§ Order for Consideration, as amended by Standing Committee, read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now considered."
§ MR. BROADHURST (Nottingham, W.)
, in rising to move that the Bill be considered upon that day three months, said, he regretted the position he was compelled to occupy. His Motion on the face of it appeared to be obstructive and directed against the whole scheme of the Bill. Those who were committed to this Motion did not take up this extreme position of their own 1427 accord. They had sought interviews with the Government to submit Amendments to Clause 3, and they had had reason to believe that their objections to it would be removed and the Bill passed; but as the Government had made no further statement as to Clause 3 that hope was dispelled, and the only alternative left was to try to defeat the Bill. If the Amendments had been accepted, it would have removed nearly all the difficulties in their way, and would probably have enabled the Bill to be got through its present stage within a few hours; whereas, as matters stood, it was doubtful whether any other Business would be reached either that night or on the following day. The responsibility he was taking was, he was aware, a great one, but he took it without hesitation, as it was the direct outcome of long consideration on the part of the only Body that had the right to express a collective opinion on the subject—the organized trades whose members would be affected by it. They desired to see the Bill pass, but the Government rendered it impossible that it could pass with the support of the trades; and if it were passed as it stood they would immediately commence an agitation for another measure which should be more just and equitable to all the parties concerned. The opponents were willing that a clause should be inserted recognizing the insurances of the London and North-Western, the London and Brighton, and all Railway Companies and firms, only preventing new contracts after the Bill had become law. The Government gave great hope that they would accept the suggestions made to them; but they declined at the last moment when the trades had relaxed their efforts. It would have been better to put the Bill off till next year, by which time the Government might have relented and drafted an equitable Bill that would do justice all round. The subject had been under discussion ever since the passing of the Act of 1880, and there was a Select Committee upon it in 1886, This Bill was introduced before Whitsuntide, and, after a restricted discussion, was sent to the Standing Committee on Law, where the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary sat like a stone wall and paid little or no attention to anything that was advanced on behalf of the work-men. 1428 The Bill had been kicked and cuffed from pillar to post till within a few days of Christmas, and now, with a Parliamentary pistol held at their heads, they were asked to pass the Bill in one night—in order that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury might proceed with the belated Estimates—or else take the responsibility of defeating the Bill. Well, they did accept the responsibility, for they were convinced that unless the Government accepted the suggestion that had been before them for the last week the working classes would a thousand times prefer to remain under the Act of 1880 for the present rather than commit their liberty for the future to such an ill-considered and partial measure. There were one or two improvements in the Act. One was the advance of the limit to £250; but that limit had no logical basis, and it would not be insisted upon in the case of any other class of the community. Then there were the clauses dealing with sub-contracts and the inclusion of seamen, and when he had mentioned these three points, he had referred to the only parts of the Bill which were of any advantage at all to the workmen. There were other portions of the measure which were directly disadvantageous compared with the Act of 1880, and they would rather sacrifice the advantages than have them with the clauses which they condemned. The workmen were not asking for a new law, or for any special favour. What they asked was that an exception in the law which excluded working people should no longer be allowed to exist, and that there should be one law for the employer and his workman and no special protection for either class. Why should not working men be treated in the same way as their employers? They were of the same colour; they were not Hottentots or black men; and there was no reason why they should be any longer ruled out of the law of the land. [An hon. MEMBER: You are not.] He maintained that they were, by the doctrine of common employment. If a workman by his negligence caused a person an injury, the employer was liable to pay compensation to the injured man; but if a working man, five or 10 minutes after he had obtained employment, received a fatal injury through the negligence or inca- 1429 pacity of a fellow-workman, the next of-kin had no case whatever against the employer. There would be no case for compensation, because the workman had been, perhaps, for only 10 minutes in common employment. This, he submitted, was not right or just. Lord Esher said in his evidence before a Committee in 1877—If you alter a whole law with regard to everybody, then I should say that nobody ought to be liable for anything but his own negligence or want of care or skill; but as long as you maintain the general law, I think that the general law ought to be applicable in regard to the liability of the master for injuries to his servants.That was all the workmen wanted. They would be prepared to accept the law which was provided for other classes. Less than that they would not be satisfied with. It had been stated that if Parliament altered the law in the way in which they had suggested, an employer might be ruined by any great catastrophe at his works. He did not say that that might not be so; but what he did say was that the employer, if made liable for the effects of that catastrophe upon other people, should also be made liable for the injuries which it inflicted upon his workmen. In the Committee on the Bill he gave an instance of how the law worked. Within a niche of that House a workman was injured for the rest of his life through the negligence or incapacity of a fellow-workman. No recompense was made to that man, who was ruined for life, and his family were left to the tender mercies of the world, because the injury was inflicted by an incapable or careless workman whom he had probably never seen before, and whose action he could not control. The Government had never listened to the working men's case; and if they did them a good act in one part of the measure, they more than counterbalanced it by the harm done them in some other part of the Bill. He asked the attention of the House to Clause 3, on which centred their main objection, and which had determined them to make a firm stand against the further progress of the measure. They had offered a perfectly honest and reasonable compromise to the Government, who had, however, rejected it at the instance of a mere handful of people—in fact, at the mere instance of 1430 the London and North-Western Railway Company and half-a-dozen proprietors of large works who had interviewed the right hon. Gentleman. The title of the Bill was misleading, and he hoped that someone would move to amend it. It should be called an Insurance Bill, or a London and North-Western Railway Protection Bill, or by any other title except that of an Employers' Liability Bill. The whole scheme was devised to relieve employers from that liability in regard to their workmen to which at Common Law they were subject in regard to every member of the community. Clause 3 would destroy the value of every other part of the measure. It was an attempt to impose on the working people of this country the German system of compulsory insurance. The right hon. Gentleman was greatly enamoured of the German system, but he would tell him that they were not Germans; that they did not want the German system; and—what was more—they were not to be drilled or dragooned into that system. One of the objects of the measure was, no doubt, to strike at the root of trade unionism. The proposition had been made more than once during the last 30 years to separate the benevolent fund from the trade purposes fund in their trade combination. It had been made there, in the Press, and on the platform. It had always failed. They saw what was the little game in connection with that 3rd clause and they intended to meet it. Trade unionism had in the past defeated Ministers as great as the right hon. Gentleman, and it would in the future defeat Ministers and Governments, if they struck one blow against it or made that insidious attempt to undermine the foundations of their trade associations. Clause 3 brought in operation the Secretaries of State and the Board of Trade, who were to tell them when they were justly dealt with by their employers; but they thought they could manage those small affairs of theirs without assistance of that kind. They were of opinion that the Board of Trade and Secretaries of State especially, judging from recent experience, had quite as much as they could do to manage their own affairs successfully without undertaking to interfere with the affairs of organized Trade Societies. The whole of those Bodies, however much they might differ on any other subject, would 1431 certainly unite on that question and do their utmost, if that proposal became law, to render it perfectly inoperative; and they would, as long as they were allowed, continue to oppose its progress in that House. Clause 3 of the Bill proposed to convert the whole adult male population of this country into domestic servants; and if it were operative, working men would not be able to move hand or foot without the permission of their employers. The workman who had invested 10 or 15 years' subscriptions in the fund of any particular firm of employers, and who was then too old to join any club or association, must remain under that firm on whatever conditions they might impose on him, otherwise he must leave and be for the rest of his days without any provision against sickness or old age. There were, besides, several limitations in the Bill to which he objected. In Clause 5 the workmen were limited to three months' notice of action; in Clause 6 they were compelled to begin the action within six months; in Clause 12 there was an allowance of 12 months' grace in case of the death of the injured person, Why should there be those limitations? They did not exist by the Common Law. He hoped the House would sympathize with the claims of the workmen, and that they would have the aid of hon. and learned Gentlemen on his own side of the House, in order to see whether they were right or not, and to give them some guidance in the legal questions which would arise in the later stages of the Bill. Then Clause 9 proposed a limit of £250 as compensation to all workmen in case of fatal injury or death; but why should there be this limitation? He objected to any limit whatever, and he hoped hon. Members would sustain him in that objection. Clause 12, again, limited the present Common Law right of workmen. It gave them the opportunity of going into a County Court under certain conditions, the first being that they should proceed under the restrictive rules laid down by this Bill. He certainly took serious objection to that limitation, and would ask the opinion of the House on the matter. Clause 13 related to seamen, and he understood that if any objection was made to it the Government were disposed to lighten the Bill by withdrawing the clause altogether. But their objection to the clause was on the ground that it 1432 was so limited in extent and so safeguarded as to leave seamen without protection or compensation on the part of the shipowner. The clause stated that the seaman was to be entitled to compensation provided the accident occurred "when the ship last proceeded to sea from a port in the United Kingdom." But if an accident was caused to a seaman through lack of gear or defective repairs on the part of the owner or his agent when the ship was coming back to the United Kingdom, why was the seaman not as much entitled to compensation as when leaving the United Kingdom? This was one of the extraordinary anomalies which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to make law, and he should be glad to hear an explanation of it. While the Bill was before the Committee upstairs the right hon. Gentleman made no attempt to explain the point, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would agree to remove that portion of the clause in respect to which he had given Notice of Amendment on Report stage. This was a question involving the future weal or woe of the working people of the country, and he appealed earnestly to the House to discharge the Bill for the present Session. The Government could then reconsider the whole subject, and if they could not propose a better measure, then they ought to leave the question alone altogether, merely continuing for the present the Act of 1880 until such time as Parliament had made up its mind to do justice to the working classes by passing a complete measure for their benefit. He appealed to the Government not to attempt to score a Parliamentary success at the expense of the welfare of the working people, to disregard the views of one Railway Company, and do an act of justice to the working classes by withdrawing this sham, misleading, mischievous Bill, than which a worse one had never been presented to the House. The hon. Member concluded by moving that the Bill be considered that day three months.
§ MR. JOICEY (Durham, Chester-le-Street)
, in rising to second the Amendment, said, that although he could not speak for the labouring classes with the same authority as his hon. Friend (Mr. Broadhurst), yet he could speak as one who had been a large employer of labour for a long time, and as his num- 1433 ber of employés at the present time was between 3,500 and 4,000, be thought he could speak with some degree of authority. He had not been so fortunate as the hon. Member to be placed on the Committee which dealt with this question, nor was he fortunate enough to be called on to speak, although he tried several times to address the House on the second reading of the Bill, and, therefore, he thought he was entitled to say a few words. He agreed in the main with what had fallen from his hon. Friend. He thought that too much alarm was being felt and had been felt in regard to the effect of this measure. He remembered that when the 1880 Act was introduced there was quite a panic among the employers of labour, and he believed that one hon. Member who addressed the House said he believed it would depreciate his property to the extent of 50 per cent. All these prognostications had been proved to be fallacious. He had himself had only one case under the 1880 Act, and he thought his experience was pretty much the same as the experience of all employers of labour. He, therefore, did not look with any degree of alarm upon extending to some extent the provisions of the Act of 1880. He found, in going through his constituency, which was a constituency composed of working men engaged in industrial pursuits chiefly, that there was no question which created so much interest as the extension of the Act of 1880, and he confessed that, with regard to common employment, there was not so much to be said. What they did seem to think was that provision should be inserted in this extended Act to prevent employers and workmen contracting themselves out of it. He was in hopes that the negotiations which had been taking place between Her Majesty's Government and the deputations representing both the workmen and the employers would have tended to have removed the difficulty in the way of passing this Bill, and he must express his regret that the Government had not seen their way to strike out the 3rd clause altogether. It was the 3rd clause to which his strongest opposition was directed, and it was the 3rd clause which induced him to second the Amendment of his hon. Friend. He believed that the working classes had the same dread of this contracting out of the Act 1434 as they had in connection with losing their votes under the Ballot Act. In his part of the country the working men were so well organized that they could take care of themselves, and required no assistance from the Legislature; but there were many parts of the country where these organizations did not exist, and where the impression was that working men were to some extent prevented from exercising their free will in regard to voting. He thought it would be better, where the difficulty existed, that there should be compulsion—that employers should not be allowed to take advantage of their position to compel men to contract themselves out of the Act. The Legislature intended to give all working men the benefit of this Act, and he thought the employers had no right whatever to deprive men of a benefit which existed. He held that, on the whole, the measure which was before the House was a very moderate measure, and he was amazed that Her Majesty's Government had not endeavoured to settle this question. There could, in his mind, be no settlement which contained such a clause as Clause 3, and in dealing with questions of this sort the aim of the Government should be to settle the question fairly and reasonably. He believed if the Government were to delete this 3rd clause it would take away a great deal of the opposition to this Bill, and it would be a settlement which would be considered fair and reasonable by the bulk of the working classes in this country. They heard that a deputation, which considered that it represented the working classes of this country, agreed to the insertion of a clause to enable such Companies as the London and North-Western Company, which had already an insurance fund which in their case took the place of compensation to be given under this Act, to be exempted from its operation. He failed to see on what grounds the Government had not endeavoured to come to terms with them on the subject. He believed that when the matter came to be dealt with in the future, those who were now against the insertion of this clause would find that such a settlement would be a much more reasonable and fair one for the working classes than the settlement which was contained in this Bill. He hoped, therefore, that Her Majesty's 1435 Government, in order to save the time of the House, and in order to get this measure passed into law this Session, would intimate to the House their willingness to give this concession and to strike out the 3rd clause. In his own district they had miners' relief funds, and to these funds the bulk of the coal-owners contributed something like 20 per cent upon what was contributed by the working men of the district. He regretted to say that since the Act of 1880 was passed some of the owners had withdrawn their contributions, notwithstanding that their loss under the Act must be very much less in some cases than their contributions used to be when they gave 20 per cent. But, in spite of these losses, he thought the working men of his district were as strong as ever they were in their opposition to contracting out of the Act. He hoped, therefore, the Government would agree to what he believed to be the desire of the bulk of the working classes.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," in order to add the words "this day three months."—(Mr. Broadhurst.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
said, he felt very much the responsibility which rested upon him for the course he was about to take, because it would put him in conflict with nearly every allegation of fact and of principle that had fallen from the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Broadhurst), and also in conflict, he was afraid, with one or two other hon. Members whose opinion he valued very much. But he could not regard which was the Party in power in introducing this or any other Bill. Each Bill must be dealt with on its actual merits. He had heard this Bill described as "a sham, misleading, mischievous—a worse Bill was never introduced into this House." [Mr. BROADHURST: Hear, hear!] He should be sorry if that were true, for he was one of those who were responsible for every suggestion adopted by the Government in this Bill, save one, which he would explain presently. The whole Bill, except so far as it was in the Act of 1880, was the result of the Report of a Select Committee made in 1886, on which 1436 Committee there were 18 Members—11 Liberals and 7 Conservatives. As the hon. Member for West Nottingham read the Report two years ago, he might have given them the advantage of his criticisms at a time when they might have prevented the Government from being misled. However, they did not obtain the assistance which he, in writing, sought from the hon. Member, who rightly enough claimed to represent the organized trades, from whom the Select Committee might have expected, at least, the fullest information. The Committee did the best they could. They received great assistance from Gentlemen representing the mining constituencies, and they also had assistance from one great Trade Union. But they were left to form their judgment without any help from the hon. Member, although it was asked for more than once in writing. If the Committee had led the Government into erring, it was much to be regretted that those who represented the only authorized organization in this country did not at their great Trade Congresses put the facts in regard to this measure accurately before them and give the Committee the benefit of their experience. It was true that the hon. Member spoke with authority, but it was authority given on a statement of facts which utterly misled the Congress as to the nature of the Bill. He wished to say a word or two with reference to the intimation of the hon. Member for West Nottingham—that if the Government had accepted certain proposals there would have been no need for the opposition that evening. He held in his hand the print of the Amendment which the hon. Gentleman referred to as having tendered as a compromise. Would the House believe that that would have left everybody to be forced to contract out till May 1 without any kind of remedy, would have left, the worst evils upon those who could bear them the least, and would have been a very fiction of a compromise if the Government had thought right to accept it? He should have regarded that compromise with great regret. He should have regarded it as an unfortunate concession, exceedingly mischievous to the men, and only useful to the worst class of employers. He must address them at some length, as the Chairman of the 1437 Select Committee, Sir Thomas (now Lord) Brassey could not speak in that House, and as the bulk of the work of settling the Bill fell upon the shoulders of the Chairman and himself. It was a little grievous to him to hear, after the lapse of two years, insinuations made against the Government which he must either patiently listen to in silence, leaving the Government to be accused of treachery to the working men because they adopted what he moved and carried in the Committee, or else he must speak against men with whom he would prefer to work. He would take the straightforward course, believing that that would, in the long run, be the best. He was not quite sure that the hon. Member for West Nottingham accurately represented the feeling of the working men of England in reference to this matter. He had spoken on the Bill, on the Amendment, and on the speeches of the hon. Member for West Nottingham in 20 large centres of population, and he had seen no sign of support given to the special views of the hon. Member; but he had found overwhelming support given to the claim that the House should do nothing to destroy associations of thrift which, imperfect though they were, and capable of improvement, had done vast good. He desired to be perfectly fair, and although he was afraid that the skilled lawyers who had framed agreements between masters and men had sometimes turned the arrangement more against the men than they should have done, yet, on the whole, these arrangements had conferred a benefit far exceeding any trumpery relief the men might otherwise have received by means of actions at law. It was not true that the vast majority of the people looked on this Bill as an insidious attempt by the present Government to bring the German or any other system into this country. He had taken pains to explain over and over again what the hon. Member for West Nottingham never even told the Congress, how much of this Bill was due to the Report of the Committee, and how little to the Government. He had no special liking for the Government, but he had tried to be fair to them. He had said this was not a Conservative measure; it was a measure practically initiated and drafted long before the present Government came into Office. But he had also said that so 1438 long as Party strife was introduced into the whole discussion of our social reforms no real progress would be made at all. The hon. Member for West Nottingham had declared that he and his Colleagues would have abandoned all opposition to the Bill if their proposal had been accepted by the Government. The hon. Member who had seconded him (Mr. Joicey), probably not having seen the proposal, spoke of the Bill as a proposal to safeguard the London and North-western Railway, and appealed to the Government to drop Clause 3. The Bill had been spoken of as a Bill for the protection of the London and North-Western Railway. Now, he liked that Railway Company even less than he liked the Government, as they had always tried to prevent his election; but he never allowed his private judgment of persons to govern his opinions. He said this statement was not true. There were numerous thrift associations all over the country, and if the Government left out Clause 3 entirely, the London and North-Western Railway Company would be in the same position as now. Clause 3 did not help them. Clause 3 might put difficulties in their way and compel them to submit for judgment the contract they made with their men. At present they were all-powerful and made what contract they pleased. If Clause 3 were left out, they might continue to do so, and Clause 3 gave no help to the powerful organizations which existed. There were a number of small ones which were affected, with which he would presently deal. There was another part of the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for West Nottingham, and which would have bought off his opposition—that was, that this Act was to come into force on the 1st of May next year, so that between now and then the compulsion of which the Committee had evidence, and which they wanted to prevent, would have been unaffected by the proposal of the hon. Member for West Nottingham, which would have benefited no one except the worst employers—he meant the class of employers of whom one gave evidence before the Committee, and who thought it was valuable consideration enough for a man to contract himself out of the Act, that the employer should give him work at all, and who said that if the man did not 1439 accept he might go away and starve. He believed this evidence affected the employers on the Committee as much as they did himself, and promoted the recommendation which was now embodied in the Bill. He would remind the House that the Committee had two Bills before them. In that which bore the name of the hon. Member for West Nottingham, there was no proposal to abolish the doctrine of common employment. He was not in favour of that doctrine; but it was a doctrine which the Liberal Government in 1880 found to involve too many interests for them to propose to repeal it. But they modified it, and gave a little, not being able to give all. He did not think the doctrine was a good doctrine; but it was not a question of what he thought, but of what was possible. The present Bill went a little further than the Act of 1880, and that was its only merit. Prior to 1880, when injury was suffered by a workman from the negligence of another in a common employment, no right of action accrued. The Act of 1880 made exceptions to this doctrine. The Bill which the House was asked to pass, and which he hoped they would pass, went further on behalf of the working man in extending those exceptions. He knew it was difficult for the Government to pass any opposed measure; but he could promise them his support and the gratitude of the working classes if they did pass it. He had never been a member of a Trade Union, because he knew no trade; but he always felt that the more labour was organized the better it was for the workman, and he had earnestly advocated the extension of Trades Unions. His recommendations to the Committee were most certainly not made with the object of destroying Trade Unions. As the hon. Member did not propose—in 1886, when he was associated with the Government and brought in a Bill—to abolish the doctrine of common employment; he could not have then found out that it was mischievous and wicked not to repeal that doctrine. The hon. Member did not then even propose to touch the London and North-Western Railway. The hon. Member should judge what was best for those whom he represented, irrespectively of what Party might happen to be in power; and for the hon. Member to say that the Bill was the worst Bill ever 1440 presented to Parliament was a form of words which recoiled on the person who used it, as an expression employed for the purpose of influencing those who had not read the Bill. The Government had been asked to adjourn the Bill till next year. Now, these matters had been before the Trades Unions since 1886, and the question might have been brought forward in 1887 or 1888 in the way desired by the hon. Member for West Nottingham. The Committee had modified, as far as they could, the doctrine of common employment, not in the interest of employer or employed, but in the interest of the industries of this country. Nothing but harm was done by those who, pretending to speak on behalf of the workmen, tried to set the employed against the employer. There was, therefore, no ground for the hasty condemnation of the Bill, which had been pronounced in a single sentence by the hon. Member. He did not profess to quite understand that part of the Bill which dealt with seamen, and it was to be regretted that more evidence in regard to this branch of the subject was not brought before the Committee, but he had been assured by representatives of the seamen that though the Bill was not all that they wanted, yet that it did something for them which they were glad to get. He could not agree with the ridiculous description of this part of the Bill which the hon. Member for West Nottingham had given to the House, and which could only be excused on the supposition that he had not read it. With regard to that part of the Bill which allowed employers to contract themselves out of the Act under certain conditions, he admitted that there were grave objections to referring matters of this kind to a Government Department. The evidence before the Committee, however, showed that men were sometimes unfairly compelled to contract themselves out of the Act, and the Committee were agreed that this ought to be prevented. But it was very difficult when one escaped from economics to make legal backbones for some men. The Committee came to the conclusion that it would be of advantage to allow men and masters under certain conditions to contract themselves out of the Act. He was sorry to find the hon. Member for West Nottingham, who complained so bitterly of the right hon. 1441 Gentleman the Home Secretary laughing at him, should think that his (Mr. Bradlaugh's) poor speech was only worthy the same rebuke.
§ MR. BROADHURST
I beg pardon. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I was not laughing at all. On the contrary, I was on the point of going to sleep.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
said, no doubt each sentence of that interjected clause was equally true; but he was surprised to hear that the hon. Gentleman should think of going to sleep while this matter, in which he assumed to be so deeply interested, was under discussion. The Committee upon examination found that in a very small percentage of cases of injuries sustained by workmen had they any legal remedy against their employers—the percentage being fixed at about two per cent. The Committee therefore thought that if the workmen could be protected against all accidents of every kind—or, in other words, entitled to compensation in every case of accident, whether or not he was entitled to legal remedy—he would be placed in a much better position than under this or any other Act of Parliament. The Committee therefore considered that employers and employed might be allowed to contract themselves out of the Act where this insurance against all accidents was secured to the employés. This was the provision contained in the Bill. The hon. Member for West Nottingham seemed to think that an employer ought under no circumstances to be allowed to insure against accidents to his workmen. But why not? All men were allowed to insure against accidents to themselves, and there was no foundation, as was shown by the evidence given before the Committee, for the assertion that the system of insurance was calculated to make employers more careless. At the Bradford. Trades Congress, in the presence and hearing of the hon. Member for West Nottingham—unless, too, he was then asleep—it was objected that an employer ought no more to be allowed to insure against accidents than was the speaker against breaking windows. But the Trades Congress should have been told by the hon. Member that everyone can insure against broken windows even negligently broken so long as the damage is not wilful, against lire so long as the 1442 burning is not arson, against accident to person even resulting from that person's carelesssness. To legislate against insurance by employers was to legislate exceptionally to the injury of manufacture. He agreed that the reference to the Home Secretary or the Board of Trade to examine and certify on the fairness of contracts was objectionable if it could be avoided. The less the individual was compelled to actual contact with the Government the better. The recommendation of the Committee was that the fairness of the insurance scheme should be referred to a "competent authority." Where were the Government to find this competent authority if not at the Home Office or the Board of Trade? No doubt, if there were Boards of Conciliation throughout the country, they might be competent tribunals, but, unfortunately, there were few such boards, and he regretted to say such speeches as they had hoard that evening from the hon. Member for West Nottingham were not calculated to lead to their establishment. If this matter of the fairness of the insurance scheme was not referred to a Government Department, or to some other "competent authority," it would have to be referred to the Courts for decision in each case by Judge and jury, with consequent costs to attorneys. This could scarcely be the object of the hon. Member, for at the Congress, where he wielded such influence, a resolution was passed that solicitors should only get the fees allowed by the other side. If this was not to be left to the expensive tribunal of a Judge and jury, the only alternative seemed to be a Government Department, as the Bill proposed. With regard to the limit of time within which notice of action must be given, he thought that if any notice of injury was insisted on, three months in ordinary cases was very reasonable. In the Act carried in 1880 by the Liberal Government the limit was fixed at six weeks. In the present Bill this was extended to three months, with the additional provision that the Court might dispense entirely with notice where the Court considered that the justice of the case required it. With regard to damages, he did not think that there should be any limit at all, other than the judgment of the jury; but in the Act of 1880 the damages were muck 1443 more limited than in the Bill before the House. There the limit was to three years' estimated earnings; but in cases of apprentices this had operated harshly, and the present Bill extended it to the three years' estimate or £250, whichever should be larger. On other points as to superintendence, the Bill extended the Act of 1880 in favour of the workman. At any rate, the present Bill could not be described as the worst and the most mischievous ever introduced, because it was a considerable advance on previous legislation. Upon one point he hoped the Government would give way. It would be unfortunate to give even the semblance of an excuse for the statement that an injustice had been done to a class. He believed that in Clause 12 the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had intended to do what the evidence showed was done in Scotland—namely, enabling the workmen, when it was doubtful whether their right was a Common Law right or a statutory right, to include both in one statement of claim—a thing which could not be done according to the practice of the English Courts. He should be glad for this to be done, and he hoped the Government would take out the words in Clause 12 "and shall not be brought otherwise." It was not right, under cover of doing right to a man, to take away the Common Law right that he already possessed. He would not press this, because he hoped that the Government would accept the point, and that the House would be with him upon it. He appealed to the Government not to allow the Bill to be dropped in behalf of the hundreds of thousands of men whom he had addressed during the last three or four months. He asked them not to ruin the arrangements which employers and workmen together were ready to make. Clause 3 had overwhelming troubles connected with it for any Government which had to decide whether the contracts were fair or not. But if Clause 3 were dropped every employer might contract out of the Bill. The hon. Member for the Chester-le-Street Division of Durham (Mr. Joicey) had called the Bill "A London and North-Western Protection Bill." The hon. Gentleman would no doubt be astonished to hear that he had over and over again received during the last three months from workmen not under the influence 1444 of their employers objections to the London and North-Western and the Lancashire and Yorkshire schemes, which he had urged them to put before the Board of Trade when the time came, and who could know when the time would come if the Bill before the House were dropped?
§ MR. JOICEY
said, that the whole of his argument had been against employers contracting out of the Bill.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
said, he wished to point out that if the clause were allowed to stand so as to prohibit employers contracting out at all, the result would be that all the workmen's insurance associations would be destroyed. In 1886 the hon. Member for West Nottingham actually proposed to legalize such contracts out of the Act as then existed. The measure was not perfect, but it was an attempt in the right direction.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. MATTHEWS) (Birmingham, E.)
It is true that the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Broadhurst) does not in his speech represent the working classes. It would be lamentable to think that any real Representative of the working classes should, for the sake of denouncing the Government to which he is opposed, take upon himself the responsibility of rejecting a measure which, by the admission of all those who have taken the trouble to understand it, confers at least some advantage on the working classes beyond that which they possess at present. The hon. Member has thought fit to empty all the vials of his invective upon our heads and upon the Bill. But he forgets, or is pleased to forget, that the Bill, as the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Brad-laugh) has pointed out, is nothing but a transcript of the Report of the Committee which sat in 1886. It is an endeavour faithfully to translate into legislative language the proposals—not always very explicit and clear—that proceeded from that Committee. Who are responsible for the appointment of that Committee? The Government of which the hon. Member was himself a Member—and it was composed mainly of his political friends and of those who largely represented labour. That Committee has certainly not lacked industry or interest; they have collected a vast 1445 quantity of evidence, and have issued a Report which was undoubtedly a valuable document. I told the House when I introduced the Bill that its object was to give effect to the recommendations of the Committee. If the hon. Member had wished to treat the Government with the common good faith due even to opponents, he should have elected to say whether we fulfilled our pledge or not before he denounced us. He says that the Bill is a sham and misleading. What is "sham and misleading" about the matter is that warmth of interest for the working classes the hon. Member is supposed to represent which leads the hon. Gentleman to delay and defeat the Bill if he can.
MR. BROAD HURST
I do not know, Mr. Speaker, whether it be in Order for an hon. Member to accuse another of taking a "sham and misleading" interest in the working classes.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
I consider the language of the Member was most violent. I am quoting his own words. He charged me with introducing a "sham and misleading measure." What I am telling him is that his opposition is "sham and misleading." He told the House there was scarcely a just clause in the Bill, and that it was the worst and most mischievous measure that has ever been introduced to the House. That was the language which the hon. Member, in order to damage political opponents, had thought fit to apply to a Bill drawn on the lines of the Committee's recommendations. The hon. Member has raised a number of radical objections to the Bill. Well, just let me test the value of those objections. He says that the limitation of the amount that can be got in the County Court in consequence of an injury, apart from his objection to Clause 3, would justify him in rejecting the measure. The hon. Member admitted that he has within the last few days made to the Government proposals which, if they had been accepted, would have wiped out every one of his objections, and that he would be prepared to accept the Bill.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
The hon. Member told the House that if the Government had only accepted those reasonable and legitimate Amendments, further discussion on the Bill would have been stopped.
§ MR. BROADHURST
What I said was that if the Amendment of Clause 3 had been accepted, the House could have gone into Committee or Report on the Bill, and have disposed of the other questions in three or four hours.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
The hon. Member said that the other objections to the Bill would have disappeared and would not have been insisted on. It was perfectly true that the hon. Member, as representing an organization of which I desire to speak with all possible respect, laid certain proposals before the Government, and the Government have done their best to put them into the shape which best expressed their sense, and the Government have given the fullest consideration to those Amendments. He (Mr. Matthews) had no feeling in fathering this Bill beyond the desire to carry a measure which might be useful to the class for whom it was intended. He should have been glad to carry it, but when they came to consider the Amendment of the hon. Member, the Government felt it impossible to accept it, even for the sake of carrying the Bill without further discussion. What was this "reasonable proposal" of the hon. Member that would have made all things easy? It was that there should be a sort of free time till the 1st of May, or whatever date was fixed for the Act coming into force, during which free time any contract upon valuable consideration might be made between an employer and his workman, and once so made, that contract should continue for all time, binding not only present but future workmen under it for all time. Was that a London and North-Western clause or not? The hon. Member told this House that that was the consideration on which he was willing to accept Clause 3 and all the other objectionable features of this Bill. Why, the hon. Member's proposal, as compared with Clause 3, was mischievous and dangerous to workmen in the highest degree.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
No, I will not give way again; and I must ask the hon. Gentleman not to interrupt. I did not interrupt the hon. Member. I begin to think the hon. Member never really understood Clause 3. That clause prohibits an employer for all time from contracting 1447 out of the Act unless he confers on his workmen a benefit equal to that which the workmen could get under the Act. The clause specifies the quality of the only contract of exemption which it permits to be made by which an employer can get rid of his liability under the Act, by which protection is afforded against every accident to the workmen, and by which the benefit derived is as great as any the workmen can get from the Act itself. But the hon. Member has actually the courage to assert that that is so odious and detestable a thing that he preferred any contract whatever, although it did not secure the workmen, and gave them no benefit whatever, save "some" valuable consideration. The hon. Member prefers that, provided it is made before the 1st of May or the coming of the Act into operation. He is thus willing to create this absurdity and anomaly, that he would have had two classes of employers in the country, one the class who, before the commencement of the Act, had contracted with their workmen, excluding them from the benefit of the Act, and substituting "some" valuable consideration; and another class who for all time would be prevented from contracting out of the Act on any terms whatever. Therefore, the hon. Member suggests an Amendment by which a monopoly will be created. Clause 3 is, at any rate, an honest attempt to deal with the recommendations of the Committee on which the hon. Member for Northampton has worked so ably and strenuously for the benefit of the workmen. The Amendment teems with absurdities and anomalies so great that, anxious as the Government are to accept any terms that will lead to peace, they feel that they cannot accept it. As to Clause 12, one of the great evils connected with legislation of this sort is that the greater part of the compensation which the workmen get goes into the pocket of the lawyer. If you give one right of action by Common Law and another by Statute, the result will be that double actions will be brought, and that, surely, would not be for the advantage of the workmen. I think that, as drafted, the provision that there shall be only one action will avoid the temptation to lawyers of bringing two actions, and render the workmen liable in double set of costs. Personally I would vote for 1448 the retention of that provision, but I am quite prepared to accept the decision of the House on that matter. I do not propose at this period of the debate to enter into details connected with the Bill. I only want, at the earliest possible moment, to point out what the opposition of the hon. Member for Nottingham comes to. The hon. Member was willing to forgive every one of the defects of the measure, provided the Government accept an Amendment which, on the face of it, is wholly irrational, and will lead to consequences perfectly absurd.
§ MR. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)
said, it would be impertinent of him to attempt to follow the very eloquent address delivered by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Brad-laugh); but there were one or two points in that speech which those who claimed directly to represent the interests of labour in the House could not pass over. His hon. Friend said that the opposition to this Bill was based upon the fact that it was introduced by the Party opposite, and that he, at least, was not disposed to give a vote contrary to his convictions, simply because the measure was brought in by his political opponents. He (Mr. Fenwick) thought he might safely say, without fear of being charged with egotism, that he was prepared, equally with his hon. Friend, to act up to his convictions, and if he opposed this Bill—which he did—and took the full responsibility which that opposition might bring, he claimed that he was as honest in his conviction, and that his vote against this Bill would be as honest as that which was promised to be given in support of the Bill by his hon. Friend the junior Member for Northampton. He could not but regret the reference which his hon. Friend made to some of them who had long stood at the head of large labour organizations in the country, who had long been recognized as Trades Union leaders, and had been called upon from time to time to tender advice, often unpalatable, and advice that was rejected even by the men whom they proposed to lead. He could not but regret that his hon. Friend—to the great delight of the Party opposite—should so far go out of his way as to make the remarks he did. His hon. Friend said there were some of them who pretended to 1449 speak for the workmen, but who only succeeded in setting workmen against their employers. His hon. Friend must have spoken in complete ignorance of circumstances that have taken place within the last 18 months or so, else he must have known that some of them, at least, had been placed in situations of exceeding difficulty and responsibility—that they felt it their duty to the men whom they served to give advice which was unpalatable to them, and when they were deliberately charged by the men with having more regard to the interests of the employer than the interests of the workmen. He, for one, could not understand how the hon. Member should have found it necessary to make such a vicious insinuation against many of his hon. Friends and himself. The hon. Member admitted that the insurance clause was bad; that the doctrine of common employment was bad; and that there were many important defects in the Bill; yet he said he should support the Bill and render the Government all the assistance he could. He expected just so much from his hon. Friend, and was not disappointed in the course he had thought fit to take that evening, because, when the Bill was before the Grand Committee, there was scarcely an Amendment moved by those who represented the working classes which was not opposed by the hon. Member for Northampton. The hon. Member voted against the principle of contracting out of the Act in Lord Brassey's Committee in 1886, yet, in the Grand Committee on the Bill, he had voted in favour of the Government. He said that, if contracting out of the Act were prevented, injustice would be done to the small societies which had grown up under the Act of 1880. But the effect of the Amendment which the hon. Member proposed in the Select Committee of 1886 would have been precisely the same so far as those societies were concerned. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) earlier in the evening said justly, that this was a very important measure, but he showed the importance which he attached to it by expressing the hope that it would occupy very little of the time of the House. Surely the right hon. Gentleman had forgotten the scant time that was allowed for discussion on the 1450 second reading. It seemed to him, so far as the debate had gone, that the hon. Member for Northampton and the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary (Mr. Matthews) entirely missed the point of the opposition to the Bill. The opposition which he and his Friends entertained towards the Bill was based principally on the third clause. Neither the hon. Member for Northampton nor the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had given a single fact or figure to show what the effect of insurance outside the Act would be upon the life and limb of the working classes of the country. He (Mr. Fenwick) should not content himself with any mere polemical or sentimental opposition. He would submit to the House certain figures which were unassailable. They were taken from the Inspector's Report of the branch of industry with which he was most familiar, and for which he might more especially claim to speak. In his opposition to this Bill he should not travel outside of any real and special knowledge that he might have. Their opposition to the insurance clause of the Bill was that an arrangement outside of the Law had the effect of weakening the security that was given to the workman in the industry in which he was employed. His contention was, and always had been, that where they had an arrangement outside of the Law, there they lacked the care that was necessary for the proper conducting of the business—there they had invariably inefficient management and inferior security for the life and limb of the workman. He took the number of persons employed in coalmines in the United Kingdom, and, from the Inspector's Returns in the last four years, he found that the average of persons employed for every life lost throughout the United Kingdom was one in every 520. But if they took those districts where an arrangement had been made between employers and employed, by which the provisions of the Act of 1880 had been set aside, or if they took—which was the more fair way of putting it—those districts where the workmen had been compelled to set aside the provisions of the Act, there they found that the proportion was considerably greater. In the Liverpool district, for example, which comprised the district of West Lancashire and North Wales, he found that the average 1451 for the same period was one life lost for every 455 persons employed. If they took the district of South Wales, where workmen in large numbers were compelled to contract out of the Act of 1880, the proportion was still greater, being one life lost for every 333 persons employed, and last year's Report showed a loss of one life in every 319; and to that significant fact the Inspector had called attention in his Report. He would take now the districts where there had been no contracting out of the Act, and where the employers had met the workmen fairly and honourably. He took, for example, the case of Yorkshire, and there he found that for the last four years there was one life lost for every 630 persons employed. In the North Riding of Yorkshire, in Westmoreland, and South Durham the proportion was even more favourable to the workmen, for there there was only one life lost for every 706 persons employed. In his own county—the County of Northumberland—they had only one death for every 770 persons employed. In this county, let the House bear in mind, there had been no attempt on the part of the employers to coerce their workmen under the provisions of the Act. All these figures he had quoted completely demonstrated the principle for which he had been contending—namely, that workmen should not be permitted to make an arrangement with their employers outside of the Act. The hon. Member for Northampton complained that when information was sought from the hon. Member for West Nottingham no assistance could be obtained from him. But when the labour Representatives tried in the Grand Committee to get assistance from the hon. Member for Northampton, in relation to the difficulties by which they found themselves beset on the question of contracting out of the Act, no assistance could be got from the hon. Member. They appealed, but in vain, for any assistance. He was prepared to take his full share of responsibility for the course he and his Friends were taking. Borrowing a phrase coined by the Party opposite, they refused to be any party to this conspiracy on the part of the Government with hon. Gentlemen who represented the interests of employés to "compel or induce" the workmen to accept an arrangement, proved as he had 1452 shown by experience to be iujurious to their safety. It had been said again and again that the Government were persisting in this course in the interests of the London and North-Western Railway Company, and he thought the House had very great reason for coming to such a conclusion. First, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary said, "I will," and then he said, "I will not," and ultimately it ended "I will not."
§ MR. FENWICK
said, that if the right hon. Gentleman had only waited till he finished the point he would not have had any necessity to rise. The right hon. Gentleman received a Deputation from the organized trades of the country, who pointed out their objection to contracting out of the Act, and he left the distinct impression on their minds by his remarks, that their representations should have a fair consideration by Her Majesty's Government. A few days later a Deputation, headed by the hon. Member for the Hexham Division of Northumberland (Mr. Mac Innes), and pretending to re-present the employés of the London and North-Western Railway Company, waited upon the right hon. Gentleman, and to them, without taking time for consideration or conference with his Colleagues, he declared that he would abide by the clause, and that he would use all his influence to carry it into effect. With regard to the constitution of that Deputation, he found it denied in The Railway Review that it was the outcome of any spontaneous action on the part of the men of the London and North-Western Railway Company; but, on the contrary, it was appointed and arranged for by the Directors without the men being in any way consulted in the matter. The delegates of the insurance societies, as was further stated, were summoned by the Company to meet at Euston Station, and were called upon by the Directors to vote in favour of a policy which had been already cut and dried for them. He (Mr. Fenwick) and his Friends opposed, and they should continue to oppose, this principle of assurance or arrangement outside the Act, because they considered it to be injurious to the highest interest of the workmen. They did not ask the 1453 Government to give them any monetary consideration. They never sought an Employers' Liability Bill for monetary gain, but to insure the greatest possible amount of immunity from suffering and death to the workman in the pursuit of his calling. The figures he had submitted to the House clearly showed that where they permitted an arrangement outside the provisions of the Act the amount of risk and danger was directly increased, and it was because the tendency of such an arrangement was in that direction that he and his hon. Friends opposed, and should continue to oppose, the Bill so long as they had the faintest chance of ultimately defeating it.
§ MR. F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
said, he would not have spoken but for a reference to what had occurred in the Wigan district. In the statement the allegation was that in the disastrous strike of 1881 the employers forced the workpeople to contract themselves out of the Act. Mr. Hewlett, who was the manager of one of the largest collieries in the district and treasurer of the relief fund, gave a report to the Committee in 1886, in which he stated that the question as to making arrangements out of the Act had wholly disappeared from the discussion before the strike terminated. The strike went on some time on the question of wages which was at issue during the continuance of that unfortunate struggle. There was one good result of that struggle—the payment of wages weekly instead of fortnightly, which improved the condition of the arrangements finally made to the advantage of the workpeople. One other remark. Where they had these societies and funds and the heavy loss of life, the reason was that where there was the greatest danger there was the greatest inducement to form these societies of a provident character. As they all knew, in the concerns of life, where there was the least danger, there was the least inducement to take precautions. The Central Permanent Relief Society had 227,000 members, a revenue of £181,000, and an accumulated fund of £252,000. This arrangement was a voluntary and a beneficial arrangement, and it would be a great hardship, injury, and wrong to both employers and employed, with one rude shock, to do away with these associations. He desired a workman to have entire freedom to come and go, 1454 and to make any arrangement he pleased, whether under the shelter of the Common Law or under such a Bill as that under discussion. That was a vital principle. In making these remarks he certainly had the support of the working colliers. They wished every collier to have the liberty to take advantage of the Act, or not to take advantage of the Act, according as he thought best for himself and the prosperity of those who depended upon him for their daily bread.
MR. W. PRITCHARD-MORGAN (Merthyr Tydvil)
said, he had given some consideration to the questions between employers and employed, and he could not accept the arguments that had been urged in favour of contracting out of the Act. He apprehended that the Bill was intended for the express purpose of protecting and providing for the men and not for the masters; and, subject as the men naturally were to undue influence when in want of work, they ought not to be permitted to renounce advantages which Parliament considered that they should enjoy. If this principle were extended, it might be argued that men should be allowed to contract themselves out of other laws—the marriage laws for instance. Were the Bill to pass in its present form, it would become the general thing for a master or his agent to get men to sign a form contracting themselves out of the Act, and they, being the weaker party and in need of employment, would have no alternative but to consent. It was said that the men could enter into an insurance scheme; but this would really be a burden on the men. Whoever actually paid the premiums, these would ultimately come out of the pockets of the men, whose wages would be reduced to recoup the masters. Unless Clause 3 were omitted, he, as an employer of labour, thought it would be far better that this Bill should not be further proceeded with, as he did not consider it afforded sufficient protection to the men.
§ MR. DUGDALE (Warwickshire, Nuneaton)
said, he did not rise to prolong the discussion, being quite willing to rest the case in favour of this Bill on the speech of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh), which was full of logic and common sense but he desired to read a letter he had 1455 received from a bonâ fide working man, strongly urging that the Bill ought to be passed with the power of contracting out retained. The letter was as follows:—26th November, 1888.Dear Sir,—The employés of the London and North-Western Railway have an Insurance Society which provides them with a weekly allowance in cases of accident, or a sum in case of death by accident. The first class pay 3d. per week, in case of accident receive 21s. per week, and in case of death the widow or representative receives £100; the second class pay 2d. per week, and in case of accident receive 14s. per week, and in case of death the widow or representative £80. These sums are paid without any expense or trouble to the recipient, and the general part of the employés are satisfied, and feel they cannot be better provided for by the Liability Act.At a meeting held at Nuneaton Station today, a vote of 20 to 1 was passed in favour of our Society against the Liability Act.We, the London and North-Western employés, beg your support in maintaining a clause to be inserted in the Bill about to be brought before Parliament, to enable the above employés to stand contracted out of the Act and receive the benefits of the aforesaid Society, as a satisfactory settlement of any claim against any accident that may occur to any of the aforesaid employés.I am instructed by my fellow employés to ask your kind compliance with their wishes, to support the aforesaid clause being inserted in the Bill for their welfare and interest, and you will confer a favour on your humble servants, on behalf of whom, as chairman of the meeting,I beg to remain, dear Sir,Yours faithfully,ROBERT WILLIAMS,Carriage Inspector, Nuneaton Station.J. S. Dugdale, Esq., M.P.,Nuneaton Division.He would only add that he hoped the House would do everything in their power to pass the Bill into law.
§ MR. DONALD CRAWFORD (Lanark, N.E.)
said, his hon. Friend the Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Broadhurst) had been charged with making this Motion in a Party spirit, and for the purpose of stirring up class against class. He extremely regretted that these imputations came first from their own side of the House. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) had told them that he had no great love for the Tory Party; but he thought the hon. Member might have been better employed than in raising the cheers of the Tory Party by imputing utterly unfounded motives to those who sat on his own side of the House. The measure in its 1456 present shape was opposed by those who were especially sent to that House to represent the views of working men; and he, bearing in mind equally the interests of employers and employed, coincided in their views, and felt constrained to support the hon. Member for West Nottingham. He (Mr. Donald Crawford) was in favour in legislation of this kind of accepting almost any instalment, and if it was a real and substantial instalment, he would think twice before rejecting it, because he believed the clock did not often go back in politics, and that if they could gain an inch to-day they might gain a foot to-morrow. He was particularly tempted to take that view of the present Bill, because it contained a clause which the Committee were good enough to accept at his instance, reforming the procedure of these actions in Scotland, and enabling them to be tried by jury in the Sheriff Court. He believed that that benefit, which would be confined to Scotland, was the one good point in the Bill except the extension of the amount of liability from £150 to £250. As a lawyer, he should like to put before the House the legal aspects of this question. The objections which had been stated tonight against the Bill were, first, the doctrine of common employment; second, the maintenance of the system of insurance, contracting out of the Act in the third clause; and, third, the provision in the twelfth clause, which placed all actions by workmen against employers under this Act, and consequently imported into every action the same limit of liability—namely, £250. It was not a right principle that the master should be responsible for accidents to everybody else, but not to those persons who were in his employment, and who might very fairly be considered to be under his special care. It was the hardship of that principle that made any Employers' Liability Bill necessary. It was an acknowledgment that that principle was not sound and did not work fairly that caused Parliament in 1880 to pass the Act of that year. The acknowledgment, however, ought to be not partially but fully made, and the workmen should be put upon the same footing as the general public, and the responsibility of the master ought to be equal as regarded both. The Act said that the master should be responsible for those he 1457 placed in situations of superintendence, and he was to pay damages up to a certain limit if the accident was caused by the negligence of these persons, although it were not his own negligence. Section 3 of this Bill said that they were not to contract out of the Act except in certain cases, and then came those provisions of insurance to which they objected. Parliament had already said that the master had a certain responsibility to the employé. If that were so, why should the right of the employé be bartered away? Why should any arrangement be acknowledged which would deprive him of what was no more than his just position of right? This system of insurance established a subjection on the part of the servant to the master from which the former could not release himself. A man remained in a particular employment for, say, 30 years. The master was practically the insurer, because he had to guarantee any failure on the part of any other insurance that might be, consequently the master was the insurer; and the workman, in the case he had supposed, had out of his savings been year after year paying a hard-earned sum for the purpose of his insurance. This placed him in the position of having to elect between complying with any terms which the master might make and losing all his money. If he left that master's employment he left behind him the savings of 30 years. That, he considered, was a most unfair position in which to place any workman. The third objection they had to the Bill was contained in the twelfth clause. The House would remember that the only reason that could be given for limiting the liability of the employer under the Act of 1880 was that the thing done was not his fault. If the accident had been the personal fault of the employers, of course there would have been no excuse. But this Bill dealt precisely with those classes of cases in which the fault was that of the master himself—cases in which the workman had an action against the master independently of the Act of 1880. It might be cases of malicious and criminal fault, and yet by putting these in the same category as the other cases they imported into them limitation of liability.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir EDWARD CLARKE) (Plymouth)
There 1458 is no limitation in these cases. If the hon. Member will look at Section 9, he will find that the limitation is only with respect to compensation recoverable under this Act. The limit does not apply to compensation recoverable outside the Act.
§ MR. DONALD CRAWFORD
said, he was glad to hear that expression of opinion. But, with the greatest possible respect, he would ask that that should be made plainer in the Bill. These being the three objections to the Bill, they had to choose whether they would take such an instalment or wait for a more satisfactory arrangement. The argument of the Home Secretary was not entirely directed against the substance of these objections, but against the terms of the compromise which was proposed by, or with the approval of, his hon. Friend (Mr. Broadhurst). He ventured to say that was not a serious way of meeting their objections to the Bill. He knew nothing of the proposed compromise, and the only important effect of the offer of it appeared to him to be that it proved the eager desire of his hon. Friend and those who supported him on that side of the House to come to terms with the Government, and to avoid any appearance of factious opposition. What his hon. Friend said about the conduct of the Bill was but too true. He acknowledged that the Home Secretary had intended to approach the subject in no spirit of Party or class interest; but he endorsed and repeated the charge of his hon. Friend, that no attempt was made by the Government to meet half-way those who were, in one capacity or another, entitled to speak on behalf of the working classes. No concession was made. He further charged this against the Government, that, whenever they pressed for concession, and adduced strong arguments in favour of it, after a short period of hesitation and vacillation, the Home Secretary had always ended by throwing himself into the arms of two or three gentlemen who supported the interest of the employers alone. It was impossible to extract any concession from him. In his (Mr. Donald Crawford's) opinion, that spirit of impartiality and even holding of the scales between interests was not successfully maintained throughout by the right hon. Gentleman. Therefore, while he very fully appreciated the gravity and responsibility of 1459 opposing a Bill of this kind, which professed to confer substantial benefit upon the working classes, he felt that the objections he had stated were so strong, and so impossible to get over, that he had no alternative but to vote with his hon. Friend.
§ MR. AINSLIE (Lancashire, N. Lonsdale)
said, the hon. Member for West Nottingham seemed to be under the impression that the Select Committee of 1886 arrived at its conclusions without sufficient investigation. He maintained, in opposition to this view, that anyone who read the evidence could not fail to arrive at a contrary opinion, and to see that the Committee devoted long and earnest attention to the consideration of many points. The Home Secretary had taken up the recommendations of that Committee, and he trusted that no consideration would induce the Government to consent to the withdrawal of a Bill which had occupied so much time in a Select Committee and in a Grand Committee. He contended that no bias had been shown by the employers on that Committee against the claims urged in favour of the workmen. The object of their work was to arrive at a fair and equitable arrangement between employers and employed. He could not see how the hon. Member for North-East Lanark (Mr. Donald Crawford) calculated that with the third clause left in the Bill the sum of £100 for a fatal accident would be reduced to £2, because the percentage of accidents for which an employer was liable had been proved to be only two per cent of the accidents that happened. It was to such misleading statements, made without any foundation, but unfortunately read and listened to by the unthinking public, that they were brought under the condemnation and lash of public opinion. Reference had been made to the deputation which waited on the Home Secretary the previous day. He acknowledged that the opinions of the members of that deputation were somewhat divided as to what course should be adopted with reference to the proposal of the hon. Member for West Nottingham. The Government, however, had come to a decision in agreement with his own view. He believed that if the proposal of the hon. Member were adopted it would result in perpetuating the conflict on this question 1460 throughout the country. If those who represented labour in that House would honestly meet the employers in an endeavour to settle this question, there need be no difficulty about it. He had no desire to contract himself out of the Act, and neither in his neighbourhood nor in the division he represented (Lonsdale) was there such a desire. But if there was a reasonable ground for founding a society to enable the employed and employers to arrange for the benefit of the workmen he would support it. He had very excellent authority for stating that there was a railway company running to London which did not contract out of the Act, and which boasted of saving money by that action. No proof was given before the Committee that contracting out of the Act was injurious to the workmen, and he felt that the Home Secretary had done his best to meet the views expressed by that Committee. If they were to abandon the whole Bill because Clause 3 was unpalatable to hon. Members opposite, what was the object of the work of the Select Committee, and what had been the use of the work which Parliament had done up to the present in respect to the measure? The whole of that labour would be lost. He would go so far as to say that if there had been a fault in the matter it had been that Parliament had already delayed too long to carry into effect the recommendations of the Select Committee. He did not think those who were opposing the measure were working in the interests of those whom they professed to represent. They were working in the interests of the Trades Unions, for whose existence they were becoming afraid. They knew Trades Unions were not altogether those free communities which they represented themselves to be. The employers would seek freedom for the men who were under the thumb of the Trade Unions, just as they desired themselves to be free from the action of those Trades Unions.
§ MR. COBB (Warwick, S.E., Rugby)
, as the Representative of a constituency composed almost wholly of working men, wished to explain why he should have to vote, very reluctantly, against the Amendment. The object of the Amendment was not really to defeat the Bill, but to secure the striking out of one of the clauses. The hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Broadhurst) 1461 did not object to many points of the Bill, and his remarks were almost entirely confined to one portion of it. No one had a higher opinion than he had of Trade Unions, including the Plan of Campaign. Therefore, he in no way indorsed the opinions expressed by the last speaker, who stated that this was a question as between the Trade Unions and the employers of labour. A great deal had been said, especially by his hon. Friend the Member for one of the Divisions of Durham, against the course pursued on the London and North-western Railway. Three of the men in the employment of that railway at Rugby came to him about two years ago, as a deputation from their fellow-workmen, to represent to him their views upon this question; and a day or two ago the leader of that deputation sent him a letter in which he said, "Our men at Rugby are to a man in favour of the clause which enables them to contract out of the Act." When he saw that morning that the hon. Member for West Nottingham was going to move the rejection of the Bill, he telegraphed to the head of the deputation at Rugby, and received the following reply:—"If Clause 3 is rejected, the Bill is of no use to us." He had made casual inquiries at other stations on the line, and found that without exception the employés of the North-Western Railway were in favour of continuing the present arrangement. He did not say that they were in favour of the clause exactly as it stood, and did not desire to see others protected who were not in as strong a position as themselves. He had never voted with a Conservative Government before, but, as even the hon. Member for West Nottingham admitted that in some respects the Bill was beneficial, he would not vote against it because one clause might be objectionable. The North-Western Railway would not be affected, though the object of the Amendment was to put an end to arrangements between employers and employed. Why should not the men of that railway be allowed to keep the advantages which they now enjoyed, and which were two or three times better than they would have under the Act? He was told that on the Midland Railway, where no arrangement had been made between the Company and the men, accidents to the men were more 1462 common than on the North-Western. If the Bill did not do all that was desirable, it was a step in the right direction, and was an improvement on the Act of 1880. On that ground he felt bound to vote against the Amendment.
§ MR. AIRD (Paddington, N.)
said, he would appeal to the hon. Member for West Nottingham to withdraw his Amendment, and to the Government to persevere with the Bill. He hoped the hon. Member for West Nottingham, to whom the working classes owed so much, would not stand in the way of a Bill which did so much to benefit them simply because it did not do more. Apart from arrangements between masters and men, where now existing, nothing would be obtained by the personal representatives of a man who was killed unless negligence could be proved, whereas, if Clause 3 remained, the benefits of those agreements were received in all cases and whether there was negligence or not. Hon. Members who objected to the Bill said that it would induce carelessness on the part of the employer, but he would suggest that this difficulty might be overcome if a penalty clause was inserted, so that if it should be proved to the satisfaction of a Coroner's Jury, or other competent authority, that the death or injury was brought about by the carelessness or the negligence of the employer, that then the employer should be compelled to contribute a further penalty to the fund formed for the benefit of the family of the deceased or the injured person.
§ MR. W. ABRAHAM (Glamorgan, Rhondda)
said, he earnestly hoped that this Bill would not be allowed to pass with the third clause. In its present shape, stead of being a Bill for the benefit working men, it would be a Bill for the protection of insurance societies. He did not desire to attribute unworthy motives to hon. Gentlemen; but, whatever their intention might be, that would be the effect of the Bill—not to protect the lives and limbs of working men, but the financial interests of insurance companies. This third clause, it was said, would secure compensation to workmen; but compensation was only a secondary object. The main object was not compensation, but protection. They wanted the Act to be a terror to evildoers, and thus to secure greater 1463 safety to life and limb. Some hon. Gentlemen spoke a great deal about freedom of contract; but he and some of his hon. Friends could speak from personal experience as to the amount of freedom that existed on the part of workmen walking the streets in search of employment, and who were refused it until they signed certain conditions. Under the Act now in operation there were numberless cases in which men had been forced to contract themselves out of it. In Lancashire alone there were 30,000 miners who were compelled as a condition of employment to sign an agreement that they would become members of a certain insurance society, and look only to it for compensation in the event of accidents, however caused.
§ MR. F. S. POWELL
said, if the hon. Member referred to the Wigan district he was mistaken, because—[Cries of "Order!"]
§ MR. W. ABRAHAM
asked, what, in the face of such a fact as that, became of freedom of action on the part of the employed? He would call the attention of the House to another point. A deputation had waited on the right hon. Gentleman—a deputation the integrity and representative character of which could not be doubted. When that deputation had placed before the right hon. Gentleman the opinions of a large number of working men, he had told them that their position as laid before him was a very serious one, and that the Government would consider whether or not they would proceed with the Bill. Afterwards another deputation had waited on the right hon. Gentleman, and after what had transpired at that interview it was justifiable to designate the third clause of the Bill as an insurance fund protection clause. As to the bona fides of the second deputation a good deal might be said. That deputation had been appointed, according to one of the greatest authorities among the railway servants of this country, without the men having been in any way consulted. The delegates of the insurance societies had been summoned by the London and North-Western Railway Company to a meeting at Euston Station, and had been called upon by the directors to 1464 vote for a policy already cut and dried for them. Therefore the deputation might be said to have been led to the Home Office, and so far from its members being the representatives of the men employed they were mere tools in the hands of the directors. The right hon. Gentleman had only heard from that deputation the views of the insurance companies. The right hon. Gentleman had said that it was in order not to destroy arrangements such as had been mentioned to him by the deputation that he introduced into the Bill the third clause, which was to enable these insurance societies still to exist. Therefore the House would be right in rejecting the clause, because they knew that it was not what the representatives of the working men wanted, but that it had been inserted in response to the demand of the representatives of the insurance societies. The House must decide whether it was its duty to legislate for the working men or for the insurance societies.
MR. MAC INNES (Northumberland, Hexham)
said, that the whole interest of the Bill centred in the third clause, to which there appeared to be two main objections—first, that it was dangerous and inimical to Trade Unions, and, secondly, that the Bill seriously affected the safety of life and limb among working men. He had wished not to say a word about the Railway Company with which he was connected, for, though he was always ready to defend that Company, it might be said that in this case he was not impartial. But twice he had been challenged, and twice had attention been called to a deputation which had waited upon the Home Secretary. He was sorry that the bona fides of that deputation had been called into question. If it only represented the insurance societies, who composed the societies? More than 50,000 working men. And who had chosen the delegates? The working men themselves. It had been stated that the whole affair was promoted by the railway officials; but, as a matter of fact, no single director except himself had known anything of the deputation or had had anything to do with it. He had received a letter from the secretary of the insurance societies asking him to arrange a deputation, and the Home Secretary had kindly granted 1465 an interview. He had met the men about an hour before they went to the Home Office and had arranged with them what delegates were to speak, so that the Home Secretary might hear men from all parts of the country. He wished that hon. Members below the Gangway had been present to hear the men speak for themselves, and had heard them cheer one another when remarks had been made about the insurance clause. They would then have had no doubt that the men were speaking their own honest convictions. As for the statement that the men had come to Euston Station and that the Directors had told them what to do, there was not the slightest foundation for it. It was said that working men did not care for compensation, but only for safety. That was a very serious matter. How did it stand? Those who had studied the extremely interesting Blue Book which embodied the results of the Committee of 1886, could not but have observed that all the objections to Clause 3 came mainly from men not engaged in railway work but in mining operations. Objectors acknowledged that the dangers to which miners were exposed were different from those of railway servants; that there was far greater publicity given to railway accidents than to mining accidents, and that if the insurance scheme were a good one the men might be in a better position than if they took the benefit of the Act. Surely the men themselves were the best judges. Purposely avoiding all reference to the railway with which he was connected, he would call attention to the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway. He would ask hon. Members to read the evidence in the Blue Book to which he had referred, given by Mr. Laing, the Chairman of that Company. In one year the Company had given £6,691 towards the insurance societies, and out of 9,000 men only two rejected the scheme. We were told that no employer would be likely to contract himself out of the Act unless he were likely to benefit by doing so, but he would not support the Bill if he did not believe it was for the common benefit. It would be to the advantage of the employer that there should be esprit de corps among the men, and good feeling towards himself. Every accident which occurred under those insurance systems 1466 was felt by the employers as well as the employed. In some of the insurance societies there was no regular contribution; the men arranged it themselves, and they always took care to have a balance of £1,000 at their bankers'. When an accident happened, if the money was not sufficient to meet it, they made a call, and that call fell equally upon them and their employers. Therefore the employers had the most selfish motives for trying to prevent accidents. Many hon. Members wished that the Amendment which had been proposed within the last few hours had been placed on the Paper, so that they might have had full opportunity of considering it. He hoped that those who were endeavouring to stir up the men on this question would take care to tell them the facts of the case. Two years ago, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) was in power, a Committee was appointed on which Liberals out-numbered Conservatives. In that Committee no question of Party politics arose, and anyone who read their Report must feel how exhaustive was the inquiry. Many came before them who were able to speak for the workmen. The secretary of the Railway Servants' Amalgamated Society gave evidence, and was helped in doing so by the admirable questions put by the hon. Member for East Donegal. Not one word was said by that witness as to any question of safety. Many questions were put with the endeavour to show that the men were not free agents. Happily or unhappily, we had no system of State insurance; and was it not better that the men should accept the insurance offered them by the Railway Companies? The representatives of the Trade Unions said that the Railway Companies were afraid of accepting the responsibility which the law would impose upon them, and that, instead of taking care of the lives and limbs of their workmen, they would endeavour to escape, from sinister motives. The outside public little knew how anxious railway officials were for the safety of the employed, and how greatly an accident pressed upon them. He hoped that, even at this late period of the Session, the Government would find it possible, if the House were to sit still longer, to carry this Bill to a successful 1467 issue, and not to let all the time and labour of the Grand Committee come to an end without any definite issue.
§ MR. PICKARD (York, W.R., Normanton)
maintained that what was contained in the first and second clauses of the Bill was neutralized by the third clause. The first and second clauses gave the workmen protection in the sense of making the employer liable for injuries, but in the third clause they had an opposite principle laid down, so that what the first and second clauses sought to secure was destroyed by the third. While the workmen throughout the whole country were asking to be protected from injuries arising through their employment, the third clause simply undid the protection given under the first and second clauses. That was exactly the position now taken up by the Government as he understood it. Something had been said in reference to what took place with respect to a deputation that had waited upon the Home Secretary, who gave the House to understand that it was a spontaneous deputation. Now he (Mr. Pickard) could promise the right hon. Gentleman that he could find any number of persons who would be willing to take part in such a demonstration for the sake of a trip to London in a saloon carriage and the "et-cæteras" when they got there. It had been stated that the men were not free agents. They were coerced into doing what they had done. Now something had been said about the Railway Companies, and he (Mr. Pickard) would ask the House to consider that there were only two of those Companies that had approached the Government with a view of obtaining facilities which would enable them to contract out of the Liability Act. They had not heard that the Great Northern, the Great Western, the Midland, and the North-Eastern Companies had gone to the Government to ask for protection against the Employers' Liability Act, and the rights to insure out of that Act. All honour to those Companies for trusting to their workmen rather than come to the Government for protection against this Bill. The two Companies mentioned preferred to pay a few sums every year so as to keep their workmen quiet rather than accept the principle of non-contracting out of the Act. They all knew how these arrangements were carried 1468 out by the Companies, and how the men were kept quiet. With regard to the London and North-Western Railway Company he might mention that he had been looking through some statistics that had been issued for the nine months ending September last. Comparing the Midland Railway Company with the London and North-Western Company, he found that the number of fatalities among the workmen of the latter company was 1 in 1,300 and the injured 1 in 153. The Midland Company, which was not insured heretofore, had 1 man in 1,600 fatally injured, while the non-fatal injuries stood in the proportion of 1 in 661. He asked the House to draw their own inference from these figures. If a Company such as the Midland made arrangements so as to prevent loss of life and injury to their workmen in this way, he thought the House would take time to consider whether they would allow other Companies to contract themselves out of the provisions of the Employers' Liability Act, especially when, in cases where there was no contraction out of the Act, life was preserved and bodies were kept whole. Now the workmen had never asked for compensation, but only for protection, and they asked for protection. He (Mr. Pickard) wanted matters to be arranged so that the men could safely go down in the pits and have a chance of supporting their wives and children, rather than that the colliery owner should be allowed to use the mine and the miner in such a way that it would be possible to have him killed, with a mere pittance doled out to his wife and children to keep them from starvation. He was surprised to find the Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) making such terrible attacks upon himself and his Colleagues, for he did not think the hon. Member had any grounds for them. He did not understand how the hon. Member could say that they had sought to set the workmen against the employers. As far as regards his own county, and he thought he might speak for the employers generally, they had not asked to be allowed to contract themselves out of the Act. They felt they need not fear the Employers' Liability Act so long as they carried out the provisions of the Mines Act. He commended them for not seeking the protection of the Home Secretary. He (Mr. Pickard) was ashamed of the London 1469 and North-Western Railway Company for sending a deputation to the Home Office, and to make statements which, as far as he knew, had no value whatever. The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Dugdale) and himself had had letters sent to them from Railway Societies, all deprecating any contracting out of the Act, and desiring that the House should pass into law an Act such as he (Mr. Pickard) and his friends advocated. Now, was it really the employers of the country who were trying to contract themselves out of the Act? ["No, no!"] He maintained it was not. The Committee upstairs never sent for the Midland people, nor for the North-Eastern, or any other great body of employers so far as he knew. They had many representative men before the Committee, and they one and all deprecated contracting out of the Act. The Government were using very bad tactics in sheltering themselves behind the third clause, nor could they continue to pose as the friends of the working classes so long as they maintained their present attitude with regard to that clause. Was it not a monstrous thing that one man could contract, not only himself, but a thousand others, behind their backs too, out of the clause? The Home Secretary might shake his head, but that was what the right hon. Gentleman had told him while the Committee was carrying on its inquiry.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
said, this was altogether imaginary. In the Bill as it stood before the Grand Committee, the decision of the Board of Trade was that a particular form of contract for one kind of railway servant of an equitable kind would be good evidence that it was a fair contract for other railway servants of that sort.
§ MR. PICKARD
, proceeding, went on to say that for one man to contract all others in the same employment was such a monstrous thing that he refused to believe it could become law. He objected altogether to this insurance business, and he and his friends would not rest satisfied even if the Government, with its willing or unwilling majority, carried the Bill through, and would not accept it as a settlement of the question.
§ MR. MILVAIN (Durham)
, as a Member of the Grand Committee on Law which considered the Bill, expressed considerable surprise at the spirit which 1470 was now being manifested in the opposition to the Bill—a spirit which was in marked contrast to the proceedings in the Grand Committee. He was not going to suggest why they had been now met in the spirit evinced during the evening. Some persons might suggest that self-preservation was the first law of Nature, and others might suggest that continued agitation was necessary to justify a continuance of existence. He adopted neither suggestion; but he rather thought that it was the intention of those who professed to be the Representatives of labour in the House—their honest intention—to do their best to obtain the greatest possible immunity for sufferers, and assistance for those who succeeded men who died in discharging their duty. It was not necessary to discuss other points of the Bill than Clause 3, for that was the kernel. The hon. Member for West Nottingham could not have been serious in his contention on the doctrine of common employment, for until recently absolutely nothing had been heard of it; nor did the Bill introduced by his political friends embody that doctrine. What was the reason of this continued opposition to what was called the permissive effect of Clause 3? They were told that unless the principle of the Act of 1880 was made compulsory, large employers of labour would be negligent of the lives of those whom they employed. He could not and would not believe it. He could not help thinking that the compulsory clauses of this Bill were the best, the surest, and the most speedy for giving the greatest possible immunity for sufferers. Hon. Members opposite apparently were under the impression that everything had been done in the interests of the employer; but if they compared the present Bill with the Act of 1880 they would not find a single provision of that Act modified in the interests of the employer; but, on the contrary, the Bill operated in every particular to the interests of the employé. He objected, however, to treating the question from the point of view of the benefit to the employer or the benefit to the workman. He wished to see everybody benefited, and he should not support the clause if he had not satisfied himself that it was for the common benefit. He considered that their object should be to promote good feeling between employers and employed, and to avoid 1471 litigation, and he believed that object would be best attained by the insurance system. Instead of the risks now run under the first section of the Act of 1880, workmen would find, if their employers insured under Clause 3, that the insurance would be paid promptly and without expense, and he could not help thinking that that would be more to the advantage of working men than the provisions of the existing Act.
§ MR. PROVAND (Glasgow, Blackfriars, &c.)
said, he did not think the discussion of this measure should be confined to Members representing those connected with collieries, mines, and railways, because, from the numerous communications he received, he was sure there was a widespread interest in the subject among other classes of workmen. If he believed they could get a Bill next year to which no possible objection could be made, that would be a sufficient ground for him to vote against it to-night; but he was certain they would not obtain that, because this was one of those questions towards the end of which they must advance step by step. But the present proposal, although he thought it was of very doubtful value indeed, was admitted even by those who opposed it as some improvement on the existing Act. Its chief result that would follow its passing was one which the Labour Representatives had not noticed. The Bill appeared to be expressly designed for the benefit of lawyers. Take the case of sailors, who under the 136th clause had the benefit of the Act extended to them while their ships were in port in this country. But when ships were in port in this country the sailors were not on board; so that the advantage to them seemed to be of a very microscopic character. The benefits which the Bill proposed to give to sailors when they left this country were of no service whatever, because no sailor could possibly make out a claim against a ship after he left here, unless he did it by a process which would insure every farthing of the claim, if established, going into the hands of the lawyers. Indeed, it was doubtful whether he could enter on any action at all. He denied that compulsory insurance compelled a man to stay in a particular employment or lose part of the money he had contributed. He denied 1472 that could be the case unless the workmen paid too heavy a premium. And the Bill provided that the bargain might be reducible by the Home Secretary, who would see that the workmen never paid a premium which more than covered the risk they incurred by the bargain. He objected strongly to indefinite liability. That was entirely wrong. The effect of that would be ruin to many of the employers of labour in the country. There were many employers whose whole capital was not £1,000 or even £500. He was surprised at the gaiety of manner with which some hon. Members had spoken on this subject of leaving the claim indefinite, which amounted to granting fresh facilities for the speculative attorney and no one else. He would make one suggestion. The Bill was of doubtful value, although an improvement on the present law. There was no finality in the Bill. But if it was limited in time—for three years, say—then he thought it might be accepted, although it would be no great step in advance. The limitation in time would compel the Government of three years hence to reconsider the question, and this would lead to further improvements to the benefit of the workman.
§ MR. BURT (Morpeth)
said, he saw so many Members anxious to address the House that he could well have remained silent were it not that he was associated closely with this measure, which had excited a very great amount of interest among large bodies of workmen with whom he was connected. He supported the Motion for the rejection of the Bill. He was quite sensible that that was a strong course to take, and he felt great responsibility in assuming that position. With regard to the Employers' Liability Act now in operation, that measure was a valuable measure, and one of the best of the kind. In fact, it was the best of the kind that had been passed, and a great amount of benefit had accrued, undoubtedly, from that Act. It had done much to prevent the sacrifice of life. That was the main object with which the labour Representatives advocated the making of employers pecuniarily responsible for the negligence of their servants. The Act, however, was from the beginning a very imperfect one; it was a compromise, and was never accepted by the representatives of the workmen as a final settlement of the 1473 matter. He had always been opposed to the doctrine of common employment, and he asserted that no satisfactory settlement of the question would be arrived at until one of two things happened—either a bad law was repealed or workmen were placed upon a footing of perfect equality with the rest of the community. The hon. Member opposite began by deprecating Party spirit being infused into this debate, but he thought there was quite as much of that on the other side as on his. The tone of the hon. and learned Member who had spoken in opposition to his hon. Friend who moved the Amendment reminded him of the line "Willing to wound, but yet afraid to strike." He had for himself carefully avoided all personal imputations. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) had advocated the Bill with more than his usual ability and eloquence, and seemed to take quite a paternal interest in it; and had made comparisons between the Bill and the Act of 1880, much to the disadvantage of the latter. He did not deny that the Bill was, in many respects, better than the Act now in force. But it was not good enough. In making the comparison they ought to remember the change of time and circumstance. There had been a large extension of the suffrage; in 1880 there were only two Representatives of labour in the House, whereas there were now nine. Then the Bill of 1880 was an experiment, a new departure, and was opposed with the characteristic timidity of wealth by the large employers of labour. Exactly the same fears had accompanied every measure of progress. With regard to contracting out of the Act, the associated workmen were practically unanimous. The Miners' National Union, of which he was president, had unanimously passed resolutions against it. In Lancashire the general opinion of the men was the same. In addressing a meeting in Durham of 50,000 or 60,000 men, at which his hon. Friend the Member for Northampton was present, he had protested against contracting out of the Bill and of allowing a system of insurance to form part of any Liability Bill. Reference had been made to the various Miners' Permanent Belief Funds. But these societies, as well as that connected with the North-Western Railway, were independent of any Act of Parliament, 1474 and had existed long before the Act of 1880 was passed. The Northumberland and Durham Miners' Fund was begun so far back as 1862. The North Country coalowners subscribed to this fund, but did not ask their men to contract out of the Act. He should hesitate to oppose a national system of insurance, but he objected to the question of insurance being smuggled into an Act like this, with the object of relieving employers of obligations which Parliament imposed upon them. Believing that a better Bill would be brought in either by the present Government or another Government which would, he hoped, be in power before long, he took on himself the responsibility of supporting the Amendment.
SIR GEORGE ELLIOT (Monmouth, &c.)
said, that he had co-operated with the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt) in every step and movement which aimed at the improvement of the miners of this country, and for seven or eight years they had sat together as members of the Association of Miners. He was, therefore, sorry to find himself in antagonism to his hon. Friend. He wished to speak especially with reference to the 3rd clause of the Bill, and upon that point he was sure that those who were interested in mining would not accuse him of taking a strong Party interest against the miners. In all Bills of the kind he had constantly studied the interests of the miners, from which class, even in that large House, he was not ashamed to say he had risen. He was, therefore, not likely to do anything against their interests. He would be sorry to take any step that would interfere with their rights or privileges. He felt great reluctance in taking up the position he had assumed, because he felt he was speaking against those who represented the miners in particular, and that was painful to him. He had, however, the strongest convictions on the point, and he declared that if the withdrawal of that clause were carried out—if they were to declare that all the employed in the Kingdom were incapable of making any arrangement with their employers—it would be cruel and mischievous, and a proposition which ought not to be listened to. After listening to the many speeches that had been made, he had not the audacity to get up and say that all the arrangements between 1475 employers and employed should be put a stop to. Why were they going to nurse them and put a collar round their neck? Why were not the employed—men on colliery or farm—to be allowed to make an agreement that they should have such and such wages, and that in sickness they should have certain help? What had happened to the world that they wanted to destroy the individuality of every working man, as they would do if they passed an Act providing that no working man should be able to make an arrangement with his employer. [A laugh.] What were hon. Members laughing at? He declared in the name of a population principally mining that they were proposing to destroy the sympathy and support that existed between the employer and employed. When he said that he knew what he was talking about, but many people did not know what they were talking about. They must not put a collar round the workman's neck, and allow him to be guided entirely by Trades' Unions. He had the honour of being the first employer who co-operated with a Trades' Union. They were most useful institutions, but there must be a limit to their power. They ought not to be allowed to absorb all the individuality of the working men of the country by depriving them of freedom of action in this matter. The 3rd clause was, in his mind, essential to the Bill, and they should stand or fall by that.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)
said, it was generally felt that the great interests affected by this Bill ought not to suffer by the display of Party tactics or the collision of individual feeling; and if the Representatives of different sections in that House approached the question from different standpoints, he, for one, would believe that they were interested in equal measure in endeavouring to effect the benefit of those who were dealt with by the Bill. But let them recollect what was the question before the House. When the first Order of the Day was read out that evening, the question was whether that Bill should be discussed or should be thrown out. Now, it so happened that he had had to bear in some degree the responsibility of framing and carrying through that House the measure of 1880 on that subject; and the view he took as the result of the 1476 experience which he had had in the matter was that that question above all others was one which had to be dealt with most cautiously, and which also of necessity must be dealt with by degrees. When the Cabinet in 1880 and those who formed the Committee of that Cabinet were called upon to help in considering what measure should be proposed to the House on that subject, they found how difficult it was to deal with it unless they proceeded with the greatest care and deliberation. But no doubt the principal object they then had in view was to make better provision for the safety of the working classes of this country. They accepted the view which had been expressed that night by the hon. Member for Wansbeck (Mr. Fenwick), when in a speech full of practical knowledge he said that that was not a monetary question; that it was the safety of the working classes and the protection of life and limb which they had first to consider in a measure of that kind. That object, however, could not be best attained by arbitrary legislation. They must carefully consider the interests they had to deal with; they must remember that they could not throw burdens on those who found capital and on the employers without also affecting two other interests—namely, those of the employed, and those of the customers and consumers, on whom both the employer and the employed depended. If they treated capital unjustly, if they put upon it undue burdens which it had never calculated would be placed upon it, those burdens would ultimately have to be borne, not only by the capitalist, but by those whom he employed and those who consumed what he produced. They ought, therefore, to approach that question without any trace of Party tactics, and simply with a desire to secure what was best for interests which, rightly viewed, were not different, but really identical. Would that end be best attained by rejecting the present Bill or by allowing it to be examined? The more that question was discussed, the more they allowed opinion to affect it, the more they would re-assure those who might be somewhat frightened at the burdens to be imposed by legislation. In 1880 they had to consider those who sat around them as employers of labour, some of whom painted pictures of the 1477 ruin that was likely to ensue if they touched the safeguard of the doctrine of common employment. Predictions were then made of the perfect destruction of all industry, and of the impossibility of capitalists bearing the burden that would be cast on them by their measure. They then did all they could to re-assure them, but they were answered that they were mere theorists and knew nothing of the subject. Well, eight years had since passed, and experience had shown that the burdens imposed by the Act of 1880 were as nothing upon capital, and that capital was perfectly able to bear them without any interference with the proper relations which ought to exist between those who employed labour and those who existed by it. Now they had another Bill introduced on that subject which made great advances that were justified by experience. It made an advance in respect to the degree in which common employment should affect responsibility; in respect to the amount which the workman could recover; in respect to the time in which the action could be brought; in respect to introducing the responsibility of the sub-contractor; in respect to including seamen within the benefit of the Act; and also in respect to there being no appeals from the decision of the County Court Judge. Was it not better that those advantages should now be secured to them rather than that they should reject that Bill? But he should not be satisfied by simply taking the Bill as it stood. If that Amendment had not been moved they might have considered the Bill, and obtained a still further advance. He did not understand the Government to say that they would make no further concession in regard to that Bill. If they were only allowed to discuss it in a calm and practical spirit they might be enabled to render it almost, if not quite, a perfect measure. They would have got rid of the notice of action, the limitation of time, and other points objected to, and would have had an opportunity of dealing with the question whether a person should have the power to contract himself out of the Bill. He thought that subject would have received full consideration from the House, and an independent vote would have been obtained upon it. Even supposing that they had not been 1478 able to sweep away at once the doctrine of common employment, a great advance would have been made by its discussion. The House would have discussed the question in a manner which would have led, if not to-day, certainly at some future time, to a solution of it. The doctrine of common employment was introduced from Scotland in 1837. Those who wanted to get rid of this doctrine as a means of defence asked why any difference should be made between an employer and his servant and a Railway Company and passengers who met with accident owing to the negligence of railway servants. Railway Companies had always traded with a knowledge of that liability. If an employer had invested his capital with such a liability, he must have full notice before the liability was imposed. The result of such a liability might be to reduce wages or to increase charges. The House had before it a measure which was a great advance on the Act of 1880, and he regretted that they had not been allowed to deal with the question practically, and to proceed so as to amend the Bill. If it were possible to obtain one long day in order to discuss it, he would earnestly ask the House not to recede from the duty of endeavouring to make still greater progress in the solution of this question, and not to shrink from dealing with this Bill as a stepping-stone to further improvement and as of benefit to the working classes of the country.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
said, he acknowledged that they were in a difficult position with reference to this important measure. He would not say a word which would import into the discussion anything of a Party character. He had never regarded this Bill as one which ought to be so treated, and his hon. Friend the Member for West Nottingham and the hon. Member for Morpeth knew well that throughout the whole of this Session, in the discussions he had had with them, he had always urged that everything should be done to pass the Bill into law. He confessed that until 24 hours previously he had the fullest hope and expectation that the Bill might have easily been passed through the House. His hon. Friends who honourably represented the labouring classes led him to believe in the early part of the previous day that the 1479 Government were willing to consider proposals which had been made and which would have facilitated the progress of the Bill. The Home Secretary had spoken with scorn of the Amendment that was suggested as absurd and impracticable; but he believed that Amendment had been in his hands for several days. [Mr. MATTHEWS: No, no!] At least the right hon. Gentleman had not expressed an unfavourable or decisive opinion against it. But, unfortunately, he found, as appeared from The Times, that while those proposals were in the hands of the Government a certain meeting took place. The following announcement appeared in The Times of that day, under the heading, "The Employers' Liability Bill." The paragraph stated that—It is understood that a deputation of Members of Parliament and others had an interview with Mr. W. H. Smith in his private room at the House of Commons last evening, with reference to the Employers' Liability Bill. With the First Lord of the Treasury was Mr. Matthews, and among those present were Messrs. Ainslie, M.P., Barnes, M.P., Tomlinson, M.P., F. S. Powell, M.P., Sidebottom, M.P., Aird, M.P., Captain Heathcote, M.P., and Colonel Blundell, M.P. Strong representations were made in favour of retaining Clause 3 in its present shape, and it is stated that Mr. Smith announced the determination of the Government to oppose any Amendment having for its object the alteration of the clause in the direction suggested by the workmen. In these circumstances the labour Members will use their utmost endeavours to oppose the further progress of the measure.He should say that the Government had been caucussed by the employers of labour, and here was a declaration that the Government had pledged themselves that no alteration should be made in the 3rd clause. An attack had been made on the hon. Member for West Nottingham for the course he had taken, but he must point out that under the new Rules it was impossible that the question in its integrity could be brought under consideration in any other form of Motion. His hon. Friend had been subjected to an acrimonious attack by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh). He thought that that attack was wholly unjustifiable. The Member for Northampton ought to have some compassion for humbler people, as they could not all assume to know better than everybody about everything. It was only natural that his hon. Friend the Member for West Nottingham should speak warmly 1480 in the interests of those whom he particularly represented. From the way in which the Motion was supported, the bitter censures the House had listened to would fall on the Mover lightly, and leave him unscathed. There was no doubt that this was one of the most difficult subjects which Parliament could consider. He entirely agreed with the views of his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James), who thought that the Bill in all its material points ought to be altered. His right hon. and learned Friend's opinion, like his own, was against the doctrine of common employment—a doctrine which he felt sure would not have been laid down if the matter had come in the first instance before the Judges of the present day. That was a subject which deserved the most careful debate in that House. Then, like his right hon. and learned Friend, he was opposed to the power of contracting out of the Act. When he and his right hon. and learned Friend first entered the House in 1868, they were engaged in a great contest for legalizing the Trade Unions, and there was no feeling now against the National League in Ireland stronger than that which they then encountered in their endeavour to maintain the rights of Trade Unions against the common law of conspiracy. He entirely agreed with his right hon. and learned Friend, and he entirely differed from those denunciations of Trade Unions which they had heard that night from the hon. Member for Northampton.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
I did not utter one word against Trade Unions. On the contrary, I said I had always supported them, and spoken in favour of them, and tried to induce men to join them.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, he certainly regarded the hon. Member's speech as a bitter attack upon Trade Unions and their leaders, who had rendered enormous services, and not to the labouring classes alone. In reference to the Bill, it was a serious fact that the special Representatives of the working population were not favourable to it in its present form. If, however, there were a fair chance of having an adequate discussion upon questions of great difficulty and importance, he, for one, would be ready to go on with the Bill. But the measure was one which could not be hurried through and forced through by 1481 the closure. There could be no useful settlement of this or, indeed, of any other question unless all the parties interested were satisfied that they had had a fair hearing. If the Government would say they had several days at their disposal—[Laughter]—well, he had a sincere desire to get the Bill through; and the advice he gave to the Government was that, if they could afford fair time for a full discussion of this difficult question, they should persevere with the Bill. But a part of the imperfection of the Bill of 1880 was due to the fact that the Government were obliged to pass it rather hurriedly; and, therefore, he would say—"Do not attempt, on a question of such difficulty, to endeavour to force a Bill through the House without full discussion." He believed that the present principle of common employment was unsound, but he agreed that it must be touched with great caution. When you pass from an unsound principle to a sound one you naturally imperil interests based on the former; and, therefore, you could not be too careful. The question of contracting out of the Bill was also a difficult one. The Agricultural Holdings Bill was introduced with a power to contract out of it, and it became worthless in consequence; and the Party opposite found it necessary to abandon the principle. He wished to see the interests of both employers and employed fairly consulted; but was there time for discussion? He feared not. If it was the beginning or middle of the Session he would vote for going on with the Bill. The Amendment was to be regarded only as a recommendation to adjourn the consideration of the question until a fair amount of time could be given to it. If he were prepared to accept the decisions of the Committee as infallible, he should say that the Bill ought to be forced through, and he would not offer anything like factious resistance. But he wanted the Government to pass a measure which should be satisfactory to all parties, and that would be a settlement for a reasonable period. Do not let them get into Party recriminations. [Laughter from the Ministerial Benches.] The laughter showed where the Party spirit lay; but even from a Party point of view the Government could gain nothing by forcing the Bill through without adequate discussion. But they would gain from carrying a 1482 measure which, after full consideration, received the approval of the country. Unless the Government were prepared to say they had adequate time, it would be better not to proceed with the Bill.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
said, that only 24 hours ago the right hon. Gentleman entertained a strong hope that the Bill might be passed this Session; yet he had now arrived at the conclusion that it would be impossible to discuss it adequately. And one reason he gave was that Ministers had received a deputation of employers of labour. Well, two days previously, they had received a deputation of representatives of workmen, and to their statement they had given full consideration; and they had also called in the assistance of the Government draftsman to see whether it was possible to give effect to the representations made to them on behalf of the workmen. The proposals of the hon. Member for West Nottingham and those who accompanied him had been considered, and Her Majesty's Government came to the conclusion that those proposals could not be accepted; but no statement was made that Her Majesty's Government could consider no modification whatever of Clause 3. He quite agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby that this was not a Party question, and it certainly would be a great misfortune if it was approached in a Party spirit. He might say, on the part of the Government, that they had not approached the consideration of this question from a Party feeling at all. The Bill was founded upon the Report of a Committee which was nominated by the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman opposite was a Member. It dealt with a question which concerned the country and the people as a whole; and any attempt to set class against class, to set employers against employed, to set capital against those who depended upon capital for subsistence, was absolutely a crime to the community. The Bill had been introduced with the object of doing the best they could in the interests of the people, without special regard to the employer on the one side and the employed on the other. The question they had to consider was, whether this Bill ought to go forward, or be with-drawn; 1483 whether it ought not to be accepted as an effort to deal with a question which they all regarded as important, and which they desired to advance and place upon a sound and conciliatory footing. Two days had already been spent on the second reading, and seven days had been given to it by a very strong Committee. It was for the House to say whether the work done by the Committee was, for this Session at least, to be thrown away, and he appealed to them to proceed with the consideration of the measure.
§ Mr. Sydney Gedge rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 189; Noes 154: Majority 35.—(Div. List, No. 380.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 202; Noes 141: Majority 61.—(Div. List, No. 331.)
§ Mr. William Henry Smith claimed, "That the Main Question be now put."
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
Mr. Speaker, I rise to a point of Order. The House has decided that this Bill be now considered. I presume, therefore, that it will not be competent for the Government to postpone the Bill to a future date.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
My point is that, as it is after 12 o'clock, it is impossible to consider the Bill now.
§ Main Question put accordingly, and agreed to.
§ Further Proceeding adjourned till Monday next.
§ MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
Mr. Speaker, I rise to a point of Order. I wish to ask you, Sir, whether it is in accordance with the Rules of the House for the hon. Member for Mid Cork (Dr.- 1484 Tanner), who sits on the opposite side of the House, to come and sit below the Gangway on the Ministerial side of the House? Cries of "Oh, oh!"] I wish to ask whether it is in accordance with the usages of the House for the hon. Member to come from the opposite Benches to this side and make remarks which are most offensive to us, and, in consequence, lead to great altercation and considerable noise in this direction? We beg, Sir, to have your ruling upon this point.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! I cannot prevent the hon. Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner) sitting in whatever part of the House he chooses to sit in. At the same time, I may point out to the House that there are traditions in this House, and I must leave it to the good taste and courtesy of hon. Members as to the place they will sit in. Of course, if any collision should arise I should know whom I am to make responsible for it. The hon. Gentleman the Member for North Islington (Mr. Bartley) said that expressions have been used offensive to him and his Friends. I did not gather that the expressions made use of by the hon. Member for Mid Cork were of an un-parliamentary character. If they were, it would be quite competent for the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bartley) to bring them to the notice of the Chair, and I should certainly be bound to deal with them.
§ SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derby, Ilkeston)
Arising out of your ruling, Sir, I should like to ask whether one of the traditions of the House to which you referred is not that hon. Members should sit on the side of the House with which they usually vote?