HC Deb 12 July 1897 vol 50 cc1604-8

(1.) This Act shall come into operation on the thirty-first day of March, one thousand eight hundred and ninety-eight.

(2.) This Act may be cited as the Workmen's Compensation Act 1897.

MR. JOHN WILSON (Falkirk Burghs)

to leave out the words "thirty-first day of March," and to insert the words "first day of July." He said he had no desire to unnecessarily impede the operation of the Bill or to prevent workmen getting its benefits as soon as possible. He had always been in favour of universal compensation for all accidents, but seeing that the Government in the Bill had made the employer responsible not only for accidents over which he had control, but for all accidents over which he had no control, he I thought the time allowed for the Bill to come into operation was too short, and his Amendment asked for the reasonable extension of three months more. The first reason in support of the Amendment was that the men's societies would be abolished and the funds would have to be divided, and that would take some tone. He did not believe that my new associations would be formed; in fact, the workmen themselves did not believe it, but if they were to be formed, time should be given for the purpose. Secondly, the clauses of this Bill were so far-reaching that the employer would find it difficult to insure against accidents. No insurance society would take a risk for more than £5,000, which was a ridiculous sum in the case of this Bill, and therefore it was absolutely necessary that the employers should have time to form associations to come to the rescue. He believed that if time was not given for the purpose of forming associations many employers would not insure at all, but would run the risk of an occident, and in that way the workmen might be defrauded of their compensation. Another reason was that coal owners, in order to keep their collieries going, required to enter into contracts for at least a year. On those grounds he thought it was fair and reasonable that the time at which the Bill would come into Operation should be extended from the 1st of March to the 1st of July.


said the Government recognised the desirability of giving all parties concerned ample time for the consideration of their position before the Act came into operation. What his hon. Friend had said about that was perfectly true, but he would remind his hon. Friend that when it was proposed in Committee that the operation of the Act should be postponed till the 1st of July 1898, he, on behalf of the Government, then said that it would not be fair, having regard to the interests of all concerned in the operation of the Bill, to postpone its coming into effect for so long a time; and his proposal that the 31st of March should be the date met with the general acceptance of the Committee. The Government were not disposed to agree to any further extension of the period. He believed there would be ample time for the employers to make their arrangements both in regard to contracts and to any alterations that might be necessary in existing societies.

MR. SETON-KARR (St. Helens)

, in supporting the appeal to the Government to reconsider their decision, said that more time was required by the employers to consider the new burdens imposed upon them by the Bill. The Measure when once passed would be difficult to alter, and it would be impossible to repeal it, and therefore full time should be given to the employers to realise their position. This was all the more necessary because since the Bill was in Committee the Colonial Secretary had made an important statement in which he quoted certain figures, which according to an authority consulted by the employers of labour were not correct. The right hon. Gentleman stated that the exclusion of the first two weeks would reduce the number of accidents for which compensation had to be paid by 25 per cent., and the liability by 30 per cent. Now Mr. Niesson, a very high authority, had calculated that the exclusion of the two weeks would only reduce the liability by 2½ per cent. There was a very wide difference between 2½ per cent. and 30 per cont.


The hon. Gentleman cannot go into these calculations. The question before the House is whether the Bill is to come into operation in March or in July.


submitted that his argument was to show why time should be given so that the correct calculations could be ascertained.


The hon. Member is entitled to state that, but he cannot go into detail.


said his point was that it was necessary before the Act came into operation that the large industries should have time to consider their position, and if necessary to federate. This was a large question for the workmen as well as for the employer, because it affected the industries upon which the former were dependent for their living, and he therefore spoke as much on behalf of the men he represented as the masters in his constituency. They simply asked for three months in addition to the three months granted in Committee, believing that three months would not be enough. They originally asked for twelve months, and now they ask for six. As this did not touch the principle of the Bill ample time should be given by the Government.

MR. LAURENCE HARDY (Kent, Ashford)

also urged that more time should be allowed to the employers to carefully consider schemes of insurance and safeguard their interests under the Bill. In speaking of the contracting out clause, the Colonial Secretary said it would of course be necessary to consider many matters in connection with it; and the right hon. Gentleman went on to say:— I cannot help thinking that should the Bill be passed, time should be given before it is put into operation for these matters to be considered. He certainly thought that the right hon. Gentleman might, perhaps, be referring to an intention on the part of the Government to allow employers a little more time to devise new schemes. He thought it was not unreasonable to ask the Government whether they could not see their way, mainly for the purpose of promoting the easy working of the Bill, to give the three months now asked for.

MR. W. E. M. TOMLINSON (Preston)

believed that without some scheme of insurance this Bill could not be carried out, and would work injuriously both to workmen and employers. It appeared to him that three months was far too short a time to allow for the reconstruction of old schemes or for the creation of new. He believed that a system of compensation for all accidents must lead to some system of State insurance. Supposing it should happen that between now and next Session the authorities in charge of the Bill had evidence before them which led them to think that it was desirable that some further scheme of insurance should be established; the extension of time now asked for would allow that to be done next Session. A workman of great experience in the management of these schemes had deliberately expressed the opinion that the Bill by itself would be by no means so beneficial to the workmen who came under it as the existing schemes were, and if that was the case there would be a desire in sonic, quarters among those brought under the operation of the Bill to supplement it in some way or other. Surely it was not too much to ask that the operation of so revolutionary a measure should be postponed so that employers would have time to turn round and consider their position.

Amendment negatived.