asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many applications have been made to the medical boards for death certificates in respect of pneumoconiosis during the past year; how many have been granted; and what are the numbers in respect of those who had been employed in the coal mining industry in Wales.
In 1953, the Silicosis Medical Board dealt with 537 applications for death certificates for the purposes of schemes made under the Workmen's Compensation Acts; in 397 cases the Board certified that death had been caused by the disease. Under the Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Benefit Scheme of 1952, 394 awards of death benefit were made in 1953 for deaths from pneumoconiosis, and 159 applications were rejected because the Silicosis Medical Board certified that death was not due to the disease. Separate figures are not available for the coal-mining industry in Wales.
In view of the disparity between the figures of applications to medical boards in respect of death from pneumoconiosis and the number of certificates granted, and the large number of cases in which there has been a refusal to grant certificates and the differing views of medical men at inquests as to the cause of death, will the Minister cause an investigation to be made into this aspect of pneumoconiosis?
If the hon. Member studies the figures I have given, I think he will find that there is not that great difference between the numbers.
Is the Minister aware that, in the case of the Sheffield pneumoconiosis panel, there has been a fall in the proportion of claims for benefit accepted by the Board in 1953 compared with 1952, and that this has caused concern? May there not be a case for an inquiry into the methods of diagnosis?
I do not think the hon. Member is referring to the figures I have given in answer to the Question. Claims under the Industrial Injuries Act are dealt with not by boards, but by insurance officers.
Surely the hon. Gentleman is aware that, at inquests, when death has been thought to be due to pneumoconiosis, very frequently in South Wales the medical men have said that death has been caused by pneumoconiosis but the medical board has later said otherwise?
I am aware that dissatisfaction has been felt on the question of coroners' inquests and medical boards. My right hon. Friend is at present in discussions with the Home Secretary on this matter, and I understand that during the Committee proceedings on the Mines and Quarries Bill my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power also undertook to raise the matter with the Home Secretary. I think it had better be left there.