scheme. He is not any longer the tool of a mutual insurance company, or of a general insurance company, and, secondly, he has a right to press for the prevention and treatment of industrial diseases, and for the most effective kind of rehabilitation. That is the price the workers are paying for a problem which really lies on the shoulders of the employers, and I congratulate them on their foresight in taking this line. This will enable us and them to 539 take part in this great constructive task, not of paying out money to an injured man, but in devising plans whereby industrial accidents can be prevented, industrial diseases prevented or adequately treated, and the men and women brought back into the economic activities of our land under proper conditions.
We have made two alterations to the Bill as it was originally submitted. My right hon. Friend the Lord President, on being asked, did say that the Bill would be reintroduced in the new Parliament substantially in the form in which it was issued to the late House of Commons. We have, as we are entitled to do, reconsidered it. My right hon. Friend the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) was, I think, a bit near the knuckle, when dealing with the increase. He said the people of this country want to know quite clearly whence they are being governed. The General Election shows that they know that. Of course they know. This country is being governed from this House, and I regard it as right that my right hon. Friend should, if he chooses—and he has taken the honest course; he has not kept it up his sleeve; we have made a clean breast of it so that it could be argued in the House on Second Reading—make alterations in the Bill. I was never happy about the 40s. There are demands for a much bigger sum, and I hope that, one day, a larger sum will be possible, but 45s. as a minimum, I suggest, is a substantial concession which everyone, if he searches in his heart, would be willing to accept rather than create a bad-tempered situation in the House and in the Standing Committee. The other is the concession dealing with partial disablement. This is really a very knotty problem. My right hon. Friend and I have spent some hours on it and we have devised what we think is a scheme that will work out fairly. Yesterday my right hon. Friend said that he would not like to commit himself to words, and my hon. Friend who preceded me took the same line, but what we are concerned to do is to assure a satisfactory standard of life to people who have permanently lost their old employment, with the old skill and the old pride in the job—something very dear to a craftsman. For that loss, of something which is personal to them and may affect them economically very adversely, we 540 propose to add to the 45s. a further 25 per cent. I hope the House will accept these two proposals. They are not extravagant proposals and I hope they will be accepted in the spirit in which they have been offered.
I would ask the House to let us try this out. We are now embarking on the biggest constructive social experiment this country has even seen. This Bill is part of it. It will need all our patience, all our knowledge, and I hope we can retain our good tempers in the process—which may not be very easy in political life, though for the last six years I have been schooled in patience and respectability. I hope we shall do it in a good-tempered way, and try to get out of this Bill and the succeeding Bill—much longer and much more complicated in many ways—which my right hon. Friend will produce early next year, a scheme which begins but does not end, a scheme which begins this new conception of the principle of social security as a moral obligation on the nation, in the interests of the nation, to maintain and indeed improve the dignity of its citizens. The Bill will go upstairs; I know how technical it is, and I am not giving away any secrets when I say that its drafting has been a great trial to the Parliamentary draughts men. That is largely because words which mean something in the old Workmen's Compensation Act do not quite fit in to the new conception of this Bill. I ask the House to give us to-night a unanimous Second Reading of this Bill and of the Money Resolution. I hope that those of us who are not on the Standing Committee will extend to those who are, our best wishes for their success in achieving what my hon. Friend asked for when he welcomed the Bill, namely, a better Bill than it is to-day.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to deal with the two specific questions I put to him, first whether he can give an assurance that the disability pensions for industrial casualties will be the same, whatever variation may be made in either, as service pensions; and, secondly, whether the schedule of assessment of disability will be the same for those disabled in the war as for industrial casualties?
§ Mr. Greenwood
I apologise for not dealing with those two points; I did not want to shirk them. When my right hon. Friend said that these were not his 541 problems he was quite right. These are the problems of the Minister of Pensions.
§ Mr. Greenwood
All right, let us be a little patient. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions has his views on this, and I may tell hon. Members quite frankly, that this very problem is now under the immediate and very active consideration of the Government. As I said earlier in my speech, what we want out of a scheme of this kind is broad equality of treatment, and one of the reasons why certain commitments could not be accepted at this stage is that they would upset the whole basis of the relationship between this Bill, my right hon. Friend's next Bill, and the Royal Warrant. I think it is reasonable to suppose that if modifications are made in any scheme to which similar conditions apply sympathetic consideration must be shown in dealing with the problem. I am not trying to shirk it, but I do not want to give a hard and fast answer at the moment. We must, however, have regard to the conditions of ex-Service men who have been injured in the war when we are discussing the question of industrial injury. If my hon. Friend will exercise a little patience, I hope it will not be long before we can say something further on this matter.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.