I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
It is just under a year since the White Paper on Social Insurance was debated in this House. Two of the four Measures necessary to give effect to the scheme for a comprehensive system of social insurance have already reached the Statute Book. The first was a comparatively simple enactment under which the Ministry of National Insurance was set up. The second was the Family Allowances Act, which was passed in the final days of the last Parliament. This is the third of the four Bills, and it is far more involved than either of its two forerunners. The fourth is on the way, and I am afraid I must warn hon. Members that the fourth will be even more complicated than the third.
The broad principles on which the scheme of industrial injuries insurance is based were decided first by the Coalition Government, and were outlined in Part II of the White Paper to which I have already referred. When the White Paper came up for discussion in the House there was general agreement upon the new structure and upon the principles embodied in the White Paper. However, many of the detailed points in the scheme were criticised in the debates which then took place, and in the light of the views expressed at that time and of various representations made by both sides in industry since those debates certain modifications were introduced by the late Government. These were outlined in an Explanatory Memorandum issued with a Bill under the same title in June. Subject to what I shall have to say in a moment or two the Memorandum still explains the provisions of the Bill in detail, and I do not propose to detain the House with many details to-day, but to seek to outline the general provisions of this Bill and make it as plain and simple as I can. I realise that it is a Bill which will profoundly affect the lives of many millions of people in this country. I should like here to pause to pay tribute to the work put into this Bill in its earlier stages by the Minister of National Insurance in the Coalition Government, who will, I know, be watching its progress with a fatherly interest from another place.
The House will already know the main purpose of the Bill. It is to make compensation for industrial injuries a part of this country's social services. 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. In the debate on the original Workmen's Compensation Act of 1897 Mr. Joseph Chamberlain expressed this hope:
We have held it to be a first principle as well as one of our first objects to avoid litigation.''
I need not tell the House how far we have failed to achieve that object. Any work of reference on the subject cites hundreds and even thousands of cases. In the latest edition of the familiar "Willis," familiar to so many of my hon. Friends, some 3,000 leading cases are listed. I believe, indeed I am confident, that we shall in this scheme be more successful than was Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, and I am sure my hon. Friends in the House, and particularly my hon. and learned Friends, will share my hope that very shortly "Willis" will be rendered redundant.
The scheme is based on insurance against risk and not on liability for compensation. This is not entirely a new idea. A system of insurance against accidents was suggested in this House in 1893 when Mr. Asquith's Employers' Liability Bill was under discussion, though at that time the system proposed was one of separate schemes of insurance for each separate industry under a central control. The possibility of a national insurance scheme was mooted first in a report on the working of the Workmen's Compensation Acts made as long ago as 1904, by a Committee appointed by the then Home Secretary to review the working of the Acts. There may be legitimate differences of opinion about the principle of imposing on employers a liability for compensating their workmen for all industrial injuries whether or not caused through the employer's own negligence or the negligence
of their representatives, but I know that the word "compo" has long been full of foreboding to the workers of this country. This was well explained by Sir William Beveridge in his Report when he said that the workman
feels, rightly or wrongly, that he is being subjected to improper pressure to reduce his claim, to accept an unfair lump sum settlement, to go back to light work which is not really beneficial or for which he is not ready.
For those reasons the word "compo" is full of forebodings. This Bill will be the end of "compo" and there are few, I think, who will mourn its passing.
I should like now to run briefly over the scope of the Bill, to explain how it is to be financed, what benefits will be given, what machinery will be used for settling claims and what will be done for a few special classes of people. First as to the scope, as to who is to be covered by this scheme. By and large all persons employed in Great Britain under any contract of service or apprenticeship will be insurable without any income limit. In addition certain people not necessarily covered by contract of service are being brought in: for example, members of lifeboat crews who work under the Royal National Lifeboat Institution; employees of any local or public authority; people such as taxi drivers who ply vehicles for hire under a contract of bailment; and members of certain rescue and fire parties in mines and works. In two types of case employment outside Great Britain is covered by this scheme. Seamen, including licensed and apprentice pilots and other persons employed for the purpose of the vessel or of the cargo or of passengers carried, on British and British owned ships, and civilian airmen employed on British aircraft are covered. I am very glad to be able to tell the House that in this Bill every effort is being made to meet the special needs of seamen.
Certain classes of employment are or may be excepted from the general rule. If there is any doubt as to whether or not the work is insurable application can be made for a ruling on the question, and any question of law arising in connection with that ruling is subject to appeal to the High Court.
I may say here that, although under the Bill as it stands only seamen and airmen will be able to obtain benefits for injuries suffered outside Great Britain, provision is made for reciprocity agreements to be entered into with Northern Ireland and with any Dominion or Colony or foreign country which has a scheme giving similar benefits, and it is hoped therefore that the territorial extent of the insurance under the scheme will grow as time goes on.
Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to continue my speech, but the point will be noted and a reply will be given to him later on. Now I will deal with the very vexed question of what type of accident is to be covered by the scheme. As hon. Members will know already, we have adopted in the Bill the words of the existing Workmen's Compensation Acts:
accidents which arise out of and in the course of the employment.
This is a familiar, I might say all too familiar, phrase, for many of my hon. Friends. We have looked at many alternative phrases which have been suggested to us as substitutes for those familiar words, but I am bound to say that, after full consideration, we have decided that it is better to retain the words we have already in the Acts. Not the least of our reasons for doing so was the fact that the phrase has been fully examined and interpreted by the courts, and its meaning is now I think reasonably clear and certain. If I may say so, I have examined it myself and, speaking for myself with some experience as a layman and compensation officer, I am convinced that it is better to stick to the devil we know than fly to devils that we know not of.
I want to point out one change of importance in the scheme as compared with the present Acts. One of the main criticisms of the phrase was that the onus of proof has always rested on the worker. That has been met to some extent, I think to an important extent, by the addition of a proviso that, for the purposes of this Act, an accident arising in the course of an insured person's employment shall be deemed, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, also to have arisen out of that employment. The onus of proving that the accident arose in the course of the employment remains on the claimant to benefit, but if it did not arise out of the employment the onus of proving that will rest not on the worker but on the insurance officer. Where the evidence is inconclusive, as it so often is in fatal cases, the benefit of the doubt will go to the claimant. Perhaps I can best explain the effect of these proposals by citing one or two actual cases showing what has happened under the existing scheme and what would happen under the proviso. The first is from the coal mines, as indeed so many of these cases are. A collier died of a seizure during working hours. The majority of the doctors said that his arteries were in a very diseased condition and there was no evidence that the attack came upon him when he was incurring a strain while doing his work. His dependants failed to establish their claim to compensation, because, although there was no doubt that the accident happened in the course of the employment, there was nothing to show that it arose out of it. Under the Bill, benefit would have been paid.
Another case concerned a ship's fireman, who one night slept on deck, as he had permission to do. He was some distance from the side of the ship, but at the edge of the deck there was a three-foot space between the upper rail and the deck. His body was later found in the water with a cut over one eye. The county court judge, from the facts proved before him, drew the inference that the man met his death by accident by going overboard in some manner unknown, and that the accident arose in the course of his employment; but he held that the dependants had failed to discharge their burden of proving that the accident arose out of the employment and they therefore failed to recover compensation. Under the Bill, benefit would have been paid in this case. Those two cases indicate that the proviso in this scheme is going to prove of very great advantage in cases of this kind.
Let me here say a word about accidents which are due to a workman's misconduct. Under the Workmen's Compensation Acts, compensation is not payable where an accident is
attributable to the serious and wilful misconduct of the workman,
unless the injury results in death or in serious and permanent disablement. This provision recognised that compensation could not be withheld when the results of
the accident were serious, and penalties are imposed in cases where the result is slight or temporary. We thought there was great difficulty in repeating this provision in our contributory insurance scheme, and, looking to the fact that before benefit becomes payable under this scheme it must still be shown that the accident arose out of and in the course of employment, we decided to drop the provision. I am sure that this removes a provision which, although it may seem justified by some kind of logic, was a source of considerable irritation in practice, and the change will, I am sure, be welcomed. A somewhat similar easement is made in regard to injuries which result from an action performed in contravention of statutory or other orders. These will not be regarded as out of scope so long as the act was done for the purposes of, and in connection with, the employer's trade or business, provided that the accident is such that it would have been regarded as arising out of and in the course of employment, if it had not resulted from a breach of orders to the workman. Under the Acts, the injuries would have been compensated only where they resulted in serious and permanent disablement. We shall now cover that case.
Another type of case in which there has been some improvement in the plan outlined in the White Paper is that of the worker injured in an accident which occurs while he is travelling to or from his place of work, in transport provided by or on behalf of the employer. In the past, such cases have been admitted to compensation only where there was a contractual obligation on the part of the worker to use the transport provided, but under the Bill a man injured in such an accident will be covered, provided that the vehicle in which he was travelling was not being operated as part of a public transport service. If it is part of a public service, the risk run by the worker is no greater than the risk run by the general public using the same service, and there is no reason why, if there is an accident, there should be different rates of benefit paid to different passengers according to the reasons why they are using the vehicle. Special provision is made to cover people injured in meeting real or supposed emergencies on their employers' premises. Accidents occurring at such times will be deemed to arise out of and in the course of the employment. I have said that the Bill applies to injuries caused by accidents, but it may also, by Regulation, be extended to cover persons suffering from prescribed industrial diseases and also from prescribed injuries not caused by accident but which are directly attributable to a person's employment. The Bill here repeats in substance existing provisions in the Workmen's Compensation Acts, but in doing so it gives the Minister rather more power than exists at the present time to adapt the provisions of the scheme in these special cases.
Now perhaps I might be permitted to say a word about what the Bill does not do. It does not abolish the right of a man to claim damages at common law in respect of injuries caused by the negligence of his employer. The House will be aware that a Departmental Committee on Alternative Remedies is engaged in examining this question and, in the circumstances, I do not think I can anticipate their Report by saying anything further on the subject to-day.
I want to refer here to what are known as past cases. Everyone familiar with the working of the Workmen's Compensation Acts knows the anomalies and the heart-burnings that arise, and that have arisen in the past, when amending Measures have been introduced into Parliament and brought into operation. We find men in the same village and in the same street receiving different treatment and different payment for the same kind of injury, merely because one man was dealt with under the old legislation and the other under the new.
The hardest cases of all have been the pre-1924 cases, men whose compensation was, and is still, payable under the Acts in force before the present principal Act was passed in 1925. For reasons which I have no doubt were found to be weighty, they have been left outside the advantages of the various amending Acts within the last 20 years. This Bill does something, and I believe I can claim it is something substantial, for the worst of all these past cases, including, let me emphasise, the pre-1924 cases. Any man drawing a weekly payment by way of compensation on or after the appointed day on which this scheme comes into operation who is unable to work and could qualify for unemployability supplement, as denned in the Bill, will be given that supplement, payable from the Industrial Injuries Fund, of £1 per week, in addition to whatever he is getting under the existing Acts.
May I mention one other thing about it? They will continue to get this £1 a week in addition to their weekly payment even if, after the appointed day, they should commute that weekly payment for a lump sum. I am sorry I cannot see how we can do anything at this stage for those who have commuted their weekly payments already. I am particularly sorry, too, that, so far, we have not been able to bring within the scope and within the benefits of the scheme all past cases, whether they are unemployable or not. Personally, I am most anxious to do so, for the reasons I have already indicated. Both the Trades Union Congress and the employers' representatives have approached me with requests that past cases should be admitted to the benefits of the new scheme. There are difficulties in the way, but they are not insurmountable. Without going into them at all, I am sure the House will appreciate this fact, that the Fund could not accept what is an existing liability on employers unless an adequate payment was made into the Fund in redemption of the employers' liability. I have, however, said to the employers' organisations that if they care to submit to me a scheme of which the Government can approve, I shall be only too willing and anxious to give it sympathetic consideration. There the matter rests, but I hope only for the moment, and I give my undertaking to the House that this is a matter which I am personally very anxious to bring to a successful conclusion, if I possibly can.
Now we come to the benefits provided in this scheme and Bill. It is in the method of assessing and the determination of the amount of benefits that the Bill marks a fundamental departure from the present Workmen's Compensation Acts. It is, I appreciate very fully, a radical change, and will be far-reaching in its implications, yet I am absolutely convinced that it is a desirable change. The essential difference between this scheme and the Workmen's Compensation Acts is, that benefits will be related solely to the degree of disability suffered and will not be related to loss of earning power. We all know the heart-burnings that have been caused by the provisions of the Workmen's Compensation Acts whereby com- pensation fluctuates with every rise or fall in earnings and how, indeed, no compensation is payable however severe the injury, if the injured man is later able, or indeed is held to be able, to earn as much as he did in the job in which he suffered the injury. My hon. Friends will know, as I do, how difficult it is to explain to the worker how it comes about that his partial compensation has been reduced, not because he is earningmore—indeed he may not be earning at all—but because his notional income has increased. We know how this provision causes men to be reluctant to undertake training for new occupations, even though this training would be of great help towards the mental and physical rehabilitation of the disabled men.
It is, I think, true to say that the basic principles of this scheme have been accepted in all quarters without serious objection, but representations on a number of points have been received. Certain of them have been reinforced very strongly since the Bill was published in its present form. While the Government are satisfied that the Bill as it stands marks a considerable advance over the original proposals, they nevertheless have been impressed by the strong representations made to them on two aspects, namely, as to the basic rates of disablement benefit and, secondly, as to the position under the Bill of certain types of partial disability cases.
It has been urged very strongly that the rate of 40s. proposed is inadequate. In respect to partial disability cases, stress has been laid on the fact that the Bill makes no provision for dealing with the case which has become commonly known as the "odd lot" case. Typical of the cases in which it has been urged that further provision should be made is that of the miner who loses four fingers of his right hand, or the train driver who loses an eye, or the compositor who loses an index finger. While those injuries would only justify a low or moderate percentage under the new method of assessment of disablement, their effect might be to prevent the man ever returning to his pre-accident occupation.
The Government, therefore, feel justified in proposing changes in the Bill to meet the representations received on these two points. They propose that the basic rate for injury benefit and for 100 per cent. disablement shall be 45s. instead of 40s. They also propose to give the worker the right to claim an addition of 25 per cent. to his medical board assessment, provided it is not thereby raised above the 100 per cent. rate, if he can show to the satisfaction of a local appeal tribunal that by reason of his injury he is no longer able to follow his previous occupation, and cannot be so retrained as to enable him to follow an occupation of an equivalent standard. I would ask hon. Members not to press me unduly about the form of words to-day. These are new provisions, and hon. Members will appreciate that the wording of the second one is a matter of great importance. When we reach the Committee stage I will move Amendments on both points.
Naturally, these Amendments to the scheme affect the finance of the Government proposals. It was originally estimated when the White Paper on Social Insurance was published in September, 1944, that the cost of the benefits would be of the order of £20,000,000 a year, and that a further £3,000,000 ought to be allowed for administration. To produce this sum a weekly contribution was proposed of 6d. for men and 4d. for women, divided equally between employer and worker. As a consequence of improvements made later, it was found necessary to add one penny to the employer's share of the weekly contribution on the understanding, as stated in the White Paper, that at the first suitable opportunity equality of contribution between employer and worker would be restored. The further improvements now proposed necessitate increasing the weekly contribution by a further penny, and the Government feel bound to honour the undertaking given then and to equalise contributions once more under this scheme.
If I may turn to the benefits in some detail, I will deal first with the two which are payable in non-fatal cases, which are described as injury benefit and disablement benefit. Injury benefit is designed to cover the initial period of incapacity due to the injury. It is payable after three waiting days. Many of my hon. Friends, I know, would like to see the waiting days abolished, but I can at least point to the fact that, as compared with the early edition of the Bill, or with the Workmen's Compensation Acts, we have reduced the waiting period by making the day of the accident in every case count as the first of the three waiting days. In that way we have reduced the effective waiting days to two. Injury benefit lasts for six months from the date of the accident, unless the injured man has recovered sufficiently to be able to work before that time and asks to be assessed for pension. The benefit rate as now proposed is 45s. a week for a single man or woman. I will deal with dependants in a moment.
Where at the end of the injury benefit period the injured man is still suffering from disablement which is likely to be permanent, or is substantial, he will be assessed for pension. This will be awarded in proportion to the degree of his disablement; in other words, in proportion to his loss of health, strength and power to enjoy life; and it will be awarded irrespective of his earnings or his notional earnings. The disabilities which will beregarded as attracting a pension of 100 per cent. are left to be prescribed. The whole industrial injuries scheme has been framed with the war pensions scheme in mind, and we shall, in making the Regulations, be influenced by the schedule of assessment used by the Ministry of Pensions. I want to emphasise one thing, however, because of some anxiety which I know exists on this point, which I fully understand. We shall not be bound by the Ministry of Pensions schedule, but shall vary it if need be. The Regulations which I shall make will be submitted to the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council, to which I shall refer later. After that, they will lie on the table for 40 days. So that our proposals will be open to public examination and to the complete control of this House before they become effective.
I would like to put a question, the answer to which I think will influence many Members in deciding whether to give a Second Reading to this Bill. If we give it the Second Reading, can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that we will not thereby be creating a higher standard for persons injured in industry than for persons injured in war?
I am sure that my hon. and gallant Friend will appreciate that I am responsible for this Bill and that any question which affects another scheme is not one to which I can be expected to reply.
There are some extra benefits provided for the very severe cases. If a man is rendered virtually unemployable by his injury and is likely to remain so, he can ask for an additional allowance of £1 a week. He will be regarded as virtually unemployable if he is unable, as a result of his injury, to earn more than £52 a year. An additional allowance of up to £1 a week may be paid if constant attendance is required. This will be paid even if the necessary care is given by the injured worker's wife. In other words, it will not be necessary to prove that somebody from outside is coming in. The wife herself can get the £1 per week. If a pensioner has to enter hospital for further treatment on account of his injury, he will, so long as he is in hospital, receive pension at the full 100 per cent, rate, irrespective of his normal assessment. There will, however, be a reduction of 10s. a week in respect of home savings and the constant attendance allowance will cease for that period.
With regard to the provision for dependants, the Bill provides for an allowance of 16s. a week to be paid in respect of one adult dependant, so long as the man is receiving injury benefit. This would normally be payable in respect of his wife, or, in the case of a woman, in respect of her invalid husband. Where there is no wife it could be paid to some other prescribed relative, or, where appropriate, to a woman taking care of the injured man's children. This allowance would not be payable if the dependant's earnings were more than a prescribed amount. The amount mentioned in the White Paper was 20s. a week. In addition, there will be an allowance of 7s. 6d. a week for the first child in the injured man's family. The other children will be covered by the Family Allowances Act. Dependant's allowance will not be payable when a man is drawing his pension, except in two cases: first, where an unemployability supplement is being paid; and, second, where the pensioner is receiving approved treatment in hospital. In the general run of cases, the pensioner will have his earnings in addition to his pension. If, on the other hand, he is sick or unemployed, he will receive the dependant's allowances attached to his sickness or unemployment benefit.
Before I leave the subject of benefits, I would draw the attention of the House to the proposals set out in the Explanatory Memorandum for the payment of sickness benefit to an industrial pensioner. To-day, a man cannot draw sickness benefit and workman's compensation for the same injury; and the original White Paper followed the same lines. For reasons set out in the Explanatory Memorandum, we have decided to modify this proposal. Under our scheme a pensioner who is unfit for work will be entitled to sickness benefit, even when his unfitness is due to his injury, subject only to this, that if his pension is at the 1oo per cent. rate, sickness benefit will be at half rate until he has paid 10 contributions since the date of his accident. If the pension is less than 100 per cent. he will get the full rate of sickness benefit from the beginning, so long as that does not give him more than a man with 100 per cent. pension would get. What I have said so far refers to the ordinary adult workers, men and women. I would note that the benefit rates are on an equality for both men and women.
I would like to say a word about the provision for young people under 18. There are special provisions covering them, and if there is a change which I welcome and of which I am proud, it is the provision for youth in this Bill. I know from my own experience of boys and youths injured at 16 or 17, left with a compensation rate based on their earnings, having to wait until they are 21 before they can claim a review, and having to claim a review within six months or forfeit their claim for ever. Here we are making a new provision. Half-rate contributions will be payable by those over school-leaving age; benefit will be half the adult rates. If a young person in receipt of benefit reaches 18, he will have his benefit increased to the full adult rate. If a youth under 18 has dependants, he will be given the full adult rate for himself and full dependant's benefit for those dependent upon him. He will not be asked to pay the full rate of contribution until he is 18 in any circumstances. Children under school-leaving age who are employed part-time—and they still are, whatever we may say—will be regarded as covered by this scheme, but no contributions will be required from or in respect of them. Injury benefit will be paid for them when they meet with accidents at reduced rates until school-leaving age is reached. Then it will be half rate until the age of 18, and thereafter at the full rate. Disablement benefit is not reduced for children under school-leaving age.
I come to the provisions made for benefit in fatal cases. Here we have got right away from the idea of lump sum payment of compensation. The drawback of the system of lump-sum compensation in fatal cases is well illustrated in a case which occurred at the beginning of the war. A widow whose husband was fatally injured at his work had seven children ranging in age from two weeks to 13 years. She received £600, the maximum under the then Act, which was paid into court. Within a year she had to send six of her children into a Dr. Barnardo's Home. Under this new scheme she would have received 30s. a week for herself until all the children had reached school-leaving age, 7s. 6d. for the eldest child and 5s.—under the Family Allowances Act—for each of the others. For the first two years after her husband's death she would, therefore, have received a total of £3 7s. 6d. a week, and though this amount would have grown less as the children reached school-leaving age, that family would not have had to be split up, and I think it is obvious that the total amount received under our Bill would have been far in excess of the lump sum payment in that case. The pension for a widow who does not have the care of a child is 20s. a week unless at the time of her husband's death she is over 50 years of age or is incapable of work, in which case she will receive 30s. A widow's pension is not payable to a widow whose marriage took place after the accident—and this is the point about which we shall no doubt hear more when we go upstairs—unless her husband has an unemployability supplement.
Now I come to the provision for parents. A pension will also be awarded to one or both parents of a man if they were living with and were wholly or mainly maintained by him at the time of his death, or would then have been maintained except for the accident from which death resulted. If they were maintained by him but not living with him, a pension will be paid to the father, if he is incapable of work, and to the mother if she is either herself incapable of work or is living with a husband who is incapable of work. The pension will be 15s. a week for any period during which the parents are living together and in other cases 20s. a week each. If neither a widow nor a parent is entitled to a pension one other prescribed relative is entitled to pension. Such relative must have been maintained by the deceased and must have been living with him, being incapable of self-support. A parent or relative who does not fulfil these conditions and, therefore, qualify for a weekly pension will be given an allowance for 30 weeks at the rate of 36s. a week and a woman who is looking after a man's child before his death and continues to do so after his death may get an allowance of 20s. a week so long as she continues to do so.
I will not trouble the House with too many details of the conditions for the receipt of these pensions and allowances at this stage. We can examine them in detail when we get to the Committee stage. But I would like to say a word as to the way in which claims will be decided. This will be a State system of insurance. In the first instance, therefore, claims will be decided by officers appointed by me to be insurance officers. It is, however, a public service, and the public served must have a right to see for themselves that justice is done in individual cases. Independent local appeal tribunals will, therefore, be set up consisting of one representative each of employers and workers under an independent chairman. They will hear and decide appeals from the insurance officers' decisions.
Lastly, there will be a right of final appeal to a Commissioner who will be a legal expert appointed not by me but by His Majesty.' The Commissioner will be assisted by Deputy-Commissioners, and there is provision that cases which involve points of law of special difficulty will be decided by a tribunal of three instead of by one Commissioner or Deputy-Commissioner. Similarly, in cases which involve difficult questions of fact the Commissioner or one of his deputies may ask the assistance of persons with specialised knowledge of industry who may sit with him as assessors. Assessments for pension will be made by medical boards consisting of at least two registered medical practitioners, though there is a provision for minor cases in which the disability is likely to last only a short time for them to be dealt with by a single doctor if the claimant agrees. There will be special medical appeal tribunals to deal with cases in which the injured man disputes his assessment, and cases of doubt arising under this scheme in regard to children's allowances will be dealt with under the appeal machinery provided already in the Family Allowances Act.
I must refer to one or two other provisions of the Bill. There is a provision for financial assistance to be given to persons engaged on research into the causes and prevention of industrial accident and disease, and indeed for the Minister himself to employ persons to carry out such research. The accident rate in this country is still appalling. For years I have lived at the other end, and now I live at the Ministerial end of these problems; I have seen them from both ends, and I am desperately anxious for something to be done. I have the unenviable record of representing a constituency which has the highest number of silicotic men in this country and I am, therefore, glad that the Bill contains this provision to help research into the cause and prevention of accidents and particularly of industrial diseases.
The primary responsibility for the training of injured men for employment has been laid upon the Minister of Labour and National Service by the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act of 1944. Provision has, however, been made in this Bill for a grant to be made out of the Industrial Injuries Fund, if necessary, in order to ensure that persons injured in industrial accidents have the full facilities for training and for sheltered employment provided under that Act. There is also provision, and I am glad that it is made, it is a change from the last Bill—enabling me, out of the Fund, to provide a supply of artificial limbs and other appliances to pensioners, either free or at reduced cost. I still have boyhood memories of buying a 3d. raffle ticket to provide a peg-leg for a miner.
The administration of this scheme will, subject to the approval of Parliament, fall upon my Department, and I would like to say a word about that. I shall have a small central headquarters staff here in London, an executive headquarters staff in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and local offices in all important centres throughout the country engaged on the day-to-day administration of the scheme. But before the stage is reached at which my local officers can handle cases—and afterwards too—I shall need the advice of industry, both of employers and workers, on framing the details of the scheme and embodying them in Regulations. For this purpose there is to be appointed an Industrial Injuries Advisory Council to which I shall ask representative employers and workers' organisations to nominate members. I shall look forward to the advice at every stage in the administration of this scheme of men drawn from industry and who have experience of industry, who have seen in their own life how industry works.
In speaking of the benefits of this scheme I have inevitably almost entirely dealt with the cash payments to be made. But to the injured man that is not the first nor the most important thing. The most important thing is for him that he be fitted for a new life, and that is where the old system failed most completely. If I may again quote Sir William Beveridge, he said in his Report that in the 45 years of its existence the present system of dealing with the results of industrial accidents and disease had contributed little or nothing to the most important purpose of all, the purpose which should have come first and actually came last in that scheme, namely, the restoration of the injured employee to the greatest possible degree of production and earning as soon as possible. If all this scheme did was to provide cash benefits, however adequate, I would not ask the House to approve it. If, having assessed the injury and awarded the pension we said to the worker "Good bye, go off, we have finished with you," I would not ask the House to give this Bill a Second Reading. I know, from my own experience as a worker and as a trade union officer, the tragedy of the "Compo"man. In my own village as in all industrial villages there are pathetic cases of the casualties of industry being left to limp their way through life.
I commend this Bill and the scheme it introduces to the House not only because of its cash benefits but because it is the foundation upon which a great constructive human service can be built, to restore the injured workman to his old job, or, if that is not possible, to train him for a new job, or if that is impossible, to care for him and for his dependants. I ask the House to give this Bill a Second Reading. We shall examine it again in detail in Committee and then, with the help of the Advisory Council and the co-operation of industry, I am confident that we shall be able to make this scheme a real, living contribution to the social services of the country, and I shall be proud to help in that task.
My first words must, I think, be words of congratulation to the right hon. Gentleman who has moved the Second Reading of the Bill, first upon the fact that the borough which he has represented in this House with such distinction for some years is conferring its freedom upon him, and secondly upon his very clear and eloquent exposition of a Bill with which he has not had much time in his new office to familiarise himself. To-day we have a somewhat unusual Parliamentary situation. I do not say that it is without precedent, but here we have a Measure devised by one Government and published in the form of a Bill by that Government being adopted in toto by that Government's successor after a General Election.
In view of my long association with the framing of this scheme, perhaps I may be allowed to strike a somewhat personal note. I was appointed Under-Secretary to the Home Office in April, 1939, and although the clouds of war were looming close at that time, one of the attractions about the job of Under-Secretary at the Home Office was that the Royal Commission on Workmen's Compensation had been appointed in the previous December. Workmen's Compensation matters, by a well-established tradition in the Home Office, are largely left in the hands of the Under-Secretary—and in passing I may perhaps say that I think that may be one of the reasons why so little progress has been made in workmen's compensation law in days gone by. There was, however, in view of these facts, a real prospect of being associated with a great measure of practical reform for which workmen's compensation law had long called out. The Royal Commission, of course, never made a final report, but its labours have not been thrown away, and anybody who has studied the hundreds of pages of evidence which it took has access to a vast storehouse of information upon the subject of workmen's compensation.
This Bill, in my view, is a great scheme of reform. I do not want to antagonise hon. Members opposite to it, but I can hardly refrain from saying that, in my view, there is very little of what I understand as Socialism about this Bill. It is founded upon the well-tried practices of social insurance with which our people have become so familiar. It is to be compared, I think, in its importance and its scope with Mr. Lloyd George's National Insurance Act of 1911. Anybody who compares these two Measures will see some very striking similarities between them both in their form and in their extent. Mr. Lloyd George's Act covered 15 million workpeople; this Bill covers rather more. Mr. Lloyd George's Act provided for a fund with an annual income of £ 24,000,000, almost exactly the amount provided by the fund under this Bill; and the contributions under Mr. Lloyd George's scheme were very similar to the contributions here proposed. Hon. Members will remember the phrase "9d. for 4d."I think that in this case, with the alteration announced by the right hon. Gentleman, this will be something like 9½d. for 4d. The Act of 1911 had 87 Clauses and nine Schedules. This Bill by a curious coincidence has 86 Clauses divided into nine parts. If I were to apostrophise this Bill in the words in which the poet Robert Herrick addressed one of his mistresses, I would say on the Bill:
When I thy Parts runne o're, I cant espie
In any one the least indecencie.
I am not quite sure that all my hon. Friends will be able to say the same thing about the Schedules.
The Workmen's Compensation Act of 1897 was in its day a great measure of reform. It embodied four very simple ideas. The first was the liability of the employer without proof of negligence. The second was compensation equal to half the pre-accident earnings, that is to say, a sharing of the financial loss resulting from the accident. Thirdly, it provided for the commutation of the weekly payment by means of a lump sum, and lump sums in cases of death. Fourthly, it provided for informal arbitration by joint representative committees. There were, I think, four faults inherent in the structure of the Act of 1897. The first and most important was that the scheme of that Act retarded recovery instead of promoting it. Last summer on my holiday I was walking over the Yorkshire moors. I came across an old man with a wooden stump for a leg. At first I thought he was a seafaring man, but after a chat with him he told me he had lost his foot on the railway in the year 1898 and had been receiving 8s. 9d. per week ever since by way of workman's compensation. If anything had been known about rehabilitation in the year 1898, that man would not have become a tramp and so continued for nearly 50 years.
But the war has brought rehabilitation to the fore. Early in the war the word "rehabilitation" was rather a strange one to many people. I remember attending a meeting of a Cabinet Committee, where Ministers of different parties were assembled, and the subject of rehabilitation came up. One Minister—I will not say to what party he belonged—talked of "rehabilitation"; and then a Minister of another party, knowing that something had gone wrong, began to talk about "rehabilitation"; and it was finally left to a man of good will, a man of no party, to put the discussion into its proper etymological setting. Rehabilitation has now come into its own, due a good deal to a report made by the present Minister of Works in 1943. At any rate, it is very vital that rehabilitation should be closely linked with this Bill which we are discussing to-day. That was the first fault of the scheme of 1897, that it retarded rather than promoted recovery.
In the second place, that scheme promoted suspicion and ill will in industry mainly owing to the adoption of insurance, a third party with whom the workman had to deal; and to the failure to establish the representative joint committees which Mr. Joseph Chamberlain had in mind when he introduced that reform. Thirdly, many persons were unaware of their legal rights under the Workmen's Compensation Acts. They had no idea even that the Acts existed, and many people went without what was their due because of a lack of knowledge of their legal rights. Fourthly, the calculation of the benefits was far too complex. It was bad enough even in the old days to try to calculate what were the pre-accident earnings, but it became infinitely worse when the sliding scale was introduced in the Act of 1923, and it became worse still owing to the various Acts we have introduced during the currency of the present war providing for family allowances and so forth. We are now in a position where no man can possibly calculate what his compensation ought to be.
This Bill puts an end to the old scheme. When I was at the Home Office early in the war, it was obvious that the Royal Commission could not carry on. My advisers, however, had very definite ideas as to the lines on which we ought to proceed. Hon. Members will recall that in 1940 we introduced a feature into Workmen's Compensation that was quite inappropriate to a scheme under which employers become liable to their employees. It was a scheme of family allowances. Of course, employers gave undertakings that they would not discriminate against the man with the large family, but even then it was quite inappropriate to the old scheme, and it was in fact the first step towards the adoption of the social insurance plan which is before the House to-day. There was only one hon. Member who saw where that innovation of 1940 would take us, and that was the hon. Member who is now Minister of Health. When the Family Allowances Scheme was before the House on 30th April, 1940, he stated:
We are witnessing, therefore, an attempt to embody that principle by bringing workmen's compensation into conformity with the rest of the social legislation by means of a long-range policy. The right hon. Gentleman dare not do it at once. If he did, we would see through it and there would be too much row about it, and so he is doing it slowly."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th April, 1940; Vol. 360, c. 621.]
The right hon. Gentleman saw where we meant to end up, and at that time it is clear he did not like our destination. I wonder where he stands in that matter to-day.
The next step, after the Royal Commission announced that it could not carry on, was the reference of this subject, together with all the other social services, to Sir William Beveridge. I think the main recommendation on workmen's compensation by Sir William Beveridge was
probably a foregone conclusion. Sir William Beveridge is a great enthusiast for social insurance and it was, therefore, very helpful to receive from him a very cogent statement of the reasons for converting workmen's compensation into a social insurance plan, but the detailed recommendations of Sir William Beveridge so far as workmen's compensation was concerned were devastatingly disappointing. I shall never forget the look of gloom on the face of the present Minister of Labour when he came to see me and discovered that Sir William Beveridge had suggested that the industrially injured, for the first 13 weeks, should be reduced to 24s. a week. Nor could I have stood for Sir William Beveridge's recommendation that lump sums should continue to be paid in fatal cases. Nor could I have tolerated a retention of the system under which compensation is related to earnings. It will be remembered that Sir William Beveridge suggested that in the long-term cases a proportion of the pre-accident earnings should be paid by way of compensation, and that in cases of partial disability a proportion of the difference between pre-accident and post-accident earnings should be paid. That is one of the worst features of the existing scheme; it is responsible, I should think, for two-thirds of the evils of the existing scheme, and it was very disappointing to us at the Home Office to find that Sir William Beveridge proposed to retain it. Nor do I think there would have been much support for Sir William Beveridge's recommendation for a special levy on the hazardous industries. A special levy of that kind cuts right across the main idea of a social insurance scheme, which is a pooling of risks between the safe and the hazardous industries. Almost everybody who has made a speech in the House during the last few months has referred to the General Election. I must confess I was a little horrified, seeing how lamentably bad were Sir William Beveridge's recommendations in the field of workmen's compensation, to find a leaflet issued during the Election:
Beveridge is a Liberal. Beveridge says that only Liberals will carry out his Social Security Plan. The Tories won't do it; Labour won't do it. The Liberals will.
Although the eminent author of the report on the Social and Allied Services entered politics rather late in life, it is perfectly clear that he has very little to learn from
those two political agents whom we read about in the Barchester novels, Mr. Nearthewind and Mr. Closerstill.
This scheme owes something to Sir Wm. Beveridge, and that is the basic idea that it should be of a contributory character. I think there is full justification for the contributory character of this scheme. In the first place, few accidents, if any, are the fault of the employer, and if the employer is negligent he is, and will remain, liable for damages at common law to the injured workman. Most accidents are either nobody's fault—they just happen—or they are the workman's fault, or they are the fault of a fellow-workman. This is clearly a field for the adoption of a contributory insurance plan.
The main criticism which I have heard of this plan is that it imposes a rigid equality. It treats men and women, skilled and unskilled, labourers and craftsmen all alike. I have heard this criticism not only from my friends who sit on these Benches, but from representatives of trade unions in the skilled trades also. It is right that this scheme should treat everybody alike. This is a compulsory scheme, it is a pooling scheme, it is a scheme under which the safe industry subsidises the hazardous one. It seems to me to be right and fair that there should be some limit to which that process of subsidy is carried. It would be quite unjustifiable to ask the taxpayer, who contributes one-sixth of this fund, to make a contribution towards the payment of benefits on a scale which would be appropriate in the case of a man earning a high salary, such as £1,000 or £1,200 a year. In my view it is right in a compulsory scheme that both benefits and contributions should be on a flat rate basis. If anybody cares to go in for a supplementary scheme he is, of course, free to do so. One of the great merits of this scheme is that, by the adoption of a new method of assessing disability, it provides a firm basis for supplementary schemes. It would be very easy in a trade where workmen earning £8 £10 or £12 a week, a comparatively safe trade like the printing trade, substantially to increase these benefits by the payment of a much smaller premium.
We come to diseases later on. I am suggesting—and it is a perfectly simple point—that in the higher paid industries and trades it would be a very simple matter to build on top of this basic State scheme supplementary schemes which are suitable to the particular trades and industries concerned, and in most of them it will be possible to do that for a much smaller rate of premium proportionately than this scheme adopts. In the case of coal mining, which is a hazardous industry, there will be a great saving to the industry under this plan. Workmen's compensation, I would guess, at the present time is costing the coal industry al least £6,000,000 a year. Under this scheme the cost will be reduced to £1,000,000 or something less. There will be a substantial saving; and there is no reason whatever why part of that saving should not be diverted into voluntary schemes for the supplementation of benefits provided by the basic scheme. It is fair, right and proper under a State compulsory scheme to provide equal benefit for all in respect of an equal contribution.
This scheme is a novel scheme. Other countries have State-operated schemes, but no other country in the world has a scheme which involves in the first place joint contributions, in the second place, equal representation of representatives of workmen and of employers at all stages of the administration, and thirdly, the assessment of the compensation in relation not to the loss of earnings, but to the injury sustained. The adoption of these three features should, in my opinion, as in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, eradicate the serious structural defects which were inherent in the scheme of 1897.
There will be no danger to the passage of this Bill from this side of the House. Indeed most of the critics of this scheme, when it was debated in November, 1944, are now to be found inside the ranks of His Majesty's Government. They are, therefore, temporarily muzzled, but there are several hon. Gentlemen opposite who I know do not like this scheme. There is the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), who declared himself in very plain terms as radically opposed to this great scheme of reform. There is the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell), who criticised this scheme very strongly, and the hon. Member for Rochdale(Dr. Morgan), who ventured to interrupt me just now. As long as this Bill survives the criticism which has been directed at it from inside the ranks of His Majesty's Government, then I am confident that it will secure the approval of the vast majority of those outside this House.
There is one point to which I must make a reference, and that is, the concession announced during the Second Reading speech of the Minister of National Insurance on the question of benefits. The original Bill published by the Coalition Government provided a basic rate of benefit of 40s. On 12th September the Trades Union Congress met at Blackpool and the Prime Minister made the journey there to address it. Before he arrived on the scene, as I understand it, there was a discussion on the Industrial Injuries Bill and strong views were expressed that the basic benefits ought to be increased. Nevertheless, when the Bill was printed on, I think, 19th September, the previous rates were incorporated in it, and now on the Second Reading, rather to my surprise, the Minister announced that the basic rate of benefit was to be increased from 40s. to 45s. I rather suspected that the Prime Minister's journey to Blackpool was comparable to that of the Emperor Henry IV to Canossa. I hope we shall hear a little more as to why this concession has been made at this stage. I am sure that the people of this country want to know quite clearly from whence they are being governed. All through the by-elections which have recently been fought we are told that for the first time we have a Labour Government in power which it never had before. It is very well that the country should be assured that power and responsibility go together.
On the other matter where the right hon. Gentleman departs from the Bill, that is, in the addition of a penny to the workmen's contributions, there, I must say, I think his speech did him great credit. It was understood when this Bill was first introduced that the principle of equality of contribution would be maintained. I have always attached great importance to that principle. I think that if you were going to bring representatives of employers and workpeople together in the Appeal Tribunal, bring them round the same table at the Central Advisory Committee, it would be a great advantage if they had subscribed equal contributions to the fund.
It is vital to the success of this new scheme that it should go forward in the spirit of co-partnership and with equal contributions there will be no question of the employers' representatives on these various tribunals claiming a larger voice on the ground that they are paying a larger share.
This I say again is, in my view, a fine scheme, but its success will depend upon sympathetic and speedy administration. There must be a very close link with the new Health and Hospital Services of the Ministry of Health and with the Rehabilitation and Retraining Services of the Ministry of Labour.
I believe that this Bill will leave its mark on English social history. Workmen's Compensation was devised in the Victorian era. In those days the relation of the employer to his workmen was based on the relation of a father to his children. The spirit of paternalism, which was the Victorian conception of this relationship, has now given way to a new atmosphere of free and equal partnership. It is in this new spirit that this scheme has been born. I believe that it will succeed, and that Britain will give to the world an example of the application of modern democratic ideas to an old and baffling problem. It will bring new hope and a greater measure of security than ever before to the homes of those who suffer injury or death in the service of their fellow men.
I am particularly pleased to make my maiden speech in this House on the Industrial Injuries Bill, for all my life I have watched at first hand the working and practice of the inhuman and niggardly Workmen's Compensation Acts. I have always lived among miners and my home has always been one to which men have come with their difficulties and troubles, particularly in regard to accidents. When I was only 12 years old I went down the mine into its inner workings and almost terrifying darkness, but as every miner's wife and mother knows, there is even a darker side to the picture when the man who went out so strong and so well comes home in an ambulance or does not return home at all. Among the mining population workmen's compensation plays a very great part and in mining towns and villages there is scarcely an adult man who has not at some time or another been subject to workmen's compensation. This has always been a time to be dreaded not only because of the suffering which accidents have always brought, but because of the poverty which has accompanied them. Even to-day there are many people in this country who do not realise what the old Compensation Acts mean. Until recent years the maximum amount per week, no matter what the size of the family, was only 30s. but it was the exception rather than the rule for this money to reach 30s. per week. I have known men say, when in receipt of compensation, "The doctor says I am fit for light work. I have been to my employer and he says there is no light work for me." And so the already inadequate sum was reduced without the means of earning more to supplement it.
My right hon. Friend the Minister has already indicated what happens in regard to lump sums as death benefits, but very often too, men have been persuaded to take lump sums in lieu of weekly payments. I have known of representatives of insurance companies in the past visiting the homes of men and trying to put before the wives in glowing terms that they would advise perhaps £50, and for this niggardly sum the workmen would be induced to give up all their future payments. We have seen what happened in the courts of law on this question. We have seen that, never before have we had compensation, for injury but only for loss of working capacity. This Bill may not be perfect, but I welcome it because it sweeps away these evils.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) has said that this Bill is not Socialism. There may be differences of opinion about that, but there is one thing that it does—it removes some of the effects of capitalism. I want to leave the main provisions of this Bill to my friends who more directly represent industry and confine my remarks to two things about which I feel very strongly. One has already been mentioned by the Minister, and is in regard to past cases, particularly the pre-1924 cases. There may be practical difficulties about bringing them into the scheme because of the fact that responsibility lies on the previous employer or insurance company, but it is going to be very hard on people who receive lasting injuries perhaps a few days before the date of the operation of this Bill—those people who would always be able to say, "Had my accident only happened a few days later, I should be getting more and better benefit." It is also very hard on the long-standing cases who suffered so much under previous Workmen's Compensation Acts.
I have in mind one case in particular of a man who had a serious spinal injury in 1911. At that time he was a young man of 32, with a wife and two children, and, for 8½ years he received only 17s. 10d. in workmen's compensation. Later on he received additions which brought him up to £1 11s. 2d., but because his accident happened before 1924, he has not been eligible for any of the war-time grants. In our legislation there are always these left-overs, and, again, I am very much afraid that there are going to be people left outside in the queue and in the cold when the shop door is shut and the despairing notice "Closed" is put on the door. Are these people going to be doomed irrevocably to spend their lives at the wrong end of the queue? I hope not, and I hope we shall get some arrangement to see that it is not so.
I know the Bill goes part of the way and gives an addition of 20s. to those with permanent incapacity. There is no mention of dependants in this, and some of these people will receive much less. The case which I have just quoted will, with the addition of that 20s., receive 51s., whereas, under the new Act, he would have been receiving 76s. I hope it will be possible to do something about this, and I would ask the Minister of National Insurance to see if it is not possible to raise the amount and so, perhaps, make these people receive the same as they would receive if they came under this new Act.
I particularly welcome Clause 72 which gives the Minister power to make arrange- ments to secure maintenance, free of charge or at a reduced rate, of equipment and appliances for any person who, by reason of loss of limb, is in need of them. This is a measure which is long overdue, and I hope that a generous and wide interpretation will be given to this Bill.
The way in which our injured workmen have been subjected to inquisition and charity in the past is simply disgraceful. When injured workpeople are in hospital and are needing these appliances the hospital almoners have to spend their time in approaching the approved societies, the sick lodge, or the welfare scheme, and have to "means test" the patient in order to meet the cost. I know that, of late years, assistance has been provided by the Queen Mary Hospital at Roehampton, but here again a charge has to be met in the same way. Whatever the source this money comes from, the patient has always been painfully made aware of it. I hope that, in this Clause, the term "reduced rate" does not mean that part of the money has again to be found by these methods.
I hope, too, that the equipment and appliances will include such things as invalid chairs and spinal carriages. The self-propelled ones cost £50, and the motor ones cost £100, which is quite beyond the capacity of any injured workman to pay. In the past they have been provided by charity concerts, collections and all sorts of other ways. There are many other spinal cases, in which men are completely paralysed in the lower part of the body, and which need special beds with special rests. It is the exception rather than the rule for these people to be adequately looked after once they leave hospital, but I hope that the interpretation of this Clause will mean that these people will receive the equipment which they need. Very often, if the money is available, much mental anguish can be avoided.
I have particularly in mind cases of facial injuries. I know a man who met with an accident so bad that one eye and the surrounding parts of his face were completely torn away. I know these details are not very pleasant, but these things are happening every day in the coalfields. This man happened to belong to a local fund, which was able to send him to London, and it was not science which came to the rescue, but art, and the man was fitted with a mask, complete with artificial eye, which nobody could detect. It made all the difference to that man between walking among ordinary people and riding on buses and trams or slipping away from the world with people turning away from him in revulsion. I hope again that this class of case will receive equipment and appliances of that kind. We must allow nobody who is physically maimed also to become mentally maimed because of the lack of means.
I hope this Bill is going to be administered in a human manner, and that we shall not only provide the sustenance but restore these unfortunate people to normality. We must remember that this Bill is to deal with the ill, the crippled, and, probably, the depressed, and that, for these people, an ounce of warm humanity is worth a ton of cold legality.
There have been so many excellent maiden speeches delivered in this House that it has almost become a commonplace to pay the usual compliment to the speaker, but I assure the hon. Lady who has just spoken, and I am sure she will believe that I speak with the deepest sincerity, that I congratulate her upon her maiden speech. It was obviously delivered from a wealth of experience and deep humanity, both of which have had their effect upon the House. I hope the hon. Lady will often take part in our Debates.
Turning to the Bill, of course, this Bill is an improvement upon the Workmen's Compensation Act of 1935, an improvement on the Act of 1908, and, of course, upon the Act of 1896. Well, so it ought to be. Undoubtedly, it is bringing into its wider scope a great number of people for whom the previous Acts did not provide. It is going to bring relief, as the right hon. Gentleman said, on a much more humane line than is done at present, but, having said that, I go further and say that I am still disappointed with this Bill. As the Explanatory Memorandum says, it is substantially the same Bill as was introduced in June, 1945, by the then Coalition Government. I am very much afraid that some of my right hon. Friend's colleagues—it does not apply to him—have been so long associated with those who now sit on this side of the House but above the gangway, acting as bellhops and runners for them, that they have been brought up in a school that has not done them very much good. They have learned a sort of respect for the past until they are now wondering what they can do in this new school here. I should have thought that a much wider measure than this would have been introduced by the right hon. Gentleman.
Why should we still—if I might refer to the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman from the Front Opposition Bench—why should we still merely follow on, copying, slightly amending and patching Victorian legislation? The right hon. Gentleman suggested that the relationship between the Victorian employer and employee was that of parent and child. Would any parent suggest that, if his child suffered some accident, the amount of benefit to be given to that child should be half what it used to be? The idea of compensation was that it was for all accidents that had taken place "arising out of and in the course of employment." I agree that it would be difficult to think of simpler words than "arising out of and in the course of employment," but the right hon. Gentleman has very rightly said that these words led to more litigation than any words ever used in any Act of Parliament, and I myself in this House in the past have described that Act of 1906 and those words as not so much giving the workmen compensation in the earlier days as providing a brief for lawyers. Certainly there were many of us who depended upon our work in the County Courts fighting on behalf of the workmen in those days against the powerful insurance companies, or vice versa, in order to try to attach a proper meaning to the fact of that case and the words of the Acts.
I come back to the principle that was followed by those Acts. To my mind it was entirely wrong. First of all, it was wrong in this, that it classified employees as different from employers, it classified employees as different from those who were not under a contract of service. In addition, the early Act drew a distinction between certain classes of employment and others, and that distinction has been carried down to the present day for there are certain classes of employment which give rise to what it would be difficult to describe as an accident in the ordinary use of the term but which result in the most dreadful pain and lead ultimately to the most painful death that any human being can suffer and these were outside the purview of the late Acts.
The right hon. Gentleman has referred, very rightly, to the accidents that occur in the mining industries. There are even worse and more terrible conditions obtaining in the quarrying industry. I remember well the evidence of a doctor with regard to a man upon whom he had held a post-mortem examination on the morning upon which he was giving evidence as to the conditions prevailing in the quarries of Blaenau Festinog where, instead of quarrying as they do in certain parts at the open sides of the mountain, they go down to the bowels of the earth and the conditions are so bad that even a candle will not remain alight when it is standing up but has to be placed sideways in order to maintain the light. Men worked, trying to earn their living to keep their families, in conditions of that kind, and they were outside the Act. Men worked in such conditions that they could not be seen by their fellow workmen who were within two yards of them. The evidence of that doctor was that the man upon whom he had held a post-mortem and who was a farmer until he was 28, had died at 41 from silicosis, and the doctor described his lungs as two bricks. And that type of workman was outside the scope of the Workmen's Compensation Acts.
It is now suggested that this Bill will bring those people within the scope of the Acts. I hope it does. We are told that now there will be only one test and that is that the accident arises in the course of the employment and it shall then be assumed that it rose out of the employment. The words "during the course of employment" have given us as much trouble as the others in finding the true interpretation. The only person about whom we could ever give certain advice was the man who was injured while under a long-term service of employment. What about those who are employed from day to day or even week to week and something occurs immediately after the week's work has been completed? Why are we still continuing along these lines that were satisfactory over 50 years ago but ought not to be satisfactory to-day? Why should this Bill be limited to those who are under a contract of service?
I should have thought it would appeal, certainly to every hon. Member on the other side of the House, that every man and every woman and every child who is healthy is not only a happy person, bringing joy to himself and his relations and those around, but is a potential source of additional wealth to the community, and anybody who is suffering is a liability to the community. I should have thought it would have appealed to the right hon. Gentleman occupying the Treasury bench that it was the duty of all of us to assist everyone to rehabilitate himself so as to become an asset to the community. That ought to be the basis of the legislation. Why go copying and improving upon Bills which have not that idea behind them at all, which only provided a partial compensation for certain people under certain circumstances? Why not take a broader, wider view of the whole matter?
May I put this to the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal? Why distinguish between the person under contract of service who is employed by a carpenter and the carpenter himself who has only one employee—the little village carpenter, the village blacksmith, the smallholder who is trying as best he can to produce food for the people? Why are they outside the scope of this Act? It would have been far better if the Government, instead of merely copying what they and their Tory colleagues produced in time of war, had thought for themselves and produced a much broader, wiser Measure than this, bringing in all the members of the community. Then, we could have abolished what the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of National Insurance was complaining about, that assumption that all these matters had to be decided on legal questions. With a broader Measure, it would not be a legal question at all but a medical question, with the medical man saying that the person was fit or unfit, what assistance he would require in order to rehabilitate himself, and what help the family would want in the meantime. Even now, although these payments which are to be made are so much more generous than was suggested in the original White Paper, are they such as will really help to bring the head of the family back into health as quickly as possible without running any risk of going back? There have been so many tragedies in the past.
In my early days I acted for so many workers, when there was the iniquitous system called "Compo" and there was also the question on whether the man could do light work, and what light work, and the most expensive medical men came along and suggested that the man was malingering. It was left to us to do the best we could in cross-examination. Thereupon the man would go back to work in order to help his family when he really was not fitted for it. There would be another breakdown and not only would he suffer, but also his family would suffer. I should have hoped that this Government would have thought along those lines and not along the lines of the past, that they would have started afresh.
If I may refer to the Lord Privy Seal, I am certain that this was within his conception. Sir William Beveridge has had the credit of turning out a great Report. Whatever detailed criticisms we may make, it was a great conception, but that was not born in the mind of Sir William Beveridge, it was born in the mind of the Lord Privy Seal who set him to work, who wanted to abolish want wherever it existed and bring within the scope of the abolition of want the rehabilitation of the man, wherever he was, who had suffered injury or disease in any form, and to help that family to maintain a proper standard of life.
It is for those reasons that although this Bill will go through, and it is an improvement for it will bring benefits, I would like to know before we part with this Bill on its Second Reading that this is only an instalment which happened to be ready, and that this Government will really tackle the much bigger, broader, more humane problem on wider lines. I have every faith in the Minister, my colleague and my fellow-countryman, and I would like before I sit down not only to pay him a tribute for his great speech this afternoon but to congratulate the Government on having placed in his hands this great matter of national insurance. My right hon. Friend has such wide experience, such broad human sympathy, such a vivid mind and strong courage, that I am perfectly sure that his Ministry will have a wonderful record by the time he comes to lay down the seals of his Office.
As is natural and perhaps proper for one who addresses this House for the first time, I do so with feelings of the greatest trepidation. Indeed, I do not think that I would be grossly exaggerating my condition by saying frankly that I am terrified. So I gratefully take refuge in the very pleasant courtesy which is accorded to those of us who address the House for the first time. Indeed, it is a comfort to know that in the hazardous employment we have taken up we are, at any rate in the early part, protected against the accidents that may occur to us in the course of and arising out of that employment.
Turning to this Bill and looking at it, as I am sure the House will look at it, not in any party sense but from the point of view of the man it is to benefit, that is, the point of view of the workman—which is the only point of view from which this Bill should properly be looked at—I think the House will agree that it is to be welcomed because it represents a great step forward from the old Workmen's Compensation Acts. If it had nothing else to recommend it I would say that the fact that it removes disputes from the realm of employed and employer would be sufficient to commend it. Anyone who, like myself, had much experience of this matter before the war knows that the present system, which was brought about through nobody in particular's fault, engendered great bitterness between employer and employed. That was very unfortunate, and a great thing has now been achieved by removing that cause of controversy. Then there is another matter in which this Bill is a great improvement on the Workmen's Compensation Acts. Many of us know the bogus offers of light employment that used to be made to partially disabled men. Everyone knew that on many occasions these offers were made simply in order to stop, or to partially reduce, workmen's compensation. They were not bona-fide at all. In the new Bill the workman's post-accident earnings will not affect his compensation, which is a great advantage, because these offers will not now be made.
In connection with this and before I leave that subject I think it right to say that in my experience I found that while generally the employer was sympathetic towards the worker many of the matters blamed on the employer arose from the actions of the company with which the employer insured his risk. Often the blame was laid at the door of the employer when it should have been laid at the door of the insurance company. Consequently the workman felt bitter and aggrieved against his employer about the case in which he had not succeeded. But it really does not matter who was the cause of the blame, the fact remains that bitterness was caused. There is, however, one point in this Bill that gives rise to some doubt and disquiet, and that is the insurance tribunals which are created in order to decide disputes which necessarily have to arise. When you consider these tribunals you ask the question: Who will be interested to refuse workmen's compensation? The answer is that in appropriate cases it will be the Ministry. Then you say: Who is the person to decide that dispute? The answer is that it is an official of the Ministry, or someone appointed by them. That is most disquieting.
I do not say for one moment that these people will not do justice, but that is not the whole point. It is important that not only should justice be done but that it should appear to the workmen to be done. If you get a most conscientious official deciding a case against the worker, the workman will go away with a sense of grievance, perhaps quite wrongly. This matter is important because if the Act is to work it must retain the confidence of the worker. Once it loses that it would be far better to have no new scheme at all.
Again there has been a great mass of litigation and decided cases, probably much too much. But those cases have had this effect. They have narrowed down contentious matters. For instance, there will be bound to be, under the new Act, contention as to whether a case arises out of and in the course of a man's employment. That has been fairly well decided, so that before the war one could advise a person fairly precisely as to how he stood. That had the result of reducing the number of contentious cases, because where the law was fairly clear and understood no one was going to waste money fighting a case in which the issues had already been decided. It is not clear how far that mass of case law is going to bind the tribunals. I hope it will bind them and that the insurance officers will be qualified to understand this great mass of case law, which is not an easy thing to deal with. If they are not, and if this case law is not to bind the tribunals, we will all be thrown back into the melting pot again. We will have to start again from the beginning arguing what the words, "arising out of and in the course of," mean. I think it is a great pity to get rid of all that.
Further, from my own experience I would say that under the present system the arbitrator, normally a county court judge, does have the confidence of the worker. He has it for this reason: that the worker is able to appear and see and hear what is going on. He hears the witnesses examined and cross-examined and, most important of all, at the end of the case he hears the arbitrator decide it and give his reasons for that decision. Although he might not agree with the decision and the result, normally he feels that he has had a fair crack of the whip.
It is not clear, also, how the tribunals are to operate, but if they are to operate as many similar tribunals do what will happen is this: A courteous gentleman will arrive with a large book, listen to all the witnesses and arguments, write everything down, yet never by so much as the flicker of an eyelid will he allow anyone to know what he is thinking, which is a great drawback to the worker or to his adviser who wants to know what line of argument is getting across and whether the official believes or does not believe a particular person. When the hearing is over and everyone is thoroughly exhausted the official will shut up his book, go away, and, three or six weeks later, the workman will receive a printed form which will tell him that his claim has or has not succeeded. I cannot imagine anything which will shake the confidence of the workman in this Bill more than that. I think it is a dreadful way of dealing with such cases. It is important that the workman should know and hear right at the outset, when his case is being decided, what has happened.
It has been said that the formality of the county court does sometimes frighten a worker. Many of us have had experience of cases in which a worker, before the hearing of his case, was in a tremendous state of nervous shock and fright, so much so that he quite genuinely could not work although a doctor had said that there was no apparent reason for that. Many of us are quite familiar with that type of case. I do not think that that was due to the formality of the tribunal; I think it was due to the fact that the dispute had to be decided, and that the result of that dispute was going to affect the man very materially. After all, for many of these men it was a matter of life or death. I do not think that by having a different type of tribunal you will get rid of all that. I do not think that the formality of the courts had much to do with it, but if it had it would be a simple matter to get over it because a county court judge could sit without his robes—indeed, I have often wondered why he did not do so—or he could sit away from his court on days set aside for the hearing of such cases. What is more important than the form of tribunal is that these cases should be heard as quickly as possible. Nothing is worse for a workman than to be kept waiting to have his case decided.
If I may go back to what I said at the beginning, I would say in spite of that drawback I believe this to be a good Bill. A great deal will depend on the people who administer it in seeing that they get the confidence of the worker. I know from what we have heard from the Minister to-day that workmen will have his sympathy and consideration but they must also have the sympathy and consideration of all those who are dealing with their cases. That is essential. Personally, I would like to see an instruction issued that in all disputed cases where there was a reasonable doubt that doubt should be resolved in favour of the worker. At any rate, the worker is entitled to the sympathy and consideration of all the many officials who will have to do with his case. It is up to them to make the new Act workable, and the only way in which they can do it is to give the workman the sympathy to which I am sure the whole House agrees he is entitled.
I listened with great interest to the speech of the Minister and it is rather unfortunate that in my maiden speech in this House I should have to make a criticism of this Bill. I consider that the employers will be getting away with millions of pounds which they have been paying in the past for workmen's compensation. According to the White Paper £17,000,000 has been their liability and £4,000,000 has been their cost in administrative expenses, making a total of £21,000,000. When stabilised post-war conditions are here there will be a fund of £23,000,000 per annum. That is based, I presume, upon equal contributions by workmen and employers, which means that workmen will pay into the fund £11,500,000 per annum and the employers, who have been paying £21,000,000 in the past, will liquidate their liability for £11,500,000. That raises the question that if a workman is to contribute substantially to the fund, he is entitled to expect some accumulated benefits from those subscriptions from his weekly wage packet. But we find that the full compensation to-day of a workman is 40s. per week after he has been off 13 weeks. This Bill proposes to give him, as the Minister announced to-day, a 5s. increase.
I consider that the proposed benefits that have been suggested are not sufficient, because of the fact that, for the first time, the workman is contributing to his own compensation. If the workman is contributing half, then the benefits under this Bill ought to be divided by half, to see exactly what benefit a man is getting for his payment. It is known to every one that there are gloom and despondency both in mining and trade union circles about the proposed rates that are embodied in this Bill. I was pleased to hear the Minister announce that there was to be an assessment on the loss of occupation, but I do not consider that sufficiently takes into consideration the amount of money that the workman is paying in. If we take the case of a coal-hewer who loses four fingers of his right hand, and his injury is based upon the Royal Warrant of Pensions, we find that he would get a 40 per cent. assessment, which would give him 16s. a week. If, as announced by the Minister to-day, there is added to that, compensation for the loss of occupation and inability to follow his pre-accident employment, this man will be given 27s. 3d. a week. Under the present Act he can get a maximum of 40s. a week, and he can still receive his unemployment benefit as a light grade man in the labour market. If we take the case of a man who has lost three fingers and who has just his little finger and thumb, and he is a coal-hewer, he will get the magni- ficent amount of 23s. 6d. per week, although under the present Compensation Act he can get £2 a week compensation.
On the question of a single man, taking the value of the £at 8s. 4d., and not forgetting the fact that working men are contributing to this fund £11,500,000 per annum, he is to get 45s. We consider this too low a rate for a single man who most probably would have to live in lodgings and maintain himself after an accident. But the worst position of the single man—and I do not blame the Minister for this, although I think he ought to have been bold enough to break away from the Acts that were framed by previous Governments and come forward with a whole Measure in relation to this question—is that if a man of 18 suffers an injury which incapacitates him, and he gets married and has a family and then dies as a result of the accident, although he may have done a little light work, his wife and children are not to come within the purview of this Act. Under the present Act, if this single man has an injury and he goes back to the pit and works for a while, gets married and has children, and then dies it is possible to get workmen's compensation for his wife and children.
The Minister of Fuel and Power is now urging men to go into the pits to try to get the coal to meet the present economic situation. This Bill will not get lads into the pit. A boy of 17 to-day gets £2 14s. wages. His compensation under the present Act is £1 16s. Under the Bill it is proposed that this boy, now getting £1 16s. a week compensation, will receive 22/6d. as his compensation which is 13/6d. a week reduction. I would ask the Minister, when this Bill comes into the Committee stage, to consider the whole question as I have seen it, and try to make these rates better, because they will undoubtedly cause concern in the coalfield and among the working-class generally. I ask him, in conclusion of my short criticism of the Bill, to be bold and abolish the three days' rule. If a man is injured he has only his next week's wages on which to live, and he can ill afford to lose two or three days' wages at the beginning of an accident period. I do appeal to the Minister to look into these points, because I feel sure that the trade unions and the Miners' Federation are very definitely concerned about these particular things. I was talking to the Compensation Secretary for the South Wales Miners' Federation, and he tells me quite frankly that if the Bill in relation to partial incapacity goes through as it stands, he would be very wary and very shy of what was going to happen to his pneumoconiosis and silicosis cases in South Wales. I hope the Minister will take into consideration the points I have made.
I have the extraordinarily happy task of congratulating two Members on their maiden speeches. Sometimes one hears a maiden speech that is completely irrelevant to the issue that is being discussed in the House. Neither of these two speeches falls into that category. The hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Blyton) has raised an extremely important point of criticism of this Measure in regard to the return that what one might call the more highly-paid worker will get under it, as compared with what he has got in the past or might have got, if a different method had been evoked in this Measure. The hon. and gallant Member for South Belfast (Lieut.-Colonel Gage) has raised a point in regard to legal tribunals which had not been raised earlier in the discussion, and they are both points which will have to be dealt with by the Minister in the course of the Debate. I think I can say to any new Members making their maiden speeches that if they can feel, as both these hon. Gentlemen can, that they have each made a substantial point and one which no one else has made, they can advance with confidence in the knowledge that the next time they speak they will be listened to with respect and interest.
My task is slightly different from what it usually is, because I propose to pass certain criticisms upon the structure of this Bill. It is really the fruit of the Coalition Government, and as much has been done in the past to produce it by my own party as by the party opposite. This is an advance, undoubtedly, upon the whole position, but that is not saying much. Workmen's compensation in this country has lagged very much behind over a period of years, and the fact that you have an improvement does not say that you are not going to face a number of very awkward snags. You are sweeping com- pletely over from a basis of earnings to the basis of disability, and you are placing the full load on the State. These are changes which the Minister has explained with great clarity, but he did, I think, gloss over one or two of the problems we have to face. His first and foremost dilemma is this: If you are going to pay a high rate to workers injured in industry you are going to put an intolerable burden upon the contributors. If, on the other hand, you are going to try to compromise, which is what the Minister is trying to do, and pay a much lower rate than the rate that would really give a return to the highly-paid worker, the highly-paid worker is going to suffer in comparison with what he might receive, supposing you were basing the thing on two-thirds earning benefit. If the State is to be the sole payer, I do not think there should be any differentiation between the money received by a man injured in the course of his employment and that received by the man who has been injured by being run over by a train or in some other way.
Finally, on this point, I am convinced that we must watch the figures closely. It would be intolerable if we found that we were paying more through the State to the industrial worker who had been injured than was being paid to the man who had been injured during the war. We have to see that the injured soldier has as good a State pension as an injured worker. The fundamental question is the shifting over in regard to disability from calculation on injury. Strong arguments have been put forward in favour of it. It has been put forward that the old earnings' basis made a man rather unwilling sometimes to get better. A point which has not been made to-day, and it is a strong one in favour of the new scheme, is that by calculating on disability rather than on earning capacity, a man or woman who has suffered disability will get a pension even although disfigurement has not affected earning capacity, which could not have occurred under the old Act. You may say, and it has been argued, that if a man wants a higher rate of compensation he can insure voluntarily.
The argument is substantial but there are difficulties. First of all whether your flat rate is 40s. or 45s. for a single man it is going to be a millstone around the neck of the highly-paid worker. Although the Minister has made certain modifications the demand that the assessment for the loss of a limb be an assessment not for the loss of occupational fitness but an assessment upon a citizenship basis means that there will be a tendency for doctors to say that the amount of incapacity for the loss of the foot is such and such an amount, quite irrespective of whether the injured person is working in an industry where such an injury is vital to his earning capacity or merely an unpleasant inconvenience.
Facing that, one has to ask oneself whether there was any possible alternative. I am inclined to think there was, and that this Measure, even to-day, could be substantially improved if consideration were once again given to what was called the double decker scheme produced by the hon. Member for Oxford City (Mr. Hogg) last November. That scheme amounted to this: Flat rates and supplements were accepted but over and above that the difference between the 40s. or 45s. and two-thirds of the man's pre-war earnings should be met by workman's compensation by the employer. If that was done it would not affect the general basis of the scheme. While the lesser paid worker would be getting his flat rate the man who had had big earnings in the past would get extra money on the basis of his earnings. It would, in point of fact, still retain one part of the old workman's compensation idea that the employer has a very special responsibility to the worker who is injured, and at the same time it would ensure that the ordinary worker got a pretty fair rate of compensation. The scheme would not involve an enormous amount. It would simply mean that the employer would have to insure against the difference between the flat rate and two-thirds of the earnings, and it would take away every grievance of the better paid worker. At the same time it would avoid a criticism that there is differentiation in favour of industrial injury by the State giving a certain differentiation in benefits within one comprehensive scheme. The employer would pay the difference, and there would otherwise be a flat rate as between every kind of injury whether in industry or outside.
I do not want to stress that any further, but I believe that even at this stage it is a suggestion well worth considering. We do not want to penalise the well paid man, we do not want to raise the rate of contribution in a way which would make those contributions intolerable for the ordinary man to make. The argument was raised in this House against the double decker scheme that it meant a double kind of administration, that there would be on the one hand the social security scheme and on the other hand workman's compensation. What is the scheme we are considering to-day? All the spokesmen on the Front Opposition and Front Government Benches have said that they thought it would be advisable that the better paid workers should voluntarily insure through various supplementary schemes. If a man voluntarily insures he goes to the insurance company, and there you have a double administration with regard to the scheme. The difference between that suggestion and the double decker scheme is that a man is properly covered up to two-thirds of his pre-war earnings, and alternatively in the Bill there is a way of allowing a man to supplement by voluntary insurance at his own expense. Up to this moment there has not been laid down a rate which insurance companies should pay. If the double decker scheme is not adopted I hope certain rates will be laid down in regard to specific insurance companies, and that it will be made clear that workers who insure with other companies do so absolutely at their own risk.
Would not the double decker scheme be an incentive to an employer to reduce wages, in that his premium would increase with higher wages and decrease with lower wages?
I should have thought that on the whole the amount which employers would have to find in insurance premiums to meet the difference between 40s. or 45s. and supplements and two-thirds of the rate of wages would certainly not be anywhere near a figure which would make it worth the while of an employer to risk a storm with the trade union.
Turning for one moment to the question of tribunals, the hon. and gallant Member for South Belfast (Lieut.-Colonel Gage) raised one or two substantial points. I am conscious of the fact that the pensions officer in the first instance will do his job to the best of his ability and conscientiously, but I do not much like the method of appeal. One goes from the pensions officer to a court consisting of a chairman, appointed, I think, by the Minister, with a representative of the employers and a representative of the trade unions sitting beside him. I do not think that that is an ideal court for interpreting law or for looking at this problem of compensation with complete impartiality. There may well be a fear, it may be a foolish fear, on the part of a non-unionist if he appears before the court and is a little nervous of the union representative who is on that particular tribunal. It is all very well having employers and employees sitting on tribunals dealing with questions of conciliation, but in places in which the general run of legal justice is being dealt with I think the less a person on a tribunal has to do with either side of the industry the better it is for all concerned.
I would say of the courts that whatever may be their history, in the course of the last forty years the British workman has had a pretty good deal from the courts, taking it by and large. [Laughter.] I notice some hon. Members on the other side are laughing at that, but the very statement I have made was made from these Benches—just before we changed sides, as a result of the Election—by the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell), whose long experience in the mining industry and in the Labour Party should ensure that his view of what the courts have done in the last forty years be listened to with respect.
I leave this point by saying that these ad hoc tribunals have a certain disadvantage about them. The final appeal is to a Commissioner who, the Minister pointed out, would not be appointed by him. I think the Minister was a little ingenuous. The Commissioner is not appointed by him but by His Majesty. All that means is that he is appointed by the Government, and the Government will, as usual, take the advice of the Minister who is running the whole of this scheme. He will have a lot to do with the appointment. I am not suggesting that he will be a bad person to make the appointment, but there will be a completely different atmosphere from that of the courts. The appellant comes from the pensions officer to an ad hoc tribunal to somebody appointed by the same Ministry. Then the appeal goes finally to a Commissioner appointed by the Government. I do not think that, however good this Commissioner is, he will equal the House of Lords sitting in a judicial capacity or the Court of Appeal in wisdom.
I have made my criticisms. I think it is only right that the Government should have something to answer other than a mere chorus of praise when they reply to-night and to-morrow. I reiterate that in my view this Measure is an improvement on the past. If the suggestions I have made with regard to the double-decker scheme were adopted they would constitute a considerable improvement on the Measure as it is now. One final point occurs to me which I think will be a problem for the Minister. Under this Measure, I think I am right in saying that in the case of a fatal accident it is possible for more than one person to benefit. I think a widow and a parent can benefit at the same time. That places the Minister in a difficult position in regard to the general stucture of the social-services. In the case of injury there are two beneficiaries, but in the case of death by accident there will be only one. Why should there be any differentiation between the two cases? I prophesy that the Minister will have to face some storms with his own people in the course of the Committee stage. Finally, I would say that a little more elasticity in this scheme. a little more remembrance of the highly paid workman and the occupational basis of disability are points by which this Measure might still be made one which will really be a jewel on the brow of the Government that introduced it. Do not, by haggling over small points, make the Measure a second-rate one when, if advice is taken, it might be made much better.
I wish to claim the indulgence of the House for this, my maiden speech. I am certain that the industrial population of my native city Liverpool, a division of which I represent, will welcome this Bill as a humane Bill and a great social advance. That city, as is well known, is a great port, and has big shipbuilding industries and light and heavy industries of most kinds, and the question of workmen's injuries is one of great consequence in my own division of Edge Hill, which is perhaps most famous for its railway grid. The number of injuries there must be considerable, and men in that division who are injured must welcome this Bill as being a relief to their minds as well as to their bodies.
I have perhaps a little more intimate association with a number of these cases than have many people in the House. I am a final year medical student. That happens to be a part-time hobby of mine. In the orthopaedic departments there are men who would be better mentally and physically if this Bill were passed into law. They are frightened to go out into the world. They are frightened to take on light or heavy work in case there is a recurrence of their injury. There is no doubt about that, and they suffer from it. They are scared in case of a recurrence. They deteriorate mentally and physically, and then you lose good men.
I want to speak on this Bill for a class of people who have been completely neglected in the past. Among them are the finest people in this country; I am thinking particularly of the nursing profession. I use the expression "health workers" to cover everybody, and I would like the Minister seriously to consider inserting words so that this Bill shall include health workers who contract tuberculosis through being directly in contact with tubercular patients in the course of their normal duties or within some reasonable time afterwards. I make that suggestion because of my own observations both as a medical student and as a member of the local city council, sitting on the hospitals committee. I want it to be realised that nurses and health workers, whether they be X-ray workers, physiotherapists, rehabilitation workers, or medical students, and, of course, the medical profession themselves, have a thorough medical examination before they start. They are a far healthier body of people when they first start their profession than the average.
I would like to give one or two examples. A brilliant young man who took his M.Sc. degree was two years ahead of me. Towards the end of his finals two years ago he felt ill. He had an X-ray examination and pulmonary tuberculosis was disclosed. By the humanity of the Liverpool University he was allowed to complete his examinations, a dying man. On the day on which his diploma was on the Philharmonic Hall table to be given to him, and almost at the same minute as his name was being called, he was being lowered into the earth. A year later there was a similar occurrence. In my own year a man went into the sanatorium for six months, and at the present moment there is a man going for his examination who has been three years in a sanatorium. His medicals were interrupted. My observations—I have no statistics—are these: one in every 50 medical students go down with tuberculosis during the three years' clinical work.
I can talk of the nursing profession from my association with the Liverpool Corporation Hospitals Committee. It is distressing to see the number of nurses whose names appear before the Committee as having gone down with colds and eventually tuberculosis. We pay them a full salary for about three months, half salary for a further three months and then cast them off like an old glove. That is not humanity. Those people have gone into a calling and there is no doubt at all that they take added risks. They go to work among the sick who have our greatest sympathy. Tuberculosis is the white scourge of this country. We have practical examples to quote to prove how the tuberculosis germ still remains. The walls are washed with soda water, the water is neutralised and centrifuged, and the deposit injected into guinea pigs, which die of tuberculosis. If it can get to the wall from the patient, cannot it get to the nurse in between?
I have suggested that there should be within the framework of this Bill provision for a specific class of workers who do a specific job of work in contact with tubercular patients. I am not asking for anything further. In Liverpool we have had cases about which we felt strongly. We have felt our responsibility keenly because we have had the X-rays of these girls and their full medical reports before they started, and they have gone down perhaps in two years. We have applied to the Town Clerk to take over the responsibility. We have been told we are out of order. Counsel's opinion has been sought and counsel's opinion has been that tuberculosis is not an industrial disease. If a girl can prove that on a given date a patient with an active lesion coughed in her face and pulmonary tuberculosis can be attributed to that, that is an accident. That is not humanity, and I hope that before this Bill goes through it will have an amendment in the Committee room so that these girls who do probably the greatest job of work in this country are included.
I do not want to labour the case unduly. I think I have made the point that I really wanted to make. Others are much better able to discuss the money side with regard to compensation and various other matters. All I wish to say is that this Bill is a great advance, but I say "Please do not leave out the health workers who work among tubercular patients."
I stand in great need of the indulgence of the House in addressing it for the first time. I believe it is customary that new Members should abstain from being unduly contentious. Never has anybody had less temptation than I in that respect, because I am speaking on a Bill introduced with the good will of all parties. We have heard much criticism of detail, all of it helpful. I desire to give the Bill my very cordial support, and anything I say about it relates only to detail and the desire to make it better. We can all work together to make it as good as it can be.
May I first refer to the remarks made by an earlier speaker to the effect that legislation appeared to distinguish between employers and employed? I think he commented on the fact that this Bill appeared to perpetuate that distinction. If that is due to historical causes, it is not surprising that in this Bill, which is professedly one to abolish workmen's compensation and establish a new system, there is a little over-hanging. If one looks at the Title of the Bill one will see that it is intended to benefit people in employment and I think, without being pedantic, one can say there is no reason why the village carpenter, who was mentioned by an earlier speaker, should be excluded. Indeed, I hope it may be possible for the Government to bring within the framework of this Bill small employers who share with their workpeople risks of an industrial character. Another reason why they are left out is the difficulty of the standing cost. In the first classic legislation of this sort, the Act of 1911, there was provision for voluntary contributors, and I see no reason why small employers should not be voluntary contributors under this scheme. I suppose it might be said there would be a slight risk that only those employers in dangerous trades would avail themselves of that privilege, but the fund would be so large that I think the risk might well be taken.
There is one other matter to which I should like to refer and which has been mentioned by one or two previous speakers. The old law did suffer undoubtedly from an atmosphere of litigation. There was a good side to that, however. The litigation was open and above-board, and it enabled the workman to go to the highest court. It is most important that the benefits given under this Bill should be received with the full confidence of those who seek the benefit. My experience as a public man is that the disappointment of a disappointed litigant is nothing to the baffled frustration of a man who tries to get his way with a Government Department and cannot. I think these courts—we may as well call them courts, because that is what they are—should sit in public. Their hearings should be open, their decisions should be given speedily, and advocates should be allowed. I hope I shall not be thought to be speaking in self-interest, because I am not an advocate and am not likely to undertake any work of this kind. What is an advocate? He is a man whose task it is to supply the skill which the poor litigant has not got. He may be, and very often is, a salaried advocate, a trade union secretary, of high competence and very great specialised knowledge. He may be an ad hoc advocate, a barrister or solicitor, paid a fee on each occasion. But it is my opinion that advocates assist courts and are conducive to the cause of justice. I consider that in courts, at any rate in the higher ones, advocates, both trade union and legal, should be allowed because it is of the utmost importance, as a previous speaker said, that justice should manifestly appear to be done.
Those are the only two points on which I feel any competence to offer any real contribution to the Debate. I make them with all deference and in the hope that perhaps they or something of the sort may commend themselves to the Minister in Committee, and with the assurance that I regard the Bill as a great and momentous advance, and I feel it is a very great privilege to have been able to say a few words in support of it.
I feel that I have as much right to speak on this Bill to-night as any man in the House. I have a family history attached to compensation, but, before I deal with that, there are one or two other things I want to say about the Bill. I would like to say to the hon. Member for Wavertree (Mr. Raikes)—he went up North instead of stopping down South because he thought he would have a safer seat there—that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake), with whom he did not agree, has spoken better to-day on compensation than he has done in the last 11 years. The hon. Member for Wavertree told the Minister, "You must look out for storms in Committee." He said, "The Bill is very decent, but we want to make it better." One way in which he wants to make it better is by retaining the lawyers. We think the lawyers should be out of it, because of the tremendous cost they mean to all trade unions. I will give some percentages. The percentage for lawyers is 53 per cent. and the percentage, for the man who gets hurt is 47 per cent. The hon. Member for Wavertree is a barrister; that is why he pleaded that the lawyers should still be retained to plead for us. I can give the cost to the Yorkshire Miners' Association which will startle the House, but it will not startle some others, because they already know about it.
Will the hon. Member forgive me for interrupting? I do not often seek to defend the legal profession, but the figures to which the hon. Member is referring include the profit of the insurance companies. The insurance companies are worse than the lawyers.
I refer to the profits and also the lawyers' charges. I believe the doctors are in it also. Those are the figures, so far as we are concerned, and we do not want the lawyers in the Bill. I ask the Minister to keep them out. Now I want to give a bit of the history of my own family in the matter of compensation. I have a brother who is 72 years of age. He has never had a penny compensation in his life. He has never worked in the pit, or at the pit top since he met with an accident, and has never been able to pick anything off the floor without going on his knees to do so. His injury was received before the first Compensation Act came into operation. He took out a bit of insurance and, at about 68 years of age, he retired with some kind of superannuation. He is wearing a special jacket now, for which he had to pay himself; the colliery company did not pay anything towards it. That is one of the things that makes me so bitter against the colliery companies. I had another brother who died of silicosis. He had a little compensation—not 30s. A man's compensation was based on the periods when he was not working as well as on those when he was working. The amount was totalled up for 12 months, and there were exceptionally few men in the mining industry who got anything like 30s. a week.
I worked as regularly as any man in the pit, at the coal face, for 25 years with what bit of muscle I had. I got hurt and was away for 28 weeks, and when I got my compensation it was 16s. 2½d. a week for myself, my wife and my two children. That is not so long ago as the case of my brother who was suffering from silicosis. When his widow went to draw compensation for herself, it had been almost used up. She got the bit that was left out of £300, and it was not long before she had to go to the poor law authorities, as they were in those days. I could not help her, and it was a bitter pill to me to see my brother's widow going for this assistance. That is my family history.
I would like to point out to the Minister that there are some lads in the industry-to-day who are doing men's work, pushing the pan shovel. They earn £5 or £6 a week. Some of these lads will now have to come down from 40s. to 22s. 6d. compensation. If an injured lad waits nine days before drawing his compensation he will draw 22s. 6d. plus a half—33s. 9d.—instead of 80s. What do hon. Members think he will say to the Minister of Fuel and Power when he gets that in his hand? He will say, "You had better go down the pit and get the coal yourself."
I do not want to keep the House, but there is just one other point. I was at a miners' meeting last Tuesday night addressing my men. I go to their meetings occasionally, and I get a good deal of knowledge from them. They are always asking questions. I would like to ask whether persons injured before 1924 will get the advance, because I have two men in my district, both living in the same street, one of whom was hurt a fortnight before 1924 who gets the previous advance, and the other, who was hurt a fortnight after 1924 who does not get that advance. One says to the other, "Jack, this is a bit rough on me," and the other fellow says, "I am sorry you were not hurt on the same day as I was." I am desirous that whoever is living when this Bill is put on the Statute Book, and who is unable to work, shall be paid the same as anybody else.
I rise with some diffidence to address this House for the first time. It is an ordeal which we must all go through, but it is with pleasure that I have caught your eye, Mr. Speaker, to speak on a Bill of this description. It is something many of us have been asking for, and clamouring for, for a tremendously long time. On broad lines of principle, I wholeheartedly congratulate the Minister of National Insurance for the effort he has made in connection with this Bill. Naturally, many of us who have been dealing with compensation in the industrial field for several years cannot be entirely satisfied. The first thing that leaps to one's mind, remembering the people who are going to be claimants under it, is the greater payment of 45s. a week. This is an advance of 10s. on the previous compensation payment. We are pleased the Minister has raised it to-day from 40s. to 45s., but we hope that before the Bill is finally agreed upon he will increase it to 55s. because, when all is said and done, these people are injured through no fault of their own, although one of the speakers on the other side did suggest that there was a large contributory factor to injuries in industry. Injured people have to live and maintain a decent standard of life during the compensation period. Furthermore they are desirous of getting back to work at the earliest possible moment. Therefore their rates of pay, when they are away from work owing to accident, should be such as to give them that additional nourishment which we all know is more necessary at that time. I therefore express the hope that the Minister, having made one advance of 5s. will see his way, before the Bill becomes an Act, to increase the sum still further.
I congratulate the Minister very much on the complete changeover he has made in workmen's compensation. Quite distinct from the hon. Gentleman opposite who has been arguing for the preservation of the legal mind in. compensation, we are very pleased to see the end of those legal charges and costs which some of us in trade unions have seen mounting up on our balance sheets year by year, even to the House of Lords, the most costly Assembly possible. In order to get a measure of justice for a poor fellow who has unfortunately sustained an injury, it has been necessary for us to go through all the complications and the expense involved in getting justice. I compliment the Minister upon the complete change in procedure which he is bringing about by his insurance officers, local appeal tribunals and, ultimately, the Commissioner himself. I deprecate that the Minister has not yet seen fit to pay an injured man from the first day, but I hope he will change his mind on that point. He has brought the waiting period down to two days, but there is a principle involved. Where is the logic and where is the reason in continuing to penalise for two days a man who has suffered an injury before he is entitled to benefit? I sincerely trust that the Minister will be able to make alterations later on, so that a man will be entitled to benefit upon the first day that he is actually away from work owing to injury.
There is another important point. I venture to suggest that the procedure suggested will result in a tremendous speed up in the benefits paid to people. We have often seen men injured in industry having to wait week after week before an insurance company decided to pay the benefit, deliberately holding it back for some obscure reason. The change of procedure in bringing the matter under the Minister himself gives one reasonable ground to hope that there will not be waste of time, and that there will not be the heavy cost, owing to the ramifications of insurance companies. One feels that insurance companies will naturally be aggrieved at the passing of this Measure but the more they are aggrieved the more will be the benefit for our people. I am pleased that the Minister has cut out the old question of lump sum pay- ments. There is not one of us in the trade union movement taking an active part in these matters but has times out of number come across the poverty and degradation brought about among our people because they have been tantalised by £200 or £300 lump sum payments. It is therefore pleasing to know that our people will be protected against themselves in this manner.
Another welcome and important feature is introduced in assessing the amount of compensation. Instead of taking the pre-accident and post-accident earnings when a man gets back to work, and so arriving at a mean figure to decide what his capabilities are, it is much better to follow the principle accepted by the Minister, and followed in the Service Departments, of deciding on a percentage basis according to actual disability and not according to what might be the gross earning capacity. One can further see in the suggestions of the Minister an end to the controversy which we have had in the past in getting diseases scheduled as industrial diseases. By the proposed method of application one can see that commonsense will be brought to bear and that we shall not have to go through the old legal procedure which has cost us so much in the past.
I feel that the Bill is a real step towards establishing the freedom about which an hon. Member opposite spoke so glibly yesterday. He said he was afraid it was going. The freedom to exploit our people in industry is decidedly on the wane, while the freedom is growing for our people to enjoy a reasonable measure of protection and to know that they are assured at long last, should they lose a limb or an arm or suffer some injury which requires a surgical appliance, that there will not be tremendous delay and playing about with National Health Insurance and approved societies and suchlike. Here is something that will give them an opportunity to get back into industry far earlier and that will make them far happier than many of them have been.
We have all seen some of these people. There is a man in my own village at the present moment, walking about with artificial legs. He was injured in the mines and lost his legs, and he had great difficulty in getting the artificial limbs. His experiences were too disgraceful for words. For those things, if for no other reason, I think the Minister is performing a useful job of work. I sincerely trust that he may go a little further, taking his courage in both hands, and say: "We are coming forward with something of which we may be proud. We are giving people benefit somewhere near their earning capacity and we are not continuing to bolster up the figures which have obtained for so long in the past."
At the outset of my observations perhaps I might be allowed, and I am sure the House would wish it, to offer congratulations first to the hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Clitherow), who made a most sincere appeal on behalf of that most deserving section of the community, the nursing profession; secondly, to my hon. Friend the Member for Handsworth (Mr. H. Roberts), who made most useful suggestions which I hope the Minister will remember; and lastly to the hon. Member who has just sat down, and who made a most able speech. This I do with the utmost sincerity, in spite of some of the harsh things he said about the profession to which I belong.
In the course of this Debate, and, indeed, in the course of the Debate on the White Paper some time ago, most speeches have indicated that there is general agreement with the proposals which form the basis of the Measure now under consideration. I think that the reasons for that general welcome are these: First, it is thought right to bring the whole problem of industrial injuries into line with the wider plan for social insurance. Secondly, it is recognised in this Measure, as it has been recognised for some 50 years, that some special rights should attach to a workman who is injured at his work. Lastly, I think it appeals to people because, by its administrative arrangements, it seeks to eliminate friction between employers and employed. My object in addressing the House is to endeavour to put forward certain suggestions which I hope are of a constructive character and to which I know my right hon. Friend will give attention. Before I come to those specific matters, there is one general problem to which I desire to address myself.
I noticed particularly, in reading the report of the Debate on the White Paper, that a wide and robust criticism was levelled at these proposals by a certain section of hon. Members, on the ground that it was not right that the workman should bear any part of the burden under the new scheme. It was cogently pointed out that hitherto the whole of the burden had fallen upon the employer; why now impose one upon the workman? I feel that hon. Members would do well to consider the answer to that wide criticism. One of the principal answers is that when the new Measure becomes an Act, as it undoubtedly will, there will be an additional benefit for the workman and a corresponding additional obligation on the employer.
May I explain what I mean? Under the existing law a workman who is injured at his work may have two remedies. He may seek his workman's compensation, or, if he can establish negligence on the part of the employer or breach of statutory duty, as, for example, failure to fence dangerous machinery, he can recover damages. Under the existing law these remedies are alternatives. Hon. Members may recall Section 29 of the principal Workmen's Compensation Act, 1925, which makes it clear that a workman must elect which of these remedies he will choose.
As I construe the new situation—and my right hon. Friend in his opening speech, which we all admired so much, indicated that this was his view—the workman who is injured will recover his insurance benefit as of right, because he has paid his contributions, but he will also be able to recover damages if the employer has been guilty of negligence or breach of duty. Therefore, there is the double obligation now on the employer. It has already been mentioned that a Departmental Committee is considering the whole question of employers' liability. It is a matter of the utmost importance, and we await their report with great interest. I hope that eventually it may be thought right to do away with the Employers' Liability Act of 1880, which I regard as quite valueless, and also to do away with the doctrine of the defence of common employment, which, in my experience, has been responsible for some injustices. Another argument in favour of the equality of contributions is that, in my view, a man always prefers to accept a benefit which he is entitled to as of right, having paid for it. This brings the whole matter into line with the general plan of social insurance.
Let me turn to the specific suggestions which I urge deserve some consideration. One or two hon. Members have already mentioned the position of the self-employed man. It is plain that those who are to receive the benefits of this Measure are in effect defined in the first part of the First Schedule as those who are under a contract of service or a contract of apprenticeship. That plainly excludes the self-employed man who may be working for himself, either with or without a few workmen under him. It seems to me hard that that not inconsiderable and very deserving section of the community should be kept outside the benefits of this Bill. I would ask my right hon. Friend to consider if it is not possible to insert a new Clause so that such men are enabled to make their contributions to the central fund and to draw benefits equally with those who are under contract of service.
I am much obliged to my hon. Friend, and I agree with him. It would conform with other enactments which embrace such permissive Clauses.
The next matter about which I want to say a word is the determination of claims, and I hope I shall not disagree too violently with the hon. Member for West Newcastle (Mr. Popplewell). At first sight, I felt considerable disquiet at the removal from the courts of the question of the determination of claims under this Bill, and I feel that the hon. Member and I are at least at one in this, that while he complains of the expense of litigation, he makes no complaint of the real justice which is ultimately obtained. I felt that it was perhaps dangerous to remove from the purview of the court these often extremely delicate questions, and I saw little reason for the establishment of what is, in effect, a new judiciary in the shape of commissioners to act as the final appellate tribunals. On reflection, however, and after discussion and after having listened to most of the speeches to-day, I do not feel disposed to quarrel with the set-up which is envisaged in the Bill, with one or two qualifications which I will mention.
The reasons I have reached this conclusion are that I agree strongly that we should seek to eliminate, if possible, the antagonism which litigation often causes, and I think that there is much to be said for an informal tribunal. The qualification I would make is that I strongly feel there should be a last resort to the courts, and I suggest for my right hon. Friend's consideration that the best way to achieve that is to permit a case to be stated for the opinion of the High Court on a point of law. I imagine that, with the machinery envisaged in this Bill, such cases would be few, and that there should be that last resort to the judges who have such vast experience in these matters, seems to me to be right. I further agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Handsworth said, namely, that these inquiries should be in public and that those who appear should be entitled to be represented even by Members of my profession, and, possibly, by others more intimately connected with the hon. Member for West Newcastle. It seems to me that that is right and fair.
I have not had an opportunity of investigating very closely the enforcement Clauses in this Bill, the rights of inspection, and so forth. Representations have been made to me that they are a little too harsh and that they might be brought into line with, for example, enforcement Sections of the Wages Council Act of this year, whereby only limited inspection can be allowed, and an employer who is found not to have himself committed the offence and can show that it was the offence of a third party, may put the liability on that third party.
There appears in this Bill many times a Clause allowing the Minister to make Regulations. One hopes that that does not too much deprive this House of its right of discussion and debate. I could not help noticing that under Clause 23 the time in which notice must be given and a claim made is left to Regulation. Under the old Workmen's Compensation Act the House decided what the proper time was, and my right hon. Friend might think it proper to specify a time so that the House may discuss and decide the point. Indeed it may be thought proper to avoid this delegated legislation and to allow the House to decide these matters. I trust that the Minister will be good enough to give consideration to this point which I have endeavoured to make.
Anyone who knows the workings of the old Workmen's Compensation Act must welcome this Bill as a big step forward—as big as any we can take in this sphere. It gets rid of lump sum compensation, it gets rid—at least I hope it does—of the endless legal and medical wrangles which have wasted so much money, and takes workmen's compensation out of the market place, to put it into the field of social insurance. But when we are taking a step forward, it is always well to look at the next step ahead. The Bill perpetuates the distinction between industrial injury and disease and non-industrial injury and disease. This is a distinction born of history, and it is very hard, indeed, almost impossible, to explain to an ordinary person why, if he falls on the way to work and breaks his leg, he should get less money than if he falls or trips in the factory and breaks his leg there. The remedy for this is perfectly simple: it is to raise sickness benefits to precisely the same level as those applying to workmen's compensation under this Bill, and I hope very much that when the time comes the Minister will consider equalising those two rates of benefit. Once that is done, all the difficulties arising from the phrase "or in the course of employment" and the schedule of industrial diseases will disappear.
This Bill is the prototype, as it were, for future social legislation, and there is one provision in it which I fear may be common to all the proposals which will be made for social insurance. I hope that it is a proposal which the Minister will look at again with a view to seeing whether he cannot get rid of it. It is the proposal to deduct 10s. a week in respect of home saving when a member of the household is a patient in hospital free of charge. Of course, every patient will be in hospital free of charge when the national medical service comes into operation; this is a piece of parsimony which was invented by Sir William Beveridge. He was very generous in many respects in his Report, but occasionally he would put in some apparent piece of abstract justice which was really a swindle and bore no relation to reality. Every housewife knows perfectly well that when the wage-earner or some other member of the household is in hospital the family budget is little, if at all, decreased. Rents, rates, washing, heating and the tallymen go on just the same, and the only thing that is saved is the cost of the absent member's rationed food. But even the food bill is very little changed in practice, and against that the housewife has to set the cost of visiting the hospital and buying some small luxury to take to the patient—flowers, a cake or a book or whatever it may be. The result is that for practical purposes there is no reduction in expenditure when the wage-earner is ill. I do hope that the Minister will look again at that point.
Now a word about the position of nurses, which the hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Clitherow) mentioned. Partly for the sake of the nurses themselves and partly because they illustrate a general principle, in the past nurses have often been excluded from benefit because of doubt as to whether they were working under a contract of service. I hope that the Minister will be able to assure us that all nurses will be covered, particularly those working on private nursing. Then, as the hon. Member for Edge Hill said, nursing is a risky job. If everything possible is done to make it safe, it is still more risky than the average. With every safeguard the nurse is still liable to certain pathogenic affections, to whitlows and septic fingers, kidney infections and septicaemia; she is more liable to these when every precaution is taken, but unfortunately every precaution is not always taken at present in many hospitals. Regular X-rays, Mantoux tests and blood counts are not done, and I am convinced in my own mind that nurses are more liable to tuberculosis than the rest of the community—although this is disputed. If one takes sanatorium nurses alone, admittedly in good sanatoria they are not more liable, but if one takes the nursing profession as a whole I am pretty sure that they are more liable to tuberculosis. But the ills of nursing are not in the Schedule of Industrial Disease, and that is the general point. In the past, unless there has been absolute legal proof of connection between the disease and the occupation—and overwhelming proof—thedisease has not been scheduled, and what has been the result? The trade unions have had to waste their energy getting diseases scheduled when that energy should have been used in getting rid of the diseases. The same applies to research workers, who have spent their time proving a connection between the disease and the occupation instead of trying to get rid of the disease. In the interim, if the national health benefits are not brought up to the same level as industrial benefits, I hope the Minister will at any rate be very generous in his scheduling of industrial diseases.
The Minister said that this Bill gives him power to promote and assist research into the causes, incidence and methods of prevention of industrial disease. I hope that the Minister will add to this research into the methods of treatment of diseases, because the treatment of industrial accidents and disabilities, especially minor accidents, is still far from perfect. As hon. Members on this side know full well, many minor accidents can be completely or very severely disabling, particularly when they affect the fingers. I hope also that the Minister will add to his charge in this respect to publicise the results of his researches. Between the two wars much good work was done in this field by the Industrial Health Research Board, but it remained absolutely locked up, in the rather dull reports which they produced which were full of solid material, when it should have been applied in industry. Since the war the Industrial Health Research Board has acquired a very energetic and able new secretary, Dr. Schilling, with whose help have been produced a number of short, snappy, well-produced reports on industrial disabilities, injuries and accidents, and that has helped a great deal to get research work across, and unless research work is got across to the people who can act on it, it might as well not be done.
There is one danger in official research, and that is the danger of putting all one's eggs into one basket. It looks neat if there is a co-ordinating agency for research, and it appeals to the Treasury mind to have a single body doing the research. But if that agency should fall down on the job you are sunk, and I trust the Minister will not hesitate to use the Industrial Health Research Board and the Medical Research Council, I trust also that he will not hesitate to strike out on his own in the research field, despite Treasury protests, and in doing that I hope he will treat his research workers generously—not merely as to cash or equipment, but also as to field workers, staff of a clerical type, and laboratory technicians. It is a shame to waste the time of research workers on routine clerical or field jobs when they should be getting on with their major projects.
Finally, a word about industrial neurosis. Mental disability makes up a large part of industrial disability. Many doctors, including those on tribunals, have been in the past, and I am afraid still are, inclined to treat the neurotic patient as a malingerer or at least as someone deserving of little sympathy. The truth is that the neurotic person is launched into life with a nervous system which is not perfect, and he finds it more difficult than most to "take it." They are the people who deserve more sympathy, and who get less of it, than almost any class. It is sometimes said that the level of a civilisation can be judged by the treatment it accords to its old people, I would like to add that it can be judged by the treatment it accords to its neurotics. The barbarian concentrates his neurotics; the civilised person compensates them and, even more important, rehabilitates them. That is no easy job; we often fail because we do not know enough, and I hope the Minister will generously finance research into industrial psychiatry. I hope he will be eclectic in his choice of psychiatrists and research workers. I hope he will help to further the work of Dr. Craik at Cambridge on what may be called the mechanistic side of industrial psychiatry, the measurement of fatigue, of accident proneness, and so on. I hope also he will help and encourage the work of those psychiatrists who have been busy in the Army and have done a very fine job from the emotional angle. He may be warned against these people. I hope he will disregard that warning, because if we are to help these particular lame dogs, the industrial neurotics, over their very difficult stiles we must be ready to use every method, even some of those which do not find favour in official circles.
I am sure the House will agree that the hon. Member for Barnet (Dr. S. Taylor) deserves our congratulations. During the Debate we have heard many excellent maiden speeches based on knowledge and experience which will be valuable to the House as time goes on. I do not want to detract in any way from the congratulations that have been poured upon my right hon. Friend the Minister of National Insurance in regard to this Bill. He said rightly that the Bill was the product of the Coalition Government. The right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) rightly said that he had had something to do with the preparation of it. Apart from slight exceptions, the Bill is the same to-day as it was before the General Election. That does not detract from its merits. I wonder whether the House appreciates fully how this Bill breaks with the past. The right hon. Member for North Leeds detailed to the House what he regarded as the four weaknesses of the 1897 Act. Had he been actively engaged in this matter just after that Act came into operation, I think he could have detailed more of its weaknesses and limitations. When that Measure was before the House in 1896, there were responsible industrial Members of Parliament who declared that the Measure, meagre though it was, would destroy every friendly society in the country and cause some pits to close down. The Measure was extremely limited. The most it gave in maximum compensation for total incapacity was 20s. a week, but a person had to wait three weeks before he could draw the first week's money. He had a fortnight to do for nothing. When I was injured in the pit I had to wait three weeks before I drew my small bit of compensation. But it did something else. It said that for fatal accidents £300 should be paid, but that in cases where the man died as a result of an accident some time after its occurrence there was to be a deduction of every penny piece that had been paid in weekly compensation. It was only in 1923 that we were able to get the Government of that time to put in a minimum of £200 in order to safeguard a woman from having to go to the Poor Law because she drew no weekly compensation. The Act of 1897 had its humorous side, too. It provided that if a man fell off a building less than 30ft. high he was to get nothing. He had, so to speak, to fall the first 29ft. for nothing. Moreover, there was no reference in the Act to industrial diseases.
Let it be said that there is no subject of more importance to industrial workers than the question of what is to be paid to them in the case of industrial injuries and fatal injuries in industry. There is no subject that arouses more bitterness in the heavy industries than the inadequacy of the present Workmen's Compensation Acts. There is no subject on which audiences listen with keener attention than that of the inadequacy of workmen's compensation and the need for putting it on to a fair basis. While this Bill is welcomed as a step forward and as a break with the past, some of my hon. Friends feel that it is not quite good enough. I make no apology for saying this. The Bill, good as it is and better than the existing law, is not as good as the Bills which labour Members brought forward when they were in opposition. In 1938 the last Bill that we brought forward asked for three-fourths of the normal earnings, with a minimum of £3 a week for total incapacity. For fatal accidents it asked for one-third of the normal earnings for the widow or 30s., and the children's allowances were one-third of that. This Bill is the result of Coalition thinking at a time when nobody knew when the war was going to end. It is regarded by a good many hon. Members, including myself, as not being quite good enough, because certain things have happened. There have been a General Election and a change of Government. This Bill was introduced in the first flush of victory. In my opinion, it would have been far better to have held it back and overhauled it to bring it into accord with the policy that we have been preaching for many years.
The Minister of National Insurance, along with many others, has for years shown courage and boldness in advocating what he believed to be the right thing. I want him to believe that I speak in no spirit of antagonism. I believe we have an opportunity here to make a decent Act of Parliament that will bring something like tranquility where previously there has been hostility and suspicion. In putting through a Measure of this sort, let us do it in such a way that we will stop these questions being constantly debated in the House. Let us do it thoroughly, and leave Parliament to deal with more fundamental problems. I and some of my hon. Friends make no apology for submitting to my right hon. Friend the Minister of National Insurance what we believe to be the inadequacy, anomalies and weaknesses of the Bill. I hope no hon. Member opposite will deny us that right. I want my right hon. Friend to appreciate that what we want him to do is to make the Bill worthy of this House.
I would like to give one or two indications of Amendments that we think can be made. I welcome the 5s. advance on the 40s. as being some little instalment of what was asked for. I also welcome the 25 per cent. addition to partial compensation, but I would like to look at the exact wording of that provision before I deal with its implication. The industrial workers with whom I am connected believe that the 40s. provided for in the Bill is inadequate, for this reason. Earnings to-day are higher than they have ever been. How many times have we said that when a man is sick or is injured at work he ought not to lose his income? In many cases he needs more than he was getting before. During the war the principle of the guaranteed week in industry has grown up, based on the idea that a man who was out of work through no fault of his own ought not to be denied a week's wage. We welcome the extra 5s. for total incapacity. We shall possibly put down Amendments on the Committee stage with regard to partial compensation. Frankly, I think that the method in the Bill is far preferable to, and an advance upon, the existing law. Those of us who have had the handling of trying to get partial-compensation men back to work know that there are no light jobs in the mining industry. I was at a colliery on Monday where fellows I had known for 30 years came along with walking sticks saying that they were sorry that they had not a penny-piece of partial compensation now. We welcome the present proposal as being better on balance but we reserve the right to try and improve it.
There are one or two other things which I ought to mention. Under the Bill we deny a pension to the widow of a man who dies from an accident unless the man had been in receipt of unemployability allowance. Why cannot we make up our minds on what we want with regard to this marriage question. We urge young men and women to marry, and yet we say in this Bill, "If you marry after the date of the accident, unless you are receiving the unemployability allowance, there is no pension." I know the argument that will be used. It will be said that the old man in receipt of an industrial pension will marry a young woman in order that she may get a pension, but in practice it does not work out like that. I know of a case relating to a couple who intended to marry, where between the reading of the banns and the date fixed for the marriage the man met with an accident and had to remain on his back for weeks.
When he was better, they married. If this Bill had been in operation and that man had died from the effects of the accident, unless there was unemployability, there would have been nothing for the widow. Why not put in a specified period of so many weeks or months after the accident in order to avoid these anomalies and pinpricks in administration? Therefore, while welcoming the Bill in principle and knowing it to be advantageous and a break with the past, we claim the right to put down any Amendments that we may think necessary in order to try and improve it. I would ask my right hon. Friend not to have a closed mind on this Bill. Let us jointly examine it in detail when it gets into Committee and see if we can do anything to improve it and so put on to the Statute Book a Measure of which we shall all be proud. I hope that he will do this.
I am glad to have this opportunity of speaking upon this particular Bill, and I want to approach the subject from a different direction altogether from that of other speakers. In anything that I have to say, I do not intend to deal with the difference between injury in the pit, factory or workshop—that is well known by everyone—nor do I think we ought to approach this particular subject from the same angle as social insurance. We must, of necessity, take into consideration the different circumstances relative to compensation, compared with ordinary questions of benefits for health and so forth. We are dealing with this particular matter from a given position. What is that outstanding position with regard to compensation? The outstanding thing with regard to it is the fact that, without the introduction of this Bill, there is a given and definite liability upon a section of the community for the payment of compensation to the workman. Knowing that that liability now exists, we must of necessity, when we begin to change the structure and the method of paying com- pensation and dealing with claimants under the Bill, take into consideration the liabilities now existing among certain sections who will now have to contribute under this Bill.
What then is the position with regard to compensation itself? We have had the historical aspects of compensation laid before us and it has been indicated that from one stage to another we have gradually increased the benefits. Why is it that we have definitely in the past, and right up to the present, stepped out with regard to giving benefits to men and others who are injured? It is for the particular reason that when men are injured at work, they have had to be there for the purpose of keeping people engaged in trade and industry. Were it not for the fact that they must of necessity be in the mines, factories and other places in order to produce the wealth of the country, these particular accidents would not happen. Therefore we introduced compensation law. What is the liability of the employers at the present moment with regard to compensation? It is admitted in the Government White Paper itself that the present liability of the employers is practically £21,000,000— £17,000,000 in the actual benefits paid and practically £4,000,000 in administrative charges.
That being so, when the promoters of the Bill decided to change the whole structure of compensation payments and liability with regard to building up a fund, what was the chief motive? I would have expected that the motive, particularly of a Labour Government, would, as far as possible, have been to increase the benefits above and beyond what are provided at the moment without a contribution equal to the extra and additional contribution that they were getting from the workmen. What would that have been in actual £s. d.? Before the Minister gave his attention to this Bill the contribution that was to be paid by the workmen was £10,000,000, and why is it, when we are to start with this new structure, that the workmen who are to contribute this £10,000,000 are not to receive extra benefits accordingly? Under the first proposal in the Bill the extra benefits are equal to £23,000,000 in place of the £17,000,000 received under the present law.
At the moment, the employers are contributing £21,000,000. Before the Minister of National Insurance explained the new attitude of the Government, the workmen had to contribute £10,000,000. Now, because of the pressure put on the Government to increase the benefits, we find that they have decided to try to meet that pressure, which has been sustained for many weeks, by increasing again the penalty of the workman. Instead of contributing 3d. under the Bill, against the 4d. by the employer, with the 5s. extra which they now suggest, we are to get an increased liability to contributions of 4d. instead of 3d.
I want to put this proposition to hon. Members of this House. There is not the slightest difficulty, either with questions of health insurance or pensions or compensation, in giving the people anything they want, if the people have to provide the money. That is what we are doing, and what is the result? The employers, under this Bill, instead of contributing their present liability of £21,000,000, are to contribute £13,000,000. No wonder we get their support. While putting that general position, I want also to give a little more detail which has not yet been put before the House, but which I think ought to go down on record in the proceedings of this House. Despite the fact that we were contributing £10,000,000 and now have to contribute £13,000,000, there are any amount of cases to-day under the present law where men and youths are getting more benefits than they will get under this Bill. That is rather amazing to me—to think that we have to contribute so much more now than we ever did before, while the employers are the section to get relief.
Let us get at the facts. I have had a good deal to do with compensation myself. There are any amount of intricacies with regard to it which you are now attempting to estimate in terms of £s. d., in finding out what claim an individual has. Having had a long experience in regard to this matter, and having consulted people in responsible positions who are dealing with these questions every day of the week, I want to put to the House the position of the underground workers in the mines. When I speak of the youths in the pits to-day and the wages they are receiving, I want to put it to the House, that, on the average, they will not have very much more than youths are getting in other industries. I have looked at the Ministry of Labour Gazette to-day with regard to this particular matter, and you get the figure there that youths under 21 are, on the average, receiving 44s. 3d. per week. The figures regarding wages that I want to give now are the actual minimum wages received by underground workers in the pits to-day, and I want to indicate the compensation benefits which these youths of from 14 to 17 can claim under this Bill as compared with what they would have claimed.
The minimum wage underground for a youth of 14 is 38s. 6d. Under the present Act, he would claim 22s. 1½d., plus 5s. There are any amount of funny regulations with regard to this which I cannot attempt to explain here. For the first 13 weeks, that boy gets 27s. 1½d. By this Bill, he gets 20s., and therefore loses 7s. per week. A boy of 14½ gets a wage of 40s. 6d., claims 22s. 8d., plus 5s., making, for the first 13 weeks, 27s. 8d. For a boy of 15, the wage is 43s., his total claim comes to 23s., but here there is a peculiar regulation, which I do not intend to detail, but which provides that, after the 13 weeks, he gets another 5d., making the average over the six months 28s. 5d. per week as against the 20s. under this Bill. I understand that the 20s. may be raised to 22s. 6d., but, in any case, there is a big margin between the two rates. The boy of 16 has a wage of 48s., with a total claim of 29s. 6d. for the first 13 weeks, and of 32s. for the next period, averaging for the six months 30s. 9d., against the 22s. 6d. he will receive under the new Bill. A boy of 17 has a wage of 54s., and for the first 13 weeks gets 32s., with 36s. for the further period, making his average for the six months 40s. against 22s. 6d. The boy of 17½ gets 57s. 6d. a week, has a total claim of 33s. 9d., later increased to 38s. 4d., with an average of 36s.
These are tremendous differences, and, to get over that difficulty, the Minister and his supporters put in this Bill that youths who have dependants may receive 16s. more. Not all of them have dependants, so that there are many youths who are living with their families who will not receive these additions. I do not think it is necessary to go into cases of other boys with perhaps lower wages, but the same principle applies.
That is the position with regard to wages, and that is after we, as workmen, will be called upon to contribute £13,000,000 the same as the employers, despite the fact that they have at present a liability of £21,000,000.
Let us get back to the position of the married man. The married man with a wife and one child is getting that benefit under this scheme. That applies also where there is a wife with three children. There are many families with more than three children in the mining industry and other working class industries—you get limitation of families more in the upper classes. While it is admitted that the married man's position is somewhat improved, the next position we have to consider in detail is that of the man whose wage is about £6 5s. I am putting it in detail because many people who are not constantly dealing with compensation do not realise the general position when it is given in a general way.
I looked in the "Gazette" to-day to see exactly what wages were received by the workers in general and I found that the average was £5 19s. 11d. or say £6. That was the average wage in January, 1945, paid throughout the country so far as men are concerned. I worked these figures, therefore, on £6 5s., for if you have an average of £6 there are many men who are getting far more than that. If you take the position of a married man with three children who receives a partial injury—say two fingers or a thumb off—who cannot follow the work in which he was formerly engaged, he may have to get light work. In the mining industry there is constantly that position. Many of them cannot get work in the pits and so they have to go on the general labour market to secure employment and they receive somewhere about £3 per week.
The question then is, what can the man receive to-day with the wage which is, on the average, similar to the prevailing wage in the country? You find this position, that a man with £6 5s. per week, having lost his capacity to follow his ordinary work, goes into the labour market and gets £3 per week. What compensation does he claim? Under the original Act, without contributing £13,000,000 towards his benefit, he claims as a maximum for himself and his wife the difference between £6 5s. and £3. He therefore retains his full compensation. In the small colliery which I have just left, I had the cases of two men who are doing light work and receiving full compensation. When that man goes on to the labour market he claims 43s. 4d., that is two-thirds of the difference between one wage and the other. He claims supplementary benefits for his three children amounting to 13s. 6d. That brings him to seven-eighths, which is the most he can claim. Therefore, that man claims 56s. 10d. per week as compensation, although he is actually working. What kind of compensation does he get under this Bill? About 20s., probably 22s. 6d. now or something similar to that. Is this the thing that the Labour movement is standing for when we are contributing £13,000,000, where we have never contributed a penny before, because of a special liability in regard to compensation?
Where the family has four or three children, he still claims the 56s. 10d.; where two children, 53s. 4d.; where one child, 48s. 4d. A married man with no children claims 43s. 4d., and a single man claims 40s. The chances are that a man with similar wages and a similar light job would get under this Bill, before it was revised, about 20s., and now it will probably be 22s. 6d.
That is the position with regard to the youths, and with regard to the partially incapacitated people. The point is this: Are we doing justice to the people who sent us here? It was all right tying ourselves down to what the Coalition Government decided upon, but what about our own people? What was the cloud of disability under which they were negotiating? They were negotiating upon that compensation question with the actual fact before them that, whatever else it was, the Coalition was a Tory Coalition with a Tory majority. While there was an election pending, the most optimistic man even in the Labour movement never expected to get the majority that we have obtained. The question then arises, are not these changed circumstances? Are we carrying out the mandate of the Labour movement? Are we carrying out the mandate of the people who put us here when we are tying ourselves to a Coalition Bill and when we say to-day that because of the then beclouded atmosphere we told some employers that we believed for the moment in the principle of equal contribution? Does that tie us here to-day in this House? Does it tie the whole of the Labour movement who have never had the chance to get at this Bill and to understand it fully? To me it does not. I see no liability. I see no moral obligation to our people to-day to fasten themselves down to the principle of contributions laid down by the Coalition.
I suggest that the benefits themselves are not satisfactory. Many other speakers have indicated that they are not sufficient, and I want to conclude what I have said to-day in a general way to try to understand if I can. Am I a bad judge? Do I misunderstand the people I represent? Do I misunderstand the Labour movement? Do I misunderstand the Labour Conference? Certainly I have never spoken there but I have an obligation to speak here and I am carrying out that obligation according to my conscience. I believe that the men of the Labour movement attending this House should break themselves away from the strings that tie them down at the moment and examine the position freely as a Labour Government in the House of Commons with a strong majority, a Labour movement that naturally and reasonably expects to do something much better than a Conservative majority and to do something much better than a Coalition.
I want to ask our people here in this House to examine their consciences despite the influences of the leaders who, I think, have been beclouded by the Coalition position. I believe they themselves think that we ought to do better; with pressure I am sure they will do better. Therefore, despite the general feelings of our leaders in this matter there is an obligation on us who are ordinary back-benchers to express our views freely. That being so, we believe that by this Bill we are subsidising the employers. Our leaders should examine the position very carefully, and see whether they cannot maintain the difference between the employers and workmen's contributions, as was agreed by the Coalition Government. The Government have decided to increase the contribution of workers by a penny, and there is an easy way out of the difficulty by increasing the employers' contribution by a similar amount. By that means the benefits could be increased to our satisfaction.
May I, first of all, thank you, Mr. Speaker, for giving me the opportunity of addressing the House for the first time and, may I, through you, crave the indulgence of the House in this, my first, effort? I have been told by some of my colleagues who have been here for many years that a maiden speech should be brief and modest. I can assure you, Sir, that my speech will be brief and, I hope, as modest as the urgency of the subject permits. In the constituency which I have the honour to represent, and the industry which I left but a short while ago, the subject matter of this Bill is one of very great urgency. I sincerely hope that as a result of our deliberations we shall be able to produce an Act which will relieve workpeople of many injustices, and remove many of the defects with which we have to contend in the past.
Many aspects of this Bill have already been dealt with, and I do not propose to travel over that ground again. Since the publication of the Beveridge Report a great deal of interest has been shownby the people of Britain in the whole question of social services. There was a tendency for a while for that interest and enthusiasm to wane, but I believe that since 26th July the tendency has been the other way, and that there is, at this moment, especially among the wage-earning population, a greater interest than ever in the whole question of social services. The Minister has told us—and I would like to congratulate him on his excellent and lucid exposition of this Bill—that this Measureis an integral part of the whole scheme of social services to be introduced by the Government in the course of the coming Session. This Bill is, in fact, the first instalment of the whole programme of social security. As such, it will be scrutinised very keenly by the people of this country, and will be the standard by which coming legislation will be judged. Because of that it is extremely important that the Bill should satisfy the longings and expectations of our people for a comprehensive and satisfactory Measure to deal with the many problems connected with industrial injuries. This is the first major legislative effort of the new Government and, as I have said, will be scrutinised very carefully and regarded as the standard of what our people can expect in the days and months to come.
For my part, I welcome the general structure of this Bill. I think everybody will agree that it is by far the most comprehensive and humane Measure we have ever had to deal with the whole problem of industrial injuries. It marks a complete revolution in the whole structure of workmen's compensation, a radical change in administration, a radical change in method and a fundamentally radical change in spirit. If there was one thing which we have suffered from in the administration of the old Acts since 1897 it was a complete lack of any sort of humanity in the administration of those Measures. A man was simply a unit. Insurance and other companies were concerned with making a profit out of his disability, and because of that the whole structure of workmen's compensation was entirely devoid of humanity or any sort of human spirit. I hope that we shall be able to say that when this Bill becomes law its outstanding feature will not be its Sections or Paragraphs but an entirely new approach, a new spirit, in the whole treatment of the victims of industrial diseases and accidents. Some of the disadvantages of the 1897 Act have been listed already to-day. Many on this side could add to those disabilities and disadvantages, but I do not propose to weary the House by attempting to give any such list. The first and most obvious drawback of all compensation legislation up to now has been the utter inadequacy of that compensation. Indeed, I think the word "compensation" very often was a misnomer.
The old Acts never laid down a minimum for compensation but always established a ceiling which, in 99 cases out of a 100, was never reached. Another great drawback of the old legislation was that it was never clearly laid down what were a man's obligations and responsibilities. Almost everything that cropped up under the old legislation had to be taken to the county court for interpretation. I think somebody has said that workmen's compensation, as we know it, was largely court-made law. That certainly was my experience. In addition, there were so many technicalities surrounding the whole structure of workmen's compensation that few people realised and understood what they were entitled to get in a court of law.
The whole structure of average earnings, the assessment of average earnings, the calculation of a hypothetical wage—all these things were entirely beyond the ken of the average man, and not one in hundreds of people who received compensation knew how that amount was arrived at. I hope that in this Bill we shall get away from all that. One very great disadvantage about existing legislation is that many people who have been seriously disabled in industry receive no compensation at all. I know of one case, in my own area, of a man who worked on the colliery surface and whose leg was later amputated in hospital, who, after many months, went back to his old job and received nothing whatsoever in the form of compensation. I am glad we are getting away from that.
There are two aspects of this Bill which I particularly welcome. First, there is the Clause which gives the Minister the right to investigate the causes of disease and accident. That is a thing that never has been done before as part of a compensation measure. Under the old compensation Acts, once a man received a certain cash payment he was nobody's responsibility; no one was concerned as to what happened to him. His employer met his obligation by giving him a cash payment; the Government was not concerned; the court was not concerned; but very often the P.A.C. had to be concerned. I am pleased to note that the Minister will now have power to investigate the causes of disease and accident and, above all, the power to rehabilitate and restore these men to full social and civic status. I think it has been one of the great drawbacks in past legislation that once a cash payment has been made everybody's responsibility seems to have ceased. I want, in particular, to refer to a problem as it affects my own constituency and the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Minister for National Insurance. I refer to the problem of silicosis and pneumoconiosis. We have this on a staggering scale in West Wales. In my own street, during the last few years, there has been hardly a home without a victim of silicosis, and in one colliery undertaking in my own village we lost 200 men from 1st January, 1945, to 29th September—more than one in eight. I wish the Minister of Fuel and Power were here, because the point I am driving at is of direct and intimate concern to him in his effort to increase the coal production of Britain.
I now come to the Third Schedule to the Bill. As I have said, I welcome many aspects of this Bill, but this Third Schedule is going to cause us a great deal of anxiety and is going to cause other people a great deal of dissatisfaction. At the moment, the procedure in the mining industry is that a man who is suspected of suffering from silicosis and pneumoconiosis is examined by the Medical Board, and the Board decides whether he is totally or partially disabled. If he is partially disabled, he is naturally suspended from the mining industry, and his compensation is assessed on his average earnings. Because earnings are relatively high to-day as compared with before the war, partial compensation to-day means, in the case of colliers and coal face workers, the payment of the maximum compensation rate. I do not know exactly how that is going to operate under this Bill. It has been part of our agitation and campaign in the mining industry, for a long time now, to save these victims of silicosis and pneumoconiosis in the earliest possible stages.
Ten years ago, a man worked until he fell, and he did not know the reason. Later, when the doctors examined him, they would find that his lungs were simply congealed masses of dust, hard as a rubber truncheon, and the man was completely disabled. Since the pneumoconiosis Order of 1943, we have been able to get our people out of the mining industry, in the early stages, while the degree of disability is very slight and the health of the man has been but slightly impaired. They will come under the Third Schedule of the Bill to be assessed for the degree of disability, and I am wondering what is going to happen when a man whose degree of disability is very slight is assessed, say, at 20 per cent., which will give him compensation of 12s. instead of £2, £2 5s. or £2 10s. as he is getting now. I hope it will be possible for this matter to be carefully reviewed by the Minister, who knows more than anyone in this Chamber about this matter, and who has been, for many years, my tutor and mentor. I am sure he will appreciate that the operation of this Schedule on these men, suspended from the mining industry because of slight disability, will have very serious repercussions indeed in his own constituency and in mine.
We have been trying to get these men out of the industry as early as we can. Once a man is certified to be partially or totally disabled, he no longer returns to the mining industry, so that 20 per cent. disability in a case of silicosis or pneumoconiosis must cause infinitely greater hardship than 20 per cent. physical disability caused by accident. These men are suspended from the mining industry; they do not return and cannot return by law, and in the areas where this disease is most prevalent and disastrous in its implications there are no other industries in which these men can be placed. Imagine the position when a man comes out of the mining industry slightly impaired in health, certified to be 20 per cent. disabled, getting a compensation of 12s.
I suggest that that sort of arrangement is going to have calamitous consequences on the campaign of the Minister of Fuel and Power to recruit men into the mining industry. If a man has to go into the mining industry and work for 10, 15 or 20 years, until his chest is afflicted by dust, and he is then suspended and his degree of disability is 20 per cent. or 30 per cent. and his compensation becomes purely a nominal sum, I am suggesting that the father and mother will warn their boys not to go into the industry. We in this House must make better provision for the safeguarding of their health and their future. This is a matter of very urgent concern in my constituency and in my own industry. I believe, too, that it is a matter of major concern to this House. I want to stress this: Unless we can provide better conditions and better facilities for the men who have been affected by silicosis, everybody will keep away from this industry, because the victims that a man sees there he will regard as the shadow of his own future. I hope the Minister will carefully reconsider some of the points I have tried to stress in the hope that we will ultimately be able to get a Bill which we can take into the coalfield and say, "This is a new Charter for the miners, for the workers, of Britain." It will, I believe, be a substantial step forward in putting this mining industry of ours on a permanent and satisfactory basis.
I had not intended to speak in this Debate, but I felt that I must join issue with the hon. and learned Members on the other side of the House who have raised this question of the courts. My experience of workman's compensation is that I practised for several years before the war in one of the great cities of the Kingdom, and part of my practice was in workman's compensation. Sometimes I acted for insurance companies, sometimes for men who were injured, so I can claim to speak with some impartiality. I found that in these cases the subject had become so technical that it was almost impossible for the layman to understand it. Much legislation had developed, and on that legislation there had been hundreds, indeed, thousands of cases, all or many of which had to be read through before one could decide whether one's client had a claim or not. The hon. and learned Members on the other side of the House to whom I have refered were, generally speaking, Members of the Bar, and Members of the Bar look at these things in a slightly different manner from that of members of my profession, because as in the medical world with specialists, they only see the exceptional cases and we see the normal cases. We, too, have to justify, or try to justify, to our clients the costs that have been imposed in any particular case, and it has not always been easy to do so.
I am speaking from memory, but I think I am right in saying that when the first Act dealing with workmen's compensation came before this House it was intended by the then President of the Board of Trade that the cases should come before some informal tribunal as is now contemplated, and it was only under pressure, such pressure as we have heard to-day from members of the legal profession, that he was persuaded to alter that proposal and to allow cases to go before courts of law. I was often amazed at the patience of the trade union movement and of the leaders of the movement when I sat in courts and listened to arguments going on hour after hour and day after day on some trifling point of construction which did not really seem to affect the matter at issue at all. I know that costs to trade unions must have been enormous, and must have taxed their resources to the full.
There is a type of person for whom I should particularly like to speak on this matter, and that is, the injured workman who has no trade union. He is put in a very difficult position indeed, and there is a type of insurance company, I regret to say, which tends to delay paying compensation to the workman in the hope that he will settle for a lesser figure than that to which he is entitled. One was often up against this difficulty, so I fully support the proposal in the Act. I think it is bound to act to the benefit of all persons who are, unfortunately, injured in industry.
There is one larger aspect upon which I should like to touch. I would commend this to the notice of the Minister of National Insurance and his colleagues in the Cabinet. If, some years ago, a legal professor in a university were asked to differentiate between English law and Continental law, one of the things he would have said would have been that in English law there is no such thing as administrative law and no such things as administrative tribunals. On the Continent matters concerning the Government, either the Government as opposed to the individual, or local authorities as opposed to the Government or one another—all that mass of litigation in other words comes before special courts called administrative courts, and does not go to the ordinary courts of the land at all. Partly owing to the jealousy of the King's Courts in this country we have never had administrative courts, but I suggest that the time has now come, in view of the great body of the administrative law which is growing up in this country, that some such system should be encouraged.
We already have pensions tribunals and tribunals under the Unemployment Acts, and now there is to be the workman's compensation tribunals. They have been called ad hoc. They are supposed to be set up in quite an informal way. I suggest that it would be far more economical and efficient if we followed the example of the Continent in this respect and set up a series of administrative tribunals to deal with all these matters. I feel that very soon, with the legislation which this Government will be passing—and we have a mandate from the people to do so—the State will be entering into the lives of the people very much more than it has done in the past. The ordinary man will no longer be suing his employer, who is a private individual; he will be suing the Government in some way or other. It is very difficult indeed for him to do so now in the King's Courts. If the system of administrative courts was set up that man would be able to pursue his remedies in quite a cheap and efficient way. I ask the Minister that when he deals with this Clause in Committee to bear in mind this suggestion and to see if we cannot, at least, lay the foundation of administrative courts in the country.
It falls to me to congratulate the last three speakers on their maiden efforts in this House. It is a special pleasure to do so, because all three of them have been excellent speeches. Having congratulated them I wish to say in the few minutes at my disposal that I regard this Bill with misgiving. For the last 25 to 30 years workmen's compensation has been my life, especially from the disease side. What I am keen about in regard to workmen's compensation is not so much the monetary benefits, not even so much—keen as I am—on seeing that they get excellent medical treatment from the point of view of medical rehabilitation; I want to secure justice for the injured workman, whether injured by disease or accident. I have seen so many cases of a poor workman, in court and out of court, having to fight the whole power of the law and the full influence of the medical profession. In private consultations I have so often seen injustice done to the workman, and I am very anxious that any improvement in workman's compensation should be brought about in a way which could be accepted with pleasure and the feeling that we had done something for the workman.
I am sorry that temperamentally I am not very nimble at turning political somersaults very quickly. For the last decade and a half I have been thinking, talking and discussing Labour policy and trade union policy with regard to workmen's compensation on the lines of the T.U.C. Bill based on the Ontario scheme which has been presented to this House time and time again. I am not speaking in any official capacity. I am speaking purely as a Member of Parliament. I know the Ontario scheme, accepted by the workmen, the employers and the Government, is a far better scheme than this one which we have now had put forward. I feel that in this Bill, both from the point of view of the treatment of the injured workman and especially from the point of view of the diseased workman, we are not doing what we should do for the man who suffers from a disability through no cause of his own. I see no reason whatever why workmen's compensation—let us call it workmen's compensation because it is a protective and compensatory Measure—should be brought in as a part of a general social insurance scheme. I regard it as a very special phase of life demanding special legislation. It is the responsibility of the employer.
The workman goes to work in conditions over which he has absolutely no control. As a citizen he has his vote; he can do some controlling there. Going to work he has no control whatever. Take the case of a man who goes into a workshop where they are using one of the new organic solvents, a solvent which has never been investigated and which has had practically no research made upon it. Nobody tests its qualities. There are in use in some of the finest factories in Great Britain these solvents which the workman, because of his industrial environment, is being forced to inhale and which in three months will give him anaemia from which he will never recover. We have only recently discovered one. The workman has no choice in the matter. When that workman, who may have worked hard to build himself up into an efficient worker, getting wages rising from the bottom to £7, £8 £9 or £10 a week, with a family of four, five or six, gets a disease his whole economic standard crashes to the bottom and he will only get what we are going to give him in this Bill, up to a maximum of £3.
I object very much, very much, to the whole procedure of compensation by which the benefit is not related to a man's rate of earning. The Ontario scheme—and I admit that this scheme is better than the present system—has a common pool provided by the employer. It is his liability. It is run by the Government. It avoids litigation. I am one of those who are terrified of these appeal tribunals, with a commissioner and with perhaps a medical assistant. I have seen what happens at appeal tribunals. I have seen them nearly every week. I have seen infamous decisions depriving poor men of their pensions on the ground that their disability is not attributable to or even aggravated by their service. I am afraid the same sort of things will happen under this Bill. In the Ontario scheme, with the consent of the workmen and the trade unions, they take away the right of going on to common law, and yet they have a medical board. This scheme has been run for ten years without complaint. The last report was very good. Here you have an example of a scheme being run in one of our Dominions for the benefit of the workmen, accepted on all hands as being a very good scheme. It has been accepted by the trade union movement and the Labour movement, and it has been passed at Congress after Congress, and yet suddenly, when a new Government comes in, this new Bill is produced because of a report by a body of Civil Servants at the head of which was a very famous Liberal. I really cannot see that being accepted.
Let me deal with a question in which I am very interested—accidents. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake)—and I am sorry that he is not here now—said rather unfairly that accidents were either the fault of no one or the worker or the worker's colleagues—a very unfair statement for any Member to make. That is what office does to some people. They get into office and they become coloured at once by the idea that if an accident occurs in industry it is the fault of no one, or of the workman or else it is an act of God. Is silicosis an act of God? Is it the fault of the workman when he gets a disease, when he gets benzine poisoning or when he absorbs industrial solvents, when nothing is done to prevent him getting it? Is that an act of God? Is that the man's fault? I am very surprised to hear a statement of that kind from a man of experience.
I took his words down carefully; I noted his words very carefully. He said that if any accidents occurred in industry they were either the fault of no one or of the worker or the worker's colleagues. [HON. MEMBERS: "No"] HANSARD will show to-morrow. We shall see if I am mistaken. Let us take industrial diseases. The Minister has power to make research. Presumably he will have special researchers of his own. I know it is not the present Minister's fault—I know the whole situation—but take the disease called pneumoconiosis. Is it not true that the number of cases awaiting decision by the silicosis boards in Wales and the north-west are two years in arrears? Is it not true that you are doing practically nothing to train doctors for those positions? Ask if any tuberculosis officer has been trained for these positions. The number of boards has been increased from eight to 12. Twelve boards cannot deal with 5,000 or 8,000 cases still awaiting decision. Think of the homes of these workmen under present conditions, in which their wives and children are waiting to know if they are going to get compensation for a disease contracted in industry.
I am very sorry I must stop now because I could go on giving case after case with regard to all sorts of diseases. You will never get anywhere with certain diseases, for which the work is responsible for a man's disability, until you amend the third test which requires that the disease must be so specific to the industry that it can be put down to a cause in any particular case. This Bill provides for a better compensation scheme than the present workmen's compensation legislation, but I hope the Minister will be agreeable to having, not only the accident side, but the disease side, radically altered in Committee, and I hope that even when this Bill is passed, the Government will consider the feasibility of considering this subject afresh, to see whether they cannot improve upon the Measure.
The discussion in to-day's Debate has been on a very high level. Many hon. Members have made maiden speeches which have been a credit to them, when taking the Floor for the first time. I am, therefore, very conscious of my responsibility in addressing the House for the first time to-night and in winding up this Debate. Should I, through nervousness or lack of experience, forget some of the courtesies of Debate usual in this House, I hope you. Sir, and hon. Members will excuse me. First, I would like to say that the Government, generally, are gratified by the acceptance of the scheme by the House to-day. I hope that the Debate will proceed in the same tone to-morrow, and the indication is that we shall get complete agreement on its acceptance. If I may, I would like to deal with the various points raised by hon. Members in the Debate.
The right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) paid a very generous tribute to the Minister of National Insurance. In return, he was paid a generous tribute by the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. George Griffiths) who said he had made the best speech in regard to workmen's compensation for 11 years. Not having been in the House during that period, I cannot confirm that, or otherwise, but I would like to add my tribute in regard to the work which the hon. Member did while he was at the Home Office in connection with workmen's compensation and the general measures concerning this Bill. It has been my pleasure to read some of the minutes prepared by him, and they have been of considerable assistance in the preparation of this Bill.
As is legitimate in debate, he twitted us about a visit by the Prime Minister to the Trades Union Congress at Blackpool. I went there, too, to watch the proceedings and to get firsthand knowledge of what that great assembly was feeling about such matters as this. He asked why it was that at a late stage, after the Bill had been published, changes in benefit had been made. Quite frankly, those benefit changes were made for the very reason that the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. Tom Smith) entered the Debate to-day—because they were considered not to be good enough so far as this Government were concerned.
The right hon. Member for North Leeds further asked from where was this House governed. May I assure him, as I believe other Junior Ministers have assured other hon. Members of the Opposition, that this House is governed from this House, but that that does not mean that His Majesty's Government is not prepared to discuss and negotiate, and even come to tentative agreements, with interested parties outside this House. Who is more concerned with regard to injury within the industry than the workers who suffer that injury? There have been negotiations and discussions, and there were discussions before the present Bill was produced, with the Trades Union Congress and with the British Employers' Confederation with regard to it. Here, if I may, I would like to pay a tribute on behalf of the Minister to the very generous way in which both the workers' organisations and the employers' organisations have so readily placed themselves at the disposalof the Minister to undertake these negotiations and discussions, very often at extremely short notice and at great inconvenience to themselves. As a result of such consultations, we agreed to make improvements in the Bill, although I am afraid that they are not, as has been evidenced by the Debate to-day, to the entire and complete satisfaction of the workers' organisations. They will never be completely satisfactory until we get to a very much greater benefit. Whether we are ever able to get to that will depend very much upon the progress of the Fund and the rates of contributions which are to be borne by the workers in industry.
We then had a very eloquent and moving maiden speech by the hon. Member for North East Leeds (Miss Bacon), and if I get through this ordeal of a maiden speech with the same credit as that hon. Member did, I shall be well satisfied. She and other hon. Members raised the matter of what are known as the "old cases," the pre-1924 cases. May I make it quite clear that, in so far as the unemployability allowance is concerned, every accident that has come under Workmen's Compensation Acts, right the way from 1897, is included so long as the injured person is still drawing a weekly compensation benefit. Unfortunately, of course, those who have commuted their compensation are outside its scope.
The leaving of those old cases with the varying benefits which they derive, with simply the unemployability supplement, is, so far as the Minister is concerned, not good enough. He is very much concerned, and very desirous, that there should not be this difference of benefit for workers who are injured. He would like a neat, clean, tidy scheme where every worker was treated on the same basis, irrespective of when his accident happened. But, as the Minister pointed out in his opening speech, that depends very largely on whether the employers' organisations and the insurance companies are prepared to meet the Ministry in regard to a payment to the Fund covering that liability. Here again, there have been discussions with the employers' organisations in regard to that matter. They, too, have expressed their desire for a clean arrangement into which those schemes can be brought. The only disagreement is on what basis the payment shall be made. I can assure the House that the Minister is most anxious to bring them all in on a basis of equality. Any proposal which the employers and the insurance companies make will be very seriously considered and negotiations that take place will have the object of bringing about a satisfactory conclusion. I am certain, from the approach that has already been made from the employers, that their attitude, and their desire, are the same as our own that there should be this clean, neat arrangement and the inclusion of everyone within the scope of the scheme.
Further, the hon. Member for North-East Leeds raised a question of artificial limbs and surgical appliances. It is the desire of the Ministry to be as wide as possible, within the provision that we make, so that all shall be included and none shall be excluded from the benefits that can be given, even including larger kinds of equipment such as were referred to, wheeled chairs, spinal carriages and the rest. It is equally true of the equipment that is necessary for sick rooms and the treatment of a patient whilst bedridden at home.
One difficulty about the Bill, if I might say so without being thought presumptuous as a new Member, is that the introduction of this Injuries Bill and of Family Allowances is the wrong way round. The main Bill should have come first, and then these subsidiary Bills, which are complementary to it, should have followed. Many of the Bills, and many of the provisions within this Bill, are related to provisions which will be included in the main Bill. When we bring in the main Bill special provision will be made, in conjunction with the Ministry of Health, for a service which will make available to all classes of persons who need them, these types of equipment which are so essential but are so often lacking now in the homes of the workers when illness arises. They will be included in the National Health Scheme which are complementary for the injured workman and the sick workman.
The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) spoke as a lawyer, and we were glad that he paid tribute to the scheme in as much as it took the injured worker away from the law courts. Many other hon. Members have referred to the point that the lawyer goes out of Workmen's Compensation under the Bill. Whether it pleases lawyers or not, that is the intention of the Bill. The injured worker has not thought that justice has been done to him through the lawyer and he has been more than ever convinced that far too often the lawyer and the doctor have been combined together in an unholy alliance to do him out of that to which he was justly entitled.
This is a scheme to enable an injured workman to receive benefit when incapacitated by accident at work. The whole intention of the scheme will not be to prevent him receiving benefit but to see that he gets his benefit. We feel, and I hope it will be proved in practice—we are certain that it will—that the combination of the employer and employee in industry on—we have, of course, to bring the lawyer in as an independent chairman—the local tribunals, will create a sense of justice in the mind of the worker and that there will also be brought to bear in Workmen's Compensation what seems to be impossible within the law, and that is common sense.
Apart from the local tribunal there are the Commissioners. Again, the Commissioners are lawyers appointed by His Majesty in the same way as are judges. I take it, subject to correction by my right hon. Friend, that the Commissioners would deal with points of construction in that way.
Another point made by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery was that the Bill ought to have been wider in conception and that what we really should do was not simply provide benefits for the workman but make it possible for the workman to be a man again and work as a workman. That is the intention of the scheme, but the tragedy is that it is not possible at the moment. When we met some of the miners in regard to the Bill and discussed with them the injuries which arose in the pit, they were generous enough to say that with the best will in the world some colliery owners could not find light work. They had sometimes combed the pit to find a job for Tom Smith or Bill Jones. Employment would have been there if the job could have been found, but they never found a job. The Bill will work in conjunction with the Ministry of Labour Rehabilitation Scheme and the training of men to take alternative work. What is more, there will be the provision of alternative work in the area. Discussions are proceeding with the Board of Trade in order that, in single-industry areas, other industries might be placed in order to provide alternative employment for men who have been trained in rehabilitation centres. It is not much good giving them rehabilitation if the job is not there. We have to see that there is redistribution of industry and availability of employment in the full sense. These will come into play in order to give the workman that opportunity he has previously lacked.
The hon. and learned Member also asked why it was that the self-employed man could not be brought in. Other Members have raised this same point. It is very difficult to bring those men in. There is not the obvious arrangement that can be made with the normal employee and there is not the responsibility. Let me say here that this is one of the disadvantages of bringing the Bill in prior to the main scheme coming before the House. Those persons will be included within the main Bill. The self-employed person will be eligible for benefit in the main scheme, irrespective of whether an accident is within employment or outside employment.
The hon. and gallant Member for South Belfast (Lieut.-Colonel Gage) raised a point about the tribunals. If I understood him correctly he rather suggested that because local tribunals were appointed, and particularly their chairmen, by the Minister, they might be influenced by the Minister in coming to their decisions. That is a little unfair on the lawyers, because the chairman will be, generally speaking, a lawyer, and I have yet to hear it said that members of the legal profession are subject to outside influence from those who appoint them in regard to their decisions in a judicial capacity. That objection cannot be raised to the Commissioners, because they are appointed by His Majesty in the same way as judges, and the final decision rests with them alone.
The hon. Member for South Belfast made the point that it was important that the workers should have confidence in the running of the scheme. The whole future of this scheme depends on whether it is accepted by the worker in the belief that it will be fairly worked. Well though the Bill may be constructed, and though it may be improved in Committee, its real test will depend upon the insurance officer in the field in his relationship with industry and the injured workman. The success of the scheme will depend on the confidence the workman has in the insurance officer's interpretations and the way he carries out his duties. There are, in spite of all the bad workings of the Workmen's Compensation Acts, some very good officers of mutual insurance companies, of employers and of trade unions who are operating the Acts. Very often one can see a difference of treatment as between injured workers, largely because of the type of officer who is employed by any of these three. This Ministry wants many of these officers to offer themselves as officers under this scheme, so that we may have the advantage of their accumulated knowledge, their skill and the general confidence that they will be able to create in the operation of the scheme.
The hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Blyton) made a number of points. One was with regard to the post-accident widow and her children. That question is tied up with other Ministries, and if the hon. and gallant Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) were here, he would rise and talk about the post-war-injury marriage. I cannot say more at the moment than to repeat the hint that was given by the Minister in his speech that if the matter is discussed in Committee more might be heard of it. I hope that this and many other points will come up in Committee so that they can be dealt with in a satisfactory manner. A number of hon. Members raised the question of boys under 18 and the fact that they would get less under this Bill than under the Workmen's Compensation Acts. Let us face facts. Present wages for these youths are abnormal. One might say that some are too abnormal and that the youths will suffer for it in the years to come. There must in a general scheme such as this be some people who will suffer. We cannot cover everything so that everybody is no worse off. If a youngster under 18 has dependants, he will be much better off than at the present time. I am not so concerned about the youngster under 18 unless he has dependants. Under this Bill, if he has dependants like a widowed mother, he is entitled straight away to benefit for her and to the adult rate for himself. Where there is dependency upon that youth, he gets much greater benefit than he would under the Workmen's Compensation Acts.
A further point raised by the hon. Member related to the three waiting days. There are waiting days in all other spheres of insurance, health and unemployment, but that is not the main reason why they are included in this Bill. The reason for their inclusion is purely administrative. The number of accidents which require absence from work for only one or two days is very large indeed, and if the local insurance officer were to be faced with a flood of one and two-day accident claims, an undue proportion of the income of this fund would be spent in administration, because claims, dealing with claims and the payment of claims cost money. The point is whether we are to use what is available in the fund created by this Bill for the benefit of people who are injured, or whether we are to spend an undue proportion of it in administration. Our advice is that the three waiting days save a considerable portion of administrative costs. As a matter of fact the day of injury is counted as the first waiting day and the waiting days, therefore, really only number two.
The hon. Member for Wavertree (Mr. Raikes) made a number of points, and I would like to deal with what has come to be called the double-decker scheme—the flat rate with additional payment according to the wage of the individual, giving a greater measure of compensation to those with higher earnings. Again, that is foreign to the conception of this Bill. This Bill gets away from earnings, it makes a payment on account of injury or loss of faculty. That payment is at a flat rate, and if there were to be varying rates of benefit, surely the only way to deal with it would be on the basis of a percentage deduction from earnings. That would be a very cumbersome method, and surely where there is a very high earning capacity a better way of solving the problem would be that suggested by the right hon. Member for North Leeds, by way of independent insurance. A violinist, for instance, is as much concerned about his hands as is a compositor, but he would be unwise as a musician if he relied upon this Bill for compensation in the event of injury to his hands, and he would be well advised to insure against it.
I was not present during the latter portion of the speech by the hon. Member for Wavertree, but I understand that he rather disliked the tribunals and would prefer the courts. I hope he was in the House when the hon. and learned Member for Chester (Mr. Nield) spoke of the improvement that is likely to arise from the institution of the tribunals. We agree with the hon. Member for Chester and disagree with the hon. Member for Wavertree. A point was raised by the hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Clitherow) on the inclusion of nurses and health workers in regard to such diseases as consumption and other illnesses arising from their work in hospitals. There are great difficulties in the way of making special provision for health workers within workmen's compensation measures because of the incidence of the diseases with which they deal and the lack of proof that diseases arise out of, or in the course of, their employment. The Minister would desire, if possible, to provide for them, and we would like to have discussions between the Ministry of Health, ourselves and those who can speak on behalf of those engaged in such work to see whether it is possible to bring them in.
A further question was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) about the tribunals being in public and whether or not advocates could attend at the tribunals. As far as the Bill is concerned, there is nothing to the effect that tribunals should not meet in public or that they should. It is very questionable whether public tribunals are altogether the blessing which some people think they are. The injured workman very often feels at a complete disadvantage at a public hearing and dislikes the publicity that arises from it. We want these tribunals to be friendly, homely meetings to discuss what has happened and what can be done. The further we can get away from the atmosphere of the law court and all that arises from a law court the more we shall like it. As to advocates, as far as the Bill is concerned we can allow or encourage that an advocate should attend on behalf of the injured workman. That advocate can be a trade union officer or a friend. I understand that a friend is not a lawyer, and the lawyer is excluded from the tribunal.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Newcastle (Mr. Popplewell) raised the question of further increased benefits. I will tie up my reply on that with the reply that I made to the right hon. Member for North Leeds in regard to the reason for the increase of benefits. Increased benefits under this Bill can be given only if there is an increased contribution to the fund. It is all a matter of what is in the fund, the contributions to the fund, and how we can build up the fund. After it has been working for some time we hope it will show a balance which will enable benefits to be increased. A point was also made by the hon. Member for West Newcastle about the speedy payment of benefits and the lack of speedy payment by insurance companies up to now. I would like here to pay a tribute. Many workers have been saved from the indignities which insurance companies would have inflicted on them through lack of acceptance of liability, by the friendly societies and the approved societies making interim payments pending the insurance companies making their payments.
There are many other points I would have liked to have dealt with, but my time is limited. I want before I close to deal with the one criticism that was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Mr. McKay) in regard to the putting of a penny on to the workers' contribution. The hon. Member asked whether this House was bound by an undertaking given by a previous Government in regard to contributions. The House is not bound, the House is master of itself; but the Government accept responsibility for pledges made to bodies outside the House in good faith by the previous Government. Those pledges are not all one-sided. If we had been in opposition we would have expected hon. Members who are now sitting opposite to have honoured pledges given to the Trades Union Congress. The Government are prepared to honour those pledges, and recommend the House to do so.
I conclude by saying that with the passing of this Bill workmen's compensation will pass. The atmosphere and the spirit in which the Workmen's Compensation Acts have operated will also disappear. With the passing of this Bill the benefits paid to injured workmen will become a social service, and it is in the spirit of a social service that this Bill, when it becomes an Act, will be worked. The House may be assured that the Minister will bring to its administration that humanity for which he is well known.