Oral Answers to Questions — Workmen's Compensation.

– in the House of Commons on 25th June 1942.

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Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware of the widespread dissatisfaction which is felt as a consequence of the inadequacy of the amount of the lump sums payable to dependent widows and children under the provisions of the Workmen's Compensation Acts; and whether he is prepared to give consideration to the measures necessary to provide an immediate increase in the amount thereof?

Photo of Mr Osbert Peake Mr Osbert Peake , Leeds North

No special representations have been made to my right hon. Friend on this question. Since the benefits under the Workmen's Compensation Act in fatal cases were settled, the position of widows and children has been greatly improved by the Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Act, 1936, no account being taken in fixing the pensions and allowances under that Act of any sum awarded as compensation. Further provision has been made by the Old Age and Widows' Pensions Act, 1940, for supplementing these pensions where necessary. The consideration of any revision of these allowances must await the report of the Survey of the Social Services, which is now in progress.

Mr. Davidson:

When the hon. Gentleman says that no representations have been made on this subject, is he aware that the Home Secretary himself made many and adequate representations on this subject when he sat on this side of the House?

Photo of Mr Osbert Peake Mr Osbert Peake , Leeds North

The right hon. Gentleman has not sat on that side of the House since the Act to which I referred in my answer was passed.

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to the increasing difficulties of workmen now over 21½ years of age who are totally, or partially, disabled as a consequence of injuries by accident which arose out of, and in the course of, their employment when they were under that age; and whether he is prepared to give consideration to the suggestions set out in paragraphs (89) to (93), inclusive, of the Memorandum of Evidence submitted to the Royal Commission on Workmen's Compensation by the Mineworkers' Federation of Great Britain?

Photo of Mr Osbert Peake Mr Osbert Peake , Leeds North

I understand that in view of recent and prospective increases in wages, the workmen, to whom my hon. Friend refers have rights under Section 11 (3) of the Act in addition to those under Section 11 (2). I am not clear, therefore, what are the difficulties referred to, but if my hon. Friend will give me particulars of any cases he has in mind, I will examine them.

Photo of Mr Joshua Ritson Mr Joshua Ritson , City of Durham

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to the dissatisfaction which is felt as a consequence of the anomalous position of widows who, at the time of their husband's death, are receiving wages for performing work of national importance, but who find on making a claim for the amounts payable under the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1925, Section 8, that such wages are taken into account and thus reduce the amount of the lump sum which, but for the receipt of such wages, would have been payable under that Act; and will he consider the necessary remedial measures?

Photo of Mr Osbert Peake Mr Osbert Peake , Leeds North

The principle of the Workmen's Compensation Act is that compensation is payable in respect of the death of a workman to persons wholly or partially dependent upon the earnings of the workman at the time of his death, and the question of the extent of dependency is one to be decided by the court. The Act provides that in cases of partial dependency, the compensation shall be such sum, not exceeding the amount payable in cases of total dependency, as will be reasonable and proportionate to the loss sustained by such dependants. I have not heard of any such cases as my hon. Friend refers to, but if he will furnish me with particulars I shall be glad to consider them.

Photo of Mr Joshua Ritson Mr Joshua Ritson , City of Durham

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it is having a very serious effect upon the call by the Minister of Labour to married women without children to go into industry, when they are in danger, if their husband is killed while they are doing so, of losing their dependency?

Photo of Mr Osbert Peake Mr Osbert Peake , Leeds North

I quite see the point which the hon. Member is making. I should like to have some specific instances brought to my notice, but I do not see any reason why the court, in assessing the degree of dependency, should not take into account the temporary nature of the employment of the widow.

Photo of Mr Joshua Ritson Mr Joshua Ritson , City of Durham

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that we have had a case in Durham? As he has promised to consider it, I will send him the particulars.

Photo of Mr Robert Taylor Mr Robert Taylor , Morpeth

Is the hon. Gentleman quite sure that the judge in the court would have power under the law to have regard to the temporary nature of the employment of the widow?

Photo of Mr Osbert Peake Mr Osbert Peake , Leeds North

Yes, I am quite clear on that point.

Photo of Mr George Griffiths Mr George Griffiths , Hemsworth

If the matter is not cleared up satisfactorily, will the Government introduce some sort of legislation whereby the widow will not lose compensation when the man is killed?

Photo of Mr Osbert Peake Mr Osbert Peake , Leeds North

Certainly there is a substantial point here, and I should like individual cases to consider.

Photo of Mr Joshua Ritson Mr Joshua Ritson , City of Durham

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to the widespread dissatisfaction which is felt as a consequence of the inadequacy of the amount of the weekly rates payable under the Workmen's Compensation Acts; and whether His Majesty's Government are prepared to give consideration to the measures necessary to provide an immediate increase in the weekly amount payable?

Photo of Mr Osbert Peake Mr Osbert Peake , Leeds North

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to a Question by the hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil) on Tuesday.