§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [8th November], "That the Clause (Contracts in certain cases to be exempted from application of 660 Section 2,)—(Mr. W. M'Laren,)— proposed on Consideration, as amended, be read a second time."
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ * MR. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)
said, he thought they would all be prepared to admit that the hon. Member for Crewe had presented his case to the House in a very able, a very forcible, and a most temperate speech. However, in listening to the hon. Member's observations he could not help thinking that it was a speech intended specially to defend the case of the London and North Western Company. He would have preferred that the argument of his hon. Friend should have been directed to the general principle involved. The hon. Member was to be excused for the line of argument he took, for the reason that he represented a constituency which contained a large number of voters who were servants of the London and North Western Company, and that some time ago a resolution was adopted by the Directors of that Company in which they declared that if the Bill passed in its present form they would withdraw their present contribution from the funds of the Association. He could not help thinking that the Directors in passing that resolution had some intention of influencing the free and unbiased judgment of the House on a question of vital importance, and he thought that in such a case the course adopted by the Directors was greatly to be regretted. Reference had been made in the course of the Debate to the large number of workpeople who were opposed to any change in the law such as that indicated in the Bill. Well, he had the honour to represent one of the largest industrial constituencies in England, and he might be permitted to say that in all his dealings with them and at all the public meetings addressed by him they had freely and without influence being brought to bear on them unanimously declared their hostility to the principle of contracting out. He had also as Secretary of the Parliamentary Committee of the Trade Union Congress the honour to speak on behalf of a still larger constituency, and at its last three annual meetings that Congress, representing more than 1,250,000 organised workmen, had unanimously declared against the 661 principle. One of the reasons among the many others why this course was taken by the Trades Unions of the country was, that in their judgment there was nothing approaching to "mutuality" in contracting out. He was surprised to hear the late Home Secretary declare last night that the judgment which the organised trades had expressed on this question was due to the action of the leaders of the Labour Organisations. Labour leaders on this subject stood in very much the same relation to the men whom they represented as Members of that House bore to the constituencies which sent them to Parliament. They only remained Labour leaders whilst they expressed the opinions of their constituents. As soon as there was any divergence between their opinions and the firm convictions held by the general body of the members of their Unions successors were sought to take their places. He, therefore, could not but express the surprise and regret which he felt that the late Home Secretary should have indulged in such observations in this respect. Before he addressed himself particularly to the arguments adduced by the hon. Member for Crewe in support of his Amendment, he should like to offer an observation or two on the arguments advanced last evening by the late Home Secretary in support of the vote which he intended to give for the Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman's first proposition was that these agreements were beneficial to the working man. That proposition was stated without any qualification, in its most general and complete sense. He (Mr. Fenwick) ventured to traverse that statement, and he hoped to be able to produce lo the House instances to show that the arrangements referred to by the right hon. Gentleman were not only, in his opinion, prejudicial to the interests of the workmen, but also in the opinion of the workmen themselves. He hoped also to satisfy the opinion of the House in the matter. Ho took first the case of the miners in the South Staffordshire and East Worcestershire district. He contended that the arrangements existing in these districts, under which the miners were compelled to sacrifice the protection which the law would afford them, were neither beneficial nor adequate. Now, what were the arrangements? In the case of a miner sustaining an injury which 662 was likely to be permanent in its character he received the small sum of 6s. per week on the east side of Dudley; on the west side in a similar case he only received 6s. a week for 12 months, and 3s. a week for the remainder of the time during which he was incapacitated from following his employment by reason of the injury. He (Mr. Fenwick) maintained that this was an insufficient sum for which to require a man to sacrifice the protection which the law had intended to afford him. In the case of fatal accidents the widow was only entitled to receive from this fund on the east side of Dudley a gratuity of £2 and a coffin, which was generously provided by the employers of her deceased husband.
§ SIR B. HINGLEY (Worcestershire, N.)
May I be allowed to correct the hon. Member by saying that the widow gets 6s. a week to my own knowledge? I have paid it myself for years, and also money in respect of children.
§ * MR. FENWICK
said, he was quoting from evidence given before the Select Committee on the Employers' Liability Act in 1886 by the colliery agent of the Earl of Dudley. This gentleman, Mr. Edward Fisher Smith, in page 365 of the Evidence, in answer to Question 5271, said—Owing to the fact that the system has been in existence so long, there is little difference between the two sides of Dudley; on the east side they receive 6s. per week, even if it extends to the whole of their lives; then on the west side they only receive 6s. a week for 12 months, and 3s. per week afterwards, so long as they were on the box; and they have other perquisites.Further on ho explained what they were. He said that the workmen made a special collection, and that there was a certain allowance of fire coal for the injured person, or in ease of death for his widow. In answer to Question 5284, Mr. Smith said, speaking of fatal accidents—On the cast side they have a coffin and £2,. and generally there is a special collection by the men.In answer to Question 5287 he said—On the east side widows have 1s. 6d. a week during widowhood, if no child under 12; if children, 1s. per week for herself, and 1s. per week for each child UP to 12So that if he (Mr. Fenwick) had misrepresented the actual state of the case he had been misled into doing so by the evidence given before the select Committee by the principal agent to Lord Dudley, a gentleman who, from his posi- 663 tion and experience, would naturally be expected to state the correct facts.
§ SIR B. HINGLEY
said, that to his certain knowledge widows on the east side of Dudley received 6s. per week and a ton of coal every 48 days.
§ MR. FENWICK
said, that if he had stated that widows received no allowance, he had done so inadvertently. He contended that arrangements of this kind, by which the workman, as a condition of his employment, was compelled to sacrifice the statutory right to protection which it was intended the law should give him, were most illiberal, and he could not understand how workmen could part with such rights on terms so illiberal, except under pressure from their employers. He had heard it stated by a representative man from the same district of Staffordshire—he could not vouch personally for the accuracy of the statement—that there was to-day among the miners an arrangement under which the whole of the premium necessary to cover the insurance came from the workmen. He could not pledge himself to this, but taking the case that he had just now endeavoured to present to the House, he said here was a case which he felt certain would have prevented the right hon. Gentleman the late Home Secretary, if he had had it before him last night, from stating in unqualified and general terms that these so-called voluntary arrangements were beneficial to the workmen. The right hon. Gentleman had said that these agreements were voluntary in their character, but it seemed to him that they were only voluntary in the sense in which a traveller might be said to voluntarily hand over his purse to a highwayman who stood with a revolver presented at his head. The arrangement was one based on the condition of employment, the necessity of the men compelling them to surrender the protection which the law was intended to afford them. Could any hon. Member doubt that such arrangements had been made. Take the case given in evidence before the Select Committee in 1886, the case of the Newmarket Collieries, on page 483 of the Blue Book. It was stipulated in that case that— 664In consideration of such payment by the employer, and of being employed at, these works, and as part of the terms 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.This was laid down as a condition of employment. No man at these collieries could obtain employment without signing away, under this 4th rule, his right to protection under the law. He had before him, taken from the same Blue Book, a case of still greater hardship. It related to a firm of printers, and was given in evidence by Mr. Shipton, Secretary to the London Trades Council. It would be found on page 28 of the Blue Book. Mr. Shipton, in answer to Question 444, said that notices to the following effect wore posted in the works of the firm referred to:—An Act of Parliament having been passed ii the Session of 1880 making employers of labour responsible for accidents caused by the acts of others, notice is hereby given that the proprietor of this establishment will not Vie responsible for accidents, or the consequences thereof, except such as arise from bad and defective machinery, which they have neglected to repair after having had notice thereof; and it is hereby expressly declared and covenanted between the proprietors and the persons in their employment that the latter expressly waive their rights to any compensation as if the said Act had not been passed. The proprietors request the workpeople to draw their attention to any defect in the machinery which may eventually become dangerous. Lastly, it is hereby expressly agreed that any man, boy, or girl continuing iii the employment of Messrs. Ellison and Company will be deemed to have agreed to the above.Here was a case in which the workmen were not even consulted by their employers; but immediately the Act was passed notices were printed and posted up all over the premises, and every man, boy, and girl were peremptorily told that they must submit to this arrangement or forego their employment. Would any hon. or right hon. Gentleman state whether there was any semblance of mutuality in a contract such as that? And these were not isolated cases by any means. They could be multiplied almost 665 ad infinitum. He contended, therefore, that as there was no principle of mutuality in such contracts the House ought not be asked to give its assent to the perpetuation of a practice which had brought untold mischief upon large numbers of the working classes in various parts of the United Kingdom. The hon. Member for Crewe said, in his opening observations, that if a body of men had already got something better than the Bill would give them it would he a hardship to force them to give it up. But hon. Members would see that that argument cut both ways. Even the hon. Member, by the terms of his Amendment, would compel at least one-third of the men, if they were opposed to such au arrangement, to give up the protection the law afforded them. It would surely be as great a hardship to the minority as it would be in the case of the majority of two-thirds. He went on to say that if it could be proved that others would be injured, he would admit that he had no case. He (Mr. Fen-wick) could give him a case which, in his judgment, proved that others were injured by such an arrangement. It was the ease of a workman who entered the service of the North Western Railway Company in 1873. This man served under the company for nearly 20 years. When he entered the company's employment he was a member of other Friendly Societies, and in a letter he wrote to the manager he requested to he exempted from entering the Provident Society. He wrote—
§ "Dear Sir,—I write to ask you if I can be permitted to remain out of the Provident Society, seeing that I am already in the Insurance and in a local one. I have house rent, and coal, and living to provide for three out of 15s. a week, and I really cannot pay my way and join the Provident, and pay 4d. a week more out of that. I really cannot join unless you give me a rise of wages.—Yours, &c.,
§ W. S. CORDEN."
What was the answer made to this very reasonable appeal? The following reply was sent to one of the officials of the company—
You must inform Cordon that he must either join the Provident Society or resign the service. Let me know early which he elects to do.
§ MR. W. M'LAREN
My hon. Friend is alluding to a totally different Society. This man was in the Insurance Society, which is the Society we are now 666 dealing with. The letter really has no relation to the question before the House.
§ * MR. FENWICK
said, the Provident Society was part of the Insurance Organisation. The two branches might be known by different names, but yet the man had to sot aside his statutory right in order to become a member of the Provident Society. There was another incident in the history of this unfortunate workman that was worth referring to. On the 31st of January last he was employed as a servant under the London and North Western Railway Company. The company had previously decided to hand over their Marsden Tunnel works to a contractor. This man was employed on those works, and being a careful and skilful man, was transferred by the company to the contractors. On the last day on which he was in the service of the North Western Company he sustained an injury, for which he received two weeks' pension allowance. When he recovered from his accident, and returned again to his employment, he was coolly told that there was no longer any need for his services. The man then applied for assistance to the North Western Railway Company, in whose service he was at the time he received his injury. He said in his letter—
§ "Dear Sir,—Yours of the 14th duly to hand, and I beg to acknowledge the receipt of £1 0s. 1d. re return half premium Pension Society, but I trust that you will see your way to bring the retiring gratuity before the Committee, having been in the company's service nearly 20 years, and have never been off ill in that time, and at the time of my accident was in the company's employment. I feel it very hard to be compelled to lose all the benefits that would have come to me if I had been permitted to continue a member of these Societies. If by my misconduct I had forfeited my situation, then I should certainly have no hope to claim sympathy from you on this question. Having a family of eight little ones to support, I think you will see what a great loss it is to me to lose a good situation like mine, and I think if the case be fully opened out to the Committee, they will see that some recompense is only just and equitable, seeing that I have not contributed in any way to that loss. Hoping that you will give me every assistance in your power."—Yours, &c.,
§ "W. S. CORDEN."
§ In reply he was coolly told by the manager that, however the Committee might sympathise with him in the loss of his employment, they could, of course, only deal with his appli- 667 cation for a retiring gratuity under the Rules of the Society, and that he was not entitled under the Rules to any payment. Anything more cool—[An hon. MEMBER: Cruel!]—he would, if the House liked, add the word "cruel"— than the reply given to so just an appeal it was impossible to imagine. The hon. Member for Crewe (Mr. W. M'Laren) said that these arrangements were productive of a good understanding between the workmen and their employers, and that the employers endeavoured to find employment for injured men when they had recovered from their injuries. Such a course had not been followed in this ease. To show how these arrangements operated against the interests of the workmen he would take the case of a first-class engine-driver who would come under the higher scale of pension. In all probability such a man would be in receipt of from 7s. 6d. to 8s. a day. He received an injury due to the negligence of the company or of a fellow-servant. He thereupon came upon the pension list, I and received, say, for 52 weeks a pension of £1 a week. At the end of that period he had so far recovered as to be able to take light employment. He was offered such employment at a considerably reduced rate of pay. If he refused to accept it he was dismissed the service, having surrendered substantial damages which would have been awarded to him under the provisions of this Bill. Reference had been made more than once in the Debate to the generous contribution of the London and North Western Railway Company and other employers to the funds of their Associations. What did these generous contributions amount to? The North Western Company contributed £20,000, which, divided amongst 60,000 workmen, amounted to the handsome sum of 6s. 8d. per annum, or 1½d. per week per man. This was the return a man received for surrendering his liberty and the protection which the law afforded him. No doubt as contributions went those of the North Western Company and one or two other companies were very liberal, but what did the companies get in return? Was not the peaceful relationship referred to by his hon. Friend the Member for Crewe worth more than a paltry 1½d. per individual man a week? The Home Secretary (Mr. Asquith) touched the weak point in the armour of the hon. Member for Crewe when he said 668 that the compensation the company received for that contribution was the complete staving off of any possibility of organisation amongst the employés of the company. He did not think that the Directors of the North Western Company were likely, as business men, to stop their contribution to this fund, because if they did the natural corollary of such action would be a large organisation amongst the workmen and an immediate agitation both for an advance of wages and a reduction in the hours of labour. The late Home Secretary (Mr. Matthews), in his speech last night referring to the miners' permanent relief fund in the North of England, said that after the passing of the Act of 1880 the employers were anxious to increase their contributions to the fund to 25 per cent., and that if the workmen had accepted their offer they would have had a balance to their credit, instead of which their funds at present were in an insolvent condition. He (Mr. Fenwick) would not challenge that statement, but he thought it only presented half the case. What Mr. Steele said was that the miners would have got £120,000 more from the owners if they had accepted the owners' proposal. What the Home Secretary did not tell the House was how much the workman got, in the form of increased damages, by being permitted to remain under the provisions of the Act. Did the right hon. Gentleman know the number of cases that were settled out of Court? Was not the compensation which had been received by injured miners a set-off against the deficit in their funds? Why had not the right hon. Gentleman given the House an estimate of the amount received by the miners in compensation?
§ * MR. FENWICK
said, he was not in a position to give an estimate; but if he (Mr. Fenwick) had undertaken to support an argument by such a statement as that which the right hon. Gentleman had put forward, he would certainly have endeavoured to acquire the information and to make an estimate. He could only say, in closing, that Members of the House on both sides had come to the conclusion that it was desirable to protect the workmen against the culpable negligence both of their employers 669 and of their fellow-servants. No one would attempt to deny that the doctrine of common employment which it was proposed by this Bill to destroy was an iniquitous doctrine. The right hon. Member for Cambridge University, in an article he wrote to a weekly journal only a few weeks ago, described the doctrine as monstrously unjust, and he would be surprised to find any of the colleagues of the right hon. Gentleman giving a different verdict. It being universally admitted that it was necessary to afford legal protection to workmen against the negligence both of their employers and of their fellow-workmen, it was monstrously absurd that in giving such protection Parliament should also leave it permissible for employers to coerce —because he could not use a milder expression—their workmen for insufficient consideration as a condition of their giving them employment to surrender the protection which it was intended by the law to give them. For these reasons he would give the fullest and heartiest support to the Government in their resistance to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Crewe.
§ * MR. PLUNKET (Dublin University)
I enter into this Debate with some reluctance, because, while I most heartily and warmly support the clause now under discussion, while I entirely agree in, and sympathise fully with, the arguments so well advanced by the hon. Members who respectively proposed and seconded it, I feel that I cannot altogether divest myself of the position I happen to hold as a member of the Board of one of the companies principally interested in this matter, for I am a Director of the Loudon and North Western Railway Company, and I fear that my taking part in this Debate may give an impression that this clause is proposed, to a considerable extent, in the interest and on behalf of the Directors or shareholders of the company. That is not the case. This clause is brought forward mainly, I might say almost altogether, in the interests of the workmen themselves. This is indeed a soldier's battle. As far as the shareholders are concerned, they have but a small and indirect interest in the result of this Debate; in fact, from a, pecuniary point, of view, they have a conflicting interest, because if the clause be rejected and the Bill carried in its present form, the immediate effect, 670 so far as the shareholders are concerned, will be to keep in their pockets a very large sum of money which for some years past has annually gone out of those pockets on the terms and for the considerations winch are contained in the arrangement which exists on this subject between the London and North Western Company and its employés. Still, Sir, I feel that as reference has often been made in this Debate to the action and to the intentions of the Directors of the London and North Western Company, and as that company was singled out— and of this I make no complaint—by the Home Secretary as a typical case to which the arguments of a great part of his speech were directed, I think the House is entitled to hear from me how the case actually stands. I hope the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down will not think me wanting in courtesy if I do not follow him into that part of his speech in which lie referred to companies with which I am not acquainted; but so far as his remarks had reference to the action of the London and North Western Railway Company, I will tell him frankly it is the first time I have heard of the case he cited, and He will not, therefore, expect me to give him any information on the subject. Now, let I me refer for a few moments to the position taken up by the Home Secretary on the first evening of this Debate. I listened with interest and admiration to his speech. But I could not help thinking at the end of it that he had probably made one of the most ingenious and daring defences he had ever had to make of one of the most hopeless cases he has ever had to deal with in the course of his brilliant experiences both in a political and professional character. What was the position with which lie (the Homo Secretary) had to deal? He told us that there had been gathered together in a ring-fence more than 60,000 English workmen; that within that ring-fence there was an arrangement in the nature of a joint Insurance Society against accidents occurring to the workmen in the course of their duty. He has said on former occasions that that arrangement offers greater advantages to those workmen than they can hope to derive from this Bill, and that if he believed the passing of this Bill as it stands would have the effect of destroying that and similar Societies he would 671 hesitate long before he would attempt to press it forward. He had to argue this ease in the presence of facts with which we are all too familiar, in the presence of those lamentable social disturbances which at this hour are shaking the fabric of English society to its base, are driving capital away, are depriving English enterprise and industry of many of the markets of the world, and, worse than that, are bringing poverty and misery and ruin on hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children. lie knew that all the while within that ring-fence which he described a great experiment of mutual or joint insurance had been tried which he had himself described and admitted the benefits of; that within that ring-fence there were harmony and peace and mutual confidence between the employer and employed, and strikes were almost unknown. I say it was a difficult and daring matter to present to this House a measure which he was assured by both masters and men in that great concern would have the effect of destroying this Society. That was the position of the Home Secretary. He had often declared, as I have said, that if he thought the Bill would really destroy these Societies he would hesitate before pressing it forward, and, therefore, it was necessary for the right hon. Gentleman to dispose of this declaration of both men and masters. How did he proceed to dispose of it? He proceeded to dispute the spontaneity and sincerity of the action of the men. He was confronted with the fact that a ballot had been taken to ascertain the wishes of the men of the London and North Western Railway Company, and that by an overwhelming majority they had declared in favour of their existing system and against the substitution for it of the Bill now under consideration. But he told us he had private information that that ballot had not been fairly taken, and that it did not truly represent, or exactly represent, the wishes and feelings of the men. And he went further. He had heard the hon. Member for the Rugby Division, one of his own political supporters, explain that he, taking great interest in this question, and not being satisfied with the form of ballot which had first been issued to the men, had himself revised the first form of ballot paper and had then submitted it for approval to the hon. Member who is now the Under Secretary 672 of State for the Home Department, and that on that ballot paper, thus reformed and approved, a more overwhelming majority of men had voted against the substitution of this Bill for the existing arrangement than on the occasion of the first ballot. As a matter of fact, the hon. Member for Rugby stated this to the House.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Asquith,) Fife, E.
The right hon. Gentleman must forgive me. What my hon. Friend said was that in the two subordinate Societies—not the main Society—the revised ballot paper had been used; in the main Society only the ballot paper which I produced and read to the House had been used.
MR. W.M'LAREN (Cheshire, Crewe)
The ballot paper which the Home Secretary criticised was, as a matter of fact, the ballot paper used in the two subordinate Societies and the identical paper settled by the Under Secretary.
§ MR. PLUNKET
Men having the same interests and the same objections gave on the second and approved form of ballot paper a greater majority in favour of the existing system. The Home Secretary criticised what was, as we are now informed, the amended form most ingeniously and most cleverly, but as I thought most un-convincingly, although the form had been actually submitted to his own Under Secretary.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. H. Gladstone,) Leeds, W.
I did not approve the form of ballot paper.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. BURT,) Morpeth
I may say that the hon. Member for Rugby showed me in the Lobby the form which he was going to send out in order to take the opinion of the railway men. He asked me whether I thought that form was fair, and I said that it was.
§ * MR. PLUNKET
I apologise to the Under Secretary for the Home Department for having attributed the approval of the form to him; but this I say: that if the hon. Member who has just spoken approved that ballot paper, there is no hon. Member in this House more competent to express an opinion on the subject or whose opinion would carry greater weight. But if I were to make the Home Secretary a present of this ballot altogether what remains? Why, before the right hon. Gen- 673 tleman spoke he had heard the speeches by which this new clause was proposed and seconded by two of his own supporters who represent two of the largest centres of workmen on the London and North Western Railway system; he heard them tell the House that they had made it their business to speak to their constituents on the subject, and that beyond all shadow of doubt an overwhelming majority of those men were earnestly concerned and desperately anxious for the success of the present proposal. But the matter did not rest there. An hon. Member on this side of the House who bears a name long known and honoured in this House followed immediately after the Home Secretary had spoken, and that hon. Member declared that the workmen whom he represents were equally strong in their opinion in favour of the retention of their right to contract out of the Act. Another hon. Member from Wales, an ardent supporter of the Government, spoke last night, and said he, too, was convinced that the men were enthusiastically in favour of the Amendment, and I venture to assert that no hon. Member having a large body of these railway men among his constituents will stand up in this House and make the smallest qualification of the opinions thus expressed by the men's Representatives. We have it, therefore, that wherever London and North Western men are employed, they have instructed their Representatives to come and tell the House what is their strong, earnest, determined opinion on this subject, and yet the Home Secretary is not satisfied! Is not this a most extraordinary state of affairs? We have a famous Liberal Government in Office, and the Home Secretary, bringing forward a great measure for the advantage of the working men of this country, seeks to cast discredit upon ballots taken, not in small centres, but among thousands of working men. He seeks to east discredit on the value of such ballots, and sets at defiance the wishes and arguments of the Representatives of these very men addressed on their behalf to the House of Commons. If his remarks have any foundation, there is an end of any value in the ballot, and there is an end of all claim of this House to represent the people of this country. This is an interesting and curious example of what is called modern Liberalism—I should call it Liberalism up to date. But the Home Secretary 674 had to discredit not only the wishes of the workmen, but also the sincerity of the declarations which have been made by their employers. And knowing our wishes and our minds, of course, far better than we know them ourselves! He proceeded to argue that, whatever we might assert, it was not to be expected that we should take the course we have said we should. Let me here state what is the principle of the Society, and how it came to pass that such large sums of money were voted for the purposes of that Society? In 1871 the first Insurance Society against accidents happening to the men in the course of their duty was established. Societies providing against accidents are the only ones touched or affected by this Amendment. The company contributed to that Society a sum of £1,500 a year, which was thankfully accepted, and that arrangement worked exceedingly well for 10 years, and proved satisfactory both to employers and employed, down to 1881. In that year the Employers' Liability Act was passed, and the Directors were then, of course, bound to reconsider their position. They called into their council, accordingly, the elected delegates who represented the men upon the management of the Society. They had repeated conferences with them, and eventually suggested to them a new scheme. They then sent them back to their constituents to make sure that the arrangement was satisfactory, and amendments were proposed, some of which were accepted by the Directors. I wish the House to understand that the whole thing was arranged in consultation with the men, speaking through their delegates. The basis of the arrangement was that the men were not to sue the company under the new Act. I believe that at that time exaggerated expectations were entertained as to the amount of litigation that would ensue from the passing of the Act, and that may have been one reason why a larger contribution was made by the company. In return for the promise of the workmen not to sue the company, the Directors agreed to increase their contribution to the insurance fund from £1,500 to £15,000 a year. It is now over £20,000, and the workmen's contributions remain the same. It must be understood by the House that the only basis and the sole consideration for that increased contribution, which now amounts to some £23,000 a year, was, and still is, that the 675 men should not take advantage of the Act of 1881. The Home Secretary founds one of his arguments for expecting, as he says he does, that the company will not put an end to that arrangement if the Bill should pass in its present form upon a statement which he makes to this effect: He says to us, "You keep up this fund because you find it a very good arrangement with your men." Yes, Sir; we do find it an excellent arrangement under the circumstances, notwithstanding the fact that, as against our contribution of £23,000, the estimated sum that we should have to pay for compensation under the Employers' Liability Act is only about £3,000 per annum. Then, you may ask, why do we go on now we have found out there is this enormous difference? Sir, we go on for the reason that when we made that arrangement in 1881 it was a bargain.—a bargain, of course, that might be rescinded at any time. But we always felt that in making the agreement the men took their chance and we took ours. It turned out an uncommonly good bargain for the men, but we did not feel that we should be acting fairly and honourably if we rescinded it merely because we found out it had turned out not so well for us. But contracting out of the Bill was, I say, the basis and solo consideration we had for the arrangement. When the Home Secretary now tells the House that there is no chance that the Directors will make any change in the arrangement if the present Bill passes as it stands, I would remind him and the House that the Directors have to deal not only with their employés, but with the shareholders. What were the grounds upon which the arrangement I have described was recommended in 1881 for acceptance by the shareholders? This is an extract from the report of the Directors presented to the shareholders at the half-yearly general meeting on February 19, 1881—With the view of avoiding the litigation and disputes which might arise under the provisions of the Employers' Liability Act, the Directors have, after conference with representatives of the company's servants, and with the consent of nearly the whole of the men, materially extended the benefits of the existing insurance fund; and they propose to make such addition to the company's present subscription as may be necessary to give effect to these arrangements.It was to avoid litigation and the friction attendant thereon that the arrangement was recommended by the Board. The 676 avoiding of disputes which might lead to litigation, and not merely for compounding actual pecuniary liability, was the main, if not the sole, ground for the increase in the contribution. I ask the Home Secretary what argument he would use to the shareholders, if he were addressing them after the passing of his Bill, in support of his contention that the contribution of £15,000, which they voted in 1881, and have continued and increased since that time, should go on, in spite of the fact that a Bill had been adopted by Parliament rendering impossible of fulfilment in the future the main part of the bargain? But the Bill goes even further. It creates an immense number of additional opportunities and grounds for litigation. Not only so, but, as I understand the Bill, it removes all limit to the amount which is to be recoverable under its provisions. Are we to be expected, under these altered circumstances, to go to our shareholders and recommend them to go on paying this contribution for nothing at all? Whether we made a bad bargain in 1881 or whether we did not, we were, and still are, perfectly willing to go on as we have been, and I trust that this House will give us the opportunity of going on as we are, and as we shall continue, so long as the law allows us to do so. I will now road to the House, if I may, the following extract from the Minutes of the London and North Western Railway Company of July 21, 1893—A discussion arose as to the action which the company should take should the Bill pass in its present shape, when it was explained that upon the present contracts being made void by the passing of the Bill the company's contribution to the insurance fund would de facto cease to be payable except the small sum which was contributed prior to the passing of the Employers' Liability Act of 1881. It was agreed that if the Act passes in its present shape the present contributions of the company must cease.Now, Sir, that resolution was arrived at in all seriousness; and if this Bill is forced upon us in its present shape, I as a Director of this company—much as I shall regret the change in this respect in our relations with our men—can hold out no hope that our decision will be rescinded. I shall deeply regret this; but the blame and the responsibility for that change will rest upon those on both sides of the House who vote against this clause, and thus endeavour to force the change upon the London and 677 North Western Company. Now, Sir, I desire also to deal with one or two small points made by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary. He has criticised our scheme on the ground that the men will not get as much under it as a jury might give them, seeing that it is only proposed to give £100 in case of death. That may be the case, but I would remind the House that the cases of compensation for death are comparatively few, probably not 10 per cent., and if a smaller part of the funds is applied to compensation in case of death larger amounts are given in other cases. It must further be remembered that the arrangement as it stands was made in consultation with the men themselves, who elect their delegates. If they choose to apply the funds in different proportions there will be no objection raised to the proposition on the part of the Directors. The hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Hunter) said that the proportion of accidents resulting in death was even less —I think he put it at only 2 per cent. But the real answer is that the men themselves are satisfied with and prefer the present benefits which they receive under the existing arrangements. I think I have already disposed of most of the fantastic assumptions of the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen as to the motives of the masters and the men; but the most important part of his speech—and really it was a reductio ad absurdum of the Home Secretary's argument with which I have just been dealing—culminated and was summed up in this amazing conclusion: that "it would therefore be the grossest injustice if the House was to allow these men to contract out of the Act, because the families of those who wore killed would be robbed of a right which the law gave them," and he added that "here was a case in which the House was allowing 98 per cent, to rob the 2 per cent, of the right the law gave them." But let me ask who is the robber and who is the person robbed? The proportions of the compensation in case of death and other accidents respectively have been arranged with the sanction of the men themselves; they can be altered if that is desired. But the men who, apparently, prefer to have the larger amount of the common fund applied to the smaller accidents are the same men whose families will receive 678 what the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Hunter) considers inadequate compensation in case of death. When one of these men goes out in the morning he cannot tell what kind of accident, if any, will befall him; he has to take his chance, and he arranges the compensation as he pleases. Therefore it is the same man, in fact, who contemplates the injustice, and who is to suffer by it; it is the same man who is the robber and the victim. I must say that is a strange conundrum, and rather slipshod reasoning, to be proposed by one hailing from so far north. I have heard of "Scotch logic"—and of "a bard not for Theologians to crack"— but here is a whole plinth of Aberdeen granite for the constituents of the hon. and learned Member to swallow and digest. But, again, the Home Secretary made it a subject of complaint that any man who leaves the Society, except in case of injury or death, forfeits all share in the fund. But surely he must have forgotten that the fund about which he was arguing is simply a provision for accidents happening to men in discharge of their duty, and the men pay merely what covers the risk for the time they are employed. Of course, under such circumstances, there is no fund in existence in which they have any share which they could be said to forfeit when they leave—it is, in fact, just like an insurance against fire; and is it not plain what a bad case the Home Secretary had when ho was driven to such au argument? But the right hon. Gentleman put forward some arguments—two arguments—that seem at first sight to have some more weight and seem to have some more force. The right hon. Gentleman argued that the Board should, in justice and prudence, continue their contributions under a reconstructed scheme, because of the 3rd clause of the Bill. By the 3rd clause of the Bill as it originally stood it is proposed to enact that—Where an employer has contributed to a fund providing any benefit for a workman or his representatives in case of injury or death, in the event of the workman or his representatives electing to sue the employer for compensation instead of claiming against the fund, the employer shall be entitled, in place of the workman or his representatives, to any money pay able out of the fund.As the clause so stood it did give some sort of protection to the employer. As the clause was amended by the Standing Committee on Law, it now stands thus— 679Where an employer has contributed to a fund providing any benefit for a workman or his representatives in case of injury or death, the Court, or, where there is a jury, the jury, in assessing the amount of compensation payable to a workman, or his representatives, in case of injury or death, shall treat as a payment on account of the employer's liability so much of any money which has been, or will be, paid to the workman or his representatives out of the fund as is, in the opinion of the Court or jury, attributable to the employer's contribution.The effect of that clause, as altered, I am afraid will be to cause workmen to employ speculative attorneys. The words of the clause are very vague, because they leave in doubt what the contributions referred to are. As the clause stood when the Bill was read a second time, there was, I admit, some sort, however small, of protection, for under its provision the workman had to make his choice. If he chose to sue his employer, then the sum he would otherwise be entitled to would go back to the master. But as the clause now stands a man might take his compensation out of the funds of the Society, and might afterwards sue his employer. Therefore I object to the clause because, in my opinion, it will merely afford additional facilities for litigation. As amended it enables the workman to receive compensation out of the fund to which the employer contributes, although he at the same time is suing the employer, while, as I have said, the fact that the employer has contributed to the fund will afford him no sort of protection. I ask anyone who reads the clause whether it is not giving an invitation to the benevolence of the speculative attorney? There is no sort of protection in it at all. Then the Home Secretary cited the example of other Railway Companies. He said these companies do not contract out of the Act, and that still they have very few actions brought against them. In the case of the London and Brighton Railway the same system exists as in ours, and I recognise that their dealings with their men are even more generous. There is no system of the kind in any of the other companies. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Company is the only company who have a Society entirely devoted to accidents on duty, the benefits of which are not dependent upon contracting out of the Act, but in that case the company's contributions are much less, and the benefits are much smaller—in fact, the Society is in much the same position that ours was 680 before 1880. None of the other Railway Companies have separate funds for accidents. Take the case, again, of the Midland Railway Company. I do not criticise in the least degree these companies or their funds, but the right hon. Gentleman adduced the argument to convince us as to the wisdom of continuing these Societies even if the Bill should pass in its present form. What are the facts affecting that company? Only about half the staff of the Midland Company, or 24,800 out of 47,500, belong to the Society, and therefore 22,700 get no benefit from the fund at all in case of accident, beyond what they can get from the Act. Those who do belong to the Society do not obtain nearly as great benefits as we give. Yet this is the Homo Secretary's argument with which the Home Secretary would equip me for the purpose of persuading my shareholders that they should continue to contribute £20,000 a year to the insurance fund— that this company, though it has the system I have described, has very few actions brought against it. As far as the analogy applies to those men who belong to the Society and who do not bring actions against the company, it would be an argument for reducing the contributions of the London and North Western Company to a minimum, for though the contribution of the Midland Railway Company is small, it is enough to prevent actions. But those men who do not belong to the Society at all do not bring actions either, and, therefore, so far as that example goes, it is an argument for abolishing our contribution altogether! But the truth is, that the Home Secretary finding himself between the devil and the deep sea—betweeu his supporters who represent the Trade Unions and his supporters who are returned to a great extent by the servants of the London and North Western Railway Company—ingenuously appeals to the Directors of the London and North Western Company to get him out of his dilemma by continuing to pay this £20,000 a year, the consideration for which his own Bill will have destroyed. Let there be no mistake. If the men are willing, and Parliament will allow us, we will continue our contribution. But if not—if this great institution, which is heartily approved of by the men, and which has produced so many admirable results, is destroyed, it will have been 681 destroyed by the action of this House— the majority of this House—and not by the action of the Directors of the company, and the responsibility must rest with the majority of this House, if there be a majority, who vote against the adoption of this clause. The Home Secretary has said that he has no sympathy with those politicians who desire to destroy those Societies. He may have no sympathy with them, but he is playing their game. He is indirectly doing that which they directly clamour for. Whatever may happen to this clause or to this Bill, you may be sure that this will not be the end of the problem of the workmen's insurance. Now, I ask the House, would it not be well, while that great question is pending and awaiting decision, and before it is finally referred to the miserable arbitrament of lawsuits, that you should at all events give the people the opportunity of seeing, side by side with that plan, another plan of mutual joint insurance between workmen and employers? Let the people judge, I say, between the two before they come to their ultimate decision. But, in the meantime, it is an ill commencement of the struggle when those who are against us find it necessary to push out of sight such an object-lesson as this arrangement which we have instituted and are willing to maintain: to burke and stifle the argument against them which our system has brought before the people. I earnestly call upon all those who may have before thought that they would not support this clause to reconsider their judgment, and so to perform an act of great kindness and benefit to thousands of working men throughout the country.
§ MR. J. BURNS (Battersea)
said, they had—he had certainly—listened with pleasure to an eloquent speech, which was as moderate as could be expected from a right hon. Gentleman occupying the position of the Member for Dublin University in relation to the company chiefly concerned, and whose financial operations in relation to the insurance of their workmen had been so strongly criticised in the House. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would forgive him if he denied his claim to represent the workmen of the Loudon and North Western Railway in this matter. He rather represented a constituency of students, lawyers, and littérateurs of Dublin University, whose condition in life 682 took them out of industrial paths and prevented them from, getting any possible clear view of social and industrial questions. For himself ho claimed tore-present over 3,000 railway workmen— some of them on the Loudon and North Western Railway, 2,000 on the London and Brighton, and others on three more Railway Companies. 800 trains passed his back-door every day, yet he had not had a single representation made to him in favour of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Crewe (Mr. M'Laren).
MR. NEWDIGATE (Warwickshire, Nuneaton)
I hope, Mr. Speaker, you will allow me to read a letter—[Cries of "Order!"]
§ MR. J. BURNS
said, he would ask whether it was an accident that he happened to be a Member of the House? Did anyone dispute that Clapham and Battersea, next to Swindon and Crewe and Wolverton, was the greatest railway centre in Great Britain? But all the men in that district had asked him to support the Bill as it stood; and he challenged the production of a single representation from any body of workmen in his constituency contrary to his view. If the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir J. Goldsmid) could get 100 railway men out of the 3,000 which he represented in Battersea to hold up their hands in favour of this contracting-out Amendment, he would undertake to resign his seat five minutes afterwards. The right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken said that if the Amendment were not carried encouragement would be given to industrial disorder and discontent, and capital would be driven away. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Bill tended to shake the fabric of English prosperity.
§ MR. J. BURNS
asked why strikes should have been dragged in by the right hon. Gentleman if he did not think that the Bill would promote them? But the right hon. Gentleman's language had been heard before. It was always used when any labour or workshop regulation or sanitary Act was introduced into the House. But the statement was not true. England was getting richer, not poorer. Money 683 was cheaper to-day than ever. When he saw the right hon. Gentleman standing at the Despatch Box and heard him talk about the prosperity of England being threatened, he conjured up in his mind the recollection of Lord Beaconsfield standing at the same Table, and with an optimism and humanity which did him great credit, declaring that the golden days of English industry and commerce were in the future, and not in the past, and that England would become wealthy as industry was protected and labour well paid, and as its interests were promoted by Sanitary and Factory Acts. Of such legislation the Employers' Liability Bill was but the logical extension. What about Feilden, and Oastler, and Sadler? Was there to be a new phase of Conservatism, in the identification of the Conservative Party with capital and commerce? He said the right hon. Gentleman had no right to tell them this Bill was being imposed upon the Liberal Party by the Trades Unions. He thanked the Prime Minister for his courage in bringing in the Bill. Many preceding Governments had attempted to deal with the subject, but had never had the courage to do so to the same extent, to settle the question of employers' liability for some considerable time, and the Home Secretary deserved all the praise that the workmen could give him. He was not speaking as a partisan of the Liberal or Conservative view. The members of his Trade Union were practically unanimously in favour of the Bill as it stood. There was no question on which there was greater unanimity among skilled and unskilled workmen than the Bill as it now stood in opposition to contracting out. The support to the Bill did not come from one Party alone. The 12 Liberal seceders were counter balanced by at least 24 Tory abstainers. He was glad to find himself in the remarkably good company of the hon. Member for Wimbledon, who at a meeting the other night was assured by various speakers that the railway men would rather be without the insurance fund and take their chance in the ordinary way of whatever the law might allow them, and although the hon. Member went there to support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Crewe (Mr. M'Laren) he said that his opinions had since undergone a complete change.
§ MR. COSMO BONSOR (Surrey, Wimbledon)
said, the hon. Member had quoted from a paper which was certainly misinformed. He never said anything of the sort. What he did say was that a considerable amount of evidence had been given to him at the meeting that the signatures to the London and Brighton Railway Company Petition had been obtained by coercion, and that the ballot of the Loudon and North Western Railway Company had been obtained by intimidation. He said it was a revelation to him that workmen should be coerced into signing a Petition of that kind.
§ MR. J. BURNS
said, he was quite ready and willing to give the hon. Gentleman evidence of coercion and intimidation both by the London and North Western Railway Company and the South Metropolitan Gas Company, and if that evidence was such as was reported at the meeting he asked the hon. Member, in face of the revelation, to stick to his guns, as he did before his constituency, and to vote for the Bill and not for the Amendment. They had been told in this Debate that the ballot had been taken under conditions by which the absolute impartiality of the men was secured; they had been told that there had been an absence of intimidation and coercion on the part of the two companies concerned; they had also been told in the public Press by Mr. George Livesey that his men had not been influenced, but had simply been asked. He had received a letter to-day from a representative free labourer, a non-Unionist and a workman at the South Metropolitan Gas Works. He said—Dear Sir,—I write in haste on the important matter of the Employers' Liability Bill and at the request of fellow-workmen at the South Metropolitan Gas Company, Old Kent-road, works. The company, ignoring the wish of the workmen for ballot in preference to a Petition, have brought a Petition round to every workman, and would not leave him till he signed it. Even the casual hands were begged to sign it. A great number of the men protested against it to the bearers. A few days ago a large public meeting was held outside the gates, and a resolution was unanimously passed urging the Government to abolish contracting out. The meeting was entirely, or almost entirely, composed of the workmen inside, and not a hand was held up in opposition, notwithstanding two of the company's supporters were allowed to state their side of the case. Hoping these few facts will help to make the Petition null and void, and trusting in your kind aid and support in the House of Commons, I remain, yours obediently,685P.S.— I need hardly say I wish my name not to be made public, as we have our families to consider.With regard to the meeting of the Loudon and North Western Railway men he had received the following letter from Liverpool:—Dear Sir,—I wish to inform you of the sham meetings which are taking place in Liverpool stations, London and North Western Railway. There have been four or five men from each station told off by the foreman to go to the central station (Waterloo) to discuss the Employers' Liability Bill. They came to the conclusion to move a resolution for a clause to be inserted in that Bill to exempt the employés, of the London and North Western Railway. They then elected one delegate to proceed to the House of Commons and present this resolution to the Home Secretary on Saturday. After all this grand work was done the meeting closed, and the representatives from the several stations were to call meetings of the men in the dinner hour to endorse this resolution. After long speeches had been made by these representatives the resolution was put to them. More than half put up their hands. The Chairman asked for those against, but who dared put up their hands? Then this resolution was carried. Now from what I gather from the men in the Canada Dock Station I feel fully convinced that the universal feeling of the men is against the clause being inserted in the Bill, and I, along with one or two more staunch Trade Unionists, respectfully ask you to use all the influence you possibly can to block these delegates from accomplishing their object.He had several other letters which proved unmistakably the intimidation and coercion to which these men were subjected. [Cries of "Oh!"] Was coercion unknown at election times, even on both sides? It was not unknown on political and municipal questions, and, speaking frankly upon the point, he would say there was more coercion in this country on social, labour, and industrial subjects than on political and municipal matters. Coming to the real point under discussion, he would first of all ask whether 72,000 railway workmen—not unanimous by any means, for, balloted fairly and squarely, he believed the majority would be against contracting out—should dictate to and jeopardise the permanent conditions of railway service, as against the silent acquiescence of 330,000 men, and the active and organised expression of opinion of 60,000 workmen in the four Railway Trade Unions? Apart from that, there were, as the hon. Member for the Wausbeck Division had said, 1,500,000 Trade Unionists of all shades of politics. Their 686 three Congresses had been unanimous about the matter. There were, outside the railway men and the Trade Union Congresses, 8,000,000 men and women to whom this Bill would give the protection they were too poor to get from Mutual Insurance, Trade Unionism, and Friendly Societies, and on their behalf he would ask the Government to stick to their guns on this occasion, in the interest of the unskilled and unorganised workmen. It was amusing to hear the hon. Member for Crewe suggest that he was anxious for the destruction of the Insurance Societies. It was rather late in the day for the hon. Member for Crewe to tell a representative like himself—a member of the Hearts of Oak, which had 120,000 members—and other members of Friendly Societies that they wanted to destroy those Societies.
§ MR. J. BURNS
Yes, but why had not the hon. Member given his reasons for wishing, not their destruction in the sense he implied, but the transference of the money paid to the railway and other Sick and Insurance Societies to the legitimate field and area of Friendly Society operations? He desired that their existence should not be imperilled by what he believed the provision for accidents in Friendly Societies and Trade Unions often brought about—namely, neglect, carelessness, and an incentive to expense. But there was another reason for the existence of these Insurance Societies. Lord Claud Hamilton, the Chairman of the Great Eastern Railway Company, and formerly the Vice Chairman, speaking on the pension fund, said—and from his point of view he spoke the truth—that these Societies had for their object and were established to oppose outside agitators. As one of those pestilential agitators he complimented the noble Lord upon telling a part of the truth. But the House of Commons was not established to assist the Railway Companies or Mutual In surance Societies to deal with pestilential agitators like himself, or to buttress up Sick and Accident Societies, whether railway or friendly, for social or political purposes; and if this Bill passed, as he believed it would pass, the London and North Western Company would continue to pay their £17,000 or £20,000 a year 687 as a premium against the mischievous attacks and tactics of men like himself. He had had an interview with 66 men, and only one of them, who came from Abergavenny, was a member of a Trade Union. Was it not peculiar that those 65 men had never belonged to any Trade Union, and did not care to belong to one, which was the case in nine cases out of ten? [Opposition cheers.] Those cheers proved the truth of his statement. They did not want to belong to a Trade Union. Why? Because they did not represent shunters, one in 16 of whom was injured every year, and one in 164 killed. They represented the firemen, the station-masters, the Inspectors, and the ticket-collectors, of whom one in 600 was injured, and one in 1,800 killed in the course of the year. The Directors of the London and North Western Company were not such foolish men; they knew their business better than to withdraw this £17,000. If they withdrew this subscription, what then remained of their claim as benevolent employers—a character which had been so often paraded before the House? What became of their so-called Sympathy with the workmen who were maimed and killed, of their professions of philanthropic support and benevolent sympathy with the injured or killed, when they said that simply because they believed the men would join the Trade Unions if this subscription of £17,000 was withdrawn they would withdraw it? The Directors of the company cared no more for the lives and limbs of their workmen than they did for the lives and the limbs of the travelling public. ["Oh, oh!"] They cared no more for either of these two things than they cared for the depressed agricultural industry, which, in many parts of the country, they had crippled by the absurd preferences granted to foreign traders over English agricultural products. A Railway Company was like a Chartered Company in South Africa. It was intended to make money, to realise profit, and incidentally to convenience the public who travelled by the railway. This £17,000 was given by the London and North Western Company as a kind of profitable investment, and with no other object than to reduce wages, and increase the hours of labour. It was a question whether this policy paid; in the long 688 run he did not think it did. For over two years the London and North Western Company, not with standing their premiums against the growth of Trade Unionism, had been compelled, like other companies, to raise their rates of wages, and to reduce their hours of labour, and, as Lord Stalbridge said, to employ three men where formerly two were engaged. He suggested to the company that they should follow the example of the Midland Company, and not force their men to contract out of the Act. If the £17,000 given to the Insurance Society were spent after the example of the Midland Company in over-way bridges, in subways, in improving sidings, shunting yards, and depôts, the Directors would find that the number of accidents would considerably diminish. Why was Mr. Livesey, the Chairman of the South Metropolitan Gas Company, so anxious for profit-sharing; why was he so anxious to kill Trade Unionism? He could not understand why, because Mr. Livesey had been compelled to comply with the Union terms as to rates of wages; and the only satisfaction he had got out of it was the spending of £150,000 of the gas consumers' money, while the Unions were as strong as ever. Financially the conditions under which the railway men worked were unjust and, to some extent, were an imposition. Their accident money was restricted both as to income and expenditure to a smaller constituency than would be the case if the men belonged to any of the large Friendly Societies. The amount was from a 1d. to 1½d. per week, and his contention was that they had not that effective control and voice in management which they would have in every Friendly Society, and from the point of view of value for their contribution the men did not get the amount of money in return as sick, accident, or death gratuity which they would receive from other Societies or from any Trade Union. His own Trade Union, with 73,000 men, paid from 8d. to 10d. per member per annum for £100 in case of permanent disablement or death, as against 3s. to 5s. by the London, Brighton, and South Coast, 8s. 6d. by the Great Eastern, and 13s. by the London and North Western Company. Why were they able to pay this? Because the Union had a larger constituency than 689 any individual Railway Company could hope to get. He could go on and prove that from the financial point of view the London and North Western men had much to gain; but the question was neither the possible success nor failure of Trade Unionism if this clause was adopted. The question with him was the safety of the men who were working on our railways. These Mutual Insurance Societies had not proportionately diminished accidents among men actually engaged in difficult and risky employment on the London and North Western Railway. From 1885 to 1891 the railway increased its number of men by 10 per cent.; but the accidents rose from 398 in 1885 to 547 in 1888, to 925 in 1890, and 922 in 1891. In that period, when the men were increased by 10 per cent., they found that the accidents were trebled—from 398 to 922—while the killed in the same period rose from 55 to 74 and 67. On the Midland system, where there was no contracting out, and where there was no coercion or intimidation, the number of killed rose only from 45 to 52, and from 76 to 94.
§ MR. J. BURNS
said, that was true over the total number of staff; but how did the hon. Member reconcile this serious statement in the company's report, which was corroborative of his own? In 1889 the number permanently disabled was 72, in 1891 it was 83, and 1892 80. In 1889 £21,000 was spent on accidents and in 1892 £25,905. There was only one construction to be placed on it, and that was the construction proved clearly by the figures that in 1888 one man in 1,600 was killed on the Midland Railway as against one in 1,300 on the London and North Western Railway, and one in 661 injured on the former as against one in 153 on the latter. Then as to the charity of these particular companies. He found that the contribution of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway in 886 was considerably larger than in 1891, and the premiums of the men increased just in proportion as the loss to the company by contribution diminished.
§ MR. J. BURNS
said, he quoted from their own Returns, and if the figures were incorrect it was probably due to the fact that statistics could be made to prove anything if improperly quoted. Under the Mines Regulation Act where deaths had diminished 50 per cent, in 15 or 16 years the deaths of shunters, platelayers, goods guards, and brakesmen had hardly appreciably diminished. No hon. Member could get rid of another startling fact, that just in proportion to contracting out, either by insurance or by the coercion of the men or wherever the law allowed it, an increase of deaths and accidents unquestionably took place. [Cries of "No!"] He did not expect to please the employers of labour, especially those from Lancashire; but he would quote from Mr. J. S. Jeans, of the Iron and Steel Institute. No one would say that this gentleman could be quoted as sympathetic to labour. Mr. Jeans showed that in France in 1851, where contracting out was now illegal, 34 per 10,000 persons were killed; in 1891 the number was reduced to 18 per 10,000. In the United Kingdom in 1851, 40 per 10,000 men wore killed in mines and metallurgical industries employing over 1,000,000 men. Where contracting out was not general, and only prevailed to a small extent, the deaths had jumped down from 40 per 10,000 in 1851 to 20 per 10,000 in 1891; and in Belgium, where the same conditions of non-contracting out prevailed, from 29 per 10,000 in 1851 to 20 per 10,000 in 1891. He would take Germany, where voluntary and compulsory insurance prevailed to an extent that he hoped would never be copied in this country, In Germany no contracting out was allowed, but insurance, voluntary and compulsory, gave such an incentive to risk, personal neglect, and recklessness in the carrying out of industries, that they found the deaths had risen just as much in Germany as they had decreased in other places, having risen from 20 per 10,000 in 1851 to 30 per 10,000 in 1891. But they had far more convincing figures in relation to contracting out supplied by the Board of Statistics of Massachusetts. What did they show? That in 1888 there 691 were 2,233 men killed on the American railways, or one in 344. In 1892, 2,554 were killed, or one in 322. Owing to the States of Wyoming, Minnesota, Kentucky, and the majority of the United States, either allowing the Employers' Liability Act to be a dead letter, or compulsorily, and by coercion, contracting the men out of it, the number of injured had jumped from one in 88 in the year 1889 to one in 29 in the year 1892. What more conclusive proof could they have than that? If they wanted more proof let them go to the worst employer of labour there was in this universe, Mr. Andrew Carnegie, of Pittsburg. At the same meeting of the iron and steel masters to which he had referred, Mr. Andrew Carnegie said, with regard to the accidents under the Employers' Liability Bill, that—He would like to call attention to a most important point in Mr. Jeans' very interesting and very valuable paper, which was the number of fatal accidents per 1,000 persons since 1880, when the Employers' Liability Act came into operation. The figures then were 2.83. Then they rose to 4.14, then to 4.35, to 4.71, till they reached 5.36 in 1890. Did that lead them to infer that, as men who were injured knew to a certainty that they were to be taken care of, there was greater carelessness on the part of the men.At the same meeting a large ironmaster, Mr. George Cawley, said on the same question that from the figures which he happened to possess he found that whore a certain sum, say, half the wages, was paid to a workman when injured, or £100 to the representatives of a man when killed, the number of accidents reported under that system were about 12 times the number that were reported under the Employers' Liability Act, where the employer was simply liable. And that was not only the opinion of Mr. Andrew Carnegie, it was not only the opinion of the iron and steel masters, but it was the opinion of Committees of the House of Commons and House of Lords on this very question. What, did they find reported by the Royal Commission of 1865? and this was not the language of a Trades Union or of a Member of Parliament, who was compelled to alter his views in social and industrial questions by the preponderance of the voters for or against the measure in his constituency. This was the opinion of a Committee of the House of Lords that 692 were not susceptible, as yet, to political influences. And what did they say? He must read this, because he would rather quote the Duke of Argyll or Lord Aberdeen on his side than he would have the right hon. Member for Dublin University quoted against him—The Commission of 1865 noticed the law of liability from negligence as the greatest safeguard of the public against, railway accidents, and it is generally admitted that Lord Campbell's Act has done more than all other legislation to strengthen the influence which operates in favour of public safety … But throughout their Report the Railway Commission dealt only with the safety of the public, and in our opinion railway servants have some grounds for seeking exceptional measures for protection from the fact that owing to certain incidents of the law of liability upon which Parliament has relied for the safe working of railways it is practically a dead letter so far as they are concerned … They recommended that the Companies be liable through official act or orders in every case where a company delegated its authority as master, and finally we recommend an extension of the civil liability of Railway Companies for accidents to their servants, and of the criminal liability of persons in railway employment or acts of negligence endangering life.He went from that to the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, who in his celebrated speech of May 1, 1884, said—As against insurance which was raised in that Debate he would point to this fact—that it has been in the minds always of legislators that if you want to get security you must give to all persons a direct personal and direct pecuniary interest.Let him, in answer to the late Home Secretary, say a few words. The right hon. Gentleman ventured to make an appeal to him, and he said that he regretted that men in his (Mr. Burns's) position were so anxious to destroy these Friendly Societies because they wanted to exercise undue influence over them, not for Friendly Society, not for insurance, but for Trade Union purposes, and the right hon. Gentleman was particularly strong when he said that they wanted to make the Railway Directors and employers of labour the whipping boys for the negligence of their servants. They did not want to do anything of the kind. They wanted to bring home to the railway shareholders, to the Directors, and to all employers of labour that responsibility and liability for accidents that the Factory and Mines Regulation Acts had imposed upon mine owners and factory owners throughout the country, 693 and if it were possible for him to frame a clause by means of which criminal negligence could be brought home to a workman he was prepared to accept that in the event of the workman not having substantial financial means. But such a clause was not necessary, as the right hon. Gentleman would have seen if he had taken the trouble to read Clause 9 of the Bill. What did it say—Nothing in this Act shall prejudicially affect any right or remedy to which a workman is entitled independently of this Act.What this Employers' Liability Bill did was to give to the workman that civil and legal right hitherto denied him, to which every man in the street who was injured and who was not a workman had against the third person whose act of neglect such person could be held responsible for. Under Clause 3 the employers got every consideration for contributions that they made to the workmen's funds, and this agitation that he had pointed out as being inspired by Directors, promoted by Railway Companies in the interest of their own pecuniary profit, was not an agitation to which this House should listen, and it' the right hon. Gentleman I he late Home Secretary would take the trouble to go to the Library and get the last Report issued on accidents, what would he see? That 9 out of 10 accidents which were reported for the last year were accidents that, in his opinion, were preventible, and were due either to defective ways and means, to insufficient rolling stock, to weak and insufficient staffs, to the overworking and undermanning and in some cases the underpaying of their men, and if the London and North Western Railway Company did not have in this House the representation that it had, an agitation of this kind would not be listened to for a single moment. If anyone was to be exempted from the provisions of this Bill do not let it be the most risky, the most dangerous, and the most wealthy industry of this country: do not let it be the industry that foreign competition touched least of all. If any industry was to be exempted let it be an industry that felt the pressure of competition, and which demanded some consideration at the hands of the Legislature. The Railway Companies hail an easy, a per- 694 manent, and a continuous average of 4½ per cent. In the majority of cases that money was earned by conditions and under conditions that were neither creditable to the heads nor the hearts of the Railway Directors, and he appealed to the Government on this question to remember that 1,500,000 men had asked for this measure independently of their politics. To the Opposition on that (the Conservative) side of the House he said that it was a reversal of the best traditions of the Conservative Party in the past to identify themselves with Railway Directors in the interest of dividends rather than to stand up for the safety of the life and of the limb of their workmen and the railway passengers. To the Irish Members he had this to say: that if did not affect them industrially in Ireland to any appreciable extent, because 75 per cent, of their population got their living at agricultural or non-manufacturing pursuits. But in the chemical and copper works of Lancashire the unskilled labourers in thousands came from Ireland, and there worked in workshops and factories under sanitary conditions that were a shame and a scandal to this great country. In the Alkali Union Company's works, as had been proved time after time, men had their legs screwed off by unprotected machinery, young men were prematurely aged, and life was sacrificed to a greater extent even than by British forces or Chartered Company's forces attacking unarmed and almost defenceless subjects. Only last year there were over 30,000 deaths and serious accidents due to the way in which men were treated in our workshops and factories, and he had in his hand a most eloquent letter from a Dock Director writing to him on this very point. He said, "Dear Burns." He called him other names during the dock strike. This gentleman was writing from Poplar Hospital, of which he was a Director—Dear Burns,—.lust fancy! 20 eases were brought here today between 11 o'clock and 1. There is a fact to make sleepy Members sit up. 37 cases were admitted into this Hospital since 8.40 this morning, and I am now writing at 8 o'clock. Of these, 25 occurred in works, and the rest were street and general accidents.Did hon. Members know that in the London Hospital last year there were 12,425 accidents, 36,000 receiving-room casualties, 1,752 in- 695 patients' accidents, 90 per cent, of which, if they had a good Employers' Liability Bill similar to this Bill, would be diminished by at least 50 per cent. At Poplar Hospital, which was near the docks, last year there were 13,000 accidents, 623 in-patients, and 40 deaths. Of these 13,000 cases, 10,000 were due to industrial causes; and last, but not least, let him show by a more striking illustration than this the way in which our railway men were injured. Take the Strike Committee of the great Scotch Railway Strike. There were 12 men on this Committee, and out of the 12 nine were either without fingers, hands, or legs or feet! Did not that show the necessity of a Bill for diminishing the number of accidents? Such a result this Bill would unquestionably have, and it was because whilst working in the London Hospital as an engineer for eight months he had seen hundreds of thousands of men whose fingers and arms had been twisted off, whose limbs had been maimed, whose feelings had been hurt and whose bodies had been tortured by accidents due to preventible causes, that he asked this Government, in the interest of English labour that unanimously demanded this Bill, not to accede to the Amendment, but to put this Bill on the Statute Book as soon as it could, and if it. did the Bill would be productive of real good to humane employers of labour, a source of untold benefit to the workmen, and a message of real benevolence and providence to the hundreds of thousands of women and dependents on men who were now killed by causes that would be removed by this great Bill.
§ * SIR J. GOLDSMID (St. Pancras, S.)
had a duty to perform, and would ask the House to allow him to perform it in the course of a very few observations. He would go far beyond this Bill if it depended upon him. On certain conditions he was in favour of employers being liable for all accidents which could happen to their workmen; consequently, as far as ho was concerned, he should have supported this Bill, and any bigger Bill upon the lines suggested by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. But on the question of contracting out he had been asked by the men employed by the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway Company to explain what their 696 views were upon this question. Of course he understood what the hon. Member opposite meant by coercion, but he could show him by the facts he was about to mention that, as far as the Directors of the Loudon and Brighton Railway were concerned, that not only had there been no coercion but no action. The circumstances were these: The Bill was read by the Directors several months ago, and they unanimously said it was a matter mainly for the men themselves and not for employers, and for that reason they came to no resolution and resolved to take no action whatever; therefore the Directors were perfectly clear of the imputation which the hon. Member had made. He should like to come to the action of the men. In the month of July he received a letter asking him if he would present a Petition from the men. It was signed by several of the men whom he had never seen, and, of course, whom he did not know under any aspect. They told him they had considered at a public meeting among themselves the Employers' Liability Bill, that they had discussed it, and that they had resolved that the conditions of insurance in their Society were more favourable than anything provided by the Bill. They had, therefore, decided to present a Petition asking the House of Commons to allow this Insurance Society still to continue on its present basis, and to permit the men to contract out of the Bill, and they asked him if he would present the Petition. Of course he said he would present that Petition, as he would any other which was properly worded. He presented the Petition, the men informing him of the circumstances regarding it. In less than four weeks they had, at their own expense, circulated the Petition among the different departments on the Railway, and although there was not time to circulate it in the outlying stations they had obtained, without the least difficulty and perfectly voluntarily, the signatures of over 7,000 men. There were employed by the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway, at the present time, both regular and irregular—or "casual" men, as the hon. Member called them—11,562. Of these, 9,584 were insured in the Society. Of the remaining number of 1,978, a very large proportion indeed were men taken on casually for extra work, and therefore, because of that, they did not 697 belong to the permanent Insurance Fund. The remainder consisted of passenger porters, whose duties were not heavy or dangerous, and a certain number of signalmen, who were always in their boxes, and not exposed to personal or physical danger. What were the conditions of insurance? This was the first—Any servant of the Company, whether an old or a new hand, may avail himself of the insurance scheme, or retire therefrom at any time, from time to time, on giving one month's notice.Consequently, he thought the House would see that, as far as the servants of this Company were concerned, they were at perfect liberty to belong or not to the Society, just as they thought right. There were three classes. The first class paid 1s. every two mouths—that was, 6s. per annum—ami they insured themselves for a sum amounting to £200. The second class paid 9d. every two months, and insured themselves for a sum of £150, and the third class paid 6d. every two months, and insured themselves for £100. In addition to that, it was optional for any man who wished to insure for £100 above the scale in case of death or accident to do so by paying 3d. per month, or 6d. every two months, extra; therefore, by a payment of 1s.6d. every two mouths a man could insure himself in case of death for £300. He had just looked at the Bill which the Home Secretary vindicated with so much warmth, and he saw £300 was the limit of insurance which was to be submitted to the County Court Judges; consequently, it rather looked to him as if that was the figure the right hon. Gentleman thought would, in most cases, be claimed as compensation for death or injury.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir C. Russell,) Hackney, S.
explained that all that was meant was that the jurisdiction of the County Court Judge did not extend beyond that limit.
§ * SIR J. GOLDSMID
said, that was what he said. The limit for which the County Court Judge was to have jurisdiction was £300; consequently, that was the figure indicated by the Home. Secretary as that for which he thought a large number of claims would possibly be made. He would point out that, under the power the men 698 in the Company to which he referred had at present, at their own option they could insure for £300, and if a man was injured from any accident whatever—not merely an accident under which he might be able to claim compensation under this Bill, but any accident—he received, if in the first class, £1 per week; if in the second class, 15s.; and if in the third class, 10s., for one year; and if at the expiration of that term the injuries were likely to be permanent he could withdraw the whole amount as if it was a case of death and not only of injury. Therefore, as far as this company was concerned, according to the statement made by the men they considered the terms of insurance were as liberal as could be expected of any Railway Company. He had the figures, and he would put the House in possession of the facts of the case without any comment on his part. Since the Employers' Liability Act came into operation in 1880, the men in the Brighton Railway Company's service had, up to the end of 1892, received in compensation £60,682. Of that amount £26,080 represented the contributions of the men and £48,602 the contributions of the company; that was to say, the company paid 62 per cent, and the men 38 per cent, of the compensation. It would, therefore, be admitted that the compensation paid by the company was liberal, and that they always assisted the men under these unfortunate circumstances. He desired to contradict absolutely the statement of the hon. Member for Battersea with regard to the result of the establishment of such a fund as this upon the care exercised by the company to prevent fatal accidents. He denied that such a fund lessened the care exercised by the company to prevent fatal accidents. Though the number of men employed by the Brighton Company had increased from 6,000 to 11,500, the number of accidents since 1881 had gradually diminished, and, while in 1882 the number was 26, in 1892 it was only 15. The hon. Member for Battersea had said that Railway Directors were indifferent as to these accidents. On the contrary, these accidents were a cause of great sorrow to the Railway Directors, with whom the lives of the men were the first consideration. The hon. Member also said something about the feelings of Railway 699 Directors with regard to the accommodation of the travelling public. Why, the Directors would be a set of fools if they did not do all in their power to consult the convenience and comfort of the public. He had had some experience and some knowledge for many years of what was going on both outside and inside the railway world, and he could say that for years there had been a steady improvement in all those matters in the railways throughout the United Kingdom. The hon. Member for Battersea had made comparisons between the English and the French and German railways, but the circumstances were absolutely different. In Germany the trains wore not so frequent. The whole staff consisted of retired soldiers, and the Government, in granting them railway pensions, saved the other pensions to which they were entitled, and which were not much less in amount. In Franco the cases of accident were far more numerous than in this country. He had lived for years in France, and he knew of serious railway accidents of which no report had been published in the newspapers to which he had access. They must not think, therefore, that many accidents did not occur in France because they did not see them reported in the Public Press. On the Continent generally the system of employment was absolutely different, while the scale of pay was very much less than it was here. In England the scale of pay was higher than in any country throughout Europe. Railway Directors did not care whether their men decided that it was in their interest to contract out or not; but as individuals they held that if their men wished to contract out they should have the right to do so. Was the Member for Battersea a better judge of the interests of the railway men than they were themselves? The hon. Member talked of coercion, as if men were not capable of judging what was for their own benefit. So far as he was concerned, as a Railway Director, he believed he should have supported the Bill as it stood if he had not found that, practically, the whole of the men employed by his company were in favour of the new clause. He desired to be on good terms with his men, and he believed the employer that did not was the biggest fool in the United Kingdom. He held that in these days 700 of conflicts between capital and labour, employers ought to endeavour to meet the wishes of their employés wherever it was possible or reasonable. Another consideration in support of the system of mutual insurance was that, while the companies paid in 90 per cent, of cases where they were not legally liable, they not only avoided lawsuits, but they avoided disputes with their men by that arrangement. He did not think the Brighton Company ever had a dispute with the men since he became a Director, and that was because the system had been established and extended with the good-will of the men. It was, therefore, for the purpose of avoiding disputes that he would support the clause. He did not care in the least for the Directors point of view of this matter, or indeed for anything except the good feeling that should exist between employers and their servants. One result of denying the men the right to contract out of the Act would be that pettyfogging attorneys would go about endeavouring to obtain permission to bring actions. He had in mind the case of a passenger who brought an action against the Brighton Company for alleged injury to his nervous system through a railway accident. He claimed a very considerable amount, and the attorney who represented him was not of a very high class. When the man was paid the damages awarded him, the company discovered that there had been a bargain that if he got £200 the attorney was to pocket all the rest. He was afraid cases of that kind would occur often under the Act. The refusal to allow the men to contract out would lead to a number of shady legal actions, conducted by shady attorneys throughout the country. The Home Secretary had also said that there was no security for the men that the company undertook to pay compensation out of those funds. In the case of the Brighton Railway the men had the security that all the funds of the company were liable before a penny was paid to the shareholders. That was better than any security that could be offered by any Society throughout the length and breadth of the land; and it certainly was better than the security of doubtful legal actions which the Home Secretary was offering to the men. There was one thing which was perfectly clear—namely, that if the 701 men went outside their work to discuss among themselves the conditions of the Bill, if they combined together and went to considerable expense in getting up Petitions, the agitation in favour of this clause was their action, and not the action of the Directors. One thing he rejoiced in, and that was that the Members of the House would not look upon the Bill from a Party point of view. The Bill was far more important than Party considerations to the workmen of the country and the conditions of their labour. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary seemed to think that the men were not men of intelligence and judgment, and that therefore they could not be trusted to look after their own interests in this matter. He could not agree with that view. They might place in the Bill such safeguards as they thought necessary to prevent bogus arrangements, but the arrangements which he had described, and which were warmly appreciated by the men, should not be upset. In the Brighton Railway Company any man that did not like the Society could leave it at a month's notice. But the Directors never get one of those notices, because the men are content with the Society, and because the payments made are considered by the men both fair and reasonable. The Home Secretary had said that if a man went away after 10 years he would lose all his payments to the Society. But the yearly payment of 6s., which after all was a very small amount, insured the men against accident for a year only, on the same principle as in a fire insurance. He had pointed out that on the Brighton Railway fatal accidents had largely decreased. But there had been improvements in the conditions of the men in other directions. In certain districts the company had established four-hours and six-hours signal-boxes, because they thought eight hours was too long for the heavy work to be done. They had also endeavoured to provide the men with suitable homes near their work, and to make their labour as light and as pleasant as possible. The company did this, not only on account of the general principles of humanity, but because they believed they could only get the best work from men who wore properly looked after, properly housed, and not over-worked. Whatever the hon. Member for Battersea 702 might say with regard to the want, of feeling on the part of Directors, they had simply been actuated by the desires of the men. He did not quite see why the hon. Member should dictate the hues on which men should take compensation. The men were not coerced in any way. They were free to leave the Societies whenever they liked, and he would ask the House to let them exercise their own free judgment on a matter which so intimately concerned the future welfare of themselves, their wives, and families.
§ MR. WRIGHTSON (Stockton-on-Tees)
said, that it appeared to him most undesirable to have exemptions from a Bill of this kind. He quite took the same view as the Home Secretary, that it was decidedly disadvantageous to make exemptions from any Act of Parliament, but at the same time—unless they were quite certain the Act of Parliament was a good one—it might be advantageous to have exemptions. He had not the slightest hesitation in saying that the Act of 1880 would never have been passed unless the power of contracting out had been included. Many of the employers of labour would have resisted the passing of that Act very much more strongly if the power of contracting out had not been allowed to their servants. The defects of the Act of 1880 were, first, the small proportion of accidents that were covered: a lift, secondly, the great, encouragement given to litigation in consequence of the defects of the Act with regard to accidents. These two great defects had been overcome by some of the larger employers of labour combining with their workmen for mutual insurance. The smaller employers had not the same opportunity for making these combinations. A shipowner who had only three or four vessels was obliged to insure with outside companies; but it was not incumbent on an owner of 30 or 40 vessels to insure in an outside company, for he could look upon himself as his own insurer, and he saved the profits made by the Insurance Companies. That was exactly the ease with the large employers of labour who had combined with their workmen. The London and North Western Railway Company had been able to pay liberal compensation to the men, because by being mutually combined with the men they saved the profits that would 703 have otherwise gone to the Insurance Companies. That Railway Company, perhaps, asked for a larger contribution from the men than was absolutely necessary. But these two things—the largo contributions of the men, and the saving of payments to Insurance Companies, accounted for the large allowances of the Railway Company to the men, and not some ulterior object on the part of the Company, as suggested by the Home Secretary. The smaller employers were, however, left in this condition, that they were obliged to insure in outside companies; and the result of that had been that they had handed over to the agents of these Insurance Companies the fighting of the actions brought against them. He did not think he had heard it mentioned in the House up to that time, but, to his mind, the greatest grievance of all was these Insurance Companies employed solicitors whose duty it was to pay as little as they could to the workmen who had been injured; and the struggle was not now (as had been reported) a fight between the employers and the employed, but between an insurance agent who had no sympathy with the men and the persons claiming compensation. The insurance agent had to fight the injured man and to reduce the compensation to be given to him to the lowest point; and then the greatest irritation and aggravation was added to the whole injury by the fact that after it was decided the workman found he had to hand over a large portion of his award to the solicitor who had conducted his case. These were difficulties which one would have expected to present themselves to the minds of those who drafted this Bill; one would have expected that they would have tried to see how this could be got over. If instead of attending to the outcry of certain classes of this country the Government had looked to see how large employers of labour, the men who had the greatest skill in dealing with all labour questions—if they had looked to see how these men had tackled this labour question they would have found that these defects had been discovered, and that arrangements had been made with every man which had proved satisfactory. He asked why the Government in drafting this Bill did not go upon these lines which had been successful, instead of which they had pushed the difficulty 704 forward one stage — they had simply dealt with one defect in the Bill of 1880, that defect being the doctrine of common employment. They had seen that much irritation arose from that, and they had tried to remove it. He commended them for doing so, but he said they should have gone still further and followed in the lines of the London and North Western Railway Company and the other large companies who had acted in the same way—Messrs. Armstrong and others, whose names had been mentioned —and they should have taken into account the most important fact of all, that these systems had proved successful. He did not think the Government had paid proper attention even to the representations of those who took this view. He found in a letter written to the Home Secretary on the 24th of April by the Secretary of the Board of Management of the Lancashire and South Wales Permanent Benefit Society, the writer said—I have to point out to you that the urgent need of providing for distress arising from all accidents, whether due to the negligence of the employer or employed, or no negligence at all, is as great now as it was before the passing of any law relating to employers' liability; and the only method of meeting this liability which has worked with success in Lancashire, is that by which the efforts of the employers and employed have been brought into co-operation.That appeared not to have received any attention at all, but every attention had been given to the other method. He trusted it would be quite clear that the vote he gave on this occasion was a reasonable one. He voted for the Amendment on this ground—that the Act did not go sufficiently far for providing the labourer against accidents, that it ought to comprehend any and every accident that occurred, whether it was due to the man's own fault, to the fault of the man working alongside of him, or the fault of the machinery which the manufacturer allowed him to use. The cause to which the accident might be attributed, whatever it was, should not be considered at all; but compensation should be granted to the injured workman under whatsoever circumstances the accident arose. Had the Act been in that form he should have decidedly objected to have had any exemption at all. The Act as it at present stood was, in his opinion, defective, and therefore 705 he said that it would be unsatisfactory that workmen or employers should have the power to contract out of the Act, until such a time arrived that the House could see its way clear to bring forward an Act of Parliament which would thoroughly protect the workman against any accident, howsoever caused.
§ * MR. PERKS (Lincolnshire, Louth)
said, it appeared to him that if the hon. Member who had just spoken followed his argument to its logical conclusion he should endeavour to insert in the Bill a provision against an employer insuring himself against this new risk now to be placed upon him. Manifestly that would be unjust. It was clear, he thought, to most Members who had listened to the hon. Gentleman that he must have substantial reasons which he had not disclosed for refusing to take half a loaf because he could not get a whole one. He had listened with attention and respect to the remarks that had fallen from one of the Directors of the Brighton Railway Company, and certainly he must commend the wisdom and prudence of that Company in not formulating and putting on their minutes a resolution of a somewhat intimidatory character, not merely towards their employés but towards Members of the house. He felt sure that so long as the Chair of the Directorate of that Company had its present occupant, one of the most enlightened economists of the country, the Brighton Company would not commit themselves to any scheme antagonistic to their employés. For many years he had been associated with Railway Companies, and he did not believe that if the Bill passed there would be any step taken on the part of the two companies having these regulations to put an end to their Mutual Insurance Societies, because it must be apparent to every business man that the advantage the members derive from these associations with the companies would have to be made up in some other way if these Societies were, in the phrase which had been used by the Mover of the Amendment, "smashed up." This was only another way of paying men their wages, and if the London and North Western Railway Company should be so badly advised as to break up their insurance fund, which, according to those who had defended the company, had produced so 706 many advantages other than strictly commercial, he was persuaded that the company would have to make compensation to the men in the shape of increased wages. He did not think they would take such an unfortunate step, for when they came to consider Clause 3 employers would see the practical advantages there provided, which advocates of the companies had greatly minimised. He objected altogether to the principle of contracting out. The cases of the Loudon and North Western and London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway Companies had been presented to the house, but there were large numbers of equally successful Railway Companies, whose men were as efficient, industrious, and loyal, and yet none of these firms had thought it necessary to secure the adhesion of their men by compelling them to adopt these humiliating, these derogatory conditions. For instance, in the large and often hazardous enterprises undertaken by great contractors he had never heard that the power of compelling men to contract out of the Act had been exercised, and yet some of these great contractors, engaged in great public works requiring the employment of from 3,000 to 20,000 men at a tine, had organised insurance funds to which they had contributed as largely as had the Railway Companies. The adoption of the principle of contracting out must lead to a great want of uniformity in industrial undertakings, and, by way of illustration, he would mention the case of a man in (be employment of the London and North Western Railway Company working by the side of a man in the service of the Mersey Docks at Liverpool. In the case of a fatal accident befalling these men the compensation in the one case would be the obviously insignificant sum of £100—for a lump sum of £100 in the case of a man earning £2 a week was obviously insignificant—while the man working in the Mersey Docks, who was not compelled to contract out, and who availed himself of the provisions of the now Bill, on application to the Courts of the country would get a much higher standard of compensation. Manifestly, occurrences such as these must create great dissatisfaction and must tend to the disadvantage of the Railway Company, the best qualified men being induced to transfer their labour to other industries. There had 707 been no Petitions that he was aware of presented to the House in favour of exemption from the operations of the Bill except from persons engaged in a few industries which possessed insurance funds, thereby showing that the overwhelming sense of the working men of the country was in favour of the Bill as it stood. Believing, therefore, that the feeling of workmen generally was opposed to the Amendment, and that the Bill would not have a destructive effect on existing Provident Societies, and believing that the Amendment would place in the hands of some of the great monopolist industrial enterprises of the country means whereby to oppress and diminish the independence of their employés, he should Tote against it.
§ MR. HALSEY (Herts, Watford)
said, that representing, as he had the honour to do, a considerable number of those workmen who would be affected by the Amendment, he felt that he did not wish to give a silent vote on this occasion. He had had it put most strongly before him that these men were, with what amounted to practical unanimity, anxious to continue under the present system. It certainly seemed to him that the hon. Gentleman who had last addressed the House could hardly know much of the men employed by the London and North Western Company if he supposed that they would for a moment submit to any "humiliating or derogatory conditions." He knew no more independent set of men. The hon. Member for Battersea, in a long and eloquent speech, which they all admired, but which would have been more appropriate on the Second Reading of the Bill, had criticised the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin for intervening in the Debate, declaring that the right hon. Gentleman had no special mandate to represent the men of the London and North Western Railway. No one imagined that the right hon. Gentleman had such mandate. He had risen to respond to the constant allusions and appeals that had been made as to the probable action of the Directors of the London and North Western Railway in this matter. Far from having no light to intervene in the Debate the right hon. Gentleman would have been guilty of neglect of duty, occupying the position he did as a Director of the company, if he 708 had not risen to deal with the question after what had been said in the Debate. The hon. Member for Battersea asked if the 70,000 men were to dictate to 330,000 other workmen, and the 60,000 belonging to the four existing Railroad Trades Unions. But these men asked for nothing of the sort. They did not seek to dictate to anybody; they did not wish to compel anyone to subscribe to the conditions of their Insurance Societies. All they asked was what be thought, as Englishmen, they had a right to ask—namely, to be left alone, and to be allowed to remain under those conditions which they had found by experience to be satisfactory, and which they rightly believed would be more satisfactory in the future than the conditions which would prevail under the Bill as it at present stood. When they were told, as the hon. Member for Aberdeen had told them, that this was a purely bogus agitation, and that the workmen were being made tools of to their own injury, all lie would say to him—as he would say to the last speaker—was that he could not have much acquaintance with the character and independence of the London and North Western Railway Company's workpeople. Coming to the Bill, he (Mr. Halsey) fully admitted that the power to contract out was one which ought to be given with the greatest caution, and which ought to be fenced round with safeguards to prevent its abuse, and this was also recognised by the Mover of the Amendment, who had provided five clear safeguards. In the first place, the Amendment provided that every agreement of this sort should provide for every accident that could occur, and not merely those that would come under the Bill; secondly, it provided that the contributions should be regularly paid, and should not be spasmodic; thirdly, it provided that two-thirds of the men, in each case, should vote in secret ballot for contracting out; fourthly, it provided that such ballot should be under the Board of Trade; and, lastly, it provided that a fresh ballot might be taken every three years—and as to this provision he had no doubt that if that period did not meet with approval his hon. Friend in charge of the Amendment would agree to any reasonable modification. In the face of these safeguards there could be no danger of this power of contracting out 709 being abused. It had the great advantage—and this was the reason why the men who were under it wore so anxious that the power should coutiuue—that it gave compensation to all. There were no legal expenses to be paid. There was no wriggling and haggling. Nine-tenths of the accidents which occurred took place through the fault, of the persons who were injured, and while, under the Bill as it stood, no compensation would be given in these cases, under the Amendment every one would receive compensation. It might be true that a very small number of men might be able, under the Bill, to obtain from a jury higher compensation than would be given under the contracting-out system, but the men had considered that point, and had wisely preferred the means by which all would get, as a certainty, a fixed compensation. They appeared to him to be in the position of the person who invested his money in the Debenture Stock of a company, preferring to have a fixed rate of interest rather than be like the ordinary Stock-holder, with a possibility of getting, on some occasions, a much higher dividend but a greater possibility of getting no return for his money at all. The Home Secretary had said that ho doubted whether the men clearly understood the question on which the ballot-was taken in connection with the London and North Western Railway. He (Mr. Halsey) could only say that if the right hon. Gentleman had attended, as he had done, a meeting of the men—a meeting held on their own initiative—at which this very question was discussed, and had seen how thoroughly they understood the matter, he would not have had the slightest doubt as to what their opinion was. For himself he could say that he never was at a meeting, for any purpose, where every one who spoke and every one who listened more thoroughly took up every point that was made and better understood every phase and aspect of the subject discussed. There were some opponents of the contracting-out system present at the meeting, but they only served to bring out into stronger relief the practical unanimity of the men. There was another point which had already been dealt with by previous speakers—namely, as to the men forfeiting the advantages of the Insurance Societies when they left the 710 company. He would draw attention to the fact that in this respect the men were in the same position as an ordinary person who insured against accident mostly for a year. Such person could not expect compensation beyond the time covered by the premium paid, and the only difference between this case and the cases of the workmen was that the former paid premiums for a year, while the latter mostly paid from week to week. The insurance ran for a week, and if the workman loft the service of the company he thereby ceased to be a member of the Society, and, equally, he ceased to pay his premiums. It was hard to see, therefore, on what principle a workman could claim any return of the funds he had previously paid. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had asked why the clause should be limited to certain companies. lie admitted that he did not see why it should be so limited; ho should like to see it extended, but the limitation, he understood, was inserted in order to conciliate certain Members who were expected to oppose the clause, and it was certainly ungracious of those who caused that limitation to be inserted as a sort of compromise to now turn round and make it a ground for opposing the clause. He could only point this out—that at the present time they were only on the second reading of the clause, and that if it should be carried it would be competent for the right hon. Gentleman or any other Member to move to strike out the words limiting its operation. If such a Motion were made it would have his (Mr. Halsey's) support. They wore often told that the object of legislation ought to be to confer the greatest happiness on the greatest number. That was what he had in view. He desired that the greatest advantages should be conferred on the largest number of workmen. He and all those who supported the Amendment asked that the interests of the many should not be sacrificed, on account of a possible, though a very doubtful and very rare payment, to a small majority. Those Societies were calculated to promote friendly feeling and mutual confidence between employed and employed, and surely it would be a wise and statesmanlike policy on the part of any Member, no matter on which side of the House he sat, to foster them. He hoped, therefore, the House would pause 711 before taking any steps that would tend to destroy that means of harmony, and substituted a state of things in which suspicion and mistrust might be engendered, and which might be fraught with evil consequences far outweighing the small advantages which an infinitesimal minority might enjoy through the rejection of the Amendment. It was because he held these views that he should give a most cordial support to the Amendment.
§ * MR. C. E. SHAW (Stafford)
said, that in addressing the House for the first time as a new Member, he claimed the indulgence which was always so readily accorded. He felt it incumbent on him to rise in his place in order to give his reasons for supporting the Amendment. He felt it the more incumbent on him when be remembered that it had been stated from those Benches by the Member for Aberdeen that they—those who had been scheduled by the hon. Member for Battersea as "numbering 12"—had been frightened into supporting the proposal of the hon. Member for Crewe. He could assure the House that the decision he had come to he had arrived at after much careful thought and against prior conviction. When the London and North Western Railway Company employés asked him to meet them in order to hear their views and to express his own he was exceedingly struck with one thing that happened. He had said to them— "You have certain advantages under your scheme, but although you are 60,000 men you are but a mere drop in the labour bucket of this country. What position shall I be placed in if the Government of the day say that rather than include this Amendment of the hon. Member for Crewe they will give up the Bill?" The unanimous reply was that they did not wish that their fellow workmen throughout the country should forfeit the benefits of the Bill, and that rather than that they would give up their insurance scheme. They had said —"Under such circumstances we give you free leave to vote for the Government." He asked that the other Labour Representatives should be equally disinterested, and not pursue a dog-in-the-manger policy, because that was what it came to. The whole weight of the argument of the hon. Member seemed to be that the men of the Loudon and North 712 Western Company were outside the Trade Unions. As a Radical he had always advised, and should continue to advise, all workmen to belong to a Trade Union, but he objected to their being coerced into it. The Bill, as a whole, had his hearty support, and he would not injure it; while approving it on general grounds, he was in favour of the Insurance Societies being retained. The Home Secretary, in introducing the measure on February 20, said that the mutual insurance schemes had in many cases been productive of the best results. There was no qualification in the right hon. Gentleman's statement. There could be no better than the best results. The right hon. Gentleman had said in the course of his remarks that the Act of 1880 was a great step in advance, but that it had been productive and provocative of contracting out, and he said—The incentive will be much greater under the pressure of the present measure.But there was no "will" about it. They were dealing with the past and not with the future—that was to say, with the mutual insurance schemes in force at this moment, and they it was which had been tried and had proved to be productive of the best results. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the hon. Member for Crewe was not logical, and that he should deal with the future as well as the past. He (Mr. Shaw) agreed with the right hon. Gentleman entirely; but neither were those who opposed the Amendment strictly logical, for if they were they would prevent insurance by employers and prevent compromise after an accident. They would insist upon every case being taken into a Court of Law. The Home Secretary said that the men would get more under the Bill than out of the fund. But there was an old proverb about a bird in the hand being more valuable than two in the bush. He thought a safe £100 or £150 from the treasury chest of the fund was much better than a problematical £300 or £400 to be argued out in a Court of Law, to say nothing of the question of costs. It was said the men had been deluded by the ballot. Besides, the London and North Western Company not only found employment for a man who had been injured—employment of a kind suited to his capacity—but they provided for the widow of a man who 713 had been killed. If a widow were to get £250 or £300 in a Court of Law, would that provide for her future? But he would urge another point, and although he was not a lawyer and possessed of a legal mind, ho believed it was a, fact that, although the Loudon and North Western Railway Company did compel their men to contract out of the Employers' Liability Act, yet when they did contract themselves out of the Act they did not in any shape or form contract themselves out of the Common Law of the country. The hon. Member for Battersea claimed that 50 per cent, of the cases were preventable, therefore it might be taken that 50 per cent, came under the Common Law. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary laid great stress on the point with regard to the ballot paper. Now, he must say that the question placed before the men of the London and North Western Company was simple in the extreme. They might argue as they liked that it was not a question between sweeping away this mutual insurance scheme and adherence to the present Bill; but when they came down to the common sense of the facts to suppose that men of that class could be deceived by a ballot paper was absurd. He heartily agreed with the hon. Member who said that they belonged to the highest class of labour. They represented the aristocracy of labour. If the ballot had been taken on false issues, let the Home Secretary and those who agreed with him go and address the men, and let the ballot be taken again on the present Amendment in January, 1894. With regard to the ballot in factories where no more than 200 or 300 men were employed, he was sure that the Factory Inspectors would be able to devise some system whereby a satisfactory ballot could be taken. He did not object to the Home Secretary's term "insurance against strikes" as applicable to these funds. The London and North Western wanted their men to be happy and contented, and it was because their men were happy and contented that the hon. Member for Battersea and others were attacking these funds. All the companies would get better work out of their people when the men had not to dread a suit in the Law Courts hanging over them. The Home Secretary had spoken in this matter as a lawyer and 714 special pleader, and not as a man of experience in the employment of large bodies of men in commercial matters. It had been pointed out that the Great Eastern Railway Company and the Midland subscribed to insurance funds, but did not make contracting out a sine quâ non. Well, ho would inform Members who had not hitherto seen their way to vote for the Amendment that the London and North Western Railway Company also subscribed to the Friendly Societies; therefore, it was not correct, as the hon. Member for Aberdeen had said, that a man when he left the services of that company was thrown on the world with no resources. It was said that any man who left the service of the London and North Western Railway Company, except in consequence of injury or death, forfeited the amount which would otherwise be due to him. As the preceding speaker said, however, this was an accident assurance. There was no surrender value on a fire policy, and this was exactly the same kind of thing. The North Staffordshire Company had not been mentioned in connection with these Societies. That company's Society had, he understood, solved the question of old age pensions from this point of view, as it gave a live-shilling superannuation allowance, with exemption from payment of premium after 25 years' service. It was not fair to pick out particular years from the London and North Western Company's Returns, for the purpose of comparison, as one hon. Member had done. It was necessary to take the whole number of years prior to 1880, and the whole number of years since that date. If this were done, it would be found that the number of deaths had fallen exactly one-third since the mutual assurance scheme came into operation. This fact disposed entirely of the fallacy that mutual assurance caused accidents. The hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Burns), if ho had proved anything on this point, had proved too much—namely, that there ought to be no Employers' Liability Act at all. The hon. Member's argument was that men became careless if they knew that they could get compensation in the event of an accident. An Employers' Liability Act enabled them to get compensation, and therefore, according to the hon. Member's argument, there ought not to be such an Act. With 715 regard to the £22,000, which had been so much the object of discussion, he wished hon. Members would clearly understand that that was not the full extent and limit of the London and North Western Railway Company's liability. If men were careless, and there was a surplusage of accidents, there must be a levy alike upon masters and men. If that was the case with regard to the London and North Western, it was a fortiori the case with regard to the Brighton Company. He supported the proposed new clause because, to his mind, it was eminently reasonable. Both masters and men wanted to be left alone on this question, and he thought it was somewhat hard that the Government, which had hitherto not found time to arbitrate in the great strike which was rending capital and labour asunder in this country, should have found time to injure if not to wreck the Societies which had proved of so much benefit alike to master and workman. There were 200,000 men belonging to these Societies. The number must be multiplied by five to get at the families dependent on them, so that there were 1,000,000 individuals in the United Kingdom whom the action of the House upon this Resolution would affect either for better or worse. The proposed new clause would injure no one, and would merely continue within very restricted limits what the Home Secretary had been pleased to describe as arrangements which had been productive of the best possible results.
§ * MR. ROBY (Lancashire, S.E., Eccles)
said, he heartily approved of the Bill, and thanked the Government for its introduction. He heartily approved also of the clause for preventing in general contracting out of the Act, but he could not see that he was bound in consequence to destroy or, at any rate, to run great risk of destroying, certain existing arrangements which, in the opinion of those under them, were working satisfactorily. The question had been brought before him by those of his constituents who worked on the London and North Western Railway. At a meeting presided over by the Deputy Mayor of Eccles the other day, out of the 80 persons present, only eight were found to vote against the proposal now before the house. He was bound to add that an ordinary monthly meeting 716 of the Patricroft branch of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants was held the following day. Of this branch, 78 members were said to belong to the Mutual Insurance Society, but only 19 persons were present, and of these, 14 voted in favour of and five against a resolution directed against contracting out of the Act generally, and not specifically against the present Amendment. He had no doubt whatever that the great mass of the servants of the London and North Western Railway Company in his Division of Lancashire were strongly in favour of the proposed new clause. He had discussed the matter with many of them, and they had pointed out to him the great advantages they derived from the existence of the Society. After all he had heard, he could not for a moment doubt that they were getting greater advantages under the present arrangement than they would do under the Act. In the first place, they got the help given at once. In the second place, there was no dispute about contributory negligence, as the compensation applied to all accidents. In the third place, they obtained compensation without a lawsuit. He believed he spoke the common opinion of all when he said that a lawsuit on such a matter was often a very doubtful experiment. It was certain to cost a great deal, whether the plaintiff won or not, and there was always a great protraction of misery before it was concluded. If there was one blessing to be desired more than another by a person who had sustained an accident it was that ho should avoid a lawsuit. Members of an Insurance Society had also the contingent advantage of possible employment by the company in the same post or some other. He could sec no reason why he should give a vote which would in any way destroy an arrangement of this kind, unless the continuance of such an arrangement would be fatal to the general working and the general principles of the Act. He should vote for the Resolution, because it dealt with existing arrangements only. He was not prepared for one moment to extend it beyond existing arrangements, and he was not in the least frightened by the language some people used about its not being logical. When people talked about logic in matters of politics he attached little importance to what they said. In the first place, politics were 717 always very practical, and it was not always easy to express them in a logical form; while, in the second place, the logic generally quoted was bad logic. Because he voted for existing contracts it was by no means a matter of good logic to say that he ought to vote for future contracts. There were a great many institutions in this country which he was not prepared to destroy unless he found them to be really injurious to the public interest, but which ho should not think of reproducing. He drew the widest distinction between the maintenance of an existing arrangement and the allowance of a future arrangement. If the clause was not sufficiently restricted to existing contracts he should lie quite prepared to improve it in that respect. The matter seemed to him to be one of ordinary common sense. When an arrangement was working well in the opinion of those who were under it, why should Parliament, needlessly destroy it? It would be an incidental advantage in future, if the Resolution were carried, to have working side by side the Act and a separate arrangement. In a very few years it would be seen which of the two was in practice the more conducive to the benefit of the railway servants or other employés, and also whether it could in any way be truly alleged that an arrangement of this kind tended to increase the risk of accidents.
§ MAJOR-GENERAL GOLDSWORTHY (Hammersmith)
said that, as many of his constituents were employed on the London and North Western Railway, be thought it his duty to voice their request to that House not to do away with that which they believed to be a beneficial insurance fund. It had been said by several Members that the agitation in favour of the Resolution was a bogus one, got up at the dictation of the Directors, and that the men themselves were practically coerced. He might say that one of the most persistent people who had put the matter before him was a London and North Western engine-driver, who was selected as the chairman of a meeting of some hundreds of railway men held in the North of England. A man of that sort was no more likely to be coerced I ban was the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. J. Burns) or some of the other Labour Members. He was acting, as he believed, for the good of his class 718 and he had told him (Major-General Goldsworthy) that the reason why he thought the insurance fund so important was, that in reference to railway accidents it was very difficult to prove that there was no contributory negligence, and that the Society gave to the man who was so unfortunate as to meet with an accident certain compensation. He (Major-General Goldsworthy) would admit that an insurance of £100 at death seemed a small matter. At the same time it must lie remembered that the £100 was certain, and if a man met with an accident through partly his own fault or through the carelessness of some fellow-servant in the company's employ, he might still rely on receiving that £100, without the necessity of instituting legal proceedings. It was that certainty that made the London and North Western Railway Company's employés so anxious to retain their present Society. He would not labour that point. A good deal had been said by various Members who had addressed the House as to the desires of the men, but he could assure the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary that if he would like to see the employé of whom he had spoken to-night he would do his best to bring him to the right hon. Gentleman, so that he might be assured that this was a bonâ fide expression of opinion. He thought it was in the best interests of peace, and calculated to promote the prevention of strikes, that these Societies should not be done away with, and he was quite certain that all right-feeling people in the House must regret the want of them when they saw a strike like the present taking place, a strike which was so much to be deplored. They could only desire that other Societies like this could be established, and other arrangements between employers and employed which would prevent the misery and trouble of strikes.
§ * MR. DODD (Essex, Maldon)
said, he was glad he was afforded the opportunity of speaking on this very important new clause which had been proposed to this very important Bill, and he was glad because it had given him a great deal of anxiety as to how he should vote. He fully recognised the great importance of this Bill to the working classes of the country in general; and also its importance to the workmen of the London and North Western Railway Company and 719 other kindred Railway Companies. He did not propose to follow the hon. Member for Battersea in his attack upon the London and North Western Railway Company. The hon. Member seemed to think that it was necessary for his argument to establish that the London and North Western Railway Company was a body which in some ways was hardly creditable to our civilisation, and lie invited the House to say whether the London and North Western Railway Company or the Chartered Company of South Africa was the more guilty body. lie thought the comparison of the hon. Member was singularly unfortunate, because they had no information at present which could induce them to lay any blame on the Chartered Company of South Africa, and he was quite sure that the London and North Western Railway Company did not massacre the natives of this country, for there was no railway more free from accidents. He only knew the railway in the humble capacity of a traveller. He knew it to be a line that was admirably managed, and that its servants could favourably compare for intelligence and civility with the servants of any Railway Company in this country, or in any part of Europe. He did not propose to follow the hon. Member for Battersea into the question of coercion in the matter of the ballot taken by the London and North Western Company, because he had seen enough of the servants of that company to convince him that it was nonsense to speak of coercion in the case of such men. Besides, he saw that the Members of the House who had been elected by these servants were in favour of the clause, and there could not be stronger testimony of the fact that railway servants unquestionably desired that the existing state of things with regard to mutual insurance should be preserved. But the proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for Crewe was not limited to cases like the London and North Western Company. He noticed that the Home Secretary based his brilliant attack on the clause on two grounds, which he thought were not consistent. One was that the clause dealt with all kinds of employers and all kinds of servants; that it was not limited to great employers of labour like the London and North Western Railway Company, the Brighton and South Coast Railway Company, and the Messrs. Armstrong of Newcastle; but that it included 720 smaller employers—employers of 200 men or less, and that in these cases there was no guarantee of the secrecy of the ballot. He was inclined to agree strongly with the Home Secretary for the reason he had stated, and also because in the cases of small employers there was no possible guarantee that the funds would be continuous, or if an accident happened that full compensation would be forthcoming. Then there were other difficulties. The clause embraced not merely the small employers existing at present, but embraced their successors in business, which would mean that the right would become a species of assets to be transferred by a sale to a new employer. It also included employers and servants of mines in South Wales. He was not personally familiar with the insurance funds established in connection with these mines; but he had read the evidence given before the Labour Commission, and he had found that in some cases, at any rate, the men were compelled to join those Societies—that, having entered the service, they were bound to contribute to the funds. That was one of the grounds of the admirable attack on the clause by the Home Secretary—that the clause was too large, and embraced too many cases. It seemed to him that when they came to the Home Secretary's second ground of attack, something different was to be said. That second ground of attack was that the fight in the House was really made on behalf of the London and North Western Railway Company and other Railway Companies which had similar funds. It seemed to him, and to a number of hon. Members with whom he had had conversation on the subject, that the case of the Loudon and North Western Company was unanswerable; and if his hon. Friend the Member for Crewe had been able to limit the clause so as to avoid bringing in dubious mines, the small employers, and institutions as to which they knew very little, then his hon. Friend would have met the great objection to the clause as it stood. The strength of the attack of the Home Secretary undoubtedly lay in the charge that the clause was too wide. The other point of the right hon. Gentleman, that the fight was on behalf of the London and North Western Railway Company, and that they were not entitled to privileged legislation, had failed entirely, for 721 the question then was, whether a sufficient ease had been made out by the company to contract out of the Act? He thought the case had been proved up to the hilt, as the bulk of the men themselves were satisfied with their position. He had been much struck by the argument that in those days of labour difficulties and disputes, which spread distress throughout large districts, it was a dangerous and unfortunate thing to destroy the harmony between employers and employed where it existed, as in the case of these Railway Companies it unquestionably did exist. He ventured also to say that the Home Secretary was not quite accurate in the view he had taken of these funds. The right hon. Gentleman made the complaint that when a man left the service of the Railway Company he was not allowed in any way to receive benefits from the fund to which he had probably contributed for years. The point of the fund was that it was an insurance while the man was in the employ of the company. The question the House had now to determine was whether the clause should or should not be read a second time. As might have been gathered from his remarks, he had considerable doubt and difficulty in the matter. He thought the House should not do anything which would imperil the funds of the London and North Western and other Railway Companies; but, at the same time, he had a strong opinion that the clause was much too wide, bringing in as it did eases that should not be made exceptions to the general rule of law. Under the circumstances, he had no option but to give his vote against the clause unless his hon. Friend the Member for Crewe was willing—which he understood he was not—to modify it in the direction he had stated.
§ MR. DODD
said, that if the clause had been limited, for example, to companies incorporated by special Acts of Parliament, he would have supported it, because those were companies who had been before Parliamentary Committees, and had shown that they were responsible people carrying out some objects of public importance and utility. In the case of railways and other such works, Parliament had such control over 722 them—for they could not move a step without first coming to Parliament for powers—that it was not unfair to give them special privileges; and the house, he thought, was entitled to say from experience that the Railway Companies' treatment of their servants was, on the whole, thoroughly good. He therefore said that, though he voted against the clause—because it included matters which it should not include—he did so with the utmost regret, because in doing so he was possibly for the moment imperilling the position of the railway servants. But it was only for the moment, for he had great hopes that either by a new clause or by some Amendment or arrangement the case of those Railway Companies would be met. These 60,000 railway servants had an unanswerable case, and their position should not be destroyed, he was much struck by the argument of the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Hunter), who pointed out they need he in no fear; there was no danger of imperilling the position of the funds of the Railway Companies; but, unfortunately, since he heard that admirable speech of the hon. Member, he had read a speech made before the Committee which considered the Bill, and he there found the hon. Member presented arguments which were more cogent than those now presented to the House. Before the Committee the hon. Member said that some years ago his attention had been called to the question of old age pensions, and he made inquiries from some of the Railway Companies, when he was put in possession of the Rules of the Societies connected with those companies. Proceeding the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Hunter) said he must point out to the Committee that a, very much larger question was involved than the mere question of compensation for accidents, because he found the most valuable provisions were made not only in the case of accidents, but in the case of sickness, and sickness not arising from ordinary employment. There was, said the hon. Member, a whole network, not only giving compensation, but making provision for cases of sickness and old age. Then the hon. Member continued to say lie could not resist the impression that in these Benefit Societies there was an admirable provision for the railway servant. He (Mr. Dodd) thought the hon. Member, when he addressed the 723 House, must have forgotten there wore shorthand notes, or else, on reconsideration, the hon. Member had recanted all these views. He would venture to ask the House to take the sound view that was taken by the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Hunter) when before the Committee. The hon. Member further said that, if they were to do anything by this Act that would have the effect of destroying that valuable provision, they would be doing something injurious to the railway servants, and not absolutely required for the benefit of any other class in the country. What the employers entering into those contracts-desired, and what they would be satisfied with, was a provision by which they might avoid litigation altogether, and therefore anything that fell short would fail to satisfy the employers. Whether, if the Bill passed as it stood, the Railway Companies would withdraw their support of these Societies was, of course, a question on which he had no information; but, as it seemed to him, at all events, a great inducement on which they had entered into those arrangements would be taken away, because that great inducement was to avoid the possibility of all litigation. On the whole, having regard to the earlier opinions of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, viewing all the circumstances of the case, and because he considered the clause as being too wide, he (Mr. Dodd) felt bound to go against it, though he did so with regret.
§ * MR. BUCKNILL (Surrey, Epsom)
said, his hon. and learned Friend would forgive him if he said that, having attended to his speech, he found it very mysterious, except that the hon. Member was not going to vote with them on this occasion in favour of the Amendment. He should not have intervened in this Debate but for the fact that he had the modesty to think that he could put forward two or three reasons for supporting the hon. Member for Crewe (Mr. M'Laren) in this matter that were not quite the same as those already adduced. Member after Member had spoken of a particular company — the London and North Western—and, if he might use the expression, it had really in this Debate been ridden to death as if it were the only company concerned. That was not the fact; it was selected for the pur- 724 pose of illustration, and used as such with great effect and propriety. But what he wanted to draw the attention of the House to—and he hoped he was not impertinent in saying to bring it back to the real issue of—was this: that the very simple question involved in this Debate was whether employers and employed might have liberty to contract or not, or whether they were to be prohibited from doing that which, so far as had been demonstrated to the House, both parties had done willingly and gladly for their mutual benefit. If he thought that any true bill had been made out against employers for having improperly coerced or compelled their servants to take certain action he would be the last man to vote as he was going to vote that evening. He hoped that the day was long past when the employer would coerce his workmen for the benefit of his own pocket or otherwise, and be hoped also that the day might not be far distant—and here ho regretted that the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. J. Burns) was not present—when another system of coercion and of interference between master and servant would fade and disappear. Let him just put a little light on this subject as an old lawyer of 25 years' standing at the Bar—[A laugh.] Yes, 25 years this month he had belonged to that so-called unsympathetic profession. Let him point out, by way of illustration, why a working man preferred, as had been said to-night, a bird in the hand to two in the bush. First, if he went to law he had to find the money to do it, unless some speculative attorney would take it up on the terms—if he won, he paid himself, and if he did not, he charged nothing. He did not say that individual was to be found very often; nevertheless, he had been found. Secondly, the working man would ask himself if he had a good cause of action; should he succeed; had be been guilty of what the law called contributory negligence? because, if so, he could not succeed. Thirdly, what would the jury give him? Fourthly—and this was one of those things which he hoped was to disappear before long —what would happen on the day of reckoning? The working man knew that if he got from a jury a sum larger than that which he would obtain from a Mutual Association, he would got less from his solicitor than the amount 725 he had recovered at the jury's hands because of that unwholesome part of the law, which said there was a difference between taxed costs as between party and party, and between solicitor and client. If a man was awarded £50 by a jury—not an unusual sum for an injury to a foot, or it band, or an eye— when the time came for settlement he found lie received something less than the sum the jury awarded. That, be thought, might operate on the minds of the men of this country. If the working men thought they would rather make these contracts with their employers, and the employers found they led to good feeling, goodwill, and the prevention of quarrels and strikes, ought they not to pause long and to pause carefully before they gave their acquiescence to that legislation which would do away, in effect, with these mutual undertakings, and put master and man more at arms' length? This Bill had been spoken of by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary as a Bill that would prevent litigation. It was nothing of the sort, for the simple reason that if they prevented mutual arrangements they drove one and the other party to fight it out in the Courts of Law. Therefore, he said by way of prophecy that as the Act of 1880 had been fruitful of a great deal of good in the sense of making people come to an understanding, this Act would be known as the Act that did much to create litigation between master and man. Might he draw attention to what it was the Home Secretary said on the 8th of this month?—This is not a measure brought forward in the pecuniary interests of working men or employers, but a measure advocated because we believe, unless you make this change in the law, you will neither secure adequate compensation in the event of injury to persons engaged in industrial employment, nor, what is still mote important, the incentive to employers to take due precautions for the safe conduct of their industrial employment.He would like to make an observation on that sentence which seemed to him to be fallacious. If the Bill was not introduced for their pecuniary interests, why was it introduced? Why not leave them as they now were, to be settled by a Board of Conciliation — of mutual assurance for mutual benefit? But the right hon. Gentleman contradicted himself, for lie said that unless this change in the law was made workmen would not 726 get an adequate compensation. And was it likely that, if they introduced this Bill without the Amendment, they would get that friendly pecuniary settlement between master and man? In conclusion—for he had no wish to detain the House at that time of night—was it not an extraordinary circumstance to find sitting on the Treasury Bench two right hon. Gentlemen like the Home Secretary on the one hand and the President of the Local Government Board on the other? Not many days ago they heard the last-named gentleman presenting to them the fitness, the competency, the capacity of the working man not only to take care of himself, but to govern others in Parish Council—putting him upon a pedestal higher than ever before. He hoped, for many reasons, the right hon. Gentleman might be able to place him there, and he (Mr. Bucknill), for one, should be pleased to see the Parish Councils Bill carried if properly amended. On the other hand, the Home Secretary placed the same man on the lowest possible pedestal, telling him he was both a booby and a baby, incapable of taking care of himself, even though be should be an Inspector, a collector, a guard, or an engine driver of the North Western Company, who had to-night been called the aristocracy of the working classes. He preferred the estimate of them taken by the President of the Local Government Board to that acted upon by the Home Secretary.
§ * MR. PAUL (Edinburgh, S.)
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman had told them he was standing up for freedom of contract as against coercion, but where did he find freedom of contract in this Amendment? The Amendment said nothing about freedom of contract; it provided that, upon a vote, two-thirds of the working men of any Insurance Society should bind the remaining one-third. That might be a most excellent principle. He was not going to say anything against it, but whatever else it might be it was not freedom of contract. Why did not the hon. and learned Gentleman have the courage of his convictions, and propose that any working man should lie at liberty to make any bargain he chose with his employers, and to contract himself on any terms out of the benefit of the Bill? Then the hon. and learned Gentleman would occupy a tenable and logical position. The Amendment might be de- 727 fended on many grounds, but the ground that it embodied freedom of contract seemed to him to show a misconception of the terms of the clause the hon. Member for Crewe (Mr. M'Laren) had brought before the House. The hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Halsey) told them, in his ingenuous speech, that he never addressed the House unless he had some important interest to defend. He (Mr. Paul) felt he ought to offer an apology for taking part in this Debate, because he had no connection, directly or indirectly, except as a passenger, with either the North Western or the London and Brighton Railways; but he would venture to point out, large employers as these great Corporations were, this was a Bill and this was an Amendment which affected the whole industrial population of the United Kingdom, and the Loudon and North Western Railway was not the universe nor even Great Britain, though it was a very important Corporation which was most admirably represented in this House. His own constituency had no interest in the London and North Western Company, but there were in the constituency many working men, every one of whom was vitally affected by the provisions of this Bill. The hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Wrightson) said that every one ought to be able to contract himself out of a bad Bill. He quite agreed, but he thought there was a preliminary process—namely, that the Bill should have been rejected. The hon. Member for Stockton did not oppose the Second Reading, and no vote against the Second Reading was taken. The hon. Baronet the Member for South St. Pancras (Sir J. Goldsmid) said it was to the interest of Railway Companies to avoid accidents. No doubt; but that was an argument against any Employers' Liability Bill whatever. The London and North Western Railway had a very great—he had almost said an unfair—advantage in this House, because it was represented by the right hon. Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Plunket). He remembered hearing the right hon. Gentleman once say he would do all he could to make a particular measure more detestable, but the fact was that he could not deal with any subject without making it more attractive. If anything were required to commend the Rules of the North Western Insurance Fund, the 728 brilliant advocacy of the right hon. Gentleman would have been sufficient. He (Mr. Paul) would have no objection to an Amendment being introduced into the Bill which would provide that the sum recovered by any workman should be paid into Court, and that the solicitor should receive his taxed costs, and no more. But that, again, was not the question they were discussing. They were considering not whether the schemes of the London and North Western and (he London and Brighton—which was the more liberal scheme of the two—should continue; this was not an Amendment regulating those schemes, but one that applied to every existing insurance fund, large and small, good and bad, under which, for any consideration whatever, workmen might have been induced to contract themselves out of the Act of 1880. The hon. Baronet the Member for St. Pancras justly took credit for the fact that his Directors had not said that if the Bill passed they would put an end to their insurance scheme; but the London and North Western Directors had said they would do so, and that was a threat both to their workmen and to the House of Commons. He sometimes wondered whether their colonial policy was to be dictated by the British South Africa Company and their domestic policy by the London and North Western. He respectfully suggested that they were legislating not for this or that flourishing concern, but for the interests of the whole working classes — those who were least fortunate, as well as those who were most fortunate. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University spoke as if this Bill put an end to the insurance fund that existed. Not only did this Bill not put an end to it, but the Bill as it stood expressly made provision for all such schemes, because by the 3rd clause it enabled the employers to set off the contribution they had paid in any particular case under this scheme in any action that might be brought by a workman in their employment. If it were intended by this Bill to put an end to such a scheme what would be the use of a clause like that? It would defeat the objects hon. Gentlemen attributed to the Bill. A good deal had been said about the ballot that was taken on the North Western. He was not going to suggest that there was any unfair dealing on the 729 part of the Directors, but he said that the question put to the men in that ballot paper was not the question raised by the Bill, or by this Amendment. They were asked whether they would prefer the Bill or the fund, and not very unnaturally they said they would prefer the fund. Why were they not simply asked if they would have the clause in the Bill? There was nothing whatever, as he had already pointed out, except the will and choice of the Directors of this railway to interfere with this fund, and there was no idea of any substitution, except in the minds of the Directors. There would be just as much need, if the Bill passed, as there was now for insurance funds, if they were really instituted to protect working men against the interference of pestilent agitators. That was a ground which would exist just as strongly if this Bill passed as now. The Directors might say they would put an end to the scheme, and so reduce the wages of their servants. That, of course, they had a perfect right to do; and they could do it not only if this Bill passed, but if Parliament chose to pass any legislation affecting railways which the Directors did not happen to approve of. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Birmingham (Mr. Matthews) made a most animated defence of freedom of contract. Did the right hon. and learned Gentleman really suppose that this Amendment reserved freedom of contract? Where was the freedom of contract in a two-thirds vote? The right hon. and learned Gentleman was very candid, and he said he would go a good deal beyond this clause in its present form. This clause, for some reason he did not understand, dealt only with existing funds. He should have thought if it was to encourage voluntary arrangements between employer and employed it would apply to future as well as to present funds. He thought there was an Amendment on the Paper in the name of one of the Members for Preston which did extend this permission for contracting out to future as well as to present contracts. If that Amendment were to be carried, all he had to say was that this Bill would not be worth the paper upon which it was printed. What was freedom of contract? Freedom of contract was a very ambiguous phrase. Did it mean that people were not to be allowed to come to 730 an agreement? or did it mean an agreement that the parties might carry out or not, but which the law would not enforce? There were many agreements which might be made, but which could not be enforced. Suppose, for instance, he had made a bet with the right hon. and learned Gentleman—it was a strong supposition, because it would be beneath the right hon. Gentleman's dignity and against his (Mr. Paul's) principles. But supposing it was done, that was not a criminal thing, but it was an agreement the law would not enforce. Suppose a man agreed to work for nothing, that was an agreement the law would not enforce, but it was not criminal. Why were some agreements enforced and others not? Because some agreements were consonant with public policy, and others were regarded as contrary to it. How could it be in accord with public policy that people should be able to agree not to obey an Act of Parliament? If the objects of an Act of Parliament were good and valid objects, how could it be in accord with the public interest that anybody should be allowed to put his umbrella through the Act and do exactly the thing he would have done if the Act had not passed? If, on the other hand, it was in accordance with public policy that perfect freedom of contract should exist so that any man could agree for any consideration, large or small, it might be merely on condition of being employed—if he could contract himself out on such terms as that, what was the use of an Employers' Liability Bill at all? How could an Employers' Liability Bill, which was so permeated and so honeycombed as that, be any encouragement either for employers to provide for the safety of the men or any guarantee to workmen themselves that they would be safer than if this Bill had never passed? This was not a question of freedom of contract at all. It was a question whether the members of certain Associations which happened to be existing at this moment—some of which they heard a great deal about; they were no doubt the best—there were many others which they heard nothing about, and these were no doubt the worst—whether the men in these Associations at this moment should be allowed, not one man for himself, but a majority of two-thirds binding the others, to contract themselves out of the Act? He knew they were told that whatever happened 731 to this Amendment there, it would be inserted in another place, where no doubt the interests of the labouring classes were watched over with peculiar care. All he could say was, he hoped in this House of Commons they should stick to the broad principle that when Parliament had interfered—and he fully admitted it should never interfere unless there was a necessary cause for doing so—in the enforcement of an agreement between man and man, it should do so justly and generally, on some sound and universally applicable rule, and it should not for fancied or even real benefit to a few particular funds interfere with the great principle which was intended, and in his belief certain, to be of the utmost benefit to the whole industrial community of the United Kingdom.
§ MR. LODER (Brighton)
did not intend to occupy the time of the House for more than a few minutes, as so many other Members were anxious to speak on this important question. He hoped, however, that he might be allowed to say a few words on behalf of a large number of workmen employed by the London and Brighton Railway Company who felt very strongly on this question. Several hon. Members who had spoken had complained that the case of the men of the London and North Western Railway had been brought forward with too great frequency in the course of the Debate. The hon. Member who had just sat down said that this was a question which affected the whole of the industrial classes of this country. He quite agreed with him, but could not make out what argument the hon. Member drew from that statement. Ho could not see why, if this question affected the whole of the industrial classes of this country, it should not be competent for some members of that class to contract themselves out of the Act, if they wished to do so. So far as the workmen whom he represented were concerned, they had not the slightest wish to do any injury to the general principle of this Bill, nor had they any desire that their fellow-workmen in other parts of the country should not reap all the benefits which this Act was intended to give them. They felt, however, that they know their own interests best, and had lived for the last 12 or 14 years under a system of insurance which had given them a great many more advantages than they could hope to get under the Act. 732 hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Paul) based his objection to this clause mainly on two grounds: He first of all stated that the clause did not imply freedom of contract. That was so; and in so far as that particular part of the clause to which the hon. Member referred was concerned, he should be glad to see it rescinded. He did not see why it should be necessary to insert in the clause that in order that the men of a particular industry might contract themselves out it should be necessary for two-thirds of them to vote in favour of these workmen being allowed to contract out. On the London and Brighton Railway contracting out was not made a condition of employment, and at the present moment there were many workers on the railway who did not belong to the insurance fund. They were free to belong to the fund or not as they liked, and he did not see why that system should not be allowed to continue. The other objection which the hon. Member brought against this clause was that it only applied to existing funds. There, again, he (Mr. Loder) quite agreed with the hon. Member. He did not see why this clause should be restricted to existing funds. If the system had worked so well in connection with the large companies which had been referred to, he did not see why it should not be allowed to continue in regard to other funds established in the future. The attack which had been made by the Home Secretary on the ballot taken in the case of the London and North Western Railway men had been sufficiently refuted; but the Member for Battersea made a most unfounded and, in his opinion, most unjust statement as to the position of the Loudon and Brighton men with regard to this question. The hon. Member knew that many of them had declared themselves in favour of this clause; but he implied that they had thus expressed their views under a certain kind of coercion and compulsion. Whatever might be said for the vote given by the London and North Western men, there was no ambiguity in the Petition presented to that House by the London and Brighton men. That Petition set out clearly the advantages these men gained under their powers to contract out. It could be seen by any Member of the House, and was signed by 7,000 out of 9,000 workers on the railway. The 733 hon. Member, if he examined that Petition, would rind that it had been signed by a large number of workmen who resided in his own constituency. He was anxious nor to detain the House, though there were many other points which ho should be glad to touch upon. He was obliged to the House for allowing him to say those few words on behalf of the men whom he represented. He firmly believed that if this clause was allowed to pass it would do good, though he hoped that it would be modified in the direction which he had indicated. If passed, it would tend to continue that friendly relation between the employer and the workman which they all desired to see.
§ MR. W. ABRAHAM (Glamorgan, Rhondda)
hoped the House would bear with him for a few minutes, and he could assure hon. Members he did not intend to make a lengthy speech. He was certainly of opinion this was the most extraordinary Debate he had heard since he had been a Member of that House. It was incomprehensible to some Members with common understanding, and they found it difficult to find whether the House was endeavouring to incorporate a Mutual Insurance Society, having its headquarters in London, and only took railway workers into account, and whether they were to leave out of view hundreds of thousands of other workmen in different parts of the country. With all respect to those engaged in our great railway enterprises, it was right that something should be said on behalf of the other workers of this country. It was strange that so much time should be occupied in the discussion of this point. This was not the first time it had been debated. Some Members who had spoken seemed to have forgotten entirely that the late Home Secretary introduced a Bill more than once that the representatives of the workmen admitted would be an improvement on the existing law. Yet still it had in it this one black spot—it wanted to legalise contracting out of the very measure the House itself was endeavouring to pass; and because of that one black spot the majority of the workmen of this country would not have the right hon. Gentleman's Bill. Still, the House now found itself again discussing the same question, and workmen found it incomprehensible that this noble Assembly should spend hours, days, weeks, mouths, year after 734 year, in discussing legislation professedly to protect the lives and limbs of the working people—for that was really the object of the Bill—and yet allow all these hours to be spent in discussing the propriety of allowing workmen to contract themselves out of a measure provided for their benefit. He hoped the Government would not permit this; and if the House should unfortunately give its assent to any such proposal, he hoped the Home Secretary would drop the Bill like a hot potato, because the measure would then be to the working men of this country a jelly-fish measure without any backbone in it at all. He hoped, therefore, the right hon Gentleman would stick to his guns. It was well understood by those who cared to understand this thing correctly that what the workmen of the country wanted was not so much monetary compensation for injuries as the real protection for their lives and limbs. If that was acknowledged to be so, why spend hours of the time of the House in an endeavour to weaken that protection? Some hon. Members had attacked his hon. Friend the Member for Battersea in his absence, asking did he and his friends know better than the working men themselves what was best for their interests. No; they made no such profession; but some hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen who wanted this right to contract out of the Bill seemed to think they know better than the workmen themselves what was best for the workmen's interests. It was found that the men, when left alone to their own opinions, did not join these funds. ["No, no!"] He repeated the statement. In his experiences where workmen had been left to the enjoyment of their own opinions they had expressed their opinion against these funds, and were to-day as strongly against contracting out as they had over been, and they would not thank this House for a Bill to incorporate these mutual insurance funds. They wanted this Bill to give them real protection. He noticed that the late Home Secretary, in the Debate on the previous evening, discussed the point whether this contracting out was voluntary, or whether the contracts were imposed upon the men, and, dissecting the figures, declared that the increase in numbers between 1882 and 1893 indicated that his opinion was well founded, and that in no place was his case so strong as in South Wales. 735 Well, he (Mr. Abraham) knew something of South Wales, more than the right hon. Gentleman had had the opportunity of knowing, and he was not recognised among those who had been called reckless agitators, who were doing everything they could against the interest of employers as such. If there were any such in the House ho was not one of them. If they dealt with an employer in a manly fashion he would, as a rule, respond in the same spirit; and what ho had to say was not against a man as an employer simply, but he wanted to show that joining their Societies had not been voluntary on the part of the workmen of South Wales, and as hearing on the point he quoted from evidence given by one of their respected agents before the Labour Commission, who said—Another point I wish to make is with respect to compensation for accidents, or what is called in South Wales and Monmouth the permanent relief fund. After the passing of the Employers' Liability Act these funds were formed in a good number of districts to the injury of miners and other workers; that is, to the injury of the thrifty persons at least, because the majority of them, having made provision by joining Friendly Societies both for sickness and accident, and being compelled to leave the pits or join the permanent fund, could not or did not keep up their payments to the Friendly Societies, and so lost their benefit from those.This was an explanation of why thousands of South Wales miners were found members of these permanent relief funds. He was not one of those who were against a permanent relief fund. He believed in workmen making the best provision they could against accidents, but he wanted the workmen to be free from coercion, and not compelled to contract out of the Act. Why, then, this cavilling and endeavour to retain this principle of contracting out, which had been used against workmen, and would be so used again? He had been watching with very great pleasure the improved safety in the conditions of work in mines, and was thankful for what the late Government did by legislation in this direction, but in 99 cases in every 100 in his experience, where employers of labour had been compelled by legislation to go to extra cost in order to give further protection to their men, they had at the same time given more protection to their own property. The benefit was mutual; so he conscientiously believed it would continue to be when this Bill passed. 736 He was not ready to believe that these companies would withdraw their contribution to these funds in consequence of the passage of the Bill. It had been said that the contributions were not made exactly as compensation, but that other benefits resulted; that time was saved; the worry and expense of the Law Courts avoided; that disputes were prevented—an advantage any employer of labour would readily admit; and that these insurance funds tended to keep up continuity of employment, and the employers had not continually to engage fresh men, so that they had the benefit and the services of experienced men, while the good feeling engendered led to more work being done. Well, if this was the case, and if the Bill would only affect 20 per cent, of the cases with which the insurance funds were concerned; if the enumerated advantages attached to the fund were true, he declined to think those sagacious gentlemen who started the funds would put an end to them because of the Bill. He had greater faith in their honour, wisdom, and sympathetic feeling with their men than to suppose they would so act. Even if there was no higher motive, self interest would prompt a continuance of contributions to these funds, and he hoped the Government would not move from their position of opposition to the Amendment.
§ MR. NEVILLE (Liverpool, Exchange)
said, he thought he knew what the question before the House was; but the course the Debate had taken had thrown him into some confusion. The hon. Member for the Maldon Division (Mr. Dodd), with whose opinions he agreed, was going to vote with the Government, and the hon. Member for Epsom (Mr. Bucknill), from whose expressions of opinion he differed, was going to vote with him against the Government. His position would be ridiculous if it was not so lamentable, for he could see that ho would find himself in the Lobby with those usually opposed to him, and voting against those with whom he was agreed upon almost every subject. He meant to support this clause, not on any ground of freedom of contract—if it were a question of so-called freedom of contract he would vote with the Government. The real question before the House was something very different. It was, whether the legally-acquired rights of the employés 737 of these great Corporations were to be respected, or whether that House were, without regarding their interests, to pass a law which might have the effect of depriving them of the benefit which they had legitimately obtained without giving them any adequate compensation? He would remind the House that it was not a question of the dictation of a great Corporation like the London and North Western Company; it was a question affecting a large section of the working men of this country. He was bound to say that he was compelled to accept the evidence laid before him in favour of the proposition that the enormous majority of these men were anxiously desirous to maintain their present status. The hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. J. Burns) had referred to communications which he had received from the Canada Dock Station and Waterloo Station of the London and North Western. Now, he (Mr. Neville) had been in communication with the Liverpool men of the company for some months; and if it were the fact that there had been any considerable section of those men who disagreed with the position he was taking up that night, he could not but think that some intimation of their view would have reached him. And yet every communication he had received from the men was to one effect—that they were practically unanimous in their desire to be allowed some clause which would preserve their rights. He could not understand how the argument could be advanced that the Bill did not interfere with the rights of these men, for it absolutely destroyed the agreement they now had with their employers. It might be true that another agreement might be entered into, but the men did not think so, and he preferred to take their opinion on the subject. He had listened with an open mind to the brilliant speech of the Home Secretary (Mr. Asquith), but his right hon. Friend failed to convince him. The Home Secretary, in order to maintain his case, had to establish one of two propositions: either that the position of the men was not jeopardised by the Bill, or that it was necessary for the community at large that their position should be imperilled. Every speaker who had opposed the present clause had failed to show that, supposing the wishes of the workmen in the great centres were met and a provision inserted in the Bill for preserving 738 their present rights, anybody would be one penny the worse. If he thought that the effect of the proposed clause would be to enable a general, or anything like a general, contracting out, he would oppose instead of supporting it. Possibly the proposed clause might be too wide in its terms; but in that case it might easily be amended. In his opinion, in order to meet the views which the men had expressed in favour of maintaining their present position, a saving clause of this character ought to be accepted by the House. He approached the question from this position. Here were a large number of persons who had certain existing interests, which were going to be imperilled by the Bill if it passed; and he could not see why they should not have interests preserved in the Act. Nobody had shown him in what way anybody but an employé of those Societies would be affected for good or evil by the acceptance of this clause, and he thought they ought to insert it, and so give effect to the wishes of the men and enable them to secure the position they now occupied. He was most reluctant to go into the Lobby with those with whose views on questions of this kind he did not generally agree, but he felt that he was bound to vote in favour of preserving the existing interests which the men had in these Insurance Societies—and that, he believed, could be done without injury to the general working population of the country.
§ * MR. PIERPOINT (Warrington)
said, he thought it was the duty of every Member of the House representing the great towns on the line of the Loudon and North Western Railway and the Midland Railway not to give a silent vote on this occasion. As representing Warrington he had received many communications from the men of the North Western Company in favour of this clause, while he had not had a single one against it from the men of the Cheshire lines or the Midland. The hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. J. Burns) had claimed the right to speak upon this question on the ground that a largo number of trains pass his back door every day; but he could say that a large number of trains passed both his front and back doors ever since the London and North Western Railway was made. It was said that the £100 that was secured by the London and North Western 739 Railway in case of death was a very small sum, but the amount of the sum was not the only consideration. In the existing circumstances, if a man in the employment of the company was killed in the discharge of his duty his widow and his family were certain of employment by the company. That would not be the case if by means of this Bill matters of quarrel and of litigation were introduced between the employers and the employed. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had made a very bad point when he took exception to the form of the ballot paper presented to the men as to whether they would contract themselves out of the Act or not. With regard to the question of intimidation, they found in the evidence of the late Mr. Bleckly, of the Pearson and Knowles Coal and Iron Company, before the Commission of 1886, that the men were not pressed to join the Society; that they could do as they pleased. They had the case of the Wigan branch of that firm. After the Act of 1880 was passed the men at Wigan at first refused to contract themselves out of the Act, but though there had been no serious accidents after 18 months, they formed a Society of their own, and so all the men of the firm—about 2,500—were members of their Insurance Societies. He thought the hon. Member for Battersea was scarcely justified in stating that England was growing richer and richer every day. He ventured to say that a Bill of this kind without such a provision as that proposed by the hon. Member for Crewe would create even more dissension between masters and men than already existed, and surely nothing should be done which would tend to have that effect at the present time, when trade seemed to be rapidly leaving the country. A time like this, when trade was in such a bad condition, was not a time in which to sow strife between masters and men.
§ * MR. KEIR HARDIE (West Ham, S.)
said, the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Neville) wished to put the real question before the House. That was what he (Mr. Keir Hardie) desired to do. The real question was whether this Bill was or was not to pass into law. If this Amendment were adopted, the Trade Unions of the country would not accept the Bill. Let that be distinctly understood. The Trade Union- 740 ists refused a Bill containing a contracting-out clause from the late Government, and they would do the same if such a clause were inserted in the Bill of the present Government. If there was one point upon which Trade Union opinion was combined, it was against any provision for contracting out. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Neville) said he was not in favour of a general system of contracting out, but that the clause proposed would not injure anyone if adopted. He (Mr. Keir Hardie) believed that the House would at least be consistent, and that if the clause were carried that night it would be insisted upon that the same treatment should be applied both to existing funds and to funds which might come into existence afterwards. There must be some general system, and it would never do to leave the question of contracting out an open one. If the clause were carried every workman would be injured, to the extent that it would be practically placed within the employer's power to contract him out of the provision of the law. No doubt that power would be taken advantage of, as it had been taken advantage of before. There had been a Truck Act in existence in this country for a long time. The provisions of that Act were systematically evaded by the employers, until it became imperative on the part of the House of Commons to make contracting out of the Truck Act illegal, and so to prevent employers from bringing pressure to bear on their employés to contract out of the Act. He would assume that what had been said in support of this clause was true—that it would tend to make workpeople more content with their lot. To what did this lead? It led to the acceptance by men who were content with their let of lower conditions of labour than other workmen who had not the same advantages would accept, and if by this measure the men of the North Western Company were induced to accept either a lower rate of wages or a system of longer hours, the workpeople of other Railway Companies would he obliged to accept these also. This was no imaginary difficulty, and thus the new clause affected very really the interest of every workman in the country. The House was not dealing with a system of insurance against accidents, but with the question of the liability of 741 employers. If they were to discuss the question of workmen's insurance, as he hoped they would do at some future time, let them discuss it as a distinct and separate issue, but not mix up questions as to the benevolence of employers with the legal responsibilities attaching to careless masters whose neglect operated injuriously on their workpeople. Two years ago the then Opposition opposed a Bill of the then Government, and defeated it. He hoped hon. Members—even those having North Western Railway men as constituents—would act up to the decision of two years ago. To him it seemed disgraceful that hon. Members, to gain votes, should go back on their decision against the Bill of two years ago, as they would do if they voted for this clause. It would be—in order to please a small and selfish section of railway men—be pressing on the great majority of the workmen of the country a principle in which they did not believe. He trusted, therefore, that the Amendment would be rejected by a large majority, for otherwise the time they had spent on the Hill this Session would be practically wasted. He repeated that he did not believe the Trade Unionists of the country would accept the Bill if this clause were put into it.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)
said, as this was a question with which he bad hitherto been interested, he might claim permission to say a few words. The hon. Member who had just spoken had referred to the proceedings on the Bill of two years ago. That Bill was disposed of in a Committee on which the Labour Members were represented, and they tried to defeat the measure because they (the Unionist Party) were in power. It was a Party opposition and a Party agitation, and a defeat from Party motives. Hon. Members who were present at the time would remember that the late Mr. Bradlaugh, who had at heart the interests of the working classes before those of Party, denounced the opposition of Air. Broad-hurst and others as a Party move against the interests of the working classes. The discussion on the question before the House had been rather narrowed to Railway Companies. It had a far wider scope than the railways. It was quite true that the peculiar character of the Amendment made the discussion, perforce, take a somewhat awkward turn, because 742 those who agreed with him did not think that the Amendment went far enough, and they voted for that Amendment only in the hope, if it should become successful, of amending it, not only by making it retrospective, but by making it apply to all Associations of a similar character in future. Hon. Gentlemen had been discussing the Amendment as if it were a question of contracting out of the Bill. But that was not the issue at all; the true issue was whether working men should be able to contract themselves into something far better than the Bill gave them. No one pretended that if this Bill became law it would deal with more than 30 or 40 per cent, of those who suffered by accidents. What was intended to be done with the remaining 60 or 70 per cent.? Were they to be left out? The working classes had wives and families and feelings, and were subject to starvation and privation. Their contention was that nothing at all would be done for them. His (Mr. Jesse Collings's) contention, on the opposite, was that this Bill would be the minimum which the working classes should receive in case of accident. That was what he started from, but he said that if the workmen, in conjunction with their employers, could find some extra advantage, they ought not to be debarred from having it. That was the issue upon which they would meet not the extreme section of the Trades Unions, but the leaders of the extreme section. They had met these leaders in the City of Birmingham; they had beaten them, and they would continue to uphold the general welfare of the working classes. They would recommend Trades Unions—they always had—and they contended that Trades Unions should exist for the good of the people and not the people for the good of Trades Unions. That was the issue; they were going to put before the country. They said they wanted the Bill as the minimum for the working classes, but they demanded that there should be some safeguarded plan by which there could be extra advantages, and that this Parliament should not prevent them obtaining it. No one would deny that under the Bill, if it became law, not above 30 or 40 per cent, of those who suffered accidents would receive compensation, while under the Amendment all that met with accidents would receive compensation. He had 743 listened to the speeches of the hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division and of the hon. Member for Battersea. He regretted that they assumed to themselves that they alone knew all about the working classes. There were numbers of Labour Representatives who were working men with whom it was a pleasure to act. But when Members came forward inside or outside the House, and on the strength of their having done some work recently or in the distant future—[laughter]—well, in the dim and distant past—and claimed to be specially representative of the working classes, that was a position which he disputed. The hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division said that the working classes in favour of the Amendment accepted it with a pistol at their head. The hon. Member for Battersea said that it was intimidation and coercion which made them support it. Well, it was these two Members against something like 100,000 working men, and he (Mr. Jesse Collings) preferred to take the opinion of the 100,000 working men. When they had the Memorial from the Brighton employés, from those of the London and North Western, and others, it was futile to say that all that was the result of coercion and intimidation. The climax was reached by the hon. Member for Battersea when he quoted anonymous letters stating that that was the case. Anyone could get no end of such letters all concluding with the words that for certain reasons the writers did not wish their names mentioned. That was a very old procedure. But the thousands and tens of thousands of men who supported the Amendment were not afraid to have their names appear in print. Members who travelled on the London and North Western Railway knew that at every station they were besieged by men who spoke of the great calamity that would fall upon them if this Amendment were rejected. The hon. Member for Battersea, who made a powerful rhetorical speech, did not address himself to the arguments for and against the Amendment further than to say that the Trade Unions did not like it. The hon. Member spoke specially of the shunters. But what would become of those men? Under the Bill the shunters would fare very badly, because in their case there was a larger number of accidents which 744 were disputed as attributable to contributory negligence than in any other department of the railway. Under the Amendment the shunters and all other classes would receive compensation, but he questioned whether they would under the Bill. The discussion had been conducted as if only Railway Companies were involved. But there were other very important firms affected. There were such firms as those of Messrs. Chance, which employed more than 1,000 men under arrangements of a most satisfactory character, and of Messrs. Tangye. He, and those who agreed with him, wanted to increase the satisfactory kind of arrangement that existed between these firms and their workpeople. When they talked about the necessity for insurance whore could there be a better training ground for thrift among the working classes than to see employers and employed coming together to manage mutually schemes compensating for accidents? It ought to be encouraged in every possible way, always safeguarding the working men against the possibility of the abuse of such a clause on the part of unprincipled employers. They had heard very little from the opponents of the Amendment as to what was to become of the great class of sufferers from accidents who would not come under the Bill at all. Ho wanted to know what their opinion was about that. It was all the same to the man who met with an accident, and to his wife and family, whether the accident was brought about by his own negligence or somebody else's so far as the effects went. They wanted to provide that compensation should be given in these cases as well as in others. He had been amused to hear the hon. Member for Aberdeen say last night that the man who went before juries would get larger rewards than they would receive under any other arrangements.
§ MR. HUNTER
said, that his statement was that the highest amount the Railway Company gave was £38, and that the person who had sustained an accident would get a much larger sum from the Courts.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said, that might be so; but how about the cases where the verdict would be lost, and the cases which did not come before juries? Those who supported the Amendment wanted to see compensation given to all 745 who suffered accident, even though it occurred through their own negligence. He had also been amused to hear the hon. Member give his case away by saying that 98 per cent. of those who met with accidents under the London and North Western system were treated favourably, but the 2 per cent, were not. They were not going to make this a Party measure further than this: that they wished to get all the advantages they could for the people for whom the Bill would not secure advantages, and further, that the working classes should have power to secure as much more as they could. If the Government wished to make the Bill a Party measure, and thought it would get them votes, he would tell them that, though they might gain votes, they would lose two for every one they would gain. But the interests of the working classes, and especially those unprovided for by the Bill, were above Party considerations; and in this matter he was willing to save the Government from the consequences of their own action. The Home Secretary had given no answer to the arguments that had been urged in regard to the attitude of the Directors of the London and North Western Railway Company. He evidently saw the benefits which would accrue from the adoption of the Amendments. In the Standing Committee the right hon. Gentleman said he would be sorry to see mutual funds abolished, because the existence of them prevented a vast amount of litigation; and yet, while sorry to see it done, he did it, and refused to give weight to the clearest evidence of those directly concerned. It was estimated that, with their wives and families, the number of members of these funds represented 500,000 people who were satisfied with the present arrangements, and declared they would be losers if the Bill passed in its present form. Yet the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary refused to listen to the wishes of these 500,000people, and pooh-poohed them. There was a Return the other day which gave the particulars of 16 cases in which working men had brought actions under the existing Act, and 11 of these plaintiffs lost their actions; and a few obtained awards which were probably swallowed up in legal expenses, because not only was the compensation limited, but they had the abolition of the doctrine of common employ- 746 ment, which, in itself, would give rise to extra litigation. The Bill, as it stood, in fact, would do more mischief than enough—to the men as well as the employers. They had heard a great deal about coercion, but this was a Coercion Bill, because, by it, the Government said to tens of thousands of working men— "You do not know your own interests; we don't believe what you say, and we are going to compel you to do what we think best for you." Some of the leaders of Trades Unionism were evidently afraid of what the Amendment would do by encouraging mutual agreements to undermine Trade Unionism, because there were but few Trade Unionists in the employ of the London and North Western Railway. A Circular issued by the Brighton Railway Company said that the Trade Societies were adopting a dog-in-the-manger policy, and were robbing widows and orphans of a splendid provision which had been made for their relief. That was an expression of opinion which coming as it did from thousands of working men, he hoped the Government would give attention to. These men ought not to be put aside and told that the advantages they enjoyed would be put an end to by legislation. He hoped the Government would accept the Amendment, and allow it to be applied to all responsible concerns. If they would not, the question would be tested with the great mass of the working people themselves.
§ MR. J.H. WILSON (Middlesbrough)
said, he had listened attentively to the Debate, and had made up his mind that it had resolved itself into one between Capital and Labour. [Cries of "No!"] Well, the speeches of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen in support of the clause proved that. They said they were anxious that a good and friendly understanding should prevail between employers and their workmen. [Cheers.] Yes, and they were told that on the Loudon and North Western Railway a friendly feeling prevailed. Why? It was not entirely a feeling of satisfaction on the part of workmen. Would any of them venture to say that the railway man receiving 15s. or 16s. a week was satisfied with that wages? If they did, he would advise them to try to live upon it for a month or two. It was stated that the workmen on the 747 London and North Western Railway system had voluntarily and without the application of any coercion voted in favour of contracting out of the Act. He ventured to say that he did not believe it. Last Sunday evening, when he was travelling from Liverpool to London, several platelayers got into his carriage at one of the stations, and he entered into conversation with them on the question of contracting out of the Act. There were five of them, and they were unanimously of opinion that it was better to have the protection of the Bill than to contract out of it. He heard an hon. Member say—"Five out of 62,000," but he wanted to say that the figures had been stretched very much indeed during the Debate. 50,000 and 60,000 had been mentioned, and the last speaker had said 100,000. No doubt, if the Debate lasted another 24 hours the figures would get up to 200,000. It was not a paltry pittance that the working men of this country were seeking for injuries they might sustain. For his part, he would prefer to have the whole of his limbs and to be able to work, rather than lose a leg or an arm and have to depend upon the miserable pittance that was given under this insurance system. What a consolation it must be for a young workman who in the prime of life lost both his legs to know that for the rest of his days he would have 8s. or 9s. a week from a wealthy Railway Company![Cries of"Oh!"] Had those hon. Members who cried "Oh!" had any experience of what it was to live on 10s. a week? Let them try it, and then he ventured to say they would not cry "Oh!" How could a man bring up and educate his children on such a miserable pittance? If a man lost life or limb in following his employment inconsequence of his employer's neglect he had a right to receive from that employer ample compensation to maintain his family and to educate his children, as they would have been educated if the accident had not taken place. The children of a man who was killed in this way ought not to have to drag on a miserable existence until they were old enough to work, and then have to commence work with a broken constitution. He did not desire to rob the employés of the Loudon and North Western Railway Company of their benefit scheme, but he did not see why 60,000 or even 100,000 workmen should be allowed to contract 748 out of the Act to the detriment of hundreds of thousands, nay, millions, of other workmen. He represented a body of men who had not had the benefit of any Employers' Liability Act. They had, however, a sort of benefit scheme which was given to them by the Shipping Federation. The seamen did not contribute to the scheme, and he had no doubt that if the clause passed the ship-owners would say—"Two years ago we brought forward an insurance scheme even more liberal than that of the London and North Western Railway Company, because we did not ask the seamen to contribute, and, therefore, we are entitled to say that the seamen should contract out of the Employers' Liability Act." He hoped, therefore, that Liberal Members who appeared likely to go back on the principles they had for a long while professed would carefully take into consideration the interests of the 200,000 men of the Mercantile Marine before they voted for the Resolution of the hon. Member for Crewe (Mr. W. M'Laren). Much had been said about the uncertainty of the law. It was not the fault of the law; it was the fault of the men who constituted the juries, and who at the present time were drawn from the ranks of the employers. If the juries were composed of working men instead of employers of labour it would not be necessary to complain that there had been only five successful cases out of 16. There was no reason why working men should be debarred from the privilege and protection which a Bill of this kind would give them because of the unsatisfactory state of the law relating to the constitution of our juries. Many of the claims which were now unsuccessful in the Law Courts were unsuccessful because the juries were composed of employers. It was not reasonable to expect that employers of labour would be ready to give a verdict in favour of a workman when they knew that at some early date they might be in the same position as the defendant. Some hon. Members might think that he was saying very strong things in reference to our juries. He knew of one ease where a seaman sued for compensation. Ten of the jury were prepared to give £350 damages; but there were two managing shipowners on the jury, and they were in favour of a verdict for 749 the shipowner. To get a final settlement they compromised the case for £190. This was only one case out of many which he could give to the House, but he did not desire to occupy too much time. [Ironical cheers.] He had no doubt that some gentlemen did not like to hear the voice of the Trades Unionist on this question. It might not be very pleasant for the Directors of the London and North Western Railway Company to be told from the floor of the House that when they were paying men 15s. and 16s. a week they were sweating their workmen. [An hon. MEMBER: What class?] He was asked which class. It bad been repeatedly stated in that House what the men received, and he was informed that there were porters at the wayside stations who did not receive more than 16s. a week. He was told no later than last Sunday night that fines were imposed upon these men for taking what were commonly called "tips" from the passengers. If the Directors of the Loudon and North Western Railway Company wished to be free from the influence of the "common agitator," who bad been so much referred to during the Debate, let them treat their workmen better and give them fair conditions of labour. If they did this, they would find it would be impossible for the agitator to touch them. It was the fact that the men had bad conditions of labour that made it easy indeed for the agitator to do his work. It was said that the men had voted of their own free will in favour of this clause. Where was the freedom in Crowe? There was practically only one industry in Crewe, and that was the railway industry. Numbers of the men when spoken to privately expressed a fear of the consequences if they voted in favour of this Bill. They had good reason for doing so. He expected that if a Director of the company went up to a number of the men and said —"Now, my men, are you afraid to vote against this?" they would be only too delighted to assure him that they were heartily in favour of it, and would do their best to get their mates to sign a Petition. [An hon. MEMBER: They must be a miserable lot, then!] He never said that they were a miserable lot, but he understood the difference between freedom and coercion. Workmen who were compelled to work under such conditions would be only too pleased to let their employers know that they 750 had voted for contracting out of the Bill. If a man was discharged from his employment in Crewe it was a very serious matter for him. He could not turn his attention to other industries, and he, therefore, had to go to some distant town, and incur the expense of removing his family and his furniture, which was a, serious matter for a man who was receiving £1 or 15s. a week. He was not surprised, therefore, that men should he ready to vote for this clause, which was a Coercion Clause. There was no freedom where a man was compelled to sign a document or starve. If that man were in an independent position, with money in his pocket, he would not be prepared to sign away his rights, as the London and North Western employés would he compelled to sign their rights away if this clause were adopted by the House.
§ * MR. KNOWLES (Salford, W.)
said, the hon. Member who had just sat down seemed to find fault with the allowance which was made by Railway Insurance Societies in case of accidents. The hon. Member would probably find, however, if these Societies were abolished, that the relief given would be oven loss. He (Mr. Knowles) had been unable to understand what the hon. Member for Batter-sea (Mr. J. Burns) meant by his allusion to the Petitions which had been presented to the House. The different Members who had spoken, many of them supporters of the present Government, had not shown any disbelief in the genuineness of those Petitions, and had certainly displayed no suspicion that the constituents who had asked them to present them were bogus. The Home Secretary (Mr. Asquith) also did not appear to think that the deputation which had waited upon him was bogus. The hon. Member for Battersea had said he lived near a railway, and that 800 trains passed his house every day. No doubt he had become accustomed to the din and nuisance of these trains, and turned a deaf ear to them, but, at the same time, he had learnt to turn a deaf ear to those who worked the trains. The hon. Member had said that if it was found that there were 100 railway servants in his constituency who supported this clause he would resign his seat. Well, he (Mr. Knowles) thought the hon. Member would find if he took the trouble to poll the constituency that 751 there were 500 railway servants in it who were in favour of the proposal of the hon. Member for Crewe. The hon. Member was asked to receive a deputation of these men in order that they might place their views before him and urge their reasons for supporting this clause. No reply was received. A second communication was sent, and again no reply was received; therefore, he thought the hon. Member could not be fully informed on the strength of opinion among railway men on this matter. The hon. Member for Rhondda Valley had stated that compulsion had been used to induce the workmen to join these Societies. Surely at such a time as this a statement of that kind was absurd, having regard to the strength of the working men at the present day. He would remind the hon. Member who had just sat down of the recent strike in the shipping trade. It was only last year that they had a strike in the cotton trade, and now they had one in the coal trade. But that was not all. He could speak of his own knowledge of a case where a company asked their men to contract out, and they refused; and some time afterwards the men actually asked the company to be allowed to contract themselves out of the Act, but the company declined to accept the proposal which they themselves had originally made. If any further evidence were required they would find a specific case showing the desire of men to contract out, in the Blue Book in the evidence of Mr. Pickard, President of the Lancashire Miners' Federation. One of the chief reasons that induced him to support this clause was the recognition of the necessity of the protection of the lives and limbs of working men. The men where these funds existed took an active interest in them, as was clearly set out in the questions and answers, which would be found in the Blue Book of 1886. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds (Mr. Jackson) questioned Mr. H. Bleckly, a Magistrate of the County of Lancaster, and Deputy Chairman of a well-known Lancashire coal and iron company, thus—And probably the administration of this fund by a committee of men engaged in the works would have the effect of imposing upon the workmen generally more care than it would be possible for the employers themselves to impose upon them?752 The answer was, "Undoubtedly it would."And, therefore, the tendency of the fund would be not only to compensate for all accidents, but rather to diminish the number of the accidents which would be likely to take place?—Certainly. The men who are on the committee are a kind of sentinels, in fact, distributed through the works, whose attention is drawn to the fact of their having to provide for accidents out of funds which they partly contribute themselves. Therefore, they have a direct pecuniary interest in reducing those accidents to the smallest possible number.The hon. Member for North Worcestershire (Mr. Hingley) asked—It gives the men a mutual interest in preventing accidents?—It does.That, he thought, supported the view he (Mr. Knowles) took, and which, he thought, the hon. Member for Rhondda ought to take—namely, that the proposed clause would have a tendency to reduce accidents, and, therefore, ought to be inserted in the Bill. Its acceptance, as had been pointed out, would prevent litigation, and masters then could afford to be more liberal to their men. It would not be necessary to spend so much in law, and the men would be able to get more money in the case of accident, or their relatives in case of death. It would also promote good feeling between employer and employed. It might be asked would the employer continue his subscription to the insurance funds, supposing that the clause was not carried. He did not think that the subscription would be continued; at all events, the employer would not subscribe so much. If reference were made to Clause 3 of the Bill it would be noticed that no limit was imposed on the amount of compensation that might be claimed. In the Bills of 1888 and 1890 such a limit was introduced. Furthermore, in the same connection, he might point out that Clause 3 stated in effect that in a case where an action was brought against an employer who had contributed to one of those insurance funds, and he then became liable to pay damages, he might deduct the damages in certain cases from those funds; but he was unaware whether this would include costs. It sometimes happened that where au employer was ordered to pay damages, the costs of the action were twice as heavy as the sum awarded, and it surely would be exceedingly hard if, in a case in which the compensation awarded was equal to, or 753 less than, the sum the plaintiff would be entitled to out of the fund, the employer were prevented from recovering the costs as well as the damages from the fund. They knew, too, how much touting was done by pettifogging solicitors, who were the black sheep of the profession, even under the present Bill; and unless this Amendment was carried there would be still more touting; men would be discovered in the accident wards of hospitals, and they would be induced to make heavy claims against their employers. If they won the solicitor would pocket a considerable proportion of the damages, and if they lost the men would lose what little money they might have. For these reasons employers, instead of continuing their present contributions to existing Societies, would deem it necessary to subscribe a larger amount to Insurance Companies, who, naturally, under the altered state of the law, and in consequence of the removal of the limit, would demand higher premiums. He thought it would be very hard if the House took any stops which would interfere with existing Societies. Such interference could only do harm to the men who, in case of accident—even if they were entirely to blame for it—now received compensation; whereas, under the Bill, they would be deprived of their right to recover it. On these grounds, amongst others, he should support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Crewe.
§ MR. RANDELL (Glamorgan, Grower)
thought neither the Directors of the London and North Western Railway Company nor the men had any reason to complain of the manner in which their respective cases had been laid before the House. Any stranger who had listened to the Debate would have been led to suppose that the House of Commons was engaged on legislation in the interests of the London and North Western men alone. They wore apt to forget that there were other working men in the country, and their opinions as expressed by their elected Representatives from time to time ought not to be lost sight of. He attached a greater value to the opinions of Trade Unions, representing as they did all classes of labour, than he would to the opinions of the workmen of the London and North Western Company alone. The great principle which for years the working men of the country 754 had been struggling for at great sacrifice to themselves was the principle of compulsory liability. Very properly they had sought to place upon employers the responsibility in all cases of accident, and working men were more deeply concerned in the means of preventing accidents than in the mere question of compensation. The hon. Member for Crewe had stated that his amending clause was not opposed to the Bill, and that, apart from the case of the London and North Western men, he and his friends were as solicitous as to the effect of the principle of compulsory liability as the Government were; but the Amendment, he thought, was destructive of the main purposes of the Bill, and he was bound to remind the House that the late Home Secretary had warned them that, if it were carried, he and his friends would do all they could to extend its operation to prospective Societies. It had been urged that it was not desirable to approach this question from a Party point of view, and he agreed with that; but it was a significant fact that in that Debate there had not come from either the Conservative or Liberal Unionist Benches a single expression of opinion in favour of the Government proposal. It looked as if they were going solid in favour of the Amendment.
§ MR. RANDELL
said, he was glad to find that there was one exception, but he feared it would be a solitary case. It had been suggested that under the amending clause the men would get more than they could obtain under the Bill. They might or might not, but certainly they ought not to be granted an advantage to the great detriment of the general body of workers. Again, it had been said that the London and North Western men, almost to a man, were in favour of the clause, but he believed there were fewer in favour of it than had been stated, and that had the men been left entirely alone still more would have pronounced in favour of the Government proposal. In the Report issued by the company as to the result of the ballot, it was stated that 104 men employed at the Swansea sub-stations voted for the present system of insurance, and only one against. He did not know when the ballot was taken, but these men held a meeting a fortnight ago to consider the 755 matter, and the House would probably be surprised to learn that a majority of them voted upon the proposal of the hon. Member for Crewe. He did not suggest for a moment that the company had coerced their men, but undoubtedly they had been very much en evidence in the matter, and it was not likely that the men would be willing to express opinions contrary to those given expression to by the Directors. He was sorry to find that the company had made threats in this matter, but he did not believe they would carry them out. He was not opposed to all forms of insurance, though he thought mutual insurance was a very doubtful advantage. Still, having regard to the law's delay and uncertainty, and the large number of cases not covered by the Bill, he advocated Societies to which the men alone should contribute, which should work hand in hand with a compulsory Employers' Liability Bill. He agreed with the hon. Member for Battersea that these Mutual Insurance Societies tended to undermine the independence of the men.
§ * MR. THORNTON (Clapham)
said, he only rose to deny that there were 3,000 railway men in Battersea as had been stated by the hon. Member for Battersea. They numbered less than 2,000 in all, and of those 1,500 were in his own constituency. All of them were not opposed to these Societies, and a large number had waited on him asking him to support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Crewe. He should like to add that personally he would prefer to see the power of contracting out given to existing Societies, but not to those which might be established in the future. All he wished to say was that, even if the Home Secretary told them they would suffer at the polls if they voted for the clause of the hon. Member for Crewe, he was prepared to take his chance and do what he thought right.
§ * CAPTAIN NAYLOR-LEYLAND (Colchester)
said that, being neither a Director of a Railway Company, a lawyer, or a Labour Leader, he would not have intervened in the Debate had he not desired to lay before the House a case which had not yet been presented to it. The Debate had proceeded on exceedingly narrow lines. One would think that the London and North Western and the Brighton were the only two companies 756 in the world. In his opinion it had been shown to demonstration that if the Bill passed as it stood it would do a great deal of harm to the Societies of those two companies. But there was a company called the Great Eastern, as to which the Home Secretary took upon himself to quote some figures. It was needless to say that those figures were wrong, and he was glad of this opportunity to correct them. This particular Society which existed in connection with this company was composed of 22,770 men. The men were not required to contract out of the Act, and the Directors contributed £8,000 a year to the funds of the Society. This was a great deal more than the London and North Western Railway Company paid; in fact, in this respect the London and Brighton Company stood first, the Great Eastern second, and the London and North Western third. The payment in case of death was £130, not £30, as stated by the Home Secretary, and the allowance for temporary injury was £1 a week. If the fund were abolished it would do incalculable injury to the men, and he was bound to say that this contribution would cease if the Bill passed in its present form. The Directors would refuse to continue the fund, because they were business men, and business men had an unfortunate habit of looking at business matters from a business point of view. He ventured to say that under the Bill the men would not get nearly such liberal compensation as they did under the existing system. The fact was, that the people who would benefit mostly by the Bill were the rapacious "hordes of gowns" that would emerge from Pump Court in the Temple. These gentlemen would no doubt get a large proportion of any compensation awarded under the Bill, and he believed that no person who really had at heart the interests of railway men would vote against the Amendment.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 217; Noes 235.—(Division List, No. 311.)
§ It being after Midnight, Further Proceeding on Consideration, as amended, stood adjourned.
§ Bill, as amended, to be further considered upon Monday next.
§ House adjourned at ten minutes after Twelve o'clock till Monday next.