§ 2.36 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, I consider it both an honour and a privilege to move for your Lordships' commendation the Second Reading of the Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Benefit Bill which we are now considering. If I might venture to express one personal reflection before dealing with the Bill, it would be on the fact that we should have a Bill of this character fifty-three years after the original Workmen's Compensation Act was passed. I have very little doubt that, in the minds of the architects of that Bill, it was intended that all industrial disabilities would equally be covered. How wrong that has been, time, of course, has shown us very clearly indeed; and it only goes to show the infinite variety of problems which can arise in the social life of this country.
610 The second point that I should like to make is this. The impetus to this Bill comes primarily from a Private Member's Bill in another place. I do not suggest that there was no pressure from other sides, but the actual causa sine qua non, if I may say so, was this Bill. It is true that the matter was taken up by the late Administration, and that the Bill was materially altered. I believe it will be agreed that, after being taken up by this Administration, the Bill has been further altered, and has slightly benefited in the course of that alteration. I think it is an interesting example, and one in which we can take pride, that in matters of this character, in which the social well-being of victims of adversity is considered, there is no difference between either side of the House or, indeed, any sections of either House.
This Bill is purely beneficial in its operation, and it is believed to be substantially non-controversial. The Bill has limits, and relates only to a comparatively small group of men—mostly former coal miners—who contracted the industrial lung diseases of pneumoconiosis (which includes silicosis and asbestosis) and byssinosis, which arises from the cotton industry. For the victim to be eligible for benefit, the disease, whichever it was, must have been contracted before the old Workmen's Compensation Acts were replaced by the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, and the individual concerned must, for various reasons, not have been eligible for workmen's compensation. The object of the Bill is also limited, in that it deals only with the totally disabled and their dependants, and it they die they are, broadly, in the same position as if they were entitled to workmen's compensation. There are two reasons why these men have not been covered already. The first is because various schemes were put into operation at a date subsequent to the time when they left the causative occupation. For instance, in regard to silicosis, the scheme came into operation only in 1934, and anyone who left the industry before that date would not have been able to claim benefit. The second reason is that in certain cases the benefit was time-barred to the extent that a medical certificate had to be issued within a certain time of the roan leaving the causative industry. In the case of byssinosis 611 I believe that the period was twelve months, and in the case of pneumoconiosis five years. The cost of this scheme will be borne entirely by the Industrial Injuries Fund, and is estimated to amount to about £250,000 a year.
A point has been raised (I dare say that it will be raised again to-day) about the fact that this scheme does not include the partially disabled. But it is fundamental to this Bill, if we are to get it through at the present time, that it should not include partially disabled. The reason is that to deal with these men would raise too complex an issue to be dealt with in the short time available. There are various reasons for this, and they were fairly fully discussed in another place. First, we do not know how many men would be concerned. We are afraid that the medical panel would be completely overburdened and unable to handle the work, and it would be an extremely difficult administrative task to estimate the loss of earnings over, perhaps, thirteen or fourteen years. But the Government have undertaken to investigate this problem with the T.U.C., and if it is at all possible they will introduce a measure as soon as possible to cover this point. In the meantime, this Bill meets the most serious and urgent cases which can be dealt with quickly. The two existing benefit schemes—that of byssinosis of 1940 and the pneumoconiosis scheme of 1943—will be wound up, and I think it is proper that the House should express its appreciation to the two eminent county court judges, Sir Edwin Burgess and Judge Thomas, who have voluntarily acted as chairmen of the administrative boards of these two schemes which will now no longer operate.
In the course of the discussion in another place, I think, there was certain confusion between the meaning of total disability and total incapacity; I think perhaps it is desirable to say that those two phrases, although possibly similar in practice, are, in fact, different in derivation and application. The term "total incapacity" appears in the Workmen's Compensation Acts and has frequently been defined in law in relation to industrial accidents. The words in this Bill are "total disability" which have always been used in relation to pneumoconiosis; total disability is decided by a medical 612 board and, accordingly, is not susceptible of quite such precise definition as is possible in a court of law. I am informed, however, that it probably has a slightly wider meaning. Many considerations enter into the matter. The board, with their long experience, have the feel of this problem, and can be relied upon not to take too narrow a view, any more than they have done under the pneumoconiosis benefit scheme. The mere fact that one might be able to take on certain light employment—for example, that of caretaker, which a man might be able to do if such employment were available—would not of itself prevent a certificate of total disablement from being given; nor would the fact that the man was able to do, and did, odd jobs, either occasionally or seasonally. Even the fact that a man had a regular job of some kind might not prevent the certificate from being given if the medical board were satisfied that he had been given the work out of charity or that he was able to do it only with considerable effort and strain, and possibly with the risk of further injury to his health. I should add that once the medical board have given a certificate it cannot lawfully be rescinded, even if the man is able to secure some kind of work.
May I now return to the Bill itself? Clause 1 enables the Minister to set up a scheme. It is difficult in an Act to cover every contingency and it is felt that certain Amendments may be required defining more fully what is intended to be covered. It is for that reason that the procedure of the scheme has been adopted. The scheme will require an affirmative Resolution of both Houses. Clause 1 also enables the death benefit to be paid retrospectively. I think that this point requires some little comment, because we have often said in this House that we do not like retrospective legislation, particularly, I think in financial matters. But the families of some of these men have been waiting a long time, as the records show. Nevertheless, a line has to be drawn at some point, and I think it is proper to say that the Government have put the line as far back as they can reasonably be expected to do. It is now nearly two years back—that is to say, all deaths subsequent to December 31, 1949, will be covered. To attempt to go further would be to enter into the realm of speculation.
613 Clause 2 makes it clear that the scheme applies only to genuinely uncompensated cases; it does not apply where workmen's compensation or civil damages under an industrial injuries scheme have been paid. Clause 3 deals with the benefits which the scheme will provide. The position can perhaps best be put in this way. The basic allowances are on all fours with workmen's compensation, and the additional allowances are on all fours with the industrial injuries scheme. The basic allowances are additional to any sickness benefit or retirement pension which is payable under the National Insurance Act—and that, of course, arises only in cases where the man, as it were, is in benefit; in such circumstances he is then entitled to his sickness benefit, as he would be if this Act had not been passed. The administrative provisions under the Workmen's Compensation Acts will apply—that is to say, the scheme will be administered by the same body, under the chairmanship of Mr. Paul Sandilands, K.C., Recorder of Birmingham. The hoard will include representatives of all points of view in industry and experts in workmen's compensation, and the medical arrangements will be in the hands of the Silicosis Medical Board. Clause 5 revokes the schemes which I have mentioned as being no longer necessary, and it raises the benefit under those schemes to the same level as those mentioned by this Act.
The Government are anxious to proceed as quickly as possible with this work and preparations have already started. We hope that Resolutions will be put before both Houses shortly after the Christmas Recess. The Ministry have undertaken to endeavour to make the terms of the scheme as simple as possible, so that they will be readily understood by all who may be interested. I will say one word with regard to prevention, which I am sure everyone recognises as being far more important than any cure. I think it is fair to say that there is disappointment at the progress which has been made in that sphere. There is no doubt that a very large number of people are occupied, and substantial sums of money are being spent in order to find a solution to this problem—I am referring particularly to efforts by the Pneumoconiosis Research Unit at Cardiff, by the National Coal Board, with the co-operation of the men's representatives, by the Ministry of Fuel 614 and Power, and by the Ministry of Labour and National Service. They are doing all they can, and one hopes that their efforts will be rewarded so that an end may be put to the evil, personal and national, brought about by this terrible disease. Whilst the object of this Bill is fairly simple, there are one or two difficulties in explaining its dovetailing into the rest of our Industrial Insurance structure. I hope that I shall be able to answer any question that may be put to me. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—(The Earl of Selkirk.)
§ 2.45 p.m.
§ LORD KERSHAW
My Lords I am glad to have the opportunity of congratulating the noble Earl on his good fortune in sponsoring for the second time a Bill which is known to be approved by both sides of the House. We shall do what we can to help the Government to pass the Bill into law as quickly as possible. Nevertheless, there are one or two points in connection with this Bill which we feel are worthy of consideration to-day. I want to confine myself to one point which the noble Earl dealt with, and dealt with sympathetically. It is a point on which one may be able to make some suggestions for the solution of the problem involved. It is concerned with the cases which are excluded from this Bill. As the noble Earl said, the Minister in another place undertook to confer with authoritative bodies as to whether he could not deal quickly with people who are suffering from this disease but who are not totally disabled. It has been said that it would be impossible to estimate the number of these persons, or the cost of extending this scheme to those who are only partially disabled. I feel that I can say, with all respect, that I do not accept that reason alone as a valid one for denying justice to these victims of industrial conditions.
It must be nearly thirty years since I personally was concerned with the demand that these diseases should be scheduled under the Workmen's Compensation Acts. The point I wish to make is that the considerations we put forward then proved in the light of time to be true. Our contention thirty years ago that these wretched diseases were caused by the industry was denied or questioned, but these claims have since been proved to be true and justifiable 615 claims for workmen's compensation. The victims of the disease knew that the disease was contracted in the industry; their fellow workers knew that it was contracted from their work; industrial organisations, such as the trade unions also knew. Whether the employers knew it is not for me to say. However, it was the ordinary practice in those days, under the Workmen's Compensation Acts, to resist any extension of the scheme, whatever the evidence might be. The employers, notwithstanding their opposition to any extension of the scheme, could not dispute that the disease was there and that the sufferers were doomed to a lingering death, because, as the Minister said recently in another place, it is a disease which is quite incurable and which must finally lead to death. It was the common practice, in the days of which I am speaking, to ask for proof that the condition was caused by the industry, but it took two decades to enable the progress of medical science and diagnosis finally to prove that the origin of the disease was, in fact, the industry. Pneumoconiosis and byssinosis did not start in 1940 or 1943. They were known, as I have indicated, thirty years ago; and they must always have been afflicting our people, and at a time when the wealth of the country was being amassed by the owners of mines, on the one hand, and of cotton mills on the other.
The fortunes, or I should say in these days the residues of those fortunes, are probably, in one form or another, still in the hands of the descendants of those employers. I put it to your Lordships, is it right or reasonable that the cost of providing a modest compensation to the victims who are still alive should be advanced as a reason for not doing anything for them unless they are totally disabled? We are spending several thousand million pounds on armaments and, perhaps what is more apropos to this particular subject, according to the Second Report of the Ministry of National Insurance published yesterday, the National Insurance Reserve Fund on March 31, 1950, amounted to no less than £786,000,000. Moreover—and this is more directly concerned with the matter before us to-day—the balance of the Industrial Injuries Fund at that same date was no less than £39,000,000.
616 The second reason given was the administrative difficulty of extending this particular measure to the partially disabled, a point of view which I must confess received the support of my right honourable friend who was the Minister of National Insurance before the present Minister. With great respect, and with a considerable experience of the ability of our Civil Service, I cannot accept the difficulty of administration as a valid reason for doing nothing. The nation owes a heavy debt to these people, and the debt should be honoured. May I make a suggestion which arises out of long experience, and which may possibly be helpful to the Minister when he is considering, as he has promised to do, extending this scheme to the partially disabled? It is a suggestion, moreover, which I submit would make the application of this Bill to the totally disabled much easier and would prevent further anomalies.
I am very uneasy indeed about the term "totally disabled" which is the foundation of this Bill, at any rate as affecting the people who are still alive. I would respectfully ask the House to contrast the term "totally disabled" with the term "incapable of work" which has always been the basic condition for entitlement to sickness benefit under the National Health Insurance scheme. It may be said that the two terms literally are synonymous, but after nearly forty years of the administration of National Health Insurance, the term "incapable of work" has taken on a meaning variable according to the circumstances of a particular claim. In the early days of National Health Insurance, it was agreed that the literal interpretation of the words "incapable of work" would have rendered the whole scheme valueless and unworkable, just as, maybe, the term "totally disabled" may render this scheme less valuable than it otherwise may be. Time and again efforts were made to find words which, literally and legally, would carry out the obvious intention of the scheme. They all failed and, by the process of time and the use of common sense all round, the term "incapable of work" came to mean anything from "unable to follow his usual employment" to "total disablement." Temporary illnesses invariably have the more generous interpretation applied to them, but the 617 more drastic interpretation is available where abuse is suspected.
I have no doubt that the term "totally disabled" has its origin in the Workmen's Compensation Acts and, maybe, the Industrial Injuries Act. I can only beg the Minister to examine the wordings I have quoted to see whether the words "incapable of work," to which custom over a long period of years has given a specially flexible and not a precisely literal meaning, might not be adopted, so enabling all the sufferers from these dread diseases, total and partial, to be dealt with by a humane administration, instead of using the word "totally," which word permits of no discretion. Notwithstanding what the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk has said—and, of course, I accept the statement as being quite sincere—I am quite sure that legally, and even medically, the word "totally" may prevent a good many things being done which even the Minister, as well as ourselves, would regard as desirable. I know, too, that it is said—the noble Earl has repeated it—that the words will be interpreted generously. Nevertheless, I submit that to achieve the flexibility which is admitted to be desirable in a scheme of this nature, the word "totally" may be, and probably will be, a serious stumbling-block. We appreciate that it is desirable that the Bill, however limited in its scope, should become law quickly. Therefore, we welcome it and, for the time being, we are content with the Minister's undertaking in respect of "totally incapacitated." May I express the hope that the Minister himself will take the initiative in examining this question of partial incapacity and not leave it to outside bodies to raise the matter further? I am quite sure that some of my noble friends have other points of view on this Bill. Whilst some of its provisions may not be as desirable as we could wish, nevertheless we are prepared to accept them at this stage.
§ 2.57 p.m.
§ LORD MACDONALD OF GWAENYSGOR
My Lords, it is some two and a half years since I was privileged to address your Lordships for the first time. I was thinking that every word I have said so far in your Lordships, House has been from the Box opposite, and I was wondering how I should address your Lordships from this Box. On the other side of House, I had many 618 advantages. There were many advisers who supplied me with good briefs, some useful, others not as useful as they might have been. I find myself here to-day without any of those advisers to assist me. However, I extend a warm welcome to this particular Bill. In fact, I cannot think of a Bill to which I would extend a warmer welcome, having had to deal all my life with cases of pneumoconiosis, cases which at times caused me much anxiety. I am pleased with any Bill introduced in this House which deals with those who have been bruised and battered and many times broken in industry in this country.
The noble Earl referred to the first Workmen's Compensation Act of 1897. To me, of all the black spots in the industrial life of the nineteenth century the blackest spot of all was in the way we neglected those injured in industry. I am sure that the twentieth century will compare favourably with the nineteenth century in its treatment of those casualties of industry. One of my earliest recollections as a child was being informed that my grandfather, along with eight others, had been drowned in a mine in North Wales; and not a penny piece of compensation was paid to him or his family. Because my father himself made a vigorous protest against that he was victimised and he, along with the rest of the family, had to leave North Wales to find work elsewhere. That is one of the reasons, if not the only reason, why I spent fifty-five years in Lancashire. People were injured and killed in industry, and no provision for compensation was made. The employers had no responsibility, and, on their part, neither House of Parliament did very much.
To-day, things are different. Great strides have been made since those days, but it surprises me that the injuries side, incapacity by injury—broken arms and broken legs or other physical injuries— receives prior treatment in the scheme. Up to very recently, provision was not made for those disabled by disease. My noble friend Lord Kershaw mentioned the fact that in days gone by there were men who suffered and died from the diseases referred to, without compensation for themselves or their dependants. It is only very slowly that we have recognised that incapacity through industrial disease disables our workmen just as much as injuries do. This Bill makes provision for 619 a group of men who suffer much. I do not know how many of your Lordships have met these people. It was suggested yesterday, by the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, during the debate on the Spring Traps Bill, that if some of these traps were seen in Parliament Square, the attitude of your Lordships House towards the problem might be different. I am quite certain that if your Lordships could meet the men who suffer from pneumoconiosis in various parts of the coalfields of Great Britain there would be more sympathy than there is to-day.
I met a friend of mine five or six weeks ago. As a youth, he was a man of very powerful physique. He is a few years younger than myself. I met him during the Election campaign. I remembered that in his youth he had a physique of which he was proud. The shell of that physique was still there as I spoke to him, but it was a hollow shell, wracked by the terrible cough which always accompanies this disease, and a fighting for breath. This man has a family dependent upon him, and he said, "I do not much mind the distress I suffer from this disease. I do not mind so much the sleepless nights. But what does worry me is that I am unable to provide for those dependent upon me." This Bill is a step in the direction of enabling him, and others like him, to make some provision for their families. I am very pleased indeed that the Government have been so wise and considerate in bringing this Bill forward very early on. It could have been left until next year. Your Lordships' House rises next week, and because this Bill has been brought forward now these men will be able to receive the benefits of it much sooner. I pay tribute to the Government for bringing it forward so early. I felt that the discussion in another place showed that the Minister himself was sympathetic towards a body of men who are deserving of sympathy and of every help.
With regard to the contents of the Bill I have no criticism to make. I do not think much more can be put into it, although I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Kershaw, that the partially disabled should be considered, and I was very pleased to read of the assurances given in another place and underlined to-day by the noble Earl. The effects of incapacity vary enormously. There is a 620 low degree, a moderate degree and a high degree. But a person who suffers partially from the disease suffers much. One has only to be in his company to appreciate that. I have to-day been with a friend who is partly disabled and who is receiving partial compensation. When he climbs even a slight hill, and gets partly up the hill, he has to stop and almost fight for breath. The partly disabled also deserve consideration, and I am very pleased to hear that some thought will be given to that matter.
My Lords, it is strange to me that 90 per cent. of these cases come from South Wales. There have been investigations, but I am wondering whether those investigations have been on the right lines. I do not know the reason why the coal mines of South Wales produce 90 per cent. of the pneumoconiosis in the United Kingdom. I am not sure that the investigations have been as thorough as they might have been. I know that that is not the noble Earl's responsibility, but perhaps he will bring it to the notice of the noble Lord, Lord Leathers, to deal with in his co-ordinating capacity. Why is it that the miners of South Wales suffer more than the miners of any other district? Ninety per cent. of all the pneumoconiosis in the country arises in that area. It has been suggested to me by practical men that in South Wales there is far too much shot firing on the main shift, the shift that employs most men. In other areas the shot firing is not carried out to the same extent on the main shift. I am not going into the various reasons why I think South Wales differs so much from the other districts, but I should like the question looked into of why it is that South Wales, a district which employs less than one-tenth of the total number employed, has 90 per cent. of the cases of pneumoconiosis.
The other point is one referred to by the noble Earl himself. Man-power in the coal industry is of the greatest importance, and it is dropping. This country cannot afford to see man-power drop in the coal industry, of all industries. The reason for the fall is largely that the miners' wives refuse to send their sons to the coal industry, and the wives of non-miners have never sent their children. Take it from me that the wife of a miner to-day takes a strong objection to supplying man-power to the mining industry.
621 What can we do? One of the difficulties is that this is an industry of many risks and dangers. The miner is a brave man who will face almost anything. We cannot get others to do it. We want new recruits, and they are difficult to get. A new wage claim is now under consideration. If that goes through we may be able to retain the miners we now have and also secure new recruits. In my opinion this Bill will help to deal with the dire consequences which sometimes result from being a miner, and will assist us to retain the miners we now have and to get new recruits. To reduce accidents is not easy, but to reduce the number of pneumoconiosis cases is still more difficult. I was very pleased to hear the noble Earl's reference to the efforts being made by the Government and various bodies concerned to reduce the number of victims of this disease. I am certain that if we can do that, and at the same time reduce the number of accidents, the industry will be more attractive to laymen. The noble Earl who introduced this Bill to-day will no doubt introduce many Bills daring his term of office, but he will never introduce a measure more deserving of support from this House than this Bill.
§ 3.8 p.m.
§ LORD HADEN-GUEST
My Lords, I wish to detain the House for only a few moments, but I want to take up a point mentioned by the noble Earl in moving the Second Reading of this Bill—namely, the question of prevention. This is, of course, the most important thing, not only with regard to a particular industrial disease but with regard to all industrial diseases, and it is the aspect which has been most neglected up to the present time. I hope the Minister will agree with me that in this matter the emphasis should be laid on the need for an enthusiastic research into the causes of these two diseases. From what he has said, I think the Minister will agree with me that the possibility and, I think, the certainty of prevention, if research is carried out, is more important even than the provisions of this very necessary and essential measure which I am sure the House is going to pass and which, I know, has the good wishes of all your Lordships.
But I want to draw the attention of the House to the fact that we should aim 622 at bringing industrial diseases into the same category as tropical diseases. Tropical diseases used to be dosed with all kinds of nostrums; now they are largely prevented. Malaria and the numerous other tropical diseases, with the names of which I will not weary the House, can now be prevented. Areas which used to be uninhabitable because of tropical disease are now perfectly safe for habitation, not only by men but by women and children. I remember years ago talking to a man who had been in the Army in West Africa, and I asked: "Was it a very unhealthy spot?" "Oh, no," he replied, "it was not too bad; I came back." Out of his company of officers he was the only one who did. But nowadays in the same area—namely, Nigeria——men, women and children live and I am quite confident that if all the resources of research are brought to bear on this problem of pneumoconiosis and byssinosis (in fact, dust diseases in general) we shall certainly find a way of prevention.
As noble Lords are well aware, there is, at the present time, a great shortage of man-power everywhere. My noble friend Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor laid emphasis on the fact that women nowadays do not wish their menfolk to go into the mines as much as they did in the past, and there is a difficulty in maintaining the necessary man-power. I believe that that is to a large extent a consequence of the fact that other occupations offer more attractive conditions. I would suggest to the Minister that the matter should be carefully considered in great detail in consultation with the Medical Research Council, and that the Government should be ready to sanction considerable expenditure on research—bigger expenditure than they have up to the present been contemplating. There are resources for carrying out research; there are medical men and there are technicians of various kinds qualified to do the necessary work. What is needed is for an impetus to be given, and I hope that the Government will give it. I hope, also, that they will give your Lordships an assurance that they will consider this suggestion with the greatest sympathy. I think it cannot be gainsaid that in this connection money spent on prevention is an investment in health; and that is the best thing we can possibly do, especially 623 in view of our present difficulties in obtaining man-power. It is essential that we should maintain at the highest level the standard of health in all industrial occupations. In mining, that standard is at present by no means reached.
§ 3.12 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT JOWITT
My Lords, I should like to add a few words to underline the observations which have already been made by my noble friends, to congratulate the Government on bringing in this Bill, and to bless them for doing so. When I became Minister of National Insurance, as I did—I am not quite sure of the date now, but I think it was at the end of 1943—I realised for the first time what a frightful scourge this disease was. Of course, I had heard of it before—we all had—and I remember an incident, of which I will tell your Lordships, which brought it home to me. The National Union of Mineworkers sent in a deputation, and Mr. Arthur Horner presented their case about this disease. I may say, as one who has had a good deal of experience of advocates, that he was the best advocate I had ever heard because he was so brief.
He produced to me a photograph of a Welsh Rugby football team. I cannot remember the date, but the men in the photograph were all names to me. I assume that the team was active at about the same time that I myself used to play Rugby—or it may have been a little earlier. There were fifteen men in the team, of course, and, as your Lordships realise, Rugby players, in the nature of things, must be extremely lit. These were all fine specimens of manhood, and, of the fifteen, seven were miners. The relevant dates and their histories were produced with the photograph and I learned that every one of the seven miners died at ages under forty-five. Every one of these miners at some time, approximately between the ages of forty and forty-five, had been crippled by this horrible disease. Mr. Horner said to me: "If you were a parent of a boy and this was the sort of advertisement you got in your native village, how would you feel? Here is a man who was a great hero in a Welsh Rugby fifteen, and he died under the age of forty-five. Would you let your son go down the pits? "To that there is only one possible answer, and I agree with what my noble friends have said.
624 I hope the Government are going on—as I am sure they are, for there is nothing between any Parties on this matter—to do all they can, not only to deal with the cases of people who have suffered grievously, but, particularly, to use all possible energies, resources and technical skill with a view to ending this scourge if that can be done. Unless the Government do this it is obvious that there will be great difficulty in recruiting new candidates for the mines. I thank the Government for bringing in this Bill, and I hope they will go on and extend it to cover the cases of partial disablement. But, beyond everything else, if only the Government—and I am sure that they want to do so—will do everything they can to increase research into this scourge, then, indeed, they will receive the blessings of a very useful, if humble, section of society.
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, I heartily thank noble Lords who have so cordially welcomed this Bill this afternoon. I assure the noble Viscount, Lord Jowitt, that we are fully conscious of the terrible nature of this disease, and we appreciate that the course which the noble Lord, Lord Haden-Guest, so properly emphasised—that of prevention—is the only one which is or can be of real importance. I will, however, say this to him, if I may: the solution lies greatly in the hands of his own profession, because already considerable sums of money, I am informed, are expended in this direction. One can always spend more, of course, but I believe there are already quite large sums devoted to this purpose. I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, for what he has said. I think, if I may interpolate something, he has paid tribute to the original Workmen's Compensation Act, passed when the grandfather of the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, was Prime Minister, which was perhaps the first Act in that line of action which has played such a very important part in the industrial history of this country. Those who think that we can build a system of social welfare which is final are doomed to disappointment. There will for ever be progress and development of one sort or another.
In reply to Lord Kershaw, I would say this. He has raised the question of the difference between those totally disabled and those incapable of work. I am 625 not going to attempt to answer that point. It is a Committee point, and if he wishes to press it I shall be glad to investigate it. I am not certain that there is all the difference which he has indicated. But, he that as it may, if this House wants this Bill your Lordships will have to leave out provision for partial incapacity. That, I am afraid, is final. Whatever may be done in future, it is not possible now to include it in this measure. Lord Kershaw said he heard of these diseases thirty years ago. I do not think he heard of pneumoconiosis thirty years ago.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I am told that Hippocrates actually diagnosed silicosis among the tin workers in the Carpathians—and that, of course, takes us back quite a long way. So these diseases are not new. I think that even Lord Haden-Guest will admit that there is a great deal of room for medical understanding, both in respect to genesis and to treatment.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
We are all humble in this House. To a great extent the success of our work in relation to these diseases depends on the progress of preventive effort. May I thank noble Lords again for what they have said?
§ On Question, Bill read 2ª; and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.