Workmen's Compensation Rates

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd May 1952.

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Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon East 12:00 am, 2nd May 1952

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I was driven to this by the somewhat disorderly remarks of hon. Gentlemen opposite.

I was merely saying that the solution to this problem depends on the answer to the question—Who is to pay? Clearly, the insurance companies are out of the picture and the old employers are out of the picture. The right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), who has considerable experience in this matter, and has had considerable responsibility—he has considerable knowledge of it, because he was connected with the mining industry and was responsible for the administration of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act—thinks that the Coal Board ought to pay. I think there is a better claim against them than against anybody else, because they are the successors in title of the former employers.

It is no good being sympathetic on broad lines unless we make up our minds where we shall place the responsibility. If the responsibility is placed on the Assistance Board, who are accepting it today because it is their duty to accept it, it means that the nation as a whole will pay. That is one solution. An alternative solution is for the industry to pay, and today that means the Coal Board. I think hon. Members who have raised this issue, and others who have supported it, should make up their minds. As I have said, I am as sympathetic as anyone in the case of the class of person who has been gravely injured by the increased cost of living, although such persons are not limited to injured coal miners.

There are masses of people who worked hard and built up small savings and who are now living lives of acute poverty. One hopeful feature about the situation is that there is every indication that the cost of living will fall. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Certainly. One thing I am afraid of is that it may fall too rapidly and precipitate an economic crisis. It is quite clear that over a wide range of commodities a very large fall has already taken place. Over a whole range of clothing the fall was abrupt and caused the widespread unemployment which now exists.

Prices are falling over a considerable range of non-ferrous metal; even in today's paper there is an example of a drop of I do not know how much in the price of lead. Take the case of those things which are affected by the cut in the subsidies. Already it is quite clear that the increase in the price of tea will be substantially less than the amount of the cut in the subsidy, and there are indications in many other directions of a fall in commodity prices both in this country and in other countries.