- (1.) This Act shall not apply to persons in the naval or military service of the Crown. but otherwise shall apply to acv employment by or under the Crown to which this Act would apply if the employer were a private person.
- (2.) The Treasury may, by warrant laid before Parliament, modify for the purposes of this Act their warrant made under Section one of the Superannuation Act 1887.]
§ He did not make that Motion for the purpose of impeding the Bill in any degree. On June 1, when the Bill was in Committee, an Amendment was moved to Clause 8, by the hon. Member for Lynn Regis which would have the effect of allowing soldiers and sailors who were employed as workmen, to enjoy the advantages given by the Bill to workmen in civil employment. The Colonial Secretary made a sympathetic reply. The right hon. Gentleman said the Government were willing to consider the matter, but they should have to consult the two Departments concerned, and perhaps on the Committee stage they might he able to do something. The hon. Member for Lynn Regis thereupon withdrew his Amendment. But when the Report stage was reached it was found that it would be out of order to move any such Amendment at that stage, and the only way in which such an Amendment could he moved was by recommitting the Bill. With regard to the subject matter of the Amendment he should like to point out 202 that an Amendment moved by the hon. Member for the Tyneside Division of Cumberland was withdrawn, because the Government undertook that some such Amendment would be inserted in the Bill in another place. The effect of that Amendment would have been to admit to the advantages of the Act workmen employed on ships afloat. The importance of some such Amendment was shown by the accidents which recently occurred on Her Majesty's ship Blake. In once case two stokers were killed by an explosion of coal gas. One man carried a naked light, and the widows of both men were refused compensation. In the other case an artificer was killed by a steam explosion. The coroner's jury found a verdict of manslaughter against the engineer in charge, and expressed the hope that liberal provision would be made for the widow, who, in consequence, received an allowance of 3s. 6d. a week for herself, and 1s. for each of her children. He would not press his Amendment if the Government would promise to move one in a similar sense in another place. But, meanwhile, he moved that the Bill be re-committed in respect of Clause 8.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER, Isle of Wight)
said that in the instances mentioned by the hon. Member compensation would not have been given under the Bill if the men killed had been in civil employment.
§ MR. MORTON
said that the cases would have come under the Bill if the Government carried out the pledge to adopt the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Tyneside Division.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said that all the Government undertook to do in that connection was to remove a special anomaly, and to provide that, where a vessel in course of construction was moved from the yard to the river, the men employed on the work should not lose their claim to compensation by the removal of the vessel from the yard. The accidents on Her Majesty's ship Blake were such as the Government had declined to include in the Bill in the case of merchant ships. There were special conditions attaching to the employment of soldiers and sailors, and what the Government had declined to do in the case of ordinary 203 shipping they certainly could not do in the case of Her Majesty's ships.
§ MR. W. ALLAN (Gateshead)
asked whether the workman would have the same claim to compensation when he was engaged on the building of a ship prior to its being launched.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said that the hon. Member who had moved the Amendment had mentioned the promise of the Colonial Secretary to extend the operation of the Act to the workmen engaged in completing a vessel after it had left the ways. He had merely shown that the hon. Member's reference had no bearing on the present Amendment.
§ MR. W. ALLAN
said that his point was this—that the men should be as much entitled to compensation before the vessel left the yard as after.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said that the two cases cited by the hon. Member could not come under the Bill in any circumstances. But there remained the very substantial question whether a man engaged for the moment in civil employment should be deprived of all claim to compensation simply because he was a servant of the Government.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. J. CHAMBEIMAIN, Birmingham, W.)
said he had been in communication with the naval and military authorities, and they were unwilling to amend in this sense, for reasons which appeared to be sufficiently satisfactory. He found himself unable to draw the distinction between naval and military employment desired by his hon. Friend. Such a distinction would be difficult, if not impossible. The question of the State awarding compensation to persons in the naval or military services should be raised on the Vote for those services, and not on this Bill.
Main Question proposed.
§ *MR. H. H. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)
This Bill has been received from the first with so much general good will, and such controversy as in the course of its progress it has aroused has corresponded so little to the ordinary lines of Party division, that those who wish it well, as I certainly do, might on this occasion 204 content themselves with the expression of a hope that it may safely weather the perils it has still to encounter elsewhere. But it is a Measure at the same time) so novel and so momentous—[Ministerial cheers]—not merely in what it expressly contains, but still more in that which it implies and involves, that I do not think we shall be wasting public time if, before we part with the Bill for the present, we spend a few moments in the consideration, not of its details, but of its general scope and purpose. Now I wish it to be clearly understood that I speak as one who accepts to the full, and is prepared to act upon, the general principle of universal compensation. It is quite true that when, some years ago, we cm this Bench had to initiate legislation on the subject we proceeded on different lines and tried a different method. But, as I have endeavoured to point out more than once, there is absolutely nothing incompatible in the recognition of the principle that this Bill contains, that the injured workman has a right to be indemnified whatever may be the nature or cause of the injury, and the principle of our Bill, that a special liability ought to be cast upon the employer for preventible accidents. The two things are perfectly compatible the one with the other; and now, in my judgment, as the question has developed, as undoubtedly it has done the last three, or four years, no legislation can be complete or satisfactory which does not adequately aim at both these objects. My main criticism in an adverse sense to this Bill in the form in which it is about to, leave us is, that it does not attempt to abolish, as regards the, whole of the industries of the country, the doctrine of common employment, Plausible arguments have been used to justify the curtailment of the special benefits of the Bill to particular trades. I regret that large and important industries, such as that of the agricultural labourers, in which the burden imposed on the employer would be very slight, in which the injuries sustained, although infrequent, are often of the gravest character["Hear, hear!"]—that that and other industries have been excluded from the special benefits of the Bill. But while there is a good deal to be said for proceeding in a tentative manner and by steps, that affords no 205 justification for the failure of the Bill to remove a grievance felt by the whole working population of the country, and which has been admitted by both parties in the House for years past. The fact is that when this Bill passes into law some 60 per cent. of our working population wilt derive absolutely no advantage from the Bill of any sort or kind. [Cheers.] I express an opinion, which I fancy is shared by many hon. Members on both sides of this House, that we have let slip an opportunity, perfectly consistent with the object of the Bill, to, remove a grievance which will be more strongly felt when the persons who suffer see their fellow workmen placed in a position of exceptional privilege. That, I feel, is a blot on this Bill. I pass from that, taking the Bill as it stands, to ask the House to clearly realise to what, when we have given our assent to it, we shall he committed. What, is the principle on which the Bill rests? It is that it is to the interest of the community, as a matter of public policy, that the workman who sustains an injury in the course of his employment should, as far as money can do it, have the right to be indemnified. It is a new right you are creating for the workman and a Pew obligation you are imposing on the employer. Previous legislation in the direction of employers' liability rested on the ground of moral responsibility. That is not the principle of this legislation, which proceeds on the ground that the workman, in the interests of the community, has a right to be compensated whatever the cause of the injury may be and however impossible it was for any human being to foresee or guard against it. I do not believe there is anyone in the House who would say that as a matter of ethical justice or political justice it is right to, make the employer personally liable, out of his own pocket, when he cannot recoup himself, for injuries caused by the act of a stranger, the act of the workman himself, or the act of God. You may say that previous legislation went too far and covered a larger ground than moral responsibility would justify. But we advocated it on that ground mainly if not entirely. The new obligation this Bill imposes, and the right it creates, is derived entirely from considerations of policy and humanity. It is revolting to our improved standards not only of sentiment, but judgment in 206 matters of this kind that men, compelled by the exigencies of their daily calling to expose themselves to peril, preventible or non-preventible that these men should be deprived of the means of continuing to earn their livelihood and become a charge upon their families and dependants. It is on these general grounds of policy that the liability created by the Bill is justified. I do, not shrink front that. The time has come when Parliament should recognise that principle and embody it in a statute. But do not let there be any misconception as to what the principle is, and that in embodying it in a statute we are creating a new legal right and obligation similar in character, when carried to its logical development—and it is capable of wide extension—to that which our ancestors created in the time of Queen Elizabeth when they established the Poor Law and recognised the right of every human being in this country, as a last resource, to food and shelter at the expense of the State. If that is conceded to be the principle, certain consequences follow. I am glad that this Bill will not permit any arrangement between employer and workman which will put the workman in a worse position pecuniarily. Next, I want to look at the matter from the respective points of view of the employer and the employed. Several hon. Members do not like this Bill because, as they conceive, it inflicts injustice upon the employer. The view of those who support the Bill is that the employer will be able to shift the ultimate burden which the Bill undoubtedly casts upon him, in the first instance upon the consumer in the Amp of a larger price for the commodity produced. That is the only way in which he can shift it, on to the consumer. There are some trades its which it will be possible for the employer to recoup himself in that way; there are others in which that will not be possible, particularly the trades which arc subjected to the stress of foreign competition. [Ministerial cheers.] There are trades so situated in respect, of the keen rivalry of foreign compel tan that it is impossible fur the English producer to add anything to the price except at the risk of excluding himself front the foreign market and the foreign competitor taking his place. What will become of the burden in those 207 cases? Clearly it will fall somewhere. It will fall either on the employer or the workman or on both. Where that state of things happens this Bill will undoubtedly impose a burden on the interests engaged in industry. What share of the burden will be apportioned between the two parties only experience of particular trades can prove, but that there will be a large number of eases in which it will fall on the workman I am certain, and there will be a considerable number in which it will be divided. It may be there are some cases in which the profits are so abnormally high that the employer will have to take the whole burden on his own shoulders. In the case of small employers—men with small capital, who slowly adjust themselves to new conditions of industry—a considerable, though. it may be a temporary, burden and hardship may thus be cast upon their shoulders. But look at the matter and this is quite germane to the same point—from the point of view of the workman. There, again, I think that the arrangements proposed by the Bill may be productive of hardship. Why? Because, according to the Bill, his only recourse is against his own individual employer. I cannot entertain any doubt that. this Bill, by casting the liability on the employer in the first instance, will encourage the conversion of private partnerships with unlimited liability in the selected trades into limited companies, which can smile at the burden which this new legislation will put upon them. What will happen will be this, that when a catastrophe. happens the company will wind up its affairs; operations will then be stopped, and a new form of organisation will be set up under similar conditions.. That is a most unsatisfactory state of things. And let me point out another illustration of the same thing. We have endeavoured in vain, in Committee, and on the Report stage, to obtain some preference for the claim of the workman. in the event of the bankruptcy of the employer. He has that claim at present as regards his wages up to a. certain limit. We tried to obtain a similar privilege for the workman as regards compensation, but it was refused by the. Government, and though I voted for it and think it. was a fair and just proposal, still I do not deny the force of the argument used by the Secretary of State for the Colonies 208 when he said that ninny of these men who go into bankruptcy have small creditors whose claims it would be a hardship to postpone. But the result is that the compensation of the workman is made contingent on the solvency of the employer. That is another illustration of the difficulties of this legislation. It appears to me the conclusion is irresistible that the arrangement proposed by this Bill can only be a transitional arrangement. You may be confident that at no distant period of time you must contemplate a state of things in which this liability will be cast, either as in Germany upon the trade as a whole, or as is more probable bore upon the whole community. [Cheers.] That, I am certain, is the direction in which both justice and policy point, because if you do that you will in the first place secure to the workman compensation at all hazards, quite independently of the. solvency or insolvency of the employer, mid in the. next place you will largely mitigate the hardship which may fall on the particular employer and particular bodies of workmen and particular trades from the operation of foreign competition. [Ministerial cheers.] That is the principle to which we are giving our assent when we pass the Third Heading of this Bill. I conceive it to be an affirmation on the part of Parliament that in future, and at no distant period of time, the charge for making good, as far as money can, injury sustained by workmen shall, on grounds of public policy, be thrown on the community at large. I do not shrink from that prospect. I think it is a goal to which our industrial legislation has for a long time been pointing. But do not let us minimise the length and largeness of the stride we are now making. We have been wont to be told at every stage in the progress of our industrial legislation in which the State has stepped in to give fresh protection to the health and life of the workpeople, that we were advancing more and more into Socialism. ["Hear, hear!"] I am not afraid of the name, and I am riot afraid of the thing. But I tremble to. think what would have been said, of the feelings that would have been aroused, of the epithets that. would have been hurled across the floor of the House, if the Party now sitting on the Opposition Benches had dared to propose a Measure 209 of this character. [Ministerial cheers and laughter.]
§ *MR. ASQUITH
That was rather an academic invitation. But if we had done it what would have been said? I do not think it I am drawing too large a draft upon my own imagination or that of the House if I venture to conjecture that if such a Measure, introduced under those circumstances, ever succeeded in crossing the threshold of this Chamber, anal starting on the dangerous journey of adventure which our Constitution prescribes, its life, according to the best actuarial calculation I can make, would not have, been worth 48 hours' purchase. [Ministerial laughter and cheers.] Circumstances alter cases. I congratulate my right bon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies, that he has hen able to conduct his operations under happier conditions. [Laughter and cheers.] I believe in this matter I speak the opinion of the great bulk of those on this side. [Cheers.] For my part, I sincerely hope that this Bill, to the improvement of which all patties have contributed with as little Party spirit as, I think, has ever been shown in the coarse of it long discussion, that this Bill, not only in itself, for in itself it is a partial, mill in some of its aspects a Halt-hearted, Measure, hut with the extensions and enlargements for which, be assured, it will afford in time to come an unanswerable precedent—I sincerely hope that this legislation may be the means of mitigating the unavoidable hardships of our industrial life and contributing to raise the standard of health and comfort of our working population. [Cheers.]
The right hon. Gentleman commenced by saying that this Bill has been attended in its passage through the House by general good will, and I think he claimed a full share in that good will for himself and for many of those who sit behind him; but I must say that the speech which he has just delivered seems to me, if, indeed, it evinced good will at all, to evince it with no particular amount of enthusiasm, and to be rather "dimming with faint praise" than passing a full eulogium upon the Measure. ["Hear, hear!"] I also noticed that a large part of that speech 210 was not addressed so muck to the House at large or to the supporters of the Bill us it was to some of my hon. Friends below the Gangway, by whom it was received with great satisfaction, and who have shown throughout the course of these Debates that they, at any rate, do not regard this proposal with what my right hon. Friend calls general good will. The right hon. Gentleman commenced by calling attention in emphatic tones to the novel and momentous character of this It is novel, we allow, and we take credit for having hail the courage and originality to propose it; but that it is momentous in he alarming sense in which my right hon. Friend used the word I venture absolutely to deny. [Cheers.] This Bill is a Bill to which my right hon. Friend declares he feels general good will. He tells us, in the first instance, that it is insufficient incomplete; that it does nothing for the prevention of accidents; that it will impose in some cases injustice upon the employer; that in other cases it will impose injustice upon the workmen; that it may be dangerous to some trades in the country; that in cases in which it pretends to provide compensation, owing to the bankruptcy of the employer, the workman will have to go without the compensation. These are some tit" the remarks which I have collected from the speech of my right hon. Friend, vim professes that this Measure has been received with general good will. [Laughter.] I confess I trace beneath the benevolence which my right hon. Friend assumes with this stage of the Bill feeling which have led him to an opposition of the Bill had he not felt that such opposition would not be supported by public opinion. Every Bill, and especially an experimental Bill on a great subject of this kind, is open to criticism. We never contended that it was a complete and final Measure. ["Hear!".] We have never barred the way absolutely and for all time against the possible inclusion of other trades which are now excluded; but when my right hon. Friend says we might, with the greatest ease, have included in this Bill provisions to deal with agricultural Labourers, with shipping and either trades in the country, I say that, having regard to the time which has already been taken—do not say unwisely or improperly 211 taken—in discussion in the Committee and report stage upon this professedly incomplete Bill, it is perfectly evident if we had accepted his advice, and brought in these other trades we could never have got it through in an ordinary Session. [Cheers.] To have recommended such a course must have been fatal to the adoption of this new principle, which, if it proved to be, as I feel confident it will be, of advantage to employers as well as employed, will no doubt in future be reasonably extended. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the principle of the Bill. I do not complain of the definition he gave of its principle, although I should put it in rather a different way. The principle is that every workman in the trades specified in this Measure will, in future, be entitled of right to moderate and reasonable compensation for all the accidents which may happen to bins in the course of the business in which he is engaged, unless those accidents are caused by his own gross and wilful default. [Cheers.] There are two principles, and that is the first. The second is that this compensation should be a charge upon the trade or employment in the accident occurs. It is not the principle of this Bill and in that there is a marked distinction between this Bill and the Bill introduced by my right hon. Friend four years ago that the employer should be punished or fined or that a new moral responsibility should be created in his case. That is not the principle of the Bill. The principle is that the compensation is not a fine upon the employer, but it is a recognition of the just claim of the workmen. In what way can this fairly be considered as a charge upon the employer? In future what we say to every employer in these specified trades is this:—When you enter upon a business you must consider tins compensation is as much a trade charge as is now the provision which you are called upon to make for the repair of machinery. You at present have to put aside every year a certain sum for the repair of the inert machinery, which is a factor in your business. Now, the human element in the business has to be considered. and in the case of accident what reparation you can make must be made as a charge upon the business.["Hear!"] As my right hon. Friend says, that is a new principle. I believe it to be a just and proper principle. 212 [Cheers.] He says it will lead to great results, that you must carry it further, and that it will lead to State assurance, to the State assuming, this new charge. That does not alarm isle any more than it alarms him. But I am bound to say I think it very much fairer and more reasonable that the charge for accidents should be put upon the particular business in which they occur rather than upon the community as a whole. ["Hear!"] It appears to me perfectly fair that if a man carries on the manufacture of gunpowder his trade expenses for accidents should be larger than they would be if the charge for accidents were spread over the community. It appears to me that the more dangerous a trade is the more it should pay in the way of compensation, that the payment should come out of the trade, and if the trade is so unprofitable that it cannot provide for the cost of the accidents it causes, then I think this country is better without that trade. I do not, for my part, believe in this repetition of the allegations which have been brought by the representatives of the employers—which are now endorsed by my right hon. Friend opposite, who says he is in favour of this Bill—that it is going to put a large charge or unbearable charge upon any business. ["Hear, hear!"] It is perfectly well known to every one who has inquired into this matter, and to those employers in the House who have taken the trouble to take out the accidents in their own business, that. it is possible to find what the burden placed upon them by this Bill would be, and that, except in one or two exceptional trades, the charge will be a very small one indeed. [Cheers.] Take the textile industry. I undertake to say that in every well-managed mill in Lancashire the average cost under this Bill for accidents, calculated upon the last ten years, will not exceed 2s., and will probably be nearer 1s., per cent. upon the wages paid. What does that amount to as a charge upon a great business? It is ridiculous to say that some of our largest businesses will be so materially affected by this new charge, even if the employers themselves were not called upon to pay it, that they cannot maintain the competitions which otherwise they would be able to maintain. I admit there are some exceptional cases in which the charge is a much more 213 considerable one. I do not want to enter again upon a controversy, which I am afraid will never be concluded by unanimous agreement, as to the cost in the coal trade; but everything I have heard and everything I have learnt since these discussions began convince me that in putting the average charge at ¾d. per ton we have the full average cost of the accidents in the coal-mining industry. ["Hear, hear!"] Of course, again, there are districts in which the cost will be more, just as there are districts, with which I am acquainted, in which it will be much less; but that is the average, and there can be no difficulty in meeting that average by a system of mutual insurance. [Cheers.] Is the charge of ¾d. per ton of so serious a character that we have any reason to feat' that this great trade will be seriously injured by it? We have had some very loud cries indeed from the representatives of that industry. Me noble Lord—who no doubt will have a great deal to say oil this Bill in another place, as he has already in the country—has accepted this view of the case, and, as representing the collieries, he says that many will no longer be able to be carried on at a profit in consequence of the new charge which this Bill imposes upon them. We learn from the newspapers at this precise moment that the noble Lord himself is going to torn his whole concern into a limited liability company. [Laughter.] It is perfectly evident, therefore, that the noble Lord must be speaking, not for himself, but for his friends. He cannot be speaking, for himself, for anybody who knows him knows he would not put upon the market a concern which is about to be ruined. [Laughter and cheers.] I feel perfectly, convinced that the more this matter is looked into the more it will be seen that, although there has been, I have no doubt, genuine alarm excited by the most exaggerated figures and calculations, yet, in fact, the charge will not turn out to be of anything like the magnitude which La been supposed. ["Hear, hear!"] I say that I believe—putting aside this particular trade where experience only can prove the mistake which I am convinced they are making—that, as regards the trades of the country generally, this Bill has been received on the whole with general satisfaction. [Cheers.] The complaints which have been made which 214 have found any public expression in regard to it have been few and far between. ["Hear, hear!"] The fact is that large employers and humane employers are already doing in their own case very much what this Bill would impose upon them, and they made no objection. On the contrary, they recognise that it will be of advantage to them that their competitors who have hitherto neglected this duty should be brought up to the same level. ["Hear, hear!"] I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman as to the transformation which he says will go on, but which I say has already gone on, of private concerns being converted into limited liability companies. That is a thing, which is not going to happen in the future; it is one of the factors of the present situation. ["Hear, hear!] In hundreds and thousands of cases private firms which look a personal interest in the future and condition of their work-people have been transformed into public companies who have no conscience and no feeling at all. That is one reason why legislation or this kind becomes every day more necessary. [Cheers.] But I do venture to reply to the criticisms of the right hon. Gentleman that, although I believe that transformation will continue to go on from other reasons and on other grounds, I do not believe that private firms will think it necessary to have to transform their business into companies, because a new charge of 2s. or 3s. per cent. On the wages has been put upon them in regard to compensation. [Cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman has said that he considers in many cases this will become a charge on wages. That is a more moderate statement than was made on a previous occasion, when he declared that the whole charge would come out of wages. I remember that some other speakers made the same observation. That at all events cannot be true. Unless you can prove that every charge on the business ultimately comes on the wages you cannot take any particular charge and say that it comes out of wages. Wages must always be settled by much larger considerations, and I do not believe that the charge here imposed will have any effect upon them. The question of wages is more largely affected by the scarcity or the plentifulness of labour, and not by a slight additional charge on a great business. The right 215 hon. Gentleman told us—very truly, I think—that there is no incompatibility between legislation which is intended to give compensation to workpeople and legislation which is intended for the prevention of accidents; and I think he was inclined once more to claim for the Bill which he brought in, and to which this is in sonic sense an alternative, that, while it would not have provided to any considerable extent compensation for workmen, it would have done something towards the prevention of accidents. There I take issue with him entirely. The objection we took to his Bill was that it was neither fish, flesh, nor fowl. It was a Bill which, professing to prevent accidents, was throwing a liability on the employer—not merely a pecuniary liability, but a moral responsibility—for accidents over which he had no control. We considered that it was absurd to say that great employers who may engage 2,000, 3,000 or 10,000 workpeople can possibly have any control over the possible negligence of their workmen; and vet it was for accidents of that kind that my right hon. Friend proposed to throw the liability on the employer. The right hon. Gentleman congratulates himself—and I think this was addressed especially to hon. Members on this side of the House who have taken a strong view on the subject—on the way in which we have dealt with contracting out. He did not go so far as that the other night; but to-night lie only said that we had laid down the principle that no man should contract out of such legislation as this unless he would not be a. pecuniary loser by so doing. Why should my right hon. Friend congratulate himself on this as if it were a new declaration of principle? That was the principle of the Dudley Amendment. In so ninny words it provided that no contracting out should be valid or legal unless it was clearly proved that the alternative scheme was at least as good as the scheme under the Bill. We have adopted exactly the same principle here. The other night we refused an Amendment to omit the provision to make that absolutely plain. We did so, not because we attached great importance to that provision, but because, as I endeavoured to make clear to my hon. Friends who moved and supported the 216 Amendment, that really it made absolutely no difference to the employer, that it really imposed no additional burden on him; and I regarded it myself as an expression of an intention to make mere absolutely clear to persons not learned in the law that it was the intention of the Bill that a workman should in no case suffer. The provision as to the control of the Registrar of Friendly Societies would always secure the workmen from being injured by a contracting-out scheme. There is no doubt that some of my hon. Friends were not comforted by my reason, and they believed that the insertion of tins Amendment would prevent contracting out and impose on the employer a. new burden which would make it impossible for him to contract out. The right hon. Gentleman, taking advantage of that feeling, did his utmost to confirm it, and said that we were putting the torch to the funeral pyre of contracting out. Let there be a fair understanding on this point. That is not our intention; we do nothing, to stop contracting out. All that we have done is to make it perfectly clear that no workman shall lose by contracting out; and if my hon. Friends and also hon. Members opposite are agreed that the Amendment introduced from that side of the House will have the effect of preventing contracting out, then I say it is a matter which shall be reconsidered—[ironical laughter and cheers]—because most certainly we hold to the principle of contracting out, and we hold above all to the importance of encouraging voluntary schemes as between employer and workmen. [Cheers.] The two things are not the same, although they are connected. It may be that under this Bill employers will make voluntary schemes that require their workpeople to contract out. As I have said before, and I repeat again, we have always expressed our willingness to allow such schemes, even to encourage them, provided always it is clear that the workmen do not suffer pecuniary disadvantage. It is said, "What inducement will the employer have for a. scheme under this Bill?" I have been in communication with many employers, some of them coalowners, and I have found, I am happy to say, a general desire as soon as the Bill is passed to agree to some sort of scheme, not necessarily by contracting out, but 217 at all events by voluntary arrangements with the workmen. This is a scheme which in this case has been suggested and will be carried out. The employed will take his books for a certain period and from them will extract the number of accidents showing the average number he has had during the live or ten years. He will apply the schedule of the Bill to these accidents told calculate the cost. Then he will to to his workpeople and say, "Now the cost under this Bill to me is on an average £100 per annum. If you will form a society I will place at your disposal this £100 if you will subscribe to it your penny or twopence a week. You will manage it, because I will allow you to elect your delegates, who shall he a majority of the committee. I will come on myself or appoint a foreman to represent me, but I do not want a majority of votes upon it: and the committee shall administer a fund to which, I shall contribute £100. That fund will be a larger fund than will be required to provide compensation under the Bill; but the surplus you will dispose of for sickness, minor accidents or in improving the scale of compensation under the Bill, or for any other purpose: and if you can save anything by reducing the number of accidents, by watching and providing, against malingering, by preventing abuses, then you will have the £100 I pay in addition to your contribution to devote to other purposes to which you attach importance." That is the scheme, and a scheme of that kind would secure the employer against the abuses which all employers fear from this Bill; it would secure a supervision of the Bill, a desire to prevent malingering, and it would give workpeople great advantages; which otherwise they cannot obtain, and would place, them in a friendly and harmonious position in regard to I he employer, and would, I believe, contribute very largely to those good relations which we all desire to maintain. I am told, not only practically, but largely, this will be adopted in many manufacturing establishments, told I have no doubt whatever that this Bill will not merely secure to the workpeople the boon we desire to secure to them, hut it will also very greatly promote that good feeling on which more than anything else the success of the Measure will depend.
§ MR. EMERSON BAINBRIDGE (Lincoln, Gainsborough)
Would not that scheme impose on the employer the same burden?
Of course it would. That is the principle, and under this Bill the employer cannot escape that. The burden imposed upon him by the Bill will have to be paid, whether under the Bill or under the scheme, unless he can show that the scheme gives the same pecuniary benefit as the Bill itself.
It is impossible to go into details like that. The employer must take WI average, and he must estimate, not by taking the maximum scale, hut by taking the probabilities of the case, and in putting it before the workpeople it will he for them to judge whether he has estimated the fair probabilities of the case. Take a great society like that of which the hon. Member is an official—the Miners' Relief Association. Have they the she-h-test difficulty in making the calculation They are doing such work every day. They can tell you the character and number of accidents, the number of weeks on an average each particular accident lasts; and in this way they have the whole of the particulars to make up in their own trade the probable cost imposed upon them by the Bill. I think I have now really dealt with the various matters which have been touched upon by the right hon. Gentleman. I will only say that I think it must be a great satisfaction to the Government that this licit has, on the whole, been considerately treated in this House. It will go to mother place in all essentials the same as it entered this House. That does not mean that we have not accepted a great number of Amendments. We never pretended that a Bill of this kind, dealing, with every variety of industry and complex conditions, could be perfect when it was first drawn in a Government office. We were perfectly aware that from the experience and knowledge of the whole 1House we should get many useful and valuable suggestions, and we stated on the Second Reading that we were prepared to consider and to accept suggestions from whatever quarter they chime if calculated secure more 219 fully to the workman the benefits to him or to secure the employer from the abuses of the legitimate operations of the Bill. It is on those two grounds we have accepted Amendments. I do not dwell on incidents in the Debate, but I have noticed with regret that whenever we have accepted an Amendment proposed by any representative of the employers, at once hon. Members who claim to represent the interests of the workmen have denounced us, and have declared that the Bill has been male absolutely worthless. I hope, on reflection, that they will not repeat any statement of that kind. I do not believe that by any Amendment we have accepted we have weakened the Bill in any important particular. I believe a is as advantageous to the workman now as it was when brought into the House, and if here and there some trifling changes may have been made to lessen the advantage to the workman, on the other hand a great number of changes have been made all in his favour, all to his advantage. All I would say in conclusion is that if charges of this kind which were rather recklessly made during Debate are repeated now it is perfectly evident there is only one consistent course for any one, who holds the view that the Bill has been made worthless, to take. If it is his opinion and belief that the Bill is worthless and does not confer a great benefit on the workmen, then it is not open to him to vote for the Third Reading. To be consistent he must vote against the Third Reading, for the Government would not be justified in raising all this criticism and irritation unless they were able to assume, as we do assume, that the Bill confers a great and almost unexampled boon on the working classes of this country. [Cheers.]
§ *MR. VICARY GIBBS (Herts., St. Albans)
said he had no personal interest in the matters with which the Bill was concerned. Member after Member on that side of the House had spoken in favour of the principle of the Bill and against its details until it had become almost a parrot cry. He was very strongly opposed to the principle of the Measure and would endeavour to give his reasons. It certainly surprised him when he heard the late Home Secretary say he was enthusiastically in favour of the Measure and then to find that as to the greater 220 part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech he, a strong opponent of the Bill, was in complete agreement. With every part of his analysis of the Bill; with his examination of its principle and prognostications of its result in the country, he found himself in complete accord, although he approached the thing from an exactly opposite point of view, and though he was infinitely more opposed to the right hon. Gentleman's views generally than the Government would be. The Bill was a plunge into socialism, and he did not think the House, or the country, realised what a colossal plunge was being taken. It was a plunge into socialism not pure and simple but with grave injustice added, for they were throwing away moral justice, were divorcing moral from legal responsibility, and that was admitted. But then it was said it was expedient in the interest of the country as a whole that its workmen should be, insured against the results of accident so far as money could do it, and workmen's families against death. If that was for the interest of the country as a whole, then let the country pay for it as a whole, and let the House go into socialism, not with eyes blinded, but seeing what it was doing. But he did not think it was in the interest of the country, and he would show the House why. He did not think it was in the interest of the country to put the thrifty and the unthrifty man in exactly the same position, to destroy all desire that the best part of our workmen had to see that the rainy day was provided for, and the interests of their wives and families looked after. He did not think the State should take this duty out of the hands of workmen. If the principle of the Bill was that it was advisable that a workman's family should be provided for after the death of the head of the family, of course, all would agree in that, but when they were asked to accept a socialistic measure, which must inevitably require indefinite expansion and development, then he thought the House should pause. He had no enmity against the working classes, and had every desire that they should be benefited, but the question was, would the Bill benefit them beyond the moment? What was the present position of the workmen? They had good wages, they had strong unions to protect and advise 221 them if their wages were considered too low. They had excellent friendly societies, by means of which the more thrifty could provide out of their own wages for times of misfortune, and, without the assistance of the Bill, they could have such admirable schemes as the Colonial Secretary bad described, which of course had nothing whatever to do With the Bill, schemes in which employer and workmen joined together to provide against those misfortunes which were inevitable in the trade, and to which there were none of the objections he and others felt to this Bill. They had these advantages, and if they were felt to be insufficient, then there was no objection to the proportion at present paid by capital and labour under these schemes being altered in the interest of labour. But the Bill would remove all stimulus to care on the part of workmen who were careless and reckless to the last degree. ["No, no!"] Well, he would admit he had not the large experience of some Members opposite, but without arguing that point, at any rate the object they had in being careful must be lessened by the fact that all of them—good and bad, thrifty and unthrifty would be put beyond disadvantage from accident so far as money could put them beyond it. The Gill did nothing to prevent malingering and gave no sort of interest to the workmen to secure economical adminstration. As to the economic effect, and as to where the burden would finally fall, he could not help thinking that in a free-trade country it must ultimately fall upon wages. Certainly in all commodities where other countries compete with us it was inevitable that it must sooner or later fall upon wages. If this were so, the Bill would produce disorder and trouble, and workmen would be no better off pecuniarily, while small employers would lie fatally injured by its operation. Moreover, it would work injustice as between workmen. If a workman died as the result of an accident his dependants would have £150, if he had no dependants his executors were to have £10 for burial expenses. Who then in his senses would employ, married men when he could get single men? Or who, finding it necessary to reduce the number of men in Ins employ, would not as a matter of business. 222 disregarding any bowels of compassion he might have—would not discharge the married men, though they might need employment most, because the married men represented the largest possible claim upon their employers? How would be the position of their employers? However careful, however he might take precautions to prevent accident, he, would be mulcted for every blunder committed with which he might have nothing to do. It was enough to take one's breath away to hear the Colonial Secretary say an employer should not be fined under the fill. The employer would be answerable for the acts of a stranger or the act of God. A workman however careless, provided he did not solely by his own gross and wilful misconduct cause the accident, would be able to receive compensation. What did solely mean? Would it include such a case as an explosion of gunpowder which one man by gross misconduct brought in, and another by gross misconduct in lighting his pipe, ignited? The one man would not be solely responsible. He could not understand how the Bill could he said to reduce litigation; it bristled with points such as this upon which litigation might be carried through every Court in the land. The point of insurance had been touched upon by the late Home Secretary. He was astonished that there was no provision in the Bill to compel the employer to insure,. What was to happen if the employer got into difficulties? Even if he had voluntarily insured, would not the necessity for saving tempt him to neglect to keep up his premiums? As far as he could see, there was nothing in the hill to give any surety that while the work men under one employer might reap all the advantages of the Bill, the workmen under another employer, equally deserving men, would not be deprived of them, owing to the neglect of the employer to make proper proviso tit to meet his liabilities under the Bill. It had been said that this was a generous measure, and the "generosity of the Government" had been spoken of again and again by supporters of the Bill. How could such a word as "generosity" be used without it misuse of terms of those who were trustees of national funds, who had to raise money from the people and distribute it among the people? Their action might be just or unjust, it might be 223 politic or impolitic; but he could not see, where they were spending other people's money, how it was possible that the word "generosity" could come in at all. It seemed to him that the Bill might be fairly described as the compulsory insurance of A at the expense of B against the Acts of C. [Laughter.] That, at any rate, seemed to him to be no perversion of the position of the employer under this Bill, when he had to pay his workmen for the acts of a stranger, and when, as he ventured to point out on the report stage, he was even put in a worse position as against that stranger when litigating, than the workman was put in when bringing an action against him. ["Hear, hear!"] He had tried, then, to show that the Bill was partial as between workman and employer, and that it was partial also in respect of those who were within. its scope and those who were without, that it was violent in the changes it produced, and that it was narrow and illogical in the trades which it included or excluded. But it was on account of the extent to which this legislation must ultimately proceed that he was really concerned. All these expediency arguments were available not merely for the inclusion of every trade or profession, but also for the inclusion of all forms of disease and all manners of death. Why, if it was in the interest of the community that workmen in dangerous trades should be compensated, so it was in the interest of the community that workmen in every trade should be compensated. Death was death, no matter what wav it came to a man. if an agricultural labourer was gored by a bull or kicked to death by a horse after this Bill became law, there was the workhouse for his wife and family exactly the same as now if the man had not been thrifty. If an artisan fell from a building 29½ feet or 29¾ feet high, and got killed, why there were the widow and orphans to make their lamentations just the same when the Bill became law as now. ["Hear, hear!"] It was because he saw the Bill could not on any principle of justice be confined within the limits it was at present proposed to confine it, that he felt such immense alarm at the strides which socialistic efforts were making in this Bill. The misfortune of a Government which rested on Tory support 224 introducing those violent and sudden changes was that they did not receive the criticism they deserved, the criticism which they would certainly receive under other circumstances. ["Hear, hear!"] Who were the men who had most actively opposed the Bill! Why, a little knot of men on the Government side of the House, who felt so strongly on the matter that party shackles did not hold them—["hear, hear!]—and a still smaller handful of men on the other side of the House whose Radicalism faded away when their own pockets were touched. [Laughter and cheers]. These were the only people who had opposed this Bill, and they had no leader. They, poor Conservatives — [laughter]—they, men who were returned as individualists, as men concerned for freedom of contract. ["Hear, hear!"] Where were all the great men who, if this Bill had been produced by the late Government, would have made every platform ring with their denunciations? Where were the Antonys who would have raised the very stones of Rome to mutiny? Why, comfortably ensconced on the Treasury Bench—[laughter]—leaving a few poor ineffective fellows to fight alone the battle in which they ought to be leading them. [Laughter.] The Home Secretary was the titular author of this Bill, no doubt; but that right hon. Gentleman, whom they all respected, had never shown any affinity for Socialism before he found himself in the position of a Cabinet Minister. They knew perfectly well—there was no disguising it—why he introduced this Bill. He was reminded of the words addressed to the wise women of Tekorah—"Is not the hand of Joab with thee in all this?" [Much laughter.] Why, of course, the hand of the Colonial Secretary was with him in it. No one in his senses could suppose for one moment that the Government would have produced this Measure if the Colonial Secretary had not been an admired Member of it, or that any Government would have dared to do it. The late Government certainly could not have dreamt of introducing a measure so far advanced, so intensely Radical. But this was the price they were paying—that the Conservative Party were paying for the great, the immense assistance which the right hon. Gentleman had 225 rendered them in the past. [Opposition cheers.] Only, don't let then run away with the idea that they were not paying full value for their money. [Laughter.] They had got a most able supporter; but they were rather like the Chinaman who caught a Tartar and couldn't get rid of him when he wanted to. [Laughter.] It was not so much that they (the Conservatives) had the assistance of the Colonial Secretary in this matter as that the right hon. Gentleman had the assistance of the party in carrying out views which, although honestly and long held by him, were not held by them. That was to say that there were many on that side of the House who, he was sure, would have no part in socialistic legislation whatever if they could help it. He certainly, for one, would not, and he believed he was not the only one. He was sure, although he had little support now and few might listen to him, and fewer still might believe what he said, he was sure there were many who would come to realise that this was indeed an enormous step they were taking. It was a step that would have an influence far beyond that House. They had not yet had any opportunity of knowing what the country would think of the Bill. They knew what the country thought of the last socialistic experiment — he meant Free Education. They were told at the General Election what the country thought of it; and they might possibly be told in a similar way what the country thought of this. He (the hon. Member) knew what one of his own constituents thought of it; and, if the House would pardon him, he would read a few lines:—I feel so strongly," he wrote, "the uncalled-for introduction of the Workmen's Compensation Bill that I write to you, as one of your strongest supporters, to say how much I regret hiving to sever my connection with the Conservative organisation in the country. I can see no redeeming feature in the Bill—and so on. He would not trouble the House with any more. ["Hear, hear!"] He had not troubled the House with much of the letter, and if he had troubled the House by speaking at greater length than was thought right—["No, no!"]—he apologised sincerely. He had said already, and he said it again, that it ought to have been someone infinitely 226 more important than himself, infinitely more powerful, and infinitely better able to express the feelings lie entertained. Because they were not unique. Good gracious ! it was not so many days ago when the whole House of Commons would have regretted and resisted an attack upon freedom of contract—a thing which took away from the working man any stimulus to provide for the future. He was old-fashioned, no doubt, but he need not be very old to remember the time when the views he was expressing would have been agreed to by the whole House, and it did seem astonishing that it should be left to one like himself to express those views; and that this sudden conversion should have come over all their party, inducing them to accept views which he had attacked in no measured terms, he admitted, and which he hoped, please God, to attack again. The only thing left to Those who thought with him was to hope that in another place the Bill might be drastically dealt with — [Opposition laughter]—and that they might reap the advantage of a Second Chamber, about which they had heard so much in the country. [Laughter.] The Colonial Secretary had said that if they had attempted to include this and that trade in the Bill it would have been necessary to carry the Bill over to another Session. And a good thing too, said he. It would have been a most excellent thing if the country could have had an opportunity of studying the Bill, and thinking it over some months before it was allowed to pass into law. He repeated that lie hoped the Bill would be materially altered in another place, and he hoped these alterations would have the support of many more important Conservatives than he could claim to be.
On the return of Mr. SPEAKER, after the customary interval,
§ SIR JAMES KITSON (Yorkshire, W.R., Collie Valley)
said he desired to say a few words in answer to the last speaker, who challenged some expressions of opinion from Radical employers. He believed that some of his friends in days that were gone had classed him as a Radical, hut at any rate he might venture to obtrude himself upon the attention of the 227 House as a large employer with a long and extended experience. Strong statements had been made outside the House rather than inside it, as to the colossal responsibilities that employers would have to bear after the passing of the Bill, and he had made a careful examination of his own books in two large works, which were in a measure under his own control. Those two works were really typical works of those brought tender influence of the Bill. In one of them they employed about 1,300 hands, and in the other about 800, making a total of over 2,100. If those works had been subject during the past three years to the operation of the Bill, the following would have been the liability which they would have had to bear. In the engineering works in 1896 they paid £54,444 in wages, and the liability under the Bill would have been £28 18s.; in 1895 they paid in wages £42,920, and the liability would have been £19 7s. 9d.; in 1894 they paid in wages £44,361, and the liability would have been £2 17s. 10d. So that in the engineering department, with a total wages of £141,725, the liabilities under the Bill would have been £51 3s. 7d. He was, therefore, rather bold in saying that as regards these works, at any rate, he did not view the operation of the Bill with very great apprehension. ["Hear, hear!"] In the other works which he controlled and managed to a considerable extent, the manufacture of iron and steel was conducted, and there he found that in 1896, on wages of £45,784, they would have had a. liability of £26 19s.; in 1895, with wages of £32,002, the liability was £23 10s., and in 1894, with wages of £41,922, they would have had a liability of £229 14s. The last was a year, in which unfortunately there was a death by accident in the works—the only death among 21,000 employés, and that was not caused by any accident with machinery. It resulted from a workman being blown down by a gust of wind from a tube where he had to stand, and where he was quietly standing in the course of his business. But in order to be perfectly fair, he had included that amount, and so those works gave a. grand total of £261,522 in wages, and a. total liability of £331, which by simple calculation they would find amounted to exactly 2s. 6d. per cent. on the wages paid. He 228 hail given examples of two well-managed establishments, and the object of the Bill he took it was to cause all works to he well-managed, and rather to protect life and limb of the workmen than to give him any pecuniary reward. ["Hear, hear!"] They really had no malingering in the works. He was not afraid of malingering, at any rate among the working men of Yorkshire, with whom he had been associated for 40 years. They had no malingering because they had an excellent system of sick allowance, which was managed by a committee of workmen. The workmen had to contribute a. very large proportion of the sick pay, and consequently the Committee were very careful to see that no malingering obtained among those receiving the pecuniary benefits. He did not desire or advocate the association of works which had been advocated by the late Home Secretary (Mr. ASQUITH), because he declined as a manager of well-conducted establishments, with results like those, to invite others not so well conducted to join in order that they might reap the benefits of his better management. ["Hear, hear!] He also declined to have them associated with him, in the interests of the workmen, because he was convinced that the personal responsibility, of an employer, and the responsibility which he was able to place on his managers, was a great protection to the workmen. ["Hear, hear!"] When an employer like himself saw some unprotected machinery, he would say to his manager, "You must protect that machinery," and he either protected it, or on a second warning he was informed if it was not protected the next time the employer passed round, that he would be made personally responsible for any consequences that might result. In that way, by the operation of those Acts, and by the moral responsibility of the employer, by an improvement in the condition and the skill and the conduct of the workmen, accidents had been for many years gradually diminishing in works like those with which he was acquainted, and of which he had given them examples, and he was very anxious indeed to impress upon those who would have the legislation of the future to deal with, that it was not desirable to keep up the personal responsibility of the employer rather than to endeavour to throw the burden 229 on the State. In pointing out how small the charge would be on the great works and industries where there was more risks than in excepted industries, which they were afraid to deal with, he did it with the hope of encouraging, the Government speedily to put into effect the promises which they had given to introduce further legislation, and to include large classes of workmen who were now excluded from the benefits of the Acts. With those views he should most cordially support the Third Beading of this Bill, as a large employer, in the interests of steady mid skilled workmen, and would welcome most cordially the extension the operations of the Act. [Cheers.]
§ *MR. ROBERT PURVIS (Peterborough)
said that he rose its the representative of a great railway centre to support the Bill. An hon. Member who spoke a little while ago asserted that this was a Socialist Measure; as if the Bill assumed that the employer must he rich and the workman must be rich, and that therefore the Conner must compensate the latter whenever he was hurt. Nor was it State compensation which roused such suspicion among the friendly societies. The Bill was based upon the sound principle that where there was a dangerous trade it was but moral and right that the injuries received should be pail by those for whose emolument the trade was carried on. It did not kill contracting out, but where master and man preferred to escape the trammels of arbitration and the costly wrangling contending lawyers, the Bill allowed them to do so. One thing the Bill did kill; it killed the old standing objection to contracting-out. It was always argued that no official or Judge could say whether a contracting-out agreement afforded adequate compensation. This Bill did take away that objection by doing, away with the Judge and giving the official a measure to go by.
§ MR. HENRY BROADHURST (Leicester)
thought that they all congratulated themselves that they had reached this stage of the Bill. Speaking as one who had in that House for twenty years taken in active part in every question as to compensation, he gave the Bill his hearty support and welcome he realised its shortcomings in many respects. He sympathised with the excluded trades. Notwithstanding all the criticisms, he 230 gave, as he said, the Bill a cordial welcome and he believed it contained within its four corners great and lasting good to many of the toilers who under other schemes would be more or less uncertain as to what compensation they would obtain. Now this Bill laid it down that workpeople injured in the course of their legitimate employment were entitled to compensation from the employer by whom they were employed. The Bill went in the right direction—it recognised the higher claim of labour and satisfied that claim up to a certain extent. Some people were in a great state of anxiety as to whether the money was to come out of the wages, out of the profits, or out, of the extra charges against the general community. This was a question which was Open to endless argument. No Man could satisfactorily reach the end of the argument as to what source this money would come from. The great point for the workman to look to was that he was recognised as a deserving person in industrial labour, and that lie or she was to take his or her share when he lost his limbs or his life. That was the great object of the Bill. It was no use criticising what the Bill did not do. If he objected to the Bill, as his friend near him (Mr. J. WILSON) did, he should move the rejection of the Bill. As he approved the Bill he did not do that, and it such a Motion were made he should vote against it. They had not to settle there where the money was to come from. They had decided once for all a great principle from which Parliament could never go back, and that was one of the reasons why he so warmly advocated the scheme. They had established the birthright of labour—compensation for classes of accidents during employment. That was a, great principle which no party, Liberal or Tory, would ever dire to recede from. It laid down a great foundation. It contained the great germ for future development. livery trade, he hoped, would be included ii some future Measure, and that there would be other means of guaranteeing full payment to all that Parliament declared were entitled to it, not trusting in the future to the credit, bankruptcy, or otherwise of any firms. for which they might be working. They must go to the logical end of the road on which they were starting that night—that was, they 231 must have the guarantee of the State. The hon. Member for St. Albans had declared that they were on the high road to Socialism, find personal reliance had been abandoned, and he called upon the lost gods of his party. Yes, but he called in vain. They could not resist the tendency of the day, which was to make the State satisfy the just claims that the poor had upon the State, and this class of legislation must increase and not decrease. He wondered that the hon. Member had not moved the rejection of the Bill and not shrunk from giving effect to his views. In conclusion he would say that he gave the Bill his warmest and heartiest support. He had always been marked to slime extent as a party politician though he hail always disclaimed it. [Laughter.] It had always been his desire to give an independent support to all Measures which in his Opinion were sound and just and in the interest of the community as a whole. This was such a Measure. He regretted no other Measures. of the same kind hall been promoted from the Conservative side. It was their misfortune that they did not oftener secure his advocacy and support—[laughter]—but he promised them that if they continued in the wise course they had taken in this' matter, he would support other Measures equally as good. He would always be prepared on the ground of his duty to those associated with labour to support all Measures, irrespective of, party, which were calculated to make the lives of the workers better in the future than they had been in the past. He appealed to the Government to see to it that the House of Lords did not mangle the Bill to such a degree that they would not know it when it returned. He advised them to stand by their Bill so that it might return to the House of Commons as sound as when it left. He was glad to think that no hon. Member had had the courage to move the rejection of the Bill. I had anyone done so he should have voted strongly against hum. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ SIR JOHN JENKINS (Carmarthen Boroughs)
said that Measures of this kind could not be introduced without affecting certain industries, and there were certain industries in South Wales that were affected more or less. The coal industry would be affected more than other industries; but even. in that industry only some of the smaller collieries 232 would be seriously affected, whose. owners had not very large means other than what they had invested in the undertaking. The sole objection he had to the Bill was that it tended to do, away with a very useful institution in South Wales—the permanent relief fund—which had done an immense amount of good work. It had distributed in relief about £80,000 per annum, and to-day it had invested funds of nearly £200,000. He thought the workmen would in many instances be leaning on rather a. rotten reed if they depended entirely for relief on their employers. Two collieries in. South Wales were flooded last year. In both the capital was not very large, and one of them was started by a number of workmen with a capital of £20,000 all called up. One of the proprietors of the latter fold him that, if this Bill was carried in. its present form without any provision for Stale insurance or such a provision as that foreshadowed by the Colonial Secretary that night by which the trade as a whole would hove to bear the burden, they would have no means to pay Compensation in case of accident, At that colliery upwards of 250 men were employed, and if five men were killed in On accident in respect of each of whom £150 would have to be paid it would practically have the effect of closing the colliery, and over 200 men would be thrown out of employment. He hoped that the Government when the Bill returned from the. other House would introduce a. provision which would make it compulsory en masters to form combinations, by which a levy would be obtained from the whole trade, so that the men would have something more substantial to fall back upon. It would undoubtedly be just to. apply the principle of the Bill to all the trades of the country, and probably that would lead to national insurance; but this. Bill was of a tentative and experimental chit-meter and the Government had been wise, in his opinion, in not including too many trades. at one time. It was a Measure in the right direction, and he trusted that the support given to it would encourage the Government in another Session to extend it, so that the whole country might have the benefit of it. An accident had recently occurred in South Wales which, if this Bill had been in existence at the time, would have taxed the resources of the owners of the parti- 233 cular colliery in which it occurred to such an extent as would have made it almost impossible for then, to meet their obligations. Consequently it was necessary that the Bill should he supplemented in Smile way so as to make the compensation more secure to the workmen. He hoped the Bill would be strengthened another year in that direction. lie heartily supported the Third Reading.
§ SIR JAMES JOICEY (Durham, Chester-le-Street)
said he could tell the hon. Member something about South Wales. Although he did not live there, his family had been associated with one of the most important collieries in South Wales for over 20 years. That colliery, be was sorry to say, had not been a success. The company was reconstructed once and after that it paid for one year 1½ per cent. Then they had the rood fortune to gel out of it, but if they had any serious accident, which would throw upon them a great burden of compensation, he was afraid the compensation might not be forthcoming,. He had made use of every means at his disposal, but he had failed altogether to gather what the real feeling of the country was with regard to this Bill, but from such means of information as he had at his disposal he believed it was one of suspicion rather than of approbation. He himself represented a working-class constituency, and he had not had a single communication made to him as to the Bill. He thought the Bill as a whole would lie a boon to the working provided that boon could be gathered in as was intended. He thought the Government must be staggered at the want of enthusiasm with which it had been received by the working classes. Moreover, the present Bill was quite different from that which was at first introduced, and it had been clearly shown that the Government themselves, even at the last moment, had not made up their minds on the various points in the Bill. He thought the Government and the Colonial Secretary—for he could not admit that the Home Secretary was in charge of the Bill—had shown great courage in introducing a Bill of this ammeter, involving a novel principle, for so far as he could learn not a word was said at the General Election to the effect that such a change would be made. All that was mentioned then was a change 234 in the Employers' Liability Act, a change which would have satisfied almost all classes of the community, and would have met with the support not only of both sides of the House, but of the country also. He could not help thinking that had it been a. Bill to distribute money which was under the control of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, every clause would have been most carefully guarded and every precaution taken. ["Hear, hear!"] The reason why they hid been so careless was that they were distributing money which belonged to somebody else. They were all anxious to see sonic compensation given in cases of accident, and he thought all credit was due to those who had made great efforts by Societies and mutual arrangements, to provide such compensation; but this Bill was introduced in such a form that instead of encouraging such efforts it did its utmost to injure them. The Colonial Secretary had tried to show that he and his hon. Friend the Member for thy Gainsborough Division, were in opposition to the Bill. He, again maintained that he was not. opposed to the Bill. [Ministerial laughter.] He admitted its principle, but found fault with the methods of compensation adopted. He did not believe that the Bill would ruin the coal trade, but it would be a burden to it, and he thought. the fact ought to have been recognised that the royalty owners, the mineral owners, or the free-hold owners were as much connected with the industry as were the employers or workmen. The employer was only one party in the arrangement, and he undertook to work the mineral on behalf of the royalty owner. He was sorry that that point had been ruled out of order. As to the burden upon the industry, whether it was ¾d. or 3d. per ton it was bound to have its effect, and would be felt in connection with our competition with the Germans, who were trying to drive us out of our markets in Holland, Belgium and France. It had been said with great lightheartedness by mole Members that the coalowners would get the additional cost imposed on them by the Bill out of the consumers. Those Members might rest assured that the north country coal-owners would do their best to carry out the Bill fairly and justly, and, if possible, to get the cost cut of the consumers— 235 [laughter]—but whether or not that would be accomplished remained to be seen. The coal trade was like no other trade. It was exposed to risks which came upon it suddenly and unexpectedly, and which required large sums of money to deal with. There were, for instance, inundations and explosions. Now the Bill—one of the most important Measures that had ever been laid before the House—contained a new principle—the principle that employers were to be responsible for accident over which they had no control. He had the authority of no less a personage than the Colonial Secretary for saying that 42 per cent. of the accidents were accidents for which neither the masters nor the men were responsible, and which they could not prevent. The right hon. Gentleman made that statement in an article in The Nineteenth Century in 1892. An earthquake might take place. It would take only a very slight tremble of the earth to stop the egress from a mine, and hundreds of lives might be lost in consequence. Was it not monstrous that employers should be held responsible for an accident of that kind which they could not possibly prevent? Then, again, lightning caused a number of accidents. He knew of one case in which lightning struck the top of a shaft, ran down the rope, and caused an explosion by which many lives were lost. The employer could not have prevented that accident, and he therefore failed to see why the employer should be asked to bear the cost. Those were cases in which the State should supply the compensation. The present Government had been most lavish with the money of the State. They had dispensed large sums to the agricultural interest and to the Voluntary Schools, and it was said they were about to give a considerable amount to the Irish landlords to keep them quiet. Why should not the State give something to persons injured by accidents such as he had described? Why should not the State contribute its fair share of compensation for accidents for which neither the employer nor the men were in any way responsible? Instead of doing that, the Government looked around and said, "There are the employers; let us take the money out of their pockets." No doubt the followers of the Government would go about the 236 country saying, "See how generous we have been—the compensation we have given to the workmen!" But where did the money come from? It was taken out. of the employers' pockets. The Government had admitted that there was no justice in the Bill. They said it was expedient in the interest of public policy. That was the sort of logic which justified a poor man who was starving in putting his hand into the first pocket he met with and helping himself. The Bill had been compared with the Bill of the right lion. Gentleman the Member for East Fife. After all, there was something to be said for the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife which could not be said for the present matter. That Bill put every employer in the same position. This Bill selected certain employers, and on what grounds the Government had made that selection he failed to gather. They did not make the selection because the trades selected were the most dangerous, for some of the most dangerous trades were left altogether outside the purview of this Bill. He thought all trades should be put exactly in the same position. An effort had been made to extend the Bill to the agricultural interest. He should have thought that if there was a Government that had existed during the last 20 years that would have favoured the agricultural labourer, it was the present Government. Were there not on the Front Bench representatives of the agricultural interest in all parts of the country, who had been the champions of the agricultural labourer for many years? Where was the Under Secretary to the Home Office, the hero of the three acres and a cow? Not one word had that right hon. Gentleman said in favour of extending the Bill to the agricultural labourer. The agricultural labourers, when they heard the whole truth about this Bill, would begin to question whether, after all, the Conservative Party were their real friends. His right hon. Friend the Member for East Fife stated distinctly that the Bill was but the beginning of this kind of legislation. This legislation could not possibly be limited to accidents. If the wounded soldiers of industry, as the Colonial Secretary had described them, were to be dealt with, workmen who were injured in health by being engaged in unhealthy industries came under that 237 description, and they could not in justice refuse to those people the compensation they gave to people injured by accidents. All industries would sooner or later be included, because if the Conservative Government went one step their opponents could always be relied on to go a step further. If the Government proposed a Bill by which all the money would be taken out of the employers' pockets, there were hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House who would move amendments forbidding the employers to close their works. [Laughter.] The right hon. Gentleman who was Once the champion of ransom was now the champion of confiscation. There was no difficulty to seeing that the Colonial Secretary was the author of the Bill. [Ministerial cheers] In 1892, writing in the Nineteenth Century on this question the right hon. Gentleman urged that compensation for accidents should be made a charge on I he cost of production. But this Bill made it a charge on the individual employer. If we were to have Socialism, let it be on an equitable basis and applied all round. He must congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon his success in carrying out this policy in spite of the previous professions of the Conservative Party. No man had had a greater influence with that Party during the last six years than the right hon. Gentleman. He dragged at his feet, or rather at his tail—[laughter]—the Leaders of the Conservative Party, not only in the House of Commons, but even in the House of Lords as well. [Ironical cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman practically held the reins of Government. The Bill was the greatest step in the direction of Socialism we had had for the last 50 years. The Colonial Secretary played the tune and Lord Salisbury and the Tory Party danced after him. [Ministerial laughter and cries of "No"!] The Government were following the steps of Mr. Keir Hardie. This Bill was part of his programme. What next would the Colonial Secretary induce the Government to accept? He himself supported the Bill. [Ironical Ministerial cheers and laughter.] Yes, he knew that the arrangements under the Bill could not last long, and that sooner or later the State would have to bear its fair share of the burden of compensation. But if they were to have Socialism, let 238 them have it in a form which would be equitable and just. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE (Plymouth)
said that if the hon. Baronet who had just spoken meant half he had said there was only one course open to him—to vote against this Bill. [Cheers.] The speech of the right hon. Member for East Fife was an extremely unfair speech. The right hon. Member began that speech by saying he was in cordial agreement with the Bill, and desired to see it passed, and then he began to point out, not for the advantage of the House but for advantage out of doors, all sorts of objections to the Bill. To pretend to be in favour of a Bill, and yet to make such comments upon it as might induce large classes throughout the country to consider themselves injured by it, was not sound or fair statesmanship. [Cheers.] These courageous supporters of the Bill, who attacked the Bill as violently as they could, and yet declared they were going to vote for it, made two points. They said the Bill was unjust and unfair to persons to whom it was applied, and then that it was grossly unfair that it was not applied to a greater number of people. [Laughter and cheers.] It might be true that 60 per cent. of the industrial population would he left outside the Bill, but that was an unfair statement of the case. Far more than 60 per cent of the persons liable to the accidents to which the Bill would apply were brought into it. As had been pointed out again and again, it would have been impossible for the Government to hope to pass this Bill if they had included in it all bodies of industrial workers. What they had done was to select those large classes of industrial workers who were most exposed to the accidents for which the Bill would provide compensation and endeavour to bring them within its area. For himself he thoroughly believed in this Bill; he believed it to be a sound Bill, and he did not believe it had in it any of the elements of danger in the future which had been suggested by the right hon. Member for East Fife. But there were two points in the speech of the right hon. Member to which he would like to make answer. He said he much regretted that the Government had not in this Bill abolished the doctrine of common employment with regard to all those classes left outside the special benefit and advantage 239 of the Bill. He was sorry for it too. He would remind the right hon. Gentleman that when they came into Committee there was a question whether it was possible, according to the Rules of the House, to put into the Bill an Amendment which would abolish the doctrine of common employment, but it was found impossible to do so without complicating the Measure to such an extent as would have prevented its passing in the course of the Session. There was another question upon which the right hon. Member for East Fife was didactic and superior as usual—[laughter]—and it had reference to contracting-out. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the Government had abandoned contracting out. There was not the smallest foundation for that. Ho spoke as one who had taken active, personal, and vigorous interest in this question ever since he took part 17 years ago in the discussions on the Employers' Liability Act. He entertained to-day the same objection he entertained three or four years ago against the Bill proposed by the Government of that day, and his opinion was as strong in favour of the provision which they then proposed in favour of contracting out. There had been no departure in principle or policy of any sort or kind in the Unionist Party with regard to contracting out. The provision in the Bill that there should be no contracting out unless there was secured the full advantage of the scheme which the Bill itself contained was likely to assist contracting out instead of diminishing, or derogating from it. Nobody supposed that the workmen would accept a scheme under which they would be in a worse position than they would be under the Bill, but the advantage to the employer of a scheme of contraction, out never was, and never was supposed to be, that he, would save his pocket as compared with the scheme in the Bill. For his part, it seemed to him that the Amendment put in, requiring that there should be no derogation from the rights under the Bill in any scheme, made it more likely that the employer and the workman would come together in the acceptance of a scheme which would be beneficial to both. It had been clear to all those who had been acquainted with the working of the Employers' Liability Act as he had during these 17 years, that the 240 advantages the workmen had got from that Act had not been commensurate either with the advantage Parliament desired to give them or with the burden the Act threw on the employer. The event trouble and reproach of the administration of that Act had teen that the employer had to pay far more than the workman got, that the money disappeared in various quarters, and that while the burden on the employer was heavy the advantage to the workman was small. He had during all these 17 years been constantly feeling how cruel it was that when the workman was struck down by an accident and carried away and laid, it might be, for weeks upon a bed of sickness and suffering, that they should then put upon him the obligation of bringing an action against his employer, with all its risks and chances, and the representatives of the employer or insurance company, as the case might be, without any imputation or blame being thrown upon them, made use of the helplessness of the workman for the purpose of diminishing the amount he would get in compensation. There was no way of dealing with that except by insurance. Directly the Government had the courage—and he believed they had done a great public service in carrying, as they would, this Bill—to substitute a system of insurance for the system of employers' liability, away went nine-tenths of all those technicalities which disappointed the just hopes of the injured workman or of those who by his death had been left suddenly to helplessness and poverty. ["Hear, hear!"] If that were so, the right hon. Member for East Fife endeavoured to frighten hon. Members on that side of the House and their constituents by suggesting that this was destined to have a very terrible and large extension. They had, He told them, come to a point at which they were throwing the burden of inevitable accidents upon an industry, and by-and-by it would be necessary to carry that to the responsibility of the State at large for compensation. He did not believe it for a moment. [Cheers.] There was no logical reason why the acceptance of this Bill should carry with it the eventual liability of the State, as a State, for the accidents in any of the branches of industry. [" Hear, hear!"] If they were attempting, as they were in this Bill, to 241 make the cost of accidents which occurred in a particular industry part of the expense of that industry, the natural and reasonable thing Was to make it an employers' liability in exactly the same way as the upkeep of machinery or the place in which the work was done was an employer's liability. It was perfectly clear that the burden Weald not ultimately fall on the employer. It would be distributed in three directions; it would fall partly on the employer, partly on the consumer, and partly on the workman. In the industrial history of any particular trade they could not trace the exact point at which a particular burden had fallen upon any one of these three persons, and it Was perfectly clear that it must fall upon all three. Anything that created a heavier charge upon au industry of course fell upon the employer in the first place. He tried to make other persons share that burden. He could do it to a certain extent in the price, of his goods, and, although he could not do it by lowering the rate of wages at the particular time at which the burden fell upon any the of effect was that when there was a consideration—as he was glad to say there always was—with regard to a rise of wages in a particular industry—
§ SIR E. CLARKE
Yes; the employer was unable to bear the whole of the charge, and so the workman had to bear some portion of it. That was perfectly fair. [Cheers.] The workman got the immediate advantage, because he got compensation for injury however it was caused; therefore it was fair he should make some contribution to that insurance. The employer got the advantage of, to some extent, systematising and equalising the charge upon his industry, and it was fair that he should be called upon to make sonic contribution. They had had conjured up all sorts of ridielous consequences which were to happen from the adoption of the Bill. They were told by the right hon. Member fir East Fife that some employers would be ruined, that workmen would net get compensation because people would turn their concerns into limited companies, and he suggested that when accidents happened and a claim was made by the 242 workman for compensation, that the limited company would have disappeared and there would be no funds out of which the workman could be paid. That was all very fine; but the capital of the limited company would have disappeared at the same time, and the right hon. Gentleman's idea was that the workmen would be defeated of their just expectations of this Bill by a recurrent ruin of the limited companies of this country. [Laughter.] For purposes outside the House that sort of talk might be useful; but it was not practicable, and it was very odd to hear it from a right hon. Gentleman who began his speech by claiming that he was in support of the Bill. [Cheers.] He did not remember a more interesting Parliamentary history of a Bill than the present one had. They knew the Bill was not very amiably received in the first instance. There was a good deal of suspicion about it, and not that obtrusive and effusive friendship which communication with their constituents had induced hon. Members opposite to show. [Cheers.] Even down to the last moment they were having, in such a speech as that they had just listened to, an exhibition of the real feeling of some hon. Members with regard to the Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] He was much amused to hear a great employer of labour making the speech which the hon. Baronet opposite had made. When they had heard speeches in that House with regard to the interests of owners of agricultural land, he had not noticed the same excitement on the part of employers opposite, and now they had that sort of appeal from the hon. Baronet, who would not venture to vote against the Bill, but desired to discredit it. [Cheers.] He did not think that was fair Parliamentary fighting. [Cheers.] If hon. Members opposite approved the Bill and wanted to support it and take credit in the country for having done so, they were not entitled to try and discredit it and damage hon. Members on the Government side who supported it by the sort of suggestion that had been made that night. [Cheers.] He believed the great majority of hon. Members would not dream Of going into the Lobby against the Bill, because it had been recognised by the country at large that there had been found by the Government a sound and safe solution of difficulties 243 which had troubled Parliamentary managers for a considerable time past. They had found this plan, and the industrial communities throughout the country were grateful to them for having done so. It was because the great industrial communities of the country accepted and approved the Bill that there was no real opposition to it from the other side of the House. [Cheers.] But, while he recognised that, he was very glad to know that the Bill had come from the Party of which he was and had been for a considerable time a member. In the whole history of industrial and factory legislation the Tory Party had taken the lead in the Measures which had been for the advantage of the industrial classes, and he was very glad that Bill would go from the House as an expression of the feeling of the Government and its supporters with regard to industrial problems and the industrial classes, and that it would provide by far the porters with regard to industrial problems and the industrial classes, and industrial pursuits with a satisfactory compensation for those accidents when they fell upon them. ["Hear, hear!"] He believed that by passing this Bill the Government would make a valuable contribution to that very long series of Measures in favour of the industrial classes of this country which it was the pride of the Tory Party to inaugurate and which it was the privilege of this Government to have maintained. [Cheers.]
§ *MR. CHARLES FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)
could not agree with the hon. and learned Member that it would have been impossible for the Government to have carried their Bill during this Session had they included within its scope all branches of industry. It would have been easier to carry a Measure of that description; it. would have occupied less time than the present Bill, and the plan of the Bill would have been more simple than it was now and more logical in its conclusions if it had included all industries. He could not follow the hon. Member for Leicester in the very gushing eulogium he had pronounced on the Bill and in the cordial welcome he gave to it in the name of the working classes. Nor did he believe that the only consistent course which was open to hon. Members who did not give a complete approval to the Measure was to vote against the Bill. 244 He thought it was a duty which they owed to themselves as well as to their constituents to point out what in their judgment seemed to be the salient. defects of the Measure. The cardinal principle of the Bill had been laid down by the Colonial Secretary and he did not think that anyone would dissent, from it, He disagreed however with the second principle, that the charge should be one on the industry and not on the community at large. The right hon. Gentleman told the House that if a. trade was not able to provide for its injured workmen, in his opinion it would be better for the country that that industry should cease to exist. The Colonial Secretary apparently thought that the additional burden on the trade would come largely out of the consumer. He believed that to a considerable extent this would be so; where they had not to contend with foreign competition the employer would be able to recoup himself by increasing the cost of the article. But let the House take his own county as an illustration. Of the coal produced in Northumberland 80 per cent. was sent abroad. During this year they had lost a contract with Russia for 100,000 tons, which had been held for many years past, owing to a fractional rise in the price. Would anyone contend that the Northumberland coal industry would be able to get out of the consumer an additional price to cover the expenses entailed in the working of this Bill? It was true, as the Colonial Secretary said, that a burden was only being imposed which was already borne by our competitors. But even with all these burdens our competitors were driving us lack, and how could we possibly hope to keep the markets we had if this additional burden were imposed upon our trade. There was not a single objection which the Colonial Secretary urged against the Bill of the late Home Secretary that could not with equal force be urged against the Bill which the House was about to read a Third time. On the right hon. Gentleman's own showing this Bill left outside something like 7,000,000 workers who were totally unprovided for under it. One objection of his was that the Bill would lead to uncertainty and litigation. Would any hon. Member say there was no uncertainty in. this Bill and that. no litigation would arise under it? Look over the various points raised 245 in the Bill, it was bristled with uncertainties that would unquestionably lead to litigation. What were the points reserved for the decision of the arbitrator? he was to determine whether the injury was solely attributable to the serious and wilful misconduct of the workman. Again tool again hid the attempt been made to strike out this very vicious principle iii the Bill and he could not understand why it had been introduced. It must have been before the cognisance of the Cabinet, when the Bill was discussed, but it was not provided for when. the Bill was introduced, a clear indication that the Government thought that a question of this would give rise to serious litigation, and that was the view of the Secretary for the Colonies when the question first came up for consideration in the House. The right hon. Gentleman charged him the other day with having unfairly represented his argument in reference to this question, but Ito would venture to say t hat substantially he was accurate. These words were originally moved by the hon. Member for St. Helen's and the Colonial Secretary, speaking close upon Twelve o'clock, told the Committee that they had now reached an important point in the Debate, and he novel to report Progress, and he asked Members between then and the following day to consider two very important points, saying there were two courses before them, to pursue a line of strict justice to the employer, or to adopt a line of expediency, and exclude the principle of the Amendment altogether from the Bill, and he argued in favour of a course of expediency rather than in favour of strict justice. He put it interrogatively to the Committee, was it desirable to add another litigible point to the Bill? It was a litigible point, and in the opinion of those Members who were directly associated with labour it would in itself give rise to endless annoyances between workmen and their employers, and Meant litigation. Another question to be referred to the judgment of the arbitrator, was whether the employment was one to which the Act applied. If all industries were included within the provisions of the Bill, these words would he unnecessary and the Bill would be simpler and much more logical in its conclusions. Other matters of reference to the arbitrator gave rise to a considerable amount of uncertainty, and 246 would lead to litigation. Then the right hon. Gentleman's last objection to the hill of my right hon. Friend was ''that in itself, and by confession, it was an imperfect and incomplete solution of the question." Now, no one, not even the most thorough and sanguine supporter of the Government, would say that this Bill was a perfect and complete solution of the question, they knew perfectly well it was not. It would have been more creditable to the Government, and certainly it would have been of more benefit to the working-classes of the country if a little more time had been taken for the production of a perfect and complete measure bringing within its scope all the industries in the United Kingdom. However, believing in the fundamental principle upon which the Bill was framed, namely, that the injured workman has the right to claim compensation when he is disabled at his employment, believing in that fundamental principle, he for his part would do nothing to prevent the progress of the measure, but it was fair to themselves and fair to their constituents to point out that it was no more a satisfactory solution of the question than was the Bill of his right hon. Friend the late Home Secretary that was resisted so strongly and so successfully by the Party opposite. He could not say he had a great deal of sympathy with those employers of labour who had spoken so strongly against the I till when he remembered the Debates of 1893, and that through their opposition the Bill was lost, and if they were now wounded heavily in the House of their own friends, they had themselves to thank for it, having wrecked the Bill of his right hon. Friend. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. J. M. MACLEAN (Cardiff)
said more than one Member had asked the question why it was that so many strong speeches had been made against the Bill, and yet no one had undertaken to move its rejection. The lion. Member for Leicester asked the question and taunted those who did not entirely agree with the Government with this failure to vote against the kill. The answer was simple, it must Le perfectly clear that when the Leaders of both Parties came to the conclusion that the Bill, introduced for the purpose of giving what undoubtedly was a 247 great boon to the working classes of the country, was a Bill that ought to be introduced, the adoption of the principle by the leaders on both sides was final and irrevocable, and it was not for any Member to hope to prevent its being carried into effect. Undoubtedly the result of the plunge taken by the Government was that Parliament was committed once for all to the principle that workmen were entitled to compensation for all accidents arising in their employment in particular trades. It was idle to say it was not the adoption of a new principle; the Colonial Secretary had admitted it was a novel and original principle for the Government to introduce, and undoubtedly it was. He had tried to find out the opinion of his own constituents, and might say in extenuation of his attempt to address the House that his constituents were harder hit by the Bill than any other constituency in the country. So far as the working classes were concerned there was a strong and very natural feeling in favour of the Bill, conferring as it did great benefit on that class, but a distressing feature was that those who would be the victims of the Bill were the class of Liberal Unionist employers in his constituency. The Liberal Unionist, outside Birmingham, as everybody knew, was not a working man. [Opposition cheers.] Working men were either Tory or Radical; they knew no middle course. ["Hear, hear!"] The Liberal Unionist was for the most part a man of social position and independent means. He had been a town councillor, an alderman, or a magistrate—[laughter]—and thought he was to hold that position all his life; and he had been perfectly taken aback by finding that the man whom he trusted most, the Colonial Secretary, had dealt him a staggering blow in the tenderest part of the human organism—the breeches pocket. [Laughter.] Many of these Liberal Unionists were coal-owners, and they believed the Bill would ruin them. He had tried to console them with the reflection that perhaps next' year, when they had crowned the social edifice, they would be eligible for an old-age pension—[Laughter]—but it was rather cold comfort. [Laughter.] They had listened to a persuasive speech about the principles of the Bill from the Colonial Secretary; but he was astonished 248 when he found that in order to smooth its passage through the House of Lords the Colonial Secretary thought it expedient and in good taste to denounce Lord Londonderry for what his Lordship had said about the Bill, charging him with desiring to sell his properties to a limited company when all the time he was saying that he was going to be ruined by the Bill. He did not know if a speech of that kind was going to propitiate the House of Lords or make them welcome with any greater eagerness the dictatorship of the right hon. Gentleman. For his part he was not astonished that employers were getting anxious to secure what they could out of their business and retire into private life. Many of them, more far-sighted than others, did that long ago. It was perfectly obvious that if legislation went on in this way to its natural conclusion, in course of a very few years there would not be a private employer left in the country who would not have been despoiled in some way by the Government now in power. [Laughter.] It was perfectly clear to him whatever was said about the "principle" of this Bill, the principle was one of confiscation pure and simple. They had heard a good deal about the new element that was going to be introduced into the industrial conditions of this country—the "human" element was to be considered in future in all directions. ["Hear, hear!"] Well, did anybody connected with the trade and industry of this country mean to say that now for the first time in the history of England it was being discovered that the working-man ought to be cared for when incapacitated by accident or sickness? He would ask the labour leaders in that House, was it not the case that nine-tenths of the employers of this country invariably considered the interest of the workmen in their employ in such circumstances? Was there any industry known to anybody in that House in which there had not been a mutual insurance fund for the protection of the workmen, to which fund the employers had contributed most liberally? No change was introduced, so far as the morality of the matter was concerned, by this Bill. The moral responsibility of the employers had always been recognised, and up to this time the moral responsibility of the workman had 249 also been recognised. The change introduced by the Bill was that the moral responsibility of the workman was hence-forward removed altogether—that the workman was not to care at all how the conduct of the business in which he was interested was carried on, and he was to be entitled to compensation, whatever his own conduct might have been. He remembered reading a speech delivered a few years ago at a Trades' Union Congress at the Norwich meeting he thought, when one of the speakers denounced the doctrine of thrift as a doctrine invented by the selfish capitalist who spent the greater part of his time in teaching the virtue of prudence and thrift and other self-denying virtues to working men, but who took very good care not to practise any of those self-sacrificing doctrines himself. ["Hear, hear!''] He could not help thinking that the speech made at Norwich had been put in practice by Her Majesty's Government in the present Bill. They had done away with the virtue of thrift altogether. It had gone with the virtues of justice and so forth, which they Were told in that House they were not to hear any more about in connection with this Bill. Well, he held that the working-men of this country had never recognised doctrine of that sort, and that they had been completely taken by surprise by the introduction of a Bill of this kind. Working, men were always willing to subscribe a fair share of the provident fund, which was instituted in most industries. They generally subscribed a larger share than the employers themselves. ["Hear, hear!"] it might be perfectly right to increase the share of the employer, but was it right to away altogether with the responsibility of the workmen? They were told that nothing had ever been done for the workman. But was he not paid very much higher wages on account. of the risk he undertook in the dangerous trades that were to be dealt with by the Bill They were told that this Bill was merely experimental, and that that was the reason why it had been applied to only a few trades. The real reason why the Bill was experimental was because the Government knew perfectly well that if they were to apply it all round at once they would raise an opposition that they would not dare to face. They had taken 250 a moral from the history of modern Italy, where it was said the artichoke should be eaten leaf by leaf. The Government were eating the capitalists leaf by leaf. They were taking one capitalist after another in different industries, and were dealing with them one by one because they dare not tackle them all when they were in force togther. What right had this Parliament to carry out a great social experiment, which introduced what they might call a new moral law devised, as they were told by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife, in the interests of the community at large at the expense of employers in certain industries? They might have the power to do it, but they certainly had not the right to put in force such an experiment. It was a most serious thing in the coal-mining industry that an experiment of this kind should be tried. The Member for Plymouth said they could get the money from the consumer, but the hon. Member for Wansbeck had pointed out that it was impossible to put a higher price on the consumer when they had to contend against foreign competition. He thought it would be almost equally difficult for the employer to recover any large portion of this money, which he was bound in the first instance to pay, front the working men. He was quite sure that this Measure would not have been received with such enthusiasm by the special representatives of the working if they had supposed that in a year or two they would have to pay the whole burden which was now put on the coal trade. An experiment of this sort ought to be paid for by the community at large. It seemed to him a very wrong view to take to say that any particular industry ought to pay the cost of all the accidents that might occur in that special industry. The whole community was interested in the welfare of the working men, in raising the standard of their social comfort and enjoyment, but who would bear the cost of any portion of the burden they were now putting on sonic of the great industries of the country? Would it be borne by the hundreds of thousands of people who lived in this country in perfect security on the interest of investments in foreign countries, estimated at 100 millions sterling a year? Were they not to contribute anything to the working out of any 251 new moral law which this Parliament introduced? Was it not the case, too, that owing to the working of the limited liability system a large portion of the capital which was engaged in the industries now under discussion was removed from the operation of the new tax they were going to lay upon it? It was only the ordinary shareholder in these companies who bore the cost of introducing this new moral law. Now that this principle had been introduced, he could only say it was absolutely necessary, and the Government would find it inevitable, that it should be carried to its legitimate end, and that the community ought to be made responsible for applying this new law to all industries, bearing the burden out of the common purse.
§ MR. JOHN ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)
said he did not bear the hon. Member who Lad just spoken express his intention of voting against the Bill. [Cheers.] He was bound to say he was always surprised at the attitude of those who were willing to wound and yet appeared to be afraid to strike. ["Hear, hear!"] It seemed to him that if a Bill was a bad one they ought to go into the Lobby against it. He rose as a supporter of the Bill. He thought they would all agree that it was a great Bill. They had now been sitting about 110 days, and he imagined that this was about the only real good of their labours during the Session. ["Hear, hear!"] lie had heard with regret what the Colonial Secretary had said on the subject of "contracting out," for it had always been his view that if Parliament found it necessary to put ft new Act upon the Statute-book, people ought not to be allowed to contract themselves out of it. The parties who were in favour of "contracting out" were generally those in whose case it was most necessary that the law should be rigidly enforced. The Colonial Secretary had pointed out how one great railway company had never found it necessary to have recourse to the practice of "contracting out." The benefits which a workman enjoyed under a scheme might be better than the benefits which the general law gave him or they might not. In any case a workman ought to be able to choose freely between the two. He was therefore sorry to hear the Colonial Secretary's invitation to the House of Lords to cut out of the Bill the 252 provision which it contained on the subject of "contracting, out." The Bill, as it stood, made the terms of employment better for the workmen, and that was satisfactory, because the real way to secure successful labour was to encourage cheerful and willing service on the part of the men. Lugubrious prophecies hut been made as to the effect of this Bill upon trade, especially the coal industry. He did not share the fears that had been expressed, and he had ascertained that in his own business the burden which would have been increased in the last seven years, if the Bill had been in operation during that time, would not have amounted to one quarter of the sum mentioned by the hon. Member for the Gainsborough Division. He had lived too long to be frightened by prognostications of the extinction of industries as the result of legislation. If they took lower "Hansard" for the years 1860, 1872, and 1877, they would find page after page filled with the prophecies of mine-owners as to the destructive effect of the legislation for improving the position of miners. Similar unfulfilled prophecies had been made in the case of other industries. Mine-owners might now take comfort from the knowledge that whenever that House had meddled directly or indirectly with the coal trade, a succession of good years had invariably followed. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
, who rose amidst cheers, said: Sir, every Member of the House who has listened to the Debate during this evening must, I think, have thought it, as I thought it, one of the most singular Debates in which this House has ever been engaged. There has been a certain amount of honest opposition of the Bill, and there has been a certain amount of less honest opposition to the Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] There have been two speeches at least which I have had the honour of listening to—and on which I hope to say a few words before I sit down—delivered on this side of the House in which the speakers practically admitted that they object to the Bill, to the principles on which it is founded, and to the results it is likely to attain. There have been other speeches delivered, for the most part on the. other side, which began and which ended with a blessing on the Bill, but in which all the intermediate portion 253 was occupied either with the attempt to minimise the advantages of the Bill or o point out consequences which they hoped might either annoy or frighten those who might, under other circumstances, be disposed to support the Measure. That I call less honest opposition to the Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] Now, I do not propose to follow my right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Colonies and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Plymouth, who made so brilliant a speech —["hear, hear!"]— unfortunately at an earlier hour of the evening—in their dissection of some of the less honest speeches to which I have referred. The point of view which I feel more interested in at the present time is the explicit expressions by One or two hon. Friends of mine on this side of din aversion to this Bill, based on What they consider fundamental principles of legislation. I think shall not be misrepresenting their views if I paraphrase or summarise their speeches by saying that they object to his Bill because they think it throws a legal obligation upon men who have no moral obligation to deal With accidents, that it is an interference with the freedom of contract, and that it is, in their view, illogical, quite inconsistent with previous principles of legislation accepted by this House, and that it is in its rational and ultimate developments not to be distinguished from Socialism. Well, Sir, I gather from the charges of one or two Gentlemen on this side of the House that I have accurately expressed the pith of the criticism which they felt disposed to pass upon the Bill of the Government. All through the Debate in Committee we had thrown in our teeth that we have wholly abandoned logic. I have noticed alert this argument is resorted to when any practical scheme of legislation of which Gentlemen may not happen to approve is brought into this House. I venture to warn my hon. Friends against any such use of the word ionic in theory or in fact. The principles of legislation ire excellent, but in their application to the practical world in which We live there is necessarily involved a want of absolute conformity and adaptation, and if we hold to the view which has been expressed we shall get into inextricable confusion. Let me just point out this to my hon. Friends who have spoken of logic. I want to ask one or two questions. Everybody 254 on both sides of the House condemns the existing system of responsibility for accidents as one that it is impossible to maintain. It contains so many anomalies and so many injustices on one side or the other that it is impossible for this House not to modify it in one direction or in the opposite direction. I can perfectly understand an ardent individualist like my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire maintaining that the only legitimate method of dealing with accidents is that if an employer is not morally responsible the consequences should be left to those who suffer from them. Accidents in our great workshops, our great factories, our great railway system, cannot be avoided by any precautions which may be taken, and there are accidents for which the employer is in no sense responsible. It is contended that the burden should be thrown on the unfortunate sufferer whose ill-chance it has been to be the victim of a particular calamity? Awl the remedy which the suffering individual is to have is insurance of life or limb in some insurance office. My hon. Friend holds that it is inequitable that a man who is not responsible for an accident should have to pay compensation for the accident. Then how can be justify the existing law with regard to that? Let us suppose there is an accident on the Great Western Railway from the fault or mistake of the engine-driver, the result of which is that many persons lost their lives. I am a shareholder, let us suppose—but as a fact I am not—[laughter]—in the Great Western Railway. I have to pay for that. Let my hon. Friend justify that according to his principle. What responsibility have I got in the matter? I have a fractional share in the election of the directors. The directors have some remote responsibility—some very remote responsibility—for the action of the engine-driver. The engine-driver himself may have been the best engine-driver on the line, but he has made a mistake from which have arisen these lamentable consequences. I, the shareholder, have to pay for that accident. That is not denied. That is accepted. My hon. Friend, who presses these principles to their logical conclussion, has never, so far as I know, in all these discussions on the proper way of dealing with accidents, suggested that we 255 should so alter the law as to free everybody but the engine-driver from responsibility. ["Hear, hear!"] I think that is a fact which it is quite worth while for my hon. Friend to consider. It is admitted that we cannot leave the law as it is. Has my right hon. Friend the desire, or has he the courage to carry out the principle which he has enunciated to the House—that no man should pay compensation for any inujry for which he is not as a man or an individual responsible?
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS
said that the right hon. Gentleman asked him whether he was prepared to see the law altered in the case of a railway accident. In that case, unless there is blame to the company through one of their servants, no one could recover. In the case of this Bill, however careful the employer might he, he was made to pay for something with which he had nothing whatever to do.
TIE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I am very much obliged for my Iron. Friend's interruption. He rests his justification of the existing law on the fact that the railway company are responsible for the action of their servants. Is that- anything but a technical reason invented by lawyers, which, no man can for one moment say is founded on morality and logic? ["Hear, hear!"] What responsibility has the shareholder who pays? He has absolutely none, and the greatest sophist in the House—and I do not include my hon. Friend in that description—cannot make out a case for implying moral responsibility in those people who, in the case I have mentioned, have got to bear the financial responsibility for the accident. The truth is that my hon. Friends will find themselves ill great distress if they attempt to press the existing law into any logical shape whatever. ["Hear, hear!"] They themselves do. not pretend or try to make it logical. They have to abandon in their practice the principles they lay clown with so much confidence in the House. The truth of the matter is that the general confidence of the country has felt, in connection with those accidents which the man who is injured has not brought on himself, that it is desirable, if I may use the expression, to diffuse the shock of the accident. Everybody has felt that this diffusion 256 of the shock of the accident which has been granted to the public should be granted also to those who more than any others are exposed to shocks in the course of their daily avocations. What are the exceptions in this Bill which have been the subject of constant criticism and comment in this House? They are justified amply on two distinct grounds, one of which was set forth with great force by my right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Colonies, which is based on Parliamentary considerations of which every Member of Parliament must see the force. These exceptions from the Parliamentary point of view were based on the absolute impossibility of carrying in this Session a Bill dealing with all industries. But, quite apart from that reason, there are other grounds which I hope and believe will be got over at no distant date, but which exist at the present moment. So long as you are dealing with great organised industries the shock of the accident is diffused; but if, immediately mid without preparation, you were to attempt to apply this law, let us say for the sake of argument, to agriculture or the smaller industries, which are unorganised and without any system of insurance, you would not diffuse the shock of the accident; you would merely transfer it from one individual to another. Let any one take the case of the very small employer of labour; let us say the farmer occupying a few acres of land and having but one labourer in his employ. To throw on the farmer, before he has learnt how to insure, the whole burden of any accident is not to diffuse the shock of the accident but to transfer it; and to transfer it to somebody not responsible for the accident would produce. a most painful impression on the public conscience. But are we to look forward to that condition of things as perpetual? I think not. I myself belong to an agricultural coin, munity to which ideas of this sort could be applied at once without difficulty, and at this moment, I believe, in the south of Scotland, in Northumberland, and possibly in Durham, there is a system which I believe actuarialy would be incomparably more favourable to the agricultural labourer of these districts than anything under this Bill. But that applies to large farms and to a highly-organised agricultural industry, and what would be 257 applicable in that case without shock or difficulty could not be applied to other counties or districts without a jar and a breakage of continuity which, I think, would do more harm than good. But if this Bill is passed, I took forward at no distant date, when the public mind has been familiarised with the system of insurance by which the shock of an accident is diffused, to the principles of this Bill being extended in every district, not only without danger to agriculture, but to the general benefit of agriculture and all the allied industries. ["Hear, hear!"] it will be seen, therefore, that for both what we include in this Bill and exclude limn it we have justification. It is a total misconception of the case to assume that we have been driven from position to position by some irrational electoral motive, that we have no principles to guide us, no ends which we desire to reach, and no broad lines of policy which We desire to follow. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff has freely used the word Socialism in connection with. this Bill, and he and the hon. Member for Hertfordshire scattered about such accusations as that we are deserting the ancient traditions of the Tory Party, Butt we are abandoning the principles which Live always animated the Tory Party, and have at last allowed ourselves to drift down the current of wire-pulling and expediency towards a sea which we have never surveyed and never plumbed. I think my hon. Friends who are thus prodigal of accusations have never themselves considered the force of the terms which they use. Have such critics or the Bill considered what Socialism is? I suppose I have read as much about Socialism as any other Member of the House, and for the life of me I can see no connection whatever between the scheme of this Bill and anything which any Socialist would ever admit to constitute the essence of Socialism. My hon. Friend attempts to pin the Tory Party to what he calls individualism. Sir, I have a great distrust of these "isms." [Cheers.] If my hon. Friend goes further and says he is not only a. Tory and an individualist, but a Tory because he is an individualist, I would ask hint to study the history of Tory—not Liberal Unionist—[laughter]—legislation in connection with the great labouring community of this country. The Tory Party 258 have not, indeed, done the whole of the work connected with our labour legislation but in every branch of that legislation they have been pioneers. [Cheers.] If my hon. Friend who thinks that we are breaking with the traditions of the Tory Party in furthering this Bill will only study the history of the factory legislation in the forties, he will find that the opponents of that legislation were the Radical individualists of whom he is the legitimate heir. [Laughter.] It was the Tory Party who looked at the facts not in the light of any "ism" whatever, but in the light of the actual needs of the case, and by that disengagement of view were enabled to do what all parties now admit ought to have been done. I am utterly unable to see how this the last stone—I will not say the final stone—in this edifice of legislation differs in principle in any respect from its predecessors which have proceeded from these Benches. Ever since I came into Parliament three-and-twenty years ago the Tory Party has been engaged upon this species of legislation. Whenever it has been attempted there have been found persons—ably represented now by the hon. Baronet the Member for Durham—chiefly but not wholly drawn from the other side, who have for electoral reasons frankly avowed that they were most unwilling to oppose the legislation—["hear, hear!"]—but who have said that they would individually be ruined and that the industry they represented would he driven from the country. I do not deny that the Government which throws a burden upon an industry must consider the weight of that burden. But what I do deny is that we, having duly considered it, and having come to the conclusion that no undue burden will he thrown upon the coal industry—and no other industry has ventured to complain—["hear, hear!"]—are not to be met with this appeal to abstract principles which we do not accept, which have never been embodied in our legislation, which never formed part of our political creed, which do not bear critical examination, while those who use them do not appear to be able to fully follow out all the conclusions to which they may be said logically to lead. But. there are those who are quite ready enough to acknowledge the broad principles which I have laid down, and still 259 criticise this Bill on the ground that it is inconsistent with the possibility of making arrangements between the employers and the employed, and that, because it is so inconsistent, it is also inconsistent with the pledges we so freely gave in 1893. I am utterly unable to understand how my hon. Friend the Member for the City of London and those who agree with him, who to a loan voted for the Dudley clause, can possibly suppose that this Bill is any violation of any pledge which we gave four years ago. The Dudley clause laid down in the most explicit terms that, while the system of arrangement was to be left to employers and employed, the arrangement which they were permitted to come to must not be pecuniarily worse for the employed than the Bill in which the clause was embodied. Does this Bill go further than that? We think it does not. ["Hear, hear!"] But, at all events, my hon. Friends who supported us in. 1894, and who supported the House of Lords in 1894, in carrying that clause are debarred absolutely, in my opinion, from accusing us of any violation of principle in introducing the contracting-out clause which we have put into this Measure. But, as to the effect of this clause, will it prevent contracting out? My hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General put into my hands a few minutes ago a. letter from a. well-known employer of labour, Mr. George Livesey, the manager of the South Metropolitan Gas Company, who, it will be admitted I think on the other side, is one of tile greatest authorities—at all events, from the employers' point of view—upon this subject. He writes to my hon. and learned Friend:—Your remarks that you believe contracts and arrangements will very generally be made between masters and men will, I hope and think, be fulfilled, for I am sure it will be to the advantage of both.He then goes on to say that the company and their employés hail already settled and adopted a scheme which every malt but one out of some, thousands of men had voluntarily accepted. One pennyworth of experience is worth a thousand pounds of theory.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
What on earth has that to do with it? [Cheers.] The sole question is whether, under the terms of the Bill, which forbid the employers to contract out. except. under terms as favourable as those in the Bill, contracting out will or will not be a dead letter. Here we have the best evidence which can be conceived in such a matter—a great company, even before the Bill becomes law, making such arrangements with its workmen as will conform with the provisions of the Bill. Whatever may be the future of contracting out—and I hope it has a great future before it—let it not be pretended after this letter, that the provisions of this Bill are a conclusive bar to its being carried out. We have found, as we think, in this Bill not merely a Measure which satisfies every pledge that we have ever given on the subject of employers and employed, but we have found a scheme absolutely in conformity with the Tory traditions of legislation on this subject, violating no principle which this Party has ever accepted; imposing no undue burden upon army industry; better, as we believe, both for employers and employed than the only conceivable alternative, namely, time Bill of the right. hon. Gentleman opposite. Having found that solution of this most difficult question, we commend it with confidence to the House, believing fully that the country will endorse what we have done, and will absolutely absolve us front that meanness of motive which some hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House have not hesitated to insinuate has been actuating us in this policy. [Cheers.]
§ Mr. W. ABRAHAM (Glamorgan, Rhondda)
said that he wished to put. the case of South Wales. No one would say that the working men of South Wales were not unanimously in favour of the Bill. The hon. Member for Cardiff referred to the Liberal Unionists in South Wales. No doubt, many owners of collieries lived in his constituency. He himself was sorry that so many colliery owners in South. Wales had been misled. There were no more generous or considerate employers in the United Kingdom than time colliery owners of South Wales. But somehow they had allowed themselves to be misled. The House would remember receiving an extraordinary document 261 in which a certain actuary reported to Sir W. T. Lewis, and this was the document on which the ease for South Wales had been founded. The actuary said: —On the basis of tons of coal raised per annum for every person employed in and about the mines, and bearing in mind that the underground workers received the largest wages. the cost per ton of coal raised and sold would closely approximate to 3d. per ton.But in another part of the statement the salon actuary said:—The financial incidents and risks under the Bill would thus he, in respect of fatal accidents and incapacity, £1 12s. per Dian for every employ6. According to the statement of our mines' inspector and the number of tons produced, we find that if 3d. per ton were aggregated it would pittance no less than £3 6s. per man instead of £1 12s.Here were two statements by the one man, one being 2s. per man more than the other. He conscientiously believed that when the Bill war worked out properly the colliery owners in South Wales would find the Bill would not cost them more than 1d. per ton. It was said that. the coal trade of South Wales was already burdened with £1 per ton, and that the employers paid 55 per cent. of this. That was not true. Employers paid only 25 per cent. on the contribution of the workman. Supposing for a moment that the colliery owners were paying 25 per cent., was that sufficient to meet the moral claims of the workmen? He did not think so. His hon. Friends on the other side had fears of the workmen destroying the permanent relief funds. These funds would not be destroyed. And here was an opportunity for the employers of labour. Let them accept this Bill honourably and the liability that belonged to it; and then the workmen would have a fund such as they never had before, which would provide not only for compensation, but for sickness and old age pensions, and the working men would bless this Government for a boon they had never received before. In conclusion, he could am. would not, join in the regretful, doleful. minor-key tone of his hon. Friends around him. The Bill had his full support. He thanked the Government front the bottom of his heart. He did not care from what Government it came, as long as any Government conferred such boons as those on 262 the working men he represented he should he ready to support them.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
was glad to hear the sympathetic words which had fallen from the Leader of the House with reference to the agricultural labourer. He gathered from what the right hon. Gentleman had said that an amending Bill would be introduced at some future date which would cover the accidents roused by agricultural machinery. The artisans, of whom he represented a good many thousands, on the Estuary of the Thames, employed in quarries and workshops, to his own knowledge accepted this Bill, for which they felt gratitude to the Government. He knew the Bill was not perfect, and for his part he should have liked it to have been made applicable to every trade, but it was a step in the right direction, and it was therefore welcomed by the country.
§ *COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, Ince)
was thoroughly in favour of the principle of the Bill that compensation should be paid for all accidents. It hail been carried out in Lancashire for the last 20 years, having heel' introduced by the late Hector for Wigan, the leader of the coal owners and the late miners' agent, and it had proved a blessing, hut it was carried out in a different way to what was proposed by the Bill. Part of the cost was borne by the workmen, anti a smaller part by the coal owners. Any charge incurred by reason of the payment of compensation fell upon the industry now, but this Bill would throw it on the employers. When collieries did not pay, where was the money to came from? The great error of the Bill was that it did not distribute the burden between employer and employed. That Wag the reason why he feared the results of the Bill would be of a disastrous character to the amicable relations between employer and employed.
Question, "That the words 'now read the third time' stand past of the Question," put, and agreed to.
Main Question put, and agreed to.
Bill read a Third time, and passed.