§ (1.) If in any employment to winch this Act applies personal injury by accident arising out of and in the course of the employment is caused to a workman, his employer shall, subject as hereinafter mentioned, be liable to pay compensation in accordance with the first schedule to this Act, such compensation shall be payable whether the injury occasioned arises from the act of the employer or of some person in his employ, or from the act a stranger thereto. Provided that where such injury shall be occasioned by the act of a stranger under circumstances creating a legal liability to pay damages in respect thereof, the workman may at his option proceed either at law against such person to recover damages or against his employer for compensation under this Act, and if 1226 he be compensated under this Act the employer shall be entitled to enforce in the name of the workman all rights of action possessed by him against the person occasioning such injury as aforesaid.
§ (2.) Provided that:—
- (a) The employer shall not be liable under this Act in respect of any injury which does not disable the workman for a period of at least two weeks from earning full wages at the work at which he was employed;
- (b) When it is decided, as hereafter provided, that the injury was caused by the personal negligence or wilful act of the employer or of sonic person for whose act or default the employer is responsible, nothing in this Act shall affect any civil liability of the employer, but in that case the amount of damages due from such employer may, at the request of the persons claiming compensation, be settled by arbitration in accordance with the second schedule to this Act, or may at the option of such persons be recovered from such employer by the same proceedings as were open to such persons before the commencement, of this Act; but the employer shall not be liable to pay compensation both independently of and also under this Act, and shall not, be liable to pay compensation independently of this Act, except in case of such personal negligence or wilful act:
- (c) If it is proved that the accident is solely attributable to the serious and wilful misconduct of a workman, any compensation claimed in respect of injury to that workman shall be disallowed.
§ (3.) If any question arises as to whether the injury was caused by the personal negligence or wilful act of the employer, or of any person for whose act or default the employer is responsible, or whether the injury was caused by accident arising out of and in the course of the employment of the workman injured, or whether the accident was solely attributable to the serious and wilful misconduct of the workman in respect of whose injuries compensation is claimed, or as to the amount or duration of compensation under this Act, or otherwise as to the liability for compensation under this Act, the question, if not settled by agreement, and any question as to whether the employment is one to which this Act applies, shall, subject to the provisions of the first schedule to this Act, be settled by arbitration, in accordance with the second schedule to this Act. Proceedings for the recovery under this Act of compensation for an injury shall not be maintainable unless notice of the accident has been given as soon as practicable after the happening thereof, and the claim for compensation with respect to such accident has been made within six months from the occurrence of the accident causing the injury, or, in case of death, within twelve months from the time of death. Provided always that the want of such notice shall not be a bar to the maintenance of such proceedings if it is found in the proceedings for settling the claim that the 1227 employer is not prejudiced in his defence by the absence of such notice, or that such absence was occasioned by mistake or other reasonable cause. Notices shall be served in the manner provided for by the Employers' Liability Act 1880, Section seven.
§ (4.) If the Registrar of Friendly Societies, after ascertaining the views of the employers and workmen, certifies that any scheme of compensation or insurance for the workmen in any employment is on the whole not less favourable to the workmen and their dependants than the provisions of this Act, the employer may, until the certificate is revoke, contract with any of those workmen that the provisions of the scheme shall be substituted for the provisions of this Act, and thereupon the employer shall be liable only in accordance with the scheme, but, save as aforesaid, this Act shall apply, notwithstanding any contract to the contrary made after the commencement of this Act. No scheme shall be so certified which contains an obligation upon the workmen to join the scheme as a condition of their hiring.
§ If the funds under any such scheme are not sufficient to meet the compensation payable thereout the employer shall be liable to make good the amount of compensation which would be payable under this Act.
§ (5.) The Registrar of Friendly Societies shall in every year make a report of his proceedings under this Act, and that report shall be laid before Parliament.
§ (6.) If any workmen or their representatives shall submit to the said Registrar primâ facie evidence that the provisions of any scheme are no longer favourable to the workman as the provisions of this Act, or that the provisions of such scheme are being violated, or that the same is not being fairly administered by the employers, or that satisfactory reasons exist for revoking the certificate, then he shall examine into the complaint, and, if satisfied that good cause exists for such complaint, shall, unless the cause of complaint is removed, revoke the certificate.
§ (7.) Whenever a scheme has been certified as aforesaid, it shall be the duty of the employer to answer all inquiries and to furnish all such accounts as may from time to time be required by the Registrar of Friendly Societies.
And which Amendment [proposed 5th July] was in Sub-section (2) after the, words last inserted at the end of paragraph (b) to insert the words:—
Provided that nothing in this Act shall affect the right of any of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Factories to recover penalties under Section eighty-two of the forty-first and forty-second Victoria, chapter sixteen, and Acts amending the same, and that the recovery of such penalties shall not be taken into account in estimating compensation under this Act."—(Mr. Tennant.)
And the Amendment to the proposed Amendment was, to leave out from the word "same," to the end of the proposed
Amendment, in order to add instead thereof the words:—
but if such penalties, or any part thereof, are applied for or to the benefit of any person injured, such amount shall be taken into account in estimating the amount of compensation under this Act."—(Mr. Chamberlain.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of Ole proposed Amendment."
§ *THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY,) Lancashire, Blackpool
now asked to withdraw Mr. Chamberlain's Amendment, and to move the following Amendment in its place: To leave out all the, words after the word "some," in order to insert the words:—but if such penalty, or any part thereof, lies been applied for the benefit of the person injured, the amount so applied shall he taken into account in estimating the compensation mailer this Act.
§ Amendment, as amended, inserted in the Bill.
§ MR. DAVID THOMAS (Merthyr Tydvil) moved to leave out paragraph (c) of Sub-section (2). He said that from his experience of the working of the Acts already in force he believed this paragraph would be very prejudicial to the Bill, and do great injustice to the workmen.
§ SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
said the Government could not accept the Amendment. If they gave special advantages to the workman against his employer, when the latter was guilty of personal negligence or wilful default, then the workman should not be entitled to recover in the event of being himself guilty of serious and wilful misconduct. If this principle were not to be observed there would be no justice in the Bill.
§ *MR. CHARLES FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)
said that, if the principal object of the Bill was to prevent litigation, the Government were not acting wisely in insisting upon this sub-section standing part of the Bill. The effect of the sub-section would be to bring the workman's conduct under consideration whenever any claim for compensation arose. ["Hear, hear!"] The employer to avoid paying compensation would in every case set up the contention that the 1229 action was due solely to the workman's wilful misconduct, and the conduct of the workman would be brought under criticism and examination in almost every claim for compensation. The Colonial Secretary, in dealing with the subject in Committee, asked whether it was desirable to add another litigable point to the Bill. He evidently thought the subject would give rise to serious controversy between workmen and their employers. [Mr. CHAMBERLAIN shook his head.] He would give the right hon. Gentleman's exact words:—Was it worth while to add another litigable point in the Bill in connection with eases which most, after all necessarily be rare?
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. J CHAMBERLAIN,) Birmingham, W.
What is the date?
§ MR. FENWICK
said he was sorry he could not give the date when the words were spoken, but he had just copied them from "The Parliamentary Debates."
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
Can the hon. Member give me the reference or say whether the words would apply to the present form of Amendment?
§ *MR. FENWICK
Yes; to the present form of Amendment. It was only when I the misconduct should be shown to he serious and wilful that the claim for compensation would he debarred. Was it desirable, therefore, to retain these words, which would give rise to friction between employers and workmen? Good employers would not seek to save themselves from the liability of paying compensation by urgine such a contention as this, but there were unquestionably a large number of employers who would set up the defence that the injury was surely attributable to the serious and wilful misconduct of the workman in order to avoid the liability. In the case of an accident resulting in death, the very man who would be able to give testimony to the cause of the accident would he dead, and if this defence were set up his family would be deprived of their compensation. He contended that there was great force in it the argument that the employer would in every case when an accident occurred seek to prove that the injury was solely attributable to the serious or wilful misconduct of the workman. He cordially supported the Amendment.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
said he could not help thinking there was some unfairness in quoting a few lines from anyone who had taken part in these debates, and which, after all, were inconsistent with the general line of argument which he had taken. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Gentleman opposite, who he was Sure did not wish to be unfair, alleged some words against him which he was unable to find in the Debates, but omitted to mention that the Amendment as it stood was moved by himself, defended by himself, and accepted pretty generally by the I rouse. He was quite sure that in using such words he must have had in view, not the Amendment which was now before the House, but some other question, or some imperfect view of the question. In introducing this Amendment he had explained that it was an endeavour on his part and on the part of the Government to give effect to what they believed were the wishes of the workpeople, and that if the employer were open to heavier burdens than had been imposed in cases of personal negligence they ought to take care that the workman guilty of negligence of a gross character by which he put in jeopardy the lives of his fellow-workmen should be debarred from compensation. Surely no one would contend that t hat was not a case with which they had to deal. He recollected perfectly that in the discussion the case was put of a workman who, contrary to the most explicit instructions, went down a fiery mine, lit his pipe there, and caused an explosion by which probably many of his fellow-workmen lost their lives, while he himself was injured. Was there any justice whatever in pretending that such a man ought to have compensation? Such an accident as this was caused not by what was ordinarily called contributory negligence but by gross and culpable negligence. In order to meet such a case they proposed the Amendment in the terms which now appeared. It would be observed that in the first place it was required, in order that a workman might be excluded, that the accident should be solely attributable to his action, and the old doctrine of contributory negligence, which they admitted had been greatly abused, had been destroyed. In the second place it was required that the accident should be 1231 attributable to his serious and wilful misconduct. As a matter of justice he did not feel that anybody would say that a workman coming under those terms ought to be compensated. The only other argument was that in dealing with what no doubt was a rather rare exception they might be accepting a condition which would be used or abused in other cases—the hon. Gentleman opposite said in almost every case.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
said it was argued that an employer would raise a plea of this kind in many cases before he paid the compensation under the Bill. He could only say that his experience was absolutely the reverse of that of the hon. Gentleman. He did not believe anything of the kind would be done, nor could such action be followed by any kind of success. The difficulty of proving that the accident was solely attributable to wilful and serious misconduct would be so great, and there were so few cases that could be raised with the slightest chance of success, that he believed they had carefully guarded against any abuse of the provision. Otherwise there might be cases of gross injustice, revolting to common sense, which be could not believe the House would be content to acquiesce in.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said the strength of the position of his hon. Friend opposite lay in the fact that the revolting proposal was in the Bill as it was originally introduced. In the course of the discussions in Committee, which were not at all too long, the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary described the state of things which would exist without this clause as perfectly monstrous,—that it was monstrous to assert that a man had any right to compensation, when he was the agent in bringing about all the suffering and loss. That monstrous thing was in the Bill when it was originally introduced. How the matter was to be put to the proof if the workman to whom was attributed the accident was killed he did not know. At any rate this subsection was absolutely necessary.
§ *MR. JOHN WILSON (Durham, Mid)
said the Colonial Secretary must have forgotten the discussions in Committee. The experience which the right hon. Gentleman had now he had had when 1232 the Bill was first introduced, and it was surprising that he should now defend a provision which was inserted in the first instance against his desire. If a, man were killed in an accident, and had not seriously misconducted himself or violated any rule whatever, the tendency would be—except human nature was better than he had experience of it—to throw the liability upon the dead man. Take the case of a workman in a mine. An official came in and gave the man orders, and shortly afterwards the man lost his life. The official would say, "I gave the man orders which he did not carry out, and he has lost his life, and he has therefore no claim for compensation." How was the dead man to disprove that charge? When the Bill was originally introduced, the Colonial Secretary brushed aside all ideas of justice. The right hon. Gentleman said it was not a matter of justice or logic, but a matter of expediency. It might be a strange thing to say, but he, as a workman, looked upon the Bill as a piece of injustice. It was right that the injured workman should be compensated, but he thought it unjust to make the employers responsible for accidents over which they had no control. But this Measure knew nothing whatever of justice; it was all a matter of expediency. What was wanted was a national fund to which income taxpayers and royalty owners should contribute, and out of which all accidents should he paid for. In Committee, an Amendment was moved that where an injured man had violated a rule or contravened an Act of Parliament, he should have no claim for compensation. That Amendment was withdrawn on the understanding that the Colonial Secretary would bring in another Amendment to meet the point, and subsequently the right hon. Gentleman brought in the words that were now in the Bill. He had asked at the time, and he desired to ask now, for an explanation of the words "seriously and wilfully misconducted himself." He had no desire to screen a man who had broken the law. But he would like to know how many of those cases arose every year. Where did this fanciful case of the Colonial Secretary occur—the case of a man lighting his pipe in a gaseous atmosphere and blowing 200 of his fellow workmen into eternity? Let them have a concrete case. Let them lay 1233 imagination aside in discussing this matter. The right hon. Gentleman said it was a matter of expediency, and not of justice.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
No, No! I did not say so, though the hon. Gentleman has frequently repeated it. I said there was a question of justice, and that justice required that a man injured in these circumstances should not be compensated. But I also said there was a question of expediency, whether it was not wise even in such a case to give compensation.
§ *MR. JOHN WILSON (Durham, Mid)
said that was exactly what he had represented the right hon. Gentleman as having said. Justice took the first place in the right hon. Gentleman mind, but expediency supplanted Their desire was not that the offender should be screened, but that the not offender should not be harassed. Was ii really imagined that a. workman would so far wilfully misconduct himself as to endanger his life? Human nature was the same in workmen as in employers. If an employer would try to preserve his life or save himself frown injury, so would the workman. Was it really imagined that any workman. for the sake of the uncertain compensation offered him by the Bill—for really there was no certainty about it—would deliberately with his eyes open do a thing which would injure him, or would take his life, and leave his wife and children in poverty? The notion wigs ridiculous. Every Amendment that had been made in the Bill tended to minimise the good of the Bill and to enlarge its evil, and to alienate the workman from it.
§ MR. HENRY SETON-KARR (St. Helens)
said he desired to point out the extraordinary illogical position of the hon. Member for Mid Durham and his Friends. They had stated over and over again, both in the House and out of it, that their aim was the prevention of accident, and not compensation. They had said, "We do not care so much about compensation so long as we prevent accidents." What better prevention could they have, so far as the workman was concerned, than the provision that, if a workman were injured by his own carelessness he would not get compensation? Was it not ridiculous to 1234 think that a workman who might be proceeded against criminally for manslaughter would be entitled to claim compensation for the consequences of his act from his employer? He admitted that the Bill was not, from one point of view, very just, but this really was the case where justice prevailed over expediency. Not a single argument against the proviso had been adduced. If the employer were to be penalised for carelessness why not the workman? The proviso was justified from every point of view. The hon. Member for Durham assumed that the employer and his foreman were going to commit perjury regularly to escape, claims for compensation.
§ COLONEL DENNY (Kilmarnock Burghs)
pointed out that the whole burden of proof as to the wilful misconduct of the workman rested upon the employer. What could the hon. Member for Durham think the masters were who would constantly commit perjury and act like men without conscience or heart in order to stretch the cause in the way the hon. Member suggested? In such a business as that of shipbuilding it would be absolutely impossible for a workman to have an accident without there being a number of men round him to see it. The House should discriminate between mining and other trades in this matter. He believed that the proviso was absolutely necessary, not only for the masters but for the men also, because a point of discipline was involved. The proviso would be honestly worked by the vast majority of masters.
§ MR. J. COLVILLE (Lanarkshire, N.E.)
said that the proviso would assuredly give rise to very many vexatious actions, and leave the men unable to dispute successfully the assertions of the foremen. He thought that, some words were necessary to protect the masters from being penalised by the misconduct of the men; but the wording proposed Was too stringent. He suggested the substitution of "may he disallowed" for shall be disallowed."
§ *MR. JOHN WILSON (Falkirk Burghs)
said that he did not dispute that there was much injustice in the Bill. The employer was required to give everything, and the workman nothing. The hon. Member for Durham had asked for specific instances in which accidents had been caused by the carelessness of the 1235 workman. The mining inspector's reports for the West of Scotland proved that men working in the coal mines had caused a most serious explosion by opening the lamps to light their pipes. This was at Herbertshire Colliery in Stirlingshire, and many other instances of a like nature could be proved. Time after time he had to bring respectable men before the Sheriff's Court for such an Act. He had known a case in his own colliery where the men who were making up "shots" actually smoked with open lamps over the powder chest, and so caused an explosion. Cases of the same kind might be found any week in the Scottish newspapers.
§ MR. R. B. HALDANE (Haddingtonshire)
said that from the standpoint of abstract justice there could be no doubt that the workman who was injured in consequence of his own wilful misconduct ought not to be compensated. But the question was whether it was possible to give effect to this proviso without defeat-big the whole intention of the Bill. In the Bill's original form this proviso was not included. The employers of labour in the House were men of the highest standing, and no doubt none of them would put a clause of this kind into force unjustly. But it was necessary to consider what would be done by men with a less keen sense of public duty. Some ingenious person would write a text, book on the Bill, after it became law, and would lay down a number of stock defences which might be used in every case. It was highly objectionable that a new form of litigation should be introduced. Injustice might be done to the employer if the proviso were omitted, but still noire injustice would be done to the men if the proviso were inserted. is the purpose of the Bill was to enforce the principle of adequate compensation, it would be better to leave the Bill in the form in which it was introduced.
§ *COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, Ince)
supported the Amendment, not only on the ground of justice, but on grounds of expediency, as it was necessary to maintain discipline, and he hoped the Government would persevere.
§ MR. T. R. LEUTY (Leeds, E.)
thought the most satisfactory way to deal with this question would be to allow even the culpable employé to take his benefit 1236 exactly as would be done in the case of a life insurance policy. If a man brought about his own death by his own negligence he would not forfeit the right to claim under a life insurance policy. But supposing there was an explosion and ninny men killed through a man smoking in a mine, the wife and dependants of a fellow workman working alongside, who had practically condoned the offence, would get compensation, though a party to the crime, while the wife and family of the man who had brought about the accident, though themselves perfectly innocent, would lose their insurance. If this were only putting upon employers the liability for their own acts or default, it would be necessary to put in same clause as to contributory negligence, but this Bill put upon the industry all the risks attending this industry, instead of these being left upon the employés. It seemed well that all the risks should be thrown on industry or upon the employer whether he took the risks himself or insured against them. Such a case as that suggested by the Colonial Secretary should be dealt with as a criminal offence, and not deprive the wife and family of all the advantage of that which became practically a system of national insurance. This proviso would lead to enormous difficulty, not because employers generally would attempt to get up fraudulent cases, but if they had any reason to think there had been wilful negligence they would endeavour to defend themselves. The House would be opening the door to endless disputes as to what was a case of accident. He should like to see the Bill left without this proviso so that even a culpable employé would get a benefit as under a life insurance policy, but the criminal consequences should be made more stringent.
§ MR. ROBERT ASCROFT (Oldham)
thought the Government would be well advised if they accepted the Amendment. If the sub-section were allowed to remain there would be an element of discord constantly arising between, not the employer, but between the insurance company, who stood in the position of the employer, and the representative of the workman who was injured or killed. No representative workman in this House considered that a workman who wits guilty of wilful or wicked negligence was entitled to compensation, but would not 1237 the retention of this section be more expensive to employers than striking it out If the sub-section were to he extended and made stronger, he felt certain that the insurance offices would adopt the same plan they now adopted and raise every kind of objection in order to avoid payment.
§ SIR JAMES JOICEY (Durham, Chester-le-Street)
was surprised that any one should object to the insertion of such a section. He felt sure that if the matter were discussed with the representatives of labour in the House they would admit that it was a very proper and. reasonable thing- that a man who wilfully broke the rules, which were framed under an Act of Parliament in order to protect life, should be penalised to the extent of losing his compensation. He admitted that there Were many breaches of the rules for which he should not be disposed to bar compensation, and it the clause were passed, he should after wards propose an Amendment which Would restrict its operation to the more flagrant cases. In his view it was an immoral thing that a man should be compensated for a gross breach of the law, and he hoped the House would consider well before it decided to reject this clause.
§ MR. GEORGE WHITELEY (Stockport)
thought it the reductio ad absurdum of argument to say that, not-withstanding that a man who has been guilty of serious misconduct should he debarred from compensation, still that compensation should be paid to him, because otherwise litigation would follow.
§ MR. W. ABRAHAM (Glamorgan, Rhondda)
said no representative of labour would desire to condone in the least the act of any workman who had wilfully committed some act or default; which brought about an accident. What the workmen wanted to establish was this—that while this provision carefully protected on the one hand it opened the door so wide that in every other case of accident, especially where the unfortunate workman was killed, the opportunity would be afforded to make a case against the dead man. Representatives of workmen knew what efforts had been made to blame dead men in the case of accidents, and they were now endeavouring to protect men who could not possibly defend themselves. If this provision were 1238 carried, litigation would ensue in almost every case, and the great benefits which were expected to result from the Bill would ultimately be reduced to a very small compass indeed.
§ Question put, "That the words 'If it is proved that the accident is' stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 201; Noes, 119.—(Division List, No. 270.)
said he thought some Amendment of the proviso was necessary in order to make sure upon whom the liability was to fall. He moved, in paragraph (c), after the word "workman" to insert the words, "or workmen." They might. have a case in which several workmen were all equally negligent, and the liability should not fall on one loan. Perhaps the Attorney General would advise the House whether the singular workman "covered the plural" workmen"?
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER,) Isle of Wight
said the plural "workmen" had not been used because it certainly might give rise to the argument that the doctrine of contributory negligence was intended to be restored that was to say, that if there were negligence on the part of one in a set of workman, then the other men might be involved in the negligence and might not recover. Of course, if there was a case of direct misconduct on the part of three or four, all workmen, the word "workman" would include each one of them.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
doubted whether the Attorney general was right in saying- that the singular included the plural. Take such a case as that mentioned by the Colonial Secretary—a man lighting his pipe in a fiery mine. All he would have to do was to induce his fellow workmen to commit the same breach of rule and the whole proviso would come to nothing. He did not feel inclined to think that such a conclusion would be put upon the word as the Attorney General said.
§ *MR. FENWICK
would like to ask the Attorney General a question in reference to what he had said. Suppose five or six men were working together and an accident occurred which was proved to 1239 be due to the serious and wilful misconduct of one; would that include the whole five or six?
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
No; I said the misconduct of each one of them. I said distinctly that we objected to putting in the word "workmen" in order to prevent that conclusion being drawn. I never intended to say that if out of five workmen one was guilty of negligence the others could not recover. On the contrary I said, and say, that only the workman who is negligent is to be debarred, and that the word "workman" would cover each one of the workmen who is negligent.
§ *MR. FENWICK
Let me put a case. Six men are working in a drift; an explosion takes place, a pipe is afterwards found on the spot, and it is concluded on the inquiry that the accident is due to the pipe—or it may be to an unlocked lamp, which would constitute in my judgment serious and wilful misconduct. Supposing the explosion resulted in the death of the whole of the six men, although only one man clearly could have been using the pipe; what would be the effect of these words? Would the friends of the whole of these workmen be deprived of compensation?
§ MR. W. S. ROBSON (South Shields)
said the hon. Gentleman had not observed that the accident must be proved to be solely attributable to the serious and wilful misconduct of the workman. The mere fact of a pipe being found after the explosion would not be proof that the accident was solely attributable to the workman's misconduct.
§ MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanark, Partick)
said he did not think his hon. Friend wanted to go back to the idea of contributory negligence at all. But he would give a case which might easily happen in engineering works. A couple of men were sent to bring a heavy piece of work from the furnace. There were plenty of chain-slings about, but the men chose to use a rope that was not strong enough to lift the weight; the rope broke, and both were burnt—both men being equal, and not one in command of the other he took it that his hon. Friend had in his mind a case of that kind. He understood from the Attorney 1240 General that the words would cover such a case. But they did not cover the case of a dozen men hurt through one man smoking a pipe against rules.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
MR. SETON-KARR moved, in paragraph (c), after the word "workman" to insert the words, "or to the breach by the workman or workmen of any rules contained in or established by any Act of Parliament in respect of which the workman or workmen are liable to fine or imprisonment." He appealed with confidence to the Government, and to every Member of the House who wanted to make the proviso clear and simple, to support his Amendment. The words "serious mid wilful misconduct," they all must admit were somewhat vague, and required some such definition as he had proposed. Take the case of an employer. The most serious act of negligence an employer could commit, and for which he could be held responsible, would be the breach of a statutory regulation. It seemed only fair that the men on the same ground should be specifically exempted from compensation if they on their part committed any breach of rule or regulation which came under an Act of Parliament. He was quite aware that it might be said—and possibly with some amount of force—that it would open the door to employers setting up the defence that there had been some trivial breach of rule which really did not amount to serious and wilful misconduct. With regard to that point, speaking as an ordinary layman, he submitted that the words he had put on the Paper did away with that danger. But he saw that the hon. Baronet (Sir James Joicey) had an Amendment on the Paper. He had not had an opportunity of consulting him, but he might say at once that if he might add the last three lines of the hon. Baronet's Amendment to his own, he should be happy to do so, for it seemed to him that this addition to his Amendment would do away altogether with any possible objection to the form of words. The Colonial Secretary had an interview yesterday on this point with a body of gentlemen whose views would no doubt have a great deal more influence than anything he could advance. But it did
seem to him that the words he had proposed were necessary to make the proviso clear, and to these he desired to add, if thought necessary, the last three lines of the hon. Baronet's Amedment:—
unless the arbitrator should be of opinion that the breach of such rules was so trivial that it ought not to deprive the workman of his right to compensation.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
said his hon. Friend had referred to the deputation representing the textile fabric trades, which waited on him yesterday. Their representations were certainly entitled to serious consideration. They suggested an Amendment in the words put on the Paper by his hon. Friend. But his first criticism was that rules which might be established under any Act of Parliament was a very wide expression. Many of such rules were peculiar in their character, and it would be unfair that the workman should be debarred from compensation because of the breach of one, perhaps, out of a hundred rules. The gentlemen present admitted the justice of that criticism, and said they would be satisfied if the debarring provision were confined to actual statutory rules, included in an Act of Parliament. At first sight, he confessed, that seemed a reasonable proposal; because rules embodied in an Act must be assumed to have been carefully considered in the interests of safety and the prevention of accidents, and therefore they should do nothing that would in any way limit or loosen the obligation to observe them. But upon further reflection, and after consultation with other persons of experience and his own colleagues, they saw that there were still some difficulties that were not entirely met even by such an Amendment. ["Hear, hear!"] It might be—and he believed, as a matter of fact, it was so—that even in the rules embodied in Acts of Parliament there were many that were nut of a serious character; and the breach of such rules ought not to debar compensation. ["Hear, hear!"] It would be necessary, therefore, to add the proposal which his hon. Friend had adopted, to give the arbitrator a discretion. But that raised the question whether, after all, they had not better leave the discretion wholly to the arbitrator. ["Hear, hear!"] He believed that after all the best safeguard 1242 of the interests of employers and employed would be in the discretion allowed to the arbitirator. In his own opinion there wits no doubt whatever that the wilful breach of a rule distinctly intended to secure the safety of a man and Ins fellow-workmen, would constitute serious and wilful misconduct, and under these circumstances the arbitrator would refuse compensation. This being so, he thought it was undesirable to limit the discretion of the arbitrator in the way suggested. The centre point upon which the Bill revolved was the principle of arbitration. The Government had endeavoured to establish arbitration which would meet with general confidence, and which would be cheap and economical, and his own opinion was—having carefully considered the arguments laid before him—that they would do well to leave the arbitrator full discretion.
§ SIR J. JOICEY
said that before the Amendment was accepted there should be a clear statement by the Attorney General—which on a point of law would carry more weight than the opinion of the Secretary for the Colonies—whether a breach of rules on the part of a workman would—be construed as wilful misconduct. He scarcely thought the proposal of the Secretary for the Colonies as good as that contained in the Amendment. He would not like a workman to be deprived of compensation for a breach of the rules which was merely trivial. But if a breach of the rules, however trivial, was to be regarded as wilful misconduct, he did not see how the arbitrator could remit the offence and give compensation.
§ MR. G. WHITELEY
said, as one who introduced the deputation to the Colonial Secretary on Monday, he wished to express his disappointment that the right: hon. Gentleman had not been able to approve Amendment which, in the view of the deputation, was just to the employers in the textile industries. He himself would like to insert the words, "Provided that such non-observance has not been knowingly committed by the employer." This would meet the difficulties of the ease in the textile industries. He was informed that 90 per cent. of accidents in the textile industries for which compensation would be payable resulted from cleaning machinery which was in motion. In the 1243 textile mills time was allowed for cleaning machinery when the week's work was done. But a great many operatives cleaned the machinery when. it was in motion, and directly the engine was stopped they could leave the premises and thus secure half an hour or an hour's leisure. This was in direct conflict with the interests of the employer, which were best consulted by the operatives cleaning the machinery when stationary, rather than when in motion. It was also done contrary to the wishes of the employer in the great bulk of cases. If tins were against the rules and regulations of the employer, and in contravention of an Act of Parliament, was it not hard and unjust upon the employer to say that when an accident occurred he should be liable? He had supported the Bill throughout, but he thought that in sonic respects the interests of the employer should be considered. The Government said they desired to avoid litigation, but there was something worse than litigation, and that was injustice. He had had an opportunity of meeting a largo number of employers in the cotton industry in Lancashire, and he was struck by the almost burning feeling of injustice which they evinced in regard to this Bill. They said that if you stood over them with a drawn sword many operatives would not be prevented from cleaning machinery while it was in motion, and if after they had made, every provision against accident they were made liable for ally accident that happened, it would be very hard. He should like to move as all Amendment to the Amendment the words he had indicated.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
intimated that if the Amendment before the House were carried then the hon. Member could move his Amendment as an addition.
§ SIR R. T. REID
submitted that the words of the Bill as they stood sufficiently carried out the object of the Amendment. They were evidently intended to prevent compensation being lost unless the misconduct were serious and wilful; that was to say trifling misconduct or involuntary misconduct would not cause loss of compensation. He had no doubt whatever that the breach of rules made under an Act of Parliament would be regarded as wilful misconduct. If the 1244 words under consideration were introduced, the Judges might be led to think that something short of serious and wilful misconduct would still be sufficient to deprive a man of compensation.
§ MR. LAURENCE HARDY (Kent, Ashford)
said it was clear from the discussion that had taken place that the words of the Bill might be construed widely. Possibly none of the Amendments would deal with the matter in a way that would be satisfactory in carrying out the Act, and he hoped the Government, in the light of the information they had received, and of the strong opinion felt in the country as to the wording of the clause would, at a later stage, even in another place, make clear what was the exact meaning of the sub-section. He did not think that they ought to rest satisfied with the words suggested by the deputation, his own impression being that they had not yet discovered a really desirable form of words. What he wished to impress upon the Government was that this point should be reconsidered, so that all ambiguity might be removed by the time the Bill passed.
§ *MR. FENWICK
asked whether the Government intended to accept this Amendment1 The Colonial Secretary had certainly seemed to argue against the expediency of proceeding with the Amendment, and the right hon. Gentleman's reasons for advocating its withdrawal seemed to him to be very satisfactory and conclusive. If the Amendment of the hon. Member for St. Helens were adopted the Bill would not be improved. The effect of the Amendment would be to widen the operation of the sub-section and so to make it more objectionable. There were many special rules in mines which were not strictly enforced. For example, to ride in or out on a sett was a violation of a special rule, but in a large number of collieries it was done every day, and the practice was connived at by the managers and employers. If the Amendment were adopted it would be a direction to the arbitrator to treat such cases as wilful misconduct. He agreed with the Colonial Secretary that it was best to leave it to the arbitrator to say in any case coming before him whether a violation of a special rule or a technical violation of a 1245 minor point occurring in an Act of Parliament did or did not constitute wilful or serious misconduct.
§ *SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
thought that it had already been made quite clear that the Government did not think that this Amendment could be usefully inserted in the Bill. The object of the hon. Member for St. Helens was, in the opinion of the Government, already sufficiently provided for. He agreed that it would be dangerous to introduce a hard and fast line, and to prevent an arbitrator from giving compensation in any cases where there had been a breach of rules, including cases where the rule had been disregarded for some years because it had not been found absolutely necessary for the safety of the workmen in the mine. The Amendment of his hon. Friend would do much more thane its framer intended. The House, he believed, was of opinion that a deliberate breach of rules understood to be for the safety of the men and regularly enforced would constitute serious and wilful misconduct. If, however, his hon. Friend would withdraw His Amendment the Government would be quite prepared to consider the matter further. But they could not assent to the Amendment and did not believe that there was any real necessity for introducing such words. They held that it would be best to leave it to the arbitrator to say whether in any given case there had been such a breach of the rules as constituted wilful misconduct.
§ MR. STUART-WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)
said that his acquaintance with industries where the accident pay ranged very high led him to believe that the question of a workman's own responsibility for an injury frequently caused feelings of soreness. He feared that unless something was done in the direction contemplated by the Amendment, cases would arise ill which employers would smart under a sense of injustice, with the result that there would be irritation as between employers and employed. He favoured the Amendment because he feared that the words in the Bill, if unamended, would have no effect at all, owing to the construction that would probably be put upon them by the Courts. The construction of the Courts would probably be that not only must an injury have been done solely by the negligence of the workman, but that the 1246 negligence must have been serious as well as wilful, and such as was likely to result in injury. The only serious objection to the Amendment was that the breach of some of these rules was acquiesced in by the employers. He was glad to have heard from the Home Secretary that the dour was not closed against a further consideration of the points raised by the Amendment.
§ MR. PHILIP STANHOPE (Burnley)
hoped the Amendment would be withdrawn. The hon. Member for St. Helens, in attempting to introduce qualifying words, was really doing a disservice to the employers, because his Amendment would increase the possibilities of litigation, which the employers as well as the Workmen desired to avoid. They knew that a deputation representing the employers in the textile industries had waited on the Colonial Secretary yesterday, hut another deputation representing the workmen in those industries had also come to that House, and the members of that deputation expressed strong and emphatic opposition to this Amendment. He wished to compliment the Colonial Secretary on the impartial and judicial attitude which he had taken up on this subject. The right hon. Member's view of the case was, on the whole, very satisfactory. The opinion of the House must surely by that time be made up, and he hoped the Government would stand firm upon the matter.
Mr. JAMES LOWTHER
confessed he had some doubt, whether the words proposed would carry the meaning which many of theta desired to see embodied in the Statute. He could not follow the hon. Member for Burnley in urging the Government to adopt an attitude of resistance to all attempts to improve this clause, as he thought that would be a disastrous attitude to adopt. The insertion of some such words would, he thought, diminish incitements to carelessness and enforce proper discipline in the works, and a further consideration of the matter might be productive of advantage. He thought his hon. Friend would be well advised in accepting the suggestion of the Government.
§ *MR. ASCROFT
said he was strongly opposed to the Amendment. It was utterly impossible for the cotton industry in Lancashire to exist, that is, for the employers to make a profit or for the 1247 workmen to find situations—unless they transgressed the Act of Parliament from Monday till Saturday in respect of clean-big machinery in motion. Unless that was done it was not possible to carry on the mills. There were rules, which the employers put up, that no young person, woman, or child was to clean machinery in motion, mid that whoever was in charge would be held responsible. But there were at that moment, he was informed, representatives of over 200,000 textile operatives in the Strangers' Gallery, who had assured him that between live and six hours every week end would be required to keep the machinery clean and free front dust if the present practice was not allowed. He would read a paragraph from the letter of a gentleman of great authority, Mr. Thomas Ashton, the Secretary of the Spinners' Association of Oldham, with whom he had communicated on this subject.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
pointed out that the hon. Member had an Amendment on the Paper respecting the cleaning of machinery, and he would not be in order in discussing the matter in detail on that Amendment as well as on the present Amendment.
§ *MR. ASCROFT
said he would not repeat himself on the next Amendment. He had only one object, and that was to enable the industry with which he was connected to be carried on successfully and at the same time to give the workman who ran certain risks the opportunity of receiving compensation. The two alternatives were either that the workmen would refuse to undertake the risks without the right of compensation, or that the employer would be compelled to stop cleaning the machinery with the result that the industry could not be carried on.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said the argument of the hon. Member was that it was absolutely necessary for the cotton spinners to break Acts of Parliament every day.
§ MR. SETON-KARR
said the breaking of rules made by Act of Parliament would be considered to be serious and wilful misconduct.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said it was necessary to clear up this clause. With regard to the construction put upon the 1248 rules, he pointed out that in five eases out of six there was no judge at all in the matter, it would be the amateur arbitrator who would have to expound it, and if there was a Judge he would be only a County Court Judge. He thought it was very desirable that the Act should be made extremely clear, inasmuch as it would have to be administered by persons without any experience of the law or knowledge of litigation, and as there was considerable doubt as to the effect of this paragraph he thought they should be very careful before they rejected the Amendment.
§ MR. PARKER SMITH
said that after listening to the discussion it seemed to him that the Government were wise in relying upon the simple words of the clause, while keeping an open mind in the future in regard to the matter. What employers desired was that where a rule was laid down for the safety of the workmen, and every precaution was taken to enforce that rule, then if a workman broke that rule and injuries resulted, he should be regarded as having "wilfully and seriously misconducted himself," and be excluded from the benefits of the Act. He understood that the Front Bench accepted that principle of law, and in the circumstances he thought his hon. Friend the mover of the Amendment should be satisfied with the result of the discussion.
§ *MR. EMERSON BAINBRIDGE (Lincoln, Gainsborough)
said there were two points in dispute in regard to the Amendment. One was whether the Amendment was reasonable and just, the other whether it would or would not promote litigation. When the mode in which the rules of mines were framed was understood, it would be admitted that there was absolute justice in the Amendment. The rules were of two kinds, general and special. The general rules were provided by Parliament; and the special rules were settled between the representatives of the men and the representatives of the owners, and it was therefore just to ask the workmen to adhere to rules agreed to by themselves. On the other hand, he thought the clause without the Amendment would lead to a. great amount of litigation, and he therefore hoped the Government would accept the Amendment.
§ *MR. JOHN WILSON (Durham, Mid)
pointed out in Committee the Colonial Secretary refused an Amendment proposing that employers should not be liable for compensation in cases of accidents arising from the non-observance of orders, on the ground that orders might be framed with a view to avoiding responsibility under the Act. He therefore thought he had a right to ask whether the Home Secretary, who had said he was prepared to reconsider the matter, intended subsequently to enlarge the sub-section.
§ *SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
said the hon. Member hail misunderstood him. What he had said was that the supporter of the Amendment would see on a reconsideration of the question, that the object they wanted to attain was already attained by the Bill; but that if they, after reconsideration, remained of the same mind, he would not absolutely close the door to au Amendment of the sub-section.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said that nothing would be gained by the insertion of the proposed Amendment point in dispute was really covered by the words of the clause.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
*MR. ASCROFT moved, at the unit paragraph (c), Sub-section (2), to insert:
but a workman shall not be disentitled to compensation if the accident is solely attributable to the workman disobeying a rule respecting the cleaning of machinery whilst in motion, and such cleaning has been systematically allowed by the employer.
He read an extract from a letter sent him by Mr. Thomas Ashton, Secretary of the Spinners' Association, Oldham, which showed that though there was a rule against the cleaning, of machinery in motion, suck cleaning was allowed by employers in most mills. He wanted to secure by his Amendment that if an accident happened, in the course of the cleaning in those cases, the employer should not be able to escape the law by pointing to the rule.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
hoped the hon. Gentleman would nut press the Amendment. He did not say it was out of tatter as the Speaker had put it; but it, would make nonsense of the original clause as it stood; and must have been intended as an Amendment to the Amendment of the hon. Member for St. Helens, in case that Amendment had been accepted and inserted in the Bill.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said the cleaning of machinery in motion Was in some eases attended with no danger, and in other eases was attended with great danger: and as there were rules regulating both cases, the matter was for the arbitrator to decide.
§ *MR. ASCROFT
said that as the matter was to be left to the. arbitrator be must divide the House on his Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ MR. REGINALD McKENNA (Monmouth, N.) moved in Sub-section (3) after the words "If any question arises," to insert the words, "in any proceedings under this Act."
§ Amendment agreed to.
*SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY moved in Sub-section (3) to leave out the words,
whether the injury was caused by the personal negligence or wilful act, of the employer, or of any person for whose act or default the employer is responsible, or whether the injury was caused by accident arising out of and in the course of the employment of the workman injured, or whether the accident was solely attributable to the serious and wilful misconduct of the workman in respect of whose injuries compensation is claimed.
and to insert the words,
The liability to compensation limier this Act (includes any question as to whether the employment is one to which this Act applies).
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ *SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY moved in Sub-section (3) to leave out the words, "or otherwise as to the liability for compensation under this Act."
§ Amendment agreed to.1251
§ *SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY moved in Sub-section (3) to leave out the words, "and any question as to whether the employment is one to which this Act applies."
§ Amendment agreed to.
SIR J. JOICEY moved after the words "Schedule to this Act," to insert in Subsection (3):—
It shall be lawful for the employer at any time to substitute for his liability under this Act the engagement or guarantee of an insurance corporation or association, previously approved by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and on such Secretary of State certifying that he is satisfied as to the sufficiency of the engagement or guarantee of such corporation or association, and that it has undertaken the liability of the employer, any liability of the employer under this Act so undertaken shall thereupon cease.
He gathered during the Committee stage of the Bill that the Government were disposed to consider the question involved in this Amendment. He recognised that since the right to compute payments had been inserted in the Bill, the Amendment was not quite so important; but, nevertheless, he thought it was still very desirable. He was desirous that the Amendment should be accepted, as it would encourage the formation of insurance associations in various districts throughout the country, which would undoubtedly be of great benefit both to the employers and their workmen, and give the latter a much better security than they possessed by simply trusting to the employer. It was quite possible that many employers would have to pay compensation under the Bill. Some of them had very little means, and might not at all times be able to meet heavy claims that might be made, against them. In the event of their having insured their liability with a company or with a mutual insurance association, the security of the workman would be strengthened to a very large extent. Such a system would not only benefit the workman, but it would benefit the employer as well. For instance, suppose an employer died and it became necessary, in order to wind up the estate, that his successor should get rid of or provide for all liability in connection with the estate, then this Amendment would enable him to make
some arrangement for getting rid of his liability either by insurance with a mutual insurance association or in some other way, instead of carrying on the liability indefinitely. He believed it was the opinion of the Home Secretary that this Amendment threw some responsibility upon the State, but that responsibility was certainly not of a very serious character. All the right hon. Gentleman would be required to do would be simply to satisfy himself before the mutual insurance association was accepted, that it was of a solvent character. This could be ascertained by the Home Secretary or some official or department that would have an opportunity of fully considering the matter. The adoption of such an Amendment would prevent the substitution of any bogus corporation, and would benefit both employer and employed. Surely it was a reasonable thing, so far as the employer was concerned, if he had to pay compensation, that he should be able to get rid of his liability by making some arrangement with a great insurance association, mid he therefore hoped the Government would favourably consider the Amendment.
§ *SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
observed that the hon. Gentleman proposed or supported an Amendment of this description when the Bill was in Committee, and expressed some indignation with him then because, on the part of the Government, he could not accord it that favourable reception which the hon. Member appeared to have anticipated. He thought that at the present moment there was still less necessity for this clause. The hon. Gentleman said it was one of the objects of the proposal to encourage insurance, and that it would be very satisfactory, not only to employers but to workmen, to know that the insurance associations throughout the whole country were on a stable basis, so that there was an absolute certainty that any compensation for which the employers were liable and for which they had insured would be paid. He admitted all that, but at the same time the hon. Gentleman asked the House to accept a clause which threw upon the Government the duty of certifying that any particular insurance company was perfectly solvent, and would fulfil the obligations specified in the clause. That was enlarging the scope and operations 1253 of the Bill to a dangerous extent, and was putting upon the Government duties which they could hardly be expected to perform. Provisions had been inserted by Amendment in Committee with regard to commutation which rendered this Amendment less necessary than ever, and the Government could not, therefore, accept it.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ *MR. JOHN WILSON (Falkirk Burghs) moved, in Sub-section (3), after the words "as soon as practicable," to insert the words, "and not more than six weeks." The object of the Amendment, he explained was to fix some precise time for the notice of the accident being lodged. He thought the words "as soon as practicable" were extremely vague, and likely to lead to litigation, and that the addition of the words he proposed was very desirable, not only in the interests of the employers, but also, and still more so, in the interests of the employed. For instance, in the ease of a coal mine, an accident might happen all traces of which would disappear in the course of a few months, so that the miner could have no possible proof of how the accident happened. An accident might happen in a road into the coal face, and in less than six weeks the coal would be worked out and the road abandoned and fallen, and all trace destroyed of the accident. This involved no question of principle, and he thought the Government would do well to accept these words. He had the same Amendment on the Paper in the Committee stage, and the Colonial Secretary did him the honour to accept it, but at a subsequent stage he rather repudiated the engagement, and accepted an Amendment of an hon. Member on the other side of the House. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman, on reconsideration, would see that these words were much more definite and likely to improve the Bill than those which he accepted.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
admitted that this Amendment would make the provision more definite, and therefore it was the less acceptable, because they were dealing with indefinite circumstances. It would be perfectly unfair to say that a nein must give notice within six weeks. 1254 Circumstances might arise when it would not be practicable to give notice within six weeks. He would point out to the Icon. Member that the words which hid been accepted were the result of a very lengthened Debate in Committee, and were practically the result of a compromise between the different suggestions. He believed now, after full consideration, that they were thoroughly- satisfactory, and met the circumstances of the case.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. PARKER SMITH moved, in Subsection (3), after the words, "after the happening thereof," to insert the words, "and before the workman has left the employment." He thought that was a very important element in the consideration of the question when the notice ought to be given. It was quite obvious that if notice was not given until after the workman had left the employment and gone to work for somebody else, it would be impossible for the employer to know whether the accident really happened during the time the workman was in his employment, or whether it happened outside and a fictitious claim was being made upon him as the most likely subject from whom to recover some damages. Of course there would be the safeguarding proviso as to the employer not being prejudiced by want of notice and as to time want of notice being accidental.
§ SIR R. REID
hoped that the Government would not accept the Amendment. The words would make it possible for an injured workman to be deprived of compensation although he had given notice as soon as practicable. The employer might dismiss the man.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
said that there was a difficulty which ought to be met if possible. But it was only desired to meet the case of a voluntary change of employment by the workman; and not the case of dismissal by the employer. He suggested that the hon. Member should insert the word "voluntarily" before "changed his employment" in the Amendment.
§ *MR. J. WILSON (Durham, Mid)
put the case of a man who Lad given notice to leave his employment and was injured the day before the notice expired. How would that ease he affected by the Amendment? This part of the Bill, as 1255 it stood, was the result of a compromise between the different interests, and it ought not to be changed.
§ SIR J. JOICEY
said that he agreed that on this point a compromise had been arrived at with the approval of the Government, and therefore he must oppose the Amendment.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN moved to amend the Amendment by inserting the word "voluntarily."
§ Amendment amended, by inserting after the word "has" the word "voluntarily."
§ MR. H. H. ASQUITH (Fife, F.)
regretted that the Government had given any countenance to this Amendment. The clause in its present shape represented a compromise between the different interests concerned; and it was most unwise to reopen the question for such a trivial matter as the Amendment would guard against. He could not see any substantial danger to be obviated. There was already sufficient safeguard against fraudulent claims. If the words were introduced a thorny legal question would be raised, which would lead to all sorts of technical points being urged against the workman's claim.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said that this was not a trivial matter. Representations had been made to him by employers who would be seriously affected by the Bill. He knew that already there had been great difficulty in cases of workmen who had left their employment without giving notice of accident. After all, it was only notice that was required. The right hon. Gentleman said thorny questions of law would be raised by the Amendment, but it would tax even his ingenuity to raise a thorny legal question out of this very simple matter. If a workman voluntarily changed his employment it was not asking too much that he should be required to give notice if on a certain day before leaving his employment an accident occurred which might lead to consequences upon which a claim would be made.
§ MR. HALDANE
thought it was not worth while to re-open this thorny question upon which there was so much discussion in Committee. He reminded 1256 the Home Secretary of what passed when this clause was accepted in Committee. The question was raised by hon. Members below the Gangway, and he, knowing something of the matter, gave what assistance he could in drafting the Amendment, and that in consultation with representatives of coal owners was agreed to, and afterwards moved in the House by the hon. Member for Gainsborough, and accepted by the Home Secretary as satisfactory. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not now depart from an agreement arrived at after considerable trouble.
§ MR. STUART-WORTLEY
said the considerations which led hon. Members to oppose the Amendment did not prevent them earlier in the evening supporting an Amendment in relation to a matter upon which there was quite as much agreement in Committee as in the present instance. ["No!"] He spoke of matters within his own knowledge. Hon. Gentlemen were then ready to reverse an arrangement arrived at after full deliberation.
§ *MR. FENWICK
could not admit that the cases were parallel. In the case referred to by the hon. Member, there was not an accepted compromise such as this was. This was an arrangement arrived at after conference outside of the House between representatives of workmen and employers, and afterwards approved by the Committee.
§ MR. RENSHAW
said there were other interests to serve besides those of colliery proprietors, and this Amendment he considered a valuable addition for both employers and workmen in factories. Factory hands often changed their employment and it was only right there should be some check on a workman so that he should not, long after he had left an employer, send in a claim for compensation for an injury of which he gave no notice at the time it occurred.
§ MR. B. PICKARD (York, W.R., Normanton)
desired to hear from the Home Secretary his version of the arrangement. Was it not the case that when this matter had been long in Debate in the House., and there seemed no likelihood of coming to a settlement, there was a conference in the Lobby between the parties, and as the result the hon. Member for Gainsborough proposed words which were 1257 accepted by the Government? How could a departure from that settlement be justified?
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
protested against the supposition that representatives of any one class of industry even after consultation with other branches could bind the House to the acceptance of a particular proposal. The Government he thought had made a wise concession, and he hoped they would adhere to it.
§ *SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
said his recollection was that, after the subject had been discussed for a day in Committee, when the House met on the next day, which if he remembered rightly was Wednesday, he was informed through the usual channels that an arrangement, compromise, or settlement. had been arrived at amongst those who had been very active in the discussion as representing employers en the one hand and workmen on the other; he did not know that they were confined to the coal industry, and that an Amendment was going to be proposed. That was subsequently proposed by the hon. Member for Gainsborough, and as it appeared to the Government to be reasonable it was accepted. Of course that did not bind the action of the House, nor did he think this addition would upset the settlement. Tins related to a new question which had not been raised when the settlement was arranged. He did not think that in accepting the present proposition the Government were committing any breach of engagement.
§ Question put, "That the words and before the workman has voluntarily left the employment' be there inserted."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 196; Noes, 121.—(Division List, No. 271.)
§ MR. G. W. WOLFF (Belfast, E.) moved in Sub-section (3) to leave out the word "twelve" ("twelve months") and to insert the word "six." He failed to see why six months notice should be deemed sufficient in case of injury and twelve months in case of death. The latter time was too long mid would lead to great litigation. It was not right to have uncertainty hanging over the employers so long, nor was it good for the workpeople people themselves.1258
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
said that, in the absence of any agreement outside the House or in the Lobby which bound the House and the Government, he thought this Amendment was a perfectly reasonable one. He should think it was a slip which made the terms of notice in case of death different from the terms of notice in case of injury. He could see no. reason for making the notice different in the one case than in the other, and, therefore, apart from any question of agreement, he saw no objection to the Amendment.
§ *MR. JOHN WILSON (Durham, Mid)
said the Government had accepted the words "twelve months from the time death." Those words had been adopted as the result of a compromise which was arrived at between the employers and the representatives of labour, and he believed they embodied the general consensus of all employers in the House. He objected to the Government now going back from their acceptance of those words.
§ MR. AUGUSTINE BIRRELL (Fife, W.)
pointed out that in case of death time had to be allowed for the representation of some person who was qualified to pursue the claim. That was the reason why a distinction was drawn between a ease of injury and a case of death.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
But six months is the time within which letters of administration must be taken out.
§ MR. STUART-WORTLEY
pointed out that in case of death an clement of uncertainty was removed as to whether the injury really resulted from the accident Six months was allowed in case of injury because the effects might not develop until some time afterwards. In the case ef death there was no room for such uncertainty.
§ MR. S. WOODS (Essex, Walthamstow)
said the clause as it stood in the Bill was the result of a compromise between the employers of labour and the working-men representatives in that House, which it took nearly a week to effect, and which was accepted on behalf of the Government by the Home Secretary. That being so, he could not for the life of him understand why the Government should be departing from pledges and promises and understandings which were made and arrived at in the Committee stage. He hoped 1259 that in these circumstances the Government would reconsider their position and would not accept the Amendment now moved.
§ MR. RENSHAW
protested against the doctrine that that House was to be bound by any meeting such was held by Members outside that House, and which induced the Government to accept the Amendments as a ready means of getting forward their Measure. He thought this Amendment was an eminently reasonable one. It must be in the interests of all parties that these claims should be made as soon as possible, that they should be finally settled. There should be no reason why compensation in the case of death should be delayed for so long a period as 12 months.
§ MR. HALDANE
thought the reason why twelve months was adopted was a technical one. Lord Campbell's Act, by the analogy of which there actions were brought, gave action in the first instance to the personal representatives. These personal representatives loot six months in which to bring the action. If they did not do so within the six months, then the Act gave the action to the defendants, and in that case it was necessary that a further period should be allowed. He had no doubt the analogy of Lord Campbell's Act was in the mind of the draughtsman and made him put in an extra six months in the case of death
§ Question put, "That the word 'twelve, stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 84; Noes, 158.—(Division List, No. 272).
§ Word "six" inserted.
MR. HARRY FOSTER (Suffolk, Lowestoft) moved, in Sub-section (3), to leave out the words,—
Provided always that the want of such notice shall not be a bar to the maintenance of such proceedings it it is found in the proceedings for settling the claim that the employer is not prejudiced in his defence by the absence of such notice, or that such absence was occasioned by mistake or other reasonable cause.
The Amendment was, he said, in the same direction as that which had just been decided. The provisions that the claim should be lodged within six months of the accident, and, in the event of death, payment to the workman's representatives was to be made within six months of the death, were practically abrogated by the provision which he desired to omit, and which seemed to be part of a sacred compromise. A man, without having given notice of any accident, without having lodged a claim, might, two, three, or five years afterwards, launch the employer into the whole of the proceedings under this Bill. There was nothing to stop it, and the employer in limine could not lodge an objection. An inquiry must be solemnly held, and in the course of it the employer was asked to show, perhaps five years afterwards, that he had been prejudiced by the claim. He did not know what hind of evidence he would be required to give. It had been said that the Bill would throw a heavy liability on employers, and the answer was that the employers could cover themselves by insurance. But it was clear that if the risk under an insurance policy was one which could not be determined for certainty within any period, then the rate of premium which the insurance company would demand would be much heavier than if the risk ran off in a limited period. He could not understand on what ground the employer was to be subjected to the worry of an action under the Bill if the reasonable time allowed by it had expired without proper notice having been given. If a man had not given notice and lodged his claim, the employer must be prejudiced by the lapse of time, because he was less able to meet the evidence. He had been told on the responsible authority of insurance offices that the existence of this proviso would increase the risk of the employer, and thereby increase the premium which the employer would have to pay.
§ *SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
said that if he were to accept the Amendment, the Government would be violating the very sensible agreement which had been entered into. The proposal in the Bill was not an unreasonable one.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.1261
MR. ASCROFT moved, in Sub-section (3), to leave out the words, "employer is not prejudiced in his defence by the absence of such notice," and to insert the words,—
omission to give such notice did not arise from any intention to prejudice the employer in his defence.
He said that the object of the Amendment was to prevent an innocent workman who had been injured from being deprived of the right of compensation through not giving notice "as soon as practicable." This phrase might be construed by an arbitrator to mean the day, or the day following, the accident. If, in accordance with the Bill as at present drawn, by any oversight of the workman notice was not given "as soon as practicable," and in the meantime the employer was prejudiced in his defence, then the workman lost his right. Between the time when the workman gave notice and the time of inquiry the roof of the building might have fallen, and the state of the place where the accident happened might be entirely changed. The question might then arise as to whether the workman had used the prop which ought to have been used, and the employer might not be able to ascertain whether the workman had used it. The consequence would be that the workman would be placed in this position—the employer having been prejudiced in his defence, the workman would have no right to compensation. His Amendment was designed to get rid of the unfair position of tile workman.
§ *SIR. MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
feared that the remarks he used with reference to the last Amendment were as applicable to this. He could not accept this Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ *SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY moved, in Sub-section (3), to leave out the word "absence" ("absence of such notice"), and to insert the word "want."
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ *SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY moved, in Sub-section (3), to leave out the word "absence" ("such absence"), and to insert the word "want."
§ Amendment agreed to.1262
*SIR JOHN BRUNNER (Cheshire, Northwich) moved, in Sub-section (3), to leave out the words,—
notices shall be served in the manner provided for by the Employers' Liability Act 1880, Section seven,
And to insert the actual words of Section 7 of the Act of 1880, as follows:—
Notice in respect of an injury under this Act shall give the name and address of the person injured, and shall state in ordinary language the cause of the injury and the date at which it was sustained, and shall be served on the employer, or, if there is more than one employer, upon one of such employers.
The notice may be served by delivering the same to or at the residence or place of business of the person on whom it is to be served.
The, notice may also be served by post by a registered letter addressed to the person on whom it is to be served at his last known place of residence or place of business, and if served by post shall be deemed to have been served at the time when a letter containing the same would have been delivered in the ordinary course of post, and in proving the service of such notice it shall be sufficient to prove that the notice was properly addressed and registered.
Where the employer is a body of persons corporate or unincorporate the notice shall be served by delivering the same at or by sending it by post in a registered letter addressed to the office, or if there be more than one office, any one of the offices of such body.
A notice under this section shall not be deemed invalid by reason of any defect or inaccuracy therein, unless the judge who tries the action arising from the injury mentioned in the notice shall be of opinion that the defendant in the action is prejudiced in his defence by such defect or inaccuracy, and that the defect or inaccuracy was misleading.
§ Agreed to.
§ Amendment made, Sub-section (4), to leave out the word "ascertaining," and to insert the words "taking steps to ascertain."—(Sir Matthew White Ridley.)
§ MR. J. SAMUEL (Stockton)
said that he had been asked by his hon. Friend the Member for the Tyneside Division (Mr. Joseph A. Pease) to move the Amendment which stood in his name, namely, in Sub-section (4), after the word "certifies," to insert the words "with the approval of a Secretary of State." In Committee the Home Secretary promised that the Government would consider this Amendment. The hon. Member for the Tyneside Division was very anxious that the schemes under the Bill should have the approval of the 1263 Secretary of State, and he would be glad to learn that the Home Secretary agreed with his Amendment.
§ *SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
said it was quite true that in Committee he undertook to consider whether the Registrar of Friendly Societies could be brought into some relationship with the Home Office. Having given the best consideration to the subject, he did not see that any advantage would be gained by requesting the Secretary of State to look over all the schemes again. The Home Office had not the actuarial or other knowledge to fit them for the purpose. They might, he thought, put every confidence in the Registrar of Friendly Societies.
§ Amendment, by leave withdrawn.
§ Amendment made, in Sub-section (4) after the word "workmen," to insert the words "of an employer."—(Sir Matthew White Ridley).
§ *SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY moved, in Sub-section (4), after the word "Act" ("commencement of this Act") to insert: "The Registrar may give a certificate to expire at the end of a limited period not less than five years."
§ *SIR C. DILKE
said it was quite right that the Registrar should give a limited period, but why should he be tied up to "not less than five years."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said it was quite obvious that some words were necessary. The Registrar having regard to what his information and obligation would be, and also to the fact that he wished to have a period within which he must review his decision, himself suggested that the period should be five years.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ On the return of Mr. SPEAKER after the usual interval,
MR. WOODS moved in Sub-section (4), after the words "condition of their hiring" to insert:—
No scheme shall be so certified unless the said scheme has been approved of, as ascertained by ballot vote of a majority of the workmen under that employer, and under rules made by the Registrar as to how, when, and where the said ballot vote should be taken.
He hoped the Government would accept the Amendment, which he believed would make the scheme satisfactory.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
assured the hon. Member that since this question was discussed in Committee his right hon. Friends the Home Secretary and the Colonial Secretary and himself had carefully considered it, and they had been in communication with the Registrar of Friendly Secieties on the subject, and every means would be taken to ascertain in the best possible way the feelings of the workmen on any particular scheme. After full consideration, and with every desire to meet the reasonable wishes of hon. Gentlemen opposite, it was impossible for the Government to accept this Amendment. He could not help thinking that the hon. Member who had moved it had not sufficiently applied his mind to the difficulties in the way. Some principle must be laid down, and was it to be that the workmen of to-day were to bind the workmen of the future?
§ MR. WOODS
said that under the Mines Regulation Act, 1887, ballots had been taken on the appointment of check-weighers, and the result of the ballots lasted for seven years, although the workmen were constantly changing.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said that that was an entirely different matter. Those ballots were held merely for the purpose of electing a check-weigher; but was a workman who was going to leave his employment to-morrow to control the rights and liabilities of the parties to the scheme who came after him? There would be no reason why, if the registrar thought it right that the wishes of the workmen should be ascertained in this particular way, that course should not be adopted; but the Government submitted that a. compulsory ballot would be quite unworkable. The Government looked at this question from the practical point of view, and they felt that to impose a compulsory ballot would be to create a difficulty in the establishment of useful schemes, and would render the clause practically of no effect. The Government wished to make these schemes easy to work, and they honestly believed—and their opinion was shared by the responsible official to whom he had referred—that it would be against the interest both of the workmen and the 1265 employers to impose a compulsory ballot. The constituency was an inappropriate one for the purpose, consisting as it did of men, women, and boys, and continually shifting from day to day.
§ *MR.JOHN WILSON (Durham, Mid)
said that the Attorney General met the analogy of the appointment of a check-weigher by the objection that a vote ascertained by ballot in a continually changing constituency would be binding on futurity. It so happened that if the registrar sanctioned any scheme to-day with the consent of the workmen or of a portion of the workmen there engaged, that scheme would bind the workmen coming after unless the scheme were revoked. He thought therefore the Attorney General would see that the analogy of the appointment of a check-weigher was exactly correct, because by a certain majority of the workmen a check-weigher was appointed and he acted as check-weigher for future workmen. If the Attorney General could show that a scheme accepted by a majority of the workmen or by the entire body of them would not bind workmen who came after them, the analogy would fall to the ground, but where a scheme of this kind was sanctioned it would bind the workmen for all futurity. He submitted that something in the nature of the Amendment was necessary in order to carry out the intention of the Bill. Sub-section 4 of Clause I declared that if the registrar, after ascertaining the views of the employers and workmen, certified that any scheme was en the whole not less favourable, etc. Would the Attorney General show the House how the views of the workmen were to be ascertained? How could Sub-section 4 be carried out unless it was by a vote? Then Subsection 6, which dealt with the revocation of a scheme, provided that if any work. men or their representatives should submit to the registrar primâ facie evidence that the provisions of any scheme were no longer so favourable to the workmen as the provisions of the Act, he should, unless the cause of complaint were removed, revoke his certificate. In his opinion it was necessary, and more necessary in view of the Amendment placed on the Paper by the Home Secretary, that some machinery should be set on foot for ascertaining the desire of the workmen. The Amendment suggested by the Home Secretary was that "if Com- 1266 plaint is made to the said registrar by or on behalf of the workmen." Those words would no doubt be accepted by the House and again he put his question to the Attorney General, would he tell the House how anyone who acted on behalf of the workmen was to ascertain the desire of the workmen? He submitted that his hon. Friend's Amendment met the position taken up by the Attorney General on every point. It met him on the point of futurity, for every scheme under the Bill would do the very thing the hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to fear. In Committee the Colonial Secretary said that after consultation with hon. Members he hoped to discover words which would meet the difficulty which was apprehended. Was that pledge given merely to be broken? Was the right hon. Gentleman more amenable to the rhetorical influence of a deputation of employers than to the arguments of mild-mannered men like the workmen's representatives in that House? They had waited patiently to hear what form of words the Secretary for the Colonies was going to propose, but they had waited in vain. Unless the Amendment or something of the same nature were introduced into the Bill there would inevitably be irritation.
§ *MR. J. WILSON (Falkirk Burghs)
saw nothing unreasonable in the Amendment, for he held that there must be some machinery to enable the views of the workmen to be ascertained. clearly amid decisively. The like means for ascertaining the wishes of the workmen were in force and constantly used in connection with appointment of check- weighers at collieries. He hoped the Government would accept the Amendment.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
regretted that no machinery had been devised by the Government for ascertaining the wishes of the workmen. In Committee he had voted with hon. Members who had suggested that procedure by ballot would be a good way out of the difficulty. He had some doubt whether the Registrar of Friendly Societies would be the best adviser in questions of this kind. There might be cases in which employers would want to know the exact wishes of the workmen, and whether those wishes were shared by all of them How were the employers to ascertain the workmen's 1267 views? The point about the changing character of the constituency was not as substantial as some people might think. When a body of working men acquiesced in a particular arrangement it was unlikely that their views would be repudiated by their immediate successors.
§ MR. THOMAS BURT (Morpeth)
was glad that the Amendment had received so much support on the other side of the House. It was a comparatively easy matter to ascertain the views of employers because they were few in number. To ascertain the views of the workmen was a more difficult matter, and the only practical way of doing so was by the ballot. Many of the objections urged that evening by the Attorney General against the Amendment were urged against the proposal to ascertain the views of the workmen by ballot when the Mines Regulation Act of 1887 was under discussion in that House. He believed the Attorney General that the Government desired to carry out the views of the workman. Practical difficulties would soon vanish if some scheme of the kind was adopted and embodied in the Bill. As the Government had the testimony of the employers and the representatives of the workman in the mining industry that the provision had worked exceedingly well, he hoped the Government would accept the proposal before the House, or formulate some provision of their own to meet the necessities of the case. ["Hear, hear!"]
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
pointed out that the sub-section put the whole power of deciding into the hands of the Registrar General. That person must Le a man of the most remarkable knowledge, discretion, and ability. He must be such an official as the world had never yet seen. [Laughter.] But that was the plan of the Government. [Laughter, and" Hear, hear!"] He was to ascertain the views of employers and employed. How could he? As he pleased. If he found he hid no adequate means of ascertaining those views he had to guess them. [Laughter.] The plan that the views of the workmen should be ascertained by asking the workmen themselves was a plan entirely new to that proposed by the Government, and should have been substituted for it. He was pained to hear it imputed that the Colonial Secretary had been guilty of a 1268 breach of faith. That was a thing of which the Colonial Secretary was incapable. He expected the hon. Member for Bordesley would have got up and defended him.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. JESSE COLLINGS,) Birmingham, Bordesley
It is quite unnecessary.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
did not agree. When a direct charge was made against a Member in his absence one of his friends should get up and defend him. [Laughter.]
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said that if the matter were boldly left to the decision of the workmen it would be right to have a ballot of the workmen, but to make that a Court of Appeal from the decision of an omnipotent Registrar General seemed to him to he inappropriate. They should either have the ballot of the workmen or the Registrar General.
§ SIR J. JOICEY
asked how the views of the workmen could be obtained better than by ballot. The miners of this country were constantly being balloted on some point or other. He did not like leaving the whole question to any Government officials. Such officials were generally animated by entirely different considerations from the general public. A Government official was generally a narrow-minded man who took very narrow views of important questions and he was not content to let a government official decide when a better means of deciding could be obtained. He was amazed that in the Bill the Registrar General of Friendly Societies should have to decide, and yet no method was adopted to guide him. The Government did not seem to understand the Bill, or what it was to accomplish. They did not seem to know their minds on any point in the Bill. They were constantly chopping and changing their views, and what the Bill would be like at the end of the discussion, he did not know. The amendment was accepted by employers and workmen, and yet the Government refused it. If the Government were not prepared to adopt the scheme of the hon. Member for Walthamstow let them 1269 bring forward one of their own. Whatever they did he hoped they would not leave the matter in the hands of a Government official with nothing whatever to guide him.
§ MR. J. M. PAULTON (Durham, Bishop Auckland)
hoped the Home Secretary would tell the House how the Registrar General of Friendly Societies was to ascertain the views of the workmen. He believed the amendment was inserted at the request of that official, who evidently had the foresight to see he had under the Bill, to perform a task which he had no means of performing either to his own satisfaction or that of the parties concerned. As to the meaning of the words, "take steps to ascertain," the Registrar might merely go to a colliery or works and inquire of one or two of the workmen what their view was.
§ *SIR ALFRED HICKMAN (Wolverhampton, W.)
said he was one of those who believed in the advantages of friendly arrangements between workmen and employers—["hear, hear!"]—and he was opposed to anything which would place obstructions in the way of such arrangements. He was willing to accept the ballot of the workmen or the certificate of the Registrar, but he was of opinion that they should have either the one or the other and not both.
§ MR. W. S. ROBSON (South Shields)
said this Amendment appeared to him to raise a very important question, and if the words in the Bill for ascertaining the opinion of the workmen were merely intended to smooth the passage of the Measure, and not to be of any value in actual working, he could understand the attitude of the Government. If, however, they really intended that the opinion of the workmen should have an efficient influence on the opinion of the Registrar of Friendly Societies they were bound to have some effective means by which that opinion should be ascertained. The argument that the constituency would be a changing one was no argument against taking its opinion. With reference to the power which it was proposed to give to the Registrar of Friendly Societies, he would point out that the enlarged discretion continually conferred on the permanent officials of this country was a growing danger, which became a more and more apparent in every Bill 1270 introduced by the Government. ["Hear, hear!"] They were rapidly approching a state of things in which the main administrative power and a large part of the legislative power of the country would rest with the permanent officials, and they ought to protest against it.
§ *SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
, regretted that he had not had the advantage of listening to the whole of the Debate, but he had heard the very extraordinary speech of the hon. and learned Member—a speech which had caused him considerable surprise. That an able Government official like the Registrar of Friendly Societies was the person to judge actuarially and impartially of the merits of the case had, he thought, been already accepted by the House. He understood the proposal was for a compulsory ballot of the workmen. He did not think that was a reasonable proposal. If he had himself to deal with a scheme, he should unquestionably approach the workmen and the employers to ascertain their opinions.
§ *SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
said he should almost as a matter of course ask for a ballot of the workmen exactly as was here proposed. [Opposition cheers.] He did not object to anything of the sort, and he believed it was the opinion of the Registrar of Friendly Societies that in most cases it would be desirable to take a ballot. But there were other means by which the Registrar could satisfy himself as to the real opinion of those concerned. It was quite conceivable that there might be connected with some business a large and powerful Trade Union such as was represented by the lion Member for Mid Durham or the hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division. Was he to be told that it was necessary for the Registrar to take a ballot in such circumstances, instead of taking the opinion of the representatives of the Trade Union? There were many such cases, although in the majority of cases the Registrar might ask for a ballot. He would remind the House that this Bill expressly stated that no scheme should he certified winch contained an obligation on the workmen to join the scheme as a condition of their hiring. It was quite conceivable also that there might he a scheme which 1271 affected a part only and not the whole of the workmen. The Registrar of Friendly Societies was the most impartial and able officer the Government could select to judge of any schemes which were proposed.
§ *MR. FENWICK
said he believed the Home Secretary was of such a practical turn of mind that if the sanction of these schemes rested with him whenever a difficulty arose he would insist on a ballot being taken. He could not see that any reasonable objection could be taken to the principle of a compulsory ballot. He ventured to say that all the schemes for setting aside the provisions of the Act would be set in motion by employers. Therefore it was necessary to secure that the views of the workmen in regard to those schemes were completely and accurately ascertained, and that could only be done by ballot. He would also point out that when once a scheme was adopted it would bind all workmen entering the particular employment to which the scheme applied in future years. A scheme might, for instance, be adopted by 500 workmen, and in the course of a few years the industry might so develop that 1,500 workmen would be employed, and the thousand additional men would be bound by a scheme, in the framing of which they had no voice whatever. [Cries of "No, no!"] Would the Attorney General tell him then where it was provided otherwise?
§ MR. HEYWOOD JOHNSTONE (Sussex, Horsham)
said the hon. Member who had just sat down was entirely mistaken in his view of the provision in the Bill. It did not in the slightest degree bind any workman to enter into a contract with the employer; so far from that the words of the clause expressly provided that should not in any case be a condition of employment. Under these circumstances the case put by an hon. Member of a workman subsequently coming into some employment and finding himself bound by the result of a scheme already sanctioned by the Registrar of Friendly Societies, could not possibly arise. If it could, he was bound to say he thought much might be said for the Amendment. But as it could never arise, as the workman was not bound to accept 1272 or come within the four corners of any such scheme, he did not think there was any occasion for the Amendment at all. They had been told by the Home Secretary that if the Chief Registrar of Friendly Societies were at all in doubt as to the views entertained by the workmen, he had power to take a ballot to ascertain their views. Again, as the Home Secretary had truly pointed out, the workmen in all these large industrial undertakings was as a rule represented more or less fully and truthfully by their Trades Union, and surely the Trades Union would have the opportunity of bringing before the Chief Registrar the views of the workmen employed. He was sure the Trades Unions would press upon the Chief Registrar the advisability and necessity of taking a ballot, if they felt any doubt as to what the opinion of the workmen was. He thought it was a most excellent system that all these schemes should be submitted to the Chief Registrar, not only for the reasons already given from the Front Bench, but also because it was the only way to insure anything like uniformity of practice and uniformity of principle in framing and sanctioning these schemes. The Chief Registrar would no doubt be able to suggest where these schemes might be improved by Amendment. He could not help thinking ill a matter of this sort employers and employed would seek not so much their private and individual interest, but to come to an agreement which would be useful to both parties, and that the Chief Registrar would be able to suggest to them how to carry out a scheme which would be for the benefit of the employed, without pressing too heavily on the employers. ["Hear, hear!"]
MR. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion)
said the Amendment provided that contracting-out under the Bill should be safeguarded by almost the identical safeguards which were proposed in connection with the contracting-out clauses of the Employers' Liability Bill of the late Liberal Government. An Amendment was moved to that Bill by which contracting-out was provided for subject only to a ballot of the workmen employed in the particular employment. That Amendment was supported by the entire Opposition, including the Members of the present Government; and it was 1273 rumoured that that proposal had the Support of the present Home Secretary, but that the right hon. Gentleman was overborne by a stronger personality in the Cabinet. If that were so, he was surprised at the right hon. Gentleman's complete right-about-face in the matter. But the Home Secretary might say that there was inconsistency also on the Liberal Benches. For his part, he had always been in favour of contracting-out with this safeguard; and he was of the same opinion still. Hitherto, the doctrine of the Conservative Party was that the views of working men were not to be taken from the Trades Union leaders, who were merely officials, and that it was necessary to go to the working men at large. Now the House had the novel spectacle of seeing a Conservative Government urging that the views of the workmen should be derived from the Trades Union leaders, and the Trades Union leaders urging that those views should be ascertained from the men themselves.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
hoped that Her Majesty's Government would leave the matter in the hands of the Registrar of Friendly Societies. He was surprised to hear the Home Secretary attach so much importance to the Trades Union delegates as representing the views of the working classes.
§ *SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
said that what he had said was that the Registrar of Friendly Societies would avail himself of every means for ascertaining the views of the workmen in regard to a particular scheme.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
objected to the idea that Trade Union leaders were representatives of the working classes, and expressed the hope that the Registrar of Friendly Societies would, under no circumstances whatever, attach anything like supreme importance to their views.
§ MR. PICKARD
observed that the Home Secretary had practically admitted the contention that the workmen should be consulted and a ballot vote taken in order to inform the Registrar of Friendly Societies as to what he should do, but they had had no form of words suggested either from the Attorney Genera] or the Home Secretary. That being so why would they not accept the amendment of the hon. Member for 1274 Walthamstow? The opposition from the Front Bench was either real or unreal. If the workmen were to have a voice in the schemes the Government should give the House some light and leading in the matter. He believed the colliery owners and employers of labour in the House during the Debate had accepted the Amendment and were quite willing it should be added to the Bill. He could not, therefore, understand why the Government refused either to give their own form of words or to accept the Amendment in its present form. The Registrar had to take steps to ascertain the views of the workmen and the Home Secretary said he was to go down to the works. He did not think the Government could contemplate that the Registrar should go down to the works and there obtain the views of the men. If the Registrar had the power given to him he could ascertain by a ballot vote what were the views of the workmen in the various workshops. When this matter was dicussed in Committee the Colonial Secretary undertook to consult with the Labour Members and assist them in framing words that would meet the case. No opposition had been made to the Amendment from any quarter, mind he believed if the vote of the House could have been taken by hon. Members rising in their places, it would have been carried by a majority of three-fourths. When the subject was discussed in Committee, hon. Members on that side of the House felt thankful to the Colonial Secretary for the words he used on that occasion, and he trusted even now that time right hon. Gentleman would agree to the words that had been proposed, or suggest others that would carry out the object aimed at.
§ MR. W. ABRAHAM (Rhondda)
wished to remind the House of what the right hon. Gentleman, the Colonial Secretary, said on Thursday the 27th May, as reported in "The Parliamentary Debates."He should try to find out words after consulting with hon. Members, which would meet the difficulty that they apprehended.The clause which they were now endeavouring to control by the adoption of the words proposed, was the contracting-out clause. It was known that that 1275 clause provided the employers with means of contracting out, but it did not do the same for the workmen, and he was not a little surprised to hear the hon. Member for Preston say that he did not know any employer that would want to propose a scheme to contract himself out of the provisions of this Bill. All he would say was this: if the hon. Member were prepared to propose to eliminate this contracting-out clause from the Bill, every one of the Labour Members would be glad to support such a proposal. It was not from the Opposition side that the request to be allowed to contract out had come. It was well known that he and his Friends had done all they could to oppose contracting out. They knew, and hon. Members generally knew, that it would be from the employers that a contracting-out proposition would come [Cries of "No, no!"] Nothing would please the working classes more than to find to-morrow morning that the Government had at last agreed to do away with the contracting-out clause. There would be shouts of joy all over the country: There might be some bonfires or a second Jubilee, as it were—[a laugh]—if the workmen found they were relieved of this terror. He asked the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies to fulfil his promise to meet the difficulty which was apprehended—to fulfil it by Omitting from the Bill the contracting-out clause.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 108; Noes, 163.—(Division List, No. 273.)
MR. ASCROFT moved to add in paragraph (c), after the word "hiring" the following words:—
and no employer shall insist on a workman joining any scheme, or, as a condition of his joining any scheme, require him to withdraw from any friendly society, trade union, or workman's organisation.
The House had admitted the principle that an employer shall not have any clause in a scheme requiring a workman to join it as a condition of employment, but there were other ways by which a capitalist could compel the workman to
join, and this Amendment was drawn for the purpose of defeating railway and other great companies who make it a rule not to allow their men to belong to any friendly society, trade union, or organisation other than the society they themselves organised. To allow this would be to place the workman in an unfair position, because he would lose the advantage of the allowance during illness to secure which he had made contributions in the past, and when he left his employment he might be too old to join an outside society. It would further be a blow to the Trade Unions to allow this condition to be imposed. The Amendment carried out the principle the. House had approved.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said the first part of the Amendment was really not required, for there was already a specific statement in the Bill thatno scheme shall be so certified which contains an obligation upon the workmen to join the scheme as a condition of their hiring.This, moreover, was not a clause in which such a provision could properly be inserted. The Amendment, therefore, was both unnecessary and out of place.
§ MR. EDWARD STRACHEY (Somerset, E.)
said the friendly societies took great interest in this matter, arid had approached hon. Members upon it. Undoubtedly, unless words such as those proposed were inserted, great injustice would be done to members of friendly societies. He knew of the case of a man who had been told that, as a condition of his hiring, he must withdraw from the Hearts of Oak Benefit Society.
§ MR. McKENNA
thought the Attorney General should state his intention to introduce some similar provision in some later part of the Bill, because there was no sanction placed upon the employer at all at present. If an employer disobeyed there was no means of compelling him.
§ *MR. J. WILSON (Durham, Mid)
asked the Attorney General whether, although a scheme might not contain an objection as to hiring, supposing the fact of a workman being told that there was a scheme in connection with the industry which he must join, that would be a means whereby the certificate should be revoked.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
thought that would be outside the purview of the Bill. The clause only dealt with what 1277 schemes might be lawful for masters to propose and workmen to enter into, and it might be a condition of every scheme that it shall not contain an obligation on the workman to join as a condition of their hiring. The case suggested would not be a ground to revoke the certificate.
§ *SIR C. DILKE
agreed that the Amendment was inapplicable at this place, but contended that there was necessity for such an Amendment. There could be no doubt about the cases at all: he knew some, of his own knowledge, where employers made it a condition of employment that their men should not be members of the trade union.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 108; Noes, 177.—(Division List, No. 274.)
MR. WOLFF moved, in Sub-section (4), to leave out the words:—
If the funds under any such scheme are not sufficient to meet the compensation payable thereout the employer shall be liable to make good the amount of compensation which would be payable under this Act.
He said that the Bill of 1893 was thrown out because those in charge of it would not accept the scheme of contracting out. He was strongly of opinion that, as the clause stood at present, great injustice would be inflicted on the employer. Take the case of a scheme which wits formed between an employer and his workmen. The scheme might have existed for a time, and the fund for accidents was liable to the charge of a certain amount of money which had to be borne weekly. At the end of the year a strike might take place lasting for three months, and then it was found that there was no money in the fund. The workmen, seeing the position, might say that they would have no snore to do with the fund, and the employer would be left to meet the whole liability, which in the first instance the workmen had contracted to bear jointly with him. This would be most unjust to the employer, and was not calculated to favour the contracting-out arrangements between employer and workmen.
§ MR. C. A. CRIPPS (Gloucester, Stroud)
said that if this portion of the clause 1278 was retained (it was not in the original Bill) and the Amendment was not accepted, it was certain that no contracting out would ever take place thereafter. Here the House was dealing with a fund to which the employer and the workmen contributed on the partnership principle, in certain proportions, taking a. common interest, a common risk, and a common liability. Was it in these circumstances fair that one partner only in the transaction should be liable for all the risk in case the fund was not sufficient to meet the liabilities for which it was instituted? Suppose during a long series of years by a scheme of this kind the workmen had received a benefit far greater than they would get out of the provisions of the Bill. In consequence of a strike, however, the fund for a time was insufficient to give the same advantages as the workmen might obtain under the terms of the Bill. Was all the liability to be suddenly thrown on the employer, though up to that date he had by his contribution placed the workmen in a better position than they would have been under the Bill itself. It was impossible to suppose that any employer would enter into one of these permanent relief funds in such circumstances. Supposing that, owing to sonic dispute between workmen and employer, the latter were suddenly to withdraw in large numbers front a scheme of this kind, it would for the moment be insufficient to meet the liabilities, and the employer would be liable to make up the whole deficiency, no matter how generous his contributions to the scheme might have been. ["Hear, hear!"] Under these conditions would any such scheme be initiated in the future? The Miners' Permanent Belief Fund had, an income of £80,000, to which the employers contributed 25 per cent. It had worked well for 20 years, but it would not live a day if a provision of this kind were introduced. Why should it? ["Hear, hear!"] If the House desired that the principle of contracting out should be a reality in the future, in order that the principle of a common contribution by workmen and employers and of a common risk and liability should be maintained, then he hoped the House would leave the Bill as it was originally introduced. [Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
said that the Government could not accept the Amendment. [Opposition cheers.] But in saying that he did not wish to be thought in the least out of sympathy with what had been said by the hon. Member for Belfast. He was convinced that the objection of the hon. Member and of the hon. Member for Stroud to the proposal was due to a misappreciation of its effect. No one attached more importance to the schemes which the Government hoped would be framed under this Bill than did he. He differed entirely from hon. Gentlemen opposite, who had throughout shown their hostility to these schemes. To the principle of contracting out he did not attach so much importance except as far as it was necessary to establish these schemes. He believed that in many cases in the future, as in the past, alternative schemes of this kind would be established without unnecessary insistence upon contracting out. But he valued these schemes for three reasons. Under a scheme it was possible to have greater freedom and variety than under any Act of Parliament. Local and trade conditions could be met as Parliament could not meet them in dealing with the whole of the combined industries of the country. Secondly, it was possible to have arrangements more favourable to the workmen than any the House would dare to propose as the minimum to be imposed upon all the trades of the country. There would always be exceptional employers who would be willing to make larger sacrifices than any which the Legislature imposed as a matter of obligation. ["Hear, hear!"] Thirdly—and he was not certain that this was not most important of all—it was desirable that these schemes should be arranged, because he believed that the best security for the satisfactory administration of the law was in the joint effort of workmen and employers; and he did not believe that the result would ever be so satisfactory under any other arrangement. One great advantage of schemes like the miners' relief fund was that they had brought in the work-people to join in the administration of the fund and in the supervision of payments, and to a certain extent, to make them responsible for their contributions. He thought—and had expressed the opinion publicly to deputations of the 1280 people principally concerned—that the contributions hitherto made to these societies were inadequate. Twenty-five per cent., or 30 per cent. at the outside, was an inadequate contribution on the part of the employers and on the part of the trade. But the principle of these relief funds was admirable. He sincerely desired to see them continued, and he believed they would be; only under the Bill the contributions would have to be increased. The one condition imposed on the employer was that he should pay as much to the new scheme as he would pay under the Bill. Let them see how it would work out. His hon. Friend behind (the Member for Stroud) said that if under certain circumstances a scheme broke down the whole liability would fall upon the employer. Nothing of the kind; the liability of the employer would not be increased a penny. And that was where he thought the hon. Member for Belfast had misunderstood what was no doubt a rather complicated arrangement. Take the case he had himself taken. Suppose a scheme established to which the firm concerned contributed the full amount of its liability as valued by the Registrar of Friendly Societies. Let them assume that the firm contributed £1,000 a year and the workpeople another £1,000. There would then be an opportunity of giving double the benefits given under the Act. Not that the amounts would necessarily be doubled, but the contributions might be disposed of in other ways and for other purposes than those contemplated in the Bill. They might, for instance, give assistance in case of accidents causing injuries that lasted less than a fortnight, or in cases of illness, or by way of superannuation; they might, in fact, make a scheme that would embrace all the necessities of the workpeople employed by means of a joint contribution, provided that the contribution of the employer amounted to his liability under this Bill. His hon. Friend supposed a strike. Thereupon, of course, the contributions of the workmen ceased, and the 1281 benefits would be reduced proportionately; but no additional liability would be thrown upon the employer. As long as he paid his £1,000 a year he would have done all the Bill called upon him to do, and would pay not one farthing more. ["Hear, hear!"] He believed, therefore, that the contention of his two hon. Friends was based on a misapprehension of the proposal in the Bill. It was a perfectly fair and reasonable proposal. It only went to secure that by no possibility under any scheme should the employer escape from the liability imposed upon him in the Bill. It did not exaggerate or increase that liability by a fraction of a penny. He trusted he had made clear what was the intention of the clause, and if he had successfully done so he hoped his hon. Friend would be content to withdraw his Amendment.
§ MR. PARKER SMITH
said there was another point in which he thought this proposal would have a very serious effect in making contracting-out schemes impossible, and that was in regard to one kind of scheme with which the right hon. Gentleman who had just, spoken had not been dealing at all. He had been dealing with cases of a running fund in trades where the accidents were not serious. But there was one industry in which, if anywhere, this new liability which the Bill threw on the employers would cause a very great inclination to make schemes of this kind, and to make them in a way which this particular proposal would very seriously affect. Take the case of dangerous colliery accidents. The possibility of a big explosion in which a hundred or two hundred, or perhaps four hundred people might be killed, would always he before the owner of a dangerous pit. It might be thoroughly to the advantage of the owner of a pit of that sort to establish a scheme with contributions from the workmen and from himself, much larger year by year than the actual actuarial value of any risk of a big explosion, in order to 1282 avoid the ruin that a big explosion, if it came off would entail upon him. Just on the principle that a man paid a heavier fire insurance than the actual actuarial risk demanded. In this case see what happened. Year after year, for many years, the owner of the colliery had continued to pay very handsomely in all cases of accidents; the men had had the advantage—in the case of small accidents, in the case of explosions which killed one, two, or three of their number—of very much better terms than they would get under the Bill. But some day there came the great explosion which this insurance fund would be established to protect the employer against. Look at the effect the provision would have. Then of course, the fund, in which there might be a few thousand pounds, became bankrupt at once, and instead of the employer being able to have the advantage which the hon. Baronet the Member for Chester-le-street was anxious he should have, of establishing an insurance fund and letting the men have recourse to that, as soon as the fund was exhausted the men would come against their employer and make him bankrupt. Well, that entirely put an end, he thought, to the possibility of any contracting-out scheme in regard to collieries; he thought that the case of the collliers ought to be considered.
§ *MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Walsall)
said he had listened attentively to the right hon. Gentleman's speech in the hope of finding a valid argument in favour of this sub-section, but he listened in vain. He, as it seemed, avoided the most important point in the matter. He took the concrete case of an employer, after contracting with his workmen out of the Bill in favour of a scheme more beneficial to them, paying £1,000 a year to the fund created by that scheme, and he stated that so long as he paid that sum he would have done all the Bill required, ant would not pay a farthing more, and he therefore argued that this sub-section dill not increase His liability; but he 1283 thought that the right hon. Gentleman forgot that in the case supposed the funds under the scheme would have been insufficient to pay the compensations due, and that the claims for these compensations would be made by individual workmen, who would, if this sub-section became law, be entitled to receive the compensation due under the Bill, notwithstanding the existence of the scheme. If any such workmen were to commence an action against the employer for compensation, it would be no defence to his action that he had paid for many years under the contract annually a sum which had been the actuarial measure of his liability under this Act. He would have to pay the whole amount of compensation then due, and therefore, so far from his not being called upon to pay one farthing more, he would have to pay, perhaps, £300 apiece to 20 workmen who had been killed. If he was right in this—and he should be very glad to be corrected if wrong—then the employer would have to pay all that he had agreed to pay under the contract and also the compensation required by this Act. It followed that no employer in his senses would enter into such a contract, for he would be playing the game with the workmen of "heads I lose, tails you win." Consequently this sub-section would kill all schemes, or rather prevent their coming to the birth, and as he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman in valuing these schemes very highly, he must object to this sub-section. And he had an additional reason beyond those mentioned by him for valuing these schemes. Unless by means of some one of them the employer contracted out, it might be impossible at his death to wind up his estate for many years, because both his real and personal property would be liable for the compensation which he had to pay, consisting, perhaps, of pensions for 30 years or more. The House was acting like Penelope with her web—during the morning they were endeavouring to pass in Grand Committee the 1284 Land Transfer Bill, which was to make the transfer of land easy, and in the evening they were extending the charges upon land, rendering the production of long titles necessary. He hoped that some Member of the Government would clear up the point which he had taken, and, if that be not done, he must vote against this sub-section. ["Hear, hear!"]
*MR. J. A. PEASE
said he should vote against the Amendment. That side of the House was opposed to contracting out of the Bill on principle, and whilst mutual arrangements might be made outside the Bill, he was not going to be a party to placing the working men in a worse position, in the event of their contracting out under the provisions of the Bill, than they would be in if there was no contracting out clause at all. Ho thought that in the remarks from the Treasury Bench full justice had not been done to the employers in the north of England. As a matter of fact the maximum was 20 per cent. In addition to that the employers had for many years past contributed free coals and free houses to their workmen.
*MR. J. A. PEASE
said that was so, but it was possible for the employer to get rid of a workman at a fortnight's notice Then in addition to free house and coals, an injured workman had free medical attendance and the employer contributed 5s. a week, smart money it was called technically, which commenced from the date of an accident and not two weeks after it as was proposed in the Bill. He thought it was only fair to the employers to say this much.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Rochester)
said he agreed with a great deal of the speech of the Colonial Secretary, but he could not quite agree with his conclusion. He felt, perhaps, more strongly 1285 than his right hon. Friend the enormous advantage of these arrangements. It was quite clear that any man who valued the independence mid the manliness of the working classes, must be of opinion t hat it was far better that they should be able to make their own arrangements—["hear, hear!]—but inasmuch as they had dependents relying on them for subsistence, it was thought proper by the Government that they should not be allowed to make any arrangement that would be worse for themselves than the compensation provided by the Bill. Surely, however, the Bill as it would stand, even if the Amendment was carried, would be entirely adequate for the object. It was not merely that the workmen should be consulted as a. body, or that they should individually contract, but the Registrar of Friendly Societies had to see that the conditions of every scheme were as favourable to the workmen as the provisions of the Bill. If the House was to rely on the Registrar at all, they must conclude that he would come to a. right decision. Even it the Amendment were carried it would be perfectly clear that the workmen would be put in as good, if not a better position than under the Bill. His right hon. Friend said that if the Amendment were not carried, the employer would not be worse off; but he agreed with his hon. Friend below him that he would be worse off. If the employer was not better off under the scheme than under the Bill, what inducement was there to him to enter into an arrangement? Even on the ground that the employer would be equally well off under one arrangement as under the other, his right hon. Friend ought, he thought, to agree to the Amendment. It was quite conceivable too, that under a. scheme the employer might have to contribute more than he would have to find under the Bill, and in that case he would be positively worse off. It appeared to him that there would be no inducement to employers to enter into these arrangements, and in the 1286 circumstances he would have to vote for the Amendment.
§ MR. LIONEL HOLLAND (Tower Hamlets, Bow and Bromley)
said he was very glad the Government had not accepted the Amendment. ["Hear, hear!"] This clause enacted that the scheme of contracting out should be equally favourable to the workman with the provisions of the Act. That could only mean one thing—that though the benefits might be varied and altered, though they might be enlarged or extended to the amount of the workmen's contributions, still the fund which the employer contributed to the scheme must be equal to or not less than what he would have to find under the Act. It had been urged that this was a. matter which ought to be left to the Registrar, and he agreed that if the Registrar were infallible this section might be superfluous. The Registrar, however, might make a miscalculation, or might be deceived, and he might certify a scheme under which the employer's contribution to the fund would not satisfy the whole of his liability under the Act. In cases of that kind it would be only fair when a deficiency arose that the employer should be liable to the extent contemplated by the Legislature.
§ *SIR A. HICKMAN
pointed out that when a fund failed to meet all liabilities any excess payments by the employer under a scheme would cease and his liability would then be governed exclusively by the Bill. The payments which he would have to make would then he precisely the same as they would Le if no scheme had been framed. To the argument that if this Amendment were not accepted there would be no inducement to an employer to enter into a scheme he would reply by saying that the employer's inducement would be that he could make more efficient provision for his workmen by establishing a fund than would be afforded by the Bill. For example, the Bill provided that in case of a workman's death his family should 1287 receive a lump sum; but a lump sum could easily be dissipated, and it was far better for the family that the employer should have arranged that the payment to them, should be continuous.
§ MR. ASQUITH
I desire to support the Government in their opposition to this Amendment. We are celebrating the obsequies of contracting out. The Secretary to the Colonies has applied his torch to the funeral pyre, and in a few sentences I will do what I can to fan the flames. I have a very vivid recollection of what happened four years ago when it was my duty to propose legislation upon this subject to the House—legislation which was defeated because the Government of that day would not permit the principle of contracting out to be introduced into their Bill. Our attitude with reference to that matter has been persistently misrepresented. I have never expressed or felt the least hostility to any of those mutual schemes between masters and men, under which better and larger provision was made in cases of accident than the law afforded. But the position of the Government of that day was that, where those schemes existed, where they had been framed in good faith and carried out in good faith, there was no necessity for exemption from the genera operation of the law. If a scheme would give the workman a better position than the law would give him, it is contrary to human nature am to common sense to suppose that he would not have recourse to it The moment you allow contracting out, unless you surround it by conditions which it is almost impossible for the foresight of the Legislature adequately to devise, you open the door to every kind of illicit influence, every kind of improper pressure, every kind of unfair arrangement. On that ground, and on that ground alone, we insisted that the workman should not be able to accept a less provision in case of accident than the law gave him. What is the position in which we now find ourselves under this 1288 clause? In the first place, no scheme for contracting out is to be permitted unless it is certified by the Registrar of Friendly Societies to be not less favourable to the workmen than the provisions of the general law. I do not think myself that that is a very satisfactory arrangement, because I very much doubt if any Government official, however well disposed, full of experience and expert knowledge, will have the means of being able to ascertain whether any particular scheme under local conditions is equal to the provisions of the general law. But in the paragraph we are now considering the Government have made a considerable and substantial addition to the safeguards provided by the Bill. It might happen that the Registrar General of Friendly Societies might be mistaken, and that under the actual operation of the Scheme, which on paper looked fairly reasonable, the workman has not secured equal advantages. To meet that contingency the Government have consented to the addition of a paragraph which amounts to a guarantee on the part of the employer that if the expectations entertained by the Registrar General should be defeated the employer will make good the deficiency. That is the effect of the paragraph, which I think most wise and proper. ["Hear, hear!"] But, while I entirely agree with the Government in regard to that paragraph, I ask the apostles of contracting out on the Benches opposite, those who in 1894 defeated our Bill because we would not permit contracting out—[cheers]—those who at the last General Election went to their constituents and declared that they were the champions of freedom of contract—[laughter]—against the predatory and socialistic legislation of a Radical Government—I ask how we stand to-night? ["Hear, hear!"] Given that no scheme of free contract can have effect unless approved in the first place by the Registrar General of Friendly Societies, and given, next, that no scheme, 1289 even if so approved, will be carried into effect or be really operative in the event of failure except at the expense of the employer making good the deficiency, what becomes of your principle of free contract? [Cheers.] What refuge is there for it within the corners of the Act of Parliament If the scheme is to he safeguarded by this provision, what inducement has any employer, any sane man—[cheers]—to deliberately contract himself out of the law when he knows that, in the first place, his contract must be reviewed by a Government official, and, if after a course of experience it turns out not to give the workman equally good provision, he has to make good the deficiency. Contracting out under these circumstances is an imposture and a farce—[loud Opposition cheers]—and all the rhetoric expended on platforms at the last General Election in support of it was insincere, hollow, and of no avail. I am speaking as a supporter of the Government—[laughter and cheers]—defending them from the Members for Gloucester, Belfast and the others—the few faithful who remain among the faithless—and I say we are celebrating, with the joint assent of t he great majority of the House, the funeral of the principle of contracting out. [Loud Opposition cheers].
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) Manchester, E.
rising amidst Ministerial cheers: So long as the Debate was permitted to continue as a business discussion of the kill dealing with the business of the clay, I did not think it necessary to intervene. My right hon. Friend near me dealt adequately with all the questions that have arisen as far as those questions have been kept separate—and I am glad they have been—from party controversies, which I should have thought might well be buried—[Opposition laughter]—in the interests of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. We, at all events, if they desire it, are prepared now and at any other time—[Ministerial cheers]—to contrast, in this 1290 audience or any audience, the Bill they brought forward and recommended two years ago with the Bill which we bring forward and recommend now. ["Hear, hear!"] I do not know whether any of them are sanguine enough to suppose that, as the result of such a comparison, they would come out with the general suffrages of the people of this country. The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down tells us that this Amendment is the funeral oration of contracting out, and that we are now occupied in celebrating the obsequies of that principle. The right hon. Gentleman, though he has dragged in by head and shoulders the Debates took place within these walls two years ago, seems to have forgotten the principle which underlay those Debates. He seems to think that in this Bill we have deserted the principles which we once advocated, and have now taken to advocate principles which we once denounced. [Opposition cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman and those who cheer him have entirely forgotten the form in which we have advocated contracting out in the Bill which he introduced, and the very terms of what was called Lord Dudley's Amendment which was recommended by us to the House. What was the essence and substance of Lord Dudley's Amendment The Amendment advocated by us, then sitting in Opposition—the Amendment upon which the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman was wrecked and the whole settlement of the question hung up all these years—laid down in as explicit language as the draftsmen could supply every possible precaution for carrying out that which, by the right hon. Gentleman's confession, we are now carrying out. [Cheers.] We said, let us not do anything that call possibly be avoided to make these arrangements between masters and men impossible; we must, indeed, provide that men do not enter into engagements which would put them in a worse position than the statute, without those arrangements, would put 1291 them in, but, subject to that one condition, let us do all we can to keep these associations alive. That is precisely what is done by the Bill if it passes in its present shape. ["Hear, hear!"] There is the completest freedom between masters and workmen to make these arrangements between themselves, but we have made ample provision that under no circumstances, not even if the Registrar of Friendly Societies should make an error in his calculations, are the workmen to be damnified. How is that inconsistent with the line we took up before? It is absolutely in conformity with it, and we have now carried out, I admit in a briefer form, but not in a less complete form, what we endeavoured to carry out in Lord Dudley's Amendment—namely, to hedge round the liberty which we are anxious to give the employers and employed with every precaution which would prevent the employed from suffering by the arrangements which might be made between them and their employers. The right hon. Gentleman, echoing criticisms—not, as I think, very well-founded criticisms—passed on this side of the House, says, What possible motive can an employer have, if this Bill passes in its present shape, for entering into any contract by which the Bill can be superseded? I will satisfy the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friends on this side. I admit if the employer hopes to go into an arrangement allowed by this Bill for the purpose of economising money, undoubtedly the provisions of this Bill will prevent his doing so, and it would have been equally prevented under Lord Dudley's Amendment. ["Hear, hear!"] We have never advocated contracting out as a means of economising the funds of the employer. What has been our motive has been this—we have thought it desirable to allow arrangements which might carry out two great objects, first a better provision for the men, and secondly, better relations between master and men. We thought when the right hon. Gentleman brought 1292 forward his Bill—and we think now—that if the employers and men choose to enter into arrangements different possibly in their terms, wider possibly in their scope, than those provided by the statute, that is an advantage both to masters and to men; to the men because it gives them better terms, to the masters and the men because it improves the relations subsisting between them. But, Sir, neither in 1893 nor in 1897 have we ever come forward, either in this House, or in the House of Lords, or on the platform before our constituents, or under any other circumstances, and advocated contracting out as between employers and employed for the purpose of making the terms of compensation less onerous to the employers. ["Hear, hear!"] We have been consistent from beginning to end—[Opposition laughter and Ministerial cheers]—and if any hon. or right hon. Gentleman thinks it worth while to continue this Party controversy, which we at all events did not initiate this evening, he has only, in order to convince himself that I have not in the least exaggerated the plea which I put up on behalf of the Gentlemen with whom I act, to glance at the terms of Lord Dudley's Amendment to which the right hon. Gentleman had such an objection that he sacrificed the whole legislation for which he made himself responsible rather than accept it. I am glad to think that the principle of the Amendment will now by the consent of the right hon. Gentleman himself—[Ministerial laughter and cheers]—be accepted. We are not holding any obsequies at all, and if we are putting the torch to any pyre—I am repeating the metaphor of the right hon. Gentleman himself—it surely is to that of all the pleas by which he and his Friends attempted to justify for Party purposes the abandonment of their legislation. [Ministerial cheers.]
§ SIR JAMES JOICEY
said he was surprised to hear the First Lord of the Treasury accusing the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife of using 1293 the Bill for Party purposes. What was the whole intention of the Bill but to secure votes for the purpose of keeping the right hon. Gentleman in office? He had listened with the greatest pleasure to the speech of his right hon. Friend the Member for East Fife; and agreed with him that they were attending the obsequies of contracting out so far as this Bill was concerned. He could not find in the Bill the slightest inducement to employers to put forward any scheme for contracting out. The right hon. Gentleman the First. Lord of the Treasury had said that the object of the contracting out clause was to secure better conditions for the men, and better relations between the masters arid men. He had some experience of the permanent relief funds, and he regretted to say that he did not know of one that was actuarially sound, and he did not know of any employer that would join in those funds if this clause remained in the Bill. The clause would create the greatest difficulty between workmen and employers, and it would practically prevent any mutual insurance associations being established.
§ And, it being midnight, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Thursday.