§ 9.46 p.m.
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. W. M. F. Vane)
I beg to move,That the Draft National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) (Colliery Workers Supplementary Scheme) Amendment Order 1958, a copy of which was laid before this House on 9th July, be approved.This Order is a good deal more complicated than the last one, but I shall be as brief as I can in giving the outline of what it proposes. The House will remember that Section 83 of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, 1946 provided powers for a supplementary scheme to be set up within an industry. As yet, the coal mining industry alone has taken advantage of it, and a scheme came into 808 operation in 1948 which provides for supplementary benefits for colliery workers and their widows who are in receipt of benefit under the Industrial Injuries Act. This scheme is a supplementary scheme and is financed entirely from contributions from within the industry and no public money is concerned. Changes in this supplementary scheme need the approval of Parliament.
My right hon. Friend, having assurred himself that the proposals put to him here are actuarially sound, has laid this Order. The changes are made, of course, at the request of the National Committee which administers the scheme. There are three principal points. The first provides for an increase in the rate of supplement to widows' benefit. The colliery workers' benefit is expressed in the supplementary scheme as a proportion of the current rate of industrial injuries benefit, and so moves automatically with it; but the widows' rate is not so expressed and needs amendment by regulations.
The second point really is a complicated one. It concerns the limitation on the amount of supplementary benefit which, in certain circumstances, should be paid. At present, it comes into operation where the post-accident earnings plus industrial injuries benefits exceed the pre-accident earnings and operate after the injured man has returned to work and been in employment for 13 weeks. The National Committee which administers the supplementary scheme now asks that this should operate after a man has been on supplementary benefit for three weeks and should include National Insurance benefits in the calculation. This limitation does not apply to widows' benefit and death benefit, nor to a person receiving constant attendance allowance.
The third and last point is that the National Committee, like trustees of so many other funds today, is seeking powers to enable it to invest a larger proportion of its funds in industrial securities. The present maximum allowed is 25 per cent. and it has asked that it should be increased to 30 per cent. As I have explained, all the changes brought about by the Order have been requested by the national committee. My right hon. Friend has been assured that they are actuarially sound and I hope, therefore, that the House will approve the Order.
§ 9.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Bernard Taylor (Mansfield)
I am very much obliged to the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance for the clear, understanding and simple explanation he has given of what is, in its language, a somewhat complicated Order. I confess that, after listening to him, the Order is now much clearer to me than it was before.
The first of the brief comments I wish to make is that the Order refers to the only scheme of its kind under the Industrial Injuries Act. As the hon. Gentleman reminded us, during the past ten years of its operation there has been ample evidence that it has worked exceedingly well. That fact is a tribute to the foresight of both sides of the mining industry in 1948.
The additional benefit which this Colliery Workers Supplementary Scheme has provided for the injured and disabled has been very welcome. That must be evident to us all when we remind ourselves that, as I have said in the House on more than one occasion, the incidence of accident and disease in the mining industry is colossal and represents almost two-thirds of the reportable accidents that take place. This has been a welcome supplement not only to the beneficiaries of industrial injuries benefit, but also to the old workmen's compensation cases.
As the Joint Parliamentary Secretary has said, a number of changes are proposed in the Order and they have been agreed upon by the National Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers. I know that many of them are administrative changes for the convenience, particularly, of the National Coal Board. One has no complaint to make about that. What gives me great pleasure is that two types of cases have received consideration. The first is that of widows. The benefit to the widow, irrespective of age, who has a dependent child or children, is increased by 25 per cent. from 25s. to 31s. The supplementary 810 allowance to the widow under 40 without dependent children is increased from 7s. 6d. to 9s. 3d. But another important and long overdue change is made to deal with the case of the woman who has the care of a deceased persons' children. During the ten years of which I have spoken, this type of beneficiary has received no increase at all in benefit. Now it is proposed that she should be placed on the same basis as that of the widow.
The second type of case is that of the most seriously disabled, that is, those in receipt of constant attendance allowance. They are the worst type of case, the sad case, the helpless, almost the hopeless case, who must have someone to look after them. I echo the sentiments of the Joint Parliamentary Secretary who said that this type of case will differ from the other disabled inasmuch as there will be no ceiling upon their post-accident income.
Reading the OFFICIAL REPORT of the debate in another place yesterday, I noted the advice of the Actuary that the Fund will allow the additional payments to be made to the two types of case I have mentioned. I understand that the additional cost of this supplementary scheme will be in the neighbourhood of £5 million per annum. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong.
§ Mr. Taylor
I am obliged for that correction. Those are the main points in the Order, and in view of the agreement reached by both sides of the industry we on this side of the House give the scheme our support and welcome it.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That the Draft National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) (Colliery Workers Supplementary Scheme) Amendment Order, 1958, a copy of which was laid before this House on 9th July, be approved.