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Earl Russell: Before the Minister sits down, does she agree that a single parent with a disability is at a disadvantage when it comes to mobility compared with a parent with an equal disability but also with an able-bodied partner?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Certainly, someone without any support who suffers from a disability and who has either mobility or care needs is at a disadvantage compared with a person who has support. The purpose of DLA in terms of both care needs and mobility is to enable that person to buy that support.

Lord Higgins: I listened carefully to what the Minister said. One needs to study the matter very carefully given the complex inter-relationships between the whole range of different benefits. At times it is not at all clear whether in any particular case a benefit is superseded by a higher benefit of a different category. I should like to study between now and Report Stage what the Minister said and, if need be, return to the matter. Subject to that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 115A not moved.]

5.6 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 70 shall stand part of the Bill?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 121; Not-Contents, 38.

Division No. 1


Acton, L.
Ailsa, M.
Anelay of St. Johns, B.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Biffen, L.
Blackstone, B.
Blackwell, L.
Borrie, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Bruce of Donington, L.
Burlison, L.
Cadman, L.
Callaghan of Cardiff, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Carter, L. [Teller.]
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Courtown, E.
Cranborne, V.
David, B.
Davidson, V.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Desai, L.
Diamond, L.
Dixon, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Eatwell, L.
Erroll, E.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Ewing of Kirkford, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Gallacher, L.
Gilbert, L.
Gilmour of Craigmillar, L.
Glenamara, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Gray of Contin, L.
Grenfell, L.
Hanworth, V.
Hardie, L.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Henderson of Brompton, L.
Higgins, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Islwyn, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jeger, B.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Kennet, L.
Leathers, V.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Longford, E.
Lovell-Davis, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller.]
Mallalieu, B.
Manton, L.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Milverton, L.
Molloy, L.
Monkswell, L.
Montague of Oxford, L.
Nelson, E.
Nicol, B.
O'Cathain, B.
Onslow of Woking, L.
Orme, L.
Palmer, L.
Paul, L.
Peston, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Plumb, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Richard, L. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Rogers of Riverside, L.
Rowallan, L.
Savile, L.
Sewel, L.
Shepherd, L.
Shore of Stepney, L.
Simon, V.
Simon of Highbury, L.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Strabolgi, L.
Strange, B.
Strathclyde, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Taylor of Warwick, L.
Tenby, V.
Thomas of Macclesfield, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Varley, L.
Waddington, L.
Walker of Doncaster, L.
Weatherill, L.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Whitty, L.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.


Addington, L.
Avebury, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Calverley, L.
Carlisle, E.
Dholakia, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Falkland, V.
Goodhart, L.
Grey, E.
Hamwee, B.
Hayhoe, L.
Hooson, L.
Lane of Horsell, L.
Layton, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Ludford, B.
Lyell, L.
Maddock, B. [Teller.]
Mar and Kellie, E.
Marsh, L.
Meston, L.
Nicholson of Winterbourne, B.
Razzall, L.
Rochester, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Russell, E. [Teller.]
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Steel of Aikwood, L.
Stockton, E.
Taverne, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Tope, L.
Tordoff, L.
Williams of Crosby, B.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Clause 70 agreed to accordingly.

6 Apr 1998 : Column 538

5.14 p.m.

[Amendments Nos. 116 and 117 not moved.]

Clause 71 agreed to.

6 Apr 1998 : Column 539

Lord Evans of Parkside moved Amendment No. 117A:

After Clause 71, insert the following new clause--

Industrial injuries benefits: backdating

(" .--(1) The Secretary of State may by regulation provide that a claim in respect of a disease prescribed under section 108 of the Contributions and Benefits Act may be backdated for a period of up to 12 months from the date of the claim, or to the date of disablement (whichever is the later).
(2) Before making regulations under subsection (1) above, the Secretary of State shall invite advice from the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council.").

The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to Amendment No. 117B. During Second Reading on 15th January, I was severely critical of Clause 72. I said:

    "I turn now to Clause 72 which deals with the restriction on the back-dating of benefit. I have great difficulty with this clause. To be frank I am rather ashamed of it"".--[Official Report, 15/1/98; col. 1197.]
Until 1st April 1997, claims for most benefits would have been backdated for up to 12 months. There are good reasons for late claims which can be proved. It was a fair, sensible and humane provision. There are many reasons why people find themselves having to make a late claim.

The previous Conservative government reduced that claims period from 12 months to three months. I thought that their attitude and actions were disgraceful and strongly opposed them. The purpose of the change was just to save money. I understand that its purpose was to save about £365 million over a three-year period, but of course those savings would come from some of the most impoverished people in this country--people who often had great difficulty in even understanding the forms that they were being asked to complete.

I expected that the new Labour Government would have conducted a major review of the impact on impoverished people who were affected by the new three-month backdating rule. I thought that they would seek to see how much hardship had been created by that new provision. But it is self-evident that the Government did not have any form of investigation into the impact of the new regulations.

The new backdating regime commenced on 1st April 1997. The new Labour Government were elected on 1st May 1997--some two months later. The original backdating came into force during the course of the general election. No one debated the impact of that new regulation in any great depth.

The Bill received its Second Reading in the other place on 22nd July. We all know that Bills are not produced out of thin air. They have to have a fairly lengthy period of gestation. The more complex a Bill, self-evidently the longer the period of gestation. So it is obvious that there was no inquiry or review of the impact of the new regulations. It was a savage cut from three-months' back-dating to one month, apparently to save a further £58 million.

On Second Reading I referred particularly to workers who have had their health damaged, in many cases critically, by the industrial substances and processes

6 Apr 1998 : Column 540

with which they worked. I am critical of any proposition to cut their backdating rights. Amendment No. 117A attempts to deal with that situation.

The main problems with industrial injuries disablement benefit relate to diseases which are often difficult to diagnose, and are generally not even noticed or felt until some time after the condition has started to cause the disablement.

Industrial injuries benefit is a form of compensation which society has recognised should be paid without regard to whether there is a need for money. Most people would recognise the complete fairness of back payments in such cases. That is particularly true in the case of asbestos-related diseases. A mesothelioma tumour does not usually manifest itself until between 20 and 50 years after exposure to asbestos. Many sufferers of asbestosis, including the non-working wives of industrial workers who have contracted the disease from the dust and fibres carried home by their husbands on overalls and boiler suits, have no idea when they were in contact with asbestos. Many individuals have long forgotten the employer who exposed them to the asbestos in the first place. People contract the disease late in life, forgetting what has happened to them.

Perhaps I may cite my own case and the difficulties involved in such situations. My knowledge of the subject is not based on academic studies or cases relating to my work as a Member of Parliament for 23 years, but on my employment in the shipbuilding and ship repairing industry on Tyneside. I began when I was 15 years old and continued to work in the industry until I was elected to Parliament in March 1974. During those years, I worked in ships' engine and boiler rooms during building and repairing. Every steam pipe and boiler in those vessels was lagged with asbestos. When we were asked to erect the pipelines and boilers or, even worse, to remove and repair them, we removed the asbestos lagging by hacking if off with an axe, hammer and chisel or a hacksaw. The ships' boiler and engine rooms were covered in asbestos dust and none of us had the faintest idea of the difficulties we were creating for ourselves in later life. No one told us of the dangers involved with asbestos.

When the repairs had been finished by people such as myself, workmen were asked to renew the asbestos lagging. Workmen known as "laggers" mixed the new asbestos cement in the boiler or engine rooms without taking any precautions whatever. Again, the atmosphere was filled with asbestos dust. As we gained more knowledge and watched our colleagues die from asbestos-related diseases, it is hardly surprising that I and people like me often wonder whether we have contracted the disease. People who would have been the same age as me died 10 or 15 years ago from asbestos-related diseases.

Many other industries have crippled their workers. In St. Helens, the town which I had the privilege of representing for many years, was mentioned in the Guardian on Friday, 27th March. It reported that:

    "Two men who developed asthma, memory loss and mood swings after working for more than two decades with noxious chemicals at a plant making Cellophane were yesterday celebrating a £75,000 compensation victory. 'I was effectively sniffing glue for 22 years,'

6 Apr 1998 : Column 541

    said James Fallon, aged 65 ... Mr. Fallon and Robert Burrows, aged 70, both worked as fitters at British Sidac at St. Helens, Merseyside, which closed in 1982. They came into contact with carbon disulphide, toluene, formaldehyde and phosgene ... Mr. Fallon, who claims he wore no masks or protective clothing during his employment from 1958 to 1980, was attracted by high pay levels and often worked seven days a week to boost his income. 'The company told us nothing', he said. 'They concentrated on the fire risks because the chemicals were so volatile. The smell was evil and there were times when I was high on a cocktail of different things'."

Interestingly, the solicitor for the company, which has closed, said that the two originally made substantial claims, including compensation for loss of earnings. The insurers decided to offer a modest proportion of the potential claim to avoid an expensive trial. Perhaps I may point out that that factory was surrounded by terraced housing. Therefore, not only were the men and women in the workforce affected by the substances, but so were people living around the plant. One wonders how much damage has been caused to many people in St. Helens and to those living around similar plants in the rest of the country.

Amendment No. 117A could mean a great deal to many workers suffering from crippling diseases. If passed, it will enable the Secretary of State to introduce regulations restoring the one-month backdating rule. The amendment also calls upon the Secretary of State to invite advice from the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council before introducing such regulations. Members of the advisory council are the experts in the field and I am sure that they have the confidence of industrial workers everywhere. Amendment No. 117B writes into the Bill similar safeguards as regards reduced earnings allowance.

Many men, and on occasions women, who have been crippled as a result of prolonged contact with the industrial substances with which they worked without realising what was happening, have been able to continue in some form of employment but at a lower rate of pay. Often they have had to give up the original job which earned them the high wages, probably paid, because of the conditions in which they were working. The benefit made up those lower earnings.

I trust that my noble friend the Minister, who I have pestered about the issue during the past few weeks, will listen sympathetically to what I have said and agree with me. I beg to move.

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