Bronchitis and Emphysema

Oral Answers to Questions — Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th April 1964.

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Photo of Mr Stephen Swingler Mr Stephen Swingler , Newcastle-under-Lyme 12:00 am, 27th April 1964

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will publish the figures available from his Department's inquiry into the incidence of incapacity for work, especially in so far as they relate to the incidence of chronic bronchitis and emphysema among mineworkers, by comparison with citizens in other occupations.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Stephen Maydon Lieut-Colonel Stephen Maydon , Wells

Yes, Sir. We expect to publish a detailed report on the inquiry in the autumn. It will include figures for a group of diseases comprising all forms of bronchitis, bronchitis with emphysema and emphysema without mention of bronchitis. The details normally given on medical certificates for sickness benefit claims are not sufficiently precise to allow the different types of disease within this group to be separately compared for the purpose of the inquiry.

Photo of Mr Stephen Swingler Mr Stephen Swingler , Newcastle-under-Lyme

Will this show clearly a comparison between the experience of those working in coal mining and those working in other occupations, and will it therefore give us direct evidence on what is the commonsense experience of so many people in the mining areas who feel that chronic bronchitis and emphysema are industrially caused diseases of coal mining?

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Stephen Maydon Lieut-Colonel Stephen Maydon , Wells

It will certainly take into account the experience of people employed in mining and each of the occupation groups listed in the General Register Offices Classification of Occupations, 1960, of which there are 220. Each of these groups will be accounted for, and will also be analysed in areas. I think that that will cover the hon. Member's point.

Photo of Mr Edwin Wainwright Mr Edwin Wainwright , Dearne Valley

Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman realise that the incidence of pneumoconiosis and emphysema is so great as to create a false impression of a man's disability? A man with a disability of 20 per cent. pneumoconiosis and 30 per cent. emphysema is almost incapable of working below ground. It is not the 30 per cent. emphysema but the impact of the pneumoconiosis on the emphysema which creates the tremendous disability. Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman look into this problem in its entirety?

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Stephen Maydon Lieut-Colonel Stephen Maydon , Wells

I most certainly agree with the hon. Gentleman that some diseases have a far more incapacitating effect in certain occupations than in others. I think that that is widely recognised. But, as the hon. Member knows, we are bound by two rules under the Industrial Injuries Act: whether a disease is common to the generality of people or not, and whether it can be attributed with reasonable certainty to the occupation.

Photo of Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , East Ham North

Is not this a point on which the Industrial Diseases Schedule should be amended within a very short time? If a man is disabled by pneumoconiosis directly attributable to work in the mines and emphysema which is either attributable to it or aggravated by it—if the two go together making him a very sick man—is it fair to compensate him only for the pneumoconiosis?

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Stephen Maydon Lieut-Colonel Stephen Maydon , Wells

That is not the case. I think that the hon. Member misunderstands what is done in cases of this nature. Where there is a prescribed disease causing disablement, that is properly assessed. But where also there is a connected disease which is not prescribed but which has a further disabling effect, that is also taken into account in the assessment of disablement.