HC Deb 11 February 1862 vol 165 cc161-3

said, he rose to move for leave to bring in a Bill to amend the Law relating to the recovery of damages by Workmen and Servants, and of Compensation by the Families of Workmen and Servants killed by Accidents. The object of this Bill was simple and important. The question he wished to submit to the consideration of the House was whether some more clear and precise rule might not be laid down for the purpose of defining the responsibility of masters to their workmen in case the latter should receive any injury in the conduct of the business in which they are engaged. He also desired to extend the rule of law to cases where death ensued, so that compensation might be given to the families of the workmen who were killed. In former times the rule seemed to have been that masters were not responsible for any injuries their workmen might sustain in the conduct of their business. But, in recent days, the judges had felt the hardships of the rule, and had introduced exceptions and restrictions for the purpose of affording redress and relief to workmen in certain cases; and in this way the rule had become less oppressive and injurious than it had formerly been. That very day an important decision bad been pronounced by which still further exceptions were introduced. He did not intend at that moment to enter into an investigation of the merits of the existing rule of law, nor would he enter into particulars relative to the changes he proposed to introduce, because his Bill would shortly be laid before the House, and hon. Members would then see for themselves the alterations he suggested. Generally, however, he might state that such a Bill was rendered necessary in consequence of the great changes which had taken place in the relation between master and workman; that the responsibility of the master should be extended; that compensation should be given for all injuries which workmen received in consequence of the neglect of the master to do all that was necessary to enable the workman to carry on his business with reasonable security, and that compensation should also be given to the families of those who were killed, co-extensive with those who were injured. With these observations, he hoped the House would not object to the introduction of the Bill.


seconded the Motion.


said, it was not his intention to offer any opposition to the Motion of his hon. and learned Friend. The subject was one undoubtedly of very great importance, and one upon which it was highly desirable that the sense of the House should be taken. The opportunity for that purpose would, of course, present itself when the Motion was made for the second reading of the Bill. He hoped, however, that his hon. and learned Friend had carefully guarded himself against unduly and unjustly extending the responsibilities of masters. At present a master was responsible for the consequences of injuries arising from his own negligence, but he was not responsible for an injury done to one of his servants by the carelessness of another, provided he had exercised reasonable caution in the selection of his workmen.

Leave given.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. ARYTON and Lord ROBERT MONTAGU.

Bill presented, and read 1o.