HC Deb 25 January 1897 vol 45 cc409-10
MR. G. W. WOLFF (Belfast, E.)

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention had been called to the fact that firms in various parts of the country had published lists of fines to which their workpeople were to be liable, and whether in some cases these lists had been published without any explanation to the workpeople, and, if these facts were so, in what way was the Act of last Session operative?


My attention has been called to cases mentioned by the hon. Member. Previous to the passing of the Act of last Session there was no legal protection to the workpeople against fines. The employer was free to impose fines arbitrarily, without notice and without any limit as to the amount. Now no fines can be imposed unless there has been a previous written or printed notice forming part of the contract of employment. The fines can be imposed only for acts which do damage to the employer, and they must be reasonable in amount. If any employer imposes a fine without notice, or if the fine imposed is unreasonably severe, he is liable to be convicted and punished, and has to make good the fine improperly imposed. More than this, the employer is liable to conviction if any fine named in the notice be excessive and persons work under it, even though no fine has actually been imposed. I have power in any case to exempt a trade from the Act, but if I do so in the cases where the fines are in dispute the only effect would be to enable the employer to impose these fines without any restriction whatever.

MR. J. SAMUEL (Stockton)

asked in what way the Act limited the imposition of fines. Was it not absolutely in the power of the employer by notice to say what should constitute the fines workmen should pay, and the workmen could only accept such notice?


I can only say the object of the Act was not to legalise any fines that were illegal before, but to define them and to render illegal those which were arbitrary or excessive, and to make clear to all concerned what was legal and what was not.