§ MR. S. WOODS (Essex, Walthamstow)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware that prior to the passing of the Truck Act last year, a workman could recover from an employer fines deducted from wages, and whether the recovery of fines of a similar character under the Act of 1896, after such fines have been posted up, is impossible; whether he is aware that while the Act of 1896 provides for the punishment of employers who make illegal fines, and also compels the production of copies of contracts in respect to fines in Clause 6 of the Act, there is no provision for jurisdiction on railways by inspectors, the power being given only to inspectors of factories and mines: and, whether, under these circumstances, he will make adequate provision for the proper protection of railway employees?
§ SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
The state of the law prior to the passing of the Truck Act was, so far as I was able to ascertain, the exact contrary of that suggested in the Question. On coming to the Homo Office I consulted the highest legal authorities on the point, and was advised by them that a deduction from wages in respect of fines was not only, as had been decided by a series of 1141 cases in the Courts ranging over 30 years, not an offence against the Track Acts, but was not even recoverable by the workman in the civil Courts. The law was fully explained in the memorandum on the subject which I laid upon the Table of the House last year, and to which I would refer the hon. Member. The statements in that memorandum were not controverted while the present Act was under discussion, or, as far as I am aware, since. Under the present Act it is now possible within six months to recover by civil proceedings so much of any fine as the Court may hold to be unreasonable. I am quite aware that the jurisdiction of the inspectors of factories and mines docs not extend to railways or to many other employments. I have now under my consideration the lists of fines proposed by the companies.