Pneumoconiosis (Hansard, 30 April 1951)
HC Deb 30 April 1951 vol 487 cc830-2
31. Dr. Barnett Stress

asked the Minister of National Insurance how many applications have been received by the pneumoconiosis panels to the nearest available date since the Industrial Injuries Act was implemented; how many of the men examined were assessed as suffering from loss of faculty; how many were assessed at 5 per cent. or less; and if she can also give the figures for North Staffordshire.

The Minister of National Insurance (Dr. Edith Summerskill)

I am having the available information extracted and will send it to my hon. Friend.

Dr. Stross

While thanking my right hon. Friend for the trouble she is taking, may I refer her to the last part of the Question and ask whether she is aware that in some cases men who are assessed at 5 per cent. or less may deem it advisable to leave the industry in which they are exposed to this danger? In such cases does she not feel that they should be allowed hardship allowances?

Dr. Summerskill

I will consider that point.

32. Mr. Leather

asked the Minister of National Insurance if, in view of the conclusions of the Pneumoconiosis Research Unit now published by the Medical Re search Council (Memorandum No. 25) which prove that the 5-year limitation in awarding compensation to pneumoconiosis sufferers is unjust, she will now take steps to abolish this injustice.

Dr. Summerskill

I do not think that the Report to which the hon. Member refers throws any fresh light on questions connected with the 5-year limit. But I am, in fact, considering those questions in consultation with the T.U.C.

Mr. Leather

Is the right hon. Lady aware that on page 2 of this Report, which I presume she has seen, it says plainly that this condition is nearly always progressive, independent of continued dust exposure, which I consider to be appropriate medical evidence? Secondly, is she aware that I was assured by the Parliamentary Secretary as long ago as 2nd February that she was discussing this matter? Can she say when these discussions will come to a satisfactory conclusion?

Dr. Summerskill

The evidence the hon. Member has just quoted was known to the medical profession many years ago. It may be new to the hon. Member, but it is not new to the medical profession. I would remind the hon. Member, who has put down many Questions on this subject, that the representatives of the miners are very anxious to try to arrive at a solution of this problem. I met a deputation last week, and I propose to meet a deputation on Wednesday. I think the hon. Member will agree that it will be most satisfactory to the sufferers to have their own representatives discuss this matter.

Mr. Leather

I happen to be one of the representatives of these men, some of whom are in my constituency. As to what the right hon. Lady has said about the medical profession, I have always given her Ministry credit for the fact that until two years ago the doctors were not agreed?

Dr. Summerskill

The hon. Member is quite right in that he represents a number of miners in his constituency. If he likes to come to my Department to discuss this matter with me, I shall be glad to see him at any time.

Sir H. Williams

Since these facts have been known to the medical profession for some years, why is it that the Medical Research Council has only just published them?

Dr. Summerskill

Facts are known about all sorts of things, but they are not necessarily reported in that form.