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Volume 941: debated on Wednesday 14 December 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment (1) what financial provisions he will recommend from Government funds for a scheme to compensate potters for the industrial disease of pneumoconiosis;(2) what steps he proposes to take to ensure that potters suffering from the industrial disease of pneumoconiosis receive the same entitlements as coal miners;(3) if he will invite the British Ceramic Manufacturers Federation and the Ceramic and Allied Trades Union to discussions about the setting up of a pneumoconiosis scheme for potters on similar lines to that established for coal miners.

All workers who suffer from pneumoconiosis as a result of their employment, or their dependants in case of death, are entitled to claim industrial disablement benefits or industrial death benefits respectively under the Government's Social Security Scheme. In addition, they may recover damages from their employers if they can show to the satisfaction of the courts that their employers were negligent or in breach of a statutory duty.

The National Coal Board's Pneumoconiosis Compensation Scheme is an industry scheme freely negotiated between the Coal Board and the coal mining unions. Miners who accept benefits under that scheme do so from personal choice and as an alternative to pursuing their individual claims for damages in the courts.

There is nothing to prevent employers and unions in other industries, including the pottery industry, from getting together to discuss the possibility of establishing similar schemes for their own industries; this does not require a Government initiative.

The Royal Commission on Civil Liability and Compensation for Personal Injury, which was set up to consider to what extent, in what circumstances and by what means compensation should be payable to persons who suffer injury or disease in a fairly wide range of circumstances, including employment, expects to complete its report by the end of the year. Changes in the present arrangements for compensation cannot be considered until we have received the Commission's recommendations on the subject.