§ Any workman or shop assistant may recover any sum deducted by or paid to his employer contrary to this Act, provided that an action for recovery be raised within three months from the date of the deduction or payment sought to be recovered, and that where he has consented to or acquiesced in any such deduction or payment, he shall only recover the excess which has been deducted or paid over the amount, if any, which the court may find to have been fair and reasonable, having regard to all the circumstances of the case.
§ SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY moved to leave out the words "an action for recovery be raised within three," and to insert instead thereof the words "proceedings for such recovery are commenced within six."
§ Amendment agreed to.
MR. McKENNA moved to leave out the words—
and that where he has consented to or acquiesced in any such deduction or payment, he shall only recover the excess which has been deducted or paid over the amount, if any, which the court may find to have been fair and reasonable, having regard to all the circumstances of the case.
These words, he said, were clearly contradictory of the whole spirit of the
Truck Acts. As he understood the Acts, they were passed because it was believed that the workman was not a free party to the contract, and if he was not a free party to a contract he was equally not a free party in his acquiescence or consent to any deduction which was made in his wages. His main objection to these words was that they gave legal recognition to a contract declared illegal. An employer if he contracted to deduct or deducted any amount from the wages paid to his workmen was committing an illegal act unless he did so under the terms provided for by this Bill. The employer having committed an illegal act was, under these words, allowed to retain to himself some portion of the benefit of that illegal act. That was practically an incitement to an employer to break the terms of this Bill. Every incentive ought to be placed in the way of the workman to see that the provisions of the Act were carried out, and every incentive ought to be removed from the employer for breaking the provisions of the Bill. If this provision was left in this clause, in nine cases out of 10 the workman would have no incentive to bring a breach of the Act before the inspector.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
hoped the hon. Member would not press this Amendment. He thought the provision represented what was fair between masters and workmen under certain contracts. The case was this: It was, on the face of the clause, that a workman had consented or acquiesced in a deduction of the payment. It would be a question of fact which the Judge must find that in fact the workman had consented to or acquiesced in a deduction of the payment. He went to the Court, and, of course, the law was that the master was wrong and he could not succeed. But he thought it would be an unwise thing that a workman should have the temptation of hanging back, having consented, for a long time, and then coming into Court and getting the whole of the deduction. The outside that justice demanded was that the parties should be put in the position authorised by the law. If he thought there was anything in the point made by the hon. and learned Gentleman that the workman would be thereby induced not to bring the matter to the notice of the 1086 inspector, he would hesitate in recommending these words, but it seemed to him that exactly the opposite inference would operate in his mind. The right course was that the parties should be put in the position in which they ought to have been put had they been fully alive to what their respective rights were at the time of making the contract. It was not the case that these words were a legal recognition of a contract declared illegal.
§ * SIR C. DILKE
said that from the facts that came before the Labour Commission, it was clear that the provision would not affect the larger employers of labour so much as the great number of small employers, many of whom made money out of the practice.
§ MR. W. R. BOUSFIELD (Hackney, N.)
said a large number of representatives of the workmen were present at the meetings of the Grand Committee when the Bill was considered, but no objection whatever was raised by them to the provision.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn. Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 6,—