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Industrial Injuries (Colliery Workers)

Volume 496: debated on Wednesday 20 February 1952

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11.10 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of National Insurance
(Mr. R. H. Turton)

I beg to move,

That the Draft National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) (Colliery Workers Supplementary Scheme) Amendment Order, 1952, a copy of which was laid before this House on 29th January, be approved.
The supplementary scheme was laid before Parliament on 28th January, 1952. In 1950 there were amendments to the 1948 scheme, and the amendments now before the House were recommended by the National Committee which represents both the employers and the employees. Therefore, I suggest to the House that these amendments are non-controversial and I hope that after I have briefly explained them the House will consider them reasonable.

There are, in fact, four amendments. First of all we will extend this scheme to certain marginal cases. These include checkweighers, pick-sharpeners, workmen's inspectors and those who work in the central workshop for the repair of colliery machinery, who hitherto have been deemed to be excluded from this scheme. We do not think it right that that should be so. The number I am told is just under 4,000, and they will be brought into this scheme. Payment made in respect of them for any week in which they are not employed by the National Coal Board or a small colliery worker will be 1s. 3d. per week.

The second amendment concerns the supplement to the pension under this scheme which is one-third the amount of the pension. If a man has been in insurable employment for three months the supplement under the original scheme is limited so as not to exceed the difference between the pre-accident earnings and his present earnings, plus any benefit he received under the National Insurance Acts. It has struck the National Committee that that is unfair, and it means that where a man is drawing 10s. a week contributory old age pension or, indeed, a guardian's allowance, he is being prejudiced. Therefore, we are seeking to amend that provision so that it will apply only to any payments made under the Industrial Injuries Act in respect of colliery accident or disease. This will prevent the men from being penalised if they are drawing 10s. contributory old age pension or a guardian's allowance.

The third amendment is in reference to the same article of the original scheme. Under that article, instead of taking the actual earnings, there was a minimum weekly wage under the old occupation. That was done under the 1948 scheme by a table of minimum wages that has now become out of date. In fact, it became out of date in 1950 and the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) had to bring in an amendment scheme so that a different table could be arranged. That is now out of date, and the National Committee suggested instead of having these tables, which unfortunately change because of the changing value of money, it would be better to refer all claims in general terms to the determination of the National Conciliation Board.

The fourth amendment which we seek to make is in the matter of recovery. In the very rare cases where a man receives supplementary benefit and then recovers damages from his employer at common law he has, under the original scheme, to pay back the supplementary benefit up to the amount of half the damages; and, if he refuses to pay, after not receiving supplementary benefit for four years, then there is no means of recovery of that amount. That, we think, if unfair on the other contributors to this scheme and, therefore, the National Committee re- commends that we should amend that provision so that the power is given to the Committee to deduct any amount so due from any supplementary benefits; and also to give power to recover it by other means and, if necessary, by process of law. That is a recommendation which we ask the House to accept.

I should explain that there will be no cost on the Industrial Injuries Fund, nor on the Exchequer. This is entirely a matter for the supplementary scheme, and the actuary to this scheme is quite satisfied that the very small increase being caused by this amending Order can be carried by the scheme. The cost will be substantially covered by the extra 1s. 3d. contribution which comes under my first amendment.

11.13 p.m.

I have no intention of keeping the House at this late hour. We are fully in agreement with this scheme for workers not previously included.

The supplementary scheme agreed up between the National Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers in 1948 has always had this particular defect in so far as it has not been universal in its application to colliery workers. As an ex-checkweigher, I am glad to see that the checkweighmen are to be brought in, as are the workmen's inspectors and the pick-sharpeners. From an insurance point of view, I think some of those would be very good "lives" because the incidence of accidents among them is not great. The weighers and sharpeners and inspectors will welcome at long last that this admirable supplementary scheme has been brought in to embrace all colliery workers.

Question put, and agreed to.

That the Draft National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) (Colliery Workers Supplementary Scheme) Amendment Order, 1952, a copy of which was laid before this House on 29th January, be approved.