PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES

HOUSE OF COMMONS

OFFICIAL REPORT

Fourth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments &c.

DRAFT PNEUMOCONIOSIS ETC. (WORKERS' COMPENSATION) (SPECIFIED DISEASES) ORDER 1985

DRAFT PNEUMOCONIOSIS ETC. (WORKERS' COMPENSATION) (PAYMENT OF CLAIMS) REGULATIONS 1985

Thursday 5 December 1985

LONDON

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The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Mr. John Forrester

Biggs-Davison, Sir John (Epping Forest)

Bottomley, Mr. Peter (Eltham) (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment)

Clay, Mr. Bob (Sunderland, North)

*Field, Mr. Frank (Birkenhead)

*Lloyd, Mr. Peter (Fareham) (Government Whip)

Madel, Mr. David (Bedfordshire, South-West)

Meadowcroft, Mr. Michael (Leeds, West)

Moate, Mr. Roger (Faversham)

Neale, Mr. Gerrard (Cornwall, North)

Pawsey, Mr. J. F. (Rugby and Kenilworth)

*Powell, Mr. William (Corby)

Rathbone, Mr. Tim (Lewes)

Redmond, Mr. Martin (Don Valley)

Rhodes James, Mr. Robert (Cambridge)

Rowe, Mr. Andrew (Mid-Kent)

Short, Ms. Clare (Birmingham, Ladywood)

Welsh, Mr. Michael (Doncaster, North)

Woodall, Mr. Alec (Hemsworth)

Mr. Wookey, Committee Clerk

27th November 1985

2
3 Fourth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Thursday 5 December 1985

[MR. JOHN FORRESTER in the Chair]

Draft Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers' Compensation) (Payment of Claims) Regulations 1985
Draft Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers' Compensation) (Specified Diseases) Order 1985

10.30 am

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Peter Bottomley): I beg to move, That the Committee has considered the draft Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers' Compensation) (Specified Diseases) Order 1985. It might be helpful if I speak to both orders together. These instruments are to be made under the Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers' Compensation) Act 1979. The specified diseases order adds two additional diseases to those covered by the Act. The payment of claims regulations increase by 5 per cent. the amounts of compensation paid under the Act to those who first satisfy all the eligibility conditions on or after 1 January 1986. The Act provides for lump sum payments to sufferers—and where the sufferers have died, to their dependants—of dust-related diseases where there is no former employer remaining in business against whom a claim for damages might be or might have been made. Compensation is provided in this way for such diseases because they develop slowly. The sufferer may not know that he has the disease until long after he has ceased the work that caused his illness. By that time, the employer in whose employment the disease developed has often ceased to carry on business. There was no provision in the original Act for the addition of any other industrial diseases. The Social Security Act 1985 amended the 1979 Act to allow the Secretary of State to specify other diseases by order. The Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers' Compensation) (Specified Deseases) Order 1985 is the first-time this power has been exercised. It specifies the two additional diseases of, first, primary carcinoma of the lung where there is accompanying evidence of one or both of the following:

  • asbestosis
  • bilateral diffuse pleural thickening, and, secondly, bilateral diffuse pleural thickening.
  • Those two additional diseases are separate diseases, although it may appear that one is covered by the other. The first is a lung cancer which is usually fatal within a few years of diagnosis. The second, although not normally very disabling, can cause impairment to respiratory function. Both are associated with exposure to asbestos dust. 4 A report from the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council recommended that the two diseases be prescribed as industrial diseases. This report was accepted by the DHSS, and the two diseases were added to the list of prescribed industrial diseases from 1 April 1985. Because these are asbestos-related diseases, Department of Employment Ministers agreed that they should also be covered by the Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers' Compensation) Act 1979. This brings the 1979 Act into line with the industrial injuries scheme. Although the specified diseases order comes into operation on 1 January 1986, a person who has been awarded disablement benefit or death benefit for either of the newly specified diseases since 1 April 1985 may be eligible for a payment. The original payment regulations setting out a scale of payments by age and percentage disability came into operation on 1 January 1980. The Act does not provide for automatic uprating of those amounts. However, within the financial resources available, the Government have increased the size of payments by 40 per cent., 5 per cent. and 4 per cent. for those first qualifying from 1 January 1983, 1 January 1984 and 1 January 1985 respectively, and now propose a further increase of 5 per cent. from 1 January next year. We have undertaken to review these amounts each year. In previous years, increases in the amount of payments have been achieved by regulations which amend the schedule of the 1979 regulations. Following the addition of the two further diseases, some amendments are needed to the text of the 1979 regulations. The opportunity has, therefore, been taken to replace the 1979 regulations. This means that people using them need refer to only one set of regulations. As the Committee is aware, the Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers' Compensation) (Determination of Claims) Regulations 1985 have also been amended. They replace the 1979 determination of claims regulations and will cover the two new diseases. However, as they did not require affirmative resolution they are not now before the Committee. The Government have done all that they can to administer the Act sympathetically. We recognise that each case is an individual tragedy and we are as generous as the statute will allow us to be. However, it has never been the purpose of the Act to provide an alternative to taking action in the courts and the Department has to be satisfied that there is no current employer against whom a claim for damages could be made. During the past 12 months, we have approved 67 applications at a total cost of more than £400,000. I commend the addition of these two new diseases and the increase in the scale of payments of compensation and ask for the Committee's approval.

    10.35 am

    Sir John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest): This is not my hon. Friend's first Ministerial speech, but may I say that it is a pleasure to follow him and to support him warmly in the advocacy of the order. There are no mines in Epping forest—

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    Mr. Rowe: Yet.

    Sir John Biggs-Davison: Not yet. I became acquainted with a constituent who suffered from a disease specified in the order. He is now dead. Therefore, I feel strongly about the matter and am glad to support my hon. Friend. I am astonished that Labour Party members are not here, as the Labour Party presumes to speak for miners and others affected by the order. I hope that they are here in spirit.

    Mr. Bottomley: Such cases tear at the families of those affected and affect the hearts of hon. Members who come across them. I note by hon. Friend's 6 remarks about the attendance of the Committee. Perhaps Opposition members would have been here to oppose something controversial. We may take it that they are demonstrating their support for the Government's actions by their absence.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Resolved, That the Committee has considered the Draft Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers' Compensation) (Specified Diseases) Order 1985. That the Committee has considered the Draft Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers' Compensation) (Payment of Claims) Regulations 1985.

    Committee rose at twenty-two minutes to Eleven o'clock.

    THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:

    Forrester, Mr. John (Chairman)

    Biggs-Davison, Sir John

    Bottomley, Mr. Peter

    Lloyd, Mr. Peter

    Madel, Mr.

    Neale, Mr.

    Pawsey, Mr.

    Rhodes James, Mr.

    Rowe, Mr.