HC Deb 24 March 1893 vol 10 cc1052-85

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [20th February], "That the Bill be now read a second time."

Question again proposed.

Debate resumed.

MR. BOUSFIELD (Hackney, N.),

in rising to second the Amendment of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham as follows:— That no amendment of the Law relating to Employers' Liability will be final or satisfactory which does not provide compensation to workmen for all injuries sustained in the ordinary course of their employment, and not caused by their own acts or default, said that the broad principle advocated in the Amendment was one which had really been admitted by the Home Secretary in moving the Second Reading of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said the Bill contained three vital principles, the first being the abolition of the doctrine of common employment, the second the prohibition of contracts by workmen renouncing their statutory rights, and the third the simplification of the procedure by means of which workmen could secure their statutory rights. This statement of the vital principles of the Bill was very defective. The third point was one rather of practice than of principle, and the second—the prohibition of contracts—was altogether inconsistent with the major principle of the Bill. That principle, as described by the Home Secretary, was that "where a person on his own responsibility sets in motion agencies which create risk for others he ought to be civilly responsible for the consequences." If this were the underlying principle of the Bill it was also the underlying principle of the Amendment. His complaint was that the principle was in the Bill applied in a halting and hesitating fashion. There was an alternative principle which led to the same conclusion, that principle being that the price of every product ought to include the elements of the cost of production, and that the pecuniary results of accidents which were incident to an employment were nothing more or Jess than a part of the cost of production and ought to be borne by the product. The employer who had to pay wages and to provide materials ought to pay for the pecuniary results of accidents incident to the employment. In order to illustrate this principle he would first of all deal with the case of seamen. Shipowners were at the present moment resisting even the partial application of the prin- ciple adopted in the present Bill. He wished to know why under the system this Bill would perpetuate one element in the cost of production instead of being regarded as part of the cost of production should be given as it were in the form of a bounty to the employer, so as to enable him to send his goods to market at a less price or at a greater profit than he otherwise could do. The Shipping Federation had issued a Circular to Members of the House in which they said it might be good policy for the State to encourage sea service by paying death and accident allowances; but the incidence of such payment should fall on the whole country, and not on the shipowners, thus subjecting them to the competition of foreigners who paid less wages and were not subject to such disabilities. This statement of the shipowners showed that in their view the present state of the law really afforded a bounty to them. Another illustration was to be found in the case of railway servants. He had seen a Circular issued by the Railway Benevolent Institution for the Belief of Railway Officers and Servants, their Orphans, Widows and Children. That Circular, which bore on its front a whole list of honourable names, invited contributions towards the support of the orphans and widows of railway servants. He ventured to ask why the benevolent public should furnish a bounty to the travelling public or to the Railway Companies? The payment of those who were disabled, and the support of those who were dependent upon persons who were disabled or killed, was obviously a necessary element in the cost of transit. The present system by which the benevolent public made this payment was at the bottom a wholly false system. Then there was the case of mines. By far the larger number of the accidents which happened in mines were due to causes which could not be prevented or foreseen. The cost of these accidents, however, was not thrown upon the coal, but sometimes upon the benevolent public or upon the rates, and frequently on the disabled workmen themselves or their widows and children, who had to contribute half their sustenance and to live in a state of semi-starvation in order that coals might be produced at a lower price. The present system had only to be exhibited in its nakedness in order to be condemned, and he should be very much surprised if any gentleman on the other side of the House attempted to defend the perpetuation of such a system. If the House was unable to carry fully into practice the system he advocated he hoped it would at all events not refrain from affirming that principle—namely, that the cost of all accidents should be placed primarily on the employer. At the present moment there existed very easy and ready means of meeting such liability if thrown on employers. There were various large Insurance Societies which were perfectly ready to deal with these risks. These societies would be able within a month to get out fresh tables covering any new risks which were placed upon the employer. The reform could be carried out by means of a simple Bill of one clause providing that for all accidents occurring in the course of an employment, and incident to that employment, the employers should be responsible in the first instance to the workman, or in case of death to his representative. Under the present state of things an absolute uncertainty existed as to whether there was or was not a right to compensation. That uncertainty would still continue if the Bill before the House became law. Shipowners had recently been asking what they could do more than select a first-rate captain, put under him a good crew, and send them to sea in a ship well found and containing every provision requisite for the voyage, and what ground there was for saddling them with accidents that might happen perhaps 10,000 miles away and about the causes of which nobody could learn anything definite. He thought that under the scheme of the Bill that argument was unanswerable, but under a scheme where the compensation would follow the accident as a matter of course such a contention could not for a moment be sustained. Under such a system the risk of pecuniary loss would be insured against in the same way as the risk of the loss of a ship was insured against now. One great defect of the Bill was that it would actually put a stop to the development of the principle of universal compensation which had been apparent during the last few years. This was a matter of the most vital importance. The Home Secretary to a certain extent gave away his case on this point when he admitted how very beneficial the system of contracting out of the Act had frequently proved to be. A word or two had, however, dropped from the right hon. Gentleman, which would rather lead to the conclusion that the contributions of employers had not been as large as they ought to have been in proportion to the contribution of the workmen. He ventured to challenge the right hon. Gentleman on that point. The figures showed that in the bulk of cases the contributions of employers had been very much larger than represented by the risk. He had been in communication with one of the largest of the offices which insured these risks, and he found that on an average the risk which the workmen ran for which the employer was not responsible was five times as great as the risk for which the employer was responsible. In a case in which the employer's risk was represented by 2s. 6d. for each £100 of wages, the workmen's risk for accidents for which the employer was not responsible was represented by 15s. per £100 of wages. Therefore, upon any fair contract under the present system, the employer ought not on an average to contribute more than one-fifth of the total amount of the premiums.


Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman will allow me to explain. I did say that, as far as my information went, the employers very often contributed 20 or 25 per cent., which appears to represent the employer's legal liability, and no more.


said, he wished the House to understand that in abolishing the present system they would do away with a great many of the beneficial arrangements which were now made under that system. He had received a Circular giving particulars of the fund established at the works of Messrs. Pearson, Knowles, and Co., of Warrington, and pointing out that that fund would be absolutely destroyed if the Bill passed. Of course, the primary object of an employer in contributing to such a fund, apart from his good-will to his employés, was that he himself might obtain a certain and secure position, and know what his liabilities were. If the old system of uncertainty was to be re-introduced the employer would naturally ask why he should contribute to an insurance fund when, after all, he himself would be liable for an accident in any event. It appeared from the evidence given by a member of the firm of Pearson, Knowles, and Co. before the Select Committee of 1886 that the employers contributed £ 50 for every £100 provided by a workman, that the workmen had the option either of forming themselves into a society, or of remaining outside and taking the consequences, and that they preferred to form a society. The fund had been thoroughly solvent. At the present moment the total contributions made by workmen and employers were £4,493, while there was a balance in hand of over £1,000. The ground on which the Home Secretary proposed practically to abolish these arrangements were ludicrously unsatisfactory. As a matter of fact, every point the right hon. Gentleman had made on this subject led to precisely the opposite conclusion from that which he himself drew. The right hon. Gentleman had pointed to the beneficial effects of these contracts, and yet his conclusion had been that workmen ought in the future to be prevented from entering into such contracts. He would make a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman. If the right hon. Gentleman would not make so large a concession to the principle which underlay the Amendment as he (Mr. Bousfield) desired, he would suggest that he should allow the present system to have a fair chance of expanding itself still further. Why should not the right hon. Gentleman alter the provision of the Bill so as to provide that contracting out of the Act should be prohibited only in cases in which there was no arrangement by which sums were paid to an Insurance Fund? An alternative method was to provide that all such contracts should be void unless they were registered by the Board of Trade? Why should not a register be kept by the Board of Trade, and a Registrar, if necessary, appointed? Such a provision would go a long way towards diminishing that which would otherwise be a fatal blow at the present beneficial system. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) wanted to postpone the benefits of the Bill for 5 or 10 years, until some one had ingenuity enough to devise a system of insurance. Such a system needed no devising, as it was already in vogue, and all that was needed was a revision of rates to cover the new risks which would be put upon employers. Another argument used by the right hon. Gentleman was that the system advocated by the Amendment, would lead to serious carelessness on the part of the employers. Such a contention was wholly unfounded. It was already the practice for employers to get Insurance Companies to take the whole risk off their shoulders, and the same practice would prevail under the Bill if carried into law in its present form. There could not be a worse system than that which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to perpetuate in this particular. He would not keep the House much longer. [Ironical Ministerial cheers.] He was quite aware that gentlemen opposite had got to such a point that they regarded all argument as obstruction. They ought, however, to recognise that many Members of the House regarded the present Bill as not the least important if it was not the most important of all the measures introduced by the Government. Another suggestion he ventured to submit was that a clause should be inserted in the Bill making absolutely void any contract indemnifying an employer against his own negligence. Such a contract was contrary to public policy, and he believed would be void even under the present law; but it should be made clear in the Bill that no such contract should be allowed. As a justification for taking up the time of the House on this scheme he would point out that it was one which he had been engaged for years in advocating. He had spoken in its favour on many platforms, and had always found that both employers and workmen were in favour of the scheme. He was sorry to see that certain Labour Representatives in the House, and certain Trades Union Representatives had held a meeting at which they adopted a resolution of a curious character, to the effect that as the Trades Union Congress had not made a demand that all accidents should be met by a common insurance fund they could not approve of the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. He did not think the Home Secretary would find his hands very much strengthened by that resolution. He strongly supported the Trades Unions in some things, but he was sorry to notice that the more modern tendency of Trades Unionism was to support arrangements which tended to keep employers and workmen at arms length, rather than to encourage arrangements such as that proposed in the Amendment which had the effect of bringing them amicably together. There was one other matter to which he wished to direct the attention of the House. There were a number of employments which were more dangerous to the health than to the limbs of the workmen—such, for instance, as the manufacture of white lead—and he suggested to the Home Secretary to introduce a clause into the Bill bringing the employers in such callings, who neglected to take reasonable precautions to preserve the health of their workmen, under its operations. He begged to second the Amendment before the House.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, "That no amendment of the Law relating to Employers' Liability will be final or satisfactory which does not provide compensation to workmen for all injuries sustained in the ordinary course of their employment, and not caused by their own acts or default,"—(Mr. J. Chamberlain,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

MR. WOODS (Lancashire, Ince)

said, he supported the Bill on two grounds—first, because he had had considerable experience of the working classes of this country, and was therefore likely to know their views on this great question, and secondly because he had also had a long experience of the operations of the Employers' Liability Act of 1880. He looked upon the present debate as the most vital and most important that had taken place in the present Session of Parliament. He was pleased to notice that it was not a Party question, and that hon. Members, no matter on what side of the House they sat, were giving it their best consideration. It was more perhaps in the nature of a class question, though in saying that he hoped he would not come under the censure of the hon. Member who preceded him, and be charged with advocating any principle, doctrine, and the movement that would have the effect of driving further asunder the employers of labour and the working classes of this country. He had read the Bill carefully through—clause by clause and line by line—and he should say that, though he was not quite certain as to some of its details, in the Bill the Home Secretary had tried honestly and impartially to settle a long-standing and contentious question. A looker-on listening to the Debate would have imagined that the question involved was simply and solely a question of money. It was nothing of the kind. The workers did not want money; what they wanted was greater safety to life and limb, greater precautions taken to protect them in their hazardous and dangerous employments, and speaking for 500,000 workers he could honestly tell the House that that was what they wanted, and not a penny of the money of their employers. He honestly believed that as a consequence of the operations of the Act of 1880 hundreds of lives had been saved, but at the same time he believed that through the objectionable contracting-out clause of that Act hundreds of lives had been lost. In the present Bill there were three clauses that would command the hearty approval of the working-classes. The first was that there should be no contracting-out. There were in Lancashire 50,000 men who, for the past 13 years, had been deprived of the benefits of that Act. After a strife lasting seven weeks throughout the whole country, during which there was great destruction of life and property, these men were forced, through sheer starvation and against their wishes, to accept certain conditions of employment which were as objectionable as they were unjust. The hon. Gentleman who preceded him had pointed out that the contract signed by these men was a perfectly voluntary contract. He would read some of the terms of the contract under which 50,000 of the 60,000 of the miners of Lancashire were obliged to work, and appeal to the Home Secretary to say whether it was a fair or a just contract. The document he held in his hands set forth the conditions of employment at the collieries of the Wigan Coal and Iron Company, which employed 6,000 workmen, but the same conditions applied to all the collieries in West Lancashire except that of Colonel Bladdell at Pemberton. One of the clauses of the contract was— The persons employed at the Colliery, directly or indirectly, must be and continue to be during such employment ordinary members of the Lancashire and Cheshire Miners Permanent Relief Society, under its present or any future name. The employer was an honorary member of this society, and subscribed to its funds not less than 25 per cent., while the workmen subscribed the remaining 75 per cent. But the most unjust and objectionable clause of the contract was— In consideration of such payment by the employer, and of being employed at the works; and as part of the term of employment, every person so employed undertakes for himself and his representatives, and any person entitled in case of his death, to look to the funds of the said society alone, under the rules and constitution thereof, for compensation in case of injury sustained in the course of such employment, whether resulting in death or not; and that neither the employer nor any other person in his employment, whether a fellow servant or not, shall be liable in respect of any defect, negligence, act, or omission, under the 'Employers' Liability Act, 1880,' or otherwise in respect of any negligence occasioning such injury. Would any hon. Member deny that that contract coerced the workers out of the legitimate and honest rights to which they were entitled as citizens of this country? As showing the mischievous results of this contracting on that system he would read an extract from the Report of Mr. Henry Hall, Inspector of Mines for West Lancashire, for the year ending 31st December, 1891— As regards the general liability of owners, it is clear that there may be occasions on the part of the officials about which they have no knowledge and hence little responsibility; but so long as the owners as directors of the Works visit the mines as often as once a week, and overhaul the accounts, objecting to outlay in this direction and in that, thus limiting the authority and control of the certified manager, very considerable responsibility must be incurred, and properly rests with them. In this district employers, as a rule, are not liable under the Employers' Liability Act, their workpeople having contracted out. Mr. Hall stated also that some amendment in that Act was necessary. He writes— Because whatever pains you may take to have the managers properly trained and examined, the power of the person holding the purse still remains. The Inspector of Mines, in that district, struck a blow at the present system of contracting-out. But far beyond all the considerations mentioned by Mr. Hall, he (Mr. Woods) held that there should be no contracting-out of any Act of Parliament, especially where the lives and limbs of the people were at stake, and he held also that no workman should be allowed to contract away the rights of his wife and children in the case of accident or death coming to him.


said, the hon. Member was apparently following the arguments he had put before the House. He, therefore, wished to say that he never suggested or intended to suggest in any way that contracting-out of the Act should be allowed except where a quid pro quo or some absolute consideration was given; and further, that it should in no case be allowed to touch the liability of an employer for any personal negligence of his own.


said, he was not at all dealing with the arguments of the hon. Member, but was speaking generally to the question; but, speaking on behalf of 500,000 miners and a large proportion of the railway men of the country, he could say that the workers did not want any insurance or contracting-out. They preferred to have employers legitimately and honestly held responsible for accidents that might be avoided. The working classes of the country also heartily appreciated the clause of the Bill which abolished the doctrine of common employment. A case had occurred in West Lancashire within the last three months in which 16 valuable lives had be en lost through the negligence of a boy of 13 years. If the doctrine of common employment had not been in operation, no employer would have entrusted the responsibility of the lives of his workers into the hands of a boy of that age. As far as mines were concerned, it was really a reflection on our civilisation that employers of labour should be allowed to jeopardise the lives and limbs of their workers by placing in responsible positions men and boys who had knowledge of the dangers and conditions of mines, and then if a disaster ensued to be able to escape responsibility by this doctrine of common employment. The working classes were also glad that the system of mutual assurance was to be abolished. They admitted that much good had been done by the Permanent Relief Societies created by the Act of 1880, but they objected altogether to the scheme of assurance which allowed the employer to escape his proper responsibility; and they objected to money value being placed against the sacredness of human life. There were certain clauses of the Bill to which he objected, but he felt sure that the Home Secretary would favourably consider the Amendments which would be moved to these clauses in Committee in the interest of the working classes. He did not see why any class of workers, men and women, should be excluded from the operations of the Act, and, therefore, he objected to the exemption of menial and domestic servants, whose lives and limbs were often endangered in the course of their employment. There was also a clause providing that a workman should be precluded from obtaining damages if he knew of a danger and failed to report it within a reasonable time. That was an objectionable clause, for a workman would run the risk of losing his place by reporting a danger. He also found that the question of subcontract was not provided for in the Bill. A large amount of work, especially in mines, was done by sub-contract, and he thought that employers should be held liable also for accidents to men engaged by their sub-contractors. At a meeting of representatives of the Trades Unions of the country, of the Parliamentary Committee of the Trades Union Congress, and of the Executive Committee of the Miners' Federation, Clauses 3 and 4 had been gone through carefully. They came to the conclusion that these clauses had nothing whatever to do with the employer's liability, and decided to urge on the Home Secretary to strike them out of the Bill. He also objected to the provision that claims for damages over £100 should be tried in the higher Courts if the defendant pleased, for that would mean in many cases the mulcting of poor plaintiffs in law expenses, and perhaps the swallowing up of the damages obtained. With regard to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham—who he regretted to see was not in his place—he had heard that it had not been moved at all.


I understand the Amendment has been moved. It cer- tainly has been seconded, and it must have been moved.


said, he was under the impression that it had been moved, but he had heard that day that it had not been moved. The gist of the Amendment was that all accidents should be provided for by assurance. He did not like to charge the right hon. Gentleman with unfair conduct, but he had come to the conclusion that the object of the Amendment was to strangle the Bill.


Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to say that I understood the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham to state that he moved the Amendment in order that he might put his statement before the House, but that he did not intend to press it to a Division.

MR. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)

I have read very carefully the report of the right hon. Gentleman's speech in The Times, and he distinctly stated and repeated that he would not move his Amendment.


said, he was reinforced in his opinion that the object of the Amendment was to defeat the Bill by an incident that occurred during the Debate on the Act of 1880. Mr. Thomas Knowles, who was at the time Member for Wigan, suggested this very same scheme of assurance for all accidents, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James), the co-worker of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, who was at the time Attorney General, said— If the difficulty of assurance was to be so dealt with that all accidents should be compensated, it was useless to talk of the admission of that principle in the Bill. ID fact, the suggestion was only made for the purpose of defeating the Bill. He understood that the Home Secretary had recently been waited on by a deputation on behalf of the railway servants, which asked that the system of contracting-out should be provided for in the Bill. He could assure the House that that was a bogus deputation, and did not in the slightest degree represent the railway servants of the country. So far as he had been able to ascertain—and he had addressed numbers of meetings composed of railway servants, miners, ironworkers, and factory operatives—not a single worker was in favour of contracting out.


asked, had the hon. Member addressed meetings of the London and North-Western Railway?


said he had, and he had records of what had taken place at those meetings. That very morning he had received a letter from the Secretary of the Wigan Branch of the Railway Servants' Union, which stated— The deputation of railway men which waited on the Home Secretary did not represent the railway men at all on this question, and he could supply the House with dozens of resolutions adopted at meetings of railway men protesting in the strongest language against any contracting-out clause being inserted in the Bill. He would say, in conclusion, that the Bill was an honest attempt to settle a long-standing difficulty, though there might be differences of opinion as to some of its details, to which he was sure the Home Secretary would give his best attention when the Bill got into Committee. Then there was a great deal said about the amount of litigation that would be caused, but those who had anything to do with the Act of 1880 were exceedingly surprised at the small amount of litigation arising under that Act. He held that litigation was right if there was a cause for litigation, and he would ask hon. Members to point to an Act of that description in regard to which there had been less litigation. He submitted that the experience of the last 30 years had not shown that unreasonable litigation had arisen. Universal insurance would weaken the responsibilities that ought to rest with the employers of labour; and in the last place he held that the working classes of this country were entitled to the fullest protection for life and limb at the hands of the House of Commons. In conclusion, he thanked the right hon. Gentleman for his Bill, which did him great credit, and which he (Mr. Woods) believed would meet with the universal support both of the employers and the employed of this country.

MR.STUART WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)

said, that of the many Bills introduced by the present Government there was not one that was less likely to threaten their existence as a Government than the one now before the House. At the same time he thought it was high time somebody got up to defend the Bill against the arguments that had been put forward by its own supporters. There was no disputing the fact that this was the biggest Insurance Bill the House had yet seen. He did not see the slightest desire to delay the progress of the Bill, but he confessed that he thought the principle of the Amendment preferable to that of the Bill. The Amendment no doubt raised the questions of fundamental principle, but undoubtedly its principles could with perfect facility be engrafted upon the Bill in Committee. The Amendment gave to the workmen greater benefits than those given by the Bill, and it gave, moreover, not only the greater benefits, but also a greater certainty of realising them. The object of the Bill was to make the workman for the first time as well off as a stranger; but the stranger had to prove negligence, and take on himself all the other burdens and risks involved in litigation. He doubted whether the workmen would any longer be content to be left, as regards their chance of indemnifying themselves, in a position so precarious as that. On the other hand, the principle of the Amendment was to put the workmen in a better position than the stranger, a thing both just and practicable, seeing that in the case of the workmen the class to be indemnified were of ascertainable numbers, and had special claims. Moreover, the Amendment proceeded on the sound principle that considerations of negligence were and ought to be regarded as being wholly immaterial to the question of the desirability of indemnity for injuries. If a workman's leg was broken, the damage to him in suffering and loss of wages was just the same, whether the cause of his broken leg was some one's grossest negligence or the purest accident. What was wanted was that he should somehow be effectively indemnified in all cases, and so long as they based their proposed indemnity on the existence of negligence they were in a large number of cases, probably in the largest—namely, in all cases of accidents against which the workman had not insured himself—leaving the workman to seek, and the community to provide, the necessary indemnity by the casual and humiliating operation of the Poor Law. The Amendment was in harmony with the existing German law. The French Legislature had also been invited by the French Government to legislate on similar lines. Did insurance promote negligence? It might be said that if all liability was to be laid on the employer he might insure himself against the risk, and become less careful; that his workmen feeling themselves similarly insured would become similarly less careful, and that there would be a general increase in the dangers of employments and the number of accidents. If that argument was good against the Amendment it was good also against the Bill, which left the employer free to insure himself against the consequence of all negligence and liable for nothing not caused by negligence. Those who deprecated insurance on that ground ought to go further, and prohibit insurance. But, in fact, insurance, whether it tended to promote carelessness or not—and he was not aware that in Germany or Austria it had—could not be prevented by prohibitions. Nothing could prevent the private collection of data for the ascertainment of risks, nor could anything prevent the making provision, either by mutual agreements between employers or by individual employers making a reserve fund by a regular appropriation out of profits. The true cure for negligence was not to be found in its civil consequences, but in the criminal liabilities which already could be, and were, used as deterrents. There was already a criminal liability in the case of any breach of nearly all of the multifarious provisions of Factory Acts, Mines Acts, and Shipping Acts, which were directed to the ensuring of the personal safety of the employed. In many of these cases there was a vicarious criminal liability on the employer, as well as the direct liability of the person actually breaking the law. Then there was the law of manslaughter in all cases of death produced by culpable negligence. Why should they not declare by law that culpable negligence which merely resulted in personal injuries should also be criminal. Mr. Justice Stephen had in an earlier edition of his Digest actually so stated the English law. The French law was to this effect, and in all the statutory offences he had referred to breach or omission was made ipso facto criminal, though neither death nor personal in- juries might have resulted from it. Those were the truest securities against negligence, and not these nominal civil consequences, which were very difficult for the workman to realise, and which under any circumstances, and notwithstanding any prohibition, could be discounted by insurance. The Amendment would not deprive workmen of any of these securities, but would greatly increase the confidence with which the workmen could count upon indemnity. On the other hand, the Bill left the workman still under the necessity of proving negligence by litigation, while it placed him in a position singularly unfavourable for initiating litigation by putting him in the artificial and illogical position of being a workman, yet suing as an outsider. The late Home Secretary's (Mr. Matthews) Bill went very nearly as far as this one, and in many respects certainly farther than any Bill that had preceded it. It left little standing of the doctrine of common employment, and practically nothing of any liberty to contract out. It had the support in that House of the late Mr. Bradlaugh and the hon. Member who had just rejoiced the hearts of the Ministerialists by being returned for the Hexham Division of Northumberland (Mr. Miles Maclnnes.) In the Select Committee of 1886 its main principles were also supported by Mr. Bradlaugh, and by the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir E. Reed), the hon. Member for Barnard Castle (Sir J. Pease), and the hon. Member for North Worcestershire (Mr. Hingley), all supporters of the present Government, and it proceeded upon that at least intelligible principle that the employer's liability should be limited to the negligence of those who had, at all events, some semblance of power to control. The Bill of the late Government did not, it was true, go so far as the Amendment, but it went quite as far as they could logically and equitably go on the basis of negligence. If they based the right of action upon negligence they must show or pretend some semblance of delegation from the employer to the neglected workman. Conversely, if they had a right of action, or a supposed delegated authority in the workman, they could do so only where that workman was negligent. There was a great deal of artificiality and fiction in the doctrine that the work- man's negligence was the master's negligence, even in cases where the workman enjoyed some delegated authority. But this Bill took them still further into the region of fiction. Beyond the point to which the late Government took the doctrine of vicarious negligence in their Bills of 1888 and 1890 he said that negligence ceased to avail them as the basis of the workman's right to indemnity. That right must then be based on something else—such, for instance, as considerations of public policy arising in the interests of enterprise out of his mere status as a workman. They had practically abandoned the basis of negligence when they proposed to enact that the workman should sue as if he were a stranger to the enterprise. What was this but a new fiction superimposed upon, but conflicting with, the old fiction that the negligence of the servant was the negligence of the master? In one and the same clause they proposed to say that the servant who was injured was so little connected with the master that he must be permitted to sue as a stranger to the enterprise who had accepted none of its risks, while of his fellow-servant who injured him they said that he was so much connected with the master, and so closely identified with him, that his negligence must be treated as if it were the negligence of the master. Having stepped forward to adopt one fiction, they found themselves obliged to avoid the consequences of that fiction by inventing another to contradict it. What would be the result to the workman? He would be the sport of the classes who lived by litigation. It was bad enough that he was left to prove negligence without having to do so from the standpoint of an artificial and contradictory status. He confessed that if they were to go further than they proposed to go in 1888, he preferred that they should face the logical consequences of abandoning the doctrine of common employment. He preferred to place the workman's claim to indemnity rather upon his own services to industrial enterprise than upon the delinquencies of others. He did not believe that the policy of the Amendment was prejudicial to the exercise of care and skill in the avoidance of accidents. He did believe it provided the only logical and satisfactory basis on which the risks incurred, and the services rendered, by the privates in the army of industry, could be recognised by the society which owed so much to their energy, their courage, and their skill.

MR. HALDANE (Haddington)

said, it was not possible to find fault with the tone of the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Stuart-Wortley); nevertheless, it was equally impossible not to express surprise at some of the arguments put forward. Many of the arguments consisted, in reality, in an attack upon a principle of the Common Law which had formed part of the law of this country for more than two centuries. The hon. and learned Gentleman spoke of the principle of the Bill as if it involved, for the first time, making the employer liable for the negligence of those in his employment. That was the principle of law that had not only been a principle of this country for two centuries, but also of America and of most parts of the Continent, a principle founded upon considerations that were absolutely necessary for the well-being of society. Take the case of a man who possessed a carriage and sent his coachman to drive along a road. He instructed the coachman to be careful, but instead of being careful he was negligent, and ran over some person. To whom was the injured person to look?—to the coachman, who was a man of straw, or his employer, without whose action there would be no carriage driving? Take, again, the case of a great Railway Corporation, was it to be supposed that because an engine driver failed to obey his instructions and caused an accident that those injured were not entitled to compensation? He ventured to say that such a proposition would be most disastrous. His complaint of the last speech and of that of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) was that they treated the Bill as if it enacted something for the first time, whereas it only sought to get rid of a bad and unjustifiable exception, introduced a little more than 30 years ago, by a Judge with a faculty, as Lord Esher expressed it, for devising analogies. Lord Abinger, who was the author of the decision in "Priestly v. Flower," settled for the first time that the follow workman should not have the same remedy as a stranger; Lord Esher condemned the doctrine, and the Scotch Courts repudiated and struggled against it, until it was forced upon them by a subsequent decision by the House of Lords. They wanted to know why fellow workmen were put in a worse position than strangers? He knew that many legal fictions were involved, that they entered into some kind of implied contract, but they knew as a fact that workmen when they took service did not think of those things, or if they did, they thought they had the same advantages as an ordinary member of the outside public, and when they came to consider the Act and ask that the law should be placed on an ordinary basis, they asked that this exception should be repealed, and the same remedies applied to these workmen as to every one else. That being so, he thought those who sat on that side of the House had a good deal to complain of the way in which the Amendment had been proposed. The Amendment which had been moved was not the ordinary one that the Bill should be read that day six months, but it contained in germ, and in an undeveloped form, not only a Bill, but a Bill of greater magnitude and complexity than the measure brought forward. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) said he might not press it to a Division, but certainly would move it as an Instruction on going into Committee, and he (Mr. Haldane) ventured to say that in order to carry it out it would require the introduction of clauses four or five times the size of the Bill itself. [" Oh, oh! "] He would tell the House why he thought so. The right hon. Gentleman in the course of his speech took the line that it had been pointed out the principle of the Bill went further and meant more than the Amendment. The Amendment provided simply for compensation or injuries, and they held it was not merely compensation but prevention they wanted; they held they represented the views of the workmen when they said a man was not sufficiently protected when he got £100 or £150 compensation, that it was a necessary, an integral, and vital part of the Bill to put on the employer such a motive as should make him careful in taking every step he possibly could as precautions against negligence, therefore, the principle of the Bill was two-fold, but the principle of the Amendment was compensation simply. Whether careful or not, the workmen should be compensated all the same. That that was so was shown by the way in which the Amendment was dealt with by the other hon. Members, because they had a series of Amendments on the Paper. The first was that of the right hon. Gentleman, which said the employer was to make compensation in all cases in which the workman himself was not directly in fault. Then came the more logical Amendment of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Hunter), who sought to strike out the words "and not caused by their own acts or default." Then came the still more logical Amendment of the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow (Mr. Provand). The effect of the Amendment would be to substitute for the present principle, under which there was some motive to employers to be careful, a system under which there would be no motive at all. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham said he would be willing to penalise employers guilty of negligence, but then they would have a Bill of the dimensions of the Factory Acts, setting forth the offences, and the penalties, and the machinery for recovering them before the proper tribunal. They had no objection to the insurance proposal, but they wanted a good deal more information on that subject. They wanted to know how the laws worked in Germany, and to what extent employers were willing to subject themselves to the consequences of a new penal law. The Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman, if successful, would lead to the complete demolition of the Bill itself, as it would be impossible for the Government to go on with it with any hope of its leaving the Committee stage; and because he thought this was not the proper time and place to bring it forward, and because the principle of the Bill was good, he for one felt bound to oppose the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman.

MR. G. BALFOUR (Leeds, Central)

said to those who, like the hon. Member who opened the Debate to-day, were prepared to support on its merits the Amendment moved by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), and those who, like his hon. and learned Friend who had just spoken, considered the Bill a good and a logical Bill, the issues raised in this Debate were comparatively small. His own position was somewhat more complicated. On the one hand, he was not prepared to accept the scheme of insurance such as that pointed to by the Amendment, nor, on the other hand, was he satisfied with the Bill introduced by the Home Secretary (Mr. Asquith), at all event in its present shape; indeed, unless this Bill was amended in certain important and vital parts, he was by no means prepared to say that the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) was not preferable to the proposal of the Home Secretary. In his opinion the Bill, if passed in its present form, would lead to the more thorough-going plan advocated in the Amendment, and it might be at least plausible to argue that it would be better to submit to a certain amount of delay than to accept a halfhearted measure, and one which had absolutely no elements of finality in it. But that was on the supposition that the Bill introduced by the Homo Secretary would issue from the Committee substantially in its present form. He hoped, however, for better things, that it might be altered, and altered in several very important points, in Committee, and entertaining that hope he should be prepared to support the Amendment if the right hon. Gentleman brought it to the vote, which he understood he was not going to do. The great advantage of the plan proposed in the Amendment was that it made provision for all accidents, and not merely for those that were caused by somebody's negligence. He agreed that that was desirable, and he was not without hope that that might be done by voluntary arrangement between employers and employed, or by means of a fund supported by the workmen themselves. The right hon. Gentleman objected to his scheme being considered as a scheme of industrial assurance; he told the House he preferred the term "industrial compensation;" he was apparently anxious to minimise, as far as possible, the share that the State would be obliged to take in such a scheme, and so far he was in agreement with his plan. If the State was to lay down as a general rule that all accidents were to be insured against, sooner or later the State would be bound to see that there was no failure in the payments. In other words, sooner or later the State would have to either start an insurance fund itself or undertake to guarantee payments made by the employer. That had been the experience both of Austria and Germany, who had adopted schemes of this kind, and he believed that France had in contemplation and preparation an elaborate plan by which something similar might be carried into effect. He was confident if they wore to take such a step as that indicated by the Amendment it would be necessary to create a much more complicated piece of machinery than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham seemed to imagine. He was not prepared to take such a step at present, and as foreign countries had been obliging enough to make this enormous experiment he thought they had better wait and see what success attended it. Now he passed from the Amendment to the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary (Mr. Asquith) was a master of clear and lucid statements, and the speech he made in introducing this Bill would not in that respect detract from the reputation he had now firmly established in this House. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would pardon him for saying that the impression left on his mind, after carefully listening to the right hon. Gentleman's speech, was that he was not so much the author of the Bill as its expositor. For the authors it would probably be necessary to go outside the I walls of the Home Office—to go to the loaders of the Trades Unions and to the Trades Union Congress. It had been his (Mr. G. Balfour's) good fortune during the last year and a half to see a great deal of the leaders of Workmen's Organisations in this country, and he had been able thoroughly to appreciate the ability and straightforwardness they displayed. But even Trades Unions were not infallible, and he thought that, like other Organisations, they had their prejudices, and sometimes very unreasonable prejudices. If the Homo Secretary, instead of taking this Bill from the Trades Union leaders, had exercised some of that independence of mind which the House knew he possessed, and which he sometimes showed, he would have been able to produce a better Bill, and to have made a more convincing speech in support of it. The Home Secretary said the Bill would place the law on a logical and satisfactory footing. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham had pointed out that whereas the meaning of "workman" was confined under Sub-section (a) of Clause 6 to persons employed in manual labour, the term was, under Sub-section (b), made to include every railway servant presumably from the manager downward, and under Subsection (d) every seaman on board a British ship, presumably from the captain to the cabin boys. If the doctrine of common employment was really what the right hon. Gentleman in his recent speech at Liverpool described it as being—a grotesque doctrine—the employer ought to be held liable for compensation for an injury caused by the negligence of an ordinary workman to the manager of the establishment, as much as for an injury caused by the negligence of a manager to an ordinary workman. Could it be that after sweeping away the doctrine of common employment in the first clause, the right hon. Gentleman had been forced by a kind of unconscious common sense to bring one part of it to light again later in the Bill? The right hon. Gentleman carried the change far enough to destroy the principle on which the Act of 1886 and the two Bills brought in by the late Government alike rested. That principle was that some correspondence should be maintained between the legal and the moral responsibility of the employer. In no legislation since the Report of the Select Committee in 1876 had that principle been lost sight of. What was the principle underlying the present Bill? The Home Secretary had been frank enough to tell the House, but he had not always been consistent in his account. In his speech in introducing the Bill he said the principle on which it was based was that where a person on his own responsibility set in motion agencies which created risk for others he ought to be civilly responsible for the consequences.


I beg pardon for interrupting, but what I did say was not merely on his own responsibility but for his own profit.


said, he quite understood that the right hon. Gentleman would like to make that addition now, but it did not appear in the report of his speech, nor was it to be found in the account which he (Mr. G. Balfour) took down of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks at the time. But even with the limiting words which the right hon. Gentleman said he intended to introduce, the principle carried him very considerably beyond the limits of the Bill. Under the principle laid down by the right hon. Gentleman it was impossible to exclude those accidents which were incidental to an employment without being actually caused by the negligence of anybody. For instance, the fall of a roof in a miner's working place might occur without negligence on anybody's part; but it would be impossible to deny that the accident resulted from the setting in motion by the miner of an agency creating risk. If that was the principle of the right hon. Gentleman's Bill he ought not to have limited the measure as he had done, because that principle carried him into the full ambit of the scheme suggested by the Member for Birmingham. The right hon. Gentleman seemed himself to have felt the difficulty in which the recognition of the principle underlying the Bill placed him, for in the course of the reply he made to a deputation from the shipowners he gave another definition. On that occasion he said the principle of the measure was that any employer ought to be under the same measure of liability to his servants for any negligence committed by those he employed as he was under to third persons. This was clearly different from the principle laid down in the speech he delivered in introducing the Bill. The Bill was not consistent, however, with the principle advocated in his speech, because while Clause 1 professed to sweep away the doctrine of common employment altogether, the provision was afterwards modified in the case of all interests except that of shipping and the railway industry. If the right hon. Gentleman had really meant to place the workman in exactly the same position as the outside public, all it would have been necessary to do was to sweep away the special defences of common employment and acceptance of known risks. The right hon. Gentleman did not propose to sweep away those defences. He proposed only partly to abolish the defence of common employment, and he positively proposed to give the defence of acceptance of known risk a statutory form. The fact was that the whole question was far more complicated and difficult than the House would naturally infer from listening to the right hon. Gentleman's speech. The right hon. Gentleman was laudably anxious to simplify the law, but the simplification which was secured by shutting one's eyes to the facts was not a simplification which would commend itself to the House. He believed that the doctrine of common employment had come into existence as a natural result of the excessive harshness and injustice which made the master liable for the acts of his servants. The right hon. Gentleman thought that the general rule of law which made the master liable for acts of omission on the part of his servants was a good rule, and one which might on grounds of justice and expediency be applied to the case of the workman as well as to that of the stranger. The right hon. Gentleman's opinion as to the justice of the Common Law was not shared by the Select Committee appointed in 1876, as that Committee reported that eminent lawyers regarded it as essentially unjust that a man should be made liable for injuries caused by acts for which he was not responsible, and which he might have forbidden. The fact was that the operation of the Common Law was often harsh and inequitable even in the case of the outside public, and still more so when it was applied to the relation of employer and employed, unless some such doctrine as that of common employment was admitted. He (Mr. G. Balfour) was not so enamoured of the law as to resist all amendment of it, provided that some method could be found by which the harsh and inequitable results of its application to the relation between employer and employed could be averted or mitigated. He had come to the conclusion that it was possible to abolish the defence of common employment, and at the same time to improve the present law without doing substantial injustice to anybody. No doubt a complete solution of the difficulty would deal not merely with employers' liability, but with the Common Law respecting negligence generally. All that could be aimed at was the amendment of the law as far as possible within the scope of the Bill. The existing law suffered grievously from want of elasticity. At present the injured person must be entitled to full compensation or to none at all, and the amount of compensation was quite irrespective of the degree of negligence, or of any other modifying circumstance whatever. It was the absence of elasticity which had created the innumerable exceptions and qualifications which now overloaded the law. Let the doctrine of common employment be abolished by all means, but let it be provided that in assessing damages regard must be had, among other things, to the degree of authority delegated to the person whose negligence had caused the accident. He should be prepared to sweep away not only the defence of common employment, but the defences of contributory negligence and acquiescence in known risks. He would be prepared to regard acquiescence in known risk, where the negligence of the employer had been established, as contributory negligence, and to enact that the degree of authority delegated to the person whose negligence had caused the injury, and also the degree of contributory negligence, should be taken into account. If this was done the law would be immensely simplified, no substantial injustice would be caused to either employers or employed, and the correspondence between moral liability and legal liability would be rendered far more close than it was at present. He came now to the second great subject of controversy which had been raised by the Bill—the freedom of workmen to contract themselves out of the Act. Two questions had to be considered on this point. The first was whether there was any evidence to show that the liberty to contract out of the Act had led to abuse, and the second, whether that liberty had been exercised with beneficial results to the employed. The Home Secretary had admitted that the cases in which the employer had insisted upon the abandonment of their statutory right by men entering their service were comparatively rare, and, further that he did not attach great importance to the language used about men being coerced into making contracts against their will. The right hon. Gentleman had said, however, that he had not the slightest doubt that there were cases in which the men were practically not free agents in the matter. It would have been only fair for the right hon. Gentleman to have told the House that, since the passing of the Act of 1880, there had been no authentic and authoritative case in which the employer had compelled the workmen to contract out of the Act without consideration.


was understood to say that such a contract would be absolutely unenforceable.


said, that might be so, but it had been a matter of complaint among Trades Unions that the employers endeavoured to coerce the men into contracting themselves out of the Act without any consideration beyond that of obtaining employment. There was no case on record in which men had been induced to contract themselves out of the Act without consideration. Surely under these circumstances it would be absurd to contend that the liberty to contract out of the Act had been abused. In the few cases in which men had attempted to contract out without consideration, the Trades Unions had stepped in, and the attempt had been prevented. If the Trades Unions had not been able in some cases to prevent the men entering into contracts, it showed that the men were perfectly ready to have matters left as they were. As to the benefits which had been conferred on workmen by the establishment of Insurance Funds to which the employers contributed, that benefit had been admitted by the Home Secretary himself. In 1885 the London and North Western Railway Company paid between £13,000 and £14,000 to their Accident Fund, whereas, if it had been necessary for them to insure against their risks under the Act, they would not have had to pay more than between £4,000 or £5,000. In the case of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway Company, although the men were not compelled to contract out of the Act, nearly all of them did so. The "widespread objection" which the Home Secretary said workmen entertained against contracting out of of the Act was, therefore, certainly not to be found amongst the men employed by that company, nor was it to be found amongst the London and North Western men. He had himself received two petitions from the London and North Western men living in Leeds, asking that they should not be prevented from contracting out of the Act. Presumably, the "widespread objection" to contracting out was to be found amongst those who had not themselves contracted out. Why those who refused to contract out and who, therefore, ex hypothesi, did not need to be protected by the law, should clamour for a change which was not desired by those who had contracted out, he could not understand. Surely the tyranny which was said to be exercised by employers was as nothing compared with the legalised tyranny which majorities of working men seemed to be desirous of exercising over their fellows. The right hon. Gentleman had said that only a small minority of the miners had contracted out of the Act. As a matter of fact, something like 120,000 miners out of a total of between 500,000 and 600,000 had contracted out of the Act. This was certainly not a small figure, and it was a growing figure. In the Lancashire and North Wales district in 1885 44,000 miners had contracted out of the Act, and in 1891 the number had risen to 61,000, the number of those who had not contracted being 29,000 in 1885 and 29,800 in 1891. In Monmouthshire and South Wales the number who had contracted was 37,000 in 1885 and 57,000 in 1891, whilst the number who had not contracted was 59,000 in the first-named year and 72,000 in 1891. A special interest attached to the case of South Wales, because it was agreed on all hands that no sort of pressure had been put on the men to induce them to enter into contracts.


I am sorry to interrupt, but I would like to point out to the House that the reason why the number of men who contract out of the Act is growing in Lancashire is because of the larger importation of men during the last few years, and not by any means because the men like the conditions.


said, even if that were so, it did not account for the state of things in South Wales. It was not in the true interests of the men that the Trade Union traders in other districts had succeeded in inducing them to refuse to contract out of the Act. Some 90,000 miners were employed in Northumberland and Durham. Prior to the passing of the Act of 1880 the employers subscribed to the Miners' Per- manent Relief Society. When that Act was passed, the masters offered to increase their subscription to 25 per cent. on condition that the men contracted out of the Act. The men declined, and the result was that in 1891 there was a deficiency in the fund amounting to £90,000. Had the offer of the employers been accepted, instead of a deficiency of £90,000, there would have been a surplus of £30,000. Between 1880 and 1885 the cases brought into Court in North Cumberland and Durham, under the Employers' Liability Act, had not reached double figures. He should now like to sum up the effect of the evidence upon this point. In the first place, he contended that it was proved that there had been no case of contracting out except for consideration given. He would sum up in this way: There was, in the first place, no authentic case of "contracting out" except for consideration given; secondly, the consideration given had generally been in excess—and mostly greatly in excess—of what the employers would have been called upon to pay had there been no contracting out; thirdly, the institution of contracting out had been of great benefit to the men, and was valued by employers, producing as it did cordial relations between the men and themselves; and, fourthly, where contracting out had been made a condition of employment, a large majority of the men were opposed to any change in the law by which contracting out would be abolished. What was the natural conclusion to be drawn from the facts? Was it not that, far from forbidding contracting out, it should be permitted? All the facts had been before the right hon. Gentleman, however, and the conclusion he had arrived at was that contracting out should be forbidden by law. What justification could the Home Secretary possibly urge in favour of the proposal to take away from a workman his right to make an advantageous bargain with his employer? He had listened very carefully to the speech of the Home Secretary, and had read it very carefully since. The right hon. Gentleman had put forward one defence, and one only; and that was, that the Legislature had conferred this right of compensation on the workman not merely in his own interest, but in the interest of the community generally. The right hon. Gentleman had also said that the rights of the outside public at Common Law were given to them by a law which was at once just and expedient and in the public interest. Now, why was the right hon. Gentleman prepared to take away the freedom of the working man to contract out of the right he possessed under the Act when he was not prepared to interfere with the right of the outside public to contract with the employer to settle any claim which might be made against him? The right hon. Gentleman was prepared to maintain that there was a distinction between Statute Law and Common Law; but the right to compensation had its counterpart in the liability to pay compensation. If the working man, not in his own interest, but in the interest of the public generally, was to be prevented from bargaining away his right to receive compensation, the employer by the same rule ought to be prohibited from bargaining away his liability to pay compensation. That would only be consistent. It was worth while to go a little deeper into the matter. [Cries of "Oh, oh!" and "Divide!"] The Home Secretary's argument implied that which the working men had constantly contended for—namely, that the real object of this legislation was not so much compensation as increased safety. Now, when the proposal to take away the right of the working man to contract out was defended on that ground, the right hon. Gentleman, he thought, ought at least to have produced some proof that contracting out had had the effect of increasing negligence. The right hon. Gentleman had simply assumed the point. He had taken it for granted. He had not produced a tittle of proof for his contention. [Cries of "Divide!"] He was doing his best to argue this point. The question was one to which he had given a great deal of attention. No doubt his powers of expression were deficient, and he could not make his views interesting to hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway; but the Bill was one of extreme importance, and he really did think that when anyone tried to go thoroughly into a subject and argue it out without bias, one way or the other, he ought to get a hearing in the House. Personally, he very much doubted whether the Act of 1880 itself had had very much effect in increasing the carefulness of employers. There was very little to show, except, perhaps, in one or two industries, that such had been the case. The employers had a great many difficulties to face, and there were many reasons, apart from the compensation they might be called upon to pay, why they should be careful of the lives and limbs of those in their employ. There were few cases, as compared with the total number of accidents, in which the employer could be made liable at all, and, moreover, those employers who did not make arrangements with their workpeople usually insured out of their liability. So long as they were allowed to insure out of their liability was it possible that the prohibition to contract out of the law would produce any effect in making them more careful? Surely it was the height of absurdity to contend that the London and North Western Company, which paid over £13,000 annually to the Accident Fund, would be induced to take greater precautions if they had to pay £4,000 to an Insurance Company instead? In Northumberland and Durham the premiums paid by the masters from 1880 to 1885 amounted only to £2,000, and yet during the same time they had contributed 25 per cent. of the men's contribution, amounting to no less than £50,000. Surely it was ridiculous to imagine that the mine owners of Northumberland, who had paid no less than £50,000 in the shape of contributions, would have been made more careful by an arrangement under which they would only have to pay £2,000. He was really understating the case. Mr. Patterson, one of the representatives of the Durham Miners, in evidence before the Select Committee of 1886, had stated the chief ground for the objection to contracting out—[Cries of "Divide!" and interruption]—was that officials would be much more careful through dread of actions and exposure in Court. But there had only been eight cases in the Northumberland and Durham district from 1880 to 1885, and it was, therefore, difficult to attach much weight to that particular argument even if the liability of the masters continued to be limited to injuries resulting from the negligence of those charged with superintendence. But if employers' liability was to be extended, as proposed under the Bill, to injuries caused by the negligence of fellow working men in the same trade, surely it was impossible to imagine that accidents that the master could be in no way really responsible for, and which no additional care on his part could prevent, would be less likely to take place through the fear of exposure in Court. If there was to be any fear of accidents they would not be accidents caused by the negligence of the employer but rather accidents due to the negligence of the fellow working man. It appeared to him the right hon. Gentleman had left one very important element out of consideration entirely in his anxiety to throw responsibility on the shoulders of the employers. He appeared to have quite forgotten that care on the part of the workmen themselves was at least as important as care on the part of the employer if accidents were to be prevented. Therefore, it would be wise, if possible, to make them take their fair share of responsibility. Hon. Members were, perhaps, not aware that the Select Committee of 1886 distinctly stated that the extinction of liability for injuries caused by the carelessness of workmen in the same trades was against public policy on the very ground that it would take away from the workmen themselves an inducement to be careful. If the House came to the conclusion, for one reason or another, that the doctrine of common employment should be swept away, there was no ground for encouraging rather than discouraging the establishment of funds to which employers and workmen should make joint contributions, because the tendency would be to make the workman take additional care to prevent an injury the pecuniary compensation for which would come out of a fund in which that workman had a personal interest. How potent such a notice was likely to be he did not venture to forecast. He thought it would have some effect, if not a very powerful one. But there was one consideration that he thought might be urged in favour of allowing working men to contract out of their rights. The Home Secretary seemed aware of the weakness of his case when he made the funds liable in the case of actions, and there was a certain amount of ingenuity in that. The proposal, however, was not original. There was already something of the kind in one of the Bills introduced by the hon. Member for Morpeth, and some- thing of the kind was already in force on the Great Eastern Railway. He was afraid that in no ease would it be likely to be effectual. [Cries of "Divide!"] Why was it that employers were willing and anxious to induce their men to contract out? Simply in order to avoid litigation—simply in order that more friendly relations might be established between the parties than if litigation were resorted to. It was quite clear that so long as the workman was allowed to choose, as he would under the Bill, whether he would resort to the Court or to the fund, there would be no sort of security that the employer would not be involved in litigation. He felt that the operation of the Bill, even with this provision introduced, which some of the Representatives of the working men objected to, would be to bring to an end many of those funds which already existed, and effectually prevent the establishment of new ones. [Cries of "Divide!" and interruption.] He would not detain the House any longer. He could only say that he had done his best—[cries of "Divide!" and "Time!"]—he had done his best to deal with the question without bias either as between employer and employed or as between different proposals that had emanated from one side of the House or the other. He was sorry hon. Gentlemen had not thought fit to give him such a hearing as he thought he was entitled to. He had no wish to prevent the Second Heading of the Bill being taken to-day. He should do his best to amend the Bill in Committee. His only desire was that both in this legislation and any other legislation dealing with the labour question their united efforts might tend to promote that industrial peace which was desirable in the interest of employer and employed.

Sir A. ROLLIT (Islington, S.)

and Mr. H. WILSON (Middlesbrough) both rose to move the Adjournment of the Debate; but it being ten minutes to Seven of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed upon Monday next.