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Volume 640: debated on Monday 15 May 1961

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asked the Minister of Power what reports he has received from his inspectors of recent action taken, or intended to be taken, in coal mines to improve the working conditions of those who suffer from pneumoconiosis and, in particular, those who suffer from other respiratory weaknesses which are worsened by different degrees of pneumoconiosis; if he is satisfied with the arrangements for medical examinations and assessments in North Staffordshire and within the city of Stoke-on-Trent; and if he will order his inspectors to make a special inquiry into these matters in that area, and to recommend what action should be taken to improve conditions.

Adequate arrangements for providing suitable working conditions for miners suffering from pneumoconiosis already exist, and no change is contemplated. The arrangements under the Industrial Injuries Act for medical examination and assessment in North Staffordshire and in Stoke-on-Trent are the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance, who considers they are adequate. My right hon. Friend sees no reason for ordering a special inquiry by his inspectors.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that when the legislation was being put through this House an undertaking was given to hon. Members that where there was a doubt in the matter of industrial diseases the man would be given the benefit of the doubt? Would the Parliamentary Secretary consider this large number of letters I have received proving that this is not being done? Is he aware that the Ministry of National Insurance is now considering, together with the Trades Union Congress, the whole question of assessments and diag- noses, and will he instruct the Coal Board officers in this area to give evidence to the Minister of National Insurance?

As I said in my reply, the matters which the hon. Gentleman raises are matters for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance, and any assistance he desires from that Ministry will, I am sure, be readily given.