The two Schemes put into effect the changes introduced by the Workmen's Compensation and Benefit (Amendment) Act, 1965 for old cases—that is, for persons with a disability due to employment before the Industrial Injuries Act came into force on 5th July, 1948. Although the Industrial Injuries Act, 1946, repealed the Workmen's Compensation Acts, their provisions continued in force for these old cases. Compensation for old cases remained the liability of employers and was related to the loss of earnings—as defined in the old legislation—due to the injury.
Many measures were adopted after 1948 providing for payments from the Industrial Injuries Fund to meet hardship among these men, with the result that a very complex system evolved. The Workmen's Compensation and Benefit (Amendment) Act, 1965, not only extended the scope of these allowances to another 10,000 men, but also rationalised the whole complex of allowances. At this point it is only just that I should pay tribute to both sides of the House for the ease with which the original Act went through Parliament and enabled us—so early tonight—to bring this scheme before the House.
Old cases fall broadly into two groups. First, men on workmen's compensation. They will be dealt with under the Workmen's Compensation (Supplementation) Scheme. Secondly, the time-barred men, who will be dealt with under the Pneumoconiosis, Byssinosis and Miscellaneous Diseases Benefit Scheme.
The current schemes will be replaced by the new ones, for which the present administrative board will continue to function. The board for each scheme consists of the same personnel, namely, a chairman and a deputy chairman, who are both experienced lawyers, members appointed by the Ministry after consultation with the employers' and employees' association, two from each side, and two senior members of the Minister's staff.
The draft schemes reproduce much of the material of the existing schemes, for example, the rules for claims and payments, adjudication and conduct of business. The only changes are those necessary to give effect to the requirements of the 1965 Act. It is important, because these are complicated matters, that I should emphasise that the only changes are those necessary to give effect to the requirements of the 1965 Act. Both also contain the usual provisions to ensure a smooth transition from the old to the new Schemes.
Some of my hon. Friends and others who are interested in these matters have expressed the view that the interpretation of Schedule 1 is somewhat difficult. I am not surprised that those who have had to follow these matters over the years—and I pay tribute to the trade union and miners' groups on this—have found some difficulty in this matter. However, the leaflets which we will issue will have a table set out in a more direct form.
The Schedule must be read with particular reference to Article 5 (2) of the draft Statutory Instrument. The first column refers to the loss of earnings as estimated by the board and not the loss of earnings as estimated for workmen's compensation purposes. A loss of earnings of between 1s. and 9s. 11d. will qualify for the 2s. 6d. rate of allowance, and a loss of earnings of between 10s. and 19s. 11d. will qualify for an allowance of 5s., and so on, down the table of allowances.
It is important to note that a person with a small loss of earnings for workmen's compensation purposes could qualify for the top, 47s. 6d., rate of lesser incapacity allowance if the board found loss of earnings of 125s. or more. A study of the first 1,000 cases being dealt with by the board suggests that a very high proportion of claimants will benefit in this way. That is why, on Second Reading, we felt that hon. Members who represented industrial areas where these old cases existed would find that a number of people who deserved it would receive benefit as a result of the implementation of this legislation.
The implementation of the 1965 Act called for a recasting of the existing supplementation scheme. This is effected by the draft scheme now before the House. Similarly, a scheme was required to deal with time-barred men, and the opportunity is taken to incorporate in the second draft scheme now before the House the existing schemes applying also to those men.
Altogether, the two new schemes will affect about 27,000 men. These include getting on for 5,000 totally disabled men, of whom over 1, 000 benefit under the "time-barred" scheme; and a further 12,000 partially disabled existing beneficiaries of whom about half are dealt with under each Scheme. Lastly, about 10,000 new beneficiaries will receive the new "lesser incapacity allowance". The cost of these improvements will be rather more than £1 million in the first year, declining thereafter.
The 1965 Act, which received the Royal Assent on 22nd December last, comes into operation on 1st March, and in order that these men will get their benefits from the earliest possible date these draft schemes are also planned to come into operation on 1st March. Once affirmative Resolutions have been secured from both Houses of Parliament, the schemes can formally be made, and the board administering them can go ahead with that part of its work which can only be initiated after these essential preliminaries have been completed.
To save time, all that can be done in advance of the normal making of the scheme will have been done, to bring into payment as many new allowances as possible on the first pay day after 1st March.