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Industrial Injuries Scheme

Volume 979: debated on Wednesday 20 February 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he has any plans for amending the industrial injuries scheme.

In the light of a study by officials, the Government have decided to undertake a thorough review of the industrial injuries scheme. The study was launched by the last Government following the report of the Royal Commission on civil liability and compensation for personal injury—the Pearson report—which recommended a number of changes affecting the scheme. The report by officials is published today in the form of a DHSS discussion document as the basis for public comment and consultations with those most concerned about the scheme.The industrial injuries scheme is the one major part of the social security system to have remained substantially unchanged since 1948. The discussion document identifies a wide range of questions and options for change, stemming both from the Pearson report recommendations and from improvements which have been made over the years in the main social security benefits, in particular sickness, widows and retirement benefits. The views of those outside the Department will be welcomed on these questions and options. The document contains no firm proposals for change and, at this stage, the Government are not committed to particular solutions. A lengthy period for consultations is allowed—views are invited by 31 December 1980.However, there are two Government commitments underlying the review. First, the review will not be used as an opportunity to abolish the industrial injuries scheme; we shall retain "industrial preference" as a feature of social security though not necessarily in its present various forms. Secondly, the review must be carried through without adding to the cost of the scheme; there is no possibility, in current economic circumstances, that extra money could be made available to meet the cost of any improvements. Desirable changes can be made only if resources can be found by adjustments elsewhere in the scheme. The discussion document indicates that this is possible. Copies of the discussion document, and of a summary, have been placed in the Library of the House and are available at the Vote Office.